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DATE=10/26/1999 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA/CHECHNYA/CRITICISM NUMBER=5-44616 BYLINE=NICK SIMEONE DATELINE=WASHINGTON CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: The prospect of another full-scale war in Chechnya is prompting Western governments to issue statements of concern over Russian tactics against rebels in the breakaway republic. Last week's bombing of a market in Grozny killed scores of people and brought blunt criticism from the European Union and the United States. But as correspondent Nick Simeone reports from Washington, there appears to be little appetite among outside powers to intervene in the conflict with anything more than public complaints. TEXT: At a European Union ministers' meeting in Finland last week, the president of the European Parliament rose to express shock over the death toll in Chechnya, charging the Russian government with violating both the law and human rights. From Washington came more concern, with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calling the latest turn of events deplorable and ominous and saying she is not satisfied by what she has been told by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. /// ALBRIGHT ACT /// He took on board what I said but I can't say that I was particularly encouraged by his response. /// END ACT /// But as the Chechen war deepens, neither the Clinton administration nor any other Western government appears ready to publicly confront Moscow with anything beyond expressions of concern. Russia's second military intervention in Chechnya this decade has strong domestic support. In fact, public approval ratings for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have soared since young Russian soldiers were deployed to battle Chechen fighters who Moscow calls terrorists and suspects in a series of deadly apartment bombings. A former political counselor at the U-S embassy in Moscow, Thomas Graham, explains why. /// GRAHAM ACT /// Across the political spectrum, people want to demonstrate Moscow has both the political will and the capacity to reassert its control across the country. This is particularly important for the Russian political elite coming after a year of what I think could be described justly as humiliation, both the financial collapse, their inability to have a major influence over NATO strategy in Kosovo; and they want to demonstrate they can in fact carry out some sort of effective action and defend their own territory. /// END ACT /// U-S officials are telling Moscow that if the Russian military returns to the brutal tactics employed in Chechnya earlier this decade - including indiscriminate shelling and direct attacks on civilians - Moscow will pay a price in relations with the West. Still, Moscow presses on, undaunted by criticism of its attempts to end a rebel campaign to create an independent Islamic state along Russia's southern fringe. It is an intervention that has haunting similarities to the disastrous war that ended three years ago when Russian forces leveled Grozny in attempt to crush a Chechen drive for independence. But this time, a Russian victory in Chechnya could come at a high cost, according to Stanford University political science professor Michael McFaul. /// McFaul ACT /// There's no doubt in my mind there's going to be a quagmire there no matter what. This is not going to be a short operation. If the Russians decide to stay, the Chechens are going to fight not years, perhaps decades. /// END ACT /// Experts say the war is popular among the Russian people because Chechens have long been branded crooks and terrorists. For that reason, former American diplomat Charles Fairbanks wonders whether the Clinton Administration's strategy of issuing complaints about Russian tactics may be counterproductive. /// FAIRBANKS ACT /// I'm puzzled by the fact that we are constantly meeting with (Prime Minister) Putin and then giving public statements to the effect that we gave him a tongue lashing about Chechnya which I think does him good right now at home. /// END ACT /// // OPT // But if the war in Chechnya earlier this decade is any example, Prime Minister Putin will have to come up with a plan for subduing Chechnya - without a huge cost to the Russian military - if he is planning to stake his political future on success in a region where his predecessors have failed. Again, Former Moscow embassy analyst Thomas Graham. /// GRAHAM ACT OPT /// If indeed, a large number of conscripts begin to die in a ground operation, we're going to find the popular support will plummet very rapidly. In fact, there are already polls that suggest that at least a quarter of the population is opposed to the operation in Chechnya. /// END OPT ACT /// So what options remain for the West? Unlike crises in Kosovo and in East Timor, Russia's veto at the United Nations Security Council rules out any chance of U-N intervention. William Ury took part in peace talks between Russia and Chechnya two years ago and believes there is a role the United States could play in resolving the conflict. /// URY ACT /// One, is to show our disapproval, but more constructively, to get the United Nations or the OSCE - The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe - involved to convene an on-going conference on the Caucasus, not just on Chechnya because all these issues are inter- related, and this war could very likely lead to unrest in Dagestan, Ingushetia and even in the heart of Russia. /// END ACT /// But short of issuing an ultimatum to Moscow, U-S officials say the only direct leverage they may have is carefully applied diplomatic pressure - reminding Russia that its actions in Chechnya could damage its efforts at closer ties with the West. (SIGNED) NEB/NJS/JP 26-Oct-1999 16:57 PM EDT (26-Oct-1999 2057 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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