Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 31

On October 16, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell published an essay entitled “Russia and the U.S. Are Not Competing for Spheres of Influence” in one of the leading Russian dailies, Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Some of Powell’s comments touched upon the conflict in Chechnya and on the Pankisi Gorge dispute between Russia and Georgia. “It is no surprise,” Powell observed, “that disagreements can arise between two great powers. One such disagreement [concerns Iran]…. A second one is connected with Chechnya. We fully support the striving of Russia and of Georgia to ensure their own territorial integrity, but we suggest that the resolution of today’s problem consists in political dialog. Those Russian forces which seek to provide security [in Chechnya] must observe international norms while conducting their operations there, and we hope that an appropriate political resolution [to the conflict] will be found. We are cooperating not only with the leadership of Russia but also with Georgia in resolving the difficult situation which has arisen in the Pankisi Gorge. Both of these questions–Iran and Chechnya (together with the spreading of the [Chechen] conflict to the territory of Georgia)–have an in-principle significance for both of our countries [that is, for both the United States and Russia]. We cannot belittle these problems or close our eyes to questions of principle. We can diverge in our opinions, but inasmuch as our friendship is so strong, and our relations are so firm, these differences do not constitute a threat for us.” (Translated back from the Russian text appearing in the newspaper)