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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

THE GREAT GAME: Warmongers Cheer Tragedy In Chechnya




The fallout from last week's killings in Chechnya has been so wide and varied that there is little sense to be made of it.


And comments I heard over lunch in Moscow a few days ago made me realize how things go round and round in circles here and never change.


For the first time in ages I heard talk of the party of war. Here we are, four years after a politician coined the phrase to describe the pro-war clique then surrounding President Boris Yeltsin, and two years after their war in Chechnya ended in defeat, the warmongers are still kicking.


Moreover, after the three Britons and the New Zealander were so brutally murdered last week, they are "jubilant," as my lunch companion, a well-known Russian analyst, said. Politicians, bureaucrats and, no doubt, many in the military were glad to see foreigners get their just deserts in Chechnya. Serves them right for championing the Chechens and for their stupid liberal thinking, they are saying.


In many ways it suits Russia to watch Chechnya implode in violence. There can be no question of anyone recognizing the Chechens' independence. But it also vindicates the case for war: You see, they are such barbarians, the only way to deal with them is to eradicate them. That idea is still not dead.


There are other Russians, of course, who are horrified and saddened by it all and understand that the brutalizing 21-month war is at the root of much of today's horror. But not many have stopped to recall how the Russian army performed similar acts of barbarity in Chechnya, on a far greater scale, torturing, disfiguring and dismembering hundreds of ordinary Chechens during the war.


Valentin Vlasov's was a rare voice of frankness last week. The presidential envoy to Chechnya was only recently released from six months captivity as a hostage there.


He was the only Russian official to note the anniversary of the invasion last week on Dec. 11 and the only one to state the facts, that the decision to invade Chechnya was "tragic and mistaken."


"We must remember: Force never solves anything," he warned.


The Chechens need reminding too. A Chechen friend arrived in Moscow, his eyes staring wide, and told me the entire republic was in a state of shock over the killings.


Back in Baku, half the messages on my answer phone were from Chechens appalled that their people could have treated my compatriots so cruelly.


They all hope that this barbarity will be the final convulsion to rack Chechnya, but somehow I don't think it will be. The Azeris meanwhile are understanding of the Chechens; they are fellow Caucasians after all. Official Baku has more sympathy and warmer relations with Chechnya than with Russia and blames the killings on the terrible fate Chechens have suffered under Russia.


Azerbaijan is nevertheless worried about the fallout from Chechnya generally in the region. Buffeted already by the Russian economic crisis, and with oil prices at record lows, foreign investors are tightening belts and growing cautious. Continued insecurity in Chechnya and Dagestan is another nail in the coffin of sliding confidence.


I hate the phrase "Komy vygodno?" (To whose advantage is it?) that conspiracy theorists always ask. I don't believe in conspiracies, but it's a grim irony that the only people who are cheering over this are the old supporters of the party of war.