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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Why Hide Chechnya Peace Plan?

Defense Minister Pavel Grachev says the army will begin to withdraw from Chechnya in April, except, of course, for those troops engaged in "special operations." But what does this mean?


As the general spoke, his forces were moving on the villages of Samashki and Bamut, continuing a military campaign that has no evident logic and indeed has a delirious sense of d?j? vu, since these are villages the federal forces were fighting for a year ago. So with what aim are they fighting again now?


At the same time, the rebel Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev announced that he would not talk to President Boris Yeltsin, even if he were offered the chance. If he will not talk, does that mean Dudayev believes he can defeat the Russian Army?


Few would expect much wisdom from Dudayev. But where, one might well ask, is Yeltsin's much-touted peace plan? More than a month after the president first announced that he had some magic up his sleeve to end the conflict, not least because his re-election prospects depended on it, the plan remains a state secret.


Some analysts believe the army is busy taking as much territory as it can before the plan takes effect, strengthening Moscow's hand and making it possible, as the United States so infamously did in Vietnam, to withdraw while declaring victory. Perhaps.


But if the federal army has been unable to reliably control territory it has taken at great human cost before -- in Grozny let alone Samashki -- what is the point in fighting over it again now and then pulling out? If Moscow planned to drive the rebels into a corner of the republic and then seal them off, it would at least make sense. But that cannot happen if the troops pull out.


Perhaps, if we knew the tenor of Yeltsin's peace plan, then we could understand at least the purpose, if not the morality of the blood that is being shed in the current military campaign. Yet the plan remains hidden and Russians are offered no more than cryptic crumbs from the high table of Kremlin decision-making to account for the conduct of the war.


Yeltsin was right when he said Chechnya would weigh heavily on his campaign. Russians are not pleased that he unnecessarily began a civil war in which their sons are dying. But to earn the forgiveness of voters, Yeltsin will have to show them that he knows of some constructive means for ending the conflict.


And the sooner he proves by words and actions that he has such a strategy, the better for both Chechnya and the president's election prospects.