The West Is Paying Court to Russia
Date: January 25, 2000
The Western countries may have to pay dearly for their fear that Russia's feelings are being hurt.
A Russian student, 14-year-old girl, said to me years ago in Grozny: "Russia always wins her wars. Everybody is afraid of Russia." The words still describe the feeling of many Russians, that the world is still afraid of Russia, although Russia is bankrupted.
Maybe they are right. The feeble reaction of the Western countries to the massacre of thousands of Chechens with the false excuse of an anti-terrorist war is just a sign of fear; it also shows that the Western countries are weak in front of the Russian aggression.
Russia has been destroying our country also before. It has governed Chechenia for four centuries (This is something I wonder - wasn't Russia's first real invasion to the Caucasus only in the 1700s? Russia herself didn't exist in any form before the 1300s. JS.) and once in every 40-50 years, Russia has tried to annihilate the whole Chechen nation. In February 1944, in the mid-winter, all the inhabitants of Chechenia - men, women, children as well as the elderly - were loaded into the freezing freight trains that took their course towards Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan. More than half of the deportees were killed. Even when the survived Chechens were permitted to return to their destroyed homeland in 1957, they were classified as "traitors of the fatherland". The Chechen language was prohibited to be used in schools, the culture was suppressed, and the Chechens were denied access to all even a bit significant jobs.
The present massive and arbitrary attack against the people of Chechenia is a revenge of the humiliation by Russian defeat, which was caused to Russia by this nation, after Russia had invaded to Chechenia in 1994-1996. In the bloodshed Chechenia lost 12 per cent of her population of a little over one million.
NOW terrorism is used as a false excuse: Russia claims that the Chechens were responsible of the explosions that took place in apartment blocks in Russia. This accusation has no basis. Many people believe that the Russian government itself installed the bombs to get support for the massacre of Chechens. As another excuse for the aggression, the government used Shamil Basayev's incursion to Dagestan, which was condemned by the Chechen government itself, too.
After the treaty between Russian and Chechen governments in 1997, Russia blocked Chechenia and took off even the little possibilities of the Chechen people to re-build their country, bombed by Russia. Russia recruited common criminals, who were released from prisons by Russia, to cause chaos and instability in Chechenia; Russia wanted that it would be impossible to govern this country.
When Russia still failed to crush the Chechen resistance, she decided to start a grand campaign, which was timed to improve Boris Yeltsin's popularity before the Duma election of last month.
Our government was incapable of answering the propaganda that Russia directed against Chechenia. (Here I would be less modest - I know many larger nations than Chechenia, recognised as sovereign, who have been much more incompetent to resist Russian propaganda prevailing in the West than the Chechens. The Chechens, considering their resource deficit, have managed much better than the Russians probably hoped. It is the problem of the West's incompetence, not of the Chechens, that propaganda prevails in Western media and diplomacy that would be supposed to be objective. JS.) The Russian authorities prevented most foreign journalists and human rights activists from getting access to the country (Chechenia), and we have no experience of international diplomacy or public relations activity. The Western countries are silently observing aside, when Russia strikingly broke the peace treaty, signed just a couple of years ago.
HOW can democratic Western countries tolerate the massacre in our villages and cities, when they claim to defend freedom and human rights elsewhere? Where it comes to the Russians, the answer is simple and it can be found in the famous fairytale "The Wolf and the Sheep" by the Russian poet Krylov: "You are guilty to my being hungry."
The war crimes committed by Russians against the people of Chechenia do not decrease. The nomination of Vladimir V. Putin, the planned successor of Yeltsin, to the acting president in New Year has not changed the situation, but may, in fact, worsen it. The civilians are the main victims of the war, although they should clearly be protected by the international law.
Chechenia did not break the international law, or the laws of the Soviet Union, when it declared independence in 1991, by the fall of the Soviet state. Chechenia had got the status of a republic in the Soviet Union. She had the full right to declare independence.
Then who is actually breaking the international law? Who is the real threat to stability and peace? Why are the Western countries still paying court to Russia, without providing us, the legitimate representatives of the Chechen people, the political support we deserve, and the possibility to state our stand face-to-face to the leaders of the democratic states? We cannot even promptly meet and discuss with the United States Congress representatives about the means to stop the bloodshed in our country, because we are not permitted visas to the United States. What possible crime have we committed to be punished like this?
In the forthcoming years, the Western countries as well as the Russian people may have to pay dearly for the fear that Russia's feelings are being hurt. Russia cannot become a genuinely democratic state as long as she is allowed to act unpunished against other nations.
It is the interest of the Western and all nations that the international law is exercised uniformly and equally to all; that would increase global peace more than any other means.
Ahyad Idigov The author is the Chairman of the Board of Foreign Affairs of the Chechen Parliament.
Translation from Finnish by Jaan Sepp.