Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 190

Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov has called for the future status of Chechnya to be decided by means of a national referendum. (Interfax, October 10) Kulikov is a self-professed member of the "party of war," which gives no quarter in the battle against Chechen secession. His call for Chechnya’s status to be put to a national referendum is reminiscent of Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1990 attempts to prevent the break-up of the Soviet Union. Faced with Lithuania’s determination to assert its independence, Gorbachev in April 1990 shepherded through the Soviet parliament a bill "on the mechanics of secession" that, by requiring a pro-secession vote of two-thirds of the population in places (such as the Baltic states) with substantial Russian minorities, made leaving the USSR virtually impossible. Kulikov’s call for an all-Russian referendum on the status of Chechnya seems to be based on a similar calculation (which might, however, prove mistaken, given the war-weariness of much of the Russian population) that the majority of Russian voters would oppose Chechnya’s independence.

The Darker Side of the International Arms Trade.