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30 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Russian generals deny plotting Chechen
war. By Marcus Warren in Nazran and Alice Lagnado in Urus Martan, southern Chechnya.
2. Reuters: Russia's Stepashin says will back Putin in poll.
3. Laura Belin: Stepashin.
4. Financial Times (UK): Arrest speeds Borodin's fall. Charles Clover and
William Hall talk to the head of the Swiss company at the heart of a Moscow corruption inquiry.
5. Boston Globe: Brian Whitmore, Free speech seen in peril. Putin takes measures to control information.
6. U.S. News and World Report: Anne Nivat, Chechnya's trail of tears.
Witnessing war and survival along the perilous road to embattled Grozny.
7. Carnegie Moscow Center: Dmitri Trenin, CHECHNYA: EFFECTS OF THE WAR AND
PROSPECTS FOR PEACE.
8. The eXile: John Dolan reviews Martin Malia's "A review of Russia Under
Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the Lenin Mausoleum."]
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
30 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Russian generals deny plotting Chechen war
By Marcus Warren in Nazran and Alice Lagnado in Urus Martan, southern Chechnya
RUSSIA'S top generals angrily defended themselves yesterday from charges that
they planned the war in Chechnya months before the official pretext of last
summer's Chechen invasion into neighbouring Dagestan.
The deputy chief of staff, General Valery Manilov, rushed to dampen
controversy over the claims, which undermine Moscow's oft-cited justification
of its campaign.
The offensive in the North Caucasus was "a measure forced on us", Gen Manilov
insisted, sticking to the official line that it was the military's response
to the guerrilla incursion and a series of bombs which ripped through blocks
of flats in Buinaksk, Moscow and Volgodonsk, killing almost 300 civilians.
He said allegations by Sergei Stepashin, who was Russia's prime minister in
the first half of last year, that the operation was first mooted in March
were "just not true". According to Mr Stepashin, who was sacked as prime
minister and replaced by Vladimir Putin, plans were laid to advance as far as
the river Terek, north of Grozny.
Russian forces occupied the territory north of the river last autumn but then
swept south into the mountains and surrounded Grozny, the Chechen capital,
which is now the scene of fierce fighting. Indignation at the rebels' raids
into Dagestan and outrage at the bombs, which were immediately blamed on
Chechen terrorists, mobilised Russian public opinion behind the military
campaign and Mr Putin.
The West has also expressed equivocal support for the aims of the offensive
on the grounds that Russia was attacked first and is justified in defending
itself. However, Mr Stepashin's claims put the war in an entirely new
perspective and provide ammunition for those who argue that Moscow planned
The autumn's series of apparent easy victories over Chechen rebels also
boosted the popularity of Mr Putin, transforming him from an obscure
apparatchik into the favourite to be elected successor to Boris Yeltsin as
president in two months. Chechen warlords have denied any responsibility for
the blasts, although they had threatened "to take the war to Russian cities".
One warlord, the Saudi, Khattab, warned something spectacular was imminent
days before the first explosion. Alleged links between Shamil Basayev, the
most notorious field commander, and Russian military intelligence, GRU, in
the early 1990s provoked suspicions that his incursions into Dagestan might
have been agreed in advance with Moscow.
Basayev has launched daring raids into Russian territory since 1995 but
always escaped home without so much as a scratch, encouraging legends about
his miraculous ability to outwit the military. If Russia indeed began
planning its operation last spring, Basayev's attacks on mountain villages in
Dagestan in August and September could be interpreted as pre-emptive strikes
rather than gratuitous aggression.
The Russian general staff is believed to have made contingency plans to seize
territory north of the Terek or create a "security zone" on Chechnya's
borders years ago. The Russian military yesterday claimed a major
breakthrough in the battle for Grozny when a few dozen rebels left the city
and apparently surrendered to a pro-Moscow Chechen commander, Beslan
Rebels denied reports that some leaders negotiated a ceasefire but admitted
that Moscow's all-out offensive on the Chechen capital is resulting in large
numbers of casualties. Many of the wounded fleeing from Grozny end up in the
town of Urus Martan, which has been in Russian hands since the end of last
But because the town is teeming with Russian soldiers doctors cannot admit
wounded rebels to the hospital. A handful of "trusted" doctors visit the
injured fighters in private homes and try to do what they can without drugs
Natasha is one of the doctors who treat injured rebels. "It's difficult for
them to bring out their wounded every week" she said. "They usually bring
them in groups. "The last big group came a week ago when 78 wounded rebels
arrived from Grozny. Some are dead when they arrive. They have suffered
injuries from shells, bullets, everything. They are young men from all over
Even local people cannot get medical treatment in the hospital. Russian
forces bombed the town in December destroying some parts. All the windows in
the hospital were blown out.
Power is sporadic from a generator and there is no heating so the hospital is
painfully cold as well as dark. The few painkillers are bought by the doctors
since the hospital has no money.
Russia's Stepashin says will back Putin in poll
MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, a leading
supporter of the reformist Yabloko party, said on Saturday he would back
acting President Vladimir Putin in a presidential election on March 26.
Stepashin, who is not a member of Yabloko but sits with the group in the Duma
lower house of parliament, said he had the right to back Putin, a hot
favourite in the contest, rather than throw his support behind Yabloko leader
Grigory Yavlinsky, who has said he will run.
``We (he and Putin) worked here in St Petersburg together at a difficult
time, in 1991 and 1992 when the (Soviet) Union fell apart,'' Stepashin told
NTV private television from Russia's second city.
He said Western criticism of Putin's record on the economy was misplaced
because the former KGB spy had worked well as aide to St Petersburg's liberal
mayor Anatoly Sobchak. In 1994, Putin became first deputy head of the city
``When people, especially in the West, say that Putin's view on the economy
is unclear they should look at what he was dealing with here.''
An opinion poll shown on public ORT television said Putin was still way out
in front of the race with 54 percent. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was
in second place with 14 percent and another former premier Yevgeny Primakov
came in third with seven percent.
Yavlinsky trailed in fourth with four percent.
A long list of leading Russian politicians support Putin in his bid to become
Russia's second president. Putin has become one of Russia's most popular
politicians largely because of his tough stance on the breakaway Chechnya
Date: Sat, 29 Jan 2000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Laura Belin)
If senior Russian leaders began planning to invade Chechnya last March,
Sergei Stepashin would certainly have known about it. My question is, why
did he keep quiet about this for so long? By now it is too late to change
the outcome of the parliamentary election and it looks too late to prevent
It would have been more logical for Stepashin to reveal this alleged
conspiracy as soon as it became clear that the war had gone far beyond the
limited invasion Stepashin says had been planned. I suppose he might have
worried that news about the alleged plot would have made him look bad (he
was, after all, the number two Yabloko candidate). But it doesn't seem to
make sense for him to keep silent, then endorse Putin for president soon
after the Duma election, and now say the war was all a Kremlin operation.
If Boris Kagarlitsky or anyone else has insight into Stepashin's strange
behavior, I would be interested to hear about it.
St. Antony's College, Oxford
Financial Times (UK)
29 January 2000
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: Arrest speeds Borodin's fall
Charles Clover and William Hall talk to the head of the Swiss company at the
heart of a Moscow corruption inquiry
The friendship between Behgjet Pacolli and Pavel Borodin began with a drink
and a kind word at a reception in 1992 in the remote Russian city of Yakutsk.
It is very likely to have ended with an arrest warrant issued on Thursday for
Mr Borodin in Switzerland.
In between there were hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts for Mr
Pacolli's construction company, Mabetex, issued while Mr Borodin was mayor of
Yakutsk and then head of the property department in the Kremlin. There were
large transfers to anonymous bank accounts, a police raid on Mabetex's
offices and a shadowy former banker with a secret file of documents that
appear, one by one, in the press.
Most fascinating is what role the whole affair may have had in the
resignation of Boris Yeltsin, Russia's president, on December 31. Immediately
before Mr Yeltsin's resignation Vladimir Putin, who took over as acting
president, issued a decree granting him immunity from prosecution. The
warrant for Mr Borodin shows how perilously close the investigation may have
come to Mr Yeltsin himself.
Mr Borodin's fall from grace began at precisely 1:00pm on January 22 last
year when, according to Mr Pacolli, "two very, very large men" asked to see
him in his office at the Mabetex building in Lugano, Switzerland, identified
themselves as police and informed him that Carla del Ponte, Switzerland's
federal prosecutor, wanted to speak to him.
Ms del Ponte was acting on a request from Yuri Skuratov, Russia's federal
prosecutor, who had information about the bank accounts of senior Kremlin
officials from a former employee of a Lugano-based bank. Mabetex had been a
client of the bank until recently.
As Mr Pacolli recalls, Ms del Ponte strode into his office, sat down and
said: "So, Mr Pacolli, tell me about the credit cards."
The credit cards were supposedly credit cards of Mr Yeltsin and his two
daughters, issued by Mabetex.
Not only that, Ms del Ponte also wanted him to tell her about a $1m bank
transfer to a Hungarian bank. Then she showed him a letter from Mr Skuratov
that listed names of Russian officials suspected of taking kickbacks from
Mr Pacolli says this was all a big misunderstanding. He had guaranteed the
credit cards but they had never been issued with his guarantee; rather, with
that of another bank in Russia. As for the bank transfers, he said he was
paying ordinary suppliers and workers.
He maintains that the information had been planted by unscrupulous bank
employees to smear him.
The case against Mabetex was closed in March, said Mr Pacolli, which Swiss
officials decline to confirm or deny. But the case against Mr Borodin and
other top Kremlin officials was just beginning.
In June a Moscow newspaper, Versiya, printed photographs of Mr Borodin's
passport and his signature among ownership documents for a Lugano bank
account being investigated for suspected money laundering. The documents were
supplied by the same former employee of the Lugano bank who was Mr Skuratov's
original informant. The account, the newspaper said, was opened jointly with
Mr Borodin's daughter and Mr Pacolli.
Mr Borodin, in press interviews, described the photographs as faked. Mr
Pacolli said the account had been opened to pay legitimate suppliers. He
denied Mr Borodin was a beneficiary.
Meanwhile Daniel Devaud, the Geneva magistrate, had circulated a list of
Russian officials linked to Mabetex, ordering all Swiss banks to freeze
accounts associated with the names. Numerous accounts were. Last Thursday Mr
Devaud issued an arrest warrant for Mr Borodin.
Mr Pacolli recalls first meeting Mr Borodin in 1992 at a reception
celebrating a new conference centre that Mabetex built in Yakutsk. Mr Borodin
complimented him; when Mr Borodin was appointed manager of the Kremlin's
property department in 1993 it was good news for Mabetex.
"Mr Borodin obviously thought we did good work," said Mr Pacolli, in his
spacious office by Lake Lugano.
According to Russia's parliamentary audit chamber, Mr Borodin's department
spent $823m in recent years restoring Kremlin palaces, churches,
administrative offices and Mr Yeltsin's Kremlin residence.
Some $300m of that came to Mabetex, which overall did $1.4bn of business in
Russia since 1990, according to Mr Pacolli.
On the wall of Mr Pacolli's office are photographs of himself and numerous
heads of state from around the former Soviet Union, such as Kazakhstan's
president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who stopped in Lugano on his way to the Davos
summit in 1997 to visit Mr Pacolli, who has large contracts to build the new
Kazakh capital, Astana.
Mr Pacolli attributes his success to hard work. He points to a wardrobe in
his office. "That is how we got so much business," Mr Pacolli says. "I live
in my office. I come back to my office to change my shirt. I spend 24 hours a
29 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Free speech seen in peril
Putin takes measures to control information
By Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent
MOSCOW - Two weeks ago, a crusading radio journalist who angered the Kremlin
with his reports from war-torn Chechnya disappeared. Yesterday, law
enforcement officials acknowledged that he had been arrested.
Last week, a newspaper reporter known for exposing corruption among Russia's
rich and powerful was confronted at his home by machine-gun-toting police and
ordered to take a psychiatric examination. He went into hiding.
Incidents such as these have human rights groups in Russia worried that free
speech may be endangered under acting Kremlin leader Vladimir V. Putin, a
former Soviet KGB officer.
With Russia's war against separatist rebels in Chechnya raging on, and with a
presidential vote in two months, the Kremlin is taking extra measures to
''The media should take into account the challenges the nation is facing
now,'' Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Kremlin's spokesman on the Chechen war, told
a Russian newspaper last week. ''When the nation mobilizes its strength to
achieve a goal, this imposes obligations on everybody, including the media.''
Andrei Babitsky, 35, a reporter for US-funded Radio Liberty, learned about
these ''obligations'' the hard way. Law enforcement officials in Moscow
announced yesterday that Babitsky, who disappeared in Chechnya's capital Jan.
15, had been arrested for lacking accreditation to work in the war zone.
Police spokesman Oleg Aksyonov was quoted by Reuters as saying Babitsky was
in jail also ''because of information that he allegedly spent time with
illegal armed groups.''
''After some necessary formalities he may be released,'' Aksyonov added.
Babitsky's wife, Ludmilla Babitskaya, said the Russian authorities, unhappy
with his critical coverage from Chechnya, were harassing her husband.
''What kind of country is this? What kind of consciences do these officials
have if they can hold my husband for two weeks while I worry whether he is
alive or not?'' she said. ''I am just happy to hear that he is alive.''
She also ridiculed the idea that Babitsky, who had good sources among the
Chechen commanders, had joined the militants.
''Andrei is a religious man. He has never held a weapon in his hands in his
life,'' she said.
The Russian Journalists' Union has released a statement demanding Babitsky's
release. His reports from Chechnya have challenged official claims that
Russian troops were defeating the rebels, reported higher casualties than the
Kremlin acknowledged, and focused on the plight of civilians.
And Babitsky's detention in Chechnya was not his first confrontation with
authorities. On Jan. 8, police searched Babitsky's Moscow apartment and
confiscated photographs he had taken of Russian soldiers killed in Grozny,
On Thursday, the Russian military's press center had accused him of siding
with rebel leaders Shamil Basayev and Khattab.
''Soon Babitsky will be ready to exchange his profession as a journalist for
that of an executioner and will serve in the detachments of his idols Basayev
and Khattab,'' said the statement, released on the military's Internet site.
''Russian citizens must know that Radio Liberty has long been fighting a war
against them on the side of bandits and terrorists.''
Radio Liberty is a US-funded station that broadcasts in the former Soviet
Union. Jeff Trimble, the station's broadcast director, said he planned to
meet with Russian officials today. Trimble declined to comment on whether he
thought Babitsky's disappearance was related to his reporting, which has
angered Russian officials.
In another case that frightened free press advocates, police showed up at the
Moscow apartment of investigative reporter Alexander Khinshtein on Jan. 18
with an order that he undergo psychiatric testing.
The 25-year-old journalist for the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, which is
witheringly critical of the Kremlin, had written a series of articles
alleging corruption among Russia's elite. Claiming that Khinshtein had lied
on his application for a driver's license by hiding a history of mental
illness, police ordered him to undergo a psychiatric test, his mother was
quoted as saying.
Last month, authorities briefly detained seven foreign journalists, including
the Globe's Moscow bureau chief, David Filipov, on allegations that they did
not have the proper accreditation.
U.S. News and World Report
February 7, 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechnya's trail of tears
Witnessing war and survival along the perilous road to embattled Grozny
By Anne Nivat
IN CHECHNYA. Bright sun under peerless blue skies. A perfect winter day,
is to say: a terrible day to be in Chechnya. Clear skies mean that Russian
airplanes can fly, and that means more bombing. So better the dark, foggy
In our minibus, anxiety shows in the faces of the passengers, five men and
nine women; one woman is breast-feeding her baby. Outside, traffic consists
mainly of muddy Russian military vehicles, tanks and armored personnel
carriers bearing exhausted, seemingly dispirited Russian soldiers who avoid
eye contact with passing civilians. We're on our way to Urus Martan, a city
about 12 miles southwest of the embattled Chechen capital of Grozny. The
villages we pass through are almost completely destroyed. Roofs everywhere
are cratered from artillery and bombing. Passengers in the bus mumble quietly
to each other whenever we see a Russian military encampment. At Russian
checkpoints, soldiers make perfunctory document checks, but only of the male
In the villages, schools are closed because of the war. The children are
bored, and like kids anywhere they're always trying to think up something to
do. When our bus passes by, they try to grab the back bumper to be towed
along the icy road. Here and there we see women--and it's always
women--selling things on the street: tea, cigarettes, oil, cookies, candy
the neighboring republic of Ingushetia.
One of the checkpoints as we enter the city is guarded by local Chechens,
members of the the pro-Moscow militia headed by former Grozny Mayor Bislan
Gantemirov. Jailed in Moscow in 1996 for embezzlement, Gantemirov was
recently released by the Russians, who are hoping his renewed presence in
Chechnya will restore order. Order is a relative term, though, in cities like
Urus Martan, which was severely damaged by recent shelling when the Russians
"saved" it with their usual strategy: heavy bombing until local elders agreed
to let them enter.
"Our brothers." The house I'm looking for was empty in December, but this
freezing Saturday afternoon a dozen pairs of boots stand beside the wooden
front door. It's now home to two families, 10 people in all (including six
children ages 5 to 13), crowded into the two rooms heated by a wood-burning
stove. It's 5 p.m., and Said Magomed Khabpiev, 38, a former worker in a
Russian collective farm who is now a member of the Gantemirov militia, has
just returned from patrol. He is dressed in military fatigues provided by the
"federals," as locals refer to the Russian Army. His Kalashnikov assault
rifle lies on the floor next to his boots. He works as a police officer in a
local town but hasn't been paid since he signed on in December. Worse, he
feels useless in the face of so much anarchy: "The truth is that we do
nothing. Why would I check the driver of a car driving by when I know that
any kind of ID, from a driving license to a passport, and also any kind of
arms can be bought on our local market?" He and his men, he says, would never
shoot at the rebels. "We might sometimes shoot vaguely in the direction of
where the militants are standing. But none of us would aim at one of them in
order to kill them. They are our brothers."
Behind him, his wife, Azza, is bathing their 6-year-old daughter in a shallow
plastic tub. There has been no hot water, no electricity, and no natural gas
in Urus Martan since the war started. And, despite the promises of the
Russian military authorities, no services have been restored yet. It's no
wonder that many Chechens are profoundly depressed. I hear the same phrase
over and over: "We have lost our lives. We are nobody. We are zombies."
At the city's main square, a taxi driver agrees to drive me to the town of
Starye Atagi, a rebel staging area less than 7 miles from Grozny. The road is
dangerous, cutting between two zones where heavy fighting continues. The
rebels seem to be the only ones who move around more or less freely,
zigzagging through the Russian positions–sometimes bribing Russian privates
with 10 rubles (35 U.S. cents). Helicopters clatter overhead, and the sound
of artillery grows louder. In the direction of the capital, wide black
columns of thick smoke are rising into the pure blue sky. "Grozny is entirely
burning up," says the driver, his only words during the harrowing trip.
Zarima Domskaya, 34, has just fled Grozny, shocked by what she experienced.
"The city has simply been transformed into an inferno. Nobody can stay
outside for more than a minute. They are bombing us night and day from the
air and with artillery. Every single place is dangerous, even in the
basements." Domskaya had gone to Grozny a week earlier to try to rescue her
24-year-old brother, who was lying in a rebel hospital injured by a bomb. She
found him but, unable to carry him out of the city, she had little choice but
to leave him alone. "People survive by eating what they have managed to
hoard," she says. In the hospital where she visited her brother, only three
surgeons were operating, one of them the Chechen minister of health himself,
Umar Khanbiyev. "One day they did 49 operations in a row," she says.
Near the enemy. The next day, after a night without sleep, I meet Emedi, 28.
A former shepherd, Emedi joined the rebels in November, after his younger
brother was killed by the Russians. "He went out to cut some wood, when a
plane flew by and dropped its bomb." Emedi had just been evacuated from the
front in Grozny after an artillery shell broke both of his legs. Now he
wishes he could return to fight the Russians in Grozny. "The funny thing is
that sometimes our positions are so close to each other, about 20 yards, that
we can speak directly to each other, in Russian, of course. Sometimes when we
are trying to shoot down one of their planes, they even help us by giving us
instructions. And sometimes they even try to shoot at it themselves."
A higher-level view of the Chechens' war comes from Mamudi Saidayev, Chechen
President Aslan Maskhadov's chief of military staff. He disputes Moscow's
claims that Russian troops are advancing in Grozny and says the rebels have
been able to resupply themselves by buying weapons and food from Russian
soldiers. Saidayev pulls out a map he says was taken from a dead Russian
officer. On it, each Russian unit and its position are clearly marked. "They
have always sent the best of the military elite here," he says. "[But now]
there is nothing left from their side to be sent."
Like his soldiers, Saidayev, 53, a former officer in Soviet military
intelligence, moves freely through Russian lines, despite his incongruous
pinkish business suit and sunglasses. Having sent his wife and 1-year-old son
to safety in Ingushetia, he remains on the move to avoid being caught. Even
if Grozny is lost, he vows, the war will continue. "The Russians will
probably declare a victory regarding the war of positions [in Grozny], which
might be true, but they will never win the guerrilla war, which will always
be going on."
Subject: Carnegie Moscow Center's new Briefing
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000
Carnegie Moscow Center's briefing #1, 2000 "Chechnya: Effects of the War and
Prospects for Peace" by Dmitri Trenin has been released in English. It
believe it'll be interesting for the readers of your list. The paper is
attached and will soon be posted on the web at:
The original Russian paper is located at:
Carnegie Moscow Center
Ul. Tverskaya 16/2
Moscow, Russia 103009
CHECHNYA: EFFECTS OF THE WAR AND PROSPECTS FOR PEACE
By Dmitri Trenin
Dmitri Trenin is Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and chair of
the "Foreign and Security Policy" program. The program focuses on
geopolitical and geostrategic developments in Eurasia.
RESULTS OF THE MILITARY CAMPAIGN
In January of 2000, the war in Chechnya entered a new phase. From a
military perspective, this phase is marked by attempts of the federal
forces to finish the operation by taking over Grozny as well as by guerilla
war tactics that the Chechen rebels have begun to use. From a political
perspective, it is characterized by the transfer of power in the Kremlin
and the beginning of a presidential election campaign in Russia. During
this phase, the public's mood is marked by growing fatigue from the war,
although the government still continues to enjoy mass public support on
this issue. These changes require that Russian political authorities as
well as top military leaders define their goals and strategy in this
campaign more clearly.
ASSESSMENT OF THE MILITARY SITUATION. As federal troops entered the
territory of the Chechen Republic in September of 1999, they achieved quick
and remarkable results. The threat of destabilization in the North Caucasus
was eradicated. A considerable number of Chechen separatist military
formations were liquidated. The lowlands of Chechnya were brought under
Commanders of the United Federal Troops took into consideration many
mistakes from the first Chechen War of 1994-1996, and to some extent they
also drew from the NATO experience in the Balkans in 1999. From the very
outset of the war, attacks have been massive and targeted. Federal forces
quickly reached 100,000 people. This equals the level of Soviet troops in
Afghanistan in the 1980s and exceeds by two to three times the average
level of federal forces used in the first war. Russian troops currently
employ many more aircraft, helicopters, tanks, and artillery than during
the previous conflict in Chechnya.
Thus, federal troops strove to maximize their military and technical
advantages by attacking the enemy from a distance, striking from the air
and using artillery. They surrounded and blocked residential areas giving
the local population a choice: They were either to oust the rebels
themselves or run the risk of being attacked by federal troops. In December
1999, this tactic drove away separatist factions from all major towns and
settlements in the lowlands of Chechnya, with the important exception of
Grozny. Federal troops were also active in the highlands in the south and
southeast regions of the republic.
Commanders of the federal troops demonstrated a unity of will and a
determination to achieve their goal at any cost, as well as an ability to
coordinate successfully the efforts of various forces, including those of
the Defense Ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They kept
emphasizing that their first priority was to minimize casualties.
>From the outset of the operation, the country's political authorities
virtually allowed the Russian military command to conduct the warfare carte
blanche. In fact, the military received a guarantee that the former tactics
of frequent moratoriums and cease-fires that led to irritation and
suspicions of "treason" among the troops in the previous Chechen War would
not be repeated this time. Top political management also allowed the
federal military command to make independent decisions concerning the
momentum of the offensive and the deadlines of specific missions, e.g.,
occupation of residential areas, etc. Upon taking control of a residential
area, federal troops immediately set up command outposts that became the
main governing bodies. Migration on the administrative borders of Chechnya
is also controlled by the military.
One very important factor was the decision of the Russian authorities to
limit the distribution of information about the progress of the war and the
willingness of major TV channels to consent to this decision. As a result,
the majority of available information about the 1999-2000 military campaign
has been authorized or directly released by the Russian military command.
All of the above factors contributed to the success of federal troops in
Chechnya by early winter. At the same time, as the setbacks of December and
January demonstrated, these achievements are not irreversible.
Despite the casualties suffered and the lack of a centralized command, the
militant separatists do pose a serious threat. There are at least 15,000 of
them, with the majority of field commanders still alive and active. The
staunch defense of Grozny and the bold attacks in the zone controlled by
federal forces demonstrate that the morale of the rebels is quite high.
Street battles in Grozny as well as military activities in the mountains
reduce the advantages of Russian troops and create more favorable
conditions for the enemy. Finally, Russia has failed to physically isolate
Chechnya in order to prevent the rebels from receiving military assistance
PERSPECTIVES FOR POSSIBLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MILITARY SITUATION. Under
these circumstances, the war might well last longer than the two or three
months predicted by the Russian military command. Moreover, with the
beginning of spring the rebels will become more active. Even after the
official announcement of victory (the minimum conditions being termination
- at least temporarily - of the organized resistance of the rebels, seizure
of Grozny, maintenance of nominal control over the Chechen lowlands and
capture of at least some of the key positions in the highlands) the
conflict in Chechnya will most likely continue and turn into a prolonged
guerilla war. Federal troops will strive to liquidate rebel strongholds
in the mountains while the rebels will sabotage Russian troops and
important targets in the lowlands. Russian troops will be able to control
the major residential areas and the main roads in the lowlands of Chechnya
(during the daytime), but they will be constantly in danger of barrages,
sabotage, and acts of terrorism. The price of military occupation for
Russia, the Chechens' longing for revenge, the Chechens proclivity toward
violence, and, of course, the Chechens' desire to rid themselves of the
strict control of the Russian state will encourage the rebels to recruit
new fighters. Such a situation bears less of a resemblance to the struggle
against the "forest brothers" in Lithuania or Bandera fighters in western
Ukraine than to the situation in Kurdistan in the 1970s-1980s. In the long
run, federal troops will increasingly feel besieged while their opponents
will again unfold the banner of national liberation. A chronic guerilla war
is more than likely to occur, and to hope for a Russian victory is to
entertain illusions. Russia has the opportunity to utilize its military
success to seek a political solution from an advantageous position, but
this opportunity is fleeting. It is better to start a dialogue when
besieging one's opponent than when defending one's own garrison.
GENERAL POLITICAL CONTEXT. The Chechen campaign started out as a
continuation of the Dagestan campaign. Never before did the power of Russia
in the Northern Caucasus look as feeble and tenuous as it did in August of
1999 during the offensive of the "Wahhabists." Having coped with the
situation in Dagestan, the Russian authorities faced the following dilemma:
What should be done with Chechnya, the main source of instability in the
region? The motives of the Kremlin, the government, the military, and the
national security and law enforcement agencies for resolute action were
quite obvious: It was an opportunity to revive state power; to demonstrate
their ability to handle difficult tasks, and thus to increase the chances
of the current party of power to win the parliamentary and presidential
elections; to avenge the defeat of the 1994-96 war; and to raise the
prestige of the army, national security, and law enforcement agencies.
At first, afraid of a repetition of the 1994-96 catastrophe, Russian
authorities proceeded cautiously, but soon they advanced decisively. The
conditions were such that the authorities' goals had not been formed
beforehand and the development of an exit strategy was considered a
prematurely "defeatist" attitude; consequently, the stakes grew as
successes mounted - from establishing the sanitary cordon around Chechnya,
to creating a security zone inside the republic, to the actual division of
Chechnya along the Terek river, and, finally, to the complete extermination
of the rebels and seizure of the entire territory of Chechnya. The fact
that such a momentous task was plotted in such a bold manner apparently
indicates that the military command overestimated its strength and
underestimated that of the enemy.
The military's, and consequently the authorities', response to the threat
in the Northern Caucasus was a remarkable success. This was not so much due
to the war itself as to an opportunity to demonstrate qualities of
effective leadership under conditions of virtual paralysis of state power.
In only several months, a little known bureaucrat, Vladimir Putin, became a
figure of presidential stature in the eyes of the voters. His popularity
allowed a large group of deputies, most of whom were formerly unknown at
the national political level but who are loyal to the authorities, to win
seats in the State Duma. The alternative party of power that was about to
move into the Kremlin suffered a painful and unexpected defeat. As a
result, Yeltsin's early resignation and probable election of Putin to the
presidential post - maybe even in the first round of elections - became
It is apparent, nevertheless, that the Chechen War, which facilitated the
solution to political problems that previously had seemed impossible to
solve, may lead to extremely negative consequences for those in power
should it continue. Of course, setbacks in Chechnya that might occur in the
nearest weeks or months can make Putin more vulnerable, but most likely
they will not prevent his election. It is something else that matters. If
elected, Putin's presidency itself does run the risk of falling hostage to
an endless war in the Caucasus. The revolution of hopes that led to Putin's
rise can turn into a widespread disappointment that will not guarantee the
future host of the Kremlin much more than isolation. On the other hand, an
attempt to reanimate authoritarianism in the country by relying on the war
will most likely fail. An unpopular war will sooner become the gravedigger
rather than the backbone of the regime.
PUBLIC MOODS. The invasion of Dagestan was fought off largely thanks to the
Dagestani people themselves. The transfer of the operation to Chechen
territory became possible due to the acute indignation among Russians
caused by the explosions in Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Buinaksk. Compared to
the first Chechen war, the second War started out not as a battle for
territorial integrity and constitutional order, but for the security of
society. Moral support offered to the military by the overwhelming majority
of the population, political leaders, and mass media undoubtedly
contributed to its confidence and facilitated the success of the military
operation. Initially, the low level of casualties among the Russian troops
in Chechnya made the general public feel more supportive of military efforts.
In early 2000, the situation in this respect changed as well. The shock
caused by the explosion of apartment buildings in Russian cities was
largely gone. The anger toward the terrorists was neutralized by the pride
Russians felt for the successes of their weapons and, therefore, did not
transform into mass chauvinism and hatred towards the Chechens. Once
federal troops approached Grozny and the mountains it became clear that a
war with little blood was no longer possible. The inevitable growth of
casualties among Russian troops (1,000 people killed, even according to
official reports) cannot help but affect society's attitude towards the war
in general. Society is tiring of the war and, while this fatigue is still
only latent, it is steadily becoming more inclined to solving the issue
FOREIGN POLITICS FACTOR. During the first months of the war, Russian
authorities were defiantly unresponsive to external pressure. Undoubtedly,
this was due to the pre-election plan designed specifically to exploit the
sense of national humiliation as well as the desire to rid Russian
diplomacy of excessive dependence on the West. At the same time, Moscow is
quite aware that the war in Chechnya costs the federal budget 100 million
rubles a day, seriously complicating the financial situation of the country
and its relationships with international financial institutions. The
discontinued IMF funds and the pause in negotiations with the Paris and
London Clubs may inflict notable material losses - budget sequestration,
rapid inflation, and a further postponement of the beginning of economic
growth. Even though not directly related, but even more important in the
long run, is the deepening isolation of Russia in the international arena,
especially in the West and in the Muslim South. Under these conditions, the
strengthening of the partnership with China does not contribute to Moscow's
greater freedom but rather ties its hands to Beijing.
The bottom line is that the government can no longer ignore the fact that
an essential change has occurred in the situation in Chechnya. It has
gained a lot by assuming a tough position in the fall and maintaining it
through winter. Further adherence of the government to its "complete
victory" line is not only likely to lower the dividends, but it also is
very risky. "Tough Putin," in order to maintain momentum, should now
demonstrate an ability to solve problems using not only weapons but also
political means - just like he once did in Karachayevo-Cherkessiya. In the
interest of the establishment - as well as in the interest of the country -
he should end the war by initiating a political process in Chechnya no
later than early spring.
OUTLOOK FOR POLITICAL SOLUTION
This can be done either by pacifying Chechnya under Russian control or by
opening political negotiations. Judging by the actions of the Russian
authorities, they prefer the former at the moment.
OUTLOOK FOR PACIFICATION. Peace based on power can be only achieved under
the premise that the militants are defeated, their organized resistance
terminated, and their leaders banished to the mountains or even outside
Russia. "Peaceful" Chechnya - the lowlands of the republic in other words -
will be controlled by the Russian military administration, whereas the
rebellious highlands will face continuous and powerful pressure. Elections
in Chechnya will be conducted under the control of the military - just like
the summer 1996 parliamentary elections. In fact, Russia might have to
establish a puppet governor in Chechnya.
This scenario provides not as much for the re-integration of Chechnya into
the Russian Federation as it does for preservation of its undefined status.
Federal power in the republic will remain shaky and external for Chechnya.
The Chechen leaders will strive to handle their problems while avoiding
interference from the outside, but their permanent competition with each
other will provoke Moscow to do exactly what Chechens want to avoid. It
will be difficult for Russia to play the role of arbiter: For a very long
time the attitude of Chechens toward Russian power and the Russian army
will remain distrustful and - after the two bloody wars - hostile.
An alternative course to take would be that of a full-scale political
settlement. Its essence would be to rebuild Chechnya and establish
independent and responsible authorities in it. The tragedy of not only
Chechnya but of Russia as well is that Chechen leaders failed to create a
foundation of national statehood as was done in Abkhazia and Karabakh.
Chechens turned out to be better rebels and fighters than statesmen. It is
in the interest of Russia not to exploit their internal disagreements but
rather to help them organize themselves politically. The Congress of the
People of Chechnya that unites representatives of the local population and
the Diaspora, the Muslim clergy, and ethnic minorities could become an
authoritative assembly. It would be independent from Moscow and capable of
preparing and conducting free elections to a new legislative body that in
turn would develop a constitution of the republic and at the same time
conduct negotiations with Moscow on the status of Chechnya and its future
relationships with the Russian Federation.
After two wars, it must be clearly understood that the problem is not in
the status of Chechnya but rather in the nature of its relationship with
Moscow. Full integration of the Republic of Chechnya into the Russian
Federation is impossible - it is hindered by historical memory, experience
of the past decade's two wars, peculiarities of the Chechen mentality,
customs, etc. However, it is also impossible to envision its complete
independence from Russia, considering the numerous Diaspora, enormous
economic dependence, geographical position, the "Vainah" factor, etc.
A practical political solution has to start by combining the vital interest
of Russia - security - with the vital interests of Chechnya - opportunity
for independent development, postwar restoration, and the need of its
citizens to earn a living freely and legally.
The ways to solve the Chechen problem range from an agreement of
association between Chechnya and the Russian Federation to a formal
independence. Both variants call for a number of conditions and mutual
obligations. Advantages of the association variant from the Russian
viewpoint are obvious: preservation of territorial integrity and
confirmation of the inviolability of its frontiers. Disadvantages, however,
are just as clear: the interim position of Chechnya would hardly contribute
to stability within the Russian Federation, provoking other subjects to put
forward new demands on the center. In addition, Chechens would most likely
try to maximize the benefits yielded by their simultaneous nominal
membership in the Russian Federation and virtual semi-independent status.
This contradiction would become a source of permanent tension.
Perhaps, at some point it will be decided in Russia that instead of a
semi-independent subject it would be more beneficial to have a
semi-dependent neighbor. Disadvantages of such a decision are clear; they
relate to the difficulties that might be inflicted by the separation of
Chechnya (i.e., constitutional, Diaspora-associated) as well as to
potential repercussions of Chechen independence for Dagestan, Ingushetia,
and states in the Southern Caucasus. The threat of recurring terrorism and
aggression is also real. It is difficult to avoid answering a direct
question: What did the Russian soldiers die for in the two Chechen wars?
Still, the possibility of an independent Chechnya should not be brushed
aside, for it may be vital to forming a long term settlement, even if it is
not pertinent to initial negotiations.
Advantages of separate existence can reveal themselves only under a stable,
predictable, and responsible regime in Chechnya. Just like Israel finally
agreed with the principle of an independent Arabic state in Palestine -
provided that the PLO authorities refuse to practice terrorism and offer
real guarantees of security to Israel - Russia might well want to exchange
a piece of its territory for real guarantees (some of them can be mostly
material by nature) of its security. At some point, observation of
guarantees by both parties could be maintained by international
organizations. Of course, making all of this possible will require an
evolution of thinking among elites on both sides, especially among the
The road to consensus among Chechens and later on to an agreement between
Russians and Chechens is long. At the same time, the cost of not having a
political decision is clear: There will be a third Chechen War. It may
start soon after the official announcement of a victorious completion of
the anti-terrorist operation. But then again, it is known to have taken
Israel and Arabs four wars and fifty years just to take the first step down
From: "Editor" <email@example.com>
To: "David Johnson" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: book review
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 05:30:42 +0300
GOD SAVE DEBASIA!
By John Dolan
A review of Russia Under Western Eyes: From the Bronze Horseman to the
By Martin Malia
Belknap-Harvard University Press
Russia Under Western Eyes has been praised by the most high mandarins of
the Beigeocracy. Only one anonymous reader pipes up on Amazon.com with a
quibble about the Emperor's taste in clothes, stammering that the book is
"not [actually] about Russia." But then, frightened at his own presumption,
the reader quickly adds, "That is not a criticism of the book..." Ah, but
it is! And it raises an interesting question: if Malia's book isn't about
Russia, what is it about?
Most of the book is actually devoted to a standardized, if slightly
right-wing, history of European thought. --"European thought"...that very
phrase summons up, in its callow hubris, the syllabi of first-year History
courses at any American university. Malia actually believes in "European
thought"--not simply that such a thing exists and can be defined
unambiguously, but that it makes history. He is an Idealist--which is to
say that, like many professors, he is convinced that the world turns on the
opinions of professors. Specifically, he joins Peter Gay in what he calls
"the party of humanity"--which actually means, "the party of grumpy old
professors who are convinced the world started going to Hell in a
handbasket when they stopped requiring ties in the Faculty Club."
Malia sees himself as a great healer, preparing Russia--like the deflowered
daughter of a respectable family of burghers--for eventual readmission to
that peaceful and dynamic family, Europe. As the fallen woman wrapped in
the "lurid" red shroud of Lenin, Russia must trail behind the good
daughters of Mother Europe: kind, benificent nations like England, which
after all has only exterminated a few few tens of millions from Ireland to
Shanghai. Malia's hope for Russia is that, after some years of penance (50
years or so by Malia's calculations), the Russian whore may at long last be
allowed to "converge" with Central Europe; and after another 50 years-a
full century of Purgatory--Russia might, by Malia's estimate, be fit to
walk beside that most glorious corner of the globe, Western Europe. Just
think: Moscow, hand in hand with Antwerp! (Or Glasgow, or Nancy...)
Neither Malia nor his reviewers seem worried about how Russians might view
this grossly patronizing discussion of Russia's future. As Queen Victoria
would say, one doesn't ask the whore-in-question whether she wishes to be
rescued; one simply does one's duty. It doesn't seem to've crossed Malia's
mind that the average Russian, contemplating the prospect that Moscow might
someday be just like suburban London, might prefer to tell Europe to stick
its Protestant Soup up its skinny techno ass, clean off his AK, and walk
westward firing from the hip.
The ethical wobbles of the thesis are exceeded only by its intellectual
flaccidity. Most of us have had arguments like the one which occupies
Malia: "Is Russia actually part of Europe?" But we've had them in the
proper circumstances: at age eighteen. On speed. In the dorms. To the music
of some roommate-rock college radio station, after taking a first-year
survey course titled something like "Modern Europe: Robespierre to
Raskolnikov," or "Moliere to Madonna" or "...Nationalism, Rationalism and
that Other One"--the sort of huge survey course inevitably taught by one
embittered rightwing professor (a role Malia himself played at UC Berkeley)
and twelve sullen underpaid TA's.
When you try to take this kind of argument seriously under any other
circumstances (outside the dorms, before 3 am, w/o drugs, past the age of
18), the question of Russia's inclusion in Europe tends to devolve into
pointless arguments about the definition of "Europe." Either the term
refers simply to that part of Eurasia west of the Urals--in which case we
can settle the whole question with a simple road map--or "Europe" is forced
to carry an insupportable load of normative baggage: tedious crap about
"the essence of the European character." And such questions are better left
unasked, because they lead either to massive bloody world wars or, even
worse, to Dutch hippies bragging about how bravely they resist Fascism by
pinstriping German tourists' BMWs when nobody's looking.
On those rare occasions when Malia actually discusses in detail the history
of shifts in the perception of Russia by Europe, he makes some very
interesting points, notably that Russia has often been most feared when it
was least aggressive and powerful (as in the latter half of the nineteenth
century), and most trusted when it was at its most expansionist (especially
under Peter I and Catherine the Great).
But there's far too little detail on the history of Western images of
Russia, and far too much of the old Daniel Mornet, Lester Crocker potted,
tendentious intellectual histories, all focusing on Europe, not Russia.
When you reach the end of this odd book, you wonder: Honestly,
Professor-Emeritus Malia, what the Hell does Russia have to do with your
faculty-club spat ? Russia, in your book, has been dragged, as so many
times before, into a Eurpoean war she could well have been spared.
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