Presidents Mintimer Shaimiev and Aslan Maskhadov, of Tatarstan and Chechnya, respectively, will sign a treaty of friendship and cooperation tomorrow in Kazan. An accompanying economic agreement calls for Kazan to provide assistance in restoring Chechnya’s economy and in training students from Chechnya in the universities of Tatarstan. Kazan hopes also to persuade other countries to invest in the Chechen economy, something that Shaimiev will discuss during a planned visit to the Netherlands, where he will take part in the latest roundtable under the auspices of the "Hague Initiative."
Also tomorrow, Maskhadov will meet in Kazan with the president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, to sign a friendship and cooperation treaty between those two republics. After the treaty-signing ceremonies Shaimiev, Aushev, and Maskhadov will fly from Kazan to The Hague. (Interfax, May 19)
Maskhadov’s decision to form close ties with Tatarstan and Ingushetia is easily explained. The presidents of these two republics (and the former governor of Nizhny Novgorod oblast, First Deputy Premier Boris Nemtsov) were the only Russian regional leaders who consistently spoke out against Moscow’s attempts to resolve the Chechen problem by military force. While Aushev acted at least partly out of a sense of kinship (the Chechens and the Ingush are so closely related that they are often referred to as a single people, the Vainakhs), Shaimiev’s solidarity was inspired by other considerations. Three years ago Tatarstan signed a treaty with Russia that recognized the republic as a subject of international law, albeit not a fully-fledged one. Thereafter, both sides in the Russian-Chechen negotiations tacitly took the treaty with Tatarstan, with various modifications, as their model.
Does Maskhadov’s Change of Itinerary Signal Policy Reorientation?