Broadening the Chechen Peace Process

Yulia Latynina
The Moscow Times

The Chechen peace process is completely unstoppable. The first stage of the process was the "Nord Ost" hostage-taking in October 2002; the second stage was when Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov was blown up during Victory Day celebrations last month. The June 22 nighttime assault on Ingushetia, 63 years after Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, was the third stage.

There are, in fact, two Chechnyas. One of them can be seen on television. That's the place where 95 percent of the population (originally 107 percent) vote for President Vladimir Putin; where the Terek Grozny soccer club beats Kryliya Sovietov Samara; and where, in the words of Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev, a bumper crop will soon be flooding the Russian market. The other Chechnya is the concentration camp in Khankala and the bomb attack near Avtozavodskaya metro station. For the Kremlin, this Chechnya does not exist.

I don't know how the Chechen war can be won and I don't know how Russia can pull out of Chechnya because if it does, mass graves will be uncovered, as in Katyn. Compared to Khankala, Abu Ghraib will look like a sanatorium.

But one thing is absolutely clear: The war will not be won if the authorities insist on calling it a "counter-terrorist operation." War does not tolerate lies. In war, any lie results in huge losses.

There is the Afghanistan experience, when we were not fighting a war but "providing fraternal assistance to the Afghan people." To this end, local Afghans were attached to Soviet military detachments. And then paratroopers coming down to land would notice, in the final seconds of their lives, pyramids of stones below them being used for Afghan mortar target practice. Because the "local comrades" betrayed their "Soviet brothers."

In Chechnya, the same is true: Lies first translate into losses, then ignominy and defeat. Several hundred or more fighters appeared from nowhere, shot down police and law enforcement officials and then disappeared. At an emergency meeting several hours later, Putin was told that the attack had been repelled and gave the order to "seek and destroy" the rebels.

That is probably how the Ugandan military reported to Idi Amin on the results of the Israeli operation to free 105 hostages hijacked by pro-Palestinian guerrillas and flown to Entebbe in Uganda. "Our valiant soldiers occupied the airport again," the interior minister no doubt reported. "The Israeli troops fled, the attempt to seize Uganda was repelled." "Seek and destroy," Amin commanded, no doubt.

If the authorities give the order to seek and destroy the fighters who disappeared into thin air, that means the slaughter will be totally arbitrary: Some will be killed out of revenge, some randomly and some to recover debts. And there can be no doubt that the fighters are counting on just such a reaction.

In Ingushetia, many policemen were among the casualties. There, standard Russian police corruption is augmented by the lawlessness of the Caucasus. Cops make money not from business protection rackets, but from kidnappings and murders. This was a collective act of blood vengeance against the Ingush siloviki.

And one more thing. Ten days ago, Putin stated that Russian security services had warned U.S. President George W. Bush about terrorist acts which Iraqi special services were supposedly preparing against the United States after Sept. 11, 2001. Bush had no such recollection, but never mind.

Of course, I am very proud of Russia's powerful secret services.

Nonetheless, it would be nice if they did not just help the United States; and if, instead of building up a superb agent network in Iraq, they built up a network in Chechnya that could give them advanced warning of an assault on Ingushetia by more than 200 fighters.

Ingushetia is closer, after all.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.