The only way to prevent catastrophic deterioration in the Caucasus is to press Russia for a political settlement with the responsible and moderate leadership of the Chechen Republic. In a last ditch effort to persuade the world of that, Aslan Maskhadov, Chechnya's ousted elected president, recently issued a unilateral cease-fire, which will last for one month. This gesture is a response to the call of the Soldiers' Mothers, who we know are speaking for the Russian people: Yes, we heard you, we are ready for peace, we want to stop fighting and talk, with all options open.
It is significant that the radical wing of the fighters, which is controlled by Shamil Basayev, accepted the cease-fire. Basayev had taken responsibility for many terrorist attacks, including the horrific raids on the school in Beslan and the Dubrovka Theater in Moscow. We do not control Basayev; we condemned his methods, but we were powerlesss to stop him. Yet we know why he decided to silence his guns and hold his suicide squads - because he knows that the Chechen people want to give peace a chance. This may be the last chance. But as long as the cease-fire holds, it demonstrates that Maskhadov can deliver peace, even though he does not control the militants in war.
This is a unique opportunity, perhaps the last, to break the vicious circle of hatred, death and destruction. If it is lost, the responsibility for the escalation of the conflict, further radicalization of the Caucasus and the inevitable increase of terrorism will go to those who persist in the failed policy of appeasing Putin. Bush should realize that his hands-off policy on Chechnya does not increase security but only breeds terror.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Stop appeasing Putin
Akhmed Zakayev, Aslan Maskhadov's special envoy, has published an article about Bush's visit to Europe in the International Herald Tribune. An excerpt: