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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Chechnya Is Key to Peace In Caucasus




And so we enter another day of aerial bombing in Dagestan, another day of supplying small arms to local civilian "volunteers," another day of bragging that hundreds of rebels have been killed according to "preliminary data," also known as "wishful thinking."


The Russians, with a flourish learned from NATO press briefings on CNN, proudly report how many sorties their pilots have flown, and how many of those were reconnaissance flights and how many bombing runs, and other large-sounding and meaningless statistics. Yes, the only confirmed hits so far involve Russian police officers and Georgian villagers - but Basayev is surely on the run, because every time we assault a strategically useless village, the rebels have moved on to another strategically useless village!


It is, indeed, depressingly reminiscent of everything wrong with the war in Chechnya. Acting Prime Minister Vladimir Putin says he can solve the Dagestan crisis in "a week and a half or two weeks." Does he not realize how much he sounds like former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, who waded into the Caucasus in 1994 bragging that one paratroop regiment could defeat the Chechen rebels in two hours?


Then there is Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of the Army General Staff. According to Kvashnin, matters are already under control. As the newspaper Novaya Gazeta asked bitingly this week: Under whose control, when Kvashnin's helicopter has been among those several that have come under damaging fire?


About the only new idea floated in the Caucasus has been asking Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov to send Chechen troops to fight alongside the authorities against Basayev's guerrillas. That, of course, was never going to happen. But it's interesting in that, a) it is something of a precedent for conceding the obvious, that Russia needs help in this region - perhaps from the UN? - and, b) it is yet another admission that Chechnya is de facto an independent country.


We sincerely hope Putin's top-secret plan to win a two-week campaign involves brokering a meeting between Maskhadov and Boris Yeltsin that will culminate in independence for Chechnya. There is obviously no need to worry about other Russian republics becoming inspired at the sight of Chechnya leaving - anyone willing to pay war-torn Chechnya's price is going to secede anyway.


Sadly, a snap meeting with Maskhadov is too enlightened a policy to expect from this Kremlin. We'd all be better off hoping the entire pat little Dagestani action has been a "Wag the Dog" scenario scripted by top "Family" members who hired Basayev.


That's a farfetched suggestion - but it's at least as probable as Yeltsin doing something right in the Caucasus.