Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 15

Military truce in Chechnya remains unstable

Chechnya, Russian meddling in the war of Yugoslav succession,and joint military activities across the former East-West divideshould again top next week’s agenda.


Moscow looks set to continue encouraging Chechen chief of staffAslan Maskhadov to play an increasingly independent role, helpshore up the armistice, take on some political attributions, andincrementally distance himself from Dzhokhar Dudayev in the process.But Moscow’s hopes to open rifts within the Chechen resistancehave thus far proven misplaced, and it has correspondingly erredin underestimating Dudayev’s authority. Focus on tactical manipulationsalso underscores Moscow’s lack of a viable strategic politicalconcept for Chechnya, and that lack may in turn reflect the trulyintractable nature of the problem. As long as the fundamentalquestion, that of Chechnya’s future political status, remainsas elusive as it currently is, the military truce remains inherentlyunstable, and its observance remains mainly a function of thelevel of war weariness on the Chechen side.


Moscow will in the week ahead take stock of the double defeat–militaryand diplomatic–it suffered with the Serbs’ loss of Krajina andCroatia’s rejection of Russian mediation in the conflict. Yetthe mediation offer remains on the table, and the Russian conceptof settlement negotiations has emerged quite clearly. First, atriangular Russian-Serb-Croat forum to deal with Krajina and EastSlavonia and predetermine a solution for Bosnia; a follow-up forumwith the inclusion of the Bosnian leadership which would be placedbefore a fait accompli; and finally an international forum atwhich the members of the current Contact Group would swallow theresults arrived at in the preceding two stages under Russian arbitration.The week ahead is likely to see Russian attempts to promote thisconcept, but the chances of success look slim.


Multilateral ground troop and naval exercises, in which NATO forceswill be joined by ex-Soviet countries other than Russia, are scheduledto commence or continue in Lithuania, the Black Sea, on the LowerDanube, in the US state of Louisiana, and elsewhere during theweek ahead.


Other developments to watch during the week include:

–Possible changes in the status of the Russian-controlled Donuzlavnaval base in the Crimea. In recent weeks, orders have been issuedand countermanded regarding the possible transfer to Ukraine ofthis base and its naval airfield.

–Reactions from Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko to theapparently well-substantiated reports about his desire to uniteBelarus with Russia and seek the presidency of the unified state.

–North Ossetian-Ingush negotiations toward reversing the 1992forced exodus of the Ingush from North Ossetia.

–The terms of the Georgian constitution, particularly with regardto the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the powers reservedfor Eduard Shevardnadze.

–Inter-Tajik negotiations, another round of which was scheduledfor the first half of August. Preparations for this round seemunderway in Dushanbe, Tashkent, Almaty, and in Afghanistan.