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While Americans shop and enjoy their lives, Chechnya is being “cleansed” by
Russian troops. Last week the atrocities were so blatant, so unnecessary and
revolting, Moscow’s enlightened appointee in the local administration bravely
denounced Russian brutality.

“No bandits were detained,” charged Akhmad Kadyrov, “not one rifle was
confiscated. But civilians were humiliated, insulted and robbed.” And so
they were.

An estimated 26,000 Chechens from the villages of Kurchaloi,
Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya fled their homes in the face of Russian
terrorism. Chechen men were beaten and tortured. Many are feared dead. It
is claimed, as well, that Russian soldiers took Chechen hostages and demanded
ransom money for their release. “One hundred dollars per head if you want
them alive,” one Russian mediator allegedly declared.

Russian Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, Russia’s top officer in Chechnya, frankly
admitted the behavior of his troops. Itar-Tass quoted him as complaining of
“widespread crimes in carrying out passport checks in Assinovskaya and
Sernovodsk.”

It is the formula of the Putin regime, as it was under Yeltsin, to deplore
the useful terrorism of the Russian Army. Quite naturally, any admission of
anarchy in the ranks is useful in depicting Russia’s disorganized state.
Admissions of corruption and wrongdoing by Russian authorities also
satisfies Western observers that Moscow is struggling to correct abuses. At
the same time, all of this serves to advertise Russian brutality to the
country’s enemies. This double-sided use of honesty is like a game of
“good-cop, bad-cop.” Gen. Moltenskoi is now the good cop. His officers in
the field are the bad cops.

It is different, however, with the brave Russian-appointed administrator of
Chechnya. I believe Akhmad Kadyrov is entirely sincere in his denunciation
of the Russian actions. Unlike many in Russian-occupied zones, he has
repeatedly stood up for his suffering people. His appointment is to the
credit of Vladimir Putin, who apparently has nothing against an honest man
(when honesty can be manipulated for a desired end). Kadyrov was appointed
by Putin to head the Chechen administration despite Kadyrov’s published
statements hinting at a deeper Russian conspiracy.

At the outset of the war, when many Chechens were reacting emotionally,
Kadyrov opposed resistance to the Russian invasion, pointing out that the
Chechen outbreak of 1999 was a Moscow-directed provocation by agents of the
Russian General Staff and Interior Ministry. It was Kadyrov who confronted
then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin about Russian complicity in the Dagestan
incursion, which was used as a pretext for the war. When Kadyrov, as a local
religious leader, met with Putin on these issues, the former KGB lieutenant
colonel reverted to that rare reserve weapon of the Kremlin (honesty),
admitting to Kadyrov that “mistakes were made.”

Some will be surprised to learn that Kadyrov was not punished for hinting at
a Russian conspiracy. Instead, he was rewarded, co-opted and elevated by the
Kremlin. Telling his Chechen brethren that the war was a Russian provocation
in which ordinary Chechens should not become involved, Mufti Kadyrov won the
respect of the Kremlin. In him they had found an honest Chechen, one who
understood the real underlying power dynamic, who appreciated Russia’s
invincibility, who told his fellow citizens to lay down their arms because
resistance was futile, that the Chechen leadership in opposition to Moscow
was nothing but a puppet show.

Kadyrov was a man of caution and discretion. If a grand Russian war game was
being played out in Chechnya, why should innocent civilians get caught up and
killed? The Kremlin apparently agreed with this overall standpoint. Why not
minimize the involvement of Chechen civilians, who might stupidly join with
local militias that were uncontrolled by agents of the Russian General Staff
or Interior Ministry? After all, this was a military exercise meant to train
troops under realistic conditions, not to kill them off unnecessarily. As
noted by British analyst Christopher Story in the pages of “Soviet Analyst”:
the area around Chechnya had been designated in 1992, by then Defense
Minister Pavel Grachev, as a giant military reservation for preparing
Russia’s armed forces for World War III.

There was another dimension to the Chechin incursion, of course. In a
February 1995 memorandum to the CIA, KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn offered a
prophetic tidbit relating to the Chechin conflict. He said that Chechnya
would come into play once “Yeltsin was considered to have exhausted his
usefulness in extracting concessions from the West. In this context,” added
Golitsyn, “the Chechyan ‘crisis’ can be seen not as a likely cause of a
military coup, but as a possible planned prelude to a change of government.”

This is exactly what we saw four years later, in 1999. At the outset of the
Chechen crisis, secret police chief Vladimir Putin was appointed prime
minister. As the crisis grew, so did Putin’s popularity. On New Year’s Eve,
1999, Boris Yeltsin suddenly and unexpectedly resigned and announced that
Putin would become acting president.

Golitsyn speculated that an open return to communism might not be practical
for Russia. At the same time, the only other course — the nationalist
option – had to be tempered. According to Golitsyn, “Since an outright
nationalist government might prejudice the flow of Western aid and the
continued ‘cooperation’ with the West … it is more likely that the Kremlin
strategists will opt for a hybrid solution involving, for example, a new
President and Commander-in-Chief with a military background and a ‘reformist’
Prime Minister.”

Once again, this is precisely what happened. In fact, it is uncanny that
Yeltsin’s memoirs refer to Putin as “a general” in the military sense. And
just as Golitsyn predicted, this tough new leader chose a reformist prime
minister who had the confidence of Western financiers. Golitsyn’s prediction
on this occasion, as on so many others, was a direct hit.

So what use is the Chechen crisis now?

Now that large-scale military operations have subsided and the General Staff
has handed the region over to the Interior Ministry, Chechnya has become a
training ground for security troops. In fact, while Gen. Moltenskoi and
Mufti Kadyrov have denounced the latest abuses in Chechnya, the Russian
Interior Ministry defended the actions. Interior Minister Boris V. Gryzlov
was quoted yesterday in the New York Times, saying that Russian troops acted
in accordance “with legal norms established for anti-terrorist operations.”

Like other atrocities and outrages in the “former Soviet Union,” these latest
actions will be “investigated” until they fade into the background. If any
Russian official is punished, it will probably be an unpopular plodder who
has made himself undesirable for “administrative” reasons.

Meanwhile, the West will fall back to sleep, the money from America will
continue to flow into Russia and the Kremlin will continue its clandestine
war preparations.

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