To most students and a good part of the rest of American society, the issues which have come to surface and shed blood over miles of terrain are intricate and internal, issues which can’t be put to rest by signing a piece of paper or so called treaty. The internal structure of Russia has been weakened time and time again for the past decade and the problems and disgruntled begin to lash out as the lack of concern becomes more and more obvious. Since the recent assignation attempt, the fourth on the life of Aslan Maskhadov and the first in his capacity as President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria on July 23, 1998, combined with the vast scale of organized crime, abductions and seemingly unrestricted terrorism over the last 18 months, the unquestioned, taken for granted rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, begin to become a question of validity. For one to try and fathom the fright felt by the Chechen civilians’ or begin to wonder why this is happening would be impossible, but by taking a closer look at the parties involved in this crisis can help us to understand the issues at place.
Amongst all of this horror lies the participants involved, whether a political, ethnic, interest or religious group, each has its own reasons and goals. One participant, the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov, has only been in office since January of 1997, but remains unbowed in his determination to restore law and order. Unfortunately, attempts on his life have been made before and will most likely be made again. If it is the case that Maskhadov is killed or removed from power, the likelihood for a civil war would grow, resulting in the ultimate consequence of which could become a catastrophe, not only for Chechnya, the North Caucasus and the ‘independent’ republics of the Transcaucasus, but ultimately for Russia as a whole. A second participant, the President of Russia, has had a huge impact in the progress of this conflict. Mr. Yeltsin is determined to wipe out the entire opposition, rebels, guerrillas, even regular plain clothed civilians refusing to abandon their homes. This has been stressed time and time again as his men have repeatedly bombed Chechynan land and city’s relentlessly, including the capital, Groznyy, which his men plan to fully encircle by mid December. A third participant in this ongoing turmoil is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin, a former intelligence officer and head of the Federal Security Service and the main successor to the KGB, was promoted from intelligence chief to Prime Minister. Due to his dedication and similarities, Mr. Yeltsin exonerates Vladimir as the man he’d like to see as President. It is nice to know that Mr. Yeltsin admires Vladimir Putin but it sure doesn’t thrill me knowing that the Russian Duma voted to confirm Putin as the countries new premier.
A fourth participant is the Senior Russian Commander, General Valery Manilov. Manilov is the Russian army’s first deputy chief of staff and main Chechnya mouthpiece and recently announced the launch of a new phase in the campaign, saying troops would now pursue the rebels into the mountains. Though the Russians’ have proved wise up to now, they have yet to fight the Chechens one on one where the sniper filled streets of Groznyy and Guerrilla warfare methods of the mountains have proved deadly for the Russians. Though Manilov hasn’t suffered huge casualties as of yet, he should be wise and cautious about how he decides to take Groznyy. A fifth participant in this ordeal is the British Government though nothing has been spoken about interference of assistance to Chechnya, Russia has been told that they better watch what they do. This is all that has been said for now but if the bloodshed massacre continues more may come. A sixth participant involved in this issue is The Federation Council. The Federation Council is the weaker half of the legislature, but still has been vested with considerable authority under the 1993 constitution. Deputies have the power to confirm border changes within the federation, approve the introduction of martial law or a state of emergency by the president and vote on the deployment of Russian armed forces outside of its borders. Since Mr. Yeltsin has openly declared martial law on Chechnya it is evident that The Federation Council plays a key role in the decision making process.
There are a number of negative economic factors that stem from the results of the war with Russia. For starters, with the destruction of Groznyy and infrastructure of Chechnya which resulted in an economic void where only 10% of the population have legitimate employment, the remaining 90% of the population is involved in illegal activities. Second, there are questions still outstanding on compensation and reparation from the Russian Federation covering the displacement of people as refugees or forced migrants, including the majority of the Russian population forced to leave Chechnya. Unfortunately, these issues lack the dedicated time needed to derive solutions because more immediate issues strain Chechnya. Such issues are the payment of pensions to the elderly and infirm; medical matters and the re-institution of programs of preventative health care and medicine; the resumption of education and schooling for children; the creation of jobs, enabling full employment in order to remove young men and women from lawlessness, the uninhibited freedoms of banditry and hostage taking and the problems of locating sources of funds for financial investment to name a few. After enlightening oneself of the struggles and repeated decline and hope, it can be understood why a society would want reform. Therefore, it can be seen that the Chechen people have values, needs, and interests which they are trying to pursue but how can they when Russia has not implemented many of the agreements signed by Moscow and Groznyy, in particular the ‘Fig Leaf Treaty’ on 12 May 1997, including the fact that there has been no progress on the matter of Chechen status. Since the ambivalence of the status of Chechnya has served to exacerbate the problem of Chechen relations with adjacent republics, in particular relations with Dagestan, and the further mobilization of Chechnya by Russian troops, it can be seen why fear and disgust is rising in Chechen’s eyes.
The goals and interests behind Russia’s attack along with its motivations can be seen a little more clearly than that of Chechnya. Russia launched its offensive against Chechnya in September with the stated aim of wiping out Islamic rebels who twice invaded the neighboring Russian republic of Dagestan this summer. Russia also blames the rebels for apartment bombings that killed 300 people in several Russian cities back in September. Since this incident it seems as if Russia’s intentions are to seek and destroy rather than punish, unfortunately, the underlying problem caused by this is the lack of concern by Russia towards the increasingly high civilian casualties. Amongst all of this, General Valery Manilov has been bragging that the Russian campaign could liquidate rebel forces by the end of the year, and that Russian troops will be stationed permanently throughout the republic. Unfortunately, the obstacle blocking Russia from taking complete control of Groznyy is the fear of a hand to hand combat fought in the sniper filled streets, which would result in Russia’s causalities being quite high. The problem with high casualties lies with the people of Russia who are only supporting the war because of the minimum causality rate reported by Russian reporters. Therefore, the hope for a positive solution is impossible. Russian troops must either take the city or obliterate it if they hope to declare victory.
Since almost all of Russia’s effective two month bombing campaign is beginning to run out of targets to destroy, the rest of the war will have to be fought on the ground. If Russia is destined to eliminate Chechen rebels and take control of the Republic they will have to do so by land combat. In accepting this and reminding oneself of the severe blow taken in the 1994-1996 dispute, one must ask themselves whether it is worth it to continue or call for an armistice. Either way no one can justifiably say that Chechnya hasn’t learned a lesson. Therefore, since Russia will have to result to land combat I tend to see a shift in outcomes for the latter portion of the war. Since it has been stated that in order for Russia to declare victory the rebels have to be eliminated, the latter part of this war shall see a shift in causalities, more of which will be seen by Russians’ and not Chechens’. Even if the Russian forces were able to seize Groznyy by foot the death toll would be great, leaving them with an even deadlier battle, guerrilla warfare in the jungles. Therefore, it can be seen that Russia’s strategy was airborne bombing and complete and utter annihilation of Chechnya’s internal infrastructures whereas Chechnya’s strategy was to retreat, survive and regroup. The preparation for jungle warfare and sniper filled street city combat has been the rebels strategy all along, hence stressing the importance of retreat, survive and regroup. Once the Russian forces submit to the Chechen’s long waited fight, the tables will turn. Now that this has been put into perspective it is hard to understand what drives one to continue.
In conclusion, I feel that the overall international political dynamics at play has to deal with Russia feeling threatened and disrespected, believing Chechnya was behind the Russian hotel bombings and Chechnya feeling disgruntled towards Russia due to their lack of support and failure to hold true to their financial obligations. Besides all of this, it is quite clear that the Chechens’ feel the need to settle old scores. It is not only the lack of government power which aids this illegal process. Within the government itself, there are those who do not share the same generosity of spirit required to heal and rebuild the nation which Maskhadov possesses. In some areas of government and the law enforcement agencies, a sympathetic attitude engendered by shared combat experience exists towards those illegally meting out justice and punishment to those who did not support the separatist cause. As well, these bureaucrats and state officials, themselves former fighters who defended their country against Russian armed intervention, also help to fund today’s illegal fighters. Therefore, it appears to me that having once been a fighter or bandit themselves, these officials have difficulty in saying no. Keeping this in mind one must understand and realize that the only way to fully put an end to this issue is to have a government which is legitimate, fair, and holds no biases and grudges.
Now that we have looked at Chechnya’s concern we must proceed to the other party involved, Russia. Russia believes that with the unification of the peoples of the Caucasus, with the goal of the creation of the Islamic Republic which will include Ichkeria, Dagestan, Kabarda, Balkariya, Ingushetiya, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and Azerbaijan, would generate too much power for the region and fears that they have more extensive aims than just a unification.