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Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

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October 30, 2002

October 30, 2002

MOSCOW HOSTAGE CRISIS: CRITICISM MOUNTS WITH DEATH TOLL

 

KEY FINDINGS

** Critics blasted the Russian government's "Soviet-style" handling of the hostage crisis; only official Russian media found no fault.

** Despite heavy death toll, Putin probably emerged from the crisis stronger than before.

** Most writers agreed the war in Chechnya demands a political, not military, solution.

 

MAJOR THEMES

Distaste grows for high death toll and 'Soviet'-like actions-- Some papers outside Russia initially concluded that Putin probably had "no other choice" but to attack the Nord Ost theater with gas. Many backpedaled, however, after the death toll of the "blood-stained victory" mounted and Russian authorities refused to reveal the type of gas used. Paris's left-of-center Le Monde spoke for many in condemning the Kremlin's "Soviet" behavior: "the lack of transparency, the obsession with military secrecy, manipulating public opinion and total disregard for human life: all the telltale signs of the Soviet way." A Berlin daily judged that, "Under the new Western-oriented cloak, there is still a great deal of Brezhnev's Russia." Russian papers were mixed. To some, the crisis showed that "no president...will knuckle under" to terrorism; others, like reformist Izvestiya, stated that the struggle against terrorism required courage but also "civil responsibility, discipline and...real and effective democracy."

 

Observers debate Putin's next moves-- Russian analysts debated how the hostage crisis would affect the country's foreign policy. It was "a moment of truth" that cements Russia to the Western anti-terror coalition, said one writer; another expected Putin to adopt a variation of the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive strikes against imminent threats--including "in foreign territory." European and Israeli writers judged the outcome of "Russia's 9/11" to be "a victory for Putin and his strong state," which would "enhance his standing" at home and give him "a freer hand in the Caucasus." Israel's popular, pluralist Maariv thought it "not inconceivable that [Putin's] understanding of the nature of the world-wide war may also soften his opposition to the military action the U.S. is planning against Saddam Hussein."

 

Russia 'can't afford to go on as before'-- Most writers contended that the crisis showed the need for Russia to find a political exit from its Chechen "quagmire." France's right-of-center Le Journal du Dimanche urged Putin to "turn his Moscow victory into a victory in Grozny" by adopting "a political out." An independent British daily agreed that the Russian president "would show strength rather than weakness if he now looked for a solution." Tokyo's mass-circulation Asahi argued the end of the siege "could provide an opportunity to truly address the ethnic aspirations of the Chechen people." Reformist papers in Russia argued that the country "can't afford to go on fighting in Chechnya the way it has." Novaya Gazeta, complaining that there is "virtually no true information" about the Chechen war, said that terrorist incidents like the hostage taking will recur "as long as the bloody war continues."

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 71 reports from 33 countries, October 25-29. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

 

RUSSIA: "Putin Had No Choice"

 

Official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta front-paged a comment by Vitaliy Tretyakov (10/29): "Today no president of a country, by definition, will knuckle under in a hostage crisis, with the terrorists refusing a ransom in favor of basic political changes in government. While a president will not, a nonentity can. Given the scale of the terrorist act in Moscow, the president had no choice.... Presidents can do a lot. But they definitely can't forsake their countries' interests, certainly not by handing over power to terrorists."

 

"Putin Shifts Defense Priorities"

 

Dmitriy Litovkin said in reformist Izvestiya (10/29): "As confirmed by the Kremlin, Russia is going to change its defense priorities, claiming a right to pre-emptive strikes, including in a foreign territory. It sounds very much like U.S. President Bush's new concept of pre-emptive strikes in the war on terrorism. Notably, there have been absolutely no critical comments on the U.S. concept from the Russian political leadership."

 

"Russia Trades NATO For Terrorism As Enemy"

 

Nikolai Poroskov and Vladimir Shpak remarked on page one of reformist Vremya Novostey (10/29): "The Putin statement might imply the renunciation of 'containment' as the doctrine Russia has pursued all along.... As it happens, generals always prepare for past wars. By having taken the first step to global changes, Vladimir Putin intends to do away with that anachronism. It seems like recent terrorist acts have radically altered the political map of the world."

 

"War Will Be War"

 

Tatyana Vorozheikina contended in reformist Vremya MN (10/29): "Hostage-taking in Moscow has born out the truth that you can't wage a war at home and remain unscathed. Renaming the war an 'antiterrorist campaign' and, after September 11, a 'war on international terrorism' changes nothing--the second Chechen war, which, in effect, is a war against the civilian population, will always beget people, men and women, who won't stop at crossing the line that separates other people's deaths from their own."

 

"War Can't Go On Forever"

 

Centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta ran this by Aleksey Arbatov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma's Defense Committee (10/29): "Obviously, the Chechen war can't go on forever. Since we may face more tragedies, we need to reconsider every aspect of our security. No doubt, the federal center must pursue a more active policy in Chechnya. Up to now it has been adrift, the prevailing feeling in the Kremlin being that, with wars in the past sometimes lasting for decades, the one in Chechnya can take just as long. The Moscow hostage crisis shows that we don't have that long. We must stop the war now. With the situation in Chechnya not under control, we can't be hope for change. The conflict will escalate, spreading to other regions. Since it is a result of the current policy, we need to review it."

 

"Moment of Truth"

 

Anatoliy Maksimov pointed out in reformist Izvestiya (10/29): "The October 26 drama in Moscow, in a way, became a moment of truth. Had Putin not made a foreign policy U-turn on September 11, 2001, we would have been on our own, having to fight on two fronts: the Islamic terrorists and (verbally) the West. Really, it is so much better to be inside the antiterrorist coalition than outside of it."

 

"Proud At Last"

 

Official government Rossiyaskaya Gazeta published this front-page comment by Valeriy Kichin (10/28): "We learned to live with the idea that Russia is a land of total corruption and all-pervading crime, so the very idea of change seemed like a utopia, with people leaving the country in search of a normal life and a peaceful home. Today, for the first time in a long time, we are proud of this country and its people. The president defined that accurately, as society suddenly and clearly felt united, after so many years."

 

"Russia Must Change"

 

Reformist Izvestiya stated in a page-one comment by Georgiy Bovt and Valeriy Volkov (10/28): "As a nation, we can rally in the face of a common threat, terrorism. But unlike in 1941, aside from courage, it takes civil responsibility, discipline and, more importantly, real and effective democracy. With the hostage crisis over, this country can't afford to remain what it was before it. It can't afford to go on fighting in Chechnya the way it has done until now.... It cannot vacillate between total carelessness and neglect of any rules...and the worst traditions of a police state...between relative freedom of speech...paranoia-type secrecy."

 

"It Was Predictable"

 

Yevgeniya Albats opined in reformist Novaya Gazeta (10/28): "The tragedy was predictable, which made it doubly horrible. Surprisingly, it had not happened earlier. And there is no certainty that it won't happen again. This is how it is and how it will be as long as the bloody war continues.... There is virtually no true information about the war and all television materials are severely censored, with the Kremlin's point of view presented as if it is the only one.... But as we have seen for ourselves, not even an authoritarian regime that is conveniently called managed democracy can guarantee safety."

 

BRITAIN: "France And Russia Have Tools To Strike A Bargain With Washington"

 

Maddox, Bronwen wrote in the conservative Times (10/29): "It will be some time before the U.S. berates Russia about its conduct of the war in Chechnya. Or takes France to issue over its ugly footwork to protect its farmers.... The lesson is a good one, if an old one: If you are going to annoy Washington, make sure you have something else it badly wants up your sleeve.... Since September 11, Russia has been able to trade the long list of things that the West wants from it.... With an Iraqi conflict looming, the wishlist has grown: the silence will no doubt continue."

 

"The Chechen Crisis Goes On"

 

The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (10/28): "Russia may have changed but its army has not.... The security services have retreated into Soviet-style denial. It his hard not to sympathise with Putin.... He was let down by bungling on the ground.... The conventional view is that Putin will now have a freer hand in the Caucasus. But it is hard to see how he can be any more aggressive.... Putin might be tempted to extend his operations into Georgia.... But opening yet another front--and in doing, falling out with the United States--would not make Russia more secure."

 

"Moscow Pays A Heavy Price"

 

An editorial in the independent Financial Times stated (10/28): "It could have been worse.... But the price of ending the siege was heavy.... Questions about the future of the war in Chechnya are even more pressing. Putin may have had few realistic alternatives to the tactics Russian authorities adopted.... The outcome is likely to reinforce Putin's standing.... The danger is that this atrocity will push Putin, who had been showing some signs of interest in a political settlement in Chechnya, back towards Russian hardliners.... What the crisis shows, is how hard this war is to win.... Moves towards peace would be fraught with difficulty.... But having stood up to the hostage-takers' blackmail, he would show strength rather than weakness if he now looked for a solution."

 

"Russia's 9/11"

 

The conservative Times editorialized (10/28): "Already Russians are comparing the attack with September 11; and the long-term consequences could be almost as profound. Putin has, so far, survived this severe test of his leadership.... Putin's decisiveness and cool nerves were admirable.... He has wisely acknowledged the cost.... The greatest failure, however, is the old Russian nemesis: the failure to be honest.... Putin must now firmly demonstrate that the lies and cover-up that turned the Kursk tragedy from a naval disaster into a political scandal will not reoccur.

 

"After this outrage he may feel justified in venting Russian anger on Chechnya [but that] would play into the hands of the terrorists.... Unless Putin can open a back-channel to moderates to discuss the political future for Chechnya, there will be more hostage-taking, more suicide bombers and more suffering for ordinary Russians."

 

FRANCE: "The Soviet Way"

 

Left-of-center Le Monde in its editorialized (10/29): "Nothing has changed in Moscow: faced with the horror of a hostage situation, the Russian authorities handled the situation the 'Soviet' way.... Everything in the method recalls the Soviet era. Putin's priority is not saving the hostages, it is reestablishing order.... The lack of transparency, the obsession with military secrecy, manipulating public opinion and total disregard for human life: all the telltale signs of the Soviet way are here. The Western leaders who thought it useful to congratulate Putin have not come out enhanced. There is an international public opinion which no longer accepts the insults made to its intelligence: it rejects the rhetoric which the White House and the Kremlin seem to appreciate: the war against terrorism justifies everything, including ignoring regional conflicts.... What is at stake here is the credibility of the war against terror."

 

"Where Is The Victory?"

 

Bruno Frappat wrote in Catholic La Croix (10/28): "If there is a victory, it is not a political one.... The master of Moscow will go down in history as something between a dictator and a democratic head of state: he uses the methods of one and the objectives of the other.... Such a victory in a state of law would have terrible consequences for the victorious."

 

"Human Life At Cut-Rate Prices"

 

Left-of-center Liberation commented (10/28): "Can we still speak of a victory or even of a half-success? In Paris, Washington or London it would be impossible.... In Russia it is possible to claim victory...because the price of human life here is not the same as in the West.... Let us hope that the analysis of the means used by Putin to release the hostages will lead to an analysis of the unfounded colonial war which he is waging in Chechnya and which he will undoubtedly want to intensify."

 

"Putin Has Won Nothing"

 

Yves Therard stated in right-of-center Le Figaro (10/28): "Did Putin have a choice? He had no other option but to use the same kind of determination he has always adopted towards Chechnya.... He has never tolerated that province's aspiration to independence. His intransigence and the violence used on the ground are what led to Islamic fundamentalism among the rebels. It is hard to see how the outcome of the hostage situation will give Putin the advantage. While it underscores his determination, it will push the independence fighters to become even more radical."

 

"Putin, Beyond Victory"

 

Jean-Claude Maurice in right-of-center Le Journal du Dimanche opined (10/27): "Putin can turn his Moscow victory into a victory in Grozny if he adopts a political out... He no longer needs to prove his determination: he can be bigger than his victory."

 

GERMANY: "The West's Fatal Signal"

 

Business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf noted (10/29): "In Chechnya, the Russian president did not act on behalf of the anti-terror alliance. In this region, he pursues his own, nation-state goals. And they have, at best, something to do with the methods, but not with the matter itself.... The controversy in Chechnya is a deeply political conflict, which can be resolved with political instruments.... This hostage drama made clear to the West the serious mistakes it made. This is especially true since Moscow's cooperation in the anti-terror alliance silenced every criticism of Russian moves in the Caucasus. It was a fatal signal. We would like to see Putin take time to rest and listen to his people. If we accept opinion polls then the Russian people are fed up with the war in Chechnya. They do not want revenge, but an end to the dying."

 

"Moscow's Old Game"

 

Jens Hartmann opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/29): "With all its might, the domestic intelligence service FSB is trying to monopolize information [on the storming of the theater]. This 'heroic deed' should not be blemished. But information is filtered, falsified, and hushed up, only nurturing the suspicion that there is something to hide.... Even though Putin wants to make the West believe that there is a link between New York, the Philippines, Bali, Chechnya, and Moscow and that Al Qaida is involved in each of these attacks, the atrocities committed by Russian forces in the Caucasus do not fit the cover of the anti-terror fight. We can only hope that the West will put the forgotten war on the agenda with Russia again."

 

"Dictatorship In A New Design"

 

Christoph von Marschall opined on the front page of centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/29): "The course of the hostage drama is increasingly turning out to be the product of an authoritarian behavior and chaos. Every new bit of information increases the feeling of having been misled and deceived.... All this cries out for an international probe. But this will not happen, since the West needs Putin for its fight against terrorism, in the UN Security Council and elsewhere. But the hostage drama made it more obvious what kind of ally this Russia is. Under the new western-oriented cloak, there is still a great deal of Brezhnev's Russia with an unacceptable conception of man. The outcome of the hostage drama is a victory for Putin and his strong state. It is no victory for the hostages--and a defeat for the European Russia."

 

"Intransigent, Not Blind"

 

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger opined in a front-page editorial in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/28): "[After 9/11] President Putin...sided with President Bush and initiated a strategic new positioning.... Putin, who is still needed for other affairs, can count on sympathy and approval when he defines the conflict in Chechnya as a variation of international terrorism and places the Russian moves on the same level as the U.S. 'war against terrorism.'. But to act in an intransigent and tough way against political criminals...cannot mean to spread war and violence over the Chechen population. The quiet which Putin wants to create in Chechnya cannot be the quiet of a cemetery and decivilization. It must be a quiet that creates hopes and that will convince the Russians and the world that the talk about a social modernization and the turn to the West is meant seriously."

 

"Triumph Of Violence"

 

Moscow correspondent Tomas Avenarius filed the following editorial for center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/28): "The hostage-taking in Moscow is the direct consequence of the Chechen war for which Putin is co-responsible. The killing and the marauding of Russian soldiers does not offer a moral justification for the attack on the musical theater...but the things that have happened for more than eight years in Chechnya are the background for the biography of the hostage-takers.... The hostage-taking will confirm the views of most of the Russians and many international politicians that the fight in the Caucasus is a fight against terrorism only. Putin's tough answer will be misunderstood to such a degree that terror can be vanquished with an iron fist policy."

 

"Implications For Global Politics"

 

Karl Grobe had this to say in an editorial in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (10/28): "Chechen desperados have pushed the Russian government closer to the United States.... The hostage-taking from Moscow was not a strike from the outside, but a strike from the inside. It was the return of the Chechen war to the site where it was caused.... The argument that the fight is 'against terrorism' is justified when it involves actions like the one of the alpha force in the musical theater. It legitimized an action which was still a police action. But it will be expanded in an inappropriate way, when it is used as a basis for the brutal purge in Chechen villages."

 

"Success Or No?"

 

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg noted (10/28): "The Chechen rebels succeeded in achieving one thing: They brought back the almost forgotten, reprehensible war in Caucasus to the mind of the world."

 

ITALY: "Glasnost Is Missing In Russia"

 

Deputy managing editor Paolo Garimberti commented on the front-page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (10/29): "There is no glasnost in the way Putin is handling the aftermath of the bloody hostage crisis of the Chechen terrorists.... What did they use? Until doubts remain, it will be impossible to say if the use of gas was the only way to avoid a massacre...or if Putin's concern to defend his image as well as that of the Russian power did not win over any other humanitarian consideration and on the duty to save the hostages' lives."

 

"Putin, The Gas And The State Of Need"

 

Classical liberal Il Foglio (10/29): "At the political level, Putin's moves seem rather balanced. He underlined the role of international terrorism that used the Chechen terrorists, but he did not withdraw the peace plan that was presented last summer to the Council of Europe.... The real black hole in this terrible tragedy is Russia's inability to put on a fully democratic face for itself and for the world and the series of lies, censorships and half truths that fomented the worst suspicions. It is indeed difficult to get rid of 70 years of Communism and its police state, but it would be a good thing for Putin to begin working in this direction."

 

"Putin Performing Balancing Act Between Two Brands Of Terrorism"

 

Former ambassador Boris Biacheri wrote inTurin's La Stampa (10/28): "The Chechen war undoubtedly has behind it a long chain of terrorist attacks and a long chain of violent repression, but in terms of brutality, showmanship, and organizational efficiency, the Moscow attack is on a par with 11 September and, in a way, provides an exemplary corollary to it.... Many people deem it sufficient to address the political issues at the root of a number of national demands: to negotiate the autonomy of Chechnya with the Chechen separatists and to put a Palestinian state in place at last. But are we sure it will be enough?... Is Islamic terrorism perhaps less out to achieve specific political ends than a subversion of cultures and, for that very reason, recruiting an increasingly broad, increasingly fanatical legion?"

 

"At What Price?"

 

Milian's leading centrist Corriere della Sera carried this commentary by Franco Venturini (10/27): "Put with his back to the wall, as never before since he has been at Russia's helm, President Vladimir Putin opted for a blood-stained victory to defeat the terrorists and save his own power."

 

BELGIUM: "Soviet Style Lies"

 

Foreign affairs writer Jorn De Cock commented in independent Christian-Democrat De Standaard (10/29): "Russian President Vladimir Putin is confronted with the need to make the public forget the Soviet style lies about the handling of the hostage crisis in Moscow. He is opting for a pro-active solution by fulminating against Chechnya. If the Russian tradition is respected, a few generals should perhaps prepare to be scapegoats in a public show."

 

BULGARIA: "Perfect Storm, Grisly End"

 

Largest circulation Trud commented (10/29): "Even though it's still early for comprehensive and categorical assessments of the hostage crisis in Moscow...it's clear that the offensive against the hostage-takers was perfect, but the results point to a grisly end.... Worth mentioning also is the unanimously positive reaction of most of the major powers regarding the actions of the Russian authorities. Undoubtedly, this position has been affected by the geopolitical interests of the West--for example the looming military operation against Iraq, which would require Russia's agreement for a UNSC resolution to this effect. In the end the truth about what happened in Moscow could disprove all of these predominantly positive initial reactions."

 

"Dynamite Triumphs Over The Holy Cross And The Crescent"

 

Second largest circulation daily 24 Hours stated (10/28): "Last week in Moscow, 50 Chechen terrorists committed what is in reality a group suicide for the cause of their nation and country.... What these suicides have in common is the fact that the people who committed them have been in this business for two or three generations.... These generations grow up in refugee camps...in deep basements, with the deafening sound of bombs all around them.... Unfortunately, even after the tragedy in New York last year, the U.S. did nothing to get the Palestinians out of their bomb shelters. We don't' see any progress on the Chechen matter on the part of the Russians either. The number of people, hiding in their basements has only grown in the last year and will most likely continue to grow. The new century apparently has given birth to a new religion--the religion of suicide."

 

GREECE: "Nightmarish Alliance"

 

The lead editorial in popular, pro-government and anti-American Eleftherotypia stated (10/29): "Moscow has not disclosed the substance it used to resolve the Chechen terrorist crisis, because it was obviously a banned one.... The use of chemical weapons is banned to enemies, not allies. They can use them, even though they kill their citizens. Washington and Moscow follow a common course and common tactics in fighting terrorism.... The Moscow events brought back to surface the nightmare of lethal gases. It is exactly those weapons--chemical, biological, and nuclear--over which Bush wants war against Iraq. But who will stop Russia and the U.S. from using banned weapons, especially when the two countries follow a common course?"

 

IRELAND: "War In Chechnya Comes To Moscow"

 

The Liberal Irish Times editorialized (10/28): "Tentative recent attempts to develop a political track in the Chechnyan conflict have been dealt a resounding blow. For President Vladimir Putin, the siege has been the greatest test yet, but on familiar ground.... Although polls show Russians growing wearier of the bloody war...they also reflect no significant fall in Mr. Putin's personal popularity, despite repeated announcements on his part that the war was over and won. His decision to order the taking...of the theatre by force is likely, initially, to be seen as proportionate to the threat...and will enhance his domestic standing. At this stage, although there are still questions to be answered...it would appear that Mr. Putin had little option but to act as he did to end the crisis."

 

"Questions For Putin"

 

The conservative Irish Independent opined (10/28): "The Russian authorities faced enormous difficulties.... President Vladimir Putin can claim success of a sort. But it was an expensive success. The present generation of Russians, unlike their ancestors, will seek answers to questions. And one of their questions will be the value of human life."

 

THE NETHERLANDS: "Chechnya"

 

Centrist Algemeen Dagblad 's editor noted (10/29): "Even though it is still unclear what exactly happened during the Russian action to free the hostages, President Putin already received kudos from abroad. The U.S. and Israel were the first to congratulate him, paying insufficient attention to innocent people who died in the actions.... Giving in to the demands of the terrorists was not an option, but this does not justify that any means can be used in the fight against terrorism."

 

"Not Much Reason For Optimism"

 

Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad opined (10/28): "The terrorist acts in Moscow discredited the Chechan case.... Radical Chechan rebels want to cause constant panic among Russian citizens.... Giving in to terrorists was not an option. However, the way in which the hostage-taking was ended does not provide much reason for optimism."

 

NORWAY: "The Best Possible Outcome"

 

The social democratic Dagsavisen (10/27) commented: "With 90 dead hostages we can not say that the hostage drama in Moscow had a happy outcome.. Still, the outcome is probably the best conceivable; it could have gone so much worse.... But as long as the war in Chechnya continues, a real reconciliation is impossible.... It is therefore high time to start a political process that might lead to a more permanent solution. This is something the Chechnyan civil population also has every right to demand."

 

ROMANIA: "The Correct Decision"

 

Commentator Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici wrote in the independent daily Ziua (10/29): "Vladimir Putin could not have accepted, without ruining his political career, the Chechen requests, the assassination of the hostages or a devastating explosion. His decision was a correct one, and it had unquestionable political success. Russia should, however, renounce its traditional tendency for secrecy, and should indicate which toxic gas was used in the operation...[and] why it was necessary to systematically shoot all the terrorists, if they had been paralyzed by the gas."

 

SLOVAKIA: "Kukan Denounced Terrorism, He Wants To Stand By the United States"

 

Michal Fris wrote in Bratislava's leading, center-right, pro-West Sme (10/28): "The events in Moscow give the countries like Slovakia a good opportunity to express stronger support for the United States. If the Russians started to cooperate with the United States in accordance with [Foreign Minister] Kukan's idea, this might force Europe to arrive at a compromise on Iraq, thinks Samson. Slovak deputies do not see things in this context. 'I must express my indignation about what happened in Moscow, but I would not link Minister Kukan's statement with an attack on Iraq, nor do I think that we are pro-American,' said Party of Hungarian Coalition [SMK] deputy Arpad uka-Zolyomi."

 

SPAIN: "Terror And A Tough Stance"

 

Centrist La Vanguardia wrote (10/27): "Inside and outside of Russia there will now be no shortage of those who will criticize the decision to end this stand-off [with Chechen rebels] with force. The balance of the dead is overwhelming. The use of a paralyzing gas, whose effects could not be measured well, cannot be judged a good thing, and will give legs to the critics. But...it is too easy to condemn the decision of the Russian authorities.... What country, what government, would have yielded to the demands of the terrorists?"

 

TURKEY: "The Chechen Boomerang"

Istanbul's center-right Turkiye'de Aksam published this column by Izzet Sedes (10/26): "Russia faces today a disaster much greater than the Kursk.... This situation will compel the Kremlin to find a new path to a solution that will satisfy its people, the Chechens and international law.... Problems like the Palestinians, the Chechens and the Kurds are being protracted because of an understanding that is unique to Western society. These problems are becoming gangrenous. Terrorism in both the Caucasus and the Middle East does not know how to stop."

 

MIDDLE EAST

 

ISRAEL: "Russia Shows That Israel Is Still No. 1"

 

The Director of the Interdisciplinary Center's Global Research in International Affairs Center, columnist Barry Rubin wrote in conservative, independent Jerusalem Post (10/29): "While Russian President Vladimir Putin can well be accused of mishandling the crisis, the fact remains that this was not a confrontation of his choosing. He had tough decisions to make and even if he chose wrongly, the Russian leader should not become the main villain of this tragedy. At the same time, the way Putin handled the issue also shows serious shortcomings in Russia's evolution toward democracy. The nature of both leader and system is leading many people to believe that he will be the man to reestablish dictatorship in that long-suffering country."

 

"A Necessary Operation"

 

Popular, pluralist Maariv editorialized (10/27): "The commando operation that was carried out by the Russian army...,was a vital, necessary and wise stage in the war against the waves of terror that are sweeping the world. The price in human lives was unbearably heavy.... But the decision made by President Vladimir Putin was the right one. Russia cannot accept a dictate from Chechen terrorists without completely abdicating its status as a world power, and certainly as a regional power. Had it acquiesced to such a demand, the terror striking there would not have diminished but rather would have been encouraged.... Russia, together with the entire West, are still not prepared for a continuous war on terror.... It is not inconceivable that [Putin's] understanding of the nature of the world-wide war may also soften his opposition to the military action the United States is planning against Saddam Hussein."

 

"War Is War"

 

Liberal op-ed writer Ofer Shelach commented in the editorial of mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (10/27): "It is certainly possible that the Chechen terrorists receive aid from international terror groups, but it is doubtful that they have a global anti-Western ideology like that of bin Laden. Without justifying their barbaric act, it is also doubtful that Russia's war in Chechnya is a struggle between light and darkness. If the theater attack leads to a deal like the one Russia wanted from Washington--we will support the Iraq war if you turn a blind eye to what we are doing in Chechnya--the West will find itself supporting the acts of cruelty and war crimes that have been taking place there for years."

EGYPT: "Nothing Comes From Nothing"

 

Leading pro-government Al Ahram columnist Salama Ahmed Salama observed (10/29): "The escalation of violence used to confront the Chechen separatist movement and the horrors Russian soldiers committed against the Chechens has ignited the situation in an unprecedented way since Putin came to power in Russia.... Ignoring the real reasons for this barbaric wave and trying to impale Islam as a culture and religion may be deliberate and predetermined especially after the name Mohammed was added to John Williams, the American sniper. There are reasons for the rise of violence that should be tackled because nothing comes from nothing."

 

"Where Are Nation's Wise People, Islamic Scholars?"

 

Chief Editor Mursi Ata-Allah wrote in pro-government Al-Ahram (10/28): "The painful and dramatic tragedy of storming the theater would rather strengthen the stand of the hard-line current in the Kremlin which refuses in principle settling the Chechen issue at the negotiating table. Repeating such incidents that are attributed to Islam and the Muslims will ultimately serve only the nation's enemies who seek to severe all ties between the Islamic countries and the international community.... Now is the time when the nation's Islamic scholars, imams and wise people should raise their voice high in protection of the faith if Islam against these aberrant groups that hide behind an intricate heritage of backwardness and intellectual paralysis that impedes the nation's desire for progress and modernism."

 

"Separating Lines"

 

Samir Ragab wrote in small circulation pro-government Al Gomhouriya (10/25): "I do not rule out that either America or Israel are behind the Chechen operation holding a huge number of hostages in Russian theater.... The Russian position on a strike on Iraq raises U.S. concerns as it seeks international support for its mission. Definitely the hostage issue will automatically change the situation especially after America confirms that this is, without doubt, a terrorist operation conducted by Muslims...belonging to Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.... The hostage issue is not simple and will have many repercussions."

 

SAUDI ARABIA: "Is It Only a Question of Terror?"

 

London's pan-Arab Al-Hayat ran a signed editorial by the paper's Deputy Editor Abdulwahab Baderkhan (10/28): "A few days ago the issue of Chechnya jumped to the forefront in order to remind the world that there is oppression that has been taking place against people, while the world chose to look the other way allowing Russia all the chances to find innovative solutions. But at best it only found Stalinist solutions, just like Israel was allowed opportunities to end its occupation in Palestine and to begin building a true peace in the Middle East. But it opts for solutions inspired by Nazism. Thus, the world forgets this or that dispute, so that when it knocks at its door again with its messages, it is shouted: This is terrorism."

 

LEBANON: "Super Putin"

 

Moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar editorialized (10/29): "It seems that the most prominent result of the hostages crisis in Russia is the fact that it has placed Putin in the same ditch with President Bush. He announced war against terrorists and whoever supports them ideologically and financially. He has also decided to give the Russian Army wider authority to use weapons that are similar to weapons of mass destruction. Putin's announcement, which is ultimately directed towards Chechnya, will influence indirectly the Russian position on the American campaign on Iraq.... Putin is in an embarrassing position! The American interpretations of weapons of mass destruction certainly allows them to characterize what Putin decided to do to save the hostages as a decision to 'use' weapons of mass destruction. This fact will not leave Putin enough space to maneuver if he decides to reject an American attack on Iraq."

 

TUNISIA: "Terrible Blunder or a Planned Move?"

 

Independent French-language daily newspaper Le Temps editorialized (10/29): "Countries that hurried to congratulate Putin feel very embarrassed today, and some of them have even asked the Russian government for explanations. The right to defend against terrorism is recognized by all governments; but they must avoid being forced into responding with blind and destructive violence.... At a moment when the Security Council is focusing on a resolution that demands the disarmament and the destruction of all Iraqi chemical and nuclear capacities--if it has any--Russia has no right to retreat into silence and secrets. It is a question of the credibility of the recent campaign launched against the weapons of massive destruction and, in particular, of the image of Russia in the world."

" Who Would Profit From This Dramatic Turn Of Events?"

 

Senior Editor Mustapha Ben Ammar wrote in independent French-language Le Quotidien (10/29): "Could the Russian use of an unknown gas, that some classify as prohibited, give an opportunity for the United States to put pressure on this country to make concessions on the Iraq file in particular?... Everything is possible within this unpredictable and dirty crusade that Washington and Israel are engaged in against Iraq and Palestine."

 

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

 

JAPAN: "Bloody Conclusion Could Be A Chance For Peace"

 

Tokyo's mass-circulation Asahi opined (10/27): "Vladimir Putin could not afford to cave in to the demands of terrorists based on threats to harm innocent hostages.... Putin has weathered a critical challenge for the time being. Though dozens of hostages lost their lives, the assault on the theater is projected to raise public backing for his government. Riding the expected surge in support, we encourage Putin to take bold steps to shift his approach to Chechnya from military force to dialogue. This stand stems from the reasoning that the emergence of radical terrorist groups reflects the failure of the Russian government to win the support of the residents of Chechnya. The end of this bloody theater siege could provide an opportunity to truly address the ethnic aspirations of the Chechen people, and in doing so, stamp out the hotbeds of terrorism in that troubled region once and for all."

 

INDONESIA: "The World Gripped Even More"

 

Leading independent daily Kompas commented (10/26): "The taking of hostages in Moscow only adds to the concerns that grip the world community which has been in panic over the bombing actions by terrorists in Indonesia and the Philippines."

 

PHILIPPINES: "No Victors, No Heroes"

 

Columnist Firmo Tripon wrote in the leading BusinessWorld (10/29): "The 9/11 World Trade Center attack and the suicide bombings in Israel must have inspired the Chechens. Although the Russians scored a successful blow against terrorism, it is far from a victory against this kind of war. The decades of the Cold War have now been replaced with war by terror, where there are neither victors nor heroes.... As in the Moscow hostage situation, the cure for terrorism is simple though not as easily available as sleeping gas: jobs. Terrorism cannot thrive at a certain level of prosperity, more of which we can have if we only had less of ideology, politics or religion."

 

SINGAPORE: "The Price Putin Pays"

 

The pro-government Straits Times observed (10/29): "Russian President Vladimir Putin should be basking in acclaim for using decisive force to end the Chechen hostage grab in a Moscow concert hall.... But as the human cost of the rescue operation grows and angry questions asked by the Russian people continue to be evaded, it is not at all certain that much credit can accrue to Mr. Putin. His victory could turn out to be Pyrrhic.... The pity is that Mr. Putin has been reasonably successful in opening up Russian life and redirecting energies towards repairing the nation. If anger continues to build over the high price paid for the rescue, any diminution of his stature can have the consequence of raising the profile of the Chechen issue, which he has sought to bury. He had supported the United States' anti-terrorism campaign partly on the tacit understanding that America would ease up on criticizing Russian brutalities committed in Chechnya in the name of suppressing a rebellion. Mr. Putin has wisely been contrite about the human cost of the rescue, but the coming days will be delicate."

 

TAIWAN: "Watching Cautiously The Trend Of Rising Global Terrorism"

 

Centrist, pro-status quo China Times editorialized (10/28): "The hostage incident in Moscow also manifested another blind spot of the global campaign against terrorism: namely, in order to expand the front line of anti-terrorism, the United States has rashly put all the complicated ethnic and religious conflicts in various parts of the world into an oversimplified category of anti-terrorism."

 

THAILAND: "A Tragedy Plays Out In Moscow Theater"

 

Veera Prateepchaikul commented in top-circulation, moderately conservative, English language Bangkok Post (10/29): "President Putin might be commended for ending the siege and saving many lives. But the high death toll among the hostages demands a thorough investigation.... As for the Chechen separatists, their only achievement--if this can be called an achievement--In this crisis is to return the Chechen conflict to the international stage--but at such a horribly high cost in human life."

 

"Chechnya Solution Now Years Away"

 

The independent, English language The Nation held (10/29): "Eight years of war, destruction and death have shown repeatedly that dialogue is the only way a lasting peace will be established in Chechnya. It would take a massive show of political courage on the part of Putin to acknowledge that now."

 

VIETNAM: "Russia's Strong Answer"

 

Quang Loi wrote in the Vietnam People's Army daily Quan Doi Nhan Dan, (10/27): "The raid to free the hostages in Moscow was a success, militarily. But above all, it was an important political success of Russia and of President V. Putin himself.... If Russia conceded in the hostage crisis, it would have been the most dangerous concession in its struggle to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.... That Russia took tough measures to eliminate the terrorists who held people hostage in Moscow is a significant victory not only for the Russian people but also for the war against terrorism in the world."

 

SOUTH ASIA

 

INDIA: "Heal The Sore"

 

Bangalore-based left-of-center English-language Deccan Herald (10/28): "The hostage crisis and its largely successful handling by Moscow would tempt the Russian leadership to step up military operations in Chechnya. This will be a disastrous path to take. True the terror unleashed by the Chechen rebels....must be sternly dealt with. But 'teaching the Chechen people a lesson' will only deepen their anger against Moscow and encourage them to rally around the rebels again. President Vladimir Putin should avoid replicating the American strategy to deal with insurgency. The problem is political and bombing will never resolve it. The Russian government must alter its operations in Chechnya.... The experience in Afghanistan should serve as a lesson. Russian pullout from Afghanistan and American meddling there led to conditions that culminated in that country becoming a wellspring of global terror. That should be avoided at all costs."

 

PAKISTAN: "Bloody End Of Moscow Crisis"

 

Second largest Urdu daily, Nawa-e-Waqt editorialized (10/28): "Even in Russia people have begun voicing their support for the peaceful resolution of the Chechnya problem. France has categorically said that terrorism is an offshoot of crises and that the Chechnya issue should be resolved through peaceful means. The frightening incident of the Moscow theater has once again proved that oppression, violence and guns cannot resolve political problems."

 

"Bloody End Of Moscow Drama"

 

An editorial note in the pro-Muslim League Urdu daily, Pakistan stated (10/28): "Targeting civilians for political protest is condemnable, but it is also regrettable that big powers are not willing to reconsider their line of action. In a reaction to the incident, a fresh attack has been mounted on Chechnya.... Obviously this reaction would bring death and destruction to a large, innocent, civilian population, and this blood-spilling would continue. In order to curb terrorism it is imperative for big powers to have another look at their policies and try to resolve disputes through peaceful political dialogue in the light of international principles."

 

"Why Do Crises Like The Moscow Theater Arise?"

 

Popular Urdu Din editorialized (10/28): "If holding a few hundred people hostage in a Moscow theater is terrorism, then depriving millions of Chechens of independence and their right to self-determination is an even greater terrorism. If the world's informed persons' sympathies are with the Moscow theater hostages, they are also with the Chechens."

 

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

 

CANADA: "Red Square"

 

Editorialist Mario Roy in the centrist French language daily La Presse commented (10/28): "It is easy to play Monday morning quarterback and declare the Kremlin took the wrong decision.... But most Moscovites, even if they are bitter and wrenched with pain, seem to agree that any other attitude with respect to the taking of hostages would have been even more dangerous.... We who live in Washington's sphere of influence and nurture a snobbish and innocuous anti-Americanism cannot understand how in the former Soviet republics in general and in Chechnya in particular, just how visceral is the hatred towards Moscow."

 

ARGENTINA: "The Czar's Midwife"

 

Claudio Uriarte, leftist Pagina 12 international analyst, opined (10/27): "Although the number of casualties in the rescue of the hostages at Moscow's Dubrovka Theater seems high...the operation is a smashing success for President Putin, who's now viewed as 'Mother Russia's Czar.' First, because--in Russia--individual human life has little value and, second, because this number of casualties is a trifle vis--vis the 750 hostages that were rescued alive.... Putin appears strengthened, within Russia and abroad. On the domestic front, the takeover of the hostages justifies his hard-line position against Chechen rebels.... On the international front, and amidst an escalation of terrorist attacks...Putin appears as a bulwark against the ramifications of the fundamentalist Islamic network in the Caucasus. Violence may be, according to Marx, the midwife of History, but you can never be sure what it will give birth to."

 

"Crucial Test for Putin's Leadership"

 

Oscar Raul Cardoso, leading Clarin international analyst, wrote (10/27): "Like President Bush after 9/11, Putin supported an unlimited war against terrorist violence. At this point, perhaps he had no other choice; but alike the current antiterrorist policy, it has a blind side. It seems to overlook that no matter how--condemnable it may be--every form of terrorism has a real problem in its origin."

 

BRAZIL: "Disaster In Russia"

 

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (10/29): "The Russian military operation to rescue the hostages in a theater in Moscow was disastrous. Obviously, the decisions not to negotiate with terrorists and to attempt a rescue operation are legitimate.... The problem with the Russian action is in the way it was conducted and reported. In a manner reminiscent of the USSR's darker times, Russian officials tried to obscure the negative aspects of the action.... This absurd silence may have cost more lives.... The Russian officials' behavior raises one's worst suspicions, including the possibility that the gas used in the action is a chemical weapon forbidden by international treaties."

 

"Putin's Two-Faced Diplomacy"

 

Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo Paris correspondent Gilles Lapouge commented (10/29): "Putin is taking advantage of the situation to revive an old project: dividing the world in two. On the one hand are the Western states; on the other, those nations that Bush recently labeled 'outlaw states,' or terrorist states.... In this way, Russia seems to be under the flag of free nations, that of nations which respect human rights. The problem is that, inside its own borders, Putin's Russia is very far from respecting human rights in the fight against terrorism.... qPutin's Russia offers a very strange spectacle: a two-faced diplomacy. Overseas, Moscow appears to be strongly aligned with order, respect for human rights, freedom, etc. But inside the country, the old values of czarist Russia, especially of Stalinist Russia, lead to arbitrariness, violence, a cult of secrecy, centralization, and the suffocation of individual liberties."

 

"Limits of Force"

 

Right-of-center O Globo opined (10/26): "For years President Putin has been trying to convince Russians that the situation in Chechnya is under control: Russian troops had occupied the Caucasian republic and the separatist movement had been suffocated. In reality what the Kremlin controls is the war news; thanks to his influence on the media Russians ignore that three Russians die each day in Chechnya. The invasion of a theater in Moscow by Chechen guerrilla is a brutal denial of the official version. The overturn for the worse in the relations between Russians and Chechens also shows how risky seeking military solutions for eminently political disputes can be."

 

COLOMBIA: "Putin's Crisis"

 

The lead editorial in top national El Tiempo stated (10/28): "The Chechnya hostage situation and the way it was resolved clearly shows how distant Moscow is from resolving the Chechnya conflict.... Putin... may choose to intensify his military offensive, but considering the poor results so far, negotiations may be a more complex though more promising road."

##

 

Commentary from ...
Europe
Middle East
East Asia
South Asia
Western Hemisphere
October 30, 2002 MOSCOW HOSTAGE CRISIS: CRITICISM MOUNTS WITH DEATH TOLL



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