Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 24

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov yesterday accused Western governments of exhibiting a “double standard” regarding “separatism, religious extremism and fanaticism” in meeting with representatives of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov while conducting a war against international terrorism. Ivanov made his remarks at an international security conference in Munich, during which Moscow showed increasing discomfort with the U.S.-led antiterrorism campaign, particularly in the wake of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speech last week, during which he referred to Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” Ivanov said he had no indication that the three countries, which enjoy good relations with Moscow, support terrorism. He also argued that the threat of nuclear proliferation did not come from these states only. As for Chechnya, Ivanov noted that after the start of the U.S.-led antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan, Russia had warned against including any so-called “moderate” members of Afghanistan’s Taliban in a future Afghan government, arguing that “moderate Taliban” was a contradiction in terms. Terrorists cannot be divided into good and bad, Ivanov argued, and it is thus understandable why Russia is unhappy over the meetings between representatives of Western governments and Maskhadov representatives. Such meetings, he said, are the moral equivalent of British officials meeting with Basque separatists or French officials meeting with members of the Irish Republican Army (, February 3).

Chechen rebel emissaries have held official meetings in a number of Western capitals in recent days. On January 23, Ilyas Akhmadov, foreign minister in the government of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, of which Maskhadov was elected president in 1997, met in Washington with representatives of the U.S. State Department. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry called in a representative of the U.S. embassy in Moscow, who was told that Akhmadov’s meeting with U.S. officials contradicted “the spirit of cooperation and partnership of the two countries, and our close cooperation in the fight against international terrorism.” The Russian Foreign Ministry statement continued: “It is surprising that the U.S. administration, which speaks of the need to fight decisively against any expression of terrorism in the world, in essence encourages the Chechen extremists, whose direct links with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida are confirmed by new irrefutable evidence” (, January 25). The ministry issued a similar protest after another Maskhadov representative, Akhmed Zakaev, met in Paris on January 25 both with French Education Minister Jacques Lang and with a representative of France’s Foreign Ministry (Finmarket, January 29). Zakaev also met recently with officials of Great Britain’s Foreign Ministry and the European Union. When reporters asked Ivanov yesterday whether he thought Western governments would continue to meet with Chechen rebel representatives after his comments during the Munich forum, he replied: “I hope not” (, February 3).