Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 155

Chechen president Aslan Maskhadov is keen to press ahead with the signing of a full-fledged treaty between Russia and Chechnya and considers it "cannot be put off, even for a single day." Maskhadov told a press conference yesterday that he was alarmed by President Yeltsin’s statement that the matter should not be rushed and that it might take "a year to 18 months" to work out a document acceptable to both sides.

But Maskhadov said he fully supported Yeltsin’s alarm over heightened U.S. interest in the Caucasus. (See Monitor, August 21) Maskhadov said western attempts to secure a monopoly over development of the region’s natural resources are "in the interests of neither Russia nor Chechnya." (Russian news agencies, August 21) Maskhadov’s words underline the fact that, at their meeting at the beginning of this week, the Russian and Chechen leaders found common ground in their joint determination to exclude western influence from the region and that this consensus underlies their agreement to conclude a new treaty. Yeltsin said after the August 18 meeting that he and Maskhadov had agreed "to try to create a common economic, defense, and air space" and that he "did not rule out" the possibility of cooperation in other spheres. Russia went to war with Chechnya in order to exclude western influence on its southern border and maintain its dominance over the natural resources of the region, while Maskhadov would like to exploit this shared antipathy to western influence to get a treaty that will recognize the independence for which Chechnya waged the same war. Thus, the two leaders seem now to have found a way to reconcile these two sets of interests.

Maskhadov let it be known yesterday that he is postponing his plans to visit "a number of European countries" and is recalling the emissaries charged with preparing the visit. Maskhadov seemed to be sending Moscow a further signal that he is eager to cooperate with Russia, and to play down Chechnya’s links with the West if this will secure a speedy and full-fledged treaty between Chechnya and Russia.

Russian, Chechen Governments Investigate Ransom Reports.