A Western strategy for Chechnya

Anatol Lieven, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington has a good piece about Chechnya in the IHT. He believes that the West needs a new strategy for Chechnya and that this strategy should have 3 vital components:

The first would be directed towards Moscow, and would echo our approach to Turkey, India and other countries which have fought similar conflicts against secessionist and terrorist forces. It would express unqualified support for Russia’s territorial integrity and for its struggle against the terrorists.

However, it would combine this with demands that the Russian state take much stronger action against abuses by the military, that international observers be allowed into Chechnya and that the Russian government launch a much more broadly based and democratic political initiative. This would include both the holding of democratic parliamentary elections in Chechnya and an offer of talks with Maskhadov and his followers.

The second Western approach should be to Maskhadov and his representatives in the West, like Ahmed Zakayev, who has been given political asylum in Britain. They should be reminded firmly that when they formed a Chechen government in 1996 to 99, they failed utterly to foster even minimal elements of a state in Chechnya, to protect foreign citizens there or to prevent Chechnya being used as a base by anti-Western extremists. Their credibility as would-be rulers of an independent Chechnya is zero.

Any thought of Chechen independence must therefore be deferred until a solid basis for Chechen statehood has been created. In return for Western support for Chechen democracy and their own amnesty and participation in the Chechen political process, Maskhadov and his followers must accept autonomy for Chechnya within the Russian Federation as a short-to-medium-term solution and promise to struggle for long-term independence by exclusively peaceful and political means.

They must also commit themselves not only to break absolutely with the terrorists, but to fight against them alongside Russian forces. If they fail to make this commitment, they should be treated by the West as terrorist supporters.

Finally, the West should back such a settlement with the promise of a really serious aid package for Chechnya’s reconstruction, calibrated so as to reward supporters of peace, and of Western special forces to help Russia in the fight against the terrorists.

It may be argued of course that such a commitment is utterly unrealistic, given the contemptible failure of Western countries even to meet their formal obligations to liberated Afghanistan. But then again, if Western governments and societies are not prepared to give real help to Chechnya, how much is their moralizing talk about the situation there really worth?

2 thoughts on “A Western strategy for Chechnya”

  1. India’s struggle with secessionist forces in Punjab, North East India, Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers and Kashmir have been utter failures resulting in alienating the local population and will continue to be so unless the lessons of Punjab is learnt. No, Indian forces did not bring peace to Punjab and silence the terrorist movement there – economics did. Punjab was a cauldron of hate in the 80s but 1991’s total collapse of the Indian eco brought in a change when India was forced by the IMF to open up its economy and the Punjabis being skilled traders and the bread basket of India grabbed the opportunity with both hands and that essentially changed the focus of the general population with increasing wealth in that state. It is ironic that bad economics breeds poverty and poverty breeds hatred and we end up in a cycle of violence. I think Russia’s resources wealth is hurting the regions rich in resources with large sections of the local population living in relative poverty being milked by outsiders. The day money changes hands the guns will go silent or perhaps will now be used on their brothers.

  2. Dear Gavin,

    We though you might be interested to post this story (link below) to supplement your coverage of Chechnya (above). This article covers the recent defamation case brought by Razman Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, against Oleg Orlov, director of Russian human rights organisation Memorial because Orlov criticised the lawlessness of Chechnya in which murders such as Natalia Estemirova could happen. Sadly, he won. Nevertheless, we want exposure on this story to be high and wide, so if you feel this is something that is relevant to your work, please do let us know.
    Here is the link,


    Index on Censorship

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