Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 194

International terrorism was the flavor of the day for Russian officialdom yesterday, as the Kremlin sought to mute foreign criticism of Russia’s military operations in Chechnya while Moscow’s UN ambassador won Security Council approval of an antiterrorist resolution.

The Kremlin press service reported yesterday that President Boris Yeltsin had sent a message to U.S. President Bill Clinton underlining what it said was Moscow’s desire to find a political solution to the conflict in the Caucasus. The message reportedly restated Moscow’s now standard argument that Russia is the victim of an international terrorist campaign in Chechnya. “Russia has become the target of attacks from terrorist and bandit groups based in Chechnya which are unprecedented in their brutality and cynicism,” Yeltsin was quoted as having told his U.S. counterpart. The Russian president was also said to have told Clinton that the aim of Moscow’s military operations in the Caucasus is to crush the “nest of terrorism” and to restore constitutional order in Chechnya. More generally, Yeltsin warned that the “the global challenge posed by terrorism must be countered by the whole of the international community” (Reuters, Russian agencies, October 19).

That same sort of message was delivered yesterday by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to a gathering of top law enforcement officials from the Group of Seven leading industrial countries and Russia. In remarks that opened the two-day meeting, Putin underlined the importance of suppressing international terrorism now, “on the threshold of the twenty-first century.” In a reference to recent terrorist attacks in Russian cities and to the military campaign in the Caucasus, the Russian prime minister told the assembled officials that “Russia has come face to face with this beastly challenge.” He said that no one nation could wipe out terrorism by the use of exclusively national means, and called for a “pooling of efforts of all countries in the struggle against terrorism” (Itar-Tass, October 19).

Russian efforts to do just that met with success in New York yesterday, as the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution which condemned all terrorist acts as “criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivation.” The resolution also urged all nations to cooperate in combating terrorism, to prevent the financing of terrorist activities, and to “deny those who plan, finance or commit terrorist acts safe havens.” Yesterday’s resolution–which British ambassador Jeremy Greenstock had described as “nothing new… just a reemphasis” on antiterrorism efforts–had been sponsored by Moscow and shepherded to approval by Russia’s UN ambassador, Sergei Lavrov. Not surprisingly, the Russian diplomat attached greater importance to the measure than did Greenstock. He described it as an “antiterrorist manifesto” which would make a “tangible contribution to the formation… of a united front to combat international terrorism.” Lavrov is the current Security Council president. Russia has also called for the convening next year of a UN conference or a special session of the UN General Assembly to discuss combating international terrorism.

Yesterday’s council resolution, which also declared terrorism to be a potential threat to international peace and security, follows adoption of a related document last week. At Washington’s urging, the Security Council on October 15 threatened to level limited sanctions against Afghanistan’s Taliban Islamic movement if it fails to deliver Osama Bin Laden for trial over last year’s twin U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. Some council members, meanwhile, are pushing for adoption of a French-sponsored treaty that would make the financing of terrorist activities a crime. Russia, in turn, has sponsored an additional treaty aimed specifically at nuclear terrorism (AP, UPI, October 19).