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From: "Peter Lavelle" <plavelle@metropol.ru>
Subject: Contribution
Date: Wed, 19 Sep 2001

Peter Lavelle: Untimely Thoughts - The jockeying for position begins
(re the security dilemmas of Russia & CIS)

With the exception of NATO (thus far), many of the strong-worded speeches
expressing support for the US are fading or, at the very least, given a
dosage of spin doctoring. Russia leads the pack, followed by the Central
Asian countries of the former Soviet Union explaining their policy on
anti-terrorism to Moscow rather than to the US, and China - also attempting
to legitimize its problems with Islamic separatists within its borders. A
week later, the upcoming struggle looks more and more like to be a US
sponsored event with others helping on the margins. As tragic as the
violence was in the US last week, there is little most of the world can do
considering the timetable of retribution suggested by the Bush
administration. The FSU countries bordering Afghanistan barely deserve to
be called countries in the sense of defensible nation-states. Irrespective
of the political rhetoric coming out of these countries over the last week,
it is clear that they acutely fear being involved in any large scale attack
on a Muslim neighbor, all still looking to Moscow for guidance. They are in
fact more interested in horse-trading with Putin than dealing with the chaos
on their southern border. Then there was the recent rebel assault by 400
(or was it 40?) guerillas in Gudermes, leaving a number of high-ranking
officers dead in an attack on a helicopter. Putin is again right -
terrorists are dangerous, real, well armed, and determined. Is there a
connection between last week's terror against the US and the assault on
Gudermes? The connection may not be so obvious. Some claim the Gudermes
attack is a prelude to something much, much bigger. Well yes, the US may
soon target bin Laden bases in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Chechen
guerillas may be sending Putin a message: Chechen military activity is far
from quelled, and does Russia really need to involve itself in military
actions against a country that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet
Union? This violent Chechen reminder just may have a sobering impact on the
President. Russia is in a pickle. It is the major power in the world that
in the "swing column" - the damned if you do, damned if you don't dilemma.
Putin desperately desires to demonstrate Russia's moral superiority in
fighting terrorism as well as its importance in the world. Russia, however,
is still part of the world that bin Laden and his fellow travelers want to
ignite. At this stage, Russia cannot afford to set its own house on fire.
The US was targeted last week. In the weeks and months ahead it will most
likely decide on its own targets to hit. The agenda belongs to the US;
Russia most likely will not benefit politically.

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