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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

No. 43
November 1, 2001
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]

According to Yevgeny PRIMAKOV, the counter-terrorist operation in Chechnya should be augmented by negotiations.

Question: Mr. Primakov, quite a few people believe that the world has changed after September 11. What do you personally think on this score?

Answer: Much has changed in this world after September 11. US policies were marked by the so-called "super-power" concept during the last few years. However, one can't talk about the existence of super-powers after the end of the Cold War. Doubtless, the United States, which boasts the greatest economic and military potential among the world's countries, strives to ensure its national security with the help of a hegemonist policy. Washington considers this to be an optimal policy at this stage. However, the September 11 events show that the "super-power" concept, including plans for NATO's expansion, doesn't reliably guarantee the security of states and nations.

Yet another trend, e.g. "neo-isolationism", began to manifest itself on the eve of US presidential elections. To cut a long story short, the United States decided to deploy its own NMD (National Missile System), also noting the possibility of renouncing bilateral arms-reduction talks and taking unilateral action in this sphere. The US side also started talking about the need to withdraw its forces from Europe. In other words, the United States wanted to concentrate all resources on maintaining its own security. It's an open secret that this wasn't conducive to the development of partner-like relations with other countries. Neo-isolationism became completely irrelevant after September 11.

The September 11 attacks in New York and Washington also prompted us to alter our opinion of terrorism. It turns out that powerful, self-sufficient, well-equipped and well-trained terrorist organizations boasting a lot of money can exist all over the world. Moreover, they don't necessarily have to contact bureaucrats in any particular country. International experience implies that, if these horrendous attacks had been master-minded by some state, then intelligence services would have been tipped off, subsequently informing the United States. However, no one had any information whatsoever. Similar outrages can't be ruled out today.

Question: So, what should be done?

Answer: We can and must do everything possible in order to narrow the base of international terrorism. First of all, we've got to deblock regional conflicts all over the world. This concerns that protracted and involved Mideastern conflict, in the first place. It's very hard to stop the spiral of violence in this region, which has continued without respite for decades on end.

Evidently, this objective can only be accomplished in case of possible negotiations stipulating the eventual creation of a Palestinian state. Unfortunately, the belligerents are not yet moving in the direction of such talks.

I think, Russia can play a more active role in this context because current mediatory efforts involving the United States alone have now become deadlocked. Naturally enough, such mediatory efforts should involve the United States, Russia, the European Union, the UN, as well Egypt and Jordan, e.g. those Arab states, which maintain diplomatic relations with Israel, and which are quite interested in stopping the Mideastern conflict. Both Egypt and Jordan therefore have every right to mediate the regional conflict.

As far as the global situation is concerned, one can only talk about collective efforts to create a new world order. We've got to enhance the UN role and to negotiate joint actions all the same. A stable 21st century world can only be created on this basis.

As I see it, we must negotiate an international anti-terrorist charter that would make it incumbent on all signatory states to extradite terrorists staying on their territory and to deprive their organizations of money, too. Consequently, those specific countries failing to ink such a charter, rather than those countries, whose governments don't suit the United States, would be considered genuinely rogue states.

Question: Can the US tragedy repeat itself in other countries of the world?

Answer: It can be repeated just about anywhere. Russia backed the United States during that hour of trial, thus choosing the only correct position. On the other hand, retaliatory strikes should not affect other countries. The present-day counter- terrorist operation should aim to liquidate the Talib regime, which had spawned terrorism in Chechnya, on the Balkan Peninsula and in Kosovo, too.

I used to negotiate with Madeleine Albright, while serving as Russia's foreign minister. I used to inquire time and again whether the United States could see that a veritable triangle comprising Afghanistan, the Balkans and the North Caucasus was now shaping up. Weapons, money, bandits and drugs, etc. used to flow along that triangle's lines all the time. Paradoxically enough, but the United States had created the Taliban movement with Pakistani assistance, also helping Osama bin Laden to assert himself.

I get the impression that the situation might change completely, if this counter-terrorist operation targets other countries than Afghanistan. They say that the United States might also hit Iraq. Consequently, the United States would lose many of its supporters.

Question: Why does the North Caucasus constitute one of the this dangerous triangle's components?

Answer: This can't be explained by the fact that the North Caucasus comprises Moslem republics, for the most part; North Ossetia is just about the only exception.

As I see it, one should discern between Islamic fundamentalism and extremism. Mind you, Islam doesn't preach extremism and violence against civilians.

But why did fundamentalism begin to assert itself in the North Caucasus? The Soviet government used to suppress Islam, this making a serious blunder. To my mind, that rampant North Caucasian fundamentalism constitutes a certain response to that ill-conceived policy.

It goes without saying that the present-day Chechen situation is much more serious because we are dealing with international extremism, rather than fundamentalism. Surely enough, the counter-terrorist operation should continue; however, negotiations should be launched, as well. As you may know, President Vladimir Putin has opted for this scenario. But his position was distorted. In my opinion, the wording of his statement and the relevant moment for making such a statement were chosen rather aptly. It ought to be mentioned in this connection that the President noted that all those, who had severed all relations with international terrorist centers, could contact his representative over a 72-hour period, discussing the surrender of weapons and their subsequent involvement in peaceful life. However, mass-media bodies claimed that Putin had ordered the separatists to lay down their weapons alone.

The world has really changed after September 11. Hot spots of tension and other sores tend to attract more attention than before. Meanwhile trouble-shooting options and the problem of peace are also becoming ever more topical.

Transcript by Tatiana SUKHOMLINOVA.

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