the tragic outcome of the hostage-taking, everyone has started
discussing the future of Chechnya again. So, what should we do
Alexei Arbatov: We need to review
the course of action we have pursued in Chechnya over the past
three years - the military, economic, and political aspects. Look,
even the Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently referred to events
in Chechnya as "a war" - previously, the official term was "counter-terrorist
operation". This indicates that events are getting out of control.
Question: How, exactly?
Arbatov: We need to substantially reorganize the law enforcement
agencies and secret services, to make them capable of preventing
terrorist attacks; but that is a separate issue. Regarding
Chechnya itself... Clearly, no amount of clean-up operations will
yield results as long as Chechnya remains a drive-through zone.
It's like bailing with a leaky spoon. Firstly, the holes have
to be patched.
Question: Should we seal the borders
of Chechnya completely?
Arbatov: We need to establish a strong, tight cordon there.
Not a Berlin Wall, but a cordon. Civilians, humanitarian aid and
business would be welcome to cross it; but guerrillas and weapons
- all that passes into Chechnya freely now - must not cross the
border. Doing this would require money, of course - tens of billions
of roubles; but it would cost much more to continue the war.
Question: What about the Interior
Arbatov: If our Federal Border Guard Service can seal all the
administrative borders of Chechnya - not only the 80 kilometres
of the external border, as at present - then far fewer troops
would be required within Chechnya. There would need to be a good
brigade of Interior Troops and special services. Of the regular
army, it would be enough to have a few divisions of Ground Troops
in Chechnya, with heavy weapons, plus aviation - they would be
capable of supporting the Interior Troops in any major confrontations.
Question: What about using local personnel?
Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov recently let slip that Russian
police troops would shortly be replaced by thousands of Chechens.
Arbatov: In my view, that is a premature
move, aimed at creating the impression that the residents of Chechnya
support the federal forces. But they don't! Thus, we couldn't
rely on such police troops - they often collaborate with the guerrillas.
Question: But how should Chechnya
be governed? If we don't develop local government...
Arbatov: Direct presidential rule
should be introduced in Chechnya. We should send a presidential
envoy there, holding a rank no lower than that of deputy prime
minister. All military and civilian functions would be concentrated
in this person's hands, and he would have direct access to the
president. What Chechnya has now is an administrative mess - too
many office-holders - and that's a perfect environment for terrorists.
Question: What would you say to Grigory
Yavlinsky as a candidate for this post? There have been recent
rumours to that effect.
Arbatov: I wouldn't advise him to take the job; it involves
commanding military forces. It would be more logical to appoint
some reasonable person with a military background. Troshev, for
example: temporarily, foas long as military action continues,
he could be transferred from his post as military district commander
to the post of presidential envoy in Chechnya. Troshev was born
and raised in Chechnya; he is also trusted by the military forces.
So there's the plan for further action: close the borders, have
one person in charge of Chechnya, and no conscripts - only professionals,
contract personnel, should serve in Chechnya.
Question: But what should we do about the guerrillas?
Arbatov: There will be fewer once
the borders are sealed. Of course, we'll have to fight them -
but selectively. We shouldn't be shelling villages or carrying
out clean-up operations. Guerrillas would be killed as they cross
the borders, or at their locations in Chechnya. Then we would
be able to achieve the second major objective: to stop most of
the population of Chechnya supporting the guerrillas.
Question: How long would this phase
Arbatov: All these measures are only
prerequisites for solving the problem. The war can only be ended
by negotiations. But for that to happen, we first need to change
the situation in Chechnya in the federal government's favour.
This would require a year, maybe less. After that, everything
would depend on the politicians. At this point,the president's
representative could be a civilian.
Question: But which of the Chechens
should we negotiate with?
Arbatov: That would depend on two
criteria: firstly, they should be people who control a major part
of the guerrilla forces. Secondly, they should be untainted by
involvement in any form of terrorism. There have been many statements
made about Chechnya in recent days - from people whose words carry
weight: the defense minister, the FSB director, the president
himself. The overall message is clear: a new special operation
lies in store for Chechnya. A very substantial one this time.
Perhaps a decisive one. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has called
a halt to the withdrawal of excess troops from Chechnya, and ordered
preparations for large-scale precision strikes at the guerrillas.
Now the paratroopers and commandos will have the limelight: apparently,
this time there will be no great use of tanks, no shelling of
towns and villages by aviation and artillery. But the clean-up
operations in those towns where guerrillas are found are likely
to be harsher.
President Putin has clearly implied that terrorists will be
destroyed wherever they may be found. He has even proposed that
the security structures should develop new parameters for using
the Russian Armed Forces. Thus, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev
ought to spell out where those terrorists may be found and destroyed.
Patrushev has promised to do so. Actually, the FSB itself is frequently
capable of dispatching bandits: the Alpha anti-terrorist squad
is in fine form.
To all intents and appearances, there will now be a different
kind of war in Chechnya: uncompromising towards the enemy, and
more responsible towards our own troops. There are proposals for
tough counter-intelligence measures within the federal forces
and the governing bodies of Chechnya. In general, the federal
government's desire to see an end to this war is evident.
of Terror in Moscow