Thursday, September 16, 2004

Parts Of The Truth

A recent post to Chechnya-SL quotes a message from Donald Jensen, Russia specialist and director of RFE/RL's Newsline, in response to Ira Straus's criticism of RFE/RL. Part of the message reads:

First, Mr. Straus' appeal to logic is disingenuous unless you believe, as he seems to, that in the wake of the Dagestan invasion, Russia had to invade Chechnya and no choices were involved. Not so. Without getting into the motivations of Basayev going in, without getting into the evidence that a corridor was left for him to get OUT of Dagestan, without getting into the suspicious set of circumstances surrounding these events aired by individuals like Aleksey Arbatov (hardly a paranoid Russophobe) etc., that invasion was repulsed during August ( After this, Russia had options and the choice made was not the only one. Others included attempting to seal the border around Chechnya, invading up to the Terek, crossing the Terek etc. However, the apartment bombings did take place in September, the government did blame the Chechens and used this, not the invasion of Dagestan, as the causus belli.

In short, Straus makes an appeal to chronology and then proceeds to violate chronology because it doesn't suit his purposes. In addition, despite what Mr Straus thinks, there's really no necessary contradiction between "the FSB did it" and "Boris Berezovskiy" when it comes to the apartment bombings. And it is entirely keeping with Berezovskiy's audacity to blame an institution -- elements of which may have been his accomplices -- as the sole perpetrator of the acts. I will not discuss further the evidence concerning the apartment bombings here, except to note that some colleagues are working with the evidence as I speak in an effort to see where it leads.

I will add a couple of additional points:

1) Anton Surikov, another inhabitant of the gray zone where Russian authorities regularly intersect with criminal interests, did note that the theory that the security services assisted Basayev in the invasion of Daghestan had a "right to exist, but only in part." A tad mysterious to be sure, but he knows Basayev and assisted him during the time Basayev fought WITH the Russians in Abkhazia. Lebed said the same.

2) Sergey Kovalev, hardly "anti-Russian," also raised about this in his commission's investigation of the apartment bombing.

3) Polling among Russians indicates that more than a third believes that the "authorities" may have had something to do with the bombings.

The fact is, there's a seamy underside to politics in Russia that we ignore at our peril. Note well what an active reserve officer said this week in Moskovskie Novosti (Igor Korolkov, "Russia After Beslan," MN #34, September 10, 2004): When they say that the Chechen boyeviky are financed from abroad, that's only part of the truth. Their main sources of income are from Russia, from Moscow. If any FSB investigator uncovers the business dealings the Chechens are involved in, he his quickly called off by customs, the procurator's office, their fellow FSB officers, MVD officers. It's absurd: the financing of the terrorists is aided by the very law enforcement organs that are battling them. He says he knows of FSB officers who help criminalized Chechen business types make money. Those same officers then go off to fight the Chechens, who are armed with weapons bought with that same money.

One of the interesting aspects of Western commentary on Beslan this week has been the outpouring of sympathy for Putin. He is now said to need help, just as 6 months ago he was acclaimed as being firmly in charge. I, for one, believe that, despite the unfortunate adulation of the west, Putin is in over his head, as will most likely become even more apparent in the coming months.

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