Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 8

But if the British were eager to blithely sweep the Chechen war under the table, other leading European governments and organizations appeared a little more reluctant to let Moscow off the hook so easily. Indeed, the past fortnight was a stormy one for Russia and the continent, as both the Council of Europe and the European Union moved to punish Moscow for its actions in the Caucasus. The Council of Europe action came on April 6 when the organization’s parliamentary assembly unexpectedly voted for an immediate withdrawal of Russia’s voting rights and began a process by which Moscow could see its membership in Europe’s premier human rights organization suspended. Full suspension is unlikely to occur, because the Council action would first have to be approved by member governments. But the assembly vote was nevertheless a gutsy political move that elicited howls of protest and outrage from Moscow.

The European Union, meanwhile, took a tentative step of its own aimed at disciplining Moscow for its brutal Caucasus war. On April 11 the EU introduced a draft resolution at the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva which urged Moscow to fully investigate reports of Russian atrocities in Chechnya. The EU action was important because, despite intense criticism of Russian actions in the Caucasus from a host international human rights organizations, no country had been willing to confront Moscow in Geneva by offering a formal resolution condemning the Chechen war. The EU resolution came, moreover, as European officials continued to hammer away at Moscow over Chechnya during separate talks in Moscow and Luxembourg. For all of that, however, Moscow appeared likely to weather the storm because, ultimately, EU leaders are, like the British, reluctant to sacrifice friendly ties with Moscow over the Chechen war. The issue will remain an irritant, however, and will likely rear its head again during an important EU-Russian summit scheduled for late May.