Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 20

The European Union issued its flabbiest statement yet on Chechnya during last weekend’s EU-Russia summit meeting in St. Petersburg. Prime Minister Costas Simitis of Greece, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, said that the EU “will continue to support the efforts of Russian leaders to carry out a policy aiming to bring peace back to Chechnya.” He called the March constitutional referendum, together with Putin’s new amnesty plan, “an important step forward.”

Even more gushing was the statement of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He told the Russians: “I think it is absolutely right that you resolve that through the political process and political dialogue that you have engaged in.” European Commission President Romano Prodi said that the EU and Russia are “now like vodka and caviar.”

A bland joint statement avoided any specific mention of Russian human rights violations in Chechnya. The summit thus further consolidated the ongoing process in which western leaders take at face value Moscow’s claims about the referendum and amnesty as genuine peace-making measures.

Equally bland were U.S. President George W. Bush’s words during his joint press conference with President Putin on June 1: “We are going to win the war on terror by cooperation, as well as providing security and hope for innocent people. That’s why I support the goals of ending the fighting and suffering in Chechnya and reaching a lasting political settlement in that region.”