Friday, September 10, 2004

Chechnya: Russia's Second Afghanistan: "Just as was the case in its intervention in Afghanistan, Russia faces the additional problem that the opposition to its policies is aided by the United States. Chechen businessman Malik Saydullayev, who would have been the only credible candidate contesting Alkhanov in the presidential election had he not been barred from running because of a technical problem with his passport, has said that 'Russia has geopolitical and geostrategic interests in the Caucasus, the heart of which is Chechnya, and developed N.A.T.O. countries also have interests in the Caucasus. This war is over these interests.'

"The interest of the United States in the Caucasus is control over oil supplies from the Caspian Sea, which involves securing compliant regimes in the southern Caucasus, including Azerbaijan, where the oil is extracted, and Georgia, through which the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline will pass. As a consequence of this dominant interest, the United States is also committed to thwarting any attempt by Russia to expand its influence in the Caucasus. From the American viewpoint, Russian failure in Chechnya is welcome, as long as it does not get to the point that Chechnya becomes a base for Islamic revolution worldwide."

"The Putin regime has complained of an American "double standard" in the "war on terror," but has been powerless to stop the American support of the opposition.... France and Germany have played both sides of the table, distancing themselves from the United States by endorsing the August 29 election, but also urging negotiation. Their ambivalence is based on their desire for stronger relations with Russia to counter American influence in Eastern Europe and to build economic relations, particularly in the oil sector. At the same time, they also want Caspian Sea oil free from Russian control.... Putin's regime is in a bind from which it will be difficult, if not impossible, to extricate itself. Over time, Moscow will be tempted either to withdraw or to apply massive force. In the short term, it will probably continue its failed policies, possibly with additional shows of force that will not change the basic situation."

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