Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 4

On January 11, the new chairman-in-office of the fifty-five-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Dan Geoana, pledged during a visit to Vienna to make Chechnya and the Balkans his key priorities during Bucharest’s twelve months in charge of the OSCE. “Our first priority,” he underlined, “is the immediate return of the OSCE Assistance group to Chechnya” (Agence France Presse, January 11).

On January 18, the European Commissioner for External Affairs of the European Union, Christ Patten, arrived in Moscow on an official two-day visit. In public comments, Patten raised the issue of Russia’s alleged harsh treatment of civilians in Chechnya (Reuters, January 18).

The January 16 issue of the Wall Street Journal Europe carried a lengthy op-ed entitled “Help Russia Get Out of Chechnya,” written by Thomas Graham, who from 1994-1997 was chief political analyst at the U.S. embassy in Moscow and is currently a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Noting that, according to some estimates, “close to US$100 million a month” is being spent by the Russian government on the war, Graham outlined steps which the new Bush administration might take to help bring an end to the conflict. There must, he urged, be “a firm statement of U.S. support for Georgian independence;” Moscow will have to negotiate with Aslan Maskhadov; the final decision on Chechnya’s status ought to be postponed “for five to ten years;” access must be provided by Russia to the refugee camps; and a date should be set for the elections of a new Chechen president “as soon as the ceasefire is in place.”

The West, Graham proceeded to recommend, “could assist Russia and the Chechen parties to the ceasefire in peacefully disarming the remaining extremist rebel formations.” Chechen forces would be expected to take the lead in this process within Chechnya itself, while the West could work with Georgia and Azerbaijan “to interdict transit routes and close possible sanctuaries for the extremists.” Finally, the West “could offer substantial assistance to rebuild Chechnya,” with these funds being scrupulously monitored. An innovative combination of carrots and sticks, Graham contended, could be employed (including a review of Russia’s membership in the G7) to help Russia to come to understand its need to agree to such a plan.