The Ekho Moskvy radio station noted that Kulikov’s preference for strong action against the possible threat of terrorism from Chechnya coincides with the opinion of "a considerable part" of the Russian population. Commentator Aleksei Venediktov said Kulikov’s statement was therefore "a carefully calculated political move" to boost his political position in the eyes of the public, and in particular, with the military.
But Venediktov went on to describe Kulikov as " very precise, secretive, and calculating." He dismissed the possibility that Kulikov had gone out on a limb in making his inflammatory call for preemptive strikes. Venediktov said it was more likely that Kulikov had Chernomyrdin’s approval to make the statement, and that the aim was "to show the Chechens that this is the kind of hawk they have to deal with" and to convince them to do business with Kremlin "doves." Kulikov’s statement has already achieved its aim, Venediktov said, since it has prompted Chechen government leaders to appeal to the Kremlin to mediate between Kulikov and themselves, thereby recognizing Moscow’s continuing influence in Chechnya’s affairs. (Ekho Moskvy, January 7)
Meanwhile, Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov yesterday expressed support for Kulikov’s call for preemptive strikes. "My attitude to his statement is positive," Luzhkov was quoted as saying. (Itar-Tass, January 8) Luzhkov stands out among Russian politicians in having advocated independence for Chechnya. He repeated this opinion yesterday, saying that Chechnya "should be granted independence and very strict border controls should be established on the border between Chechnya and Russia." (Ekho Moskvy, January 8)
Fiddling While Dagestan Burns?