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War in Chechnya


War in Chechnya

Six Conditions for Maskhadov
By Grigory Yavlinsky, Chairman of the Yabloko Association, Obschaya Gazeta, No. 45, November 11, 1999


Today the problem of Chechnya is the most difficult one for Russia. This is primarily because here we are confronted with a lethal threat to hundreds of thousands of really unfortunate, innocent women, old people and children, ordinary citizens of the Russian Federation, Chechnians by birth who simply want to live and work on their land.

Secondly , because really large groupings of armed criminals have been formed in Chechnya, which are aggressive, well armed and most probably receive support from abroad. Moreover they offer a new "service" on the international market - a war against anyone, on order and for money. Chechnya, Tajikistan and Kirgiziya present real and long-term dangers to Russia.

As the first and second problems occur in the same time and same place, this represents an extreme difficulty to resolve.

The events in Daghestan transferred all these processes into an acute open phase. The Russian army had all the grounds for its actions and implemented its task. It approached the boundaries of Northern Terek and thereby obtained the positions necessary to control the situation. Above all,. the army really managed to provide for the first time in the past five years the requisite conditions for the construction of a real border-line there and introduce control over the administrative boundaries of Stavropol Region, Ingushetia and Daghestan.

Russia's main goal here is to protect the citizens of the Russian Federation, and as it tackles these issues, smash the aggressor in Daghestan and obtain the support of the local population. The army has provided the politicians with excellent conditions to achieve a political settlement of the conflict in Chechnya, including negotiations from a position of force.

According to all the rules, from this moment on the initiative should be passed on to the country's political leadership. But it transpired that there were neither politicians in the Kremlin or Russia's White House. Army generals waited for a little while and then went further, threatening that they wouldn't accept any interference in their desire to "go till the end".

Obviously the position of such generals has a military logic. Militarily they are right.

However, politics, is quite another thing. The US President Truman did not hesitate to dismiss a legendary army general MacArthur, when the latter proposed a bombing of China during the war with Korea: "to ensure our success and create the requisite conditions for a definitive victory". US generals tried to persuade their President to bomb Cuba during the Caribbean crisis for a long time, but were dismissed. Quite recently General Schwarzkopf was dismissed, because he insisted on a ground attack on Baghdad after the "Storm in the Desert". Generals have always been proposing similar decisions. This is right. This is their logic. But let me repeat once again that politics is quite another matter.

I don't doubt here the patriotic motives of the army's leadership, but the goal termed by the generals "a definitive victory in Chechnya" is an illusion, and consequently destructive for the country.

It leads Russia to moral and geopolitical catastrophe, the final and probably irreparable disaster for Russia in the 20th century, rather than to a consolidation of the state and the army.

All the bombings and humiliation of the refugees increase the number of people, who are taking arms in their hands to fight us. Surely it is high time to understand after the war of 1994-1996 that in the end this makes us confront the problem of homicide against one of the ethnic groups of the Russian Federation?

Russia will not survive this attempt: it won't be able to achieve this goal and will consequently sustain a definitive defeat. We must stop moving in this suicidal manner.

The war and Russia's future is too great for them to be sublimated to purely military logic, motivated moreover by recent personal military disgrace and a desire for revenge. The military leadership cannot set political tasks and take political decisions. This has never happened in Russia's history.

But now it looks as if this has been taking place: this constitutes the worst result of a decade of Yeltsin's rule.

However, this is not a plot, conspiracy or military coup. It is far worse. This is a direct consequence of the complete discreditation of the power of the kleptocrats that surrounded the presidential team; the result of the army's and society's contempt of these authorities and the pain suffered by the people owing to the situation in the country.

When the military talk about betrayal in the upper echelons of power and assert that the army is being robbed in a literal and figurative sense, they are right.

Certainly, in Russia this refers not only to the military, but to virtually everybody in the country. However, the soldiers and army officers first pay with their lives for this.

The liberation of Beslan Gantamirov from prison and the formation of some "new Chechenian authority" that he heads clearly demonstrates that the Russian government has no reasonable plan over how to act in Chechnya. It simply has no plan. Now it is clear why the government is obscure in its comments, issues confused stories, tells lies, introduces censorship, issues propaganda campaigns and generally acts as if it were part of a secret service rather than state policy and consequently ends up confusing the population. Any politician attempting to say something more or less reasonable receives no reliable information either from Chechnya or the government.

After the story with Gantamirov we cannot expect any reasonable actions from our government. I am afraid, that this is a Government of another huge failure. Therefore, as was the case during the times of Pavel Grachev (Ed. Defence Minister responsible for sending the troops to Grozny in 1994), we must propose, insist and try out plans to ensure both a military and political settlement in Chechnya.

First of all we should begin by introducing an emergency regime in the territories bordering the Chechen Republic and part of Stavropol Region. We must define the zones of military operations and publish the orders of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and the decisions of the supreme governing bodies of the country, which lead to military operations. We must terminate the wide-scale bombing of the territory of Chechnya and suspend the wide-spread ground attack.

We should conduct negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov as the legitimately elected President of Chechnya on the following six terms: - all hostages should be freed, the kidnappings and slave trade should be curbed; - the minimum basis should be established for a civil law-governed state in Chechnya; - terrorists announced under international investigation must be extradited to the authorities of the Russian Federation or be deported outside Chechnya; - the disarmament of all unofficial military groupings in Chechnya; - liquidation of all military repressive bodies; - all individuals convicted of international terrorism should not be allowed into Chechnya.

If Aslan Maskhadov refuses to conduct negotiations under these terms, a 30-day deadline should be granted to enable all refugees to leave Chechnya. The aforementioned tasks will be resolved by the federal forces independently.

The federal government must undertake all the requisite measures to guarantee security, material and medical provisions for refugees and make sure that the aid offered by international humanitarian organisations arrives unhindered.

All this is necessary to save human lives and avert an irreversible situation. Six months ago Russia saved NATO from the same deadlock in Yugoslavia. Why shouldn't we do the same thing for ourselves?