“In the face of today’s new threat, the only way to pursue peace is to pursue those who threaten it,” said President George Bush on television an hour after the first missiles were fired at Afghanistan (cited from the Vedomosti newspaper).
The major goal of the US military action is to eliminate the terrorist bases in Afghanistan, as well as to destroy the military and the industrial structure of the Talib regime until its total liquidation. Besides, Vedomosti reports, the US believes that the bombing will lead to a change of the Taliban forces in the country and thus, will make at least some of the Talib commanders desert or to join the Northern Alliance. Moreover, the US also hopes that deserters will provide the necessary and true information on where Osama bin Laden and his associates are hiding. The paper cites a statement of an anonymous representative of the US administration, “We understand that we are unable to “get” Mullah Omar and bin Laden by our bombs, but we hope that the side effect will work.”
It is rather doubtful if these goals are real to achieve. And all who are aware of the Afghan reality have many doubts about this. For instance, the Kommersant paper states that the first and foremost practical objective of the US air strikes – to protect the US Air Force from anti-aircraft fire – is most unlikely to be achieved. A quarter of a century ago, during the first Afghan war, the US gave the Afghan Modjaheds a thousand Stinger missiles, which were used for shooting down Soviet planes. After the Soviet troops left Afghanistan, the Pentagon tried to buy out the remaining Stingers, and offered very big money for this; however, all it managed to return was about 200 systems. So, at present the Talibs have several hundreds of rather compact anti-aircraft systems, which are very easy to take away from the bombed area if necessary.
The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper informs where exactly the military equipment of the Talibs may be hidden. Referring to an anonymous officer, a participant of the first Afghan war, the paper writes that Afghanistan is pierced by a tremendous amount of mines and tunnels, which were once made in the mountains for pumping melted water to the driest areas. The length of some of such tunnels amounts to ten kilometers. And it was these tunnels that gave the Modjaheds a possibility to not only mysteriously get out of surrounding, but to also take their weapons and combat equipment out. In those underground labyrinth Afghan guerrillas are almost absolutely safe; at least the Soviet troops did not have a necessary weapon to fight against them. So, Komsomolskaya Pravda writes, perhaps, the US has such a weapon, but it should also be taken into consideration that over the past 25 years the Afghanis must have improved and strengthened their underground shelters.
Meantime, the Russian press has no doubts that Afghanistan is not the only country to be involved in the war, whether if bin Laden is caught or not.
According to the Novye Izvestia newspaper, the US will also want to “put in order” the countries neighboring Afghanistan, in order to “deprive radical Arabian countries, in particular those where, according to Washington’s estimates, terrorists hide themselves and are trained, of any chance to threaten the national security of the US, even in the far future.”
So, after the Afghan Talib regime, it may be the turn of Syria, where the combat units of the Kurdish Labor party are hiding themselves, and where the camps of Arabian extremists who carry out terrorist acts in Israel are supposed to be situated.
Iran and Iraq are not forgotten either; especially after these countries have protested against the US “revenge acts”.
According to Novye Izvestia, as for Iraq, “it is planned to intensify the scheme of people’s rebel against Saddam Hussein with US weapons, instructors, and aviation cover”. Recenlty, Tarik Aziz said in his speech on CNN channel that the US will never find bin Laden, and if Bush younger ever decide to attack Iraq, he will be taught a lesson no worse than his father had been taught once.
In fact, as Novye Izvestia remind, ten years ago the US gave Saddam Hussein a chance to preserve his regime. However, at present the US politicians are close to decision to finish up with it. According to the paper, the US plans to finish its “big war against international terrorism” in Baghdadi.
As George Bush in the aforementioned television address to the US nation, “we did not want this mission but we will fulfill it.”
At the same time the Russian analysts can see many drawbacks in the US plans, and not only from the point of their realization. For instance, the Novoe Vremya magazine says the discussion about fighting against terrorism is an “empty chatter”.
However, the magazine agrees that “it is necessary to make all the effort to prevent a terrorist raid every time it is being planned”. Defensive objectives of such actions are quite clear; in these terms it is sensible to discuss only the necessary spending. As for offensive objectives, things are much more complicated about them.
As Novoe Vremya writes, “retribution actions only heat the conflict up and increase the probability of the next terrorist raid.” It is clear that responding attacks are carried out in order to weaken the opponent and to prevent new terrorist acts, but they are unable to radically resolve the issue, to stop the war. They only lead to permanent increase of the violence level, as it has happened in the Middle East lately, and now is going on all over the world. “The war like a chameleon is changing its forms depending on the multiple circumstances,” the magazine emphasizes.
Besides, Novose Vremya writes, there is a question: is it possible to preserve untouched the traditional liberal values of the North in case of the inevitable escalation of the war between the North and the South, the civilization and the middle ages?
The forecasts are rather sad: because of the natural course of events, the threat of increasing authoritarian elements will be constantly growing. Thus, a necessity to concentrate the resources, control transportation, transferences and cargo transportation, as well as spreading information will emerge (actually, has already emerged). “And Russia and Russians know better than many other countries what regime is likely to be finally established, covered by all these plausible pretexts,” the magazine notes, “There is no grounds to believe that it will be different.”
In any case, Novoe Vremya believes, still a certain combination of slavery and freedom is possible, like it used to be in the US before abolishment of slavery or in the SAR before the apartheid regime was eliminated. “From the standpoint of those locked in ghettos, there was no liberalism and democracy. While ‘full-value’ citizens could enjoy all that.” So, according to the paper, now something similar may happen to the US and to the rest of the world. “If war escalation goes on and on, the zone of democracy and freedom will keep narrowing; however, it will exist even under the war conditions for a rather long time.” As Novoe Vremya notes, it would be good to “fin ourselves within this zone, in its comfort and warmth, and not to stay outside in the cold.”
The viewpoint of the Profil magazine is rather similar to the aforementioned. Profil is convinced that attacking Afghanistan and even defeat of the Talibs “is not a full-value response to the international terrorism” for all this is most unlikely to increase the extent of security of the US and the rest of the “civilized world”. What this world is unanimous now is understanding of the ineffectiveness of the prior defense methods, “International pacts, aircraft carriers, antiaircraft defense systems and other that was invented for defending against an external enemy is absolutely helpless against a single kamikaze with a test-tube of killing virus in a pocket.”
Moreover, today’s post-industrial civilization is so complicated that from time to time disasters happen without any terrorist acts – the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster is one of the most convincing and frightening instances. And the vulnerability of the present civilization is undoubted – it contains too many vitally important joints, and attacking any of them can provide for a real “domino effect”.
Evidently, it is absolutely impossible to control the whole infrastructure of a developed country. That is why, according to Profile “it will occur to everyone rather soon that it is much cheaper and efficient to control people (and in present situation any person is potentially dangerous) than to dumbly keep watch over communications and put agents to every plane.”
It is especially easy in the west because along with improvement of democracy and development of the freedoms a process of gathering and accumulation of information (including the most confidential one) on individuals has bee on: for instance, on those who become bank clients, or takes a new job, or fills out a tax declaration form – which means about almost everyone without an exception.
As Profil writes, “there is a file for each citizen of Europe and America, sometimes several files,” and this allows to make an absolutely full database over a very short period of time.
While if there is a total control there is always a possibility and a temptation to manipulate the behavior of a person. And everyone knows what it is like, either from the history of his or her own country or from futuristic anti-Utopia novels.
The Obshchaya Gazeta newspaper proposes its own way for salvation of the world in an articles titled “Racing the apocalypses”. The paper writes, “New man-made disasters can be prevented only by means of improvement of the safety measures. While the total danger globalization can be prevented only by globalization of fighting against them.”
According to Obshchaya Gazeta, in present situation the terrorism centers are almost impossible to eliminate, “In the long run, it is senseless to liquidate the presently existing terrorist networks and to simultaneously allow the leaders of national states, who often have extremely narrow and selfish ends to create new terrorism centers, which will allow terrorism to spread all over the world.”
That is why the only response to the more and more global threats to the modern more united and more fragile world can be only “establishment of a united world authority system, and in the long run – a united world state.” This is, according to Obshchaya Gazeta, the “clearly determined agenda for the 21st century.”
The paper notes that this state is already being established, and the already past stages are international tribunal court ob Yugoslavia and Rwanda; various UN, OSCE and Council of Europe’s inspections; as well as NATO operation in Kosovo and arrests of General Pinocet, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavel Lazarenko, and even Russian official Pavel Borodin.
As Obshchaya Gazeta believes, the September 11 events considerably intensified this process. Terrorists attacked not only New York and Washington but also the principle of state sovereignty and non-intervention to interior things of other states, “Today even Russia, that had reacted so painfully to NATO’s actions in former Yugoslavia, does not object against actions in ‘sovereign Afghanistan’ and ‘intervention’ into its ‘interior affairs'”.
At present the civilized world is forced to act as “authoritarian policeman, a teacher, a ‘civilizer'”. The paper is convinced that there is no other way out at present.
At the same time, it is undoubted that at present the situation is extremely complicated and contradictory, “The ‘civilized’ mankind has entered the way on which it will have to connect unconnectable things… This is a way on which it is very easily to ‘get infatuated with one’s own leading and dictating position’ and to give up to the natural intention to fix it; it is very easy to ‘mix up’ the objectives of survival of the mankind and one’s own profit.”
From the standpoint of the paper, it is a very long and difficult way, which demands ‘colossal self-restrain and intellectual honesty’ and so on. As a result, this way is to lead to “creation of a global democratic society where the principle ‘one man- one voice’ is to be realized. This means everyone will have the right to influence the course of events.”
Obshchaya Gazeta writes that only such a society can guarantee preservation of liberal values; only such a society can be really stable and we should constantly remember about it as about our final objective.
While so far “using of paternal and dictating elements, as well as imposing to liberal minorities the norms without which the mankind will die” is inevitable. Well, it is another version of a classical Utopia: “let’s drive the mankind into happiness with an iron hand”. It seems everything has already been said about noble aims which are justifying not very civilized means.
Meanwhile, the journal Expert views the situation in quite a different way, and its opinion rules out prospects of creation of a global democratic state.
Alexander Privalov, observer of the journal, cites an article from The International Herald Tribune devoted to the military campaign in Afghanistan that states that an undesirable or disappointing result of this campaign could provoke an isolationist reaction in the US. The new American isolationism is most likely to be based on a new narrowed alliance that would apparently include NAFTA countries, Israel, Taiwan, and probably Japan. Expert draws the reader’s attention to the fact that the US does not intend to ally with Europe anymore.
The quoted article states that the new alliance may become the dominating military force of the world and may become a commercial competitor of its former enemies and allies.
Alexander Privalov stresses that this article clarifies the situation: “Never mind the North or the South! There is America and its closest satellites that should be protected by all means including ballistic missiles and restrictive import duties.”
However, there have not been any official announcements about it. At the same time, the observer of Expert believes that Russia now has a chance to take advantage of the disagreements between Europe and the US. Moreover, he is of the opinion that America does not leave any other chance for Europe but alliance with Russia. “That is why President Putin’s speech in Bundestag had such an effect!”
In the opinion of the journal Novoe Vremya, this speech is Putin’s attempt to use the same style in Europe that helped him gain a success in Russia during the presidential campaign.
The journal thinks that the “American tragedy gave Russia a chance to take advantage of anxieties of any European audience, including parliament members, prime ministers, and presidents.” Putin used this chance when he called for the West “to transform the cold war into the anti-terrorist war.” Europeans and almost the whole world now feel the same as Russians felt after the explosions in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk in 1999.
Of course, the West may understand the Kremlin’s game and adopt it only as much as it corresponds to its foreign political interests. However, these topics and disagreements are at the background.
In the opinion of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Russia has adopted an extremely unprofitable role in the “third world war.” The newspaper stresses that President Bush has not mentioned Russia among America’s allies – actually, he has not mentioned it at all. The only thing left for Russia is to hope that Bush implied it when he said, “The whole world supports us in this operation.” Thus, Nezavisimaya Gazeta states that Russia’s place in this military campaign “is somewhere between Israel and Muammar Kaddaffi.”
The newspaper notes that Russia is bound with the Northern Alliance by partnership relations. Russia has already begun to deliver weapons and military hardware to the Afghani Northern Alliance. Meanwhile, it is clear that the Northern Alliance does not have the necessary number of specialists able to manage this equipment. “Thus, the Russian military may soon trail the same mountain paths as their Soviet predecessors used to. It is also not ruled out that Russian detachments will be in the avant-garde while attacking Kabul.”
Nezavisimaya Gazeta states that the involvement of Russia in the new war in Afghanistan means that it will have one more front. In this connection it is clear why Shamil Basaev recently announced his intention to support the Afghani people against aggressors.
Meanwhile, the newspaper is convinced that the US will never be Russia’s ally in the Caucasus, whereas its military participation in this conflict “is a matter of time.”
In other words, the US insists of the whole world’s joining its revenge campaign, whereas Russia is taking a risk to “be as isolated in the ‘Second Great Patriotic War’ as it was in 1941” if it joins America’s campaign.
However, according to the newspaper Vremya Novostei, Vladimir Putin is clearly displaying signs of keeping a distance from the operation in Afghanistan. Russia is actively delivering humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, but it rules out Russia’s military participation in the military operation there. The newspaper states that both most of the military and of the Russian society consider Putin’s support for America’s military operation to be too strong, which is hazardous for his image of the president supporting interests of its voters.
The newspaper cites data of some opinion polls stating that 61% of Russians did not approve of even the very intention of the US to perform the revenge operation. Sociologists are sure that this figure is much larger after the recent missile strikes against targets in Afghnaistan. Director of the All-Russian Public Opinion Study Center (VTsIOM) Yury Levada says, “The painful memories of the events of September 11 have been mollified, and now people see new victims on TV.”
According to VTsIOM’s opinion polls, before the military strikes 87% of Russians thought America should have displayed wisdom instead of aggression. Currently, 72% of Russians fear that the military operation in Afghanistan may develop into a new world war.
Leonid Radzikhovsky, observer of the newspaper Vremya MN, is of the opinion that the main feeling uniting the Russian society is the fear of war. Since there is nothing to soothe Russians so far, their fear is developing into a stronger hatred for Americans because “the tension and fear experienced by most Russians are caused by Americans’ actions.”
Leonid Radzikhovsky believes that in reality most Russians, including those sympathizing with the West, are not afraid of terrorists. “Russians are not scared by explosions in New York.” Even those who hate and curse Moslem extremists do this out of their morals but not because of the fear for their security. However, a large-scale war that may involve the whole country in a bout of deaths is much more frightening.
For the past six years of the Chechen war people have learnt to think that they do not suffer from terrorists personally unless they have a son who can be called to the Army. Meanwhile, the fear of being involved in a large war in Afghanistan or Central Asia is a reality. Leonid Radzikhovsky states, “Russia views the war that has been unleashed in Afghanistan a completely foreign war, and its citizens absolutely rule out any possibility of the country’s participation in this war on whatever side.”
The Russian government will apparently have to count with this opinion of the society because Russia is known to be a democratic country.