Stop appeasing Putin in Chechnya..

Date: 18.02.05
Source: Akhmed Zakayev, The International Herald Tribune, 15 February 2005


Bush should realize that his hands-off policy on Chechnya does not increase security but only breeds terror.
When George W. Bush sits down with Vladimir Putin this month in Bratislava , the war in Chechnya will be one of the issues to discuss. As they prepare to meet, time is running out in the Caucasus .
Three years ago, the U.S. president gave Putin the green light for his plan of Chechen pacification, which consisted of draconian measures against the civilian population, the installation of a puppet government and a propaganda campaign in the West that portrayed the Chechen independence movement as Islamic terrorists.
It is clear now that the strategy did not work: The armed resistance was not subdued, the population did not embrace the Quisling government and courts in Britain and the United States cleared Chechen political figures, such as myself, of Russian accusations of terrorism. The only outcome of "pacification" was the emboldening of radicals at the expense of the moderate Chechen leadership, leading to the outrage of Beslan and the spread of militant ideology throughout the Caucasus .
Meanwhile, opposition to the war has been growing in Russian society. Last November, the Union of Committees of Soldiers' Mothers, the largest and most respected Russian NGO, called for peace talks in defiance of Putin's rejectionist stand. The appeal won the support of a majority of Russians and caught the Kremlin by surprise. But Russia managed to block a meeting between Soldiers' Mothers and representatives of the Chechen resistance at the European Parliament. That the Belgian government chose to side with the Kremlin and deny entry visas to the Russian peace activists was widely reported in the region and contributed to the sense among Chechens that they have been abandoned to Putin's troops. Militant radicals appeared to be their only defenders.
Terrorist groups that no one is able to control are springing up in Dagestan , Ingushetia, Karachaevo-Cherkessia and in Russia proper. The notoriously corrupt Russian security services, as well as puppet-government officials, are eager to sell them arms and free passage. The stockpiles of Russian weapons of mass destruction are not properly guarded. It is only a matter of time before the situation explodes in the faces of the architects of the policy of appeasing Putin.
The only way to prevent catastrophic deterioration in the Caucasus is to press Russia for a political settlement with the responsible and moderate leadership of the Chechen Republic . In a last ditch effort to persuade the world of that, Aslan Maskhadov , Chechnya 's ousted elected president, recently issued a unilateral cease-fire, which will last for one month. This gesture is a response to the call of the Soldiers' Mothers, who we know are speaking for the Russian people: Yes we heard you, we are ready for peace, we want to stop fighting and talk, with all options open. It is significant that the radical wing of the fighters, which is controlled by Shamil Basayev, accepted the cease-fire. Basayev had taken responsibility for many terrorist attacks, including the horrific raids on the school in Beslan and the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow . We do not control Basayev; we condemned his methods, but we were powerless to stop him. Yet we know why he decided to silence his guns and hold his suicide squads - because he knows that the Chechen people want to give peace a chance. This may be the last chance. But as long as the cease-fire holds, it demonstrates that Maskhadov can deliver peace, even though he does not control the militants in war.
This is a unique opportunity, perhaps the last, to break the vicious circle of hatred, death and destruction. If it is lost, the responsibility for the escalation of the conflict, further radicalization of the Caucasus and the inevitable increase of terrorism will go to those who persist in the failed policy of appeasing Putin. Bush should realize that his hands-off policy on Chechnya does not increase security but only breeds terror.


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