October 6, 1999
RUSSIA'S 'CHECHEN CAULDRON' PROVOKES FEAR OF 'ALL-OUT WAR' IN CAUCASUS
Fear that "the Kremlin's new adventure" in Chechnya may lead to a "dead-end," "all-out" war on par with its earlier campaign against the breakaway republic was the dominant theme in recent foreign media coverage of Russia. "The tactics may be a little less crude than the ground and air assaults of 1994-96; they show no signs of being more successful," observed one pundit. Moscow commentary aside, the majority of analysts blamed the current crisis on the Kremlin's failure to formulate a "coherent policy" on Chechnya since the last war, and was particularly critical of Moscow's relying on "the ancestral strategy of using force" rather than pursuing a negotiated solution. Many bemoaned the fact that Russia has failed to "learn from its first defeat that weapons cannot solve its problems on the southern rim, [and] that a hostile territory cannot be maintained exclusively by coercion." Several Moscow media voices were also unsparing in their condemnation of the Kremlin, chiding it for embarking on a "no-win war" that it can ill afford. Reformist Kommersant Daily voiced concern that Russia lacks a "cogent plan" and could become mired in another drawn-out campaign. Another reformist paper maintained that "Russia will gain nothing by state terror against Chechnya." Others, however, staunchly defended their government's offensive, pointing out that it enjoys considerable support among the general public. Centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda, for example, argued that Moscow is simply "responding to the will of its people" in "doing away with a bulwark of terrorism on its territory." Reformist Izvestiya noted, however, that while "it is easy to understand Russians who support the use of force...to solve the conflict...enthusiasm and the warlike spirit will fade as the army gets stuck in the rebel republic." Additional highlights follow:
'BEWARE OF THE WEST'S SUPPORT': A common sentiment expressed by Russian papers of various political stripes was resentment of Western media and politicians for "raising cain," in the words of a nationalist/opposition paper, over the Russian army's efforts to "check the forays of Chechen terrorists." Some cautioned against accepting Western advice or support. Claiming that "we can manage on our own...our domestic affairs," centrist, army Krasnaya Zvezda derided the interference of "overseas 'friends'" asking Russia to "leave tiny Chechnya alone." Similarly, reformist Izvestiya intoned, "The Western press' concern is mostly for refugees and human rights, which gives the Chechen authorities carte blanche." Referring to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's "urging Moscow to be understanding and soft with the Grozny regime," a neo-Communist daily claimed, "This could only mean that Moscow ought to throw itself upon the terrorists' mercy and recognize Chechnya's independence."
THE WEST'S 'MITIGATING INFLUENCE': Several pondered how the West should respond to the Chechnya crisis, while at the same time acknowledging that Moscow, in its "sour post-Kosovo mood," is "paying very little heed to warnings coming from the West." Pundits in Britain, Germany, Italy and Belgium, nevertheless, stressed the need for the West to "impose a mitigating influence on Moscow." Contending that "the old principle of non-interference is perceived in a different way" after Kosovo, an Italian paper judged, "We should not be silent" about Chechnya. A Sofia daily disagreed, arguing, "None of the NATO countries has the moral right to reproach another country which copies the Alliance's [strategy]" against Yugoslavia.
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 61 reports from 22 countries, September 25 - October 5. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "Evil Comes Home To Roost"
Vladimir Stupishin averred in reformist weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta (# 40, 10/6): "As shown by history, Russian and non-Russian, no country has ever been able to defeat a rebel minority through terror. You can destroy them but you can't bring them to their knees. Russia will gain nothing by state terror against Chechnya or anywhere else. Evil will come home to roost."
"A Poor Country Can't Afford A War"
Semyon Novoprudsky maintained in business-oriented Vedomosti (10/6): "A poor country can't afford a war. Ethiopia and Somalia started a war with each other and ended it in a week [sic] because both ran out of money. It is a no-win war whatever way you look at it. The cheapest solution to the problem would be to cut Chechnya off from Russia. This is the only way to ensure stability in Russia."
"Beware Of The West's Support"
Stanislav Menshikov in Amsterdam filed for neo-communist Slovo (10/6-7): "U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Talbott urges Moscow to be understanding and soft with the Grozny regime. From him, a leading American diplomat, this could only mean that Moscow ought to throw itself upon the terrorists' mercy and recognize Chechnya's independence. The West has for these years used Chechen terrorism to hold Russia at bay. Had it not been for Grozny relying on that support, the cancerous tumor would have long since been cut out. By expressing 'sympathy' and reacting in a restrained fashion (to the current events in Chechnya) today, the Americans want to stay in control. It is myopic and dangerous to believe in Western support."
"Change Of Mood"
Lyudmila Beldyugina wrote for official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/5): "Aggression in Dagestan and Moscow coming to the rescue brought about an abrupt change of mood in the north Caucasus, with the local conglomerate of peoples, big and small, finding, perhaps for the first time in a hundred years, that they really love Russia and its army. The task now is for Russian politicians and generals not to repeat their past mistakes and to make the most of the prevalent sentiment, without unnecessarily embittering the local population by causing it to endure hardships that can be avoided even during a military campaign. Ruthlessness with regard to terrorists does not preclude a merciful attitude toward peaceful residents."
"It May End In Russia's Defeat"
Igor Strelkov remarked in centrist Nezavismaya Gazeta (10/5): "The situation in Russia is far from perfect. Possible military setbacks in Chechnya may reflect gravely on stability and the economy. Unless army commanders and, above all, politicians learn from the first two months of the Dagestan campaign, the government may lose and be discredited completely, with the north Caucasus breaking away and Russia becoming a confederation."
"We Learn From Past Mistakes"
Nationalist, opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya printed this piece by Vasily Safronchuk (10/5): "No sooner had the Russian army taken decisive steps to check the forays by Chechen terrorists than the Western media and politicians raised cain over those actions being inappropriate. Our 'well-wishers' in the West caution us against repeating the sad experience of the war of 1994-96. But clearly, our generals and politicians have learnt from past mistakes. The current campaign differs from the old one in scale as well as strategy and tactics."
"West's Concern Is Mostly For Human Rights"
Yevgeny Krutikov pointed out in reformist Izvestiya (10/5): "The Western press' concern is mostly for refugees and human rights, which gives the Chechen authorities carte blanche. Making an official statement to a Western correspondent about an air raid killing hundreds of people is enough to make the world shudder as it would when hearing about Tutsi-Hutu massacres in Africa."
"West's Reaction Unfavorable"
Reformist Vremnya-MN front-paged this by Yevgeny Antonov,Vladimir Zozlovsky and Vladimir Shpakov (10/5): "The way Western leaders are acting, they are unlikely to bless the Kremlin's plans to 'destroy Chechen's terrorists.' Neither the invasion of Dagestan by Chechen rebels and the explosions in Moscow nor the suspected involvement of America's number-one enemy, Osama bin Laden, can convince Western politicians that Grozny is a center of international terrorism. Moreover, the West tends to focus on human rights as it follows the events in the North Caucasus. The goal of this campaign is to make Chechnya return to Russia. The West views Russia's attempts to bring Chechnya back into its fold as it would have viewed Milosevic's decision to bomb Kosovo. It depresses the West to see Russia being so careless about human rights."
Alla Parakhova and Ilya Bulavinov said on page one of reformist business-oriented Kommersant Daily (10/2): "Vladimir Putin officially declared war on Chechnya yesterday. By calling Chechnya's 1996 parliament its only legitimate (governing) body and supporting the idea of a Chechen government in exile, the premier signalled the start of a land operation. The opinion in the army's general staff is that the feds' losses will be 'minimal.' The same was said five years ago, before the federal troops entered Chechnya--nobody expected serious resistance from Dudayev's forces. It is naive to believe that hunger and cold will make the rebels surrender. There is still no cogent plan as to what to do after tightening the 'Chechen ring.'"
"The Wrong Step In The Right Direction"
Under this headline, centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/2) front-paged a commentary by Alan Kasayev and Ilya Maksakov: "The decision to revive the old Chechen parliament is obviously absurd. It's like declaring the Supreme Soviet, disbanded under famed Order 1400, the only legitimate power in Russia. But looking for Russia's Chechnya in today's Ichkeria (the Chechens' current name for Chechnya) seems like the right choice strategically."
Vitaly Denisov argued on page one of centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (10/2): "We have listened to our 'friends' overseas far too long as they have 'helped' us build democratic institutions and a market economy and improve our banking and financial system.
"We know the value of their involvement. Now they want us to give in 'just a bit' on as much as our sovereignty: Why don't you leave tiny Chechnya alone? This is asking too much. It is not that tiny Chechnya has become a big problem. It is that Chechnya is Russia. We can manage on our own, dealing with our domestic affairs. The problem with refugees is that these people had to live for so long under the bandits. They are seeking refuge in Russia, not overseas, because they feel they are part of Russia. The Russian government, responding to the will of its people, has resolved to do away with a bulwark of terrorism on its territory. You can't disregard the popular will. You can't do that in Europe or the United States either."
"Enthusiasm Is Not Forever"
Andrei Kolesnikov and Yevgeny Krutikov said on page one of reformist Izvestiya (10/2): "It is easy to understand Russians who support the use of force as a way to solve the conflict. It is easy to understand politicians as they, in keeping with public sentiment, play hardball, intent on winning the war first to win the elections later. But enthusiasm and the warlike spirit will fade as the army gets stuck in the rebel republic."
BRITAIN: "Chechen Cauldron"
The conservative Times opined (10/5): "The first lives have already been claimed in Chechnya. The ruble is slipping again as Russia's strained finances buckle under the cost. And the West looks on in bemusement as the Kremlin slips into all-out war, seemingly intent on repeating past mistakes.... The tactics may be a little less crude than the ground and air assaults of 1994-96; they show no signs of being any more successful.... The West has no wish to deepen the Russians' discomfort. It recognizes Chechnya as part of Russia. In public it is saying little beyond calls to avoid a new humanitarian disaster; in private it is urging the Russians to look to political solutions. Moscow, in a sour post-Kosovo mood, would never accept Western intermediaries. But it might accept help from the one body it trusts, the OSCE. The OSCE played a role--low-key and ineffective--last time; it could attempt something more robust this time."
"Russia Holds Border Lands In Defiant Chechnya"
The independent Financial Times noted (10/4): "Russia troops yesterday held positions up to ten kilometers inside Chechnya.... Moscow's stated objective is to create a security cordon around Chechnya. Although Russia denies its objective is a takeover of Chechnya, an effort appears underway to create a puppet government. On Friday, Russian Prime Minister Putin met members of Chechnya's former parliament, which was disbanded after separatists took power in 1996. His statement that the former parliamentarians were the only legitimate authority in Chechnya appeared to revoke Moscow's recognition of the authority of President Maskhadov."
FRANCE: "A Colonial War"
Georges Suffert observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/6): "Western leaders are faced with a number of unanswered questions regarding Russia's new Chechen war.... A war that is truly a colonial war.... But with the breaking down of Russian leadership, Moscow is facing a choice. Either it considers the conflict as a post-colonial conflict and tries to resolve it through diplomacy, or it considers that the Russian territory is indeed threatened and continues with its ancestral strategy of using force.... Russia is convinced the war will be short. This has always been the illusion of conquerors.... This war is sure to have major political consequences for Moscow."
"Putin's Political Strategy"
Laure Mandeville opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/6): "After having orchestrated the Russian troops' incursion into Chechnya, Putin now wants to create a kind of political unity around himself...and called all of Yeltsin's former prime ministers to his side.... They are all in the opposition now, and trying to gain a footing in the forthcoming elections.... Putin is in dire need of sharing the daunting responsibility of this new Russian adventure in Chechnya, the outcome of which is far from certain."
Sophie Shahib opined in left-of-center Le Monde (10/4): "The State Department has begun to show its indignation about the comparisons made in Moscow between Kosovo and Chechnya.... Washington wants to avoid all possible debate on differences in policy.... Hence James Rubin's distinction between two 'very different' situations.... The stability of the southern Caucasus is of great concern for the United States because this is the route used by its favorite pipeline for oil coming from the Caspian sea."
"The Reasons Why"
Laure Mandeville asked in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/2): "Why is Russia taking such risks? Moscow's internal politics are the only thing that can explain this new Chechen adventure. With the legislative and presidential elections in the near future, Putin desperately needs something to give him the look of a winner.... In fact, his objective is quite clear: to conquer Russia while trying to squelch Chechnya."
GERMANY: "West Shouldn't Finance Air War"
Right-of-center General-Anzeiger of Bonn judged (10/6): "For days, Russian special forces have invaded Chechen territory. The question now is how far will the Kremlin go? The other question is: Who will pay for this war? The Russian armed forces have demanded about DM 180 million from the government in Moscow. As long as the IMF pays money to Russia that was released before the war started, it will flow into the war coffers.... The Berlin government would be well-advised to pursue a policy in the IMF that stops the payment of loans to Russia as long Russia wages a war in the Caucasus.... It is not okay that the international community is financing the air war against the Chechen civilian population."
"Moscow Doesn't Negotiate"
Right-of-center Holsteinischer Courier of Neumuenster stressed (10/6): "We cannot repeat it often enough: With the mission in the Caucasus, Yeltsin and Putin...are sending Russian forces to their ruin thus depriving themselves of any chance of entering into talks with the Chechen rebels. In this respect, the two powerful men in Moscow are following the tradition of the Czars and later of Stalin: We do not negotiate, we do not hoist the white flag, and those who are in our way, will be destroyed. The Russian central government itself is responsible for the fact that it is losing support among the people, while the rebellious Islamists are getting increasingly popular and will continue to attack Moscow's forces."
Werner Adam wrote this editorial for right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/5): "With its narrow-minded violence, Russia is now also creating resistance among the moderate forces of the Islamic peoples in Northern Caucasus.
"Without having made the slightest attempt to win the confidence of moderate politicians, such as freely elected president Makhadov, for a joint defense against terrorist rebels, Moscow continues to pin its hopes on military strength, even though this strength is limited. The effect of this policy of the Russian leadership is that the Chechen clans, which have thus far been at odds with each other, are now joining forces--exactly as happened in the early 90s when the result was a devastating war with a humiliating result for the Russian forces. In the meantime, President Yeltsin expressed his 'concern' about the course of the military operation. But obviously, he wants to speed it up instead of accepting Chechen offers for talks. This can only mean even greater suffering for the people in the Northern Caucasus and growing resistance to their staying in the Russian Federation. Moscow is thus...pushing even more people into the hands of the extremists."
"Discussion About Mistakes"
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau carried this editorial (10/5): "Russia is about to repeat its well-known mistakes in Chechnya.... The secessionist Chechen region will be divided. The River Terek is the demarcation line and Grozny is within reach of Russian guns.... We hear from competent but stubborn people that the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a mistake, since it resulted in the Taleban regime. This giving in to fundamentalists must finally stop. The view, however, that the invasion in Afghanistan in 1979 and Chechnya in 1994 actually created such enemies obviously requires more than two decades to trickle down. The Russian hawks' do not want a discussion about mistakes but morale-boosting slogans which will help them in domestic policy. But such slogans carry two fictions: first, the civilian population will not be hurt; second, the whole problem is a domestic issue, but the armed forces are firing at Chechnya thus kicking the country out of the (Russian) state. In such a case, it will not be possible to look away for long, as was the case in Kosovo or East Timor."
"National Interests Take Priority Over Human Rights"
Right-of-center Oberpfaelzer Nachrichten of Weiden judged (10/5): "National interests always have priority over human rights. If this were different, the West would have intervened in China because of Tibet. If this were different, it would have to intervened in Chechnya because the Russian bombs on Grozny mainly hit civilians."
"A Security Zone?"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch stated in an editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine(10/4): "It is understandable that the Russian military is planning to create a security zone' between Chechnya and neighboring Dagestan to prevent the infiltration of overwhelmingly Muslim rebels. Russia hopes that this method will help get control over the unrest in the North Caucasian province without having to occupy Chechnya as a whole. However, experience with security zones teaches us...that the line of danger will only be shifted.... In this safe haven, the Chechen rebels will do everything possible to make life for the Russian soldiers as dangerous as possible."
Right-of-center Braunschweiger Zeitung remarked (10/2): "By almost cynically repeating the Western arguments from the Bosnia conflict, Russia's Premier Putin can now refer to the fact that (Chechen leader) Makhadov has been called upon for months to stop the activities of Islamic rebels under the leadership of Bassayev who are operating from Chechen territory. It is still unclear but cannot be ruled out that the bomb attacks in Moscow were carried out by the rebels, too. But it cannot be ruled out either that Russia's intelligence service is providing arguments for the 'legitimacy' of an invasion.
"Such arguments could be exploited by Yeltsin and Putin as an expression of determination shortly before the upcoming Duma elections, and they would also correspond to a strategy whose brutal implementation is aimed at overturning the Russian defeat in the first Chechen war."
"To Maintain Financial Assistance"
Centrist Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger mused (10/2): "The devastation of Chechnya will be successful, but the war against the Islamic-oriented rebels...cannot be won. With every destroyed village, there is an increasing danger of future terrorist attacks in Russia itself. The West--and Russia has a great interest in Western financial assistance--must decide whether it wants to maintain this assistance in view of the (Russian) offensive."
Mass-circulation right-of-center Bild-Zeitung of Hamburg chided (10/2): "Instead of administering a statesman-like negotiating skill in his relations with the Chechens, Yeltsin and his premier, Putin, are again pinning their hopes on brute force of bombs, tanks and shells."
ITALY: "Putin Has A Strong Card To Play With Chechnya"
Anna Zafesova filed from Moscow for centrist, influential La Stampa (10/6): "While in Chechnya an undeclared war continues, Prime Minister Putin has at last decided to explain what he intends to do with his rebel republic to which Moscow does not want to concede not even a tiny bit of autonomy, since it 'was and remains part of the Russian federation.'... At the moment Moscow does not intend to continue its advance.... For Putin, Yeltsin's 'heir' in the forthcoming presidential elections, Chechnya seems to be a strong card to play. In recent days, after he promised to use the iron fist against the 'terrorists,' his popularity went up significantly.... The wave of refugees headed for Ingushetia is also growing...and this situation is already alarming international organizations. But yesterday Putin warned against any interference, since 'it is a domestic conflict.'... Public opinion is on his side: Only 10 percent of Russian people state they are ready to welcome refugees and 60 percent of them want bombardments against the 'terrorist' republic to continue."
"Past Mistakes And Future Risks"
Piero Sinatti commented in leading, business Il Sole 24-Ore (10/6): "Nine days after 'surgical bombings' on strategic targets, Moscow has invaded Chechnya, at the moment within the line of the Terek River.... Putin could not have made a worst choice. He has deligitimized President Maskhadov, who signed the Khasavjurt armistice agreements in August 1997 and the Moscow peace accords in May 1996.... The critical situation in Chechnya reflects the lack of a coherent policy by the Russians. The promised aid for reconstruction of a country destroyed in the 1994-96 war never arrived...and therefore the areas controlled by criminal gangs of extremist groups grew wider.... Hence the resort to war.... Such toughness is justified because they claim the Chechens are responsible for the September attempts. But we are still waiting for concrete evidence.... Moscow has thrown itself into an adventure similar to that of 1994-96, but made worse by a discredited presidency. Georgian President Shevardnadze offers to mediate, Western pressures to mediate have multiplied as well, but the Kremlin seems hostile to any external interventions.... For Russia there are many serious risks: Not only will the new conflict bring, as it did in 1995, new support for the anti-Russian guerrilla fighters, but it will also favor dissent and dissociation especially in the Islamic areas of the federation, thus further undermining its already precarious unity.... Putin aims at a rapid resolution of the conflict, and thus risks transforming the conflict into an all-out war at the borders with Europe and Russia."
"Putin's Revenge; Lebed's Games And Elections"
A commentary in provocative, classical liberal Il Foglio maintained (10/5): "The Russian military deployment...lets us understand that this is a real war. And Prime Minister Putin does not hide the fact that he considers the Khasavjurt agreements wastepaper.... The ability of Chechen soldiers to make war remains intact and the approaching of the winter will force the Russians to hide themselves in positions open to assault.... And it is for this reason that observers think that the operation...should be finished in a month's time with a result which is not so much military but political. Indeed, Putin wants to break the back of Chechnya at all costs as revenge for the humiliation that the Secret Service...had suffered in not having been able to prevent Islamic terrorism.... Moreover, nobody counters him. With the Duma elections at the door, there are no political parties ready to sacrifice any votes in the name of defending human rights in the Caucasus.... The whole game is in Russia's hands, and today they pay very little attention to the warnings coming from the West. With the financial scandals [already resulting in a more cautious lending approach by the West], the United States and the EU cannot even play the trump card of [restricting] financial assistance."
"If Russia Loses Its Head"
Adriano Guerra's commentary in pro-DS (leading government party) L'Unita held (10/4): "If there were no war in Chechnya, one could indeed assert that things in Russia are not going so badly. 'Aid' continues and will continue to arrive and Al Gore has personally assured us that relations between Russia and the United States will not suffer serious repercussions as a result of Russiagate.... In sum, if there were no war, it would be totally legitimate to look at Russia with sympathetic and benevolent eyes, and to credit Yeltsin and the founders of the new Russian state for what they have been able to do in the most difficult circumstances. But there is a war indeed, and it is a real war, a colonial war that has deep roots.... The goal of the Russian troops is to create the conditions for the reconquest of Chechnya.... As for the West, it does not seem that Russia's objective of gaining its support by hinting at the common fight against terrorism may be easily achieved. The fact is that everybody's attitude towards the 'domestic politics' of individual states has changed...and the old principle of non-interference is perceived in a different way.... For a number of reasons, we cannot look at the Caucasus the same way we looked at the Balkans. However, we should not be silent and allow that millions of people be denied the most elementary rights in the name of a just fight (even) against the most barbarian terrorism."
Franco Venturini commented in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (10/2): "These days, they are playing Russian roulette in Moscow's political circles. Nobody can tell if, when and in which direction the Chechen war will shoot its fatal bullet. Yeltsin and Putin are conducting a high-risk political counteroffensive. Primakov and Luzhkov are in a better position, but it is not guaranteed that their alliance will hold until the end. Lebed simply waits, and each attack in Chechnya plays into his hands. Yavlinksy and Stepashin wave the flag of the new reformist generation, and their unexpected success would make the West happy. The Communist Zyuganov could be less in decline than reports indicate, thanks to the war."
BELGIUM: "The West's Mitigating Influence"
Foreign affairs writer Marc Van de Weyer of conservative, Catholic Het Belang van Limburg asserted (10/4): "The West has little sympathy for the Chechens and other fundamentalists.... (The West) is afraid of the creation of a fundamentalist state in the Caucasus, near the black gold around the Caspian Sea. At the end of the year, parliamentary elections will be held (in Russia). Yeltsin and his corrupt entourage fear an electoral defeat. A new 'patriotic war' against the Chechen enemies is welcome under those circumstances.
"Victims among the Chechen people and in its own ranks of very badly trained and equipped soldiers have never carried much weight in Russian politics. Therefore, it is the West's task to impose a mitigating influence on Moscow. That influence can be exercised by turning off the money tap which Yeltsin and his 'family' have exploited so long for their own profits."
"Russia Goes To War"
Foreign editor Axel Buyse maintained in independent Catholic De Standaard (10/2): "The Russian authorities--Vladimir Putin in the first place--present the war in Chechnya as a crusade against terrorism and an ultimate attempt to avoid the secession of Chechnya from the federation.... In the meantime, ordinary Russians are adrift between hope and despair. They hope that a firm response from the Putin administration and the army will stop what many view as a destructive disintegration of the country. They are desperate over the risks Moscow is taking with a new invasion--of high casualties in their own ranks and, possibly, even more acts of terror."
BULGARIA: "Thunder In Chechnya Echoes In Kosovo"
Center-left Sega told readers (10/4): "The war in Kosovo has played a trick on the West. All its 'concerns' and 'worries' over the Russian air campaign in Chechnya, which it expresses now, sound hypocritical when one looks back on NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.... None of the NATO member countries has the moral right to reproach another country which copies the Alliance's [strategy] of putting out one fire by setting a bigger one. NATO squashed Yugoslavia's infrastructure as a punishment for the Yugoslav forces' terrorization of NATO's Western protegees, the Kosovar Albanians. Russia is destroying Chechnya's infrastructure to punish it for the Chechen rebels' terrorizing of Russia's authorities and population. It is unclear whether the West likes this situation. Most likely it doesn't, given its strategic interests in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea region."
"West Stares Silently At Failed Russian Transition"
Left-leaning Monitor observed (10/4): "In the big discussion on Russia in the West, several meaningful conclusions have been drawn. First of all, the West has to face an unpleasant truth: Behind the ill-concealed mix of egotistical interests and triumphalist illusions, the West has been trying to buy off Russia for the past ten years. But most important of all is the general background of the Western policy towards Russia: a mixture of ignorance and the underestimation of the Russian specifics, the ideological intoxication of the 'planetary march' of neo-liberalism...and an unacceptably large dependence on corporate business interests. In this sense, the West has made its reassessment of Russia, but there is no alternative to the current line."
LITHUANIA: "Russia Justified In Accusing Grozny Of Supporting Terrorism"
Independent, widely circulated Lietuvos Rytas (10/6) argued that Lithuanian politicians, "who consider themselves representatives of a civilized country, should at least try not to forget to condemn the raging terrorism in Chechnya, as well as the country's tolerance for such criminal activities.... Chechnya became a terrorist-supporting state long ago.... Russia is completely justified in accusing Grozny of supporting terrorism."
THE NETHERLANDS: "The West Must Threaten Russia With Sanctions"
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad ran this op-ed (10/1): "The current actions of Moscow result in the condemnation of an entire people for the crimes--and purported crimes--of a small radicalized minority.... A strong package of sanctions must be prepared in case the Russian army invades Chechnya.
"It is time that with regard to Russia, as elsewhere, we protect international standards of justice."
"A Hopeless Spiral"
Liberal, weekly Elsevier observed (9/25): "Chechen politicians, mafia bosses and religious fanatics dream of subjugating the entire Caucasus. For that, they are interested in the oil transports from the Caspian Sea and the Kazakh oilfields. Not only in Russia, but also in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia does the national state threaten to collapse under the violence of extremist groups and criminal gangs. The state's answer, however, is regrettable: fewer democratic rights, silencing all opposition and creating an authoritarian regime. This is a hopeless spiral: State terrorism will only lead to more terrorism."
NORWAY: "War Again"
The independent Vaart Land commented (10/4): "After 300 people have lost their lives in attacks against Russian apartment buildings and the actions in the neighboring republic of Dagestan, it is easy to understand that Russia had to do something.... But it has not been proven that Chechens are behind the explosions.... For the Russians in power today a war can be suitable for turning the attention away from Russian misery. There is no reason for the IMF to finance a war of this type."
Independent tabloid Verdens Gang maintained (10/4): "Russian ground forces moved into the breakaway republic of Chechnya...but we strongly doubt that Yeltsin will manage to bomb and shoot his way to security. The result may easily be the exact opposite, i.e., the Russian attacks may only increase the battle resolve among fanatical, Muslim terrorists which, according to the Kremlin, have bases in Chechnya.... The military offensive the Russians began during the weekend does not suggest that the Kremlin is now giving a political solution the highest priority. The greater the forces the Kremlin uses against the breakaway republic, the greater the suffering, bitterness and hate. And the more difficult it becomes to find a solution that can both put an end to the Russians' hopeless war in Chechnya and the blind terror that has hit so many Russians."
POLAND: "A Crawling Invasion"
Jan Skorzynski argued in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/2-3): "Today Russia is preparing for another war--this time, however, it is a crawling invasion: without a full-scale land operation or a frontal attack on Grozny. And without thousands of casualties among the soldiers, the staff of the Russian army hopes. Moscow's most likely aim is to establish a zone in the north of the republic under its control, and set up a puppet Chechen government there. Even if this plan succeeds, it will certainly not help end the conflict soon.... Even if it turned out that the September attacks were perpetrated by Islamic terrorists, this could not justify the use of massive repressions against the country they come from. The terrorism of the state cannot be a response to the terrorism of political or religious groups."
"A Victory Will Solve Nothing"
Wojciech Jagielski wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (10/2-3): "In the new war with Chechnya, the Russians have made almost no mistakes so far. Their air strikes are quite precise.... Also, Russian soldiers are not being killed.... The military objectives of the Chechnya campaign seem obvious: enclose the rebellious republic with a cordon sanitaire to protect Russia from the forays of Caucasian mujahedins and terrorists; destroy their hideouts and stores of weapons; if possible, eliminate the leaders of the militants....
"But if the war is won, it will solve nothing. To agree to remain part of Russia, the Chechens must want it--they cannot be forced to accept it."
SPAIN: "A Hard Test For The Russian Government"
Centrist La Vanguardia commented (10/6): "Chechen rebels claim to be better prepared for the fight than they were in 1994. Nowadays, Russians apply methods that remind us of NATO's in Serbia: selective attacks and an information campaign to bolster support among Russian citizens. However, casualties and a massive exodus can make this operation very unpopular. This is a very important challenge for the Russian government as two major elections, legislative in December and presidential in 2000, loom on the political horizon.... Under such conditions the Chechen challenge is a hard test for Russia."
"The Chechen Trap"
Liberal El Pais observed (10/5): "It has been just three years since Yeltsin, who at the time was firmly in control, was forced to put an end to the conflict that had humiliated his country. The Russian president later said that Chechnya had been the major political mistake of his career.... Russia should have learned from its first defeat that weapons alone cannot solve its problems on the southern rim, [and] that a hostile territory cannot be maintained exclusively by coercion.... Putin is trying to demonstrate with his scorched earth policy in Chechnya that he is the rightful occupant of the Kremlin.... One of the risks of this Kremlin's new adventure is the Balkanization of the region. In Chechnya and Dagestan, Russian attacks could result in uniting the religious and ethnic minorities of the region against a common enemy."
SWITZERLAND: "Shadows And Ghosts In The Caucasus"
Luis Lema, foreign editor of Geneva's left-of-center Le Temps, held (10/4): "The present events in Chechnya, like those in Kosovo and East Timor, show that there are no such things as 'domestic' conflicts. Russia, opposed to all intervention in Yugoslavia, tries to turn Chechnya into another Kosovo in order to make its intervention legitimate. For their part, NATO and some Western countries avoid analogies with Kosovo so as not to get involved in an embarrassing conflict. In the end, nobody is at ease regarding the new world order in which international intervention is becoming the norm."
TURKEY: "Fire In The Caucasus"
Kamuran Ozbir argued in nationalist Ortadogu (10/6): "The northern Caucasus is very important to Russia for strategic and economic reasons.... Additionally, there are political power games going on in Russia. One group wants to take over President Yeltsin's power, while the other wants to remain in power. Russia is also worried about the possibility of the Russian Federation dissolving.... Not only Chechnya, but also the other autonomous regions of the Northern Caucasus, may want to separate from Moscow.... Russia has a de-facto loss: Chechnya. And Dagestan remains like a last forest fire for Russia. Therefore, the Yeltsin administration is trying very hard to keep it under control."
Semih Idiz held in the tabloid Star (10/6): "There are some allegations that Moscow is planning to establish a Northern Chechen Republic.... It wouldn't be a surprise if the West decides it won't tolerate the situation any longer, and starts grumbling to Moscow about Russia's air strikes and how they are killing civilians and causing thousands of Chechens to become homeless. Although Moscow defied the West on the Kosovo crisis, Russia will have to rein itself in on Chechnya because of the urgent need for IMF funds."
QATAR: "Aggressive Actions And Breaches Of Human Rights"
Semi-independent Al-Watan contended (9/30): "What we have seen from Moscow are aggressive actions and breaches of human rights. Moscow has gone very far in its reaction against Chechnya. It has done so without providing any evidence that last month's explosions were the making of Islamic groups from the Islamic republic. This is why the Russian military action against the Chechen republic seems to aim at other things...not...putting an end to the explosions."
SAUDI ARABIA: "No Room For Muslim Human Rights"
Jeddah-based, moderate Ukaz ran this editorial (10/2): "With their blood and freedom, the Muslim people of Chechnya are paying the price for the West's silence concerning the Russian invasion of their country.... Historical and current events disclose that there is no room for Muslim human rights.... This is a painful reality, regrettably imposed on Muslims by the force of the sword and the pen of the sophisticated Western media.... The Islamic world's silence is surprising and sad and raises big questions regarding the price of this silence.... The Islamic world's silence has no price today, but it will be forced to pay a very high price tomorrow?"
"An Aggressions Against Human Rights"
Jeddah-based, conservative Al-Madina argued (10/2): "The Russian air strikes against Chechnya are an aggression against human rights according to the same Western standards which required an intervention in Kosovo and another intervention in East Timor."
CHINA: "Russian Government's Action Complicates Situation"
Xu Hong said in official Beijing Youth Daily (Beijing Qingnianbao, 10/3): "The recent changes demonstrate that Russia has been stepping up its political and military pressure on the hardline Chechen government, which will further complicate the situation and cause even more concerns."
VIETNAM: "What Western Politicians Forget"
A commentary in Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon-the mouthpiece of Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Party) remarked (10/3): "The Western propaganda machine is speculating about Russia's attack on Chechnya, while high-ranking politicians in the West...are calling for a 'political solution' to this conflict. It seems that these politicians are trying to forget the fact that by moving troops to Chechnya, Russia is implementing its right to protect the legitimate integrity of its legal territory. Chechnya is an integral part and an autonomous state of the Russian Federation."
INDIA: "Yeltsin's War In Chechnya?"
The centrist Hindu (10/3) offered this view by Moscow correspondent Vladimir Radyuhin: "Russia is about to mount a new attempt to bring the rebel region back into its fold amid fears that this could spell another military disaster for Moscow.... The support from legislators and the public has encouraged Moscow to try and reassert its control over the breakaway region under the pretext of fighting terrorism....
"But analysts doubt the success of the operation and question the Kremlin's motives behind it.... The threat of war with Russia is uniting Chechens around the very militants Moscow is fighting, exactly the same as in 1994.... The Kremlin's outright rejection of subtler methods of fighting terrorists in favor of an all-out offensive has fed suspicion that it is trying to exploit the Chechen crisis for political purposes. For months, the media have been full of speculation that the Kremlin, in the face of corruption charges, manufactured the war as a pretext for declaring a state of emergency and cancelling presidential elections."
PAKISTAN: "Aggression Against Chechnya Should Be Condemned"
An editorial in popular, Islamabad-based, Urdu-language Ausaf asserted (10/4): "We believe that Russia is punishing Chechnya only because it is a Muslim state. But it should not forget that Russia's remaining economic and social structure will be totally destroyed if it tries to make it Chechnya another Afghanistan, as it is going to face a totally different situation in Chechnya.... It is the responsibility of all Islamic countries, including Pakistan, to lodge a strong protest against the Russian aggression and issue an open warning that any aggression against Chechnya will be considered an aggression against Muslim countries."
The centrist, national News maintained (10/4): "Russia clearly seems not to have learned any lessons from its previous military engagements in the region.... Had Russia been able to manage a smooth transformation from the Communist rule to a democratic polity, it could have saved its loose federation with the smaller ethnic groups in a dignified, less painful manner. The wounds it is now opening up in the Caucasus will fester for decades to come."
ARGENTINA: "Chechnya Declared War And The Russian Offensive"
Leon Bastidas, on special assignment in Moscow for leading Clarin, commented (10/6): "Last night Chechen President Maskhadov signed a martial law decree...after the invasion of Russian troops. He also requested religious leaders to order a 'saint war' against 'the invader.' Russia already seized control of one-third of Chechnya--its troops have seized the whole Northern area up to the Terek river, cutting the pro-independence republic into two.... But the Kremlin does not wish to stop at this natural border.... Today, bearing in mind the lessons of the Russian defeat in the 1996 war, and using the excuse of destroying terrorist bases, Russia has undertaken its second attempt to recover the rebel republic."
"Chechnya's Strategic Place"
Leading Clarin offered this view (10/4): "The Russian military attack on Chechnya has all the most glaring features of current wars in the post-Cold War scenario. In this case, domestic conflicts are added, along with secessionist nationalisms and strategic interests related to the control of vital resources.... The secessionist germ was added and spread to other Caucasian republics...which caused an increase in instability on Russia's southern front.... This explains Moscow's offensive against Chechnya as an attempt to respond to its domestic crisis through a foreign military objective.... In its turn, this explains the U.S.' and Western powers' tolerance about the Russian attacks against the Chechen people, which were compared with NATO's offensive against Serbia. But there are also other strategic reasons. Chechnya is a region where the control of oil routes and fields...is at stake. The possibility that those areas may be subject to the control of...guerrillas overrides other international principles...such as the protection of civilians in danger.... Because of that, Chechnya is not Kosovo."
PERU: "Tension In The Caucasus"
Straightforward El Comercio stressed (10/4): "The new Russian invasion of Chechnya is grave and its repercussions are worrisome for the international community. The Kremlin's...decision is questionable. We urge negotiations between the Russian and Chechen authorities as soon as possible. It is necessary to reach a political situation for a crisis that might become a holy war. "
"Russia On Defensive Again In Chechnya"
Strongly-opposition La Republica judged (10/5): "Russia is again engaged in a dead-end conflict in the Islamic, separatist Republic of Chechnya. The Yeltsin administration is convinced that there is a connection between Islamic separatism and the terrorist attacks. That is why they have decided to use harsh measures against the rebels. Yeltsin's situation is an uncomfortable one because he is obliged to invest millions in a war that--as before--will not get him anywhere. It will only aggravate Russia's economic situation and leave Chechnya, which was not completely restored after the previous conflict, in ruins. It is urgently necessary that diplomacy prevail over arms, but with the condition that both parties abandon their intransigent positions and agree to negotiate. Nobody knows if this will be possible."
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