Long echo of Caucasian war

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov) - I think Russia's latest Caucasian war is over, and the killing of warlord Shamil Basayev is yet another serious argument in favor of this opinion.

Individuals have always played a particularly important role in the Caucasus. Now that Basayev is dead, there is no one else in the region to hate Russia and despise life, his own and the lives of others, as much as he did.

Basayev's formidable hatred of Russians was irrational, although he and others sometimes explained it by the logic of the life-or-death struggle against the federal authorities.

I once found a letter from Basayev's old teacher in the archives of the prosecution office of "independent Ichkeria."

She begged her former student for protection against President Aslan Maskhadov's security services, which threw her out of her flat. She was not killed simply because the "defenders of Ichkeria's independence" thought the old woman would die anyway, from hunger or exposure.

The Chechen "Robin Hood," as the liberal Russian press presented Basayev, refused to help her because she was Russian. On the other hand, what did the life of one old woman, even if she had been his teacher, mean to him after the tragedies of Budennovsk and Nord-Ost, the explosions in apartment blocks in Moscow, and the hostage standoff in Beslan?

The history of Russia's Caucasian wars shows that the Chechen problem is like a recurring fever, which returns every time Russia loses her strength. The latest war was no exception to this rule. It began and ended quite logically.

As expected, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the subsequent turbulent Yeltsin years provoked a recurrence of the fever. The Chechen nationalists were let off the leash at a time when the Kremlin's Caucasian policy was plagued by a series of gross mistakes.

I once talked with an officer from the Chechen department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) during a trip to the war zone. Clutching his head in moral pain and helplessness, he laid the blame on the Moscow authorities: "If they don't want to read our analytical reports, they should at least read Leo Tolstoy's Hadji Murat."

(Hadji Murat is a work based on the life and death of the eponymous Chechen separatist guerrilla, who terrorized the Russian army in the mid-19th century but surrendered himself to the tsar's forces after falling out with his own commander.)

Thank God, times and attitudes are changing, as the liquidation of Basayev has shown. Killing was the only possible way to get rid of him. The tragedy of Budennovsk taught Russia the futility of talking with terrorists. Russia later paid for letting Basayev go with the lives of its children, when the school siege in Beslan in the southern Russian republic of North Ossetia in September 2004 led to the deaths of 331 people, including 186 children.

The Russian security forces are overcoming their deep crisis, which is one more proof of Russia's growing strength. As we know, when Russia grows stronger, the Chechen fever subsides.

The London-based political emigre Akhmed Zakayev, former "emissary" of the Chechen militants, does not share this view. He said after Basayev's death on one of Moscow's radio stations (Who said the Russian media were not free?) that the struggle would go on regardless of Basayev's death. On the other hand, Zakayev, an actor by profession, always plays the same role whatever happens in real life.

Like all other wars, this Caucasian war will have far-reaching and unpleasant consequences. Scattered bandit groups will keep running around the forests in the Caucasus, trying to strike back as effectively as they can, just as happens after any other war in any other part of the world. It will take a very long time for old wounds to heal, which is quite normal, too. There is hard work ahead to defuse the Caucasian time bombs of unemployment, clan politics, graft, and other problems engendered by extremism.

All of this is true, but it is also true that the war is over. In fact, it did not end yesterday, when Basayev was killed, but after a referendum in which the people convincingly demonstrated their desire to be a part of the Russian Federation, even if the critics of the current authorities disagree. Tired of the war, Chechens made their choice, and their verdict killed the war.

Chechnya's Terrorist No. 1 was doomed. The only question was who would score first, the FSB or Ramzan Kadyrov, the current prime minister of Chechnya, who had said that Basayev was his blood enemy and the murderer of his father, former President Akhmad Kadyrov.

I say it is good for Russia and Ramzan that the final blow was delivered by the government. Official justice, which encompasses not only trial by jury but also the legitimate liquidation of terrorists, is always better than a kangaroo court.

In addition to the expected consequences, this war, just as all other Caucasian wars, will have a very long echo. The laws of the historical pendulum and human psychology cannot be broken. Even if the Kremlin pursues a faultless Caucasian policy starting from today, which is a tall order, the echo of the war will still have a negative effect on the situation.

Disregarding the ruthlessness and open dislike for Chechens of Imam Shamil, the main character in the history of the 19th-century Caucasian wars, Dudayev and Maskhadov proclaimed him their forerunner and a national hero. The current generation of Chechens is tired of war and unlikely to take up arms again. But the story will not end after them.

Russia must deal carefully with problems in the Caucasus and initiate smart preventive projects there, or else several generations from now people will have forgotten all about the children of Beslan, but they will remember the destruction of Grozny and glorify Shamil Basayev.

President Vladimir Putin, when he congratulated the FSB on their successful operation, correctly said that a long, hard task without weekends and holidays still lay ahead to protect national security.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала