President of Politics Foundation: Russia's Anti-terrorist Operation in Pankissi, Georgia, Hardly Possible

Speaking in a live program of the Echo of Moscow radio, Vyacheslav Nikonov, President of the Politika (Politics) foundation, said Russia's anti-terrorist operation in the Pankissi Ravine, Georgia, was hardly possible. He further said, 'In any attempt to deal with this problem unilaterally, Russia can hardly count on the support of international organisations'. Mr. Nikonov believes no one is likely to support invading a sovereign state without a very good cause. However, he admits, if a similar situation existed at the US-Mexican border, the US would not think twice before striking.

Yet Russia does not enjoy the same status as the US and this is why the situation is being discussed between Washington and Moscow. Mr. Nikonov also said, the initiative of a tri-lateral, Georgian-Russian-American operation was now too late.

Some time back, the Americans were probing the possibility of such an operation, yet Russia was not ready for such a turn of events. Americans then wanted to do the operation with the use of the American-trained Georgian battalion and came up with USD 63 million for the purpose. Recently, another USD 10 million was put up for reinforcing the Chechen stretch of Russian-Georgian border. This came as a recognition by the US of there being an international terrorist threat in the Pankissi region.

Mr. Nikonov believes that Georgia does not want any anti-terrorist operation at all. Yet the final decision, he said, rested with the US. The political scientist further said, 'by Eduard Shevarnadze, whatever the Americans say, the answer is yes. And whatever the Russians say, the answer is no. If tomorrow the US says the antiterrorist operation in the Pankissi ravine must go ahead in cooperation with Russia, all Eduard Shevarnadze will do is say 'Yes, Sir!' and present is as a Georgian initiative. Yet the US is hardly likely to issue such an order'.

Mr. Nikonov believes, there are several ways Russia could go about the Chechen militants in the Pankissi ravine. First, Vladimir Putin may order Russian troops there on an approval or even after-the-fact approval of the Council of Federation. Yet this is not greatly likely, President Putin wishing Russia to stay among civilised nations. Moscow could also run this by the UN and act on the authority of the UN Security Council. This could save Russia accusations of violating international law. However, no one can tell if the UN Security Council will ever go for it.