Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 209

Chechen president-in-waiting Zelimkhan Yandarbiev and Prime Minister Aslan Maskhadov are cited as having told Georgian journalists this week that they seek a meeting with the Georgian leadership — "any time, any place" — to overcome differences and become "real allies" and "strategic partners." The two Chechen leaders blamed Moscow for misleading the Chechens into supporting Abkhazia’s secession against Georgia. "Unfortunately we were slow to understand that the Kremlin involved us in that conflict by telling us to help the Abkhaz as our Muslim brothers. That was a dirty policy directed not only against Georgia but, as it turned out, also against us," Maskhadov was quoted as saying. Yandarbiev, in turn, reportedly described as "impermissible Abkhazia’s drift toward Russia and secession from Georgia." (Akhali Taoba [Tbilisi weekly], November 4, as cited by Ekho Moskvy, Interfax, Nezavisimaya gazeta, November 4-6)

Elite Chechen fighters under Shamil Basaev, armed and trained by Russian secret services, fought in the Russian-assisted Abkhaz war of secession against Georgia. Chechen support for Abkhazia continued afterward, based in part on a misperception of Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze as a Russian pawn. The Chechens bet on the wrong Georgian horse by supporting Georgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia and, after his death, the "Zviadists" in Georgia. That policy was based on the forlorn hope of creating with them a grand regional alliance against Russian hegemony. Shevardnadze, in turn, became the most outspoken supporter of Moscow’s policy in Chechnya during the war. Setting the Chechens and other North Caucasus peoples at loggerheads with Georgia was a masterstroke of Russian policy, achieved through exacerbating otherwise bridgeable religious and ethnic differences. Shevardnadze will certainly not allow Georgia to become involved in anti-Russian policies. But a mere normalization and reconciliation between Georgia and Chechnya would deprive Moscow of major cards in the region.

South Ossetian Secessionist Election Encouraged by Georgia’s Northern Neighbor.