there's a Presidential election Sunday in Chechnya. Haven't heard
that much about it? Not surprising; it's not much of a contest,
really. As the Radio Netherlands website drolly put it
in an article entitled "Soviet-style
Polls in Chechnya," "There's no question that Akhmad Kadyrov will
win Sunday's presidential election in Chechnya. The current head
of the pro-Russian administration in the breakaway republic is
the candidate favored by the Kremlin and, indeed, the only candidate
I could bet on such elections, I might be able to pay my rent
on time. Unsurprisingly, some in the world community don't see
the deterministic approach to elections in the breakaway Soviet
republic as legitimate. As Council of Europe spokesman Franz Timmermans
said to a Radio Netherlands reporter, "it's a Soviet-style election
with only one candidate," and therefore unworthy of even having
the result recognized by his pan-European organization.
these are not free and fair elections, and if you send observers
to elections that are not free and fair, all you do is justify
a flawed process. Because they can organize the ballot correctly,
they can organize polling stations correctly, but if the whole
process is flawed, then you have to make that clear from the outset,"
claims Timmermans, a Dutch MP and Parliamentarian of the Council
addressing the continuing Russian occupation of Chechnya, Timmermans
was likewise blunt: "People are dying every day, and the Russians
have refused to start a dialogue." Likewise, "as long as Moscow
is unwilling to enter intro dialogue with real representatives
of the Chechen people, there is no peace process."
doesn't see much improvement on the Chechen front any time soon:
"[The Russians] know Europeans or Americans won't be critical
simply because it's felt we need Russia's support in the fight
against terrorism in Central Asia, in Afghanistan, in Iraq and
elsewhere. Under those circumstances, the Russians know that neither
Europe nor the US will be very critical of what they're doing
in Chechnya. And that's a big shame, because people in Chechnya
are paying a huge price for the fact that we're not willing to
address the issue."
has the unwillingness of the world community to address the Chechen
issue wrought? The Guardian of 29 September reports
that "the prime minister of Chechnya was flown to a Moscow hospital
Monday after apparently suffering food poisoning, and he said
investigators were trying to determine if it was an assassination
attempt." Prime Minister Popov "was hospitalized in Chechnya
on Saturday evening after complaining of stomach pain as his motorcade
was returning to the capital, Grozny, from Gudermes, Chechnya's
second-largest city, following a ceremony to open a new gas pipeline."
Popov be in this position if he weren't a Muscovian lickspittle?
Possibly not. But it can be argued that America, as much as any
other country in the world, has legitimized Russian involvement
in Chechnya. Ken Fireman of Newsday wrote
on 28 September that "President George W. Bush yesterday all but
endorsed Russia's controversial war against secessionist rebels
in Chechnya, placing it squarely within the orbit of the global
battle against terrorism." Such an endorsement doesn't surprise
this writer, given the framework in which it was rendered.
and the United States are allies in the war on terror," Bush said
during a joint news conference. "Terrorists must be opposed wherever
they spread chaos and destruction, including Chechnya."
is terrorism? Increasingly, it's become defined as simple resistance
to rule imposed from on high in Moscow, Washington, or any other
place with which the Bush team has a security arrangement. That
said, Fireman quotes a senior Administration official's claim
that Bush "wanted to raise Chechnya but [he] wanted to do it in
a polite way."
Washington's Chechen position has much to do with US strategic
needs; one of the outgrowths of the recent Bush/Putin talks at
Camp David was a unified position on Iranian nukes. As Bush said,
"We share a goal, and that is to make sure that Iran doesn't have
any nuclear weapon or a nuclear-weapons program." As has happened
time after time, Bush's freedom-loving rhetoric has been exposed
as a flimsy cover for a desperate strain of realpolitik.
Perhaps it's fortunate for Bush that most Americans don't follow
international affairs seriously; to the "silent majority," one
more Bush capitulation to the forces of tyranny doesn't matter