Chechnya has been a republic in turmoil since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Terror attacks in Russia have often been perpetrated by Chechens, and the region has been considered a hot bed for terrorism. However, this has not been widely reported or talked about in the U.S., and for good reason. Traditionally, Chechnya has been considered a taboo topic for U.S. administrations – a concession that has been granted to Russia by Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton. However, while Obama has not mentioned Chechnya publicly, his administration has not been silent on that region. Two Chechens were listed on the Magnitsky List – a list named for a whistle-blower in Russia that died in custody. [More information on the Magnitsky case here, and here.]
As far as motives to attack the U.S., there is at least one theory about why Chechen separatists might consider that a viable option. Since a terrorist attack in 2004 at a school in Beslan, North Ossetia where over 380 were killed, Russia and the U.S. have a common enemy – Islamic terrorists. Some Chechens were involved in that attack.
But Chechnya primarily remains in opposition with Russia – a battle that has been waged for at least 200 years. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not known for having a “soft touch” with anyone that disagrees with him, and the Chechens are no exception. Anna Politkovskaya – a journalist in Moscow – built a reputation for being critical of Putin for human rights violations in Chechnya. She was murdered on October 7, 2006. Trials (and re-trials) against her accused killers should be starting soon. That likely doesn’t change the opinion of some Russians and Chechens alike that have thought Russian leaders aren’t displeased with the fact that Politkovskaya was killed.
As for terrorism rooted in the Chechnya region, apparently the violence has increased in the past year. The entire North Caucasus region is affected by these activities, the most recent in Ingushetia. Whether or not this unrest has spilled over to U.S. soil remains to be seen. However, it does place a statement made by Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign in perspective.