V. Western Humanism in the Caucasus
What has been the response of the international communityђ to Russias terrorism? A brief review is revealing. Mariano Aguirre, Director of the Spain-based Centro de Investigaciҳn 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 cynicalӅ 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, ԓhas 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 Vөdrine 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 Russias new democratic leader, even though he has never contested a democratic vote in his life.Ҕ According to the Moscow-based newspaper Kommersant, Cook was clearly against putting pressure on Russia because of Chechnya.Ӕ In fact, the newspaper noted that The west has done its bit to ensure PutinӒs 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, ԓMr. Cook and Mr. Putin laughed at one anothers jokes.Ҕ While the British Foreign Secretary claimed that protests about Chechnya have not fallen on deaf earsӔ, 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.Ӕ The extent of the British governments professed ғconcern is clear from the fact that ԓAmid further reports of Russian atrocities against Chechen civilians… Mr. Putin on Wednesday morning referred to the two countries alliance in the second world war.Ҕ 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 partnershipӔ with Russia, a top priority of British foreign policy.Ӕ Cook further justified the Russian attack, with the redundant qualification that he did not agree with its scaleђ: In the case of Russia, there is a case for military action against the terroristsӔ.
Prime Minister Blair mouthed similar sentiments. A Blair spokesman admitted that Russia is too important a country to ignore or isolate over ChechnyaӔ - with its 13 per cent of the worlds oil and 36 per cent of its natural gas reserves. ғWe recognise that the Russians do have a serious problem with terrorism, Blair himself told the BBCԒs Robin Oakley (hence supporting Russias fabricated pretext for its war), ommitting to mention ChechnyaҒs rather more serious (and real) problemӔ 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?Ӕ The Guardian commented on Blairs revealing reply: ғA simple noђ would have sufficed, but Blair couldnt bring himself to say it. Nor did he display any outrage at RussiaҒs atrocities in Chechnya. BlairԒs actual reply was: Well, they have been taking their action for the reasons theyӒve set out because of the terrorism that has happened in Chechnya, a clear attempt to justify RussiaԒs illegal and genocidal war against Chechnyas 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 ғRussian acting President Vladimir Putin, who has led a brutal military onslaught on Chechnya, his broad seal of approval. Furthermore, ԓno concrete concessions concerning RussiaԒs onslaught had emerged from the talksӔ held between Blair and his chum Putin, despite the latters rhetorical assurances. In fact, ғBritish officials appeared to accept much of Putins argumentҔ for the war, reported the British press, with one Downing Street official concurring: There is a terrorist insurrection there on their [Ruter”Ӓs] territory - a view which the press notes ԓwill delight the Russian leadership.
ԓThis is absolutely the wrong signal to be sending, pointed out Malcolm Hawkes of Human Rights Watch in regard to BlairԒs night-outђ 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.Ӕ 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.Ӕ 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 Russias so-called ґanti-terrorist war against Chechen men, women and children. As Menzies Campbell, the Liberal DemocratҒs Foreign Affairs spokesman, observed: ғNo matter what Blair says, a visit like this will be presented by Putin as a significant endorsement of his election campaign, a ԓcampaign that has notably involved nothing much other than the single policy of punishing Chechnya. ԓFor 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 ԓRussia 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 RussiaԒs 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-terroristӔ information with Russia, in connection with Chechnya - the import of which is clear from Blairs own frequent labelling of the Chechen independence movement a result of ғterrorism. ԓThe disclosure came during talks between the prime minister and Vladimir Putin, Russias acting presidentҔ, reported the Sunday Times. Putin had asked Blair to send British anti-terrorist experts to advise troops who are fighting Muslim rebels in Chechnya.Ӕ Of course, the public is not supposed to consider that this may amount to any sort of support for Russias war, despite the obvious fact that it is. The newspaper also reports the ғsurprise of the Muslim Council of Great Britain at BlairԒs cordial visit to Russia to strengthen relations at the height of its genocidal war. Russian conductӔ, said a spokesman, must be recognised for what it is - war crimes.Ӕ 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 BBC2s Newsnight, in a discussion that was preceded by NewsnightҒs ironic commentary on Putins visit to Britain which included ғtea with the Queen. Vaz advocated a ԓpolicy of constructive engagement with Russia, simultaneously insisting that ԓthere are no favours being done to PutinԒs government. He nevertheless admitted that the importanceӔ of the humanitarian crisis in Chechnya needs to be seen in the context of the bilaterial relationshipӔ with Russia - which is motivated by the fact that Russia is a very important countryӔ, and that a new generation of leadersӔ have come to power in Russia; itӒs extremely important that we have a strategic alliance with them. The exact nature of this ԓstrategic alliance with Russia - ԓin the context of which BritainԒs 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,Ӕ which show that there is real willingness for a positive engagementӔ. Newsnight presenter Jeremy Vine commented: Mr. Vaz is being quite straightforward there because heӒs 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 ԓa liberal reformer, while President Clinton wrote that he was ԓliberating Chechnya. Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Beagleburger rationalised RussiaԒs war, saying of the Chechens: TheyӒre not very nice people. Albright also stated that the devastating war on Chechnya must not be allowed to damage ԓrelations 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 ԓthe White House gave Moscow a green light to launch Russias second war - and possible final solution - against the tiny Caucasus mountain republic of ChechnyaҔ, in the attempt to exterminateӔ 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 ӑwe are opposed to terrorism - meaning Islamic rebels in the Caucasus fighting Russian rule. She said nothing about RussiaҒs blatant violation of its 1996 treaty that granted Chechnya de facto independence. She made no protest over Moscows egregious violation of the 1990 CFE Treaty, the most important east-west arms reduction pact, by moving large new forces into the Caucasus.Ҕ
News commentator Enver Masud reports that the US is supporting RussiaӒs genocidal war on Chechnya by ԓproviding billions in aid to Russia [italics added], ԓthrough the International Monetary Fund. Contradictions in AmericaԒs foreign policy to comparable tragedies expose once again that US humanitarianismђ is a mere political facade. Masud compares the flow of billions of US dollars to Russia throughout its genocidal subjugation of Chechnya to President ClintonӒs 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 communityԒs World Bank paid the Russian government 100 million dollars. The Bank cannot just pay lip service to the ӑhuman aspects of developmentҔ, commented Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watchs Executive Director. ғHere 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 WestԒs 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.Ӕ 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 canӒt be ordered about, perhaps explaining US/Western inaction. As Margolis points out, US inaction is one thing - enthusiastic US/Western support ԓof Russias barbarism in the CaucasusҔ by actually funding MoscowӒs crimes against humanity with American tax dollars is quite another. Margolis refers to the crucial fact that ԓWithout 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 RussiaԒs war, constitute the crooks and robber barons currently running Russia that the White House has to keep supporting… lest the current regime collapse.Ӕ 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 MoscowӔ. Additionally, US/Western funding of Russias war has been accompanied by American military support: ғClinton 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 RussiaԒs genocidal war? In the words of the Whitehouse, to combat terrorismӔ.
Accordingly, other Western secret services including the US and German, provided Moscow with intelligence on Chechen rebels whom Russia blames for last yearӒs bombing campaign on its population.Ҕ German government sources revealed that German and Russian agents swapped low-grade intelligenceӔon Chechen rebels, while The Americans, the British and the French gave much more dataӔ, reported one unnamed German agent. According to the German governments secret service coordinator Ernst Uhrlau, ғMoscow 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: ԓHe did not say whether or how the request has been met. In light of the fact that the ԑChechen terrorism that was cited as justification for RussiaҒs invasion of Chechnya had actually been covertly organised and perpetrated by Russian secret agencies, it is clear that the Wests provision of intelligence aid to Russia in regard to the Chechen ғrebels fighting for the right of Chechen self-determination and self-defence against Russian invasion, constitutes nothing other than covert support for RussiaԒs war.
While following through with this shameless support of Russias 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 ғterrorism, and that it would continue until ԓterrorism was eliminated. The absence of forceful and uncompromising criticism from the West on ChechnyaԒs humanitarian catastrophe was replaced with the meagre voicing of the Wests alleged humanitarian concerns, which were extensively reported by the media, unlike the covert policies supporting RussiaҒs 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 uncertainӔ, while Yeltsin gave the west just enough to claim progress on the Chechen crisisӔ to its public. Meanwhile, the media eagerly swallowed the Wests 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 RussiaҒs 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 lawlessnessӔ, i.e. Chechens fighting for self-determination. We believe Russia has not only the right, but the obligation, to defend its territorial integrityӔ, 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 ChechnyaӔ - 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 terrorӔ, by in fact escalating terrorӔ in Chechnya. The strategy has led to substantial civilian casualties and very large flows of refugeesӔ, 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.Ӕ 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 integrityӔ 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 terrorismӔ. 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 endӔ - the end being the enforcement of Russian hegemony over Chechnya in accordance with the political objective of raising Putins domestic popularity, and the economic objectives of capturing Chechen oil and establishing a route to Caspian oil. Thus, ғif attacks on civilians continue, the extremism Russia is trying to combat will only intensify - the ԓextremism in reality referring to ChechnyaԒs 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 buildӔ 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.Ӕ
Thus, Clinton seems to argue, the reason Russia should seek a political solutionӔ 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 Russias bombardment of Chechen civilian targets in the first place), is merely pragmatic - RussiaҒs 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 Russias 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 ғterrorists in the diction of the ԑinternational community, and this ғwill undermine [Russias] endҔ - domestic political triumph combined with establishment of its regional economic imperatives - by an endless cycle of violenceӔ. 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 supportedӔ by the US.
The Anglo-American stance established a precedent for Europe to follow as appropriate. Despite the furious denunciationsӔ of Russias brutality in its war on Chechnya by the Council of Europe (6 April 2000) [the parliamentary assembly of EuropeҒs 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 suspensionӔ 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.Ӕ Though mild sanctionsӔ on Russia imposed by the EU have been deliberately limitedӔ, to ensure that Europes ғrelations with Russia stay ԓon track, the European reluctance was in practice very much akin to ԓthe 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 ԓfor a thorough international probe of the Chechnya bloodbath without Russias agreement.Ҕ 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.Ӕ
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 Workers Party (Russia) observed: ғThis 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, ԓThis war serves the interests of the oil capitalists of Turkey - a key strategic Western ally - ԓand 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 ԓwho are interested in raising the price of oil in the world market. The Party notes ԓthe 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 issuesђ, 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 orderђ 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 troopsђ to Chechnya, too. The acceleration of the political-military plans was evident when ԓNATO 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: ԓAmerican 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 ChechnyaԒs neighbour Azerbaijan to Turkey, also passing through another republic nearby Chechnya, Georgia. Accordingly, as the US has extended its hegemony to befriendђ 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 Chechnyas civilian infrastructure into rubble: ғWe are restoring order in our own country and no one has the right, or will stop us, from doing so. ԓRussia is not Iraq, it is not Yugoslavia, he added, apparently directly alluding to recent US-led Western interventions, ԓand 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. RussiaԒs 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 RussiaӒs 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, ԓChechnya just happens to be a gateway for Russia ԓto 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 ԓthe leitmotif of [Putins] foreign policy is the rebirth of RussiaҒs global preeminence and the establishment of her influence on neighbouring regions, which certainly seems to be the case, ԓthese former Soviet republics will become a crucial political arena. The new president ԓwill 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, ԓthe task of reasserting Russian influence in the South Caucasus is further complicated by the growing appetites of Western oil companies in Azerbaijan and NATOs military-political interests in the area.Ҕ NATOs 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 ғRussian president may agree with the West to divide up spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and Asia. ԓThe spectre of upheaval will probably serve to persuade the West to agree to a division of spheres of influence, because ԓthe West doesnt want to find itself, sooner or later, in conflict with Russia in the region.Ҕ We may therefore recall in this regard the observation of the International Workers Party: ғDespite the hypocritical declarations on their concern for humanitarian issuesђ [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 orderђ in Chechnya and NATO will take the rest under its control, starting with Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Thus, RussiaԒs subjugation of Chechnya does no particular damage to Western strategic and economic interests in the region. Moreover, the Wests ties with Russia, although they have involved effectively supporting its massive terrorist war, are certainly in Western economic interests. The WestҒs 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 ӑwesterniser, bent on making Russia more attractive to western - and British - investment.Ҕ This echoes Albrights public confession in November 1999 as the war on Chechen civilians was escalating: ғWe believe it is very important for there to be economic stability in Russia, a ԓstability which is evidently synonymous with Russia being ԓattractive to western - and British [and US] - investment. ԓThat is in our national interest, she added, ommitting to mention that this phrase itself is merely a political euphemism for ԑcorporate interests, and ommitting to mention that RussiaҒs present economic stabilityӔ 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 bumpђ on the road to Russia. Thus, it is Putins policy of ғmaking Russia more attractive to western - and British - investment that endears him so much to the West. In comparison, so-called ԑconcern 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 ґgenocide and ґethnic cleansing that occurred in Kosovo to the publicised outrage of Western politicians, is perfectly palatable in the face of the prospect of ғmaking Russia fit for ԓwestern investment, and hence ready for the ԓeconomic stability of being integrated into the US-dominated global economy - an objective whose importance apparently totally outweighs the WestԒs self-professed benevolence.
Accordingly, while Chechen blood was being gleefully spilled in the Caucasus by Russian soldiers, representatives of RussiaӒs best known politicians and new business elite were to meet ԓtop Western players in the Russian market on 19-20 April in London at ԓa 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 ԓthe first major international business-to-business forum to be held in the West after the [March presidential] elections in Russia, the aim being ԓto explore the economic challenges facing Russia on the dawn of the new Presidency, in connection with ԓa broad range of issues of vital interest to Western companies. Hence attendees consisted of ԓover 600 delegates, including senior executives from Western multi-nationals, banks, trading companies and professional service providers, as well as a strong representation of Russias new business elite.Ҕ
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 ӑnew 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.Ҕ ISWoR also noted that even such domestic Russian facism was being appeased under the objective of fulfilling the vital interestsӔ 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.Ӕ As for Russias facist-like wholesale bombardment of Chechnya, ғThe 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 workers revolt.Ҕ Moreover, the Western powers customary ғvital interests in Russia have naturally annulled all humanitarian concerns for Russian terrorism that may jeopardise the blooming Russia-West economic relationship. ԓThousands 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 RussiaԒs war. Meanwhile western oil companies profited massively from the situation as multibillion contracts for a pipeline bypassing Russia were hastily tied up.Ӕ
There is another reason for Americas support of RussiaҒs war, and that is linked to Russias 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 ғdeal in which the US would overlook RussiaԒs 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.Ӕ The dealӔ was further explained by Director of the Peace Institute in Moscow, Alexander Kisilov: This mutual understanding means a relative backing down of KremlinӒs 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 ԓmore important matters, such as nuclear disarmament, Iraq, and of course, ԑreform and ґstability in Russia under Western economic tutelage.
The importance of this ғdeal to the West can be gleaned from the obviously uncomfortable parallel between RussiaԒs smashing of Chechnya, and the Wests recent forays in Iraq and Kosovo. Any self-righteous Western criticism of RussiaҒs war would immediately provoke Russias 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 WestҒs 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 Russias ғflexibility 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 ԑdemocracy, an inspection of PutinҒs democraticђ 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 developmentђ 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 RussiaӒs 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 ԓMr. Putin owes his rise through the ranks to the corrupt ԓoligarchs, ԓthe tycoons who have made fortunes through asset stripping. The Times similarly notes that PutinԒs debts to the oligarchs are considerable. Mr Berezovsky [ӓthe oil and media mogul linked to a 400 million Aerofloat embezzlement scandalÔ] controls the national ORT television channel that has slavishly followed Mr Putins 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.Ҕ Some of Putins ideas were ғdisconcertingly 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, ԓRussian reporters incurring his displeasure have been sent to psychiatric hospitals or beaten up in torture campsђ.
PutinԒs promises to fight corruption and to ensure that the corrupt oligarchs cease to exist as a classӔ 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 Putins 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 ғfreedom and fortunes. According to the Guardian, it was ԓYeltsins close familyҔ - 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.Ӕ Thanks to his valiant role in the invasion that had been planned six months prior to the propaganda bombings, Putins 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 ғattractive 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 AmericaԒs 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 ӑreformers, 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.Ҕ Unsurprisingly therefore, in early April, Putin performed a volte-face which showed he was unwilling or unable to break the stranglehold of RussiaӒs oligarchs, reported the Independent. Having originally backed - at least apparently - the anti-oligarch federal social affairs minister Valentina Matviyenko, ԓwho 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 Russiaђ.
In this light, the blooming Anglo-American friendship with the new authoritarian president of Russia reveals the extent of Anglo-American concerns for Russian ԑdemocracy, which it seems is going to be gradually relegated to the sidelines by the WestҒs new friend. In place of democracyђ, Russia shall continue to be subject to the dictates of the free marketӔ - what Canadian economist Michel Chossudovsky has called Thirdworldisation under IMF-ruleӔ. 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 itӒs bad in the big cities, its even worse in most regions where public services have fallen apart and conditions have reverted to the 19th century.Ҕ
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.Ӕ It seems that Putins policies will hardly be very different from those that have already been consistently actualised under US/Western tutelage. The Times reports that Putin ғhas won cautious approval from economic liberals favoured by Western politicians. ԓMr. Putin might have little time for Western-style democracy, though the lack of ԓdemocracy in this case is no problem because ԓhe does want Russia to modernise. The Times willingly translates: ԓhe is thus likely to keep workmanlike ties to the West due to his ԓwillingness to co-operate with foreign governments and Nato. The remarks of Guardian commentator David Hearst on the WestԒs humanitarianђ 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 RussiaӒs 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 MoscowӒs 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 ԓthe great and the good Wise Men Of The West. ԓIn 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 peoples savings, the mass grab of property stolen under the name of privatisation, the demonetarisation of the economy - were all wished awayҔ, or rather entirely ignored while hordes of US consultantsӔ were dancing in the streets - though not the streets of RussiaӔ, thanks to a windfallӔ for US consultantsӔ - the chief celebrantsӔ of Russias 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, ғFirst it was the trickle-downђ theory, observes Hearst. ԓAfter that came the good news just round the cornerђ 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. ԓWhen 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, ԓThe 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. ԓIf the wests response to RussiaҒs Mongol-like behavior in Chechnya has been shameful and hypocritical, the Islamic worlds 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 ChechnyaҒs 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 Russias final solution in the Caucasus.Ҕ
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 problem is certainly not related just to the Muslim people. It is a problem that plagues the world, and which prevents the billions of oppressed people of the world - in fact all people of the world - from uniting to throw off their shackles to then together forge a more just and peaceful destiny. That the so-called Islamicђ world therefore fails to challenge Russian brutality or anti-Muslim racismӔ is yet another manifestation of the Wests continuing hegemony over not only the Arab countries, but the entire Third World. It is, indeed, quite predictable that the tyrannical client regimes installed by the West over the Muslim people, thus systematically fail to challenge events that occur in the WestҒs interests. One would expect no more from Western puppet regimes.
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 spiritualђ 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 humaneђ, 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 itӔ, Eric Margolis observes of the international communityђ 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.Ӕ