The second of two articles on the Chechen peace agreement. It seems that chess is now competing for a place among the Kremlin's favorite games. But it is unlikely to overtake tennis any time soon. Security Council chairman Alexander Lebed described his achievements in the Chechen peace settlement as a match that he managed to win. Although being as much a master diplomat as chess player, he presented it as a draw. The prize was the political statement he signed with the chief of staff of the Chechen separatist forces, Aslan Maskhadov, which, in essence, declared the war over. This agreement postpones deciding on the political future of Chechnya for five years. But judging from the swift tempo of the negotiations, the president's national security adviser is clearly a proponent of a fast game. Many analysts rushed to the conclusion that the Chechen peace settlement has simply become the playing field for the next round of a game that is as much in favor in the Kremlin as tennis -- the fight for power.
A fox runs into a rabbit in the forest and makes some sort of mark on a list he is carrying. ""Show up at Bear's house. You're expected for dinner."" ""No way,"" answers the rabbit. ""Then I guess we'll have to cross you off the menu,"" the fox observes sadly. The relations between Moscow and Dzhokhar Dudayev's regime in the three years since Russia became an independent state and the breakaway Chechnya region declared its own independence have been amazingly like this simple joke. At least three times during that period, Moscow has announced its intention to restore law and order in this region. And in each case, even though there was no direct threat to resort to force, it was certainly implied. But each time, after threatening loudly, the Russian government backed away at the crucial moment. I think that something of this sort will most likely happen this time as well, despite all the uproar, troop movements and operations which can only be called ""secret"" in quotation marks.