Akhmed Zakaev wrote an op-ed piece published in the International Herald Tribune on February 16 urging President George W. Bush to reconsider his position vis-à-vis Chechnya prior to his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava later this month.
“Three years ago, the U.S. president gave Putin the green light for his plan of Chechen pacification, which consisted of draconian measures against the civilian population, the installation of a puppet government and a propaganda campaign in the West that portrayed the Chechen independence movement as Islamic terrorists,” Zakaev wrote. “It is clear now that the strategy did not work: The armed resistance was not subdued, the population did not embrace the Quisling government and courts in Britain and the United States cleared Chechen political figures, such as myself, of Russian accusations of terrorism. The only outcome of ‘pacification’ was the emboldening of radicals at the expense of the moderate Chechen leadership, leading to the outrage of Beslan and the spread of militant ideology throughout the Caucasus.”
Maskhadov’s unilateral ceasefire is “a unique opportunity, perhaps the last, to break the vicious circle of hatred, death and destruction,” Zakaev wrote. “If it is lost, the responsibility for the escalation of the conflict, further radicalization of the Caucasus and the inevitable increase of terrorism will go to those who persist in the failed policy of appeasing Putin. Bush should realize that his hands-off policy on Chechnya does not increase security but only breeds terror.”