White House Abandons Chechen 'President'

America and Europe still believe that Russia must conduct negotiations with Chechens

The tragic events in Moscow have proved again that there terrorism can strike any nation. The Chechen gunmen (heroic freedom fighters, as the West thinks) are the same as Bin Laden and the whole lot of them. The hostage crisis in Moscow forced the West to have another look at the Chechen problem. The USA has been characterizing the situation in the Chechen republic as an internal Russian problem, criticizing the actions of Putin’s administration.

Europe had the similar position about Chechnya. On the one hand, Europeans believed that Chechnya was a domestic issue of Russia, but, on the other hand, they were in active contact with Chechen emissaries. We will see what happens with Europe, but let’s get back to the United States.

The USA’s position concerning Chechnya is more important for Russia than the positions of certain European countries, such as Denmark, for instance. It is no secret that the United States has been in regular contact with fugitive Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov for a long period of time. America did not stop its contact even during the time of the hostage crisis in Moscow. It goes without saying that Russia does not like such links between the United States and the terrorist Chechen “president.”

US Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said in the beginning of September that Americans are not sure about Aslan Maskhadov. However, the United States did not exclude the opportunity of negotiating with him. As it became known, the preparation of the terrorist act was already in full swing.

The Americans were forced to push Maskhadov and others like him away after the recent act of terrorism. Spokespeople for the American administration harshly denounced Aslan Maskhadov and called him “damaged goods,” as was written in the Los Angeles Times.

Until recently, the American government perceived the fugitive Chechen president as a potential partner in negotiations with Moscow. However, after hundreds of people were taken hostage in the Moscow music theatre, Maskhadov must not hope for participation in the peace process.

An anonymous American spokesman has recently stated that there is no evidence to prove Al-Qaida’s connection with the hostage-taking act of terrorism in Moscow. However, the spokesman added that Al-Qaida’s instructors took part in the training of Chechen guerrillas in Afghanistan and in the Pankisi Gorge of Georgia. The Americans are really concerned with Maskhadov’s contacts with Shamil Basayev. The USA has considered Shamil Basayev a terrorist since 1995, after a Chechen gang took over a hospital in the Russian town of Budyonovsk. An American official stated that Maskhadov was completely deprived of legitimacy: “He either does not want or can not fight with terrorists,” – said an anonymous American official.

Well, it is a good thing to know the USA’s attitude toward Aslan Maskhadov. However, America still believes that there should other people found in Chechnya as an alternative to Basayev and Maskhadov. In the USA’s opinion, the Russian government could conduct negotiations with these other people.

After the act of terrorism in Moscow, the Russian government asked the White House to include several Chechen groups on its list of terrorist organizations. Washington promised to consider the issue, being sympathetic with Russia's grief. As the Russian people say, “wait three years to get what you were promised.” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the question of the Chechen groups requires a detailed analysis and the study of a lot of information. Adding these groups to the list of terrorist organizations would be followed by freezing their financial means, prohibiting any material help for them, and refusing visas to their leaders and members.

On the photo: Fugitive Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov

Dmitry Chirkin PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Dmitry Sudakov

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