Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 82

The EU’s decision to push for the UN resolution condemning the Chechen war appears to highlight continuing tensions between Russia and continental Europe. Indeed, while the British government has all but dismissed concerns over the Caucasus war in order to build a new partnership with Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin, others in Europe–French and German leaders in particular–have been more reluctant to let Moscow off the hook so easily. This continuing criticism of Russian actions in Chechnya has resulted in Moscow’s two most significant diplomatic reversals in this area–yesterday’s UN Human Rights Commission vote and the Council of Europe’s decision on April 6 to begin suspension procedures against Moscow. Neither of these moves carries any real teeth and seem unlikely to have any significant impact on Russian policy in the Caucasus. They nevertheless have at least increased international pressure on Moscow and made it more difficult for Russian authorities to sweep alleged abuses and atrocities under the rug.

Of equal interest, this continuing focus by continental Europe on Chechnya appears to be partly behind the Putin government’s embrace of Britain. Under former President Boris Yeltsin the Kremlin had expended considerable energy in building ties to France and Germany as part of a broader effort to improve relations with Europe. But Moscow has more recently made clear its particular unhappiness with France over French criticism of the Chechen war. For the time being, at least, tensions over Chechnya appear to be a factor hindering the development of relations between the Putin government and France and Germany. That may be at least one reason why the Kremlin has reportedly abandoned plans to maintain meetings of the so-called “troika”–Germany, France and Russia–which had been pursued with considerable energy by Boris Yeltsin (Russian agencies, April 6).