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Russia Under Siege

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by halldor, Oct 31, 2002.

  1. halldor

    halldor Registered User

    Russia under Siege

    (Civil Georgia Oct.30, 2002)Moscow hostage crisis reinforces Russia's
    siege mentality and is likely to undermine country's civil
    development. This is bad news for its neighbors, and for Georgia in

    Putin's Russia becomes consumed with a spiral of violence in
    Chechnya. Fixation on war and revenge is not healthy for any world
    power, big or small, but these symptoms can throw a state trying to
    break its ties with repressive Communist rule into the abyss of blind
    violence against all who look, think or seem different.

    President Vladimir Putin says the international terrorism poses a
    threat tantamount "to use of the weapons of mass destruction" and
    pledges that Russia would respond "proportionally" to this
    threat "everywhere where the terrorists, organizers of crimes or
    financial and moral backers of them are located." And this is scary.

    It is a terrorist trait is to attack indiscriminately and not to shun
    the collateral damage. A state, any state, can claim its moral
    superiority and the right to prosecute, as it is built on the consent
    of the citizens and employs the law, not an intuition or own moral
    judgment, to seek and punish criminals.

    The recent decisions of the Putin administration have shown that it
    is not apt to this task. Dangerously few people, in Russia and
    abroad, seem to have shrugged when the Russian security officials
    said that 10% casualties among hostages is a "normal worldwide
    practice." Even fewer have asked why 100% of the terrorists are dead,
    if the gas incapacitated at least some of them.

    A habit of sacrificing own citizens to fight the "evil" was a good
    old habit of the "Evil Empire." For many in Tbilisi, Georgia, Moscow
    siege stroke a painfully familiar note: on 9 April, 1989 the Soviet
    special troops used the deadly gas against peaceful demonstration in
    the Georgian capital and than denied to name the gas or provide an
    antidote to the doctors, thus risking the lives of many more people,
    their own citizens. Then, as it was now in Moscow, the military
    officials said there was a threat from "separatists" which had to be
    countered proportionally.

    It seems that the security and police establishment kept their old
    habits, ones that should be incompatible with behavior of the
    democracy. Ironically, and almost cynically, Anatolii Sobchak was the
    chief independent investigator on Tbilisi gas attack. Later, in his
    being a mayor of St. Petersburg Sobchak has picked Vladimir Putin to
    his administration. But Putin does not seem to have learnt much from
    his boss and teacher.

    While the human rights and civil implications of the Moscow hostage
    crisis are appalling, the military ones are also to be feared. Both
    wars in Chechnya, the Moscow hostage crisis, Russia's September
    threats to attack Georgia also showed that the country simply does
    not have a military surgical strike capability.

    When Putin orders his Chief of Staff to "revise" the plans for
    applying the military force against the terrorist
    threat "everywhere," he attempts to reorient a starving goliath of
    the military machinery, bred for fighting the world war, against a
    scattered, small target. Putin knows the goliath would hit and is
    likely to miss. What we can be sure of is that the collateral
    casualties would not be shunned.

    MP Vladimir Zhirinovski, "a parrot of the Kremlin" as one daily
    newspaper called him, said Russia should compile its own list of
    the "axis of evil" and named Georgia as a front-runner on that list.
    Georgian politicians were quick to voice (and quite rightly) their
    sympathy to those under siege. But they were even quicker to
    sympathize with actions of the Russian government to solve the
    crisis, and to marginalize "inevitable," as President Eduard
    Shevardnadze put it, casualties. And that is, I would suggest,
    potentially damaging policy of appeasement.

    Georgia, already short-listed for the "preemptive" strike by the
    Russian militaries, should be at the forefront of the states
    concerned by Russia's growing siege mentality.

    The reports are already coming in that the Russian police started to
    take the fingerprints of all Chechens in Russia. Some Russian
    security officials suggested opening of the "anti-terrorist centers"
    in each and every city, primarily tasked with "sweeping" the illegal
    immigrants - and the Georgian government knows many of them would
    prove Georgian citizens. Pogroms against the "Persons of Caucasian
    Nationality" are also far from rarity.

    Growing controls over free media and free speech, proven use of the
    deadly force against own citizens in Chechnya and in Moscow, direct
    threats of the military strikes should not leave any illusion in the
    minds of the Georgian politicians and the society that appeasement
    would work.

    There is a need for the Georgian state to take preventive political
    measures for protecting its own citizens in Russia, its own statehood
    and its future, by doing everything in its force to prevent emergence
    of the giant state predisposed to use force at any occasion at its
    very borders.

    Instead of appeasement, it is vital to start an active and
    constructive work with the European states and institutions to
    explore the ways for peaceful solution in Chechnya, to weaken the
    block on freedom of speech and information in Russia.

    Simply put, this is in Georgia's national interest, even if it goes
    against the mainstream, both in Russia and worldwide.

    By Jaba Devdariani, Civil Georgia

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