Month: April 2010

A hard choice

In Commentary, James Kirchick laments how backing for an authoritarian leader in Russia’s backyard may have cost the U.S. support from a natural ally in the war against terror. Excerpt:

the simple fact is that the war against the Taliban would be made immeasurably more difficult were the Manas air base to close. Insofar as the Taliban returning to power in Afghanistan would be a disaster for the people of that country and present a haven for al-Qaeda, ensuring a stable government there is not just an American concern but also a global one. And Bishkek has its own national interests in this realm as well. In the immediate years prior to 9/11, militants from the Islamist Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group sheltered by the Taliban, launched multiple attacks into southern Kyrgyzstan. That doesn’t mean that the domestic problems of Kyrgyzstan are not important. But fixing them (something that is largely the responsibility of the Kyrgyz people themselves and beyond the seemingly awesome powers of the United States) cannot come at the expense of eliminating a vital supply line to Afghanistan.

Hat tip: Kejda Gjermani

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Interview with Akhmed Zakayev

Excerpt:

the worst part of it is not who Putin is, or what he does, the worst part of it is that this person, with all his cruelty and his anti-national policy, meets a need of Russian society. That is the really depressing thing. It is only now that some glimmer of understanding has started to appear – a glimmer of understanding about what this man is doing to Russians, to Russia, to the Russian state. Maybe something will start changing now. But, unfortunately, to this day he has met a need of Russian society – the ratings, even if they were exaggerated, show this. The self-censorship that journalists have subjected themselves to…Of course, it is fear – it cannot be explained otherwise. But the Russian public cannot cope on their own with this phenomenon, with Putinism. And the West as usual is not ready to help or even to give moral support to those who are trying to oppose this phenomenon. There is nothing new in this either – it was the same in Soviet times too. The West strengthened Stalin, and the regimes that followed were also supported by the West. And today with this oil and gas… Europe is always in need of something. It will always need something from Russia. But the thing is that as long as they are going to play along to the tune of these regimes and give them nourishment, the problems Europe has, instead of being resolved, will only become more acute. This is something the West does not understand. As long as the problem of the Russian regime is not solved, the problems in other parts of the world will not be solved either – be they in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, with Al-Qaida or in the North Caucasus.

Then and now

The Chechens knew it was not in their interests to carry out any terrorist attacks. Public opinion was on their side, and public opinion, both Russian and international, was more valuable to them than two or three hundred lives abruptly cut short. That was why the Chechens could not have been behind the terrorist attacks of September 1999. And the Chechens must be given credit for always denying their involvement in these bombings. Here is what Ilyas Akhmadov, minister of foreign affairs in Aslan Maskhadov’s government, had to say on that point:

Question: In France you talk as though everybody knows that the terrorist attacks in Moscow and Volgodonsk were set up by the Russian secret services… Do you have any proof?

Answer: “Of course. Throughout the last war, we never showed the slightest inclination for that sort of thing. But if it had been organized by Basaev or Khattab, I can assure you that they wouldn’t have been shy about admitting it to Russia. What’s more, everybody knows that the failed bombing in Ryazan was organized by the FSB…I myself served in the army as a demolition officer at a military proving ground, and I know perfectly well what a great difference there is between an explosive and sugar.”

Here is the opinion of another interested party with whom it is hard to disagree, the Chechen minister of defense and commander of the presidential guard, Magomed Khambiev:

“Now for the explosions in Moscow. Why are the Chechens not committing acts of terrorism now, when our people are being annihilated? Why did the Russian authorities pay no attention to the hexogene incident in Ryazan, when the police had detained a member of the secret services with this explosive? There’s not a single piece of evidence for the so-called Chechen connection in these bombings. And the bombings were least of all in the interest of the Chechens. But what is hidden will certainly be revealed. I assure you that the perpetrators and planners of the bombings in Moscow will become known, when there’s a change of political regime in the Kremlin. Because those who ordered the bombings should be sought in the corridors of the Kremlin. These bombings were necessary in order to start the war, in order to distract the attention of Russians and the whole world from the scandals and dirty intrigues going on in the Kremlin.”

Suspicions arose that the bombings were being carried out by people attempting to force the government to declare a state of emergency and cancel the elections. A number of politicians rejected the idea: “I don’t agree with the statements of certain analysts who connect this series of terrorist attacks with somebody’s intentions to declare a state of emergency in Russia and cancel the elections to the State Duma,”declared former Russian minister of the interior Kulikov in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta on September 11. The Chechens could not have had any interest in presidential elections or the declaration of a state of emergency in Russia. In 1996, it was the Korzhakov-Barsukov-Soskovets group and the secret services standing behind them that supported the cancellation of the election. So who was attempting to provoke the declaration of a state of emergency in 1999?

– Alexander Litvinenko, Blowing up Russia, pp. 87-88.

Versions – 4

– Questions are being raised about the authenticity of the recently-published video statement by Dokka Umarov.

A Georgian website has published an analysis of the film which suggests that it may be a fake, an attempt to “play up” to the Kremlin. Though it could also be, the article points out, that at least some of the inconsistencies and incongruities are caused by the film’s poor technical quality. But the author tends towards the former view.

Norbert Strade has some details.