This Date's Issues: 3604 • 3605
Johnson's Russia List
4 November 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Elizabeth Piper, Millennium bug woes? Russians already have
2. Moscow Times: Pavel Felgenhauer, Is Victory Really the Goal?
3. Itar-Tass: RUSSIA'S 28 Blocs, Groups Registered for Duma Elections.
4. Itar-Tass: Sakhalin Poll Shows Unexpected Rating among Leading Blocs.
5. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Muscovites check radishes for
6. Viktor Kalashnikov: Shamil Basaev.
7. PRNewswire: Helsinki Commission Alleges Horrific Humanitarian DisasterUnfolding in Chechnya.
8. Statement by Fiona Hill, Eurasia Foundation, Helsinki Commission Hearing
on "The Chechen Crisis and Its Implications for Russian Democracy?"
9. New York Times: Sheila Heslin, Danger at the Crossroads.
10. Itar-Tass: Persons who Staged Apartment House Blasts Identified.]
Millennium bug woes? Russians already have them
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Russians already live with the everyday woes which
Western countries fear might hit them at the start of the new millennium, a
U.S. government aid official said on Wednesday.
Russian authorities have said the vast nation will not suffer computer chaos
after the clock strikes midnight on December 31, promising that citizens
would experience only small changes in their lives.
``Russia already lives in a situation which Western experts have described as
the most deplorable results of the 'Problem 2000','' Andrei Barkin, project
manager at the Y2K resource centre of government agency USAID, told a news
Many Russians already battle with an unreliable telephone system in which
calls often fail, while power cuts and hot water shortages are common in some
These are the type of problems which many other governments are trying to
prevent after December 31 when the millennium bug might strike, scrambling
systems that cannot read the two final zeros when the date changes to 2000.
But Barkin said Russia's comparative lack of modern technology would save the
vast country from real suffering.
``Y2K is a civilised problem, meaning that if a country is more civilised it
poses more of a problem,'' Barkin said.
Russia has been criticised for its slow response in waking up to the risks of
the millennium bug and a recent U.S. State Department report said Russians
across 11 time zones could face a dark, cold new year.
``The situation was terrible, there was no official information and no
programme. Russia made an unimaginably late start in tacking the issue,''
But he doubted there would be a catastrophe when the clocks turned midnight.
Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, charged with handling the problem, said
on Tuesday he could ``boldly declare'' Russia safe. Klebanov said Russians
would notice nothing more than the results of the odd ``non-critical'' system
Barkin said officials in the energy, electricity and communication sectors
were working to stop the bug from plunging the vast nation into a darker,
colder winter than usual.
He said managers at key energy providers, such as Russia's national power
grid, Unified Energy Systems (UES), were taking the problem seriously and
``UES is one of the most professional companies working on this problem, they
are training people in all 11 time zones,'' said Barkin, who helps companies
deal with the millennium bug.
He said steps were being taken to ensure that oil would be delivered to
Europe, to keep trams, trains and buses moving and ensure Russia's telephone
system would work through the night.
November 4, 1999
DEFENSE DOSSIER: Is Victory Really the Goal?
By Pavel Felgenhauer
Three years ago Russian forces were poised around Grozny and generals
insisted that they could "liberate" the Chechen capital only by massive heavy
gun and air bombardments. In 1996 instead of a siege, peace negotiations
began that ended the war. Today troops occupy the same positions around
Grozny as they were in three years ago. But the mood of the public and the
government seems to be totally different: Heavy bombardments of Chechen towns
and villages seem to have become acceptable.
During the previous Chechen war and during the present one, Western
journalists often accused the Russian forces of carpet-bombing the Chechens.
These accusations are fanciful. Carpet-bombing was first used in World War II
and later, extensively, by U.S. forces in Korea and Vietnam. Carpet-bombing
was always performed by heavy strategic bombers flying in close formation and
attacking from high altitudes, with each bomber releasing tens or even
hundreds of bombs.
The main workhorse of the Russian air force in Chechnya is the small armored
Su-25 "Frogfoot" attack plane. A Su-25 cannot possibly "carpet-bomb." Su-25s
never fly in combat in close formation, they typically carry no more than two
bombs and do not bomb from high altitudes - Su-25s dive-bomb instead. The
problem with the Russian forces in Chechnya is not that they indiscriminately
"carpet-bomb" from the air, but that deliberate and constant attacks on
civilian targets are allowed, using an array of different weapons.
During the first Chechen war Russian forces tended to go into Chechen
settlements with infantry and armor. Air power and artillery were mostly used
to support infantry in town fighting. Today all is different: The military is
using its firepower superiority to the hilt, avoiding infantry engagements
and pounding the enemy from a distance.
According to official figures from the Defense Ministry, 93 percent of
Russian solders and sergeants in Chechnya are conscripts -former school kids.
Sending such teenaged infantry and tank crews into street battles would be
murderous, so today Russian generals besiege Chechen settlements instead of
attacking them. But such classical sieges that involve a hunger blockade and
constant bombardment of residential areas kill more civilians than fighters.
The slow methodical advance of Russian forces into Chechnya, when bombers and
heavy guns demolish all obstacles before the infantry moves forward, is
On Oct. 21, a Russian ballistic missile killed and wounded hundreds of
civilians in Grozny's central market. On Oct. 29, NTV news television showed
live a relentless bombardment of the Chechen village of Samashki by Russian
tanks and helicopter gunships. The NTV correspondent Alexei Pobortsev
reported that during the day-long bombardment of Samashki, not a single shot
was fired back at Russian troops.
It was later reported that the attack on Samashki began on Oct. 27 and it may
be continuing still.The relentless bombardment of residential areas in
Chechnya, including the use of cluster warheads, and the recent air attack on
a Red Cross convoy are flagrant violations by the Russian military of the
1949 Geneva Convention and its protocols. How many other war crimes are going
unreported at the same time? Present tactics in Chechnya imply war crimes are
committed on a daily bases. If the siege of Grozny is executed the same way,
war crimes may spin out of control.
The current Russian invasion of Chechnya is militarily senseless. The Russian
troops are bogged down in the hills and plains of Chechnya with winter
swiftly approaching. Already dozens of solders are taken to the hospital with
exposure-related illnesses. The relentless Russian bombardments are not
preventing casualties - the Defense Ministry reports that over 600 men have
already been killed and wounded in Chechnya. Real figures are likely higher.
At the same time, the Russian army in Chechnya is rapidly becoming an army of
war criminals - like the Yugoslav army of President Slobodan Milosevic.
Why has the Russian government sent its army into Chechnya at totally the
wrong time of year without a single attempt to begin negotiations? Maybe the
main target of the present operation is not Chechnya? An army of war
criminals could help insure the continuous hold on power in Russia of the
present ruling kleptocracy, despite any elections and public dissatisfaction.
The Kremlin may be using Milosevic as a model.
Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent Moscow-based defense analyst.
RUSSIA'S 28 Blocs, Groups Registered for Duma Elections.
MOSCOW, November 4 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Central Election Commission has
registered another seven candidates for elections to the State Duma,
parliament's lower house.
One electoral bloc, the Russian Conservative Party of Businessmen, has been
A total of 28 electoral blocs and groups have been registered. Central
Election Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov told reporters that the
number could diminish.
He said a court probe is under way into Spas (Savior), a neo-Nazi
organisation, whose status is being examined.
The Justice Ministry is conducting similar probes into several other public
groups that have fielded their candidates for the Duma.
"If there are judicial decisions in this regard, they will be liquidated as
electoral associations with all ensuing consequences," Veshnyakov said.
November 3 was registration deadline. Veshnyakov said candidates for the Duma
had learned lessons.
"If such slovenliness and sometimes irresponsibility are shown in
pre-election agitation and financing of election campaigns, one will have to
part company with both canidates of single-mandate districts and electoral
associations and blocs," Vehnyakov said.
Sakhalin Poll Shows Unexpected Rating among Leading Blocs.
YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, November 3 (Itar-Tass) - A total of 20.4 percent of
eligible voters in Sakhalin intend to ignore a December 19 parliamentary
election in Russia, and 15 percent of Sakhalin voters declared that they
would vote against all candidates and parties, according to the results of a
sociological poll conducted in the Sakhalin region in which 820 respondents
The poll has shown rather unexpected results as regards the rating of parties
and movements registered by the Central Election Commission. In the opinion
of Sakhalin respondents, the following blocs and parties will be the elected:
COMMUNIST PARTY, YABLOKO, YEDINSTVO (UNITY), FATHERLAND-ALL-RUSSIA, WOMEN of
The Communist bloc has been supported by 20.3 percent of respondents, YABLOKO
is backed by 16.4 percent, YEDINSTVO led by Sergei Shoigu has 10.3 percent of
supporters, and FATHERLAND- ALL-RUSSIA has been placed fourth as a result of
the poll, supported by 9.8 percent of respondents only. The WOMEN of RUSSIA,
which has the lowest rating among the five most popular political parties and
movements expected to win seats to the State Duma, was supported by 5.6
percent of respondents in Sakhalin.
Incidentally, approximately half of those polled practically showed no
interest in the forthcoming elections. The majority of the "indifferent"
respondents work at state-run enterprises and organizations.
Christian Science Monitor
4 November 1999
Muscovites check radishes for radiation
A $50 personal Geiger counter gives Russians a sense of confidence at the
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Svetlana Batinova never leaves home without it. Her Geiger counter, that is.
"You cannot trust anything the government says, and you certainly can't
believe what vendors in the market tell you," says the accountant. "If you
want to know, you'd better have the means to find out for yourself."
Her Geiger counter is a battery driven palm-size device that looks like a
calculator and, when switched on and held up to an object, purportedly
measures its level of radioactivity. She paid about $50 for it last year in a
Moscow electronics shop.
Batinova routinely uses it to inspect fruits and vegetables, clothing, and
other products before she buys them. Once she even went to a playground used
by her nine-year-old son and carefully checked every inch of it.
"Just last week a woman tried to sell me cranberries she said were from
Vladimir region," just east of Moscow, she says. "But when I checked them,
the thing started beeping like crazy and giving all kinds of numbers.
Probably the berries were really from Chernobyl or someplace like that."
Thousands of Muscovites like Batinova have already equipped themselves with
radiation detectors. The brisk - and rising - sales of these gadgets is
indicative of a consumer-beware society and reflects a deep public distrust
of the ability of govenment institutions to protect citizens.
"Geiger counters for individual use are among the most popular items these
days," says Nadezhda Ivanova, a salesperson at Helion, a Moscow electronics
shop that sells several different models of the devices at prices ranging
from $20 to $200.
"Since the Chernobyl accident [in 1986] people have been very concerned about
the danger of radiation, but only recently have Geiger counters become cheap
and available," she says.
Officials at RADON, the Moscow government department charged with monitoring
radiation hazards in the city say the personal Geiger counter fad is out of
all proportion to the threat. But they admit there is a problem.
"Moscow was always the main scientific center of the country, and a lot of
nuclear-related research facilities and industries were concentrated here,"
says Tatiana Minina, a RADON spokeswoman. "In the first decades of atomic
power, standards were very lax.
Radioactive wastes were buried without any precautions, and sometimes housing
projects were built over them," she says.
The Soviet atomic bomb project in the 1940s was headquartered at the
Kurchatov Institute, in what was then a secluded area just outside Moscow but
today is surrounded by a forest of high-rise apartment blocs.
The Institute still operates several research reactors, and environmentalists
say its grounds are littered with old nuclear waste dumps and radioactive
trash from the early years.
"There are nine working reactors within Moscow's city limits, most of them at
the Kurchatov," says Alexei Yablokov, a former adviser to President Boris
Yeltsin who is now an independent environmental consultant. "The possibility
of an uncontrolled reaction in one of these presents an appalling and
unacceptable danger to the population around them," he says.
The Moscow government long ago resolved to shut down all reactors and move
waste dumps to distant locations. It hasn't been done. "It costs millions of
dollars to safely shut down a reactor," says Yablokov. "That's money Moscow
doesn't have. So they keep operating."
Every year approximately 50 radioactive "hotspots" are uncovered around
Moscow. "In Soviet times radioactive wastes were sometimes mixed with
concrete and used in building projects, or as filler in roads," says Minina.
"They were buried in unmarked sites or regular garbage tips. We keep finding
radioactive wastes in the strangest places."
But the threat also comes from outside. The Chernobyl disaster contaminated
huge areas of farmland in Ukraine, Belarus, and southwest Russia. The Soviet
military-industrial complex, with its vast nuclear research and weapons
production arms, may have left its radioactive legacy in many places.
Ironically, one of the biggest domestic producers of personal Geiger counters
is SNIIP, a Moscow military factory that still makes equipment for the
Russian nuclear weapons program. "Russian-made Geiger counters are as good as
foreign ones, and half the price," says a SNIIP manager, who declined to give
his name. He says the factory makes and markets the gizmos to earn cash -
because its military customers are far behind in paying their bills.
Public concerns have promp-ted the Moscow government to beef up its
monitoring capabilities. The RADON agency operates a large fleet of cars and
several helicopters equipped with radiation detectors.
When nuclear contaminants are discovered, RADON specialists dig them up and
ship them to a special dump near the town of Pavlov Pasad, about 100
kilometers (67 miles) from Moscow. "They are actually doing a fairly good
job. Moscow is far from the worst situation in Russia, speaking of
radioactive threats," says Yablokov.
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999
From: email@example.com ( )
Subject: Shamil Basaev
Those making/reading interviews with Shamil Basaev might
be interested in some details of his CV. After being excluded
form Moscow Land Regulations Institute in 1989, he, in a
group of youngsters, assisted to several firms to sell
computers (mainly, to get money paid). During the August
coup of 1991 he was seen near the White House. In 1992 he
became deputy defence minister of Abkhazia in her war
against Tiflis government. According to what Victor
Shenderovich said in his TV-program last weekend, it was
around that time (I thought it had been a little bit earlier)
when Shamil got recruited by GRU.
Helsinki Commission Alleges Horrific Humanitarian DisasterUnfolding in
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- "The Clinton Administration has, for the
past few years, refrained from any criticism or challenge of the policies of
President Yeltsin in the fragile hope that this will enhance the prospect
that democracy and civil society will prevail. Unfortunately, strains of
democracy and civil society have been drowned out by the sound of tank treads
moving over the countryside of Chechnya," said Commission on Security and
Cooperation Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith today at the Commission
hearing "The Chechen Crisis and Its Implications for Russian Democracy."
"The Russian Government is applying indiscriminate force far out of
proportion to its stated objectives in Chechnya," said Smith. "As was the
case four years ago, thousands of innocent persons are being killed or
displaced by the Russian offensive."
Smith commented, "Any country, including the Russian Federation, is justified
in using appropriate methods to combat terrorism. However, launching a war
against innocent civilians is another matter. Russia is a participating State
of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and has
agreed to certain standards regarding the protection of citizens when
addressing internal security matters."
"Ironically, the leaders of the 54 OSCE countries are preparing to assemble
shortly in Istanbul for the final major summit of the century," said
Commission Co-Chairman Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO). "The horrific
humanitarian disaster unfolding in Chechnya will loom large over that
important meeting. While none should discount that threats posed by terrorism
in the North Caucasus, neither should that serve as a pretext to use force
against non-combatants and civilian populations."
Ranking Commissioner Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) lamented, "The policy is not
only murderous, but incredibly short-sighted. However it may have been
planned, the war in Chechnya has not only become an attack on innocent non-
combatants, but it will strain the fabric of Russia's democratic development,
to say nothing of the financial resources that could be used to build up a
society, rather than destroy it."
"There is a major humanitarian disaster underway in the Caucasus," said Lyoma
Usmanov, the Representative of Chechen Republic to the United States.
"Hundreds of civilians have already been killed in Russian air and artillery
attacks, mostly women and children, and thousands have fled to neighboring
regions. As these regions are completely unequipped to cope with this influx
of refugees, the scale of the disaster will grow exponentially as colder
weather sets in. Neither the Chechen nor the Russian Ingush governments are
capable of preventing this unfolding tragedy, affecting those most vulnerable
in our society; the elderly, women and children."
Professor John Dunlop, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution said, "It is
my conclusion that this campaign of terror against Chechen civilians has been
fully intentional on the part of the Russian military, Prime Minister Putin
and President Yeltsin. Its principal aim appears to have been ethnically to
cleanse hundreds of thousands of Chechens from their home republic, in what
resembles a repeat performance of the Stalinist deportation of 1944, which
eventually resulted in the Chechens losing 20-25% of their populace."
Journalist Yo'av Karny noted, "The Chechens do not deserve capital punishment
on the account of (their) flaws. Their quest for independence is no less
legitimate, no less warranted by a history of struggle, than that of any
people I know of.
"Chechnya's fate has been ignored too often by the outside world. Their own
holocaust, which coincided with that of the Jews in Europe, is still awaiting
world recognition and Russian repentance. It is our moral duty to make sure
that this tiny and stubborn nation does not perish."
Fiona Hill of the Eurasia Foundation commented, "The peace the Khasavyurt
Accord brought proved to be as unpopular as the war it ended, and the Accord
is now nothing more than a glorified cease-fire document." She said,
"Sympathy for the Chechens rapidly dissipated both in Moscow and in the
surrounding region of the North Caucasus (following the 1994-96 war) in the
face of widespread and blatant kidnappings, assassinations, murders, and
attacks on economic targets in neighboring areas."
Most importantly, Hill said, "This Second War is all about politics in Moscow
in the run up to the December 1999 Russian parliamentary and the June 2000
presidential elections, and all about defeat in the first war. In October
1995, in the face of persistent Russian military reversals and an increasing
public backlash against the war, Boris Yeltsin described Chechnya as the
biggest mistake of his Presidency. This is now a chance for the Yeltsin
regime and the Russian military to fight the war again -- and this time to do
it right and correct that mistake. It is also an opportunity for a victorious
little war to propel the regime's designated successor to Yeltsin -- Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin -- up the popularity polls and into the presidency in
Ms. Hill offered the following recommendations: "We must continue to condemn
attacks on the civilian population of Chechnya, and highlight the
humanitarian tragedy and the threats to democracy in Russia posed by the
press blackout. We must engage those Russian politicians who are beginning to
speak out against the civilian casualties and the conduct of the War and
stress the importance of negotiations. We should encourage the renewed
engagement of the OSCE in the region given the positive role that this
organization played in the first war, and should offer humanitarian
assistance for the refugees and the neighboring republics that are hosting
SOURCE Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
From: Fiona Hill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: CSCE Testimony
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999
Fiona Hill Ph.D.
Director of Strategic Planning
1350 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: (202) 234-7370 ext. 172
Fax: (202) 234-7377
Statement by Fiona Hill, Eurasia Foundation
Helsinki Commission Hearing on
"The Chechen Crisis and Its Implications for Russian Democracy?"
Wednesday November 3, 1999
Mr. Chairman: As my contribution to this hearing, I would like to examine
and analyze this "Second Chechen War" in the context of the first war of
1994-1996. This is a very different conflict from the first on both the
domestic and international fronts and these differences are instructive as
we attempt to discern Russian motives for the most recent actions.
The War of 1994-1996 was the largest military campaign on Russian soil
since the Second World War, and the military casualties in just two years
of fighting were almost as high as the Soviet casualties incurred in a
decade of war in Afghanistan. The stakes in the war were high for both
sides. For Chechnya, the war was a fight for independence and the latest
round in a long struggle against assimilation into Russia that dates back
to the 19th century. For Russia, the war was an effort to retain control of
the country's post-Soviet borders and of a strategic territory with a
crucial oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea and an important oil refining
This was, however, a very unpopular war. In 1996, Russian opinion polls
consistently showed that approximately 60% of the population were in favor
of an immediate termination of the war. In Moscow, the Russian media
broadcast and related harrowing tales from the battlefield of senseless
carnage and a humanitarian and military disaster--including graphic
pictures of burned out Russian tanks in the center of Grozny holding the
charred distorted bodies of teenage Russian conscripts. The Soldiers
Mothers' Committee launched an active campaign both to bring their sons
home from the front and to shame politicians into ending the conflict. The
"First Chechen War" was, in essence, Russia's Vietnam
On the battlefront, the Russian military began to lose the campaign from
the very start. In Moscow, the Russian government pursued a dual and
ultimately self-defeating policy of negotiation and military
assault--promoting peace plans and safe zones while raining shells down on
Chechen villages. The end of the war in August 1996 came only in the wake
of a crushing defeat at the hands of Chechen forces and the rout of Russian
military units from Grozny after a final assault on the city, and after the
virtual collapse of the Russian military.
Moscow was essentially forced to sue for peace and the resulting peace
treaty-the Khasavyurt Accord--was a deep humiliation. The Accord was
repeatedly referred to in the Russian press and parliament in terms of
"Great Russia's humiliation by small Chechnya." The Russian military felt
that the peace had been foisted upon them--that military victory had been
denied by the vacillation and prevarication of politicians in Moscow, and
the perfidy of the Russian press which had whipped up popular sympathy for
the Chechens. Many in the Russian political elite shared their sentiments.
In a presentation at Harvard University not long after the conclusion of
the war, Russian democrat Alexei Arbatov noted testily that the result
would have been far different and Russia would not have a "Chechen problem"
if Stalin were still in power. On the one hand, this comment was testament
to the huge leaps that Russia has made in terms of democratization and the
emergence of public opinion as an independent force, and on the other it
revealed the depth of animosity and resentment left by the Khasavyurt Accord.
Ultimately, the peace the Khasavyurt Accord brought proved to be as
unpopular as the war it ended, and the Accord is now nothing more than a
glorified cease-fire document.
In the intervening period from 1996-1999, the attempts at reconciliation
between Russia and Chechnya and the reconstruction of Chechnya were feeble
at best. Sympathy for the Chechens rapidly dissipated both in Moscow and in
the surrounding region of the North Caucasus in the face of widespread and
blatant kidnappings, assassinations, murders, and attacks on economic
targets in neighboring areas. International aid workers and Western and
Russian reporters were driven from the republic. The Chechen forces that
pulled together in the fight against the Russians in 1994-1996 fell at each
other's throats after the Russian withdrawal. Islamic forces and gunmen
stepped into the political vacuum in the republic undermining the authority
of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Finally, the Chechen incursions into
Dagestan this Summer, and the bomb attacks in Moscow, reinforced the image
of Chechnya as an exporter of violence and terror.
This has brought us to the second war in an international context that is
also very different from the first:
In 1994-1996, the Chechen War was launched by Moscow in part as a response
to the United States quick and successful intervention in Haiti--a number
of Russian military commentators made references to emulating the US'
success and cleaning up in Russia's backyard. In 1999, the stakes for
Russia are even higher. We are now in a post-Kosovo world. For Russia, the
US and NATO's military intervention in the Balkans has drastically changed
the post-Cold War strategic environment, and has legitimized the use of
forceful interventions to resolve political disputes.
We are now also in an Osama bin Laden world, where US missile attacks in
Sudan and Afghanistan have paved the way for other unilateral punitive
actions by other states against purported centers of international
terrorism, and have provided new terms of demonization. In 1994-1996, the
Chechens were "rebels" and "bandits." In 1999, they are "terrorists." In
the First Chechen War, the image of rebels and bandits did not carry much
saliency either at home or abroad. In this Second Chechen War, hard on the
heels of bomb attacks in Moscow and repeated rumors that Osama bin Laden is
either planning to move his base of operations from Afghanistan to Chechnya
or is funding Chechen forces, the image is a potent one.
The Second Chechen War:
So where are we now with the Second Chechen War? What is it about? Where
will it end?
I would suggest that this Second War is all about politics in Moscow in the
run up to the December 1999 Russian parliamentary and the June 2000
presidential elections, and all about defeat in the first war. In October
1995, in the face of persistent Russian military reversals and an
increasing public backlash against the war, Boris Yeltsin described
Chechnya as the biggest mistake of his Presidency. This is now a chance for
the Yeltsin regime and the Russian military to fight the war again--and
this time to do it right and correct that mistake. It is also an
opportunity for a victorious little war to propel the regime's designated
successor to Yeltsin--Prime Minister Vladimir Putin--up the popularity
polls and into the presidency in June 2000.
Both the Yeltsin government and the military learned a number of key
lessons from the first war. On the home front, the government has "kept on
message"--this is now a battle with international terrorism, not the
repression of a secessionist movement. A media-blackout has prevented
morale-destroying stories from filtering back to the Russian heartland. The
general public outrage against the Moscow bombings and revulsion over
carefully released video footage of Chechen atrocities has kept opposing
views muted and forged a remarkable political unity. The Chechens have been
successfully demonized and are accused of staging civilian casualties to
discredit the Russian government.
In sharp contrast to the First Chechen War, the Russian military has been
pushed to the fore in decisionmaking. There is no attempt to pursue a dual
policy of negotiation and force. Chechen overtures to initiate talks have
been rebuffed and the logic of a military campaign has thus far been
allowed to prevail. On the battle front, the Russian military has moved in
slowly and kept its options open for a minimalist approach of securing the
northern part of Chechnya, while pursuing the maximalist goal of taking
Grozny and the heartland of the republic. The military has also addressed
the Chechens' tactical superiority on the ground in hand-to-hand combat
with an aerial bombing campaign. In this context, civilian casualties are
regarded as collateral damage. The unfolding humanitarian tragedy in the
North Caucasus as tens of thousands of Chechen refugees flee into
impoverished and unstable neighboring republics is irrelevant to military
As far as the potential impact on democratization and civil liberties in
Russia is concerned--the demonization of the Chechens as a group and the
extension of this demonization to other peoples from the broader Caucasus
region, resulting in harassment by local authorities, and the media
blackout on the war are major causes of concern. However, the rise and
influence of Russian public opinion and of civil society in the form of the
Soldiers Mothers Committee was the major success story of the last war and
should not be discounted as a factor in this one. The current war may be
popular for now but the Russian press is beginning to publish stories that
run counter to the state's depiction of events on the ground, and there are
already stirrings of political fallout from the civilian casualties in
Opposition politicians such as former Prime Minister Evgeny Primakov,
Yabloko Party Leader Grigory Yavlinsky, and Samara Governor Konstantin
Titov have spoken out against an all-out ground war and attacks on civilian
targets. For Putin and the military strategists, timing and circumstances
are key. They may not be able to control the flow of information from the
ground for long and the window for a decisive victory may be a small one.
The Chechens have not yet launched a major counter-offensive, and if the
aerial assaults are replaced by a full-scale ground-war, higher Russian
casualties seem inevitable along with the public backlash that will bring.
As Putin has risen in the polls as a result of the war, so can he fall. He
can also, even if he wins the war and rides high in the polls, earn the
wrath of Yeltsin as other seemingly popular Prime Ministers have before
him. War and its conduct are an art and not a science.
A Russian Victory in the Second Chechen War?
It is highly possible that the Russians could win a military victory this
time around. The Chechen fighters may be battle-hardened and better
equipped and trained than in the first war, but the last three years of
chaos and the destruction of Chechnya's infrastructure have taken their
toll on the health and morale of the population. The republic has seen the
complete collapse of sanitation, basic health care, and food and other
essential life supplies. In sum, Chechnya has been a permanent humanitarian
disaster. In the first war, the Chechen population rallied round the cause
to fight back against the Russian incursion, this time the remaining
population is exhausted and beaten down and is fleeing.
If Russia does achieve a military victory, however, what kind of victory
will this be? The Chechens won the First Chechen War but lost the
peace-Russia could win the Second Chechen War but will surely also lose the
peace. The Yeltsin regime and the Russian military may have absorbed the
military lessons of the First Chechen War but they have not assimilated the
economic, social, and political lessons of either its prelude or its
The major question is--what will Moscow do with Chechnya once it is
defeated? A victory on the battlefield and the absolute rejection of
Chechen independence will not resolve the serious problems that persist in
Chechnya-including severe economic dislocation, high unemployment, the
destruction of infrastructure and industry, and the collapse of social and
political structures. Where will the funds be found to reconstruct the
republic and reintegrate it with the rest of the Russian Federation? We
have seen the scale of the reconstruction effort underway in Bosnia and the
difficulties of restoring order in Kosovo. Can the Russians really conduct
such an effort? If the last three years of purported efforts to reconstruct
Chechnya are anything to go by then the answer is a resounding no.
What will happen to the Chechen fighters who will be pushed out of the
republic by a Russian victory? Will they hold up in the mountains in the
south of the republic and launch intermittent raids against the
Russian-held heartland? Or will they take their guns to neighboring
hotspots such as Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia, further destabilizing the
weak states of the South Caucasus? What will also happen to all of the
refugees from both the first and the second wars? Are they likely to return
to a devastated Chechnya or are they more likely to stay in their places of
refuge, putting even more strain on the fragile economies and polities of
the rest of the North Caucasus? And while Moscow is preoccupied with
mopping up in Chechnya, will it have the energy and wherewithal to deal
with the explosive political situations already evident in other North
Caucasus republics such as Karachaevo-Cherkessia and Dagestan?
In the event of a victory, Russia seems likely to exhaust itself in
attempting to police and rebuild its own internal Bosnia and Kosovo, and
unlikely to be able to formulate the kind of sophisticated long-term
policies it requires to stabilize the North Caucasus.
Broader impact of war in the South Caucasus:
In the South Caucasus, there is considerable and understandable
concern--especially in Georgia and Azerbaijan--about the long-term
consequences of the Second Chechen War and the possibility of the
resurgence of an aggressive Russian policy in the region. Russia's defeat
in the first war certainly tempered its interference in Georgian and Azeri
affairs and led to Russian retrenchment in the region and a more pragmatic
approach to bilateral and multilateral relations in 1996-1999.
This concern is not misplaced, but it is too early to tell whether or not
it is fully justified. The Second Chechen War is very much driven by
politics in Moscow and by the desire to redress the humiliation of the
first defeat. It does not in itself denote a desire to return to the
heavy-handed approach of 1992-1994 in the Caucasus. And, as noted above,
even in the advent of a victory, Moscow will be preoccupied with restoring
its control in Chechnya and it will be difficult to capitalize on this for
a new thrust south.
The current war also raises broader questions about the future of the
Russian armed forces. Military reform is long over due. Although the
Russian military seems to be benefiting from increased budgetary
appropriations for weapons procurement and supplies to fight the war in
Chechnya, this does not address the deep structural and doctrinal problems
the military has faced since the collapse of the Soviet armed forces in
1991. The Russian military seems likely to exhaust itself in securing a
victory. Chechnya could in the end prove to be its "last fling" rather than
the first steps in a new dance.
The increased instability resulting from the war and the likelihood of
spill-over from the fighting, either in the form of stray missiles,
refugees, and fighters is, however, very real indeed. The war is also a
further endorsement of the use of force in settling political disputes in
the region at a time when other conflicts, such as Nagorno-Karabakh, are at
a turning point.
The Prospects for External Intervention & Mediation:
At this specific juncture, the prospects for an intervention from the
international community to bring the two sides to the negotiating table are
slim. The Yeltsin regime does not want to negotiate with the Chechens until
a military victory is secured. Vladimir Putin has deliberately painted
himself into a rhetorical corner by rejecting Aslan Maskhadov as the
legitimate President of Chechnya and demanding that he turn over key
Chechen commanders. In the first war, the same approach was taken with then
Chechen President Dzokhar Dudayev. The turning points for mediation and
negotiation only came with major Russian military reversals and there is no
indication that the situation will be any different this time around.
Serious talks between the Russians and Chechens were initiated only after
Shamil Basayev's audacious assault on the Russian town of Budennovsk in
Summer 1995, and as I mentioned at the outset, peace was only vigorously
pursued after the Russians were routed from Grozny in Summer 1996--and four
months after Dudayev had been killed in a missile attack.
There is very little at this juncture that the US and other outside powers
can do to turn back the Russian military's advance. The advance will have
to be halted and the attitude toward negotiations changed by the Chechens
on the battlefield and by public opinion and sober-minded politicians in
The United States needs to approach the crisis cautiously and have a keen
sense of timing. The first rule of US policy should be "do no harm." We are
in a very dangerous period in US-Russian relations. The level of
anti-Americanism among the Russian elite is real and should not be
underestimated. We must be careful not to provoke an even greater backlash
against the Chechens.
In the minds of the Russian political elite, in the post-Kosovo world, the
US no longer commands the moral high ground. The Russian political elite do
not believe that the US intervention in Kosovo was a humanitarian one and
see it purely in terms of the balance of power--resolving a political
conflict with Milosevic, carving out a new role for NATO to ensure its
preservation, and staking a claim in the Balkans. They see the US as
adopting a heavy-handed approach in dealing with threats to US interests
while criticizing others for protecting their own interests. For the
Russian political elite, the US is an unchecked power that is operating
across the globe in all of Russia's former spheres of influence, and
seeking to belittle and humiliate Russia at every turn.
This makes our options and leverage limited. What can we do?
· This is a complex situation and must be treated as such. We must "stay on
message" and keep a close watch on Russian public opinion and the reactions
of the Russian political elite.
· We must not condone Russian action but we must also not offer false
promise to the Chechens in making rhetorical statements that are unlikely
to be followed through in practice.
· We must continue to condemn attacks on the civilian population of
Chechnya, and highlight the humanitarian tragedy and the threats to
democracy in Russia posed by the press blackout.
· We must engage those Russian politicians who are beginning to speak out
against the civilian casualties and the conduct of the War and stress the
importance of negotiations. In the First Chechen War, Russian opponents of
the war felt let down by the lack of a resolute and consistent response
from the West and by statements from the US that seemed to condone the
Yeltsin regime's policy by making parallels with the US Civil War.
· We should encourage the renewed engagement of the OSCE in the region
given the positive role that this organization played in the first war, and
should offer humanitarian assistance for the refugees and the neighboring
republics that are hosting them.
· We should offer, in the event of a negotiated settlement, to help broker
and structure an international reconstruction effort for Chechnya that
would address the republic's and the broader North Caucasus region's
deep-rooted economic, social and political problems. This might in fact be
an opportunity to encourage the formation of an international task force
that would examine the political, economic, and security challenges in the
Caucasus as a whole and offer recommendations for future action. This could
be created under the auspices of the OSCE and adopt the format of the
Carnegie Endowment's task forces on the Balkans at both the beginning and
end of this century.
· Finally, we must stress that while the Second Chechen War can be won in
the rubble of Grozny the real test of victory will come in what happens
next. Winning and securing peace will be difficult in the extreme.
New York Times
3 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Danger at the Crossroads
By SHEILA N. HESLIN
Sheila N. Heslin was the director for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs
at the National Security Council in 1995 and 1996
BETHESDA, Md. -- When President Clinton met yesterday with Vladimir Putin,
Russian Prime Minister, to convey concerns about the 200,000 refugees fleeing
Russia's attack on Chechnya, he was addressing a part of the world where
there is a wider American interest.
Nearby, Armenia's internal balance is shaken after five armed men burst into
its Parliament last week and killed the prime minister. That attack set back
negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, the
disputed province that led the two countries to a bloody war from 1988 to
1994. As Chechnya burns, tiny, impoverished Georgia could be overwhelmed with
The United States has a big stake in the future development and political
makeup of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, which lie between Europe, the
Persian Gulf and Asia. The region's vast resources and unresolved tensions
make it both attractive and potentially a point of conflict for ambitious
powers that have been weakened in this region, including Russia, Turkey, Iran
and China. Its location makes it a potentially profitable trade route;
simmering conflicts and porous borders make it a corridor for shipment of
arms and drugs.
The people in this region have endured great hardship as they have built
their nations since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and they have emerged
strongly committed to their independence. In Georgia, for example, despite
grinding poverty, a pro-reform, pro-West, and pro-NATO majority was elected
on Sunday in free and fair elections. Presidents in Georgia, Azerbaijan and
Armenia have all taken personal and political risks in pursuit of peace.
Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova have buried their
rivalries and are cooperating with the goal of creating a formal regional
Caspian oil has begun to flow through a newly constructed pipeline through
Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea.
Yet unresolved ethnic conflicts and border disputes hamper stability and
invite Russia and other outsiders to meddle; by inflaming tensions within and
between the region's states, the outsiders hope to expand their own presence
in the region and assert control over their own restive border lands.
Economic growth is slow. Weapons have poured into the region, particularly
with the help of ethnic extremists living in the United States, Europe and
the Middle East, and more are amassed at its borders with Russia.
The Clinton administration has rightly stated that American interests would
be best served by the emergence of independent, stable, energy-exporting
states in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, at peace among themselves and
enjoying solid links to the West. But by focusing narrowly on rapid Caspian
energy development while soft-pedaling the political and military
instability, the administration has undermined its own objectives.
The United States has declared support for the independence of the South
Caucasus countries that were once Soviet republics, while at the same time
pressuring them to go along with Russia's rejection of limits on arms
deployments in the region that it had observed in the days of the Soviet
Union. The Clinton administration has said too little too late in opposition
to the wars in Chechnya, leading Russian nationalists to think that pursuit
of their goals will meet little effective resistance from the West.
Unconstrained, Russia tends toward heavy-handedness because it underestimates
popular commitment to independence while overestimating its ability to impose
order. Armed to the teeth, Russia gets itself in trouble, fomenting
instability in the South Caucasus and increasingly in its own Caucasus
American support for peace in the region has been unconvincing: deferential
to Russia and largely silent on arms buildups in Georgia, Armenia and
Azerbaijan; halfhearted in advancing peace talks, having replaced four United
States representatives at the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations in less than
three years, and maintaining a ban on assistance to Azerbaijan while giving
humanitarian and technical aid to Armenia. Meanwhile, areas where there are
unresolved conflicts serve as unregulated conduits for arms and drugs,
reinforcing local organized criminals and creating powerful interests in
favor of the status quo.
It is time for the United States to clarify its policy toward the South
Caucasus and Central Asia, not in words, but in action. Some trade-offs will
have to be made in our policy toward Russia. There will be no easy victories.
irst, far more must be done to promote regional arms control. President
Clinton should lead the way, at the meeting this month in Istanbul of the
Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe, in resisting Russian
efforts to loosen treaty constraints on the deployment of weapons in the
Caucasus. The restraints were part of the Conventional Forces in Europe
Treaty that the Soviet Union signed in 1990.
There should also be greater American efforts, independent and through
institutions like NATO's Partnership for Peace program, to help the Caspian
states build up the military forces needed to control their borders and
protect their pipelines and transportation routes. Over time, most of these
states will be prosperous enough to build modern militaries capable of
defending their countries from attack; along the way, we should help them
develop disciplined forces.
Equally important, there should be a regional security organization in which
these countries can cooperate, perhaps building on the group of five states
-- Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova -- already starting
in this direction. Large nations close by, like Russia and Turkey, and
Western countries could be accorded observer status in a structure similar to
that of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
In regional peace negotiations, we should recognize that it will not be
enough to support only elites engaged in secret talks, as the administration
did repeatedly in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. Citizens should be involved
in national debates about how peace would affect them. To resolve the
conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, it will be necessary for the United States to
work with those Armenian-American groups that support a nonviolent
And President Clinton should lift the ban on giving Azerbaijan the same kind
of economic assistance that it provides to all other former Soviet republics.
This would serve both to recognize the risks that Heydar Aliyev, Azerbaijan's
president, has taken for peace and begin to bring about more realistic
attitudes in Armenia. If we are to be an effective broker, we must adopt a
Together, these steps would help the countries in a politically complex and
resource-rich part of the world achieve a reliable peace. The alternative is
more chaos and bloodshed, which may not stay confined to the Caucasus for
Persons who Staged Apartment House Blasts Identified.
MOSCOW, November 3 (Itar-Tass) - The mechanism of staging terrorist acts in
Moscow has been revealed and persons who have masterminded and staged
apartment house blasts have been identified, Colonel-General Alexander
Tsarenko, chief of the Russian Federal Security Service's agency for Moscow
and the Moscow region, told a news conference on Wednesday.
He said one man had been detained, faced with charges and was kept in an
investigation ward. Two other persons directly implicated in the explosions
were staying "in the Chechen territory beyond the federal forces control."
Russia's Federal Security Service operates in close contact with law
enforcement bodies of Russia and other countries for their search and
detention. Tsarenko said it had been established that both apartment houses
in Moscow had been exploded by one and the same criminal group.
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library