February 16, 2000
RUSSIA: SKEPTICISM ABOUT GROZNY 'VICTORY'; CRITICISM OF WESTERN 'LENIENCY'
Vladimir Putin's February 6 declaration that Grozny has been "liberated" by Russian forces topped recent editorial coverage of Russia. Media from Europe, East Asia, Latin America and Canada treated the news with skepticism and derision, contending that the Kremlin's "hollow victory" offers "little to celebrate," given the "death tolls" already exacted. Moreover, many--including some reformist and centrist papers in Moscow--contended that the war in Chechnya "has by no means been won." Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta stressed, "Not even destroying [the Chechen fighters] will bring peace.... Resistance will go on...as a guerrilla war." Others warned that Russia's "approach" to its breakaway republic would breed "terrorism" and "revenge" in a "nation of united dissidents." Several European analysts also assailed the West for its "leniency" toward Russia and particularly Mr. Putin, "the man responsible for the massacres in Chechnya." Coming on the heels of "pictures of a devastated Grozny beamed around the world," recent Western overtures--namely, NATO Secretary General Robertson's Moscow visit to revive NATO-Russia ties; President Clinton's remarks on CNN that the U.S. "can do business" with Mr. Putin; and the London Club's agreement with Moscow to reschedule some of Russia's external debt--collectively demonstrated to some observers the West's willingness to overlook "war crimes" in its efforts to turn the tide in Western-Russian relations. Moscow media, by contrast, welcomed the NATO chief's visit as a potential "turning point" in normalizing relations and surmised that Mr. Clinton's acknowledgment of the acting president as "a good guy" is a "major political breakthrough" for the latter and signals a "change of heart" in Washington about the Russian leader. The London Club deal was also hailed as a "big victory" for the new government by some Russian pundits. Meanwhile, the fate of Radio Liberty journalist Andrei Babitsky drew the attention of Moscow writers, most of whom criticized the Kremlin's handling of the affair. A reformist weekly saw the case as "more evidence of a growing threat to the free press of this country." Highlights follow:
AFTER 'VICTORY' IN GROZNY: A handful of Russian papers looked beyond the "military phase of the Chechen operation" to the task of bringing stability to the "liberated territory." Reformist Noviye Izvestiya held that "restoring constitutional order is the goal, the only one, which, if only in a small way, justifies the loss of human lives and the inhumane destruction." Neo-communist Slovo concluded that any defeat of Chechen "bandits" will ultimately depend on "destroying their social base," and "that takes winning over...the Chechen population and creating social and economic conditions to preclude the return of a criminal free-for-all" there.
'WEST'S LENIENCY' TOWARD MOSCOW: Paris's left-of-center Le Monde found common cause with other leading publications in Paris, Berlin and Rome in contending that in the face of the "annihilation" of Grozny, "the U.S. is totally complacent and Europe is almost as bad." In contrast to the "indignant" reaction to events in Austria, the paper further charged that "such a double standard treatment...between Vienna and Grozny turns the West's talk of human rights into a...manifestation of hypocrisy." A Warsaw paper demurred, arguing that Russia's military heft requires that a "different standard" be applied there. Muslim voices resumed their screeds against "Western abandonment of Chechnya," while a few Asian and Latin American pundits suggested that NATO had "abandoned" Chechnya as a "quid pro quo.... Kosovo for Grozny."
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 71 reports from 23 countries, February 4 - 16. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "Good Guy Putin"
Sergei Chugayev of reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (2/16) commented on President Clinton's on-line interview with CNN television yesterday: "The statement by Bill Clinton that the United States can 'do business' with Russia's acting president could well be called a major political breakthrough for Vladimir Putin. After all, it is the president of the leading country of the Western world...who said that. This means that in the eyes of the world public, Putin is no longer Stasi or a 'black box' or a 'blank sheet.' He is now a 'good guy.'"
"U.S. Comes Around On Russia"
Dmitry Gornostayev said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/16): "It must be the first time that the U.S. administration clearly demonstrated a change of heart on what is going on in Russia. Clinton's statement [on CNN] attests that Washington will bear (for how long?) with the Chechnya operation and is even ready to work with Vladimir Putin, notwithstanding his being branded a 'blank sheet.' Remarkably, the Russian foreign ministry has reacted promptly to the 'constructive statements by the U.S. president,' emphasizing that the Russian leadership shares his desire to step up the dialogue."
"Clinton Nominates Putin"
Leonid Gankin said in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant (2/16): "Since Madeleine Albright met with Russia's acting president recently, she has more than once made it clear that she thinks he is ready to make concessions and is capable of resolving differences that have accumulated between Russia and the United States. It is hard to tell whether Washington really feels optimistic about its relations with Russia under Putin, but it surely is clear on who is going to win the elections in this country."
"Confrontation With NATO Unwarranted"
Oleg Odnokolenko of reformist Segodnya (2/16) wrote in the run-up to a visit to Moscow by NATO's Secretary General George Robertson: "The (Russian) defense ministry says the visit may become a turning point.... But it is Vladimir Putin who will decide the outcome of the talks. He seems to know better than the military that Russia can't really do without integration with the rest of the world. Furthermore, we have to recognize that there are no contradictions between Russia and NATO that would warrant their treating each other as a probable enemy. We don't have leverage to influence our neighbors' desire to join the Alliance. Our peacekeeping record has not been particularly impressive, either--problems in Nagorno Karabakh, Abkhazia, Tajikistan and elsewhere, far from resolved, have only been frozen. Our claims with regard to Kosovo aren't exactly justified, since we have neither means nor strength to influence the situation there in any noticeable way. Only the military and defense industry chieftains may want confrontation with NATO."
"Tug Of War Over Foreign Policy"
Gennady Sysoyev contended in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant (2/16): "The Robertson visit is not only the beginning of normalization between Russia and NATO. It is also a victory for the foreign ministry in its tug of war with the defense ministry over who will define Russia's foreign policy.
"It is just that Igor Ivanov knows that no matter how we feel about NATO, ignoring it, as a reality in European politics, would be myopic, to say the least."
According to Viktor Sokolov in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/16): "The visit may well become a turning point. Neither Moscow nor Brussels seem happy about how things have been going since the tragedy in the Balkans. Obviously, the West, more than Russia, has been attempting to renew the dialogue."
"Who Cares About Chechens?"
Valery Yakov stated in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (2/15): "There is only one official agency which is trying to assess the extent of the tragedy that has befallen the peaceful residents of Chechnya. But even that organization, Human Rights Watch, is not Russian--it is international and has been acting in the conflict area at its own risk, with little support from Moscow, gathering information bit by bit.... Based on the latest statements by Yastrzhembsky [Kremlin aide on war information], Manilov [a Defense Ministry spokesman] and Koshman [the federal government's envoy in Chechnya], it is clear that the authorities don't care how many civilians died in the 'liberation' of Grozny and what will become of those who survived.... After all, the price of victory in this kind of war is not only the lives of men and officers, but primarily those of peaceful citizens, fellow countrymen."
Nikolai Aleksandrov, reacting to Moscow's agreement with the London Club to restructure the ex-USSR's debt, exulted in reformist youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (2/15): "Kasyanov has saved Russia. The government and personally First Deputy Premier Mikhail Kasyanov have won a big victory.... For the first time, a country that is not one of the world's poor gets significant relief on its debt."
Aleksei Nikolsky commented in reformist Izvestiya (2/15): "It is a success and a big one at that. Only recently, the very idea of such a deal caused skeptical remarks. We could have done without this agreement if we had wanted to live in isolation and go bankrupt every three years. The price for giving up isolation is a great need for economic growth in the next few years, which is a lot of work."
Boris Fyodorov lamented in reformist Segodnya (2/15): "For a country with the ambition of a G-8 member, it is an outright disgrace to beg that its debt be written off. I am not at all sure that in a few years, we won't see another victory for our economic diplomacy, as our new Eurobonds are written off as well. No doubt, Russia will be able to service its foreign debt in full measure and have a decent budget if it cuts down on stealing, corruption and the flight of capital. Otherwise, the so-called breakthrough on the Main is just a cover up for our outrages at home.... Putin has made this deal and he is going to be responsible for seeing it through. In any event, the West has nothing to lose."
"Liberty Stages Political Show"
Reformist Izvestiya (2/15) said editorially on page one: "Part of the hysterics in the past couple of weeks is Radio Liberty, which instead of quietly working for the release of its staff member, has staged a political show.
"With Andrei Babitsky in bandits' hands, Italian sports showman Savik Shuster would do well to engage in talks and raise money, rather than sorting out Russian journalists by their being or not being 'true' on the basis of their loyalty to Radio Liberty."
"Russia-West: Back To Pre-Chechnya Days?"
According to Yulia Petrovskaya and Igor Maksimov on page one of reformist Vremya MN (2/15): "Relations between Russia and the West seem to be coming back to what they were before Chechnya, with the subject of the rebel republic receding into the background. That, however, does not mean that the United States and Europe have changed their opposition to the Kremlin's Chechnya policy. Even so, with Moscow winning the war, it is hard to see how outside pressure can make the Russian leadership stop fighting."
"What Is Yastrzhembsky's Job?"
Valery Yakov charged in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (2/12): "Interpreting events in a specific way and juggling with facts is what constitutes the job of our new war ideologue, which is why his comments on the fighting are easy to guess without referring to the source. Yastrzhembsky really cares little about Babitsky; his concern is far more important: using every means to justify the war and the enormous losses it incurs."
"War To End In Court Of Law"
Under this headline, reformist Noviye Izvestiya (2/11) front-paged an article by Sergei Bobrovsky: "The military phase of the Chechen operation will end sooner or later. But its judicial phase is going to be just as tough.... Restoring constitutional order is the goal, the only one, which, if only in a small way, justifies the loss of human lives and the inhumane destruction. There is much evidence that the constitutional order has been grossly violated with regard to the people of the rebel republic, Chechens and non-Chechens."
Olga Kuchkina said in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (2/11): "Andrei Babitsky has become a bargaining chip in an information war. Watching the second Chechnya campaign from the other side of the barricade, Babitsky must have accepted that side's view of things. If we don't trust the Russian authorities on Babitsky, why should we trust the Chechens or their sympathizers?... By playing hoaxes and using abhorrent means to gag the journalist and, at the same time, commenting or not commenting on what is going on, the authorities have shown complete disregard for public opinion. Discussions on the growing role of government are rife these days, and we are being assured that a strong government will never encroach on the rights of the individual. The acting president never tires of repeating that the government he is out to build will look after the people's interests and protect their rights. It is either that the acting president can't hear well or the prevalent philosophy in the upper crust is the direct opposite."
"What's In It For Radio Liberty?"
Maksim Sokolov said in reformist Izvestiya (2/11): "As the press calls the authorities mendacious, perfidious and prone to scheming, it never seems to ask whether those qualities are the privilege of the powers that be alone, or if they can also be found in other public agencies. More specifically, what is the U.S. Congress-funded Radio Liberty doing, revving up this story? What is it after, and how does this conform with the objectives and interests of the journalistic community?"
"Make Jobs, Not War"
Viktor Litovkin said in reformist weekly Obshchaya Gazeta (2/10): "According to our experts, thousands of unemployed Chechen men of draft age have to be provided with decent well paying jobs. Or there is no chance to defeat a possible guerrilla movement in the so-called liberated territory. No matter what action is taken in the highlands, it is economic managers, not the military, who will decide the outcome of the fighting now."
"Threat To Free Press"
Sergei Alekseyev, a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated on page one of reformist weekly Obshchaya Gazeta (2/10): "What has happened to Andrei Babitsky is more evidence of the growing threat to the free press in this country, a threat which, alas, has become a reality.... The war has brought along the affliction that we thought had long been gone. Bolshevism is coming on the crest of total propaganda and war psychosis, which were caused by acts of banditry in Chechnya and the barbaric blasts in Moscow and Volgodonsk."
"Radio Liberty Is Responsible, Too"
Editor-in-chief Vitaly Tretyakov of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/10) charged: "Radio Liberty shares full responsibility for the bad things that have happened to Babitsky.... It is either that the Radio Liberty management left him to the mercy of fate...or it just used him.... (Radio) Liberty has been dictating fashions in honest journalism in Moscow for much too long, so that even truly honest journalists have been afraid to differ with it on anything, in subject or form."
Ilya Maksakov remarked on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (2/9): "If it is true (about the reported death of Chechnya's vice president and leading field commander, Vakhi Arsanov)...then that, indeed, was a brilliant operation which led to the liberation of Grozny and left the separatists without many of their commanders."
"War Moves To Highlands"
Viktor Pritula claimed on page one of neo-communist Slovo (2/9-10): "The war is moving up to the highlands where the militants are likely to fight their last battles. The army, the acting president and the government have resolved to do away with them completely. With large bands destroyed, the counterterrorist operation will enter its most difficult stage: having to destroy the bandits' social base. That takes winning over the majority of the Chechen population and creating social and economic conditions to preclude a return of the criminal free-for-all in that land."
"Only Court of Law Can Call a Person Guilty"
Yelena Loria cited a statement by the Duma's Union of Right-Wing Forces on the Babitsky case in reformist Noviye Izvestiya (2/9): "Nobody ever has the right to judge who of this country's citizens is more important and who is less important to it, even less so to call anyone guilty and mete out punishment to him/her."
"Babitsky Deserves Equal Treatment"
Vasily Ostryakov argued in neo-communist Slovo (2/9-10): "As far as we know, Andrei Babitsky is a Russian citizen and has not accepted U.S. citizenship. If so, the federal authorities must treat him as they would treat any other Russian.
"By what right has one Russian been exchanged for three (or two) other Russians? Who has this right?"
"Throwback To The 1930s"
Oleg Moroz weighed in on page one of reformist weekly Literaturnaya Gazeta (2/9): "Swapping Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky for two Russian prisoners-of-war smacks of the guileless show trials of the 1930s."
"Fall Of Grozny Not A Tragedy To Militants"
Alan Kachmazov contended in reformist Izvestiya (2/8): "The fall of Grozny is no tragedy to the Chechen militants--they don't feel demoralized. It would be naive to think that in the years of relative peace in Chechnya, the terrorists, while building up defenses in Grozny, forgot about the mountains. Most of their bases are in the mountains now."
"The Worst Still Ahead"
Mikhail Tolpegin noted in reformist Segodnya (2/8): "With the capture of Grozny, the flatlands part of the campaign is said to be over. Its hardest part is still ahead, according to our sources in the Defense Ministry."
"Row Over Babitsky Damages Russia, Putin"
Reformist, business-oriented Kommersant (2/8) ran this commentary by Leonid Gankin and Yury Chubchenko: "An international row over this incident keeps growing, threatening Russia and Putin.... The Babitsky case has raised more questions about Putin and about how much he depends on those among the brass hats and defense industry chieftains who are trying to rekindle anti-Western sentiment, risking Russia's isolation. From the legal standpoint, the case is without precedent. The government, without trial or investigation, passed judgment on the loyalty of its citizens and decided that it liked the two Russian soldiers better, if only because, to use Putin's words, they had fought 'on our side.' It said that it felt no remorse, handing over the 'traitor' Babitsky to the militants. In fact, the administration equated the journalist with the Chechen fighters."
"We've Got To Know The Truth"
Sergei Gryzunov demanded in reformist weekly Moskovskiye Novosti (2/8): "As we call ourselves a democratic state, we have to know the truth about the Babitsky case. Hushing it up will have extremely negative consequences for both the top echelon of power and society."
"Theater Of The Absurd"
Reformist Vremya MN (2/8) featured this comment by Lena Bereznitskaya and Yury Vershov: "The Andrei Babitsky story increasingly looks like absurdist theater with two actors, the journalist and the acting president mute, and the others talking a blue streak, always contradicting themselves in what they say."
"Lots Of Odd Facts"
Andrei Maslakov pointed out in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (2/8): "There are lots of odd facts in this case, which attest either to the fantastic unprofessionalism of our military and special services...or to the unprofessionalism of our wartime PR people, if it is really Babitsky's pro-Chechen reports that are the matter.... Whichever it is, we have three fewer of our soldiers among the prisoners-of-war now."
"On To The Mountains"
Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta front-paged this piece (2/5) by Sergei Sokut: "The defeat of the militants in the plains and the imminent liberation of Grozny promise an early end to the military phase of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya. But the 6,000 to 7,000 Chechen fighters in the mountains are a formidable force. Besides, not even destroying them will bring peace to that land. Resistance will go on for a long time, as a guerrilla war."
BRITAIN: "Russia's Third Man"
The liberal Guardian had this lead editorial (2/15): "Who is Vladimir Putin? As the March 26 elections approach, Western governments and their intelligence agencies are scrambling to define the new Russia's third man. Mikhail Gorbachev: bold reformer. Boris Yeltsin: ally of the West. But Mr. Putin, who stands poised to win a four-year presidential term? Hawk or dove? Friend or foe? The files are worryingly thin. Putin has many faces, not all of them smiling. A clear profile of the Kremlin's new Harry Lime is unlikely to emerge until well after he takes power.... Sinister questions about Mr. Putin will persist. But the interim sit-rep for Western spooks is: Do not underestimate; treat with great care."
"Putin's Empire Begins To Growl"
The conservative Times noted (2/10): "From the northern Pacific coast to the Caucasus and beyond, Moscow's new leadership has embarked on an aggressive foreign policy, which has set it firmly on a collision course with Western interests. In a series of actions over the past few days, the new government of Vladimir Putin has moved to bolster its military, befriend repressive regimes, and put the West on notice that it will be a rival rather than a partner. Despite receiving a cautious welcome in the West, where Madeleine Albright praised Mr. Putin this week for his open-mindedness, his actions have sent a very different signal. Mr. Putin seems in the space of only a month in power to have embarked on a much more aggressive path than his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.... Despite the concern caused by Russia's recent actions, Western policymakers say it is still too early to tell if Mr. Putin will emerge as a friendly or hostile leader during his rule, which is likely to run for at least the next five years."
FRANCE: "Putin's Clean Bill Of Respectability"
Jacques Amalric averred in left-of-center Liberation (2/16): "The man responsible for the massacres in Chechnya does not have much to worry about. He is not Austrian, but he is part of the Council of Europe. Well aware of his potential to do harm, Putin knows that he has practically 'carte blanche,' as long as he does what he aims to do quickly. After all, he has already been invited to Paris, and President Clinton has given him a clean bill of respectability when he said he was 'a man with whom the U.S. could work.'"
"The West's Leniency"
Baudoin Bollaert judged in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/16): "NATO's secretary general is on his way to Moscow.... Another sign of the West's leniency toward the Russian leaders.... For the United States and Europe...'there is no other choice but Putin.'... The fact that Putin is sending Zhironovsky to Baghdad or that he may be negotiating with North Korea changes nothing. Everyone continues to close their eyes. Europe refuses to 'humiliate' Russia. 'As for the United States,' according to a diplomat, 'it doesn't have a policy, it has obsessions.' Cuba, Iraq and Sudan. Not Russia, with its natural resources, its size and its nuclear weapons."
"Our Friend Putin"
Jean-Luc Mano held in right-of-center France Soir (2/15): "The United States says nothing. Europe is barely protesting. Moscow is being granted a new deadline for its debt.... And what is France doing? Our foreign minister met with Putin, and after saying that what was going on in Chechnya was not particularly 'pretty,' he admitted to the press that Putin 'was a real patriot.'... In other words, his killings are patriotic.... If Putin comes to Paris, we can be sure he will not be reprimanded.... Russia is a great nation, a nuclear power. Why would anyone risk its anger for a handful of Chechen rebels?"
"From Vienna To Grozny"
Left-of-center Le Monde said in its editorial (2/9): "With reason, the EU has taken political measures against Austria to show its indignation.... Washington has also shown its displeasure.... When, during the same week, Russian troops killed off the last Chechen civilian in the streets of Grozny, no one said a word of condemnation or showed the slightest indignation.... Russia, which aspires to become part of the international community, has just annihilated a city.... The Russian army is on a rampage of revenge, under the silent gaze of the West.... It is ethnic cleansing of the sort Milosevic dreams about.... But the West says and does nothing. The United States is totally complacent and Europe is almost as bad. Such a double standard in treatment and attitude between Vienna and Grozny turns the West's talk of human rights into an incredible manifestation of hypocrisy."
"Grozny 'Liberated' In A Traumatized Nation"
Francois Ernenwein observed in Catholic La Croix (2/8): "Putin's calm as he announced Grozny's fall hides many afterthoughts.... For him, only the road to the election booths remains mine-free. Unless there is a major unforeseen incident, he will become the next resident of the Kremlin. But the rest will be much more complicated to deal with.... The Chechens will make life hell for the Russian troops, and unless all of Chechnya is militarized, the Russians will be unable to come to grips with the resistance. The prognosis of a long war is close to becoming reality.... The international community is beginning to change its attitude and to put pressure on Moscow for a political solution.... Negotiations will have to be undertaken, or the Chechen quagmire could turn into an Afghan quagmire."
"Dealing With Putin"
Dominique Bromberger told listeners of government-run France Inter radio (2/8): "Because the Russian nation has been humiliated by too many strategic and military failures, Putin chose war for the short-term and the reconstruction of a strong nation for the long-term.... It would be excessive to say that Putin wants to return to the Soviet era. He couldn't if he wanted to. But to answer the people's need for protection, he needs what is left of the state's support: the army and the secret service.... If Putin succeeds, tomorrow's Russia could look like France in the post-war era.... If he fails...he will have no choice but to turn to nationalism and the dangers it brings with it. We are therefore forced to wish him a reasonable success, in spite of his past."
GERMANY: "Russia's Helper In An Emergency--NATO"
Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich opined (2/16): "Robertson's host, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, had accused NATO of 'aggression and genocide' [on Kosovo]. It is an astute move on Ivanov's part to now welcome the head of this supposed gang of murderers. The improvement of relations with NATO comes at the best possible moment for Russia, and at the worst possible moment for NATO. Russia has committed a war crime by leveling a city on its own territory. The pictures of a devastated Grozny beamed around the world. Moscow is eager to get rid of such negative publicity.
"And that is why foreign visitors are well-liked in Moscow right now--even a NATO general secretary."
"Carte Blanche For Looters"
Georg Watzlawek opined in business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (2/15): "Vladimir Putin's charm is obviously irresistible. The acting Russian president took his own people by surprise and convinced the Western governments that the Chechen war is mainly a police action against terrorists. And now Putin has even convinced the club of commercial banks in London to delete loans amounting to DM 32 billion. By doing so, the bankers are knighting Putin and send a signal for the rehabilitation of bankrupt Russia.... For the banks, this generous restructuring may be okay, but as far as politics is concerned, it is a devastating signal: Russia does not offer anything in return, for instance, a restructuring of its embattled banking sector. And now Putin is exerting pressure on the Paris Club of state-run banks to give up demands amounting to DM 42 billion. There is no reason to do so: Over the past few months, Russia achieved a trade balance surplus of 20 billion dollars thanks to high prices for crude oil. At the same time, the capital flight from Russia amounted to between ten to fifteen billion dollars. This is why every waiving of debts is an open invitation to continue the looting of the country."
Right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine contended (2/14): "The agreement between commercial banks and Russia on the cancellation of debts...sends the wrong message. There is good reason why the IMF has thus far hesitated to pay further loan tranches to Moscow. Thus far, the West has waited in vain for comprehensive economic and structural reforms in the country. Vladimir Putin has not yet presented a convincing economic policy concept, but he will now be able to take advantage of the negotiating solution with the London Club in the upcoming presidential campaign. Now it is necessary to urge the negotiating leaders in the Paris Club not to waive considerable amounts of debts without getting anything in return. In view of the tense domestic situation due to the war in Chechnya, it is not advisable to hand over this last trump card to Russia."
"Time For West To Act"
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau judged (2/11): "When the Bundestag discussed Germany's policy toward Chechnya, Foreign Minister Fischer said that he is unable to impose sanctions on Russia...since Russia should not be driven into isolation. By saying this Fischer mixed up cause and effect. With the second war in Chechnya, Russia has now isolated itself. The latest credible reports about systematic torture, the disappearance of Chechens, and the killings committed by Russian soldiers and units of the Interior Ministry will even deepen this isolation. Half a year after the beginning of the war in Chechnya, more innocent people have died in this war than in the entire Kosovo war.... Although Fischer admits that Russia is waging 'its war against a whole people,' he does still not want to impose sanctions on Russia. In the meantime, the Russian air force is now dropping vacuum bombs in the Chechen mountains, and in the lowlands it is building new concentration camps. What must happen before Fischer and his colleagues in Europe's capitals and in Washington not only talk but take action?"
Moscow correspondent Mathias Brueggmann filed this editorial for business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (2/9): "In Grozny, Moscow has won over the Chechens--but only for the time being and according to Moscow's information, since Chechen President Makhadov rightly pointed out that the Chechen capital was occupied by Russian forces twice before and the fighters were able to recapture their capital.... But this time...Moscow has a chance to achieve a victory, however, the Kremlin is about to forfeit it.
"It could offer massive reconstruction assistance, allow the refugees to return, allow for a political leadership with whom they could negotiate the future status of Chechnya. But the Russians are repeating their old mistakes: fighting until the last man, developing occupation plans that harken back to Czarist times, and building fortresses in the big cities.... With such an approach, Moscow cannot pacify the Caucasus. The capture of Grozny is only a leg on the path to a long-lasting war whose end will be the disintegration of the vast empire. Vladimir Putin has not learned from the mistakes of his predecessors.... He pins his hopes on brutal power instead of negotiations. An effective economic program for the region and the emancipation of the Caucasus from Moscow...would presuppose a total rethinking in the Kremlin. But Putin and his team are neither willing nor able to start this rethinking."
"Chechnya And Putin"
Werner Adam had this to say in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/8): "[The] war [in Chechnya] has by no means been won, even though Putin claims it has.... The capturers cannot hope to get the confidence of the captured. Neither the soldiers...nor the intelligence services, who are now expected to 'monitor' peace, will achieve this.... But who is criticizing Moscow anyway?"
"This Is Success?"
Right-of-center Berliner Kurier stressed (2/8): "There are enough indications that the Kremlin army is raging in Grozny. We also heard reports about massacres, of rumors that the city is to be razed.... We still remember Valdimir Putin's word that the war goal is the 'destruction' of the rebels. It is horrible but true: Now it's time for...the destruction of Grozny, since the decisive stage of the Russian presidential election campaign is in the offing."
ITALY: "Too Many Guilty Silences On Chechnya"
A commentary by Sandro Viola in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica held (2/12): "True, the Russians conquered Grozny a week ago. True, both political objectives for which Yeltsin and Putin decided to wage this dirty war last September seem to have been achieved: to pave the way for Putin's election as president on March 26, and to wash away the defeat suffered by Russian troops in '94-'96. But what is the high price for these two results, how much frustration and political embarrassment are falling on Russia and its leaders from the Grozny ruins.... The post-Yeltsin Russia...[is] burdened by the horrors of a war in which one-and-a-half ton bombs were thrown, with 200,000 refugees still prevented from getting aid from international organizations and without the economic possibility of beginning some sort of reconstruction of Chechnya's ruins.... We cannot let silence fall on the Chechen war. To begin with, Moscow has to allow international organizations to take care of the most urgent needs of the refugees."
"The Puzzle Of Horror"
Rossella Ripert noted in pro-DS (leading government party) L'Unita' (2/12): "The OSCE has asked that an investigation be opened into the Babitsky case. The Council of Europe invokes investigations on summary executions in Chechnya. Putin's Red Army is under accusation.... Terrifying news is filtering from the Chechen front to complete the puzzle of horror."
"The Reality Of 'Putin's Victory'"
Renzo Cianfanelli's filed from Moscow in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (2/7): "The reality is much more uncertain (than the Russian authorities depict). 'Putin's victory,' in reality, takes for granted the fact that the Red Army has succeeded in achieving, during the second war in Chechnya, what it failed to achieve in 1994-96-- i.e., to isolate hermetically the few thousand rebels who have managed to escape from Grozny....
"But this is not the picture that emerges from independent reports and from the number of losses, that have been heavy on both sides."
"Conquest Of Grozny Doesn't Mean End Of War"
Left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/7) featured this piece from Moscow by Alberto Stabile: "Putin knows well that the conquest of the rebel capital of Chechnya does not mean the end of the war. The Russian federal troops are engaged in chasing the Chechen rebel leaders who were able to escape from Grozny, and whose intention is to reunite with the majority of the rebel forces that have been fighting in the mountains for some time. That will be the main theater of the war in the coming months.... Notwithstanding the Russian proclamations, the Russian flag waves on nothing. Grozny is no longer a town, but a shapeless heap of ruins, an inhumane place, empty of any symbolic meaning apart from the suffering inflicted through the brutal use of weapons."
BELGIUM: "A Delicate Moment"
Pierre Lefevre commented in independent Le Soir (2/16): "Lord Robertson's visit takes place at a very delicate moment, when new revelations...highlight the atrocities committed by the Russian army in the Caucasus.... There is another explosive question: the U.S. anti-missile defense project. This question is mainly a matter of U.S.-Russian relations, but Moscow might try to take advantage of divisions within the Alliance.... Both NATO and Russia have, of course, a common interest in cooperating, in the fields of both European security and disarmament. But Putin seems a colder calculator than his predecessor, and also more concerned by Russian strict national interest. One should thus not expect a quick or spectacular Atlantic-Russian warming soon, in any case not before the March 26 presidential election."
"West Readies Itself For Long Putin Era"
Vrt TV correspondent Johan de Poortere observed in independent Catholic De Standaard (2/16): "George Robertson is coming to Moscow to put the NATO-Russia relationship on the right track again and Bill Clinton has spoken highly of Vladimir Putin. The West is preparing itself for a long Putin era.... Robertson...distinguished himself from his predecessor by his moderate criticism on Chechnya.... Clinton, too, reiterated in an interview with CNN that Russia has the right to act against 'semi-military groups that make themselves guilty of terrorist practices.'... Who is Putin?... Except for a few vague statements about the need for a 'strong state' and 'moral recovery' of Russia's society, Putin has not shown his cards. So far, the Putin era has coincided with a bloody, merciless war...and a never-seen-before media manipulation. Nevertheless, Western leaders are apparently willing to give Putin the benefit of the doubt."
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Russians Start Imperial March To The South"
Jan Urban judged in intellectual Lidove noviny (2/5): "When, a few years ago, Russian fascist Zhironovsky demanded a renewed 'march to the south' and reoccupation of the Caucasus by the Russian Army...he was labeled a dreamer and the Moscow establishment turned up its nose at him. But now, when the red-white-and-blue Russian flag has been raised in the ruins of Grozny, even at the price of tremendous material losses and human suffering, only a few are protesting in Moscow.... The Russian approach has created a nation of united dissidents out of Chechens. For them, the word terrorism will be a synonym for revenge and for a national liberation fight."
GREECE: "The Empire Strikes Back"
In pro-government, mass-circulation Ta Nea (2/9), retired ambassador and regular contributor Yiorgos Sekerisin observed: "Unlike last time, this time Moscow has won in Chechnya.
"This prevents further disintegration of the multi-ethnic Russian federation, and at the same time boosts the morale of the Russian military.... However, with the help of worldwide extremist Islamists, the war with the Chechen guerrillas may well continue in other forms. But the West and the moderate regimes of the Islamic world are unlikely to support the guerrillas; they remember far too well how Afghanistan gave birth to monsters like Bin Laden."
HUNGARY: "A Different Flag"
Foreign editor Peter Barabas offered this view (2/8) in independent Nepszava: "The Russian flag is flying over Grozny...[but] the sympathy is not with the victors, but with the Chechen people who are the main losers in this war. However, Moscow can be satisfied with the determination with which it has proved to the Russian voters that there are issues the Kremlin does not compromise and does not allow influence--issues such as the unity of Russia."
POLAND: "Double Standard, Or Different Standard, For Russia"
Leopold Unger wrote in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (2/16): "It's a great victory. So great that Vladimir Putin interrupted his skiing fling in the Caucasus to inform the nation in person. The end of the war in Chechnya? No. It's just that the London Club banks...agreed to reduce Russia's debts by one-third.... By doing so the banks signed not a financial but a political check for Putin--they voted in advance for the former head of the Federal Security Service in the presidential elections. And the Western bankers' decision to reduce Russia's debts came at a very significant point of time. Russia has now a colossal foreign trade surplus of 30 billion dollars thanks to its oil, and it exceeds any limits in its bestiality toward the Chechens.... The world is shaken and it cries 'double standard' when comparing the reaction of the West toward Putin and toward Haider.... [But] if the West does not force Putin in a corner as it does to Haider...it is not because of a 'double standard' but a 'different standard' policy. This 'different standard' is based on Russia's megatons [of weapons], its capacity to harm the world and international peace being dependent on it. One can turn an angry face to Haider without any risk. With Putin, one must talk--just because of the risk."
SPAIN: "To Lose Winning"
Liberal El Pais opined (2/9): "Vladimir Putin, after declaring the 'liberation' of Grozny, promised that he will have 'destroyed or dispersed that group of bandits' by March 26.... The man called to succeed Yeltsin...has turned what could have been a legitimate anti-terrorist operation into an unscrupulous war against an entire people.... Five months after the wave of bloody terrorist attacks in Russia which were the excuse for the offensive, the Kremlin has failed to prove the attacks were carried out by Chechen terrorism.... Human Rights Watch has just revealed that at least 22 civilians were recently assassinated in cold-blood by Russian soldiers.... It is likely that the guerrilla warfare will go on for months.... In any case, the liberation that Putin and his propaganda machine are promising is nothing more than bloody sarcasm. Moscow is still carrying out an unprincipled war of extermination against an alleged Chechen threat."
"Russia Wins Grozny, Not War"
Independent El Mundo commented (2/6): "Putin has succumbed to the temptation of using the conflict as a springboard to power. So far, he has succeeded, but he's taking the risk of losing this war, which would dig the grave of his own political career."
UZBEKISTAN: "Now Russia Is Even With The West"
Russian-language weekly Molodyozh Uzbekistana (Youth of Uzbekistan, 2/4) held: "Russia's campaign in Chechnya is in response to the U.S. campaigns against Kosovo and Iraq. Now Russia is even with the West."
CHINA: "Grozny Under Russian Control"
Liu Gang wrote in the official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 2/8): "Putin announced that the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, has fallen completely under the control of Russia. This is of great significance to both Russia and the Chechen rebels. It is an important victory for Russia and it indicates that the Chechen rebels have been defeated...but it will take much longer to destroy all of the rebels."
HONG KONG: "Horrors Of Chechnya Financed By Our Blood Money"
Under the above headline, the independent Hong Kong Standard's editorial stressed (2/8): "Mr. Putin has promised that economic changes will be introduced quickly. If they implement the recommended policies, the IMF will have no choice, under its own rules, but to hand over the money. The organization has no brief to act on political grounds. Once again, this shows that economic reform and political reform have to go together. It's a lesson that we in this part of the world still refuse to acknowledge."
JAPAN: "Russian Flag Over Grozny, But War Far From Over"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (2/10): "Putin declared that the last rebel holdout in Grozny has fallen, and the military operation to liberate the Chechen capital is over. A Russian flag was raised atop the ruined Chechen government building. Although some rebels surrendered to Russian troops, the others retreated toward the mountains in the south of the breakaway republic to regroup and continue fighting with Russians to the last. Guns and cannons are now silent, but the Chechen war is far from over. The rebel force has already vowed that it will turn to guerrilla warfare, raising the possibility of drawing the fighting into the quicksand of a war. The Russian government must terminate this futile war as soon as possible. In launching an operation into Chechnya last fall, Russia claimed it launched the operation to fight international terrorism...but what was the real purpose of the Russia military operation? Was it really a massive crackdown on terrorists? Or was it Russia's attempt to re-absorb Chechnya? Whatever the real motive, the hard fact is that the military control of Chechnya alone cannot bring stability to the breakaway republic.... If Mr. Putin wants to prove himself to be a real leader, he must boldly change Russia's policy and end the Chechen war."
PHILIPPINES: "Halt The Bloodletting"
An editorial in the nascent Philippine Post read (2/12): "After some of the worst fighting since the breakup of the Soviet Union...Moscow this week finally took control of Grozny.... There would be endless debates about the need for the massive bombings...which leveled much of the city of Grozny. Thousands died, were injured or were forced to flee. Chechnya is a dark cloud that will hang over Russia for a long time to come--longer certainly than the guerrilla war that is sure to follow this latest episode in that republic's history. Nations can only hope that the bitter fighting would compel the two sides in the conflict to forge once more a dialogue to halt the bloodletting."
SOUTH KOREA: "Putin Declares An Early Victory In Chechnya"
Conservative Chosun Ilbo emphasized (2/8): "Russian soldiers have finally occupied Grozny...four months after they began [their] offensive.... Putin looked especially exhilarated while making that announcement. The news, coming just 40 days before the election, came as the greatest gift the acting president could hope for. The only problem, though, is that nobody believes the war is over.... Putin's announcement was merely a promotional move to enhance his political standing before the election."
BANGLADESH: "Why Should Chechens Be Denied?"
Pro-West, Bangla-language Ittefaq commented (2/14): "We don't deny that Chechnya is a part of Russia. However, how could the people of Chechnya's demand for independence be denied? Why can't Chechnya be free if the Soviet Union could be disbanded, the Central Asian republics could gain independence, and East Timor could move toward independence? The Chechens are alone in their struggle.... Can't the world community adopt any effective measure to stop the fighting and restore the right of self determination to the people of Chechnya?"
KUWAIT: "Western Abandonment Of Chechnya"
Independent Al-Rai Al-Aam (2/14) ran this piece by Abdullah Al-Shaikh: "While the West stood with East Timor to help grant them self-determination, we notice that Chechnya was abandoned. Even the UN was silent about the massacres. Where are the Arabs who demonstrated against the raids that took place in Baghdad. Where are the human rights organizations?"
ARGENTINA: "Russia's Cruel Victory In Chechnya"
An editorial in leading Clarin read (2/10): "The Russian government can proudly show its citizens and the world that it has recovered the northern Caucasus territory of Chechnya.... The Russian government strongly defended its sovereign right to intervene in defense of its territorial integrity, and under such principle it carried out a bloody military campaign to quench the rebels and recover Chechnya. In the meantime, the Western powers reacted lukewarmly to the extreme behavior of the Russian troops, thus recognizing the limitations of the international community to...pressure in defense of humanitarian principles.... This allowed the Russian government to strengthen its power and territorial control.... But, simultaneously, serious damage has been caused with regard to the respect for the integrity of national minorities. There were no protection measures for the civilian population and, therefore, another harmful and painful page in the history of atrocious wars and precarious peace was written."
CANADA: "Russia's Hollow Victory"
The liberal Toronto Star averred (2/10): "Moscow's [action] dispatching 100,000 troops in a scorched-earth...campaign was cynically disproportionate. This stains Putin's presidency, even before he takes office. And that stain will not be lifted until the Chechens are free to elect new leaders, rebuild their republic and live without Russian troops watching their every move."
"Peace Without Honor"
Québec's English-language Gazette judged (2/8): "The Russian flag now flies over a devastated Grozny, but it's hard to believe the claim of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov that the Chechen war will soon be over.... The true death tolls--military and civilian--are not yet known, and perhaps never will be.... There should be little to celebrate, even in Moscow. Untold numbers of human lives have been destroyed, on all sides; and the conflict seems certain to continue."
MEXICO: "Kosovo For Grozny Quid Pro Quo?"
Business-oriented El Financiero (2/14) carried this piece by Alfredo Jalife Rahme: "Russia's victory in Grozny over the Islamic Chechens who were abandoned by NATO's 'invisible hand' will postpone for a latter date and a better opportunity, the dismantling of Russia.... Kosovo for Grozny? Obviously, none of the parties involved will accept it openly, but the de facto situation reveals a 'quid pro quo' whereby NATO's influence extends as far as Kosovo and Russia has consolidated its nuclear wall as far as the Caucasus."
PERU: "The U.S. Position"
Ricardo Soberon judged in reliable, business Gestion (2/4): "U.S. policy in the Caucasus seems to be one element of external destabilization in the [Chechen] conflict. It reflects an interest in weakening the Russian position over its territory. The recent meeting of a State Department representative with a Chechen leader, along with criticisms (some legitimate) of the operation itself...are examples of the U.S. diplomatic offensive. The purpose is to...maintain a point of pressure on the bilateral relationship. How can we understand this conflict from a Latin American perspective? First, by defending the principle of non-interference in domestic matters. Second, by remembering the need for support to fight international terrorism, no matter its origin. Finally, by seeking a more balanced situation in view of the U.S. policy of hegemony."
For more information, please contact:
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