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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who's Won The War? Good Sense

A victory for common sense is what liberal State Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov called Saturday's agreement to pull the last troops out of Chechnya by Jan. 27, and that is exactly what it was.

Russia, as Chechen prime minister Aslan Maskhadov desperately tried to avoid saying in so many words over the weekend, has lost the war. It has spent hundreds of millions of dollars it could not afford, lost thousands of soldiers, utterly destroyed one of its regions, and must bear responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of its own citizens.

So much for the costs of war. There are no benefits. Moscow is about to pull the divisions out of Chechnya that had been permanently stationed there before the war began. It is also talking about letting the Chechens decide their own political status, a concession that was never made before the fighting began.

In addition, Maskhadov made it quite clear that the Chechens will view the money Russia plans to spend for the reconstruction of Chechnya as war reparations. And when Chechen leaders now go to the international community for recognition as a state, they may get a hearing -- something they never achieved before the war began.

All this adds up to capitulation, which is why Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov suddenly rose in patriotic indignation on Sunday, railing against the government for dooming the motherland to disintegration. The troops, in Zyuganov's view, must stay in Chechnya to affirm that the republic is part of Russia.

But given that the initial invasion of Chechnya was wrong, both strategically and morally, the fact that Russia lost a war for which its people had no stomach is hardly relevant. Indeed, it makes Zyuganov's insistence on maintaining a military threat in Chechnya as strategically and morally wrong as the initial decision to invade.

Now is the time for Moscow to learn from its mistakes, identify its key interests and negotiate them. These include securing its borders and reaching an agreement on the oil pipeline that runs through Chechnya. The result should be some sort of status for Chechnya, just short of full independence, that allows both sides to save face while Grozny benefits from being part of the largest economy in the region.

Sadly, these things were always open for negotiation, even when the highly unstable Dzhokhar Dudayev was in charge in Grozny. But back in 1994, there was no will in Moscow to negotiate or even to flatter the personal vanities of Dudayev. Common sense was conspicuously absent at the time -- but perhaps it is not too late, even now, for sense to prevail at the last.