Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 3

Sergeev also lashed the West during his visit to Yugoslavia for its failure to back Moscow’s bloody war against Chechen rebels. Replying in particular to criticism of the Chechnya campaign voiced by U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen on December 22, Sergeev said that what Moscow expected from NATO “is not the denunciation of the use of force, but effective measures to cut off channels through which terrorists and bandits get aid.” If Russia does not do battle against international terrorism on its own territory, he went on, then “similar problems will arise most acutely in Central Asia, Europe and other regions on a much greater scale because terrorists will believe that the world community is unable to confront them.” Sergeev was also quoted as saying that relations between Moscow and NATO had reached a new low because of Western criticism of Russia’s war in Chechnya (Reuters, December 22-23; International Herald Tribune, December 24).

Moscow’s bitterness over Washington’s criticism of the Chechnya campaign was probably exacerbated by the Clinton administration’s decision in the days before Christmas to block a US$500 million loan package–negotiated through the U.S. Export-Import Bank–for Russia’s Tyumen Oil company. Some shady business practices by the Russian oil company had made the deal a controversial one to begin with. But an agreement signed a few days earlier between BP Amoco and Tyumen Oil appeared to clear away most of those problems. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s subsequent decision to block the loan on national interest grounds was therefore interpreted by Moscow as an inappropriate move by Washington to punish Russia economically for its war in the Caucasus. Citing Moscow’s brutality in Chechnya, several leading U.S. presidential contenders have called for the Clinton administration to halt Ex-Im Bank loans to Russia (Reuters, New York Times, December 22; AP, January 4).