Today's date:
Winter 2003


Don’t Negotiate With Terrorists

Mikhail Gorbachev was the last president of the Soviet Union.

Moscow - It is not true that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position is one of "no negotiation" with the Chechen separatists. I can tell you I am privy to information that the president is looking for ways to start down the political track. He is in contact with the Chechen diaspora and senior leaders in Moscow, and already some factions have decided to lay down their arms. Just as in the Middle East, he knows there is no ultimate military solution to the Chechen conflict, only a political one.

Before the attack on the Moscow theater, normalization in Chechnya had begun to take hold. Schools were restarted, infrastructure was being renovated, and normal administration was taking hold.

This succeeding normalization caused a reaction among the most militant factions that want no peace and only total independence from Russia, and thus have resorted to terror. This cannot stand. In Russia and elsewhere, terrorism is not a matter for negotiation, but must be stamped out, including with military means, so that negotiations can proceed.

Some have said that Putin must negotiate only with Aslan Maskhadov (the Chechen president), who was expected to meet Russia halfway. But there is a big problem with him now: There is written evidence that he gave the command to raise the level of terrorism so as to put pressure on Russia. Rather than moving toward compromise, external forces seem to be pushing him the other way. Reportedly, $100 million has been raised in the Arab countries to support (Islamic) Chechen rebels so they can keep the conflict in an acute and violent phase.

The ultimate solution is clear: special status autonomy for Chechnya, taking into account its culture and history, but as part of the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin didn’t create this crisis. He inherited it. I believe he is fully capable of finding a solution.