Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 167

The attacks on New York and Washington appear to have reduced to zero the pressure among Russia’s political elite for the government to sit down and negotiate with the Chechen rebels. Indeed, Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, just a week ago was implicitly criticized by President Vladimir Putin for urging talks with Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. In an interview published today, Nemtsov declared that, in the wake of the September 11 attacks against the United States, “it is not worth even pronouncing the word ‘negotiations.’ All conversations should be carried out only in the language of the Kalashnikov. It is necessary,” he continued, “to put all energies into destroying the [Chechen rebel] bands. If we now do not now reduce the terrorists to ashes, they will at some point reach the Kremlin. [And] if [Chechen rebel field commanders] Khattab or [Shamil] Basaev manage to pull something off, harsh actions by Putin will receive full support from both the Russian people and world society.” Nemtsov went on to claim that he had never called for negotiations with “the terrorists” or with Maskhadov personally, but simply has said that it would be possible to reach an agreement with “representatives of the civilian population of Chechnya” once the heads of the “bands” were destroyed. “But now I am not sure whether reconciliation is possible in principle,” Nemtsov continued. “I would prefer not to believe it, but it cannot be ruled out that we now stand on the threshold of a conflict of civilizations. Before, the world was divided between East and West, now it’s North and South. The terrorists who are sowing chaos in America are not lost sheep. They simply have values that differ completely from our own.” Nemtsov predicted that the Septmeber 11 attacks would draw Russia and the United States closer together geopolitically (Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 13; see also the Monitor, September 10).

Nemtsov’s reading of the situation was in some ways echoed by one of his ideological opposites. Aleksandr Dugin, leader of the Eurasia movement, said that the terrorist attacks against the United States had given Putin a free hand to “wipe Chechnya from the face of the earth” without the international community raising any objections. However, unlike Nemtsov, Dugin, who is strongly anti-American, did not agree with the idea of Moscow joining Washington in a fight against international terrorism and using that as a pretext to go all out against the Chechen rebels. Dugin nonetheless predicted this would take place “because the theme of observing human rights has now lost all relevance” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 13).