AFGHANISTAN AND CHECHNYA: HUNTING FRO WOLVES OR DANCING WITH THE WOLVES?

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The initial shock of the September 11 tragedy in the US is over. The media is giving all kinds of comments on the information about response attacks, which has flooded the pages of the Russian press. However, the majority agrees on two things.

First of all, no one doubts that the terrorists will be taught a very obvious and deterring lesson. Nonetheless, many believe that the results of the US anti-terrorist operation will greatly differ from its initial plans. At the same time, no one dares to predict unambiguously what they are to be like.

For instance, according to the “Profil” magazine, the past years the US has started any serious fight with the help of its major “war axe”, Tomahawk cruise missiles. Of course, it is rather impressive, however, it is rather difficult to say whether the missiles will hit the necessary target. “Profil” has no doubts that “the real fighting is likely to last for years”.

At the same time the magazine notes that it is also necessary to take into consideration that “propaganda is a no less efficient weapon than bombs”. It is evident that the actions of the strategic forces of the super power No. 1 in the world against such a technically meager opponent as the Taliban movement are only intended to calm down and slightly consulate the “Americans who demand a retaliation” (unlike Milosevic, the Talibs are hardly likely to surrender after carpet bombing).

So, “Profil” does not respond the question what the US should do after the first attacks.

“Moskovskie Novosti” observer Andrei Grachev asks, “Is it necessary to hunt for bin Laden?” In his opinion, if the main terrorist remains free he will be able to play a much more important role, “the role that before has been performed for several years by another world outsider, Saddam Hussein”. Preserving of the Baghdad regime allowed the US to use Iraq as a “main justification for establishment of the national missile defense system” even after the war in the Persian Gulf ended. And now the almighty and elusive bin Laden, who is able to “make the world knuckle under the international instability and terror” has become for western politicians a perfect possibility to charge the military with annihilation of the terrorists. According to “Moskovskie Novosti”, the only issue is that the process of annihilation of terrorists may not only be delayed but develop into a World War III.

While military observer of the “Moskovskie Novosti” newspaper Pavel Felgengauer reminds that because of the many year drought in Afghanistan, currently grain supply to the country fully depends on the UN. And if this supply stops because of bombing threat, by spring the Afghanistan people may start mass dying of starvation and the US will have to stop its combat activities out of humanitarian reasons. In such a case the Talibs may estimate this as they moral victory: “Having become heroes, they will receive ever more weapons, money, and volunteers from Islamic countries.”

The “Rossiyskie Vesti” weekly is reasoning, “the war is mostly likely to be informational – a number of obvious strikes and a great fuss around them.” On the one hand such an approach is characteristic of the western culture with its special attention to the life of a “Private Ryan”. The majority of the western countries share this logic, for instance recently Germany announced that if a single soldier is wounded in Yugoslavia, Germany would withdraw its army from the country.

At the same time, from the weekly’s standpoint, a modern level of the civil conscience in the US is so high because the generation of Vietnam veterans has grown old already and the rest do not know what a war is. “It is a civil conscience of youngsters who saw war only on a TV screen. And they think a war is as easy to lead as in a computer game,” “Rossiyskie Vesti” wrote. However, they are hardly likely to ever fight seriously: the main important thing is to demonstrate to the whole world the response to terrorists in order not to deal with a “Vietnam vet syndrome” again. So, “Rossiyskie Vesti” conclude, it is easy enough to forecast the result of the action: “Afghanistan will suffer, while terrorism will not.”

German political scientists Alexander Rar foretold in his interview with the “Vek” weekly another, a more severe theory for development of the situation. He supposes that “after the Talibs are defeated, the US will apparently start attacking the countries where the terrorists escape.” Mr. Rar also does not rule out that the terrorists may carry out more terror acts like in New York in response to the US attacks.

According to Alexander Rar the cause of the present confrontation between the South and the North is that far from every country decided to participate in building a new world order on the basis of liberal ideas and values after “the failure of communism”. He says, “The Islamic world categorically rejects market and democratic principles; Russia has tried to form working mechanisms on their basis but it has not been a success.” That is why the German political scientist believes that at present it is necessary to accept a co-existence of several civilizations as a fact. “But are we ready to dialogue? Unfortunately, I am not sure about this.”

Denis Dragunsky wrote in the “Novoye Vremya” magazine, “The main objective of the moment is not to punish the terrorists…The main thing is that the democratic North-West preserved itself in its confrontation with the non-democratic South-East. And this means it is necessary to dialogue with the opponent, even indirectly.”

As Dragunsky stresses, it is extremely important to understand the real reason of the recent events. And it is impossible to understand them without thorough knowledge of the opponent.

For instance, during the “Cold War” the opposing sides had complete information about each other, “A constant dialogue helped retain the confrontation in reasonable borders.”

Meanwhile, the goals and objective of the today’s opponent are absolutely unclear. Dragunsky believes the attack must be accepted as a “disengagement from worst emotions”, as a call, a “Fearful, brutal, inhumane call, but we must understand its humane underlying reason. If not because of religious and philosophical motives, but for the sake of self-preservation. Otherwise, we all will explode.”

Actually, the “so-called fundamentalism is a kind of a “mass rebellion”. It is a reaction to alien to people pro-western (as in Iran) or pro-Soviet (as in Afghanistan) regimes. In fact, the issue in question is the issue of modernization in all aspects, from everyday life to social-economic to political. According to the author, the elite of the countries under reform turned to be “amazingly careless”: while enthusiastically accustoming to the civilization fruits – from hot water to freedom of speech – “they has not lifted a finger” to make these fruits available for their peoples. Let alone those who received all the national resources of these countries.

Probably, those pro-western elites simply believed that there are not enough means for all, plus it is always easier to rule benighted people. “However, ignorant people raise their own leaders. In some terms, it is a good lesson for Russia,” Dragunsky emphasizes. In a word, the author concludes, it is necessary to dialogue, in order to “de-mystify Islam”, to preserve the civilization, “As we recently understood there is only one civilization, liberal, with the man and his personal freedom as its major value.”

Political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky said regretfully in his interview with the “Vek” weekly that the Russian expert society which is still discussing general humanitarian issues, “what the old world order was and who is to be accepted in the new one” are at the same time demonstrating their intellectual disability to adequately estimate the situation and to see new strategic objectives for Russia. From Pavlovsky’s viewpoint, September 11 was a sort of a one-day war for America, “which unfortunately ended in a victory of an anonymous enemy”. While the forthcoming global response operation does not have any clear borders.

As Pavlovsky notes, in these terms it is “high time to determine the reasons and limits for necessary force application; otherwise the remnants of international laws and alliances may disappear in this black hole beyond the law boundaries.”

At the same time, at present it is time for appearance of new alliances, for instance, the positions of Russia, Germany, the US and Israel are becoming closer.

Nevertheless, the head of the Effective Politics Foundation found it necessary to stress that President Putin managed not to yield to “Bush’s thunderous postulate – “if you are not with us you are against us” and reacted “strictly in accordance with main national priorities”, which are Afghanistan and Chechnya.

The leader of the Effective Politics Foundation supposes that the presidential ultimatum to Chechen gunmen demanding to surrender weapons within 72 hours, arose increased attention in Russia and all over the world, and was addressed not actually to gunmen but to the politicians connected with them. According to Pavlovsky, the main result of the ultimatum is that “the president admitted existence of a political component in the Chechen problem.”

Pavlovsky announced that from now on neither the west nor the Arabian ‘friends’ will support the gunmen. It is not ruled out that terrorists are able to fight in such a situation as well, however, isolation is a political death for politicians. And it is such Chechen activists, if there are any, that President Putin offers to contact with the federal forces. Pavlovsky called the president’s offer a ‘last opportunity for Aslan Maskhadov to separate himself from his friends from al-Kaida’.

At the same time, another well-known political consultant Andrei Piontkovsky estimated Putin’s ultimatum as of September 24 differently. In his opinion, the part of the statement which announces the readiness of Russia to make a contribution to the fight against terrorism is “worthy of a modern and pragmatic statesman”. It should also be taken into account that Putin “had to suppress the resistance of a considerable and influential part of his surrounding and the Russian political elite” in order to make a choice in favor of cooperation with the anti-terrorist coalition.

And the whole country must be grateful to him for his decisiveness.

However, Andrei Pionkovsky states that the second part of Putin’s ultimatum, which expatiates upon Chechnya, is marked with the seal of a person “who is looking for decision where there is principally no decision at all.”

According to the author, despite “obvious presence of some elements of international terrorism in Chechnya”, it is still “not correct to conceptually include Chechnya in the context of the developing situation in the world”.

According to Pionkovsky, the truth that President Putin knows very well is that the story of the second Chechen war that caused a large-scale political and humanitarian disaster in the republic is directly connected with the story of Putin coming to the power. “And I an convinced, this truth is torturous and unbearable for him.” In particular, this is expressed in “bursts and absolutely inadequate reactions of the president” every time the Chechen problem comes into question. “It is a personal drama of Vladimir Putin. And unfortunately, it is the tragedy of the country he rules.”

Boris Berezovsky, who is known to be President Putin’s most successive opponent found it possible in his large interview with his own paper “Kommersant” to approve of all the clauses of the presidential statement as of September 24. However, he gave his own interpretation to each of them.

Berezovsky thinks, “The president is experiencing a complicated process of understanding the reality,” i.e. is beginning to realize that “it is not terror that has caused what is now going on in Chechnya.”

Furthermore, the president has allegedly displayed his understanding the fact that “there are people in Chechnya who have taken guns under the influence of false and distorted values.” Berezovsky calls Putin’s revelation a sensation. According to the tycoon, this means that the president has admitted that “here are people who have a point of view that is different from his.” “This is beyond the field of terrorism,” Berezovsky thinks. In other words, the tycoon believes that the phrase “to pummel in lavatories” should be viewed as “an absolutely erroneous one” despite its popularity with the electorate.

Besides, Berezovsky displays his hope that the president has realized that “it is not the majority that represent the correct historical viewpoint; and it is minorities that give an impetus for development of the society.” In any case, Putin has allegedly acted as a representative of the dynamic minority: “He has broken the system of anticipation. Everyone had expected Russia to make its policy regarding Chechnya stricter. However, the president has taken an unexpected step.” In Berezovsky’s opinion, the president has benefited from this step a lot. “He stopped obeying his emotions in the cause of resolution of this conflict and made an absolutely adequate announcement.”

At the same time, Boris Berezovsky is cautious about forecasts. He says, “If this announcement reflects the actual position of the president, then he really intends to stop the military operation in Chechnya within the next half year and reduce losses among Russian servicemen and the local population.”

In keeping with methods of psychology, the interview is finished with a moderate compliment to Putin. Berezovsky says, “It is for the first time that I’ve seen Putin as a politician predicting the situation at least two stages ahead. It’s not bad, although five stages would be better.”

On the next day, however, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta” expressed its doubt that the conflicting sides have something to discuss at their negotiations. “The first words at the round table are easy to predict: ‘Give up arms!’ and ‘Withdraw your troops!” In the opinion of the newspaper, it is a dead end difficult to get out of.

“Nezavisimaya Gazeta” proposes three ideal conditions for cessation of the hostilities: Maskhadov should give his assent to expelling international terrorists from Chechnya, then he should take part in organization of the government of the national concord, and Russia, in exchange, should guarantee immunity to him and his supporters.

However, the newspaper understands that it is impossible to fulfill these ideal conditions, since there is a third part of the conflict represented by Basaev and Khattab, and this side is rather hostile toward the latest “peace initiatives” of the federal government. As for Maskhadov, the newspaper is convinced that he will never dare start a military conflict against Basaev and Khattab. Besides, he is sure to demand that Russia withdraw its troops from Chechnya first. This would means a new defeat for Russia.

“Novaya Gazeta” proposes its own point of view of this situation. Its political observer Anna Politkovskaya is of the opinion that today Chechen opposition forces may be divided into three categories. The first category is “the Westers” represented by Maskhadov. However, Politkovskaya asserts that Maskhadov “is not commander-in-chief for anyone anymore, although he may still be viewed as the president with confirmed legitimacy.” Gelaev and Arsanov may also be included in this category with some allowances. According to Politkovskaya, “‘the Westers’ are focusing their efforts on human rights in their usual interpretation; they appeal to the Council of Europe and international human rights organizations. Their strategic aim is an international tribunal for those who have committed military crimes during the war.”

The second category of the Chechen military-political top may be called “Arabs.” These are people connecting their plans with the Arabian East and aspiring to Islamize Chechnya. According to their plans, this should bring a lot of Arabian and African money to Chechnya.” Of course, it is they themselves but not Maskhadov who will distribute this money. The most notorious representatives of this category are Khattab and Basaev.

The third category consists of small military gangs that have joined the military opposition in order to take their revenge on the federal troops for deaths or disappearances of their relatives. Politkovskaya states, “They are conducting a war of their own against their own enemies by their own methods, and these methods and rules are difficult to control or classify.” They do not coordinate their activities, and most of these military units will disappear as soon as their plans of revenge are fulfilled. According to Anna Politkovskaya, most of such groups may be viewed as oriented to the West. Thus, if Maskhadov “wakes up and displays his resoluteness,” he is sure to gain support of most of representatives of the third category.”

Meanwhile, according to Politkovskaya’s sources, Russian special services supports the “Arabs,” who are much more irreconcilable than Maskhadov. The journalist believes that there is only one reason for this policy: “Those who are maintaining this war do not need peace so far.”

Why has Putin made his proposal to Chechens? Experts from different periodicals are trying to answer this question. Leonid Radzikhovsky, observer of “Vremya MN”, is of the opinion that the president hardly expected Chechen gunmen to surrender on hearing the appeal from the Kremlin. When it was clear that the ultimatum to Chechen gunmen was a failure, the Kremlin decided to propose peace negotiations to Maskhadov, although the Kremlin has long been sure that Maskhadov does not represent anyone but himself and his guards anymore.

Radzikhovsky is trying to find an explanation of this situation. One of the probable explanations is that Russia has decided to withdraw its forces from Chechnya because it will need them in Afghanistan. However, Radzikhovsky believes that Russia will not take part in a military campaign in Afghanistan again. Besides, if Russia withdraws its forces from Chechnya, it will mean “the new Khasavyurt.” The Kremlin understands this fact, and so the troops will not be withdrawn from Chechnya.

Radzikhovsky does not rule out that the president’s proposal is a PR move. He thinks that this proposal is most likely to be a mere propagandistic ruse for the Western public opinion. Mollifying its position regarding Chechnya and simultaneously improving its relations with NATO, Putin wants to prove that the Russian government has assumed the same position as “the whole civilized world” in the cause of combating terrorism.

The observer of “Vremya MN” thinks this situation to be sad, since in keeping with the normal logic, after the recent terror acts the West “should want its Russian ally to beat terrorists more fiercely and teach the West how to beat them.” This would be quite relevant, since “the West’s political correctness has led to the events of September 11.”

However, to all appearances, it is not Russia that will teach the West how to beat terrorists but the West will teach Russia how to surrender to them within the “civilized position.”

Radzikhovsky believes that this fact proves “the duality of the West’s consciousness regarding itself.” The US intends to start a military operation, but it does not intend to alter its political style that has allegedly led to the events of September 11. The US is ready to make a strike on Afghanistan but at the same time it preserves all radical Moslem organizations at home, as well as various “half-military totalitarian sects and Nazi gangs.” Not a single Western parliament dares propose the introduction of the death sentence for terrorists.

Radzikhovsky is of the opinion that there was not a change of eras on September 11: “Western leaders are still afraid of wolves and fear to kill wolves at the same time. They also fear to learn how to kill them. They apparently do not fear only to dance with wolves.”

The newspaper “Izvestia” cites the data of the opinion polls conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Study Center (VTsIOM) and the Public Opinion Foundation two weeks after the terrorist acts. If right after the terror acts 52% of respondents were indignant at the terror acts and 38% were sincerely sorry for Americans, the opinions changed two weeks later. Right after the terror acts 30% of respondents thought it served Americans right for Yugoslavia, Iraq, Vietnam, and Hiroshima, whereas two weeks later 52% of respondents were of this opinion. On September 13, 61% of respondents were ready to approve of Americans’ retaliatory strikes, whereas two weeks later this figure was only 34%.

As for Russia’s position, most respondents agree that Russia should not participate in the conflict. 54% of respondents of VTsIOM and 58% of respondents of the Public Opinion Foundation believe that Moscow should support Washington at the diplomatic level or just express its general sympathy. Although 24% approve of America’s military campaign against terrorists, only 1% of them would agree to Russia’s sending its troops to the zone of the conflict and 1% believes that Russia can help America with its aviation.

A Western politician has announced, “We also would not participate in this campaign on Russia’s place.”

Anatoly Chubais said in his recent interview to “Obshchaya Gazeta” that people should not think that the world radically changed on September 11.

Chubais agrees that the American tragedy may be viewed as a sign of the beginning of the 21st century, in which the opposition will be not between the West and the East but between the South and the North. However, Chubais thinks that this opposition will not develop into political realities very soon and will develop in a different way. “A gigantic political inertia has been accumulated in the international community, and nobody will manage to change the direction of the development of the world political situation within a month or a year.” Therefore, Chubais suggests that September 11 be viewed “not as the beginning of the new era but as the beginning of the end of the old one.”

Thus, it seems that the Russian society, from the elite to common people, has entered the stage of a certain political and psychological reaction after the open emotional outburst caused by the events in America that took place three weeks ago.

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