The national media are actively discussing the upcoming American retaliation campaign and its outcomes for the world and Russia. Most analysts are pessimistic: they are sure that these outcomes will seriously affect the situation in Russia even if they do not concern it directly. The newspaper Vremya Novostei has said, “The bloodiest terrorist act in the history of the US impressed Americans so much that they can let Bush do whatever he likes.” Most newspapers share this opinion.
Izvestia calls the current situation “the West’s retreat from pure democracy.” “The purity of ideas of political parties does not count as long as the government has to make decisions on bombings, defend its citizens’ right to life, and defend the world economy against ruin.” Izvestia notes that after George W. Bush’s speech on September 20 his popularity increased to 91%. The newspaper thinks this means that the West is apparently ready to sacrifice its principles and limit people’s democratic rights and liberties. The enemies of the world order have apparently gained their aim. It turns out that they have not only destroyed New York skyscrapers, but also “have frozen the heart of the democratic world.”
Izvestia also notes that if the West has something to sacrifice without any risk, like the “redundant political correctness,” Russia’s democracy has only the GULAG behind it. Therefore, the current situation – when Russian politicians do not even have an example to follow in Russian history – is extremely dangerous for the country. The newspaper notes that Russian generals have started to make political announcements too often: “First they wanted to have anti-aircraft installations on high buildings and then they protested against Russia’s participation in America’s games.” Meanwhile, there is an unwritte rule: the goals of the military are limited to what can be seen through the gunsights. “Other goals are determined by politicians on behalf of the society that has elected them.” Otherwise, the young Russian democracy is threatened with serious domestic danger. The article in Izvestia is entitled “Dusk of Freedom.”
Meanwhile, Leonid Radzikhovsky, observer of the journal Itogi, is a supporter of resolute measures. He believes that only hypocritical politicians can say that combating terrorism should not hurt peaceful civilians. “These politicians do not sound original: they just repeat announcements of Western politicians about Chechnya.” However, in Radzikhovsky’s opinion, no one dares criticize Putin for his decision to fight terrorists mercilessly and start a large-scale military operation. He started the war despite the fact that those guilty of the explosions in Moscow had not been found at that time. “The Russian president chose the principle of collective responsibility; this principle is not politically correct and is cruel but it was the only possible one at that time.” Radzikhovsky states that the West is facing the same choice now: “If the West continues playing political correctness, it will become a kamikaze itself. But it will be a special sort of kamikaze: a sacrificial kamikaze.” Thus, according to the observer, the choice is as plain as can be: “this is the choice between the will for struggle and victory on the one hand and the historically deserved and rather rapid death of the Western civilization.”
Dmitry Shusharin, observer of the newspaper Vremya MN, expresses his opinion about the “open protection of terrorists expressed only by deputies from the Liberal Democratic (LDPR) Duma faction” and various appeals to the US to display moderation. He states that the main argument of the “pacifists” is the necessity to disclose the true organizer of the terror acts. However, he thinks that this is of no importance. In his opinion, it is important that there is a person who has gained the title of Terrorist Number One, inspiring terrorists throughout the world, and “being the world terrorism incarnate.” “This person is fully responsible for what happened in America on September 11.”
Indeed, in keeping with this logic the punishment is not so important as a lesson to potential terrorists.
Meanwhile, the press is ready to consider some other probable organizers of the catastrophe. Nezavisimaya Gazeta assumes that “the retaliatory strike of the US may be misdirected.” The newspaper proposes to its readers to answer the question: “What result have the terrorists gained?” “They have not gained a political result, since Bush’s rating has become as high as never before. They have not gained any military aim either: Pentagon intends to prove it having overcome the shock. They have not even gained any moral aim, since the American nation is determined to take its revenge on the terrorists.” As a matter of fact, they have gained only an economic aim: some exchange speculators made a lot of money during the panic caused by the destruction of the largest center of the world economy and the temporary termination of the work of the New York stock exchange. The newspaper explains that such crises are extremely lucrative for some speculators. However, currently economic crises are not so frequent as some of them may wish. “Therefore, they may have had to precipitate or even just arrange this crisis.” It is noteworthy that the largest representative of “the business of crises and their arrangement” is George Soros. Nezavisimaya Gazeta does not rule out the possibility that the only aim gained by these terror acts is “an enormous profit that has been accumulated on someone’s bank accounts.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta says that if this assumption comes true, it is necessary to return to the initial question: “Who did this?” The answer may be rather exotic.
The newspaper does not insist on its hypothesis, since its patron Boris Berezovsky may well be satisfied only with a mention of the name of his enemy George Soros in such a context. However, Nezavisimaya Gazeta also states, “What the US administration presents as the truth is just an unproved supposition.”
Meanwhile, in the opinion of the journal Novoe Vremya, the Russian government cannot resist the temptation of taking advantage of this situation for its own benefit. “Despite its ritual appeals for moderation, Moscow is ready to support America’s plans of making retaliatory strikes on terrorists’ bases in a number of countries as a response to the terror acts on September 11.” The journal believes that Russia wants to be forgiven for its Chechen campaign and simultaneously “wants America to be involved in the mire of an ineffective anti-terrorist war, a sort of ‘America’s own Afghanistan’.”
The weekly Vek states that Putin’s warning of the existence of the international mutual support of terrorists has come true. “Russia was struck by this force much earlier that the US: it has had a base of the international terrorism for ten years already.” Currently, Russia has a moral right to assume a strict position regarding those countries that assist Chechen separatists. “If Georgia is unable to liquidate the gangsters’ den in the Pankis Gorge, it should allow the Russian special force entering this gorge. If Azerbaijan is unable to put an end to the traffic of gangsters to Chechnya through its territory, Russia has a moral right to exert political, economic, and military pressure on it.” The refusal of these countries to assist Russia in the cause of fighting Chechen terrorists may be viewed as support for the international terrorism. Thus, these countries may well be subjected to economic sanctions and claimed outcast countries. Vek stresses that there is nothing bad in following America “neglecting national borders as far as its national security is concerned.” From the point of view of the weekly, supporters of resolute actions in the North Caucasus have a carte blanche for these measures now. “However, it is not clear whether the government has enough political will to take this strict position and enough strength to stick to this position until the defeat of Chechen gunmen.”
Prominent politician Alexander Shokhin proposes his own recipe of solution to Russia’s problems in the light of the international situation. He writes in the weekly Argumenty I Fakty, “It is necessary for Russia to join NATO.” Shokhin notes that this prospect has been mentioned ironically by now. However, now it is clear that the main opposition is not between the West and the East but between the South and the North and that it is necessary to fight international terrorism together. Therefore, Russia may well view itself as the Eastern flank of NATO.
Besides, according to Shokhin, Russia meets all the requirements for entering the bloc. As is known, there are two such requirements. “First, the country should be democratic (nobody can doubt that all current reforms in Russia are aimed at strengthening democracy). Second, acceptance of a new country should increase security in this or that region.” Shokhin thinks that there are only some technical disagreements hindering Russia’s entering NATO, like different standards of weapons. “However, these disagreements are easy to resolve.” Russia’s benefit from its joining the bloc is evident: “NATO will help Russia introduce order to Chechnya.” For instance, NATO may influence Turkey, where Chechen gunmen regularly rest and restore their health, or Georgia with its Pankis Gorge. If Russia and Georgia enter NATO, Chechnya will become a source of terrorism located inside the bloc. Thus, according to Shokhin, Basaev and Khattab may have to hide away from American cruise missiles now threatening “their godfather ben Laden.”
Thus, the variety of opinions of Russian politicians about the upcoming revenge action planned by the US is considerable, which was displayed at the very first Duma meeting conducted after the summer vacation.
Although the debates were conducted behind closed doors, faction leaders managed to impart their viewpoints to journalists. According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the most radical point of view was that of the LDPR and its leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky. According to Zhirinovsky, “the terrorist acts in the US had been arranged by American and Israeli special services and aimed at embroiling Russia with the Moslem world.” Zhirinovsky called on the Moslem world to unite with Russia. His colleague from the LDPR faction Alexei Mitrofanov appealed to Duma deputies to support the regime of Talibs.
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov was more cautious. He disapproved of America’s intention to start military actions against a number of countries and to involve Russia in a war against the Moslem world. He said, “It is necessary to fight terrorism but now peoples.”
Chairman of the Unity faction Vladimir Pekhtin has stressed that Russia does not need a special invitation to the fight against terrorism: “Russia has been combating military extremism for ten years already.” Therefore, Unity supports international efforts aimed at fighting international terrorism but thinks it irresponsible to start “a new crusade against the Moslem world.”
Boris Nemtsov has announced on behalf of the Union of Right Forces (URF) that this is a crucial moment for Russia: “it will either join the Western anti-terrorist coalition or be left alone with its foreign debts.” Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky reacted to the current situation rather pragmatically too. According to Rossiiskaya Gazeta, he has proposed to intensify the guarding of the most dangerous objects, such as nuclear power plants “and increase budget expenditures on reinforcement of security of Russian citizens.”
Meanwhile, according to opinion polls cited by Novoe Bremya, the Russian society does not view combating terrorism as a prime task for the government. For instance, only 10% of respondents have called the Chechen issue the acutest problem of the country. Some 10-13% of respondents are worried about the growth of crime, and the first place was taken by the growth of prices.
Oddly enough, the journal states that despite all the changes of the past years, 60% of respondents believe that the main foreign danger of the Russian Federation is the activity of foreign intelligences. That is why 41% of respondents are sure that the external threat may be reduced by reinforcement and development of the Armed Forces only. Only 19% of respondents called themselves supporters of peaceful resolution of conflicts.
As for America’s plans of making military strikes on terrorists’ bases in Afghanistan, 40% of Russians disapprove of them. Only 28% approve of them.
According to sources of Novoe Vremya, most of those against the revenge action fear that terrorists may make retaliatory strikes not only on Central Asian countries but also on Moscow.
This state of things is connected with Russia’s sad experience: the military operation in Chechnya has not led to any concrete results yet. Besides, Russia failed to introduce order to Afghanistan. “Perhaps Americans will be successful there.”
Famous Russian writer Vasily Aksenov has said in his interview to the weekly Sobesednik that Russians should be ready for the worst: “The nest target of terrorists is the Kremlin.” According to Aksenov, the first strike was made on America because it is the main barrier hindering the development of the radical Islam. Russia is the next on this list. “If the US relies on its military and financial might, Russia can rely only on a certain concealed resource of the people and its vast territory.”
The writer also notes that the American nation has a specific trait: it unites in difficult situations, whereas the Russian nation would lay the blame entirely on the government in a similar situation.
Meanwhile, Aksenov’s appeals to unite in front of the danger have not apparently had an effect on his colleagues. For instance, Literaturnaya Gazeta has stated that “America has opposed itself to the rest of the world having betrayed the humanistic traditions of the Age of the Enlightenment.” The author of the article asserts that after the cold war the humanity was divided into the civilized minority and uncivilized majority. The losers of this war acted like traitors: “they decided not to link their fates with their own peoples but become errands or servants of the winner of the cold war.”
Literaturnaya Gazeta is of the opinion that this is the reason for the world’s ambiguous reaction to the terror acts in New York. “On the one hand, most countries are displaying their unconditional loyalty or even servility. On the other hand, peoples of these countries are mutely gloating because the crude force has proved to be vulnerable and has been humiliated.”
Literaturnaya Gazeta explains the anxiety that has overwhelmed the world with the fear of America’s recklessness rather than the expectation of new terror acts. “Since the US highly appreciates its reputation of the only master of the world, it may well start intensive attacks on entire countries or even unleash a new world war.”
As for the countries that lost the cold war, they are pushing the “master” to resolute actions, since “if the master displays his weakness, the elites of these countries will have to heed their own nations, and they will have to answer for a lot of blunders in front of their peoples.”
Nevertheless, the newspaper forecasts the beginning of the process of the “political reconstruction” in Russia. This process will be accompanied by a split of the elite. Part of the elite will realize that the behavior of the winner of the cold war is becoming unpredictable, reckless, and irresponsible. This part of the elite will rejoin its people taking a risk of being opposed to the world leader.
Vitally Portnikov, journalist of the Liberty Radio, has commented on the meeting of security ministers in Putin’s residence in Sochi in the newspaper Vedomosti. He hopes that the Kremlin has realized that it is necessary to get ready for the war not only as a country reacting to the current situation but also as a country able to propose its own position and its own capacities to the US.
Vitally Portnikov stresses that Russia does have a potential that may come in handy in America’s military campaign. The journalist means contacts with the leaders of the Afghani Northern Alliance.
Thus, Vladimir Putin has a chance to correct the numerous errors made by the Soviet authorities in Afghanistan. “Putin has a chance to prove to the US that Russia is not yet an object but still a subject of the world politics and America’s chances depend on Russia’s abilities.” In other words, “if there were no Northern Alliance, it would be necessary to invent it.”
Yulia Latynina, observer of Novaya Gazeta, asserts that ordinary Americans hardly have an idea whom they are going to fight. “In American objects of infrastructure may be destroyed by spot strikes. But in Afghanistan they will only be multiplied. The structure of the society is principally different there. Novaya Gazeta states that the problem of Americans is that they intend to conduct the war by means of high-precision weapons. Meanwhile, “there is no point to use expensive weapons to scorch desert burrs.”
This will be a war without a victory. Usama ben Laden will not win this war because “terrorists are parasites inside the modern Western civilization, and so they are unable to perform their actions apart from the opportunities presented by this civilization.” And the US will not win this war because “tomahawks are ineffective in battles against parasites.”
In the opinion of the observer of Novaya Gazeta, it is not ruled out that some “third side” will win this war. This will be a country that will not interfere in the course of events that may change the world hierarchy and claim for the role of the new leader and the superpower of the 21st century.
Yulia Latynina views China as the main candidate for this role. “This is a dynamically developing country void of fanaticism unlike supporters of Usama ben Laden and having four thousand years of history unlike the US.”
Another probable winner is India. There may also be some minor countries that will join the winner, “among which may be even Syria and Iran if they manage to evade the impending conflict.”
Yulia Latynina stresses that all these countries have one thing in common: they buy Russia’s weapons and are potential strategic allies of the Russian Federation.”
Thus, Novaya Gazeta believes that Russia has a unique chance “to form and lead an alliance of cultures different from both sides of the conflict without participating in the wrangle.”
This point of view is rather popular with Russian media and resembles an old Arab proverb: “Sit calmly on the threshold of your house, and you will see the corpse of your enemy carried past.”
Besides, as Novaya Gazeta asserts, America does not want a war: “it wants a happy end.” This desire sounds natural and may be easily understood by those watching the development of the situation.