Stop appeasing Putin in Chechnya..
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.
© 2007 Chechen Republic Online