October 20, 1999
RUSSIA'S CHECHEN OPERATION; WEST'S 'WEAK' REACTION CONTINUE TO DRAW EDITORIAL FIRE
As Russia presses on with its nearly month-old military operation in Chechnya, media voices outside of Russia continued to criticize the Kremlin's "dangerous adventure," and particularly its "use of force to resolve a problem that can only be settled politically." A number of analysts noted Prime Minister Putin's "soaring popularity" among the Russian public as a result of his "iron-fisted" approach to the Caucasian republic. "For the moment," mused a British paper, "Russians identify Mr. Putin, and the harsh patriotism he projects, as their future's brightest hope." Several observers also judged that Russia's "military assault" serves the premier's political agenda, as did London's liberal Guardian, which held that "he knows that his wish to succeed Yeltsin would be boosted by a credible claim to have vanquished 'black' Chechen terrorists." Said a Warsaw daily, "No one doubts that the current war in Chechnya...is in fact a war for the Kremlin. If Putin is the winner, he can feel secure in his chances for the presidency." Given the Russian army's current "position of strength" as it fortifies its bases around Grozny, many editorialists stressed that the Kremlin should now "take the Chechen issue from the battlefield to the negotiating table." By doing so, argued a Frankfurt daily, "the Russian leadership will free itself of the suspicion that it has been playing a game in Chechnya whose purpose has been anything but the fight against terrorism." The "so far weak reaction" from the West to Russia's offensive--"silence" was the term used by many--also triggered criticism from papers in Europe and elsewhere. From Russia, opinion on the military offensive ran the gamut--with those viewing it as a just "fight against terrorism" outnumbering critics, who maintained that "war and counter-terror do not get us anywhere." Regional highlights follow:
RUSSIA: Support for the Chechen campaign was found in official as well as reformist and opposition press, while criticism emanated mainly from reformist papers. Speaking in favor, official Parlamentskaya Gazeta commended the authorities' decision "to put things in order in Chechnya once and for all." This view was seconded by a reformist weekly, which insisted, "What is going on is not war but bringing constitutional order to our own land." Even supporters of the military campaign worried, however, that Russia "may be dragged into a no-win war." Such an eventuality, suggested reformist Kommersant Daily, would demolish Mr. Putin's plans to "win this 'little war' so that it could gain him the presidency." "If the campaign fails or causes heavy casualties," argued another, Mr. Putin would be the obvious "fall guy."
EUROPE: A wide spectrum of papers--including many in France, Germany, Italy and Spain--admonished the West for its "embarrassed silence" or "only mild protests" on Chechnya. Fearing "a new humanitarian disaster" in the region, a Madrid writer spoke for many in asserting, "None of this seems to matter much to the West.... Whatever happened to the obligation to intervene for humanitarian purposes?" Citing damage from Russian air attacks, a Paris paper contended, "For less than this, Indonesia was accused of torturing the population of East Timor...for similar war-like actions in Kosovo, the West united against Serbia."
ELSEWHERE: Commentary from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Canada mirrored European reaction, with pundits urging Russia to "stop the bloodshed," and chiding the West for its perceived "indifference" to the plight of Chechen refugees.
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 59 reports from 29 countries, October 7- 20. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "Washington Jealous"
Vadim Markushin opined in centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (10/20): "Chechnya may become another factor for Washington to go by as it adjusts its line of behavior with regard to Moscow. The IMF and the United States are putting pressure on Russia to make it not 'strain itself' too much in the North Caucasus. Evidently, the idea is that Moscow should act in a way which, while looking like fighting against terrorists, would not give Russia a full victory showing its increased moral and military potential."
"War Costs Less Than Peace"
Andrei Bagrov contended in reformist weekly Vlast (10/19): "The Khasavyurt agreement, signed by Aleksandr Lebed in 1996, has proved too expensive. In the three years that have passed since then, the war never ended.... After Khasavyurt, Chechnya became a generator of crime in Russia.... The current campaign in Chechnya costs Russia much less than its losses there in all three years. Inaction will cost even more, since what's going on is not war but bringing constitutional order to our own land. Chechnya is a gangland, a kind of remake of Algeria of the early 19th century. Holding it is as costly as it is deadly. Who needs a country which can't handle bandits in its own house?"
"West To Follow Public Opinion"
Aleksandr Davydov said on page one of reformist Vremya-MN (10/18): "The West assures Moscow that it is not going to link a new (aid) tranche to the Chechnya war. But as the war goes on and the West hears more about refugees and casualties, Western governments are more likely again to follow public opinion."
"Generals To Ruin Putin"
Reformist Segodnya (10/16) front-paged a commentary by Natalia Kalashnikova and Oleg Odnokolenko: "With the federal forces in the second stage of their campaign, ready to fight terrorists in all of Chechnya, Premier Putin may be dragged into a no-win war. The generals have their reasons, of course--they have to fight, ex officio. Besides, they are eager to have their revenge. The Kremlin's reasons are even stronger. It needs exciting war reports to eclipse news stories about the (financial) scandal. Also, it will need a fall guy if the campaign fails or causes heavy casualties. Putin fits that bill nicely."
"Only Army Guarantees Security"
Vitaly Denisov contended in centrist army Krasnaya Zvezda (10/16): "A nation's prestige is not measured by its solvency alone. A nation must be able to ensure its own security. Only its army can guarantee it. Events in Dagestan and Chechnya bear that out."
"Putin May Not Know What's Coming"
Ilya Bulavinov remarked in reformist business-oriented Kommersant Daily (10/16): "Putin hardly knows that we are in for an entirely different kind of war in Chechnya now. But he is out to win
this 'little war' so that it could gain him the presidency. He forgets, though, that this is exactly what Yeltsin wanted in 1994."
"What Better Way To Deal With Terrorism?"
Nina Maksakova noted on page one of official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (10/16): "The world knows of no way to fight terrorism that would be gentle and effective at the same time. You have to use violence. But violence spells a tragedy. You have to accept it, for there is no telling what may happen if you don't use force. Russia must protect its citizens, territory and regions that border on Chechnya."
"Chechnya Is Ulster"
Aleksandr Koretsky of reformist Segodnya (10/14) quoted a leading Russian expert on the Caucasus Sergei Arutyunov: "The chief reason why a military victory is impossible is that we may get mired for decades in a terrorist war, as in Ulster. We can prevent that by gradually getting Chechnya back into Russia."
"War Benefits West"
Vyacheslav Tetekin argued on page one of nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (10/14): "The war in the Caucasus benefits the Kremlin. But the West stands to gain the most. The West's concern for ethnic minorities' rights is downright hypocritical. It would do better to remember the wrongs it wreaked in Yugoslavia. Knowing that we are being drawn into another war does not mean that we should get out of Chechnya. It is essential that the Muslim world should realize that the war in the North Caucasus is about geopolitics, not religion, that the main confrontation is between the East and the West, not between the North (Russia) and the South."
"Chechnya Is No Kosovo; NATO Won't Help"
Official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/13) front-paged this commentary by Nikolai Paklin: "Chechen President Maskhadov has asked NATO for help.... He said that intervention in the conflict between Moscow and Grozny should be in line with 'the norms of the new world order NATO is out to set up.' Those norms were first tried in Yugoslavia. But the West realizes that Russia is no Yugoslavia. You can't talk to Russia using ultimatums, even less so force--this would be asking for a rebuff, including a nuclear one.... The West is using the issue of Chechen refugees. It did the same with regard to Kosovo refugees recently. Reports say that the terrorists force civilians to leave their homes to make Chechnya look like a 'humanitarian catastrophe zone.' Of course, peaceful Chechens are fleeing the war as Kosovars did NATO bombs. But the terrorists only need a 'humanitarian catastrophe' as an excuse for outside forces to intervene in Russia's internal conflict. The European Commission...urges the international community to mount a large-scale campaign to give humanitarian aid to Chechen refugees. Russia, basically, does not mind such assistance. But it objects to unknown 'humanitarian' NGOs giving it in the conflict area, the way the West wants this to be done. Anyhow, Chechen terrorists won't see the West intercede for them in any effective way. Western governments are unanimous that Chechnya was and remains part of Russia."
"We May End Up Fighting Against Chechnya"
Andrei Kolesnikov and Yevgeny Krutikov noted in reformist Izvestiya (10/13): "With the leaders of the Chechnya operation rejecting political means, shunting Maskhadov, and banking on other centers of political power not very influential in Chechnya or constitutionally legitimate, the war against the terrorists may turn into a war against Chechnya, as happened in 1994-1996."
"There's No Destroying Terrorism By Force"
Vasily Safronchuk argued on page one of nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (10/12): "There is no destroying terrorism by force, since it has social and economic roots. To do away with terrorism in Chechnya and all of the North Caucasus takes a viable economy and jobs for the population, especially young people. The current bandit-type regime in Chechnya makes that impossible. The hostilities and air raids don't contribute to economic activity either. To break that vicious circle, barring new people in the Kremlin, we need a new policy . Putin's palliatives and time-serving decisions are unlikely to help--the war in Chechnya may drag on for decades."
"Off With The Terrorist Scum"
Boris Alekseyev argued in official, government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/12): Obviously, Chechnya is a split entity in terms of government and society. A bunch of ringleaders are playing games, drawing the criminal scum from around the world, controlled by no one. So any [peace] initiative or plan makes no sense. To wipe the terrorist rabble off the face of the earth and rid life of fear and violence seems like the only solution."
"No One Wants To Risk His Popularity"
Fyodor Olegov judged on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/12): "The current action in Chechnya would have been less painful but for a lack of cooperation between Moscow and Grozny.... Mashkadov thinks that for starters, the feds would do well to stop the bombing and pull out. But with an elections campaign on, no sober-minded politician in Russia would risk his popularity rating by doing that."
"Not A Step Backward; Not A Step Forward?"
Alexei Bogaturov judged in centrist weekly Vek (10/8): "An expedition across the Terek makes no sense militarily or politically. Based on the left bank and having the support of the local population, the armed forces can easily control and, if necessary, adjust the situation south of the river by air force and artillery. Meanwhile, the politicians and negotiators, by building up economic pressure, will influence the authorities in Grozny to induce them to fight the bandits in the mountains. This is a...more reliable and viable scheme than attempts to remove Maskhadov and simultaneously saddle the federal government with a host of problems connected with managing a 'rebel territory.' Why do we have to go for military theatrics if they are suicidal?"
"Peace In Chechnya Is Only Possible After A War"
Andrei Danko stressed in official Parlamentskaya Gazeta (10/8): "Developments vindicate the theory that the Russian authorities have decided to put things in order in Chechnya once and for all. And, against all the odds, to do it by military methods. An early end of the operation is not on the cards. It is unlikely to be completed before the spring and summer of next year. All this time the terrorists who have dug in on the republic's territory will be pounded from the air and from the ground to the accompaniment of talk about possible talks. Negotiations will, of course, be held but not until the exhausted and enfeebled field commanders are prepared to agree to any terms, fantastic as they may seem today."
"We May Face A Blockade"
Galina Polozhevets judged in centrist weekly Vek (10/8): "The cat-and-mouse game that IMF officials are playing with Russia may indicate a dramatic change in the West's attitude toward our country.
"For various reasons and in many ways through our own fault, foreign investors won't have any truck with Russia in the next few years at least.... Everybody is waiting for the dust to settle in Russia after the electoral battles and the military actions in Chechnya. Until such time the economic relations between the West and our country may be put on hold no matter how sweet the smiles of diplomats and the promises of IMF officials."
"Russia As Israel; Chechens As Palestinians"
Dmitry Furman wrote in reformist weekly Obshchaya Gazeta (10/7): "If we want to be healed (we and the Chechens) we have to understand what the Israelis have understood, namely, that war...[and] counter-terror do not get us anywhere. That driving the Chechens further into a corner is not only immoral but dangerous, that it is necessary to talk to Maskhadov, that a normal and viable Chechen state is something that we need as much as the Chechens, and that eventual recognition of Chechen independence is inevitable. But to become aware of it and admit it, Russian leaders need much more courage than to start a new Chechen war.... But by saying or doing something that runs counter to public opinion or the opinion of the 'elite' they may ruin their careers. People like Rabin or Barak...have shown that they are ready to give their lives for their country have proved to be able to do so. But neither our president, nor our premier...never had to risk their lives for their country.... And it is unlikely that they have the courage to embark on a real search for peace."
"New Tactics; Old Strategy"
Pyotr Golovin said in reformist weekly Itogi (# 40, 10/7): "While trying to avoid old mistakes in tactics, Moscow has not changed its strategy. Its final goal is unclear, as before--it is either destroying the terrorists or solving the Chechnya problem. If it is the former, why do the bombing? It is hard to hit a terrorist from a flying plane. If Chechnya is a rebel territory and the rebels' resistance needs to be crushed by all means, we have to brace ourselves for more terrorist acts, in which case the slogan of fighting terrorism seems irrelevant."
"After Kosovo, It's Okay To Bomb Chechnya"
Leonid Velekhov contended in reformist weekly Itogi (# 40, 10/7): "After Kosovo, anything goes. You can't try to bomb Milosevic into a compromise and, at the same time, urge others not to do the same to Maskhadov. After Kosovo, anything is possible, with the ban on the use of force without approval by the UN all but disavowed. Conflicts like Kosovo and Chechnya may reduce the UN's role to offering humanitarian aid to displaced people."
"Info Blackout Is Bad For Campaign"
Reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (10/7) intoned editorially on page one: "War, of course, presupposes censorship. But with the army's General Staff insisting on a total information blackout, public attitude toward the current events in Chechnya may quickly [turn against the campaign]. You can't win a war these days without public support. It took the Pentagon the Vietnam war to realize that. With the Russians, the two previous campaigns in Afghanistan and Chechnya are not enough."
"We Caution The Government And The World"
Nationalist/opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (10/7) front-paged this piece signed by its editor-in-chief Valentin Chikin, his counterpart Aleksandr Prokhanov of nationalist/opposition Zavtra and the Communist Party leader, Gennady Zyuganov: "We caution the government against ferocious violent actions that might add to people's suffering, as well as against the hypocrisy and treachery which, lurking in political circles.
"This may turn into a campaign against the Russian army, causing a halt in its offensive, the eventual signing of a second Khasavyurt accord, and a subsequent chain reaction-like disintegration of this country. This being an internal conflict, we categorically object to the foreign intervention we can discern in statements by German, French and American politicians who are still hot from the abominable bombing of Yugoslavia."
BRITAIN: "Playing To The Gallery"
The conservative Times editorialized (10/20): "The hostilities (in Chechnya) are doing a tremendous amount of good for one man. Russia's latest prime minister, Vladimir Putin...has since seen his popularity soar. His new grasp on popular affection is entirely due to his tough Chechnya policy. In Russia's increasingly nationalist mood, the severity of Mr. Putin's approach to Chechnya has also clearly tapped a groundswell of popular longing for rule with an 'iron fist', which is increasingly expressed in Russia.... For the moment, Russians identify Mr. Putin, and the harsh patriotism he projects, as their future's brightest hope."
"Russia's Gamble: Ceasefire In Chechnya May Come Too Late"
The liberal Guardian asserted (10/7): "The short-term objectives of Russia's military assault on Chechnya are becoming clear.... The aim is containment rather than total control. Russia's longer-term objectives remain perfectly obscure, even, we suspect, to the Russians themselves. Prime Minister Putin, an old KGB hand, is an ambitious fellow. He knows that his wish to succeed Yeltsin would be boosted by a credible claim to have vanquished 'black' Chechen terrorists.... But one man's reckless career plan does not constitute a policy. In truth, Russia is taking an enormous gamble.... It could push Russia's shaky democracy beyond the breaking point."
FRANCE: "The Forgotten War"
Paula Boyer commented in Catholic La Croix (10/18): "Western leaders are showing very little indignation at the Chechen tragedy. They have only begun to express surprise at Moscow's obstacles to humanitarian aid.... Can we condone the West's lack of reaction because, with Russian elections in the offing, it fears Russia's destabilization?... This second Chechen war looks very much like the first one, with as much terror and intentions of ethnic cleansing...and the same preoccupation with Russian domestic elections. How much longer will the West keep quiet?"
"Interference In Chechnya?"
Left-of-center Le Monde argued in its editorial (10/7): "According to Prime Minister Putin, the war in Chechnya is intended to destroy Islamic terrorist bases.... But Russia has not been bombarding the mountains, but oil and gas installations...and what is left of the city of Grozny.... It is hitting what little is left of the local infrastructure.... Since September, 600 Chechen civilians have allegedly been killed.... For less than this, Indonesia was accused of torturing the population of East Timor and suffered economic sanctions. For similar war-like actions in Kosovo, the West united against Serbia.... The international community should feel a certain obligation toward President Maskhadov, whom it helped elect. But it has not uttered one word in support of a man whose power is being ignored by Moscow.... In reality, Moscow is not waging a war in Chechnya to undermine Bassayev and his men.... The Kremlin has shown no proof of any Islamic involvement in the recent terrorist bombings. Chechnya is being attacked in revenge for Russia's defeat in 1996. It is also a way to distract attention from financial scandals.... These are sinister motives which should push the international community to break its guilty silence."
"Clinton's Embarrassed Silence"
Jean-Jacques Mevel maintained in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/7): "It is too early yet to say whether Russia is trapped in another Chechen quagmire.... What is certain is that this new Chechen conflict will be remembered as the confirmation of a diplomatic quagmire between two out-of-breath presidencies: the Kremlin and the White House.... Yeltsin's Chechen adventure is adding to a feeling of embarrassment felt by the Clinton administration. Seen from Washington, what is most surprising is the administration's inability to make a clear statement on the Caucasian crisis.... The recent Russian mishaps are revealing a lame-duck White House.... One week into the Russian incursion into Chechnya, and neither the U.S. president nor his faithful deputy, Secretary Albright has made their position publicly known.... Only Strobe Talbott has spoken out clearly on the U.S. position."
GERMANY: "Russian Questioners"
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/20) carried a front-page lead editorial by Markus Wehner: "Russia feels misunderstood by the West these days. The otherwise divided political spectrum in Russia is for once in complete agreement: They have a young government leader who is prepared to act, not just talk, and the country's leadership even has the support of the population--but the West just won't stop criticizing Russia. Instead of supporting the country in its fight against terrorism, Berlin, Paris, and Washington launch a political campaign to counter Russia's military one in Chechnya. At least, that's how politicians in Moscow, see it, along with the majority of Russians.... Can you blame Russia for launching an 'anti-terrorist war,' which is how the war currently underway in Chechnya is called? Is the West not wearing blinkers which prevent it from seeing the truth about the real situation in Chechnya? Many of the questions which are asked today in Russia are legitimate. But Moscow must carry a major portion of the responsibility for the skepticism that marks the West's position regarding the military operation in Chechnya.... Russia must negotiate with Chechnya from a position of strength, a position that it has already achieved.... Putin must now push through negotiations.... If he manages that, then the Russian leadership will free itself of the suspicion that they have been playing a game in Chechnya whose purpose has been anything but the fight against terrorism."
"The West Pays And Keeps Silent"
Thomas Urban wrote in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/19): "There is no doubt that the massive bombing and shooting of civilian targets in Chechnya and the obvious effort to starve the population of the capital, Grozny, contradict all the norms of European civilization. The West has protested, but only mildly. EU foreign ministers and the White House encourage the two sides to conduct a dialogue, something that Moscow, however, does not want. The West finds it difficult to protest too loudly, since Moscow can argue that it is only doing what NATO did earlier this year in Yugoslavia, i.e., fighting terrorism.... Governments from Berlin to Washington have two ways to put pressure on Moscow: They can stop financial aid or they can attack human rights violations. But the will to stop the flow of money is obviously not there. Even during the first war against Chechnya in 1995, the West routinely transferred billions of dollars and practically paid for the military operations--a capital political mistake and a crude moral violation. And now the IMF announces that financial assistance will continue.... The mention of human rights violations has traditionally fallen on deaf ears in Moscow, and the subject is taboo for the Western governments.... Today, so the argument goes, criticism from the outside could endanger democratic reforms, as if these hadn't long since been reversed."
"Why Is NATO Silent About Chechnya?"
Mass-circulation Bild of Hamburg carried this piece by diplomatic correspondent Mainhardt Graf Nayhauss (10/19): "Strange things are happening. NATO keeps silent about the Russian attack on Chechnya....
"NATO's military leadership does not want to spoil the currently good relationship with the Russian military by putting out a statement on Chechnya, preferring to leave the protests to politicians and diplomats.... As regrettable as it is, great power interests take precedence over human rights in this case."
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine front-paged this editorial (10/8): "Yeltsin once said that the first campaign...against Chechnya was his greatest political mistake. But now, he again leaves it to the military and his notorious state security bodies to use force to resolve a problem that can only be settled politically. And this in view of the fact that the first...freely elected Chechen president asked for negotiations with Yeltsin.... But his government leader is all the more militant, not wanting to entertain anything about talks with the Chechen president, instead presenting pro-Russian Caucasian collaborators. Any further misery that develops from events in Chechnya--this is something that will be Europe, the EU and the OSCE's business."
Moscow correspondent Matthias Brueggmann filed the following editorial for business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (10/8): "Chechnya is no longer an internal Russian affair. First, the world should no longer look away when the Russian central power uses bombs to force a region to subordinate to Moscow, and when the alleged prosecution of terrorists is turning into a destruction of a whole people. Second, Chechnya has become an international affair long ago when the OSCE accepted the mediation in the previous war in the Caucasus.... The EU should not let up in its efforts to influence Moscow. If there is no international mediation, the Kremlin will again be confronted with a hopeless, belligerent situation. This is why Moscow would be well-advised to consider the EU offer as a contribution to its self-protection.... The EU should make clear to the Russians that it will not give its approval to new Russian IMF loans as long as these loans could be misused to finance the Chechen war."
ITALY: "Silence On Chechnya"
Boris Biancheri commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (10/9): "A strange silence surrounds Chechnya. Not many reports in the media...very little is seen on TV...but what strikes most forcefully is the lack of statements by government leaders who are usually very quick to warn and judge. No remarks are coming from Washington, New York or Brussels. Indeed, in the Caucusas a war is underway.... There are some reasons for [the lack of foreign reaction]. During the last decade the West directly or through the IMF has been trying to support Russia.... Let's admit...that...investigating committees and military interventions for humanitarian reasons are made and carried out where and when this is materially possible and politically opportune.... This is not the case with Chechnya."
Alberto Negri commented in leading business Il Sole 24-Ore (10/9): "Thousands of
Chechen people escaping and hundreds of civilians killed do not find any support in the high levels of international policy. Why? With public opinion shocked by terrorism, Moscow has been able to present this war as a fight against barbarians.... Escalation (to ward off) the Islamic danger is now the main tool of Moscow's propaganda.
"Chechnya? Nobody Cares"
Renato Farina commented in conservative newspaper syndicate La Nazione/Il Resto del Carlino/Il Giorno (10/8): "Everybody has been silent....
"Instead of sending a peacekeeping force, we are content with a very polite appeal to Yeltsin not to exaggerate with 'a disproportionate use of force against the civilian population.'... The Russians are damn wrong in Chechnya. Not only because they drop bombs on villages and buses carrying refugees.... But because theirs is mere revenge. Chechnya is part of Russia, therefore the Russians cannot talk of an aggression against a foreign country against which they have to defend themselves. Chechnya, which wants independence, is accused of providing shelter to Muslim guerrillas.... That's probably right, but why bomb Grozny?"
"So Far Only Victims Are Innocent Civilians"
Left-leaning, influential La Repubblica filed from Grozny (10/8): "Russian generals and government leaders repeat daily that the main objective of the military intervention in Chechnya is to 'annihilate' the Islamic guerrillas who are hiding into the mountains at the border with Dagestan, but, so far, the only victims of the bombings have been dozens, perhaps hundreds, of innocent civilians."
BELGIUM: "A Diversion Maneuver"
Pol Mathil opined in independent Le Soir (10/20): "The justice and interior ministers of the G-8 are meeting in Moscow to discuss the fight against international crime. This was at least what they believed. Until the end of Russian prime minister's opening speech.... By basing his speech on the necessity to severely fight terrorism, he tried at the same time to justify Russia's intervention in Chechnya and to neutralize the Western participants.... The West is very well aware that the operation in Chechnya is also a diversion maneuver, aimed at assuring Vladimir Putin's place in the Kremlin after Boris Yeltsin."
BULGARIA: "Putin Inching Closer And Closer To The Kremlin"
Influential weekly Kapital asserted (10/16): "Putin's popularity in Russia is growing not in terms of days but hours, in the last several weeks. If the military operation in Chechnya didn't exist, it would have had to be been invented, so Putin could get a chance to fulfill the only relevant order from Yeltsin: to win the presidential elections next June. Putin's harsh statements, which contribute to his image of an uncompromising and decisive politician, who doesn't shy way from responsibility, are also a key factor in his growing popularity. The military intervention in Chechnya, the state of the economy and the vague political views of the prime minister will influence the voters' choice."
CROATIA: "Moscow Learned The Chechen Lesson"
Military analyst Fran Visnar commented in government-controlled Vjesnik (10/19): "Moscow carefully studied all lessons from the 1994-96 Chechen war, and made certain improvements in the chain of command and in tactics. This time, Russian forces completely surprised the Chechens.... In fact, the Russians are entirely copying the Americans: They are allowing the Chechen terrorists no time-outs, and their backers must pay the full price for supporting them. Moscow is using NATO's Kosovo model. By bombing Serbia, the Americans pushed through the arrival of KFOR ground troops to Kosovo.... Russia will take advantage of that precedent both militarily and politically.... The so-far weak reaction from the United States, the West and NATO to Russia's military intrusion in Chechnya proves that Moscow's estimations regarding the Kosovo precedent were not completely unfounded."
DENMARK: "Epitaph For The Russian Empire"
Center-left Aktuelt opined (10/20): "As was the case with East Timor, the situation in Chechnya proves the worldwide need for more democracy and more organizations like NATO....
"[With] Chechnya...the local oppressor, Russia, is not only the most powerful nation in the region but also a UN superpower, that can veto UNSC decisions thereby preventing humanitarian intervention. The Chechen people pay the price."
HUNGARY: "Kosovo Good, Chechnya Bad?"
Washington correspondent Gabor Lambert asked in pro-government Magyar Nemzet (10/7): "What's the difference between the Chechens and the Kosovars? Nothing, only the PR of the latter is better. In addition, in Kosovo's case, U.S politics is already willing to accept ethnic realities, even if Western Europe is aware of their dangers. Russia, however, is different. There is a Euro-Atlantic consensus that Russia must not fall apart, and chaos--beyond a certain point--is impermissible. What counts as the basis of a responsible international action elsewhere is considered an internal affair in Russia's case."
THE NETHERLANDS: "Realpolitik Prevails"
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad opined (10/11): "The Kosovo crisis has made it difficult for the West to use double standards. The Chechens seem to be facing the same threat the Albanians in Kosovo faced. At the same time, the West has an interest in a central Russian power in the [oil-rich] Caucasus.... This is the reason why one has heard little comment from the West. It looks like realpolitik prevails. However, given the former war, which resulted in a military defeat for Russia and a further fragmentation of Chechnya, realism alone will not be sufficient. The EU member states have requested unrestricted access for humanitarian organizations. Russia cannot refuse. Should Russia deny such access then one must think of appropriate action, such as freezing Russian credits."
NORWAY: "Dangerous Adventure In Caucasus"
Social democratic Dagsavisen commented (10/7): "Russia's prime minister has promised to crush the Chechen guerrillas, which he refers to as criminals and terrorists. Putin's tough line is popular among the Russians.... So far Putin has only succeeded in uniting the Chechens against a common external enemy.... There is barely any hope for the war to be over soon so that the people can return home safely. International involvement is necessary."
POLAND: "Putin's Game"
Slawomir Popowski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/18): "Russians yearn for a strongman, for a 'tough but just hand.' Putin...meets precisely this requirement. When Yeltsin nominated Putin last August as prime minister and his successor, Putin's 'presidential' rating did not exceed two percent. Today more than 14 percent of Russians are ready to vote for him.... To a large extent, Putin owes this success to his policy toward Chechnya. Whereas it is still not known who is really responsible for the terrorist attacks in Russia, no one doubts that the current war in Chechnya...is in fact a war for the Kremlin. If Putin is the winner, he can feel secure about his chances for presidency."
SPAIN: "Laying Siege To Grozny"
Liberal El Pais observed (10/19): "Russian troops have arrived at the outskirts of Grozny and are preparing themselves for what could be a drawn-out siege.... Whatever the true objective may be, the Chechen population is suffering the consequences...leading to a new humanitarian disaster with 160,000 refugees fleeing to neighboring territories. None of this seems to matter much to the West and less still, of course, to the Russians.... What ever happened to the obligation to intervene for humanitarian purposes?"
"Moscow's Inability To Learn"
Conservative ABC opined (10/7): "Russia is not winning any points with the international community with its disorganized fight against fundamentalism. Afghanistan was once the great melting pot where fundamentalism was based and Yeltsin is creating another fundamentalist flash point.... To such fundamentalists, the rest of the world is a war zone and we all could be the victims. Someone should tell this to Yeltsin--either the UN, the IMF, NATO or the EU."
TURKEY: "The Chechnya Morass"
Zafer Atay wrote in economics/politics Dunya (10/8): "Russia is facing a serious dilemma on Chechnya. If Chechnya is to be kept as part of the Russian Federation at any cost, then Russia will have to deal with a bloody war again. If Chechnya is left to go, then Russia is likely to lose a strategically and economically important country situated on Caspian oil routes.... Despite some reports about Yeltsin benefiting from the current situation, and in spite of the fact that Yeltsin's scandals have been forgotten with the help of Chechnya crisis, in the long run, this crisis will be a political trap for Yeltsin.... If the Chechen resistance is not eliminated, Russian opposition to Yeltsin will grow louder."
EGYPT: "Russia Should Stop Bloodshed"
Pro-government Al Ahram ran this piece (10/14): "Russia...should take the Chechen issue from the battlefield to the negotiating table. This is to stop the bloodshed of innocent Chechens.... Showing tolerance and the ability to find peace will strengthen solidarity...in Russia. But bombs and shelling will only add more tension in that region."
SYRIA: "Losing Bets"
Saleh Saleh commented in government-owned Al-Bath (10/11): "The Russian war in Chechnya will be long.... Russians did not learn the lesson from their previous experience with the Chechens.... They did not achieve any objectives or goals.... The negotiating table is the only solution for ending the crisis."
CHINA: "Russian Troops Will Not Attack Chechnya With An Iron Hand"
Wang xuejian said in the Beijing Morning Post (Beijing Chenbao, 10/19): "Subjected to the intense military and political pressure imposed by Russia, the sitting president of Chechnya is likely to step down. It is predicted that Russia will shore up a pro-government autonomous regime in Chechnya in a bid to finally resolve the Chechnya issue within the Russian federation."
"Russia Tries To Live Through Turbulence"
Liu Gang said in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 10/15): "Despite the considerable impact from the current economic situation as well as the election, the decisive factor shaping Russian policy will be the developments in Chechnya. If the Russian forces are successful, that surely will have a positive influence on the election, while ushering in the stability crucial for economic reconstruction. Otherwise, the current government is likely to be dismissed, which will further complicate Russia's political situation."
INDONESIA: "Will NATO's Reaction On Chechnya Be Same As Kosovo?"
Leading, independent Kompas maintained (10/9): "Although the Chechnya crisis is similar to Kosovo's, rest assured that NATO will not use military power against Russia. By any standard, Russia is not Yugoslavia.... The difference in responses toward Russia and Yugoslavia demonstrates that there is still discrimination based upon the size and strength of militaries and economies.... One presumes that EU and NATO pressure on Russia will be very measured, unlike the way in which NATO continuously corners Yugoslavia."
JAPAN: "Russia Must Not Escalate Chechen Conflict"
An editorial in liberal Asahi observed (10/19): "So far, the military operation against Chechnya, undertaken by Putin, appears to be successful partly because the Chechens have offered little strong resistance. Because of lawlessness in Chechnya, the United States has not openly or strongly criticized the military operation, which Russia calls an anti-terrorist measure. Russian troops' advancing into Grozny or the mountainous region in southern Chechnya would not only intensify fighting and claim more lives but also draw out the conflict into...an all-out war. Russia, dependent on IMF loans, can hardly afford to wage such a war. Such loans must by no means be used for military operations against Chechnya. Yeltsin must redouble his efforts to resolve the crisis politically."
SOUTH KOREA: "Russia's Presidential Election: A Changed Landscape"
Hwang Sung-jib observed in conservative Chosun Ilbo (10/19): "Russians are enjoying the success of their country's recent raid against Chechnya, and this has led to high popularity ratings for the prime minister.... It is no secret that Russians are nostalgic for a strong and charismatic leader. While Putin's stern image is said to be unsuited for a president, his image as a 'terminator,' nevertheless, seems to be finally having an effect on Russian voters."
PAKISTAN: "Russia's Caucasus Adventure"
The Karachi-based, independent, national Dawn opined (10/7): "The simmering conflict in Chechnya has taken a serious turn which could suck the entire Caucasian region into a full-fledged war.... Worse still, the war in Chechnya could be a blow to the besieged Russian presidency under attack from the nationalist hard-liners on the right. In fact, the military move in Chechnya is being widely seen as a last-ditch attempt by the rulers in Moscow to boost their flagging public standing on the eve of the parliamentary elections...and the presidential polls.... How Yeltsin hopes to turn this war into a victory before the elections is not at all clear."
SRI LANKA: "The International Scene: Chechnya"
Vernon L.B. Mendis wrote in the government-owned and controlled weekly Sunday Observer (10/10): "Russia's own objectives are not clear as to whether [its campaign] will be confined to the destruction...of the terrorists or be extended to Chechnya itself as retaliation for the past. It is significant that Russia has ruled out any foreign intervention in the way of international troops or observers."
BURKINA FASO: ''Chechnya: Silence, Indifference And Guilt"
Independent Le Pays carried this piece (10/19): "Will there be a double standard concerning assistance for populations in danger? What is the difference between East Timor, Kosovo or Bosnia and Chechnya?... We cannot delude ourselves.... With the shadow of the Osama bin Laden groups...the number one enemy of the United States...hanging over this region, Moscow can count on Washington's benevolence."
ARGENTINA: "The Kremlin's Defense"
Leon Bastidas, on special assignment in Moscow for leading Clarin, wrote (10/20): "Russia accused Chechnya of having organized the bloody terrorist assaults against Russia last month.... By blaming Chechnya for those criminal assaults, the Russian government referred to the current war against the rebel Northern Caucasian republic as an operation to eliminate 'a focus of international terrorism.' And that was the Kremlin's defense to the West."
CANADA: "Yeltsin's Unholy War And U.S. Support"
Contributing Foreign Editor Eric Margolis commented in the conservative Ottawa Sun (10/11): "The Clinton administration has had many low moments, but this week it plumbed new depths as the White House gave Moscow a green light to launch Russia's second war...against the tiny...republic of Chechnya.... In Moscow, standing next to her beaming Russian hosts, Madeleine Albright proclaimed 'We are opposed to terrorism'--meaning Islamic rebels. She said nothing about Russia's blatant violation of its 1996 treaty that granted Chechnya de facto independence. She made no protest over Moscow's egregious violation of the 1990 CFE Treaty.... Now, Clinton and Gore are at it again, bringing the deepest dishonor on America by supporting Russia's barbarism in the Caucasus and actually funding Moscow's crimes against humanity with American tax dollars. Well, comes the response, nuclear-armed Russia is not feeble Indonesia and can't be ordered about. Why not? Without weekly delivery of planeloads of U.S. $100 bills, the Yeltsin regime would collapse."
BOLIVIA: "Russia And The NATO Lesson"
Cochabamba's centrist Los Tiempos (10/10) carried a commentary by Ramiro Velasco: "This time the Belgrade lesson is being applied: massive air attacks and an exact imitation of the language used by NATO.... However, one thing can be predicted: Clinton and the European nation leaders will continue to keep cautiously silent until the end, without caring that the consequences will be worse than in Yugoslavia. The Kremlin, in effect has carte blanche and Yeltsin...takes advantage of it."
ECUADOR: "Military Adventures"
Quito's leading, centrist El Comercio opined (10/8): "What is moving Russia to initiate again an adventure that left such bad memories? There are doubts about Chechnya's responsibility in the latest attacks and even more doubts about the true motivation for putting the Russian army in motion and trying to bend Chechnya.... The possibility of a political card being played due to the proximity of a presidential election...is one.... An increasing number of opinions point to a promotion of...Putin.... What hurts the international community and deserves general censure is the serious situation of thousands of people forced into exodus."
For more information, please contact:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Research
Telephone: (202) 619-6511
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