The news from the Caucasus that reaches the United States these days is mainly bad news. We hear reports of widespread corruption, human rights violations, or clashes between warring nations. In the case of the Russian North Caucasus, jihadi terrorists fight regional governments run by pro-Russian thugs. Why, then, should such a small sliver of territory, with perhaps 20 million people, deserve treatment in a net assessment survey? The answer is that the importance of the Caucasus has never lain in its numbers or size, but rather in its role as a geographic, cultural, and geopolitical crossroads. As in the days of the Mongols or Tamerlane, or of the rivalries between the Czarist, Ottoman, and Safavid empires, so today the Caucasus is a meeting point, a bridge or a barrier, between east and west and north and south - between Europe and Asia, and between Russia and the Middle East.
Last Friday, an ISIS supporter rammed a truck into a department store in the heart of Stockholm, Sweden, killing four people and injuring 15. That same evening, news broke that Swedish police had arrested a 39-year old man from Uzbekistan for complicity in the attack. By Sunday morning, Swedish media reported that the man's social media account indicated his support for both the Islamic State and the Islamic Party of Liberation, Hizb-ut-Tahrir.