We have begun facing more and more criticism from the
West, even without going abroad. This time it is related
to the operations in Chechnya. By the way I can't say
that this criticism is acute or severe. However, at times
we can even detect among the well-known accusations recognition
that it is virtually impossible to deal with the present
hosts of Grozny. Finally Westerners also have to buy hostages
from Chechnya and bury the decapitated corpses of their
compatriots murdered in Chechnya.
However, while the West acknowledges that Russia has
the right to fight the bandits, it asserts that this task
should be done in a more intelligent way, pursuant to
European standards. Therefore we have to ask ourselves
how we should react to these declarations.
Now we can already detect our two typical "Russian-Soviet"
reactions. The first is to rebuff, or as they used to
say back in Soviet times to repel all criticisms. For
example, you are not saints yourselves, you behave in
the same manner when you need to. It is well-known that
Washington quickly exhausted the limits of political dialogue
both with General Noriega in Panama and the tonton-macoots
in Haiti. The final argument of the US in dialogue was
reduced to landing troops and holding a trial on the drugs
business. So there are grounds for "repelling"
However, I would not consider such a response to be correct.
Such a method reeks too strongly of old Soviet propaganda.
It may only succeed in producing in the West an impact
such as a "plague on both your houses": the
civilised world will make a helpless gesture, waving its
hands in protest at both Moscow and Grozny. Moreover,
a different kind of crime flourishes in Russia, and not
only in Grozny. The Western public knows this only too
The second reaction may constitute classic Russian marginal
intelligentsia masochism. Whatever may happen in Russia,
the world or even the universe, we are to blame. The term
"we" refers most often to the Kremlin, the authorities
and in general everyone living here. "We" exploded
our houses, trained and sent Dudayev, Maskhadov and Basayev
to fight with us, organised the intervention into Daghestan
to either curb the elections or ensure that the right
person was elected. Naturally, we also take ourselves
hostages and pay the ransom money to ourselves.
Consequently, we should apologise before Grozny, the
West and the whole world and assume an advance obligation
to cede all those parts of Russia's territory to anyone
who wants to grab them. Although this opinion has been
expressed so far by a small but exotic minority, this
position has been spreading and may grow in time.
In my opinion, both these reactions to criticism from
the West are wrong. The best reaction is to combine truthful
information and invite these countries to participate
in humanitarian actions for civilians. We could issue
an invitation to them to jointly seek ways to resolve
this situation. These should be civilised methods, but
should not at the same time adversely affect the interests
of Russia's security. This concerns both the painful aspects
of western criticism - the extent of our reaction to Chechnian
terrorism and the problems of political dialogue.
First of all, we must make an effort and stop lying.
If there are cases where we made mistakes and civilians
suffered, we must honestly admit this and publicly investigate
these cases. This is not only a moral issue: it is even
more effective in propaganda terms. While political dialogue
is necessary, it cannot act as a substitute to the operations
to disarm the terrorists. This scheme has been implemented
for years. It has not worked.
We must clearly state that it is impossible to draw a
border line between terrorists and armed separatists.
It is absolutely useless to guess whether Maskhadov doesn't
want or can't curb Basayev and Khattab (Ed. the commanders
of terrorist groupings). The only real guarantee of Russia's
security and integrity is provided by assurances that
there are no military formations on Russia's territory,
which are independent of the federal centre. Political
dialogue can only begin, once this basic provision has
At the same time, we should state clearly that we are
ready to conduct political dialogue with everyone who
will recognise and implement the aforementioned terms.
Here we are not looking for convenient partners and we
are ready to accept the results of the Chechnians' choice
(in other words, the citizens of Russia who resided in
Chechnya before the military conflict of 1994). Such a
clear-cut position will differentiate our Western opponents
into those who want an end to the conflict and those who
want to sever relations with Russia. The latter represent
a minority and will never become a majority, unless we
are willing to help them ourselves.