In the last half of 1999, Russia invaded Chechnya for the second time that decade. The West’s policy towards the crisis provides considerable insight into the motivations behind the formulation of policy, and thus elucidates the structure of the global order and the degree to which it is connected to humanitarian principles. Before inspecting Russia’s 1999 invasion, it is of course important to understand the historical context of Russian-Chechnyan relations and their character. After briefly elucidating this matter, the general tenore of Russia’s invasion is examined and on this basis an analysis of the West’s corresponding reaction is conducted.
I. A Brief History of the Repression of a People
The 1999-2000 crisis in Chechnya is merely the latest episode in a grim, three-centuries long oppression of Muslims under Russian colonial dominion. The Chechens, who have lived in the mountains and plains of Chechnya since the first millenium BC, are a subjugated people thanks to Russian rule, according to Peter Daniel DiPaola. “To many westerners, Muslims often seem like constant trouble-makers or, worse, terrorists”, observes US foreign correspondent Eric Margolis for the Canadian newspaper the Toronto Sun. “But let us recall the Muslim world was the principal victim of rapacious 19th and 20th century European and Russian colonialism. The majority of France’s, Holland’s, and Russia’s colonial subjects, and almost half of Britain’s, were Muslims.” During the last 250 years or so, the Muslim people of the Caucasus – Chechen, Ingush, Circassians, Abkhaz, and Dagestanis – have repeatedly attempted to revolt against the repressive rule of imperialist Russia, with the largest rebellion occurring in the mid-1800s under the leadership of the Dagestani Imam, Sheikh Shamil. Russia’s priority has consistently been to crush these uprisings that threaten its’s hegemony over millions of Muslims. In the process of clamping down on all these revolts, Russia has even managed to attempt genocide at least twice.
For example, in the 1940s 14,000 Chechens and Ingush – 3 per cent of their entire populations – were shot and killed by Stalin’s secret police, their bodies then dumped into a pit. The act is comparable to the mass murder of Jews in the pit at Babi Yar, committed four years before by Hitler’s forces. Stalin later proceeded to ‘cleanse’ almost all 1.5 million Chechens, forcibly deporting them to concentration camps in Siberia. About 25 per cent of them died in these camps. Another 2 million Muslims in the former Soviet Union, including Dagestanis, were similarly evicted to join their dying brothers and sisters in Stalin’s death camps. Eric Margolis thus notes that the Chechens are “the children of a nation that has three times nearly been exterminated by Russian genocide: in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the last when Stalin had tens of thousands of Chechens shot and the remainder of the Chechen people deported to Siberian concentration camps.”
David Damren, an Associate Faculty Member in the Department of Religious Studies at Arizona State University, provides an overview of Russia’s attempts to wipe out both the Chechen people and their Islamic faith: “During WWII, when disturbances occurred in Chechnya in 1940 and again in 1943, Stalin responded with astonishing brutality that bordered on genocide. Accusing them of still unproven collaboration with Nazi Germany, in 1944 he forcibly relocated six entire Caucasian nationalities, including the whole Chechen and Ingush populations, to special camps in Central Asia. All told, more than a million Muslims from the Caucasus were deported, with tremendous loss of life. By some estimates one third to one-half of the population of Chechen-Ingushetia alone – well over 250,000 people – disappeared after the republic was liquidated in February 1944.
“The Chechens and other groups spent more than a decade in isolated work camps in Kazakhstan. But by all accounts, the forced resettlement failed to break either the Sufi brotherhoods or Chechen national spirit. Describing the fearsome ‘psychology of submission’ that prevailed in Soviet relocation camps, Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn observed that only one people refused to be broken by the ordeal: ‘the nation as a whole – the Chechens.’…
“In 1957, when the Chechens and other exiled Caucasian groups were proclaimed ‘rehabilitated’ and returned to their republics, they found that their land had been ‘Russified’. Hundreds of thousands of Russian farmers brought in to work the land during their absence had become permanent residents and now comprised a quarter of the region’s population.
“The Chechens, Ingush and Daghestanis also discovered a land scoured of Islam. Soviet authorities had experimented with the near total suppression of Islam in the region, closing over 800 mosques and 400 religious colleges. Mazars were demolished, converted into state museums, or made inaccessible. Only after more than 30 years, in 1978, Soviet authorities in the Caucasus allowed under 40 mosques to reopen and staffed them with less than 300 registered ulema.”
From 1994-96, the Russians waged yet another war to crush the Chechens’ popular plea for self-determination. Though the Chechens eventually managed to drive Russia out, Russian forces still succeeded in slaughtering 100,000 Chechens, wounding 240,000, and scattering 17 million anti-personnel land mines across the country. Russia had used “mass artillery, rocket barrages, and airstrikes to smash Chechen villages and towns”, “conducted wide scale torture, and razed most of Chechnya to the ground”, reports the Toronto Sun. The former Soviet Union’s imperialist imperative had also received wholehearted support from its former Cold War enemy, the United States. “President Bill Clinton… helped finance Russia’s war in Chechnya.” Clinton had “lent Yeltsin $11 billion to finance the operation”, and “even went to Moscow, lauded Yeltsin, likened Russia’s savage repression of tiny Chechnya to America’s civil war, and had the effrontery to call Yeltsin ‘Russia’s Abraham Lincoln’.” The extent of American support for Russia’s campaign to subjugate the Chechen people was even clearer when in 1996, “Clinton reportedly ordered the CIA to supply Moscow top-secret electronic targeting devices that allowed the Russians to assassinate Chechen president, Dzhokar Dudayev, while he was conducting peace negotiations with Moscow on his cell phone.”
However, Russia’s assault on the tiny country failed despite its devastating impact, and its forces eventually had to pull out. A treaty was then instigated granting Chechnya de facto independence. It also recognised the 31 August 1996 agreement stipulating that a popular referendum be held in Chechnya on 31 December 2001 to determine the ultimate fate of its independence. Yet in 1999, Russia launched another attack on Chechnya in violation of its 1996 treaty, and in violation of the 1990 CFE treaty. Russia’s attack was justified as a response to bombs that exploded in Moscow and other cities in September 1999, killing over 200 people. Russia blamed the bombings on Chechen ‘terrorists’. However, “no convincing evidence has been presented to support allegations of Chechen involvement in the bombings.” According to the Economist: “No clear evidence has yet been found for who was responsible for those bombs, and no one has claimed responsibility.” In fact the bombings “were more likely carried out by Russian political provocateurs as a pretext for Moscow hardliners to invade Chechnya and intimidate freedom movements in other parts of the Caucasus.” This conclusion is supported by “the record of violent crime and political assassinations on the part of Mafia elements that compete for influence within Russian government circles”.
The ambiguity surrounding the possible perpetrators of the bombings, and the sheer lack of evidence that they were carried out by Chechen “terrorists”, was further reported by the International Worker’s Party (Russia), which noted that the bomb attacks in Moscow “were soon followed by a number of scandalous mutual accusations between different power groups in Moscow and the Federation which incriminated Russian secret services. The commission of investigation has still not produced any convincing results which will permit the conclusion that the attacks were organized by the Chechen guerrillas.” Moreover, the US must have been fully aware of the non-existent results of the Russian investigation – which have not produced any evidence of Chechen involvement in the bombings – since the State Department and FBI chief Louis Freeh offered “technical and investigative assistance” to the Russian government in its investigation of the four apartment explosions in Moscow. Nevertheless, along with its European subordinates, the US has chosen not to expose the vacuity of Russia’s pretext for its war, but has instead expressed open agreement that Russia has a problem with Chechen “terrorism” – this consent to Russian propaganda has ominous implications which we shall be returning to in due course.
Rather than being a response to terrorism, as Dr. Aslambek Kadiev explained to the BBC: “There are two main reasons for the two wars which Russia has launched against Chechnya. The first is economic. Russia wants to control the Caucasus oil fields and pipeline routes. The second is connected with the political situation in Russia, and particularly inside the Kremlin… The political purpose of the first Chechen war was to increase Boris Yeltsin’s popularity and get him re-elected as president in 1996. The main aim of this second war is to ensure that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former [KGB] spy and President Yeltsin’s anointed heir, becomes president at the next elections. The apartment bombings in Russian cities early this year were used by Russia to justify its invasion.”
II. Manufacturing A Pretext for Extermination
Dr. Kadeiv’s observations were confirmed when the Independent obtained a videotape in which Russian officer Lieutenant Galtan testified: “I know who is responsible for the bombings in Moscow [and Dagestan]. It is the FSB [Russian security service], in cooperation with the GRU [Russian military intelligence service], that is responsible for the explosions in Volgodonsk and Moscow.” Further evidence arose when on 22 September 1999, a third bomb was discovered in the basement of a block of flats 100 miles south of Moscow. Local residents had noticed two men and a woman acting suspiciously and called the local police, who then arrested them. The police discovered explosive devices hidden in what looked to be bags of sugar. It was soon discovered that the suspects planting the devices were Russian FSB agents.
According to Russian bomb squad officer Yuri Tkachenko, who defused the third bomb, “It was a live bomb”, made of the same explosive as the previous bombs (Hexagen). Its detonator had been set for 5:30AM, and would probably have killed most of the 250 tenants of the block of flats it was planted in. Boris Kagarlitsy, a member of the Russian Institute for Comparative Politics, stated: “FSB officers were caught red-handed while planting the bomb. They were arrested by the police and they tried to save themselves by showing FSB identity cards.” The first man to enter the basement, Police Inspector Andrei Chernyshev, related: “It was about 10 in the evening. There were some strangers who were seen leaving the basement. We were told about the men who came out from the basement and left the car with a licence number which was covered with paper. I went down to the basement. This block of flats had a very deep basement which was completely covered with water. We could see sacks of sugar and in them some electronic device, a few wires and a clock. We were shocked. We ran out of the basement and I stayed on watch by the entrance and my officers went to evacuate the people.” Despite the arrest of the FSB officers by the police, they were quietly released when the secret service’s Moscow headquarters intervened. The Observer reports that the next day, in an attempt to cover-up the discovery, “the FSB in Moscow announced that there had never been a bomb, only a training exercise.”
The fact of Russian complicity had been finally confirmed once again when Sergei Stephashin, Russian Interior and Prime Minister for most of last year (he was Interior Minister up to May and then Prime Minister until August, therefore having been at the centre of Russian decision-making), testified according to British correspondent Patrick Cockburn that “Russia made its plans to invade Chechnya six months before the bombing of civilian targets in Russia and the Chechen attack on Dagestan which were the official pretext for launching the war. His account wholly contradicts the official Russian version… which claims that it was only as a result of ‘terrorist’ attacks last August and September  that Russia invaded Chechnya.” Stephasin himself testified that the plan to send the Russian army into Chechnya “had been worked out in March ”, and he had played a central role in organising the military build up before the invasion. He stated that the invasion “had to happen even if there were no explosions in Moscow”. Cockburn points out: “The revelation by Mr Stepashin, that Russia planned to go to war long before it has previously admitted, lends support to allegations in the Russian press that the invasion of Dagestan in August and the bombings in September were arranged by Moscow to justify its invasion of Chechnya.”
Boris Kagarlitsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Comparative Politics, “drawing on a source with close knowledge of the GRU” similarly stated that the bombings in Moscow and elsewhere were arranged by the GRU. He noted that the Russians manipulated “members of a group controlled by [a Chechen warlord] Shirvani Basayev… to plant the bombs” which “killed 300 people in Buikask, Moscow and Volgodonsk in September.” The “invasion of Dagestan by Shamil Baseyev himself” – Shirvani’s brother – “in August was pre-arranged with a senior Kremlin leader at a meeting in France in July.” Kagarlitsky observed that the motive for all this “was the need for the political leadership in the Kremlin to control the succession of Boris Yeltsin”, who by “last summer” “was deeply unpopular”, and whose “family and associates” feared for their “fortunes if a president hostile to their interests was elected this June.” One option being considered by the Kremlin and its oligarchical associates to ensure an appropriate presidential successor who would protect their “freedom and fortunes”, was “terror bombings in Moscow which could be blamed on Chechens”, reported Moscow correspondent Jan Blomgren in the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet four months before the first bomb, based on sources who were familiar with discussions within the Russian political elite.
Kagarlisky added that in July 1999 – a month after the Swedish report – “a meeting took place in the south of France attended by Alexander Voloshin, head of the presidential administration, Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord, and Anton Surikov, a former official belonging to the army special services. Both sides had interests in common. Mr Basayev’s political fortunes had ebbed in Chechnya and might be restored by a small war. The Kremlin was also in need of an outside enemy. According to Mr Kagarlitsky they agreed that Mr Basayev would launch a military foray into Dagestan and that Russia would respond by invading northern Chechnya up to the Terek river.” Basayev’s forces thus invaded Dagestan at Russian instigation on 8 August. “The next day Vladimir Putin replaced Stepashin as prime minister.” However, the invasion of Dagestan “did not go as planned.” Basayev’s forces “were beaten off but, according to the Russian magazine Profile, were virtually escorted back to the Chechen border by two Russian helicopters.” The invasion was also “insufficient to mobilise Russian public opinion” necessitating the GRU’s arrangement of terrorist bombings in Moscow. “It was the wave of anger and hatred among Russians against Chechens, universally blamed for the attacks, that gave Mr Putin the backing he needed to invade Chechnya. An unknown figure when appointed, with just 2 per cent support in the polls, he was soon the leading candidate to win the presidency. In December Mr Yeltsin was able to retire more gracefully than seemed possible six months before and Mr Putin became acting president.” However, importantly, Cockburn further reports that according to Kagarlitsky, Shirvani Basayev and his men “did not know exactly why they had been recruited by the GRU for a special mission.” This lends credence to the notion that they were not entirely aware of Russian motives, the actual nature and purpose of the mission, and thus the plans of those who “recruited” them, which strongly suggests that Russian agents had in fact misled them.
As the international Islamic political movement, Hizb ut-Tahrir, concluded from the Russian-directed actions of these Chechen military men: “it seems clear to us that it was sections of the Russian government which planned for this in order to realise their objectives. Basseyev and Khattab [another Chechen military man] have fallen into this Russian trap.” The war on Chechnya thus exists thanks only to the Russian terrorist elite, and its manipulations of two Chechen military men who it seems were unaware of the deceptive nature of Russia’s machinations.
III. Acts of Genocide: A Small Price to Pay for Political Gain
Russia utilised its propaganda-bombing swiftly, immediately demonising the Chechen people, and carrying out mass arrests in Moscow. Soon about 11,000 people were rounded up by Russian police, hundreds of whom were Chechen and many others who were of Caucasian descent. President Boris Yeltsin ordered an “intensified security regime” for airports, railway stations, markets and other areas. “We should not be afraid to cross into Chechen territory to destroy militants and restore constitutional order,” declared General Vladimir Ustinov. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev elaborated, asserting that if air strikes were ordered, bombings would occur “thoughout the territory of Chechnya, irrespective of where the bandits are.” Meanwhile, “civilian militias” began forming within areas of Moscow to patrol the cellars and entrances of apartment houses. The Russian newspaper Izvestia reported that “the population has decided to build up its own form of security, having recognised that the state could not guarantee their safety. Bewilderment and fear are gradually being transformed into hatred, and the slogan ‘for every house in Moscow, a village in Chechnya’ has become enormously popular.”
On 22 September 1999, Russian planes commenced bombing raids against Chechen targets. Ten days later, 50,000 Russian troops advanced into northern Chechnya backed by over 1,000 armoured vehicles, massive artillery and air power. By mid-October, the army had encircled the country and cut off all gas and electricity supplies from Russia. Already, Chechen cities and villages had been bombarded by 24-hour Russian air strikes and artillery attacks. There were continual reports of deliberate attacks on the civilian population. In early October, residents of the region bordering Dagestan testified that inhabitants had been killed by snipers while fetching water or bringing in the harvest. In one village half a farmhouse was demolished by Russian rockets, while elsewhere schools, hospitals, market places and manufacturing plants were similarly bombarded and destroyed. Even a refugee bus was bombed by the Russian army. By November, an estimated 200,000 Chechen refugees had fled to nearby Ingushetia, 4,000 had been killed, and 10,000 wounded. Another 170,000 were “still inside Chechnya in freezing temperatures with no access to relief. Thousands, many of them women and children, have been trapped at the main border crossing for nearly two weeks in worsening conditions”; “huge columns of refugees have trudged in freezing rain to the borders of their homeland. Heavy air bombardments on Grozny and other Chechen towns and cities have spurred on this mass exodus.” By April, according to other reports, an estimated 40,000 Chechen civilians has been killed as a result of the war. Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov had appealed in vain to US President Bill Clinton to take measures to prevent the “genocide of the Chechen people.” Foreign minister Iyas Akhmadov stated: “The Chechen people are now standing on the threshold of total destruction.” Clearly, Russian Generals were living up to their repeated vows to “exterminate” the Chechens.
Extermination certainly seemed to be a primary motive. On 4 February 2000, Russian air and ground forces deliberately targeted the Chechen village of Katyr Yurt, west of Grozny. The village was occupied by hundreds of refugees fleeing the fighting elsewhere in Chechnya, as well as its regular inhabitants. The devastating onslaught commenced in the early morning, with three planes bombing until mid-afternoon. Russian ground troops moved in after the buildings were bombed to loot and kill any other survivors. Particularly horrifying was the departure of a civilian convoy assembled in the afternoon. The convoy had been promised safe passage out of the village by Russia through a certain road accordingly dubbed a ‘safe corridor’. “As it departed, down a two-kilometre road on the western edge of Katyr Yurt, each vehicle bearing large white flags made of blankets, it too came under systematic attack,” reports Dispatches. “Whole families, old men, women and children, were slaughtered. Eye witnesses and survivors counted the number of the dead at 363. Many of the bodies, they reported, were simply piled into mass graves by Russian soldiers. The war crime at Katyr Yurt is one of the dirtiest episodes in Russia’s dirty war in Chechnya.” Dispatches reporter John Sweeney, met with survivors and eyewitnesses at the border with Russia, and then at the village itself. They testified that “the Russian army had herded Chechen civilians into vehicles and then deliberately opened fire on them as they drove down the supposedly ‘safe corridor’ to the border.” Dispatches further notes that “far from being an isolated incident, carried out by low-ranking soldiers in the heat of battle, the Katyr Yurt massacre was just one of a series of atrocities reported by refugees of this bloody war.” The Emmy-award winning team of investigative reporters “found that the finger of blame pointed right back to the man in charge at the Kremlin itself.”
This particular atrocity was elaborated on by Sweeney in the Observer: “The village of Katyr Yurt, ‘safe’ in the Russian-occupied zone, far from the war’s front line, and jam-packed with refugees, was untouched on the morning of 4 February when Russian aircraft, helicopters, fuel-air bombs and Grad missiles pulverised the village. They paused in the bombing at 3pm, shipped buses in, and allowed a white-flag convoy to leave – and then they bombed that as well”. The result was “a landscape as if from the Somme, streets smashed to matchwood, trees shredded, blood-stained cellars, the survivors in a frenzy of fear. The village was littered with the remains of Russian ‘vacuum’ bombs – fuel-air explosives that can suck your lungs inside out, their use against civilians banned by the Geneva Convention.” There is, furthermore, no question of the sustained attack on the civilian convoy being a ‘mistake’. Russia had actually ceased bombing at about half past four in the afternoon, leaving the population two hours to leave. Buses with white flags were sent in by Russian forces for this apparent purpose. “The convoy set off, each car showing a white flag, some cars showing two or three, packed with mainly women and children – the men held back, to make more room for children, said Rumissa [one of the eye-witnesses and survivors of the attack]. It headed west towards the town of Achoi Martan and safety. ‘When we were on the open road, they fired ground-to-air rockets at us. It was a big rocket, not as big as a car. It was strange. It didn’t explode once, it exploded several times. Every car had flags, how many cars I don’t know. It was a mess, lots of them. They hit us without stopping.’ Could the Russians have mistaken the white-flag convoy for fighters? ‘No, they couldn’t mistake us. They knew very well there were a lot of refugees: 16,000 refugees and 8,000 locals in the village. In front of us was a big car full of children, not grown-ups. They burnt before my eyes.’… Another eyewitness, a wounded man of the killable age, said: ‘They started bombing. Bombs, artillery. They were killing people. At our local school on the edge of the village there were Spetsnaz troops. They said: We will give you a safe corridor. So everyone started to go towards Achoi Martan. Then they used rockets against us. Some say 350 refugees were killed, 170 from the village itself.'”
In other words, Russia’s arrangement of the so-called ‘safe corridor’ was a set-up, expressly designed it appears, to “exterminate” the Chechen people. In accord with this sublime objective, Russia has established four concentration camps – “filtration camps” – supposedly designed to ‘filter’ out Chechen ‘terrorists’ from civilians. The largest camp is at Chernokozovo “with about 700 detainees” – possibly ranging to over a thousand – reports the British press, only 7 of whom are genuinely suspected of taking part in the war. “Russian soldiers are beating, raping and torturing Chechen prisoners” according to human rights groups, prisoners who “have been summarily arrested on the flimsiest of pretexts.” Evidence shows that “large numbers of young Chechen men are being rounded up arbitrarily and detained.” In early February, “a letter detailing the brutality of the camp regime, apparently written by a Russian soldier there, was leaked to the media.” The soldier described “how Chechen inmates were being systematically beaten, killed and raped.” One should note the observation of Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch representative in the region: “These men are being taken to unknown detention facilities and their families are not being informed of where they are. Some men are never heard of again. Given the mass abuses which took place in these centres during the last war, we are gravely concerned about this developing trend.”
Additionally, “Russian soldiers have been raping Chechen women in areas of Russian-controlled Chechnya” according to a team of Human Rights Watch investigators in Ingushetia. Numerous eyewitness testimonies confirm that cases of the rape of Chechen girls and women by Russian soldiers is high. The nature of these cases can be gleaned from the consideration of even just a single incident referred to by HRW, narrated by “Zaman”, a Chechen women aged 55 from the village of Alkhan-Yurt. Zaman testified that at one time five or six women were raped in her village “including one old woman like me. At night at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., the soldiers came into the cellar. Some soldiers would stand guard, aiming their guns at [the people in the cellar] while the others were raping.” Rape is also likely to be under-reported in Chechnya. Zaman stated: “A lot of women were raped, but our people won’t talk about it – these women have to marry.” HRW reports that “Zaman broke out in tears as she described the extreme precautions she and her neighbors had to take to protect their young daughters from rape: ‘There were five young women with us in the cellar: my three daughters aged twenty-six, twenty, and twelve, and our neighbor’s girls, aged eighteen and nineteen. We made a pit outside in the yard near the stables. We put a pipe [for air] in the pit, covered it with earth, and the five girls were staying in that pit. The soldiers used to come by and say, ‘Where are the young girls, we need three girls for each soldier.’ So we kept the girls in the pit. The girls were kept there for several days.” The testimony unfortunately only increases. Another witness from Alkhan-Yurt, forty-year-old “Sultan”, told HRW about another case: “Seven contract soldiers [non-officers who serve in the military on a contractual basis] raped a woman in our village. It is a savagery. Her family lives near the cemetery; there were few people left in that part of the village. They [the soldiers] pulled her husband out in the street, and then raped her. The woman is not young, she is forty-two or forty-three. I know the woman’s name, but it is against our traditions to name her.”
This state of humanitarian crisis is unlikely to be over soon. The French Press Agency (Agence France Press [AFP]) reported that “Russian troops will remain in Chechnya ‘for decades’ in their bid to maintain control over the rebel province, according to Duma parliamentary Speaker Gennady Seleznev.” The fearless Russian-American journalist Andrew Babitsky, who was arrested by Russian authorities in Grozny and detained for six weeks, testified from his experiences: “In Chechnya, there is a Russian police state that quite effectively rules by fear… There were hundreds and hundreds of civilians in Grozny, and only a few of them had a chance to leave.” AFP reports that Babitsky “had compiled video interviews with several hundred civilians cowering in the city’s basements, who told stories of how Russians pulverized whole sections of the rebel capital from the air with no regard for the people trapped inside”; the footage however was “confiscated by federal troops and never returned”. Babitsky was sent two days later to “the notorious Chernokozovo ‘filtration’ camp”, where he stated that “guards brutally beat him and tortured many others, including women, for hours on end” (he “was to be hospitalized… for treatment after what he claimed was weeks of physical abuse by Russian captors”). He affirmed of Chernokozovo: “This is a concentration camp in every sense of the word. There were practically no fighters there. They are sweeping up civilians and breaking them down in Chernokozovo.” “I suffered the same treatment as everyone, without exception, who passes through there. That is to say dozens of blows with batons.” Whilst in the camp, “they tortured a woman. I say tortured because I can’t find another word for it. Her screams showed that she was suffering extreme, unbearable pain, and over a long period… I saw people beaten very heavily, black and blue, for example Aslanbek Sharipov, from Katir-Yurt, who was beaten endlessly, morning, midday and night. Most of his teeth were broken.” He also observed: “We’ve all read about concentration camps during the Stalin era, we all know about the German camps – it’s exactly the same there.”
The camps have also been confirmed by Human Rights Watch which reported how “Russian camp guards are torturing, beating, and on occasion raping Chechen civilians at a ‘filtration camp’ inside Chechnya” on the basis of credible testimony from former detainees. “What’s happening in these filtration camps is unspeakable”, said Holly Cartner, Executive Director of the Europe and Central Asia division of Human Rights Watch. “We saw the same kind of torture and ill-treatment in filtration camps during the last Chechen war.” Horrific acts of genocide committed by Russian soldiers have been ongoing since the beginning of the war. Widespread massacres of Chechen civilians, along with arson, rape and looting, have occurred with systematic impunity throughout Chechnya in various villages and towns.
The ruthless subjugation of Chechnya has been useful in strengthening Putin’s popularity, as was planned by the Russian elite. The American intelligence think-tank Stratfor pointed out soon after the Moscow bombings that “Yeltsin’s opponents, such as former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, have long feared that Yeltsin would call a state of emergency for political gain. The recent bombings could give him the excuse to do this legitimately.” The press similarly observed: “With the news agenda in Moscow dominated by the war in the Caucasus, Yeltsin’s presidential nominee, the hawkish Vladimir Putin, has been given a major boost by the popularity of Russia’s military campaign. The Kremlin-backed Unity (Edinstvo) party has also benefited from the war. Led by Russia’s Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu – shown on television daily dealing with the human consequences of the Chechen crisis – the party has soared in the polls, currently trailing just behind the Communists. Putin’s recent promise of support for Unity strengthened its position – despite the fact that the party has still not bothered to give voters any indication of what it stands for. Shoigu has proffered no economic programme other than to support whatever Putin’s government does.” As the Washington Post remarked: “Putin has staked his presidential candidacy on the war’s outcome, and so far his popularity has soared.” The policy of smashing Chechnya for political gain thus ultimately culminated in a landslide success, with “the appearance of victory hav[ing] propelled Mr. Putin to power in what critics have denounced as a brazen bid by Kremlin insiders to bypass the democratic process”, and install a president not hostile to their oligarchical interests, according to the Times. Putin’s victory is thus primarily a result of the sheer mass of domestic pro-war propaganda being constantly trumpeted by Russian media, described by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting as “A Chilling Flashback to the Soviet Past”.
Unlike Russian warmongering, however, Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov put forth offers of peace talks to resolve the dispute. The AFP reported at the beginning of March 2000: “The Kremlin flatly rejected on Thursday an offer of peace talks from Aslan Maskhadov, the separatist president of Chechnya, and warned that it would wipe out the last remaining rebel units within a week.” The Institute for War & Peace Reporting further noted of the amnesty offered by Russia “for rebel fighters to voluntarily hand over their weapons” – which was extended to 1 April – that the numerous reports of “summary executions and savage brutality at the Chernokozovo ‘filtration’ camp will serve to dissuade any war-weary fighter from throwing himself on Moscow’s mercy.” At this time – early in March – a political solution to the war in Chechnya was not in Russian interests, since Putin had not yet achieved his domestic political victory; only once the political victory was achieved near the end of March did the utility of Chechen blood become questionable. According to the Guardian: “In his three months as acting president, his only policy has been to prosecute ruthlessly his war in the Caucasus. Having exploited Chechnya as his vehicle to power, he may now turn to the search for an exit strategy and the quest for a political settlement.”
IV. Undercutting the Investigation of Human Rights
Russian representatives have frequently proclaimed their willingness to allow independent commissions of inquiry to investigate human rights abuses in Chechnya. However, the actual effectuation of these endorsements reveals that such announcements are designed specifically for public consumption – not for significant action. We can gauge the meaning of Russia’s willingness to invite international independent organisations to investigate the Chechen crisis, by evaluating – for example – the visit of United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Mary Robinson, to Chechnya in March. British journalist Ian Traynor reported from Moscow that Robinson “ended a much-delayed and frustrating visit to Chechnya” on 3 April, “her attempts to assess alleged war crimes and atrocities by Russia troops stymied by her Russian escort. She was prevented from travelling to three villages outside Grozny where international human rights monitors say Chechen civilians were massacred by Russian troops. Her requests to inspect several detention centres where Russian troops were alleged to have tortured prisoners were also ignored.” “Her Russian hosts added insult to injury” when planned “meetings with senior government officials” were cancelled “officially because inclement weather kept her grounded in Dagestan”, delaying her by one day.
However, Vladimir Kalamanov, Putin’s special representative for human rights in Chechnya, “dismissed the UN’s complaints”, insisting – in his own words – that “we have honoured our commitments… We were quite open, we showed her everything she wanted to see.” In fact, Mary Robinson’s letter to the Kremlin before arriving in Moscow had requested “information on mass human rights violations by Russian troops or [Chechen] terrorists.” Kalamanov did not take kindly to Robinson’s mention of “mass human rights violations by Russian troops”, although this is exactly the issue in dire need of immediate investigation. “That’s an insult”, he declared. “Ours is a modern, civilised European army.”
The UN high commissioner for human rights, however, disagreed with this assessment: “I am hearing of very serious problems of human rights violations carried out by those in Russian military uniforms, special forces uniforms. It is very important that these be fully investigated and that those responsible do not have impunity.” The Paris-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) concurred: “The civilian population is the first target of the operations carried out by the Russians… who are responsible for the most serious violations of human rights and international law. These violations constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
Vladimir Kalamanov – the man who finds even the suggestion that Russian troops are committing “mass human rights violations” to be “an insult” – also heads Russia’s attempt at an ‘independent commission’ to investigate atrocities in Chechnya. The Guardian reports that Kalamanov “is Vladimir Putin’s response to western criticism of atrocities perpetrated by Russian troops in Chechnya.” While he publicly “insists he has a mandate to bulldoze through bureaucracy and demand answers”, the progress of his ‘investigation’ reveals otherwise. For example, “Asked for details of alleged war crimes, the military prosecutor’s office sent Mr Kalamanov a perfunctory letter revealing nothing. He tried again. He was told that 129 investigations had been launched. Most were about bullying and other offences within the army. Only seven concerned alleged offences against civilians in Chechnya.” Furthermore, he “has asked the army for answers on three specific alleged massacres. No response. Nor can he get the resources he needs. He was appointed on February 17, yet he still has no budget. The staff he has recruited have not been paid.” Despite having a nice “large office in Moscow”, “he has been unable to make contact with his people in Chechnya.”
His section has one phone line and one fax in Chechnya. There’s no phone link to Moscow, and no email.” In fact, many of his claims regarding Chechnya are apparently quite inaccurate. For example, he brandished “one detailed list of 646 Chechen detainees, another of 49”, of whom “500 have been released.” “Such assertions are contested by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who say that thousands of Chechens have been detained by Russian troops.”
Unfortunately, it is Kalamanov who heads the proposed ‘independent’ national commission to investigate Russian atrocities in Chechnya, that has been so lauded by politicians in the West eager to lend a humanitarian sheen to their new “strategic ally”. Although the “UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is training some of Mr Kalamanov’s staff, are clearly hoping to entrench him in office and then to gradually institutionalise a human rights monitoring mechanism in Russia”, the Guardian notes: “that will be too late for Chechnya.” The effectiveness of such a commission of inquiry is called further into question by the position and attitude of Kalamonov himself. One senior Western diplomat is reported to have confessed: “He faces so much obstruction and opposition. His operation is an empty shell… he’s not in a position to do much.” Diederik Lohman of Human Rights Watch in Moscow similarly noted: “he has a reflexive distrust of anything the displaced Chechens say. If that’s your attitude before you start your investigation, you know there will be no results.”
V. Western Humanism in the Caucasus
What has been the response of the ‘international community’ to Russia’s terrorism? A brief review is revealing. Mariano Aguirre, Director of the Spain-based Centro de Investigacién para la Paz (CIP) in Madrid, comments: “In its ignoring of the plight of the Chechen population, the international attitude – that of the US, the EU, the UN Security Council and the World Bank – has been disappointing and cynicalé Those leaders, politicians, intellectuals, journalists and representatives of the armed forces who became indignant over Serb repression of Albanians in Kosovo (an autonomous province of Serbia) and who flew the flag of armed humanitarianism during the NATO operation have remained silent over Russian repression in Chechnya.”
Near the end of February, the Guardian reported that acting Russian president Vladimir Putin, the major masterminder of the whole sordid operation, “has been sitting amid the refurbished splendour of the Kremlin for the past month courteously receiving one western visitor after another while his troops simultaneously smash a city the size of Edinburgh to pieces, beyond the point of reconstruction and recovery.
“Madeleine Albright from the US, Hubert Védrine from France, Joschka Fischer from Berlin, Lord Robertson from Nato and, finally, Robin Cook – the first British cabinet member to meet the new leader – have been charmed by the ex-KGB man who is a month from being crowned Russia’s new democratic leader, even though he has never contested a democratic vote in his life.” According to the Moscow-based newspaper Kommersant, “Cook was clearly against putting pressure on Russia because of Chechnya.” In fact, the newspaper noted that “The west has done its bit to ensure Putin’s election as president”, the same man overseeing the genocide of the Chechen people, concentration camps et. al. Thus, the crisis in Chechnya, despite surpassing in scale that of Kosovo, was not met with any cries of denunciation or outrage by Western politicians. Conveniently, there were no indignant condemnations of Russian genocide, no imposition of sanctions, no talk of humanitarian catastrophe in Chechnya. On the contrary, “Mr. Cook and Mr. Putin laughed at one another’s jokes.” While the British Foreign Secretary claimed that protests about Chechnya “have not fallen on deaf ears”, the US human rights and war crimes official David Scheffer expressed his distress that “so much concern expressed about Chechnya appears to have fallen on either deaf ears or ears that wish to focus on other issues.” The extent of the British government’s professed “concern” is clear from the fact that “Amid further reports of Russian atrocities against Chechen civilians… Mr. Putin on Wednesday morning referred to the two countries’ alliance in the second world war.” Cook declared happily while Chechens were being massacred by Russian forces that this past alliance between Russia and Britain should be transformed into a “strategic partnership” with Russia, “a top priority of British foreign policy.” Cook further justified the Russian attack, with the redundant qualification that he did not agree with its ‘scale’: “In the case of Russia, there is a case for military action against the terrorists”.
Prime Minister Blair mouthed similar sentiments. A Blair spokesman admitted that “Russia is too important a country to ignore or isolate over Chechnya” – with its 13 per cent of the world’s oil and 36 per cent of its natural gas reserves. “We recognise that the Russians do have a serious problem with terrorism”, Blair himself told the BBC’s Robin Oakley (hence supporting Russia’s fabricated pretext for its war), ommitting to mention Chechnya’s rather more serious (and real) “problem” with Russian state terror which has lasted for three centuries. Oakley asked: “But is the right response to terrorism to raze a city like Grozny to a pile of rubble?” The Guardian commented on Blair’s revealing reply: “A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed, but Blair couldn’t bring himself to say it. Nor did he display any outrage at Russia’s atrocities in Chechnya”. Blair’s actual reply was: “Well, they have been taking their action for the reasons they’ve set out because of the terrorism that has happened in Chechnya”, a clear attempt to justify Russia’s illegal and genocidal war against Chechnya’s fight for freedom by flattening an entire city. On 11 March 2000, in the first visit of a Western leader to Russia since the resignation of Yeltsin, the British Prime Minister had given “Russian acting President Vladimir Putin, who has led a brutal military onslaught on Chechnya, his broad seal of approval.” Furthermore, “no concrete concessions” concerning Russia’s onslaught “had emerged from the talks” held between Blair and his chum Putin, despite the latter’s rhetorical assurances. In fact, “British officials appeared to accept much of Putin’s argument” for the war, reported the British press, with one Downing Street official concurring: “There is a terrorist insurrection there on their [Ruter”‘s] territory” – a view which the press notes “will delight the Russian leadership.”
“This is absolutely the wrong signal to be sending”, pointed out Malcolm Hawkes of Human Rights Watch in regard to Blair’s ‘night-out’ with Putin during his stay in Russia, “making a private visit to the opera [with Putin] when war crimes are being committed with impunity by Russian forces in Chechnya.” He added: “There are mass executions of civilians, arbitrary detention of Chechen males, systematic beatings, torture, and on occasion, rape. There is the absolutely systematic and rampant looting of Chechen homes by Russian troops; these acts need to be condemned publicly in the strongest terms.” Benevolent Blair, however, preferred to chide Putin ineffectively, while continually accepting his false justifications and emphasising the new British-Russian relationship that just happens to have coincided with Russia’s so-called ‘anti-terrorist’ war against Chechen men, women and children. As Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat’s Foreign Affair’s spokesman, observed: “No matter what Blair says, a visit like this will be presented by Putin as a significant endorsement of his election campaign”, a “campaign” that has notably involved nothing much other than the single policy of punishing Chechnya. “For months now this man has laid waste to Chechnya, in the guise of counter terrorism, and behaved without any regard to the normal standards of civilisation,” none of which is evidently a significant problem for Britain. The reason according to a Blair spokesman is “Russia is too important a country to isolate or ignore over Chechnya” – meaning, British strategic and economic interests in the country easily outweigh our alleged humanitarian concerns. Hence, if our alleged concerns go unnoticed by Russia, it matters not anyway, which is why Russia’s continuing bombardment of civilian targets has not elicited anything from the West except the meaningless much publicised voicing of such alleged concerns.
On top of this unconscionable apologetics for Russian war crimes, British intelligence agencies began sharing “anti-terrorist” information with Russia, in connection with Chechnya – the import of which is clear from Blair’s own frequent labelling of the Chechen independence movement a result of “terrorism”. “The disclosure came during talks between the prime minister and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s acting president”, reported the Sunday Times. “Putin had asked Blair to send British anti-terrorist experts to advise troops who are fighting Muslim rebels in Chechnya.” Of course, the public is not supposed to consider that this may amount to any sort of support for Russia’s war, despite the obvious fact that it is. The newspaper also reports the “surprise” of the Muslim Council of Great Britain at Blair’s cordial visit to Russia to strengthen relations at the height of its genocidal war. “Russian conduct”, said a spokesman, “must be recognised for what it is – war crimes.” Yet, Western leaders like Blair have consistenly refused to even acknowledge that Russia is committing horrendous war crimes in Chechnya, let alone condemn these crimes.
The British position was well articulated by British MP Keith Vaz, the Minister for Europe, on BBC2’s Newsnight, in a discussion that was preceded by Newsnight’s ironic commentary on Putin’s visit to Britain which included “tea with the Queen”. Vaz advocated a “policy of constructive engagement” with Russia, simultaneously insisting that “there are no favours being done” to Putin’s government. He nevertheless admitted that the “importance” of the humanitarian crisis in Chechnya “needs to be seen in the context of the bilaterial relationship” with Russia – which is motivated by the fact that “Russia is a very important country”, and that “a new generation of leaders” have come to power in Russia; “it’s extremely important that we have a strategic alliance with them.” The exact nature of this “strategic alliance” with Russia – “in the context” of which Britain’s attitude towards Chechnya has been forged – was inadvertantly elaborated on by Keith Vaz himself when he referred to “the discussions this morning with the CBI, with the business community in Britain,” which show “that there is real willingness for a positive engagement”. Newsnight presenter Jeremy Vine commented: “Mr. Vaz is being quite straightforward there because he’s mentioned business and the business connection.”
The United States was similarly enthusiastic about its blooming friendship with the increasingly Stalinist regime, as it pounded Chechnya and its civilian population into the ground. American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called warmonger Putin “a liberal reformer”, while President Clinton wrote that he was “liberating” Chechnya. Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Beagleburger rationalised Russia’s war, saying of the Chechens: “They’re not very nice people.” Albright also stated that the devastating war on Chechnya must not be allowed to damage “relations” between Russia and the West, which are clearly of greater interest to the West than the 2 million civilians of Chechnya. None of which is surprising considering the fact that in early October “the White House gave Moscow a green light to launch Russia’s second war – and possible final solution – against the tiny Caucasus mountain republic of Chechnya”, in the attempt to “exterminate” the Chechen people. American foreign correspondent Eric Margolis further reported: “In Moscow, standing next to her beaming Russian hosts, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright proclaimed ‘we are opposed to terrorism’ – meaning Islamic rebels in the Caucasus fighting Russian rule. She said nothing about Russia’s blatant violation of its 1996 treaty that granted Chechnya de facto independence. She made no protest over Moscow’s egregious violation of the 1990 CFE Treaty, the most important east-west arms reduction pact, by moving large new forces into the Caucasus.”
News commentator Enver Masud reports that the US is supporting “Russia’s genocidal war on Chechnya” by “providing billions in aid to Russia [italics added]”, “through the International Monetary Fund.” Contradictions in America’s foreign policy to comparable tragedies expose once again that US ‘humanitarianism’ is a mere political facade. Masud compares the flow of billions of US dollars to Russia throughout its genocidal subjugation of Chechnya to “President Clinton’s threat to delay a $42 billion IMF loan package to get Indonesia to agree to the UN intervention in East Timor… Contrast this also with the UN sanctions initiated today against Afghanistan for its refusal to surrender Osama bin Laden to the US. The US accuses bin Laden of masterminding the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, but refuses to provide evidence to back its claim.” Thus, in March 2000, as part of an $800 million loan package, the international community’s World Bank paid the Russian government 100 million dollars. “The Bank cannot just pay lip service to the ‘human aspects’ of development”, commented Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watch’s Executive Director. “Here we have a government committing war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law. The World Bank should not be financing it.” Madeleine Albright, however, articulated the philosophy behind the West’s funding of Russian genocide in early November 1999: “We believe it is very important for there to be economic stability in Russia. That is in our national interest.” The lives of Chechen men, women and children are of no interest in comparison.
Margolis also refutes the objection that Russia, with its nuclear arms “can’t be ordered about”, perhaps explaining US/Western inaction. As Margolis points out, US inaction is one thing – enthusiastic US/Western support “of Russia’s barbarism in the Caucasus” by “actually funding Moscow’s crimes against humanity with American tax dollars” is quite another. Margolis refers to the crucial fact that “Without weekly deliveries of planeloads of US $100 bills, the Yeltsin regime would collapse. Without life-support from the US Treasury and IMF, the world would foreclose on Russia.” The recipients of this US support, apart from helping to finance Russia’s war, constitute “the crooks and robber barons currently running Russia that the White House has to keep supporting… lest the current regime collapse.” The collapse of the current regime is not in US/Western interests for the very reason that it has become integrated into the global capitalist economic system, as well as the fact that it “would expose the Democrats to a tirade of Republican accusations in an election year, and spark Congressional investigations of financial chicanery between Washington and Moscow”. Additionally, US/Western funding of Russia’s war has been accompanied by American military support: “Clinton ordered the Pentagon to rush Moscow state of the art night-vision and communications equipment for Russian helicopters being used against insurgents in the Caucasus.” The justification for this aid to Russia’s genocidal war? In the words of the Whitehouse, “to combat terrorism”.
Accordingly, other Western secret services including the US and German, “provided Moscow with intelligence on Chechen rebels whom Russia blames for last year’s bombing campaign on it’s population.” German government sources revealed that “German and Russian agents swapped low-grade intelligence”on Chechen rebels, while “The Americans, the British and the French gave much more data”, reported one unnamed German agent. According to the German government’s secret service coordinator Ernst Uhrlau, “Moscow asked Western governments for help last year after [the] bombing campaign [that] killed over 300 people” and which had in fact been organised by Russian secret services in the first place. Notably: “He did not say whether or how the request has been met.” In light of the fact that the ‘Chechen terrorism’ that was cited as justification for Russia’s invasion of Chechnya had actually been covertly organised and perpetrated by Russian secret agencies, it is clear that the West’s provision of intelligence aid to Russia in regard to the Chechen “rebels” fighting for the right of Chechen self-determination and self-defence against Russian invasion, constitutes nothing other than covert support for Russia’s war.
While following through with this shameless support of Russia’s terrorist war on Chechnya, a much publicised OSCE summit in Istanbul between Russia and the West to review the European security charter was staged. Notably, Western leaders did not direct any substantial criticism of the war towards Russia – although European leaders, such as the French and German, publicly appeared to be a little more against the war than Britain and the United States. Rather, Yeltsin challenged them, insisting that the war was against “terrorism”, and that it would continue until “terrorism” was eliminated. The absence of forceful and uncompromising criticism from the West on Chechnya’s humanitarian catastrophe was replaced with the meagre voicing of the West’s alleged humanitarian concerns, which were extensively reported by the media, unlike the covert policies supporting Russia’s war that expose these concerns as mere public rhetoric. Hence, “prospects for a peaceful end to the seven-week offensive against the breakaway Caucasian republic remained uncertain”, while Yeltsin “gave the west just enough to claim progress on the Chechen crisis” to its public. Meanwhile, the media eagerly swallowed the West’s rhetorical concerns, largely failing to notice the sheer inconsistency between the public speeches and the covert policies.
However, the rhetorical nature of these concerns is clear from the frequent affirmations of agreement with Russia’s false pretext for the war (the fight against terrorism) – particularly from the American representative at the summit, Clinton. US President Clinton noted that “I think I speak for everyone here when we say we want Russia to overcome the scourge of terrorism and lawlessness”, i.e. Chechens fighting for self-determination. “We believe Russia has not only the right, but the obligation, to defend its territorial integrity”, and put down this movement for freedom in the Caucasus. Pandering to the Russian propaganda which was fabricated by the FSB and GRU to justify the invasion, destruction and occuption of Chechnya, Clinton added: “Russia has faced rebellion within, and related violence beyond, the borders of Chechnya” – none of which can be accurately labelled Chechen terrorism, however. Russia “has responded with a military strategy designed to break the resistance and end the terror”, by in fact escalating “terror” in Chechnya. “The strategy has led to substantial civilian casualties and very large flows of refugees”, Clinton also acknowledged, though that evidently does not stop him from funding the war. He additionally pointed out “that most of the critics of Russian policies [presumably including the other Western powers at the OSCE summit] deplore Chechen violence and terrorism and extremism, and support the objectives of Russia – to preserve its territorial integrity, and to put down the violence and the terrorism.” The ultimate import of these statements is that the US, and the Western powers which it leads, are indeed pandering to Russian propaganda and supporting its violent efforts to “preserve its territorial integrity” by subjugating and slaughtering thousands of Chechen soldiers and civilians who only wish to live out their right to self-determination, all of which can be neatly construed for the public as “putting down the violence and the terrorism”. In this light, the call for Russia to look for a political solution rather than a violent solution, though appropriately glossed with a few essential humanitarian anecdotes, appears to have been made in light of the cold strategic fact that violence is unlikely to allow Russia to strengthen its hegemony over Chechnya, because it may elicit a more intense defencive response from Chechen fighters. As Clinton stated: “What [critics] fear is that the means Russia has chosen will undermine its end” – the end being the enforcement of Russian hegemony over Chechnya in accordance with the political objective of raising Putin’s domestic popularity, and the economic objectives of capturing Chechen oil and establishing a route to Caspian oil. Thus, “if attacks on civilians continue, the extremism Russia is trying to combat will only intensify” – the “extremism” in reality referring to Chechnya’s popular drive for independence and self-determination, which severely jeoparises prospects for Russian hegemony and its corresponding strategic and economic interests. The policy may not work, Clinton argued, because “the sovereignty Russia rightly is defending will be more and more rejected by ordinary Chechens… The strength Russia is rightly striving to build” by bombarding Chechnya, “therefore, could be eroded by an endless cycle of violence. The global integration Russia has rightly sought to advance, with our strong support, will be hindered.”
Thus, Clinton seems to argue, the reason Russia should seek a “political solution” to the war which it had manufactured, while aiding Chechen refugees and protecting civilians (if we even take these endorsements seriously, which is hard to do considering that US dollars are funding Russia’s bombardment of Chechen civilian targets in the first place), is merely pragmatic – Russia’s attempt to seal its hegemony over Chechnya for its own geopolitical interests is apparently justified and worthy of Western support, except that it may not work as a matter of practicality. If Russia’s war continues in the way it does, Chechens may continue to fight for independence at even more intense levels, thereby being relegated to the status of “terrorists” in the diction of the ‘international community’, and this “will undermine [Russia’s] end” – domestic political triumph combined with establishment of its regional economic imperatives – by “an endless cycle of violence”. It seems that the killing, torture and ethnic cleansing of Chechens is only undesirable in so far as it stands in the way of Russian interests, “strongly supported” by the US.
The Anglo-American stance established a precedent for Europe to follow as appropriate. Despite the “furious denunciations” of Russia’s brutality in its war on Chechnya by the Council of Europe (6 April 2000) [the parliamentary assembly of Europe’s top human rights body, which is separate from the EU] in which was demanded an inquiry, a ceasefire and peace talks, according to the Guardian the “suspension” of Russia from the Council “has to be approved by member governments, which have so far proved conspicuously reluctant to match verbal condemnation of Russia with practical measures.” Though “mild sanctions” on Russia imposed by the EU have been deliberately “limited”, to ensure that Europe’s “relations” with Russia stay “on track”, the European reluctance was in practice very much akin to “the role of the British government in seeking to moderate criticism of Russia”. The problem has been accentuated by the fact that there exists no mechanism “for a thorough international probe of the Chechnya bloodbath without Russia’s agreement.” The only mechanism capable of performing such a probe is the planned UN international criminal court launched in Rome, 1998 – however, “the treaty setting up the court is opposed by a handful of countries. The US is one of them; and, yes, Russia is another.”
The reasons for this ongoing alliance between Russia and the West may not necessarily be immediately obvious, but a reasonable attempt to understand arrives at some fairly obvious conclusions. The International Worker’s Party (Russia) observed: “This war is related, above all, to the oil interests in the Caspian basin and is aimed at preserving the power of one of the capitalist clans and the bureaucracy with the support of the arms dealers, the bureaucrats of the industrial-military complex and the generals who are seeking to justify the growing power of the military caste.” As for the interests of the West, “This war serves the interests of the oil capitalists of Turkey” – a key strategic Western ally – “and the US, who are demonstrating in this way the greater security of the Baku-Zheyjan pipeline, and also the interests of the oil oligarchs” of the West and including some Russians “who are interested in raising the price of oil in the world market.” The Party notes “the complicity of the USA and the other G7 powers in the aggression being carried out by the Russian government. Despite the hypocritical declarations on their ‘concern for humanitarian issues’, it is evident that what is taking place is the partition of the Caucasus on the basis of imperialist interests: that Russia will ‘re-establish constitutional order’ in Chechnya and NATO will take the rest under its control, starting with Georgia and Azerbaijan. If the power of Russia is unable to do the job, then NATO will send its ‘peace-keeping troops’ to Chechnya, too.” The acceleration of the political-military plans was evident when “NATO presented Georgia with a dozen Apache helicopters, sent instructors and are including Georgia in joint military exercises.” The actual intervention of NATO in Chechnya is a much more debatable issue, but the analysis seems otherwise largely correct. There nevertheless remains a genuine tension between Russian and US/Western interests in the Caspian region. Recent policies in the Caucasus of both Russia and the West suggest that the two blocks are attempting to resolve this tension. The West anyhow is faced with two issues: maintaining friendly relations with Russia for the sake of one set of economic interests in the country; ensuring an access to Caspian oil that bypasses Russia.
In October 1997, the French journal Le Monde diplomatique estimated the potential for friction between the US and Russia: “American oil companies were interested in the Caspian long before the State Department came up with a coherent policy for the area… The negotiation of oil contracts enabled Washington to show a direct interest in the region. The US government sees it as an extra source of energy, should Persian Gulf oil be threatened. It also wants to detach the former Soviet republics from Russia both economically and politically, so as to make the formation of a Moscow-led union impossible. In an article published in the spring, former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger wrote that if Moscow succeeded in dominating the Caspian, it would achieve a greater victory than the expansion of NATO would be for the West… The Caucasus is an amazing mosaic of alliances, with each [republic] seeking the patronage of one or more foreign powers. As the new arrival, the United States is trying to secure for itself a major role, with a commensurate reduction in the Russian presence and Iranian ambitions. Jealous of these developments in what has only recently become foreign territory, Russia is still reeling from its  defeat in Chechnya. In short, the next stage in Caucasian history will be played out between the ascendancy of American power and the resistance of Russia.”
In fact, the US/Western pipeline route bypasses Chechnya to avoid Russian interference. Three US multinational corporations – Exxon, Pennzoil and Unocal – are involved in an oil consortium of Azerbaijan and 11 Western companies, led by the British-US corporation BP Amoco: the Azerbaijan International Oil Consortium (AIOC). Under US insistence, the pipeline will run from Chechnya’s neighbour Azerbaijan to Turkey, also passing through another republic nearby Chechnya, Georgia. Accordingly, as the US has extended its hegemony to ‘befriend’ these former Soviet Republics in order to secure its interests in the Caspian, Russia has no doubt felt the need to both establish its own claim to Caspian oil, as well as to illustrate its own power to the West in the face of US expansionism right up to Russian borders. The subjugation of Chechnya serves this purpose well. Russian air force chief Anatoly Kornukov had warned in mid-November 1999 while his planes blasted Chechnya’s civilian infrastructure into rubble: “We are restoring order in our own country and no one has the right, or will stop us, from doing so.” “Russia is not Iraq, it is not Yugoslavia,” he added, apparently directly alluding to recent US-led Western interventions, “and any attempt at interference will be resolutely blocked.” Another relevant fact is that on 29 November 1998, Russia announced its plans for a pipeline route bypassing Chechnya to carry Caspian oil to the Russian Black Sea Port of Novorossiyisk. The pipeline was advanced as an alternative to the US-led route, securing a contract to pump 5 million metric tonnes Azeri oil annually until 2003, when the US-led AIOC becomes operational. Russia’s hefty economic interests in enforcing its imperialist hegemony over Chechnya are therefore motivated by the desire to secure the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline for the oil wealth of the Caspian sea basin. This pipeline route passes through the territory of Dagestan, located between Chechnya and the Caspian sea. “For Russia, Dagestan retains an important strategic value. Dagestan commands 70 per cent of Russia’s shoreline to the oil-producing Caspian Sea and its all-weather Caspian port at Makhachkala. It provides the crucial pipeline links from Azerbaijan, where Russia maintains important oil interests”. Thus, as former consultant for the US Agency for International Development Enver Masud observes, “Chechnya just happens to be a gateway” for Russia “to the Caspian Sea oil worth between $2 trillion and $4 trillion at 1997 market prices.”
Taking all this into account, we may note the observations of the London-based Georgian political analyst Leonard Amani, who points out that if “the leitmotif of [Putin’s] foreign policy is the rebirth of Russia’s global preeminence and the establishment of her influence on neighbouring regions,” which certainly seems to be the case, “these former Soviet republics will become a crucial political arena.” The new president “will also be eager to crush anti-Russian sentiments across the Caucasus and reassert influence in a region which has historically been part of the Russian empire.” However, “the task of reasserting Russian influence in the South Caucasus is further complicated by the growing appetites of Western oil companies in Azerbaijan and NATO’s military-political interests in the area.” NATO’s military aid to Georgia may be tied to its desire to seal its military-political hegemony over the republic, like the other regional former Soviet Republics infiltrated by NATO to secure a stake in Caspian reserves. It seems clear, however, that the US still desires a reasonably strong Russia – integrated into the US dominated global economy and an ally of the US – to act as a counterweight to China. The combination of US and Russian interests seem to have led them to attempt to resolve their conflicting interests in the region under a sinister alliance. Hence, the “Russian president may agree with the West to divide up spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and Asia.” “The spectre of upheaval will probably serve to persuade the West to agree to a division of spheres of influence”, because “the West doesn’t want to find itself, sooner or later, in conflict with Russia in the region.” We may therefore recall in this regard the observation of the International Workers’ Party: “Despite the hypocritical declarations on their ‘concern for humanitarian issues’ [by the Western powers], it is evident that what is taking place is the partition of the Caucasus on the basis of imperialist interests: that Russia will ‘re-establish constitutional order’ in Chechnya and NATO will take the rest under its control, starting with Georgia and Azerbaijan.”
Thus, Russia’s subjugation of Chechnya does no particular damage to Western strategic and economic interests in the region. Moreover, the West’s ties with Russia, although they have involved effectively supporting its massive terrorist war, are certainly in Western economic interests. The West’s position was summed up well by British correspondent Ian Traynor reporting from St. Petersburg: “[British Foreign Secretary] Mr Cook [has] made it plain that Chechnya would not be allowed to impair the chances of striking a new and better relationship between Britain and Russia, while the [British] government takes the view that Mr Putin is a convinced ‘westerniser’, bent on making Russia more attractive to western – and British – investment.” This echoes Albright’s public confession in November 1999 as the war on Chechen civilians was escalating: “We believe it is very important for there to be economic stability in Russia”, a “stability” which is evidently synonymous with Russia being “attractive to western – and British [and US] – investment”. “That is in our national interest”, she added, ommitting to mention that this phrase itself is merely a political euphemism for ‘corporate interests’, and ommitting to mention that Russia’s present “economic stability” imposed under IMF and World Bank tutelage, has plunged the majority of its population into severe deprivation. Within this scheme, it seems that as far as the West is concerned, Chechnya is a mere ‘speed bump’ on the road to Russia. Thus, it is Putin’s policy of “making Russia more attractive to western – and British – investment” that endears him so much to the West. In comparison, so-called ‘concern’ for the Chechen people being slaughtered en masse, tortured, raped, looted, vacuum-bombed, and rounded into concentration camps, pale to insignificance. This humanitarian catastrophe whose scale has now far surpassed the ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ that occurred in Kosovo to the publicised outrage of Western politicians, is perfectly palatable in the face of the prospect of “making Russia” fit for “western investment”, and hence ready for the “economic stability” of being integrated into the US-dominated global economy – an objective whose importance apparently totally outweighs the West’s self-professed benevolence.
Accordingly, while Chechen blood was being gleefully spilled in the Caucasus by Russian soldiers, representatives of “Russia’s best known politicians and new business elite” were to meet “top Western players in the Russian market” on 19-20 April in London at “a high profile international conference, entitled Russia 2000: A New Reality” (at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre), so reported the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce. The conference was to be “the first major international business-to-business forum to be held in the West after the [March presidential] elections” in Russia, the aim being “to explore the economic challenges facing Russia on the dawn of the new Presidency”, in connection with “a broad range of issues of vital interest to Western companies.” Hence attendees consisted of “over 600 delegates, including senior executives from Western multi-nationals, banks, trading companies and professional service providers, as well as a strong representation of Russia’s new business elite.”
International Solidarity with Workers in Russia (ISWoR) noted that the conference would only herald further Western imposed disaster for Russian society: “A decade of free-market privatisation, imposed by the west, has devastated the Russian economy, closing down nearly half of all industry, leaving millions unemployed and millions more owed enormous wage arrears, with many unpaid for over a year. The education, social welfare and health systems are collapsing; diseases like TB have become epidemic. Many tens of thousands have had to evacuate northern areas where they had lived for decades due to lack of heating fuel, while oil and gas are exported at immense profit to the west. Out of this game, western and ‘new Russian’ businessmen have become fantastically rich; meanwhile hunger is widespread and many people are eating potato peels to survive… Concurrent with the poverty has been a rise in ultra-nationalist and racist ideologies, which provide a smoke-screen for the rich and turn justified anger onto innocent scapegoats – the Jews, the Chechens, all dark-skinned or Muslim peoples etc.” ISWoR also noted that even such domestic Russian facism was being appeased under the objective of fulfilling the “vital interests” of Western corporations: “The presence at Russia-2000 of the fascist leader Zhirinovsky, the extreme antisemite Zyuganov (head of the red-brown Communist Party of the Russian Federation), and reps of the FAR coalition whose leader organised the expulsion of thousands of people from Moscow for no other reason than for having a dark skin, is yet another victory for hate.” As for Russia’s facist-like wholesale bombardment of Chechnya, “The cruel war against the Chechens (supported by nearly every political party represented at this event) was another expression of this appeal to nationalism. It saved the Kremlin from election defeat and a potential mass worker’s revolt.” Moreover, the Western powers’ customary “vital interests” in Russia have naturally annulled all humanitarian concerns for Russian terrorism that may jeopardise the blooming Russia-West economic relationship. “Thousands of civilians [have] died as a result, huge numbers of Chechens [have been] made homeless, and young soldiers lives thrown away,” reports ISWoR on the effects of Russia’s war. “Meanwhile western oil companies profited massively from the situation as multibillion contracts for a pipeline bypassing Russia were hastily tied up.”
There is another reason for America’s support of Russia’s war, and that is linked to Russia’s prominence in the UN Security Council. The informal agreement between the US and Russia in this regard was formalised in a letter handed to Madeleine Albright from the Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov during their meeting in Turkey on 18 November 1999. The New York Times reports that the letter included the proposal of a “deal” in which the US would overlook Russia’s war on Chechnya. The price Russia would pay for this was articulated as follows: “we are ready to issue instructions to the Russian delegate in the Security Council so that he will be flexible regarding the issue of Iraq.” The “deal” was further explained by Director of the Peace Institute in Moscow, Alexander Kisilov: “This mutual understanding means a relative backing down of Kremlin’s hard stance towards the issue of Iraq and Yugoslavia in return for stopping the American administration from applying any strong pressure on Russia for the issue of Chechnya, scandalous smuggling and cleaning out of funds.” The American stance was further confirmed by Rachel Bronson on 18 November, a specialist on security matters in the Caucasus. She commended the US policy of not allowing the issue of Chechnya to become an obstacle to cooperation with Russia on “more important” matters, such as nuclear disarmament, Iraq, and of course, ‘reform’ and ‘stability’ in Russia under Western economic tutelage.
The importance of this “deal” to the West can be gleaned from the obviously uncomfortable parallel between Russia’s smashing of Chechnya, and the West’s recent forays in Iraq and Kosovo. Any self-righteous Western criticism of Russia’s war would immediately provoke Russia’s exposure of the fact that its massive onslaught against Chechen civilians parallels the presently unpublicised Western onslaughts against Iraqi and Yugoslavian civilians. This would of course dramatically reveal the West’s hypocrisy to its public, and potentially induce much scepticism – and hence lack of domestic support – for current and future Western military operations. Apart from this, a more crucial result is that Russia’s “flexibility” in the Security Council on these issues undoubtedly adds slightly more international legitimacy via the UN to US/Western global operations, leaving only one possible dissenting voice in the Council, China.
As for supporting the rise to power of Vladimir Putin himself in the name of ‘democracy’, an inspection of Putin’s ‘democratic’ credentials reveals the vacuity of the Western claims that they desire democracy in Russia. Based on statements by Vladimir Mau, a leading economist and a Putin associate working on a 10-year ‘development’ plan for Russia, the Guardian reported that “President Putin will focus on consolidating his power by strengthening government and police structures… Mr. Putin looks likely to try to increase the huge powers enjoyed by Russian presidents. He has floated the suggestion that the presidential term should be extended from four to seven years and that the powerful governors of Russia’s regions should be presidential appointments rather than being elected by the people. The new president, a former KGB officer, says he will draw on his secret police friends to combat all-pervasive corruption and will upgrade police powers.” The meaning of this can be easily comprehended when we recall that “Mr. Putin owes his rise through the ranks to” the corrupt “oligarchs”, “the tycoons who have made fortunes through asset stripping.” The Times similarly notes that Putin’s “debts to the oligarchs are considerable. Mr Berezovsky [“the oil and media mogul linked to a é400 million Aerofloat embezzlement scandal”] controls the national ORT television channel that has slavishly followed Mr Putin’s rise to power, while Anatoli Chubas, head of the giant Gazprom energy combine, helped him at critical points in his career and has loudly backed his run for President.” Some of Putin’s ideas were “disconcertingly authoritarian and reminscent of his past as a KGB operative in a Soviet state with little respect for human rights or press freedoms.” As Francis Wheen elaborates, “Russian reporters incurring his displeasure have been sent to psychiatric hospitals or beaten up in ‘torture camps’.”
Putin’s promises to fight corruption and to ensure that the corrupt oligarchs “cease to exist as a class” are therefore scarcely believable in light of the record of his own strong links with the same corrupt oligarchs who propelled him to power. The whole notion of Putin’s alleged anti-oligarchical stand further collapes when we recall that he was brought to power deliberately by the dirty hands of Kremlin insiders, who manufactured pretexts for the war on Chechnya to ensure the presidency would be held by someone (Putin) not hostile to Russian elite “freedom and fortunes”. According to the Guardian, it was “Yeltsin’s close family” – members of the corrupt oligarchical elite like Yeltsin himself – “who drew attention to the existence of the quietly efficient ex-KGB man from St. Petersburg.” Thanks to his valiant role in the invasion that had been planned six months prior to the propaganda bombings, Putin’s popularity rose from 2 per cent to 53 per cent. No surprise then to learn that his economic programme was to remain studiously unpublicised until May, two months after being elected – no doubt due to its being “attractive to western investment”, rather than the domestic population, as is usual with those loved by the West.
Janine Wedel, then associate Professor at the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh commented on America’s pro-Putin stance: “One of the very first things that the new Russian president Vladimir Putin did was to pardon Yeltsin, who is named in several investigations. The Clinton administration tends to see Putin as one of the ‘reformers’, but these so-called reformers have been more about wealth confiscation than wealth creation. Their leader, Anatoly Chubais, is also under investigation and the so-called Chubias Clan has benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in US economic aid and loans from the international financial institutions.” Unsurprisingly therefore, in early April, Putin “performed a volte-face which showed he was unwilling or unable to break the stranglehold of Russia’s oligarchs”, reported the Independent. Having originally backed – at least apparently – the anti-oligarch federal social affairs minister Valentina Matviyenko, “who planned to challenge incumbent governor Vladimir Yakovlev in city elections, Mr Putin switched his support to Mr Yakovlev, under whom St Petersburg has become known as ‘the crime capital of Russia’.”
In this light, the blooming Anglo-American friendship with the new authoritarian president of Russia reveals the extent of Anglo-American concerns for Russian ‘democracy’, which it seems is going to be gradually relegated to the sidelines by the West’s new friend. In place of ‘democracy’, Russia shall continue to be subject to the dictates of the “free market” – what Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky has called “Thirdworldisation under IMF-rule”. John Feffer accurately elaborates on what this has entailed for Russia so far: “In 1992, after introducing market reforms virtually overnight, Boris Yeltsin predicted results in less than a year. The US government joined in the chorus of support. Despite rosy predictions, the Russian economy has only gone downhill since. Industrial production has plummeted as has the standard of living for most Russians. A sharp divide between rich and poor has opened up, with 70-80% of Russians at or below subsistence level. Homelessness, particularly of children, is widespread in the large cities, and pensioners have grave problems making ends meet. And if it’s bad in the big cities, it’s even worse in most regions where public services have fallen apart and conditions have reverted to the 19th century.”
Mariano Aguirre, a fellow at the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam, points out that “For almost ten years the US and Europe have supported and invested in the rapid reforms backed first by Boris Yeltsin, and now by acting president Vladimir Putin, designed to avoid a take-over by the armed forces, anti-Western extremists, or neo-communists.” It seems that Putin’s policies will hardly be very different from those that have already been consistently actualised under US/Western tutelage. The Times reports that Putin “has won cautious approval from economic liberals favoured by Western politicians”. “Mr. Putin might have little time for Western-style democracy”, though the lack of “democracy” in this case is no problem because “he does want Russia to modernise”. The Times willingly translates: “he is thus likely to keep workmanlike ties to the West” due to his “willingness to co-operate with foreign governments and Nato”. The remarks of Guardian commentator David Hearst on the West’s ‘humanitarian’ record in Russia so far throw further significant light on what the future is most likely to hold in this context: “Ikea has arrive in Moscow. So has a tight-lipped 47-year old KGB staffer, with clear blue eyes and authoritarian tendencies strong enough to bomb one of Russia’s republics into the middle ages.
“The juxtaposition is not frivolous. For the past eight years, the great and the good arriving by the planeload from the IMF, World Bank, LSE, and Harvard, spent more time counting the bottles of cabernet sauvignon on the shelves of Moscow’s shops as an indicator of progress, than they did thinking about what life was actually like” in Russia for the majority of the population – an issue which is simply irrelevant in the eyes of “the great and the good” Wise Men Of The West. “In the pursuit of the theology of market reform, the realities of Russian life – the halving of the GNP, the destruction of its industrial base, the loss of ordinary people’s savings, the mass grab of property stolen under the name of privatisation, the demonetarisation of the economy – were all wished away”, or rather entirely ignored while “hordes of US consultants” were “dancing in the streets – though not the streets of Russia”, thanks to a “windfall” “for US consultants” – the “chief celebrants” of Russia’s entry in the free market and the consequent harsh realities of Russian life according to the Wall Street Journal. As for the subsequently suffering indigenous population, “First it was the ‘trickle-down’ theory”, observes Hearst. “After that came the ‘good news just round the corner’ theory. And then came the crash.” Claims in the West that the desired free market reforms just had not been implemented properly in Russia during the Yeltsin era are misleading. “When Yeltsin was first elected president of Russia, and then when the Soviet Union imploded, the streets of Moscow were filled with pro-western euphoria. Russia threw open not just its front windows, but its doors, backyard and granary to the west. Today the west is seen, even by intellectuals, as venal, self-serving and hypocritical.” Thus, with Putin displaying an eagerness to pander to Western interests, as well as plans to minimise the political participation of the Russian people, “The west in general and the champions of human rights in particular have little cause to complain about the crackdown Putin is planning.” Meanwhile, Chechens are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, and rounded into concentration camps.
VI. ‘Muslim’ Values in the New Millenium
The West is not alone in its unconscionable indifference to the plight of Chechnya. “If the west’s response to Russia’s Mongol-like behavior in Chechnya has been shameful and hypocritical, the Islamic world’s reaction is yet more disgraceful. Important Muslim nations, like Egypt, Malaysia, and Iran, are negotiating arms and aircraft deals with Russia. No Muslim state has dared challenge Russian brutality or anti-Muslim racism. The only nations to recognize Chechnya’s declaration of independence from Russia are brave little Estonia, and Afghanistan, both of whom know full well the terror of Russian occupation. China, which oppresses its own Muslim peoples and Tibetans, loudly applauded Russia’s final solution in the Caucasus.”
It is, however, important to note that the majority of states in the Muslim world are corrupt Western clients, established by the West at the inception of the 20th Century. The West has successfully divided the Muslim world into about 55 generally subservient states that do not possess any genuine bonds of solidarity or fraternity among themselves. They remain divided by their imaginary Western-induced nationalities. This reveals that in the contemporary world order, basic ethical principles such as compassion, solidarity and fraternity, are clearly quite irrelevant. What is important for the powerful is the unlimited accumulation of material wealth and prestige at whatever moral or human expense. The import, of course, is that only a radical transformation of existing social structures on the basis of genuine human unity, in which the needs and potentialities of all human beings is a primary issue (rather than an essentially non-existent issue as it is within the present global system), would suffice to really make this world a better place.
What is therefore abundantly obvious from the unfolding crisis in Chechnya is that a system based on the individualistic pursuit of material profit is inherently divisive and unstable, in the real sense of these terms. Greed, and devastating conflict as the result of greed, cannot but result from a system whose only vision consists of the accumulation of wealth, a vision which itself is the inevitable consequence of an ideology in which spiritual values are considered to be irrelevant, subjective, and ultimately unreal – hence non-binding. If genuine lasting changes are to be made; if the lives and rights of billions of innocent men, woman and children are not to be systematically trampled; if the potentialities of all human beings are to be favourably cultivated; if life is to have any genuine meaning at all; then this system and the irrational materialistic ideology that undermines human values and deifies egoism from which the system proceeds must be dismantled. And it must be replaced by, infused with, a genuine consciousness of the unity of humankind, and of the absolute binding reality of ethical values. Unless the ideology underpinning our national and international society undergoes a radical ‘spiritual’ revision, all our actions will remain fixed within the mechanics of the existing structures, whose intrinsic disharmony is blatantly evident for all to see, if only they have the courage. For people who consider themselves ‘humane’, who consider themselves decent and rational, this issue is a moral imperative that we cannot afford to ignore. “Those who observe a monstrous crime and do nothing share guilt for it”, Eric Margolis observes of the ‘international community’ whose members only act for the sake of their own material interests. “We begin the 21st Century watching silently as a brutish Russia, which knows neither shame nor mercy, crushes the life out of a tiny but heroic people who refuse to bend their knees to Russian tyranny.”
 DiPaola, Peter Daniel, A Noble Sacrifice? Jus ad Bellum and the International Community’s Gamble in Chechnya, http://www.law.indian.edu/glsj/vol4/no2/dantest.html
 Margolis, Eric, ‘Following in Stalin’s Footsteps’, Toronto Sun, 31 August 1999
 Margolis, Eric, ‘Forgotten Chechens Face Extermination’, Toronto Sun, 23 January 2000
 Damrel, David, ‘The Religious Roots of Conflict: Russia and Chechnya’, Religious Studies News, Vol. 10, No. 3, September 1995
 ibid. Masud, Enver, ‘America’s Disgraceful Silence Over Chechnya’, The Wisdom Fund, Arlington, 28 September 1999, http://www.twf.org/
 Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999. For a short review of Russia’s war-crimes in the first ’90s war on Chechnya see AI report, Brief summary of concerns about human rights violations in the Chechen Republic, Amnesty International, London, April 1996
 Margolis, Eric, ‘Following in Stalin’s Footsteps’, Toronto Sun, 31 August 1999
 Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999
 Editorial Board, ‘The Political and Historical Issues in Russia’s Assault on Chechnya’, WSWS, 17 January 2000, http://www.wsws.org
 Economist, 8 January 2000
 Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999
 Editorial Board, ‘The Political and Historical Issues in Russia’s Assault on Chechnya’, op. cit.
 International Worker’s Party, ‘Stop The Aggression of Russia In The Caucausus’, Russia, 7 November 1999; web-site of International Solidarity with Workers in Russia (ISWoR), http://members.aol.com/ISWoR/english/discuss/Chechen.htm
 Associated Press (AP), 18 September 1998
 BBC, ‘A Chechen View of Russia’s War’, 26 December 1999
 Womack, Helen, ‘Russian Agents “Blew Up Moscow Flats”‘, Independent, 6 January 2000
 Dispatches, Dying for the President, Channel 4 [British television], 9 March 2000
 Sweeney, John, ‘Take care Tony, that man has blood on his hands’, Observer, 12 March 2000
 Cockburn, Patrick, ‘Russia `planned Chechen war before bombings`’, Independent, 29 January 2000
 Blomgren, Jan, Svenska Dagbladet, 6 June 1999; cited in Independent, 29 January 2000
 Independent, 29 January 2000
 Leaflet, ‘Chechnya: The Victim Of A Deal Between Russian and America’, Hizb ut-Tahrir, http://www.khilafah.com
 All in all, whether Basseyev and Khattab were aware of the Russian plan and took part in it due to dubious political interests, or whether they were in fact unaware of the actual plans and were instead unknowingly manipulated by Russian intelligence is unclear from the evidence presented here.
 Volkov, Vladmir and McLaughlin, Martin, ‘Russian police begin mass roundups in the wake of terror bomb attacks’, World Socialist Web Site, 20 September 1999
 Izvestia, 14 September 1999
 Volkov, Vladimir, ‘Russia Mounts Invasion of Chechnya’, WSWS, 2 October 1999; Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999
 Marsden, Chris, ‘Russia poised for all-out attack on Chechen capital’, WSWS, 23 October 1999
 Hassel, Florian, Frankfurt Rundschau, 2 October 1999; cited in ibid.
 Masud, Enver, ‘US Shares Responsibility For Russia’s Genocidal War On Chechnya’, The Wisdom Fund, Arlington, 14 November 1999; US Committee for Refugees, Russian Onslaught On Chechnya Continues: Civilians Inside, Outside Chechnya Lack Protection, November 1999, http://www.refugees.org/world/articles/russia_rr99_10.htm
 Statement of International Secretariat, LRCI, ‘Halt The Russian War Against Chechnya’, 4 November 1999; web-site of ISWoR
 figure cited in ‘Putin visit provokes Muslim fury’, The Asian, 27 April – 4 May 2000
 Masud, Enver, ‘US Shares Responsibility For Russia’s Genocidal War On Chechnya’, op. cit.
 Russian generals quoted by Margolis, Eric, ‘Forgotten Chechens Face Extermination’, Toronto Sun, 23 January 2000
 Dispatches, Dying for the President, Channel 4 [British television], 9 March 2000; cited from ‘Programme Summary’, http://www.channel4.com/nextstep/dispatches/putin.html#1
 Sweeney, John, ‘Revealed: Russia’s worst war crime in Chechnya’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 5 March 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya . For reports on the Chechen jihad visit http://www.qoqaz.com
 Gentleman, Amelia, ‘Chechens trapped in factory of death’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 12 February 2000; Gentleman, ‘Whitewash fails to hide the horror’, ibid., 1 March 2000; http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya ; Agence France Press (AFP), ‘Russian sadists beat, tortured inmates in Chechen ‘gulag’: reporter’, 29 February 2000; Cockburn, Patrick, ‘Chechens `raped` and `beaten` in detention camps’, Independent, 10 February 2000. For more on the massive atrocities/war crimes committed by Russia in Chechnya see HRW report, Civilian Killings in Staropromyslovski District of Grozny, Human Rights Watch, New York, February 2000, Vol. 12, No. 2
 HRW press release, ‘Rape Allegations Surface in Chechnya’, Human Rights Watch, Nazran, 20 January 2000, http://www.hrw.org/press/2000/01/chech0120.htm . Also see HRW press release, ‘more Evidence of Rape by Russian Forces in Chechnya’, Human Rights Watch, Nazren, 30 March 2000. For further HRW coverage of Chechnya see http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/russia/chechnya .
 AFP, 5 March 2000
 AFP, ‘Russians stole evidence of brutality in Chechnya: Babitsky’, 1 March 2000
 AFP, ‘Russian sadists beat, tortured inmates in Chechen ‘gulag’: reporter’, 29 February 2000
 HRW press release, ‘Hundreds of Chechens Detained in `Filtration Camps`: Detainees Face Torture, Extortion, Rape’, Human Rights Watch, Nazran, 18 February 2000
 See, for example, HRW report, A Day of Slaughter in Novye Aldi, Human Rights Watch, New York, June 2000. For extensive documentation see HRW’s online campaign and news service on Chechnya, at Chechnya: Renewed Catastrophe, 2000, http://www.hrw.org/hrw/campaigns/russia/chechnya
 cited in Masud, Enver, ‘US Shares Responsibility For Russia’s Genocidal War on Chechnya’, op. cit.
 Gentleman, ‘Kremlin wages war at polls’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 19 December 1999; http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya
 Williams, Daniel, ‘Russia Tells Chechens: Leave Grozny or Die’, Washington Post, 7 December 1999
 Whittel, Giles, ‘Corrupt rich pose test for Putin’s resolve’, Times, 27 March 2000
 Voronin, Alexander, ‘A Chilling Flashback to the Soviet Past’, Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Caucasus Reporting Service, London, No. 24, 24 March 2000
 AFP, ‘Kremlin Rejects Maskhadov Appeal for Peace Talks’, 2 March 2000
 Institute for War & Peace Reporting, ‘Chechen End Game’, Caucasus Reporting Service, London, No. 21, 3 March 2000
 Guardian, 27 March 2000; Agence France Press, 27 March 2000
 Traynor, Ian, ‘UN Chief ends futile Chechnya trip’, Guardian, Special Report, 4 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya
 Traynor, Ian, ‘In the dark without a torch’, Guardian, Special Report, 5 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya
 Aguirre, Mariano, ‘Silence Over Chechnya’, Foreign Policy In Focus: The Progressive Response, Vol. 4, No. 9, 7 March 2000
 ‘Western visitors a PR dream for Putin’, Guardian, 26 February 2000
 MacAskill, Ewan, ‘The west does what it can. Not much’, Guardian & Observer, 9 December 1999, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk
 Cockburn, Patrick, ‘Blair visit marks first summit for Putin’, Independent, 11 March 2000
 Hearst, David, ‘How Russia was lost’, Guardian, 27 March 2000
 Wheen, Francis, ‘Blair’s Russian Retreat’, Guardian, 15 March 2000
 Traynor, Ian and White, Michael, ‘Blair courts outrage with Putin visit’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 11 March 2000; http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk
 cited in ibid.
 Cockburn, Patrick, ‘Blair understands Putin over Chechen terrorism’, Independent, 12 March 2000
 Cockburn, Patrick, Independent, 11 March 2000
 Black, Eben, and Franchetti, Mark, ‘British terror experts give help to Russians’, Sunday Times, 12 March 2000. Note that Blair’s attempt to downplay the significance of this British aid to Russia’s war on Chechen independence, by referring to alleged “Muslim terrorism” in the region fuelled by external Muslim countries or alleged terrorist groups, has been refuted already by American journalist Eric Margolis in Canada’s mainstream newspaper, the Toronto Sun (31 August 1999): “The skilful disinformers at KGB’s Moscow Center are again spinning lies. They are planting stories in the western media that the Dagestani and Chechen rebels are ‘Islamic terrorists’, backed by the nefarious Osama Bin Ladeen and other sinister Mideast terror groups. Or ‘Wahabis’, an ultra-conservative Saudi sect. A shadowy ‘Arab fanatic’ named ‘Khattab’ – certain evidence of an Islamic conspiracy – is said to be at Basayev’s side. The anti-Islamic British conservative press has amplified this canard. In a remarkably obtuse and bigoted editorial, a new British-Canadian newspaper actually made the preposterous claim that an independent, Islamic Dagestan (2 million people) would ‘spark unrest’ throughout the Caucasus, somehow including Christian Georgia and Armenia, as well as Turkey, other Russian republics, even the entire Middle East. It concluded: ‘Moscow has good reason to act preventively in Dagestan.’ In fact, the so-called ‘shadowy Arab fanatic’, Khattab, is actually a descendant of Dagestanis who fled to Jordan to escape Russian genocide. The Chechen and Dagestanis are [largely] not Saudi ‘Wahabis’, but traditional Caucasian Sufi Muslims… No outside powers are helping the Caucasian mujahidin in their valiant, David v. Goliath struggle to throw off 300 years of savage Russian colonial rule.” Margolis rather overstates his case, for though the majority of Chechens are Sufi and Sunni Muslims, a tiny minority are Wahabis, and they too are involved in the resistance. “How ironic”, continues Margolis, “that the same western media that ardently campaigned for the liberation of another captive Russian people and their return to their historic homeland – the Jews – now calls on Russia ‘to act preventively’ to crush the Muslims of the Caucasus.” That the linkage between so called ‘Islamic terrorism’ and the war in Chechnya is simply a Russia fabrication that has been eagerly swallowed by Russia’s Western allies happy to find any pretext to denigrate Islam, is clear from Goble, Paul, ‘Chechnya: Analysis From Washington – Misrepresenting Islam’, Radio Free Europe/Liberty, 15 March 2000, http://www.rferl.org
 BBC2, Newsnight, 17 April 2000
 cited in ‘Western visitors a PR dream for Putin’, Guardian, 26 February 2000. Also see Hopkins, Nick, ‘Blair defends `reformer` Putin’s visit to No. 10’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 17 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/russia . We may note the statement of the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Alistair Campbell: “What we won’t do is allow the entirety of our relations with Russia and a new Russian president to be defined by only one issue”, i.e. the “extermination” of Chechen families, the utter flattening of virtually the entire city of Grozny, the rounding of Chechen civilians into concentration camps, etc. In other words, we will not allow “the entirety of our relations with Russia” to be governed by the demands of international law and human rights; rather “the entirety of our relations with Russia” are governed by the fact that Putin “talks our language of [economic] reform”, as Blair aptly put it. That ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide are being committed is hardly relevant to the much more interesting possibility of “improvements in our bilateral relationship”, as Putin explained, while urging greater Western investment in Russia at an address to business leaders at a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) seminar in Whitehall (ibid.).
 cited in Masud, Enver, ‘Chechens Pay for Putin’s Rise’, The Wisdom Fund, Arlington, 8 January 2000
 BBC News, 5 November 1999
 Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999
 Masud, Enver, ‘US Shares Responsibility For Russia’s Genocidal War on Chechnya’, op. cit.
 HRW press release, ‘World Bank Criticized on Funds for Chechnya’, Human Rights Watch, Washington DC, 24 March 2000
 BBC, 5 November 1999. Note that Russia’s reception of billions, means that the reduction of a single IMF loan out of an ongoing stream by only a few hundred million dollars would hardly amount to a substantial economic sanction. This was, in fact, brought up momentarily as a possible mode of action for the US to take, but naturally the idea – insignificant as it would be anyway due to the measliness of the reduction – was swifly dispensed with.
 Margolis, Eric, ‘US Aids Russia’s Crimes in the Caucasus’, Toronto Sun, 12 October 1999
 cited in Margolis, Eric, ‘Forgotten Chechens Face Extermination’, Toronto Sun, 23 January 2000
 Reuters, ‘Western Agents Aided Moscow on Chechnya – Reports’, 8 April 2000
 Black, Ian, ‘Russia and west agree on new security charter’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 20 November 1999; http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk
 OSCE Istanbul Summit 1999, ‘Remarks By President Clinton At Opening Of OSCE Summit’, http://osce.istanbul-summit.org/UnitedStates/index.htm
 Black, Ian, ‘Anti-Russia vote put’s Europe’s tough talk to the test’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 7 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya
 ‘Vote for suspension: The west has been lax over Chechnya’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 6 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/chechnya
 International Worker’s Party, ‘Stop The Aggression of Russia In The Caucausus’, op. cit.
 Marsden, Chris, ‘Background to the Russian assault on Chechnya: a power struggle over Caspian oil’, World Socialist Web Site, 18 November 1999
 Gall, Carlotta, ‘Dagestan Skirmish is a Big Russian Risk’, New York Times, 13 August 1999
 Masud, Enver, ‘America’s Disgraceful Silence Over Chechnya’, op. cit.
 Amani, Leonard, ‘Putin’s Caucasus Ambitions’, Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Caucasus Reporting Service, London, No. 24, 24 March 2000
 Traynor, Ian and White, Michael, ‘Blair courts outrage with Putin visit’, op. cit.
 BBC, 5 November 1999
 See for example Chossudovsky, Michel, ‘The `Thirdworldisation` of Russia under IMF rule’, Third World Quarterly, 16-30 June 1993. University of Ottawa economist Professor Michel Chossudovsky encapsulates the reality of the situation well when he states that “The IMF-Yeltsin reforms constitute an instrument of `Thirdworldisation`” – “a careful blend of Stalinism and the `free market`”. They are “a carbon copy of the structural adjustment programme imposed on debtor countries” throughout the Third World. Yet, “adopted in the name of democracy”, they in fact constitute “a coherent programme of impoverishment of large sectors of the population.” Within Russia, the “collapse in the standard of living and the destruction of civil society engineered through a set of macroeconomic policy propositions is without precedent in Russian history”. According to Israeli journalist Amnon Kapeliouk, 87 per cent of the population is now below the poverty line, a figure that far surpasses conditions in Russia prior to its entry into the global capitalist economy (Le Monde diplomatique, September 1993).
 Press Release, ‘Chernomyrdin, Chubais, Aven, Khordorkovsky To Speak In London In April’, Russo-British Chamber of Commerce, London, 29 February 2000, http://rbcc.co.uk/russia2000
 International Solidarity with Workers in Russia (ISWoR), ‘Stop Russia-Expo’, London, 5 March 2000
 New York Times, 19 November 1999. Also see Leaflet, ‘Chechnya: The Victim Of A Deal Between Russian and America’, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, http://www.khilafah.com
 Traynor, Ian, Guardian, 27 March 2000
 Whittel, Giles, Times, 27 March 2000
 ‘Putin’s Presidency’, Times, 28 March 2000
 Wheen, Francis, ‘Villian of the peace’, Guardian, 29 March 2000
 Putin cited in ibid.
 Cockburn, Patrick, Independent, 29 January 2000. Also see ‘The means to an end’, Guardian & Observer, Special Report, 17 April 2000, http://www.guardianunlimited.co.uk/russia
 Hearst, David, Guardian, 27 March 2000
 Cockburn, Patrick, Independent, 29 January 2000; AFP, ‘Putin says he will pursue Chechen campaign until the end’, 27 March 2000
 cited in News Release, ‘Foreign Policy Issues’, Institute for Public Accuracy, Washington DC, 3 January 2000, http://www.accuracy.org
 Womack, Helen, ‘Putin dismays reformers by backing tainted St Petersberg boss’, Independent, 9 April 2000
 Chossudovsky, Michel, ‘The `Thirdworldisation` of Russia under IMF rule’, Third World Quarterly, 16-30 June 1993
 Feffer, John, Special Report, ‘Containment Lite: US Policy Towards Russia and its Neighbours’, Foreign Policy In Focus, 26 October 1999, http://www.igc.org/infocus/papers/russia/index.html
 Aguirre, Mariano, ‘Silence Over Chechnya’, Foreign Policy In Focus: The Progressive Response, Vol. 4, No. 9, 7 March 2000
 ‘Putin’s Presidency’, Times, 28 March 2000
 Hearst, David, Guardian, 27 March 2000
 Fialka, John, ‘Helping Ourselves: US Aid to Russia is Quite a Windfall – For US Consultants’, Wall Street Journal, 24 February 1994
 Guardian, 27 March 2000
 Margolis, Eric, ‘Forgotten Chechens Face Extermination’, Toronto Sun, 23 January 2000. Iran, for example, has taken the stand that the war on Chechnya is “an internal problem” of Russia, according to London’s Al-Hayyat newspaper. It is hard to see how this can mean anything except that Russia has the right to terrorise Chechnya because it is an “internal” affair. The statement precludes the whole possibility of aid to Chechnya, and asserts Russia’s right to crush the Chechens since it is an “internal” problem.
 Aburish, Said K., A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, Indigo, London, 1998
 Margolis, Eric, ‘Forgotten Chechens Face Extermination’, Toronto Sun, 23 January 2000
Mr. Nafeez Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist based in London. He is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and a Researcher at the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Above article was first published by the author as Ahmed, Nafeez, The Smashing of Chechnya: An International Irrelevance, Islamic Human Rights Commission, London, Summer 2000.