Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 194

Moscow is a relatively new convert to the antiterrorism crusade. The Soviet Union was a major sponsor of international terrorism, and the one-time Soviet officials who continue to dominate Moscow’s intelligence and foreign policy establishments have encouraged a rebuilding of ties with the Soviet Union’s former Middle Eastern allies. Enlisting itself in the global battle against international terrorism suits Moscow’s interests right now, however. For one thing, it permits Moscow to cast its military actions in the Caucasus as part of the war against international terrorism. By that means it hopes to win Western support–or at least quiet criticism–of a military strategy already well on its way to resulting in both the deaths of a large number of Chechen civilians and a massive humanitarian crisis in the region. The battle against terrorism also provides Moscow with an issue on which it can claim common cause with the West. With regard to the United States in particular, this is an increasingly rare phenomenon.

Moscow unveiled its new crusade against international terrorism at the UN General Assembly last month. At that time, it linked the “monster of terrorism” to what it described as the threat posed to international security by “aggressive separatism.” Observers did not have to read too far between the lines to see that Moscow was using that formulation to write off the separatist movements in both Kosovo and Chechnya as purely terrorist operations demanding international condemnation. Moscow completed the argument at the UN by asserting the primacy of sovereignty and territorial integrity over that of human rights. The Russian maneuver was aimed not only at defending the actions of Moscow and its Yugoslav ally in the Caucasus and Kosovo, respectively, but at heading off sentiment in the UN to bless the principle of “humanitarian intervention.” Both Russia and China oppose that principle because it calls for the international community to consider involving itself–possibly even by military means–in situations where national governments are badly abusing national minorities (see Monitor, September 21, 23). As Moscow has demonstrated in the Caucasus, it will brook no foreign interference in what it deems to be a purely domestic affair.