Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 31

The October 13 issue of the German newspaper Die Welt am Sontag published an article entitled “The Lost War” (“Der verlorene Krieg”), based on confidential papers leaked from the German Chancellor’s office, which attracted considerable attention in Russia. Two newspapers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta (October 14) and Novye Izvestia (October 15), provided their readers with summaries of the article’s contents. The pro-Maskhadov Chechen separatist website Chechenpress.com also discussed the piece. The dossier consisted of documents authored by German intelligence and military experts.

“Russia cannot win the war in Chechnya militarily but does not want to end it politically,” the authors stressed. Despite the fact that the Russian forces in Chechnya currently outnumber the fighters of the resistance 65,000 to 2,000, they pointed out, the rebels are able “to maintain the resistance and the level of attacks.” The main reasons for this lack of federal success are their wretched condition, the support the rebels enjoy among the populace, and the structural chaos of the various Russian combat groups based in Chechnya. “Friendly fire” represents a major cause of the high casualties incurred by the Russian troops. Federal forces, the dossier estimates, have to date lost nearly 10,000 men during the 1999-2002 conflict, while “more than 80,000 Chechens have lost their lives.” The Russian forces are also said to be weakened by their large-scale corruption, which has reached the point where they even sell their own weapons to the enemy. “At this moment,” the dossier notes, “there are no signs of reconstruction in Chechnya. There has not been any tax revenue, and misuse of money and corruption continue to characterize the financial policy.” During fiscal year 2002, 4 billion rubles “have seeped away on the spot without any measurable improvements.” No change for the better can be expected. The dossier predicts that, at the beginning of 2003, a new intensified phase of the war may commence, because the conflict “continues relentlessly, in a very hard way and with high casualties.” Hopes for a political settlement to end the war represent little more than “plain wishful thinking” (Translated from the German by Norbert Strade, Coordinator of the Chechnya Short-List, October 14).