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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Russia Will Lose a War Of Revenge




The Russian officials and media who so indignantly complain that the world has made a snap pre-judgment about Russian money laundering in New York have turned around and done something far worse: made a snap judgment, based on almost zero evidence, that "Chechens" are responsible for the wave of terrorist bombings. Now we have set about destroying "Chechens," or Chechen rebels - the two terms seem to be interchangeable, judging from the way Russia is raining terror down on the republic.


It's outrageous, of course, that after all we have been through in this decade, the Russian government is again indiscriminately strafing Chechnya and killing civilians. Both Western and Russian opinion seems to hold that it is somehow more defensible this time around - because of the terrorist attacks, and because of Shamil Basayev's incursions into Dagestan.


Actually, however, the reverse is true: It is even less defensible this time to be bombing Chechnya.


In 1994 and 1995, Russia had a justification for the war on Chechnya, however slender: Chechnya was a secessionist republic led by a tin-pot dictator named Dzhokhar Dudayev. One could have debated whether Russia had the right to use force to hold onto Chechnya. But those debates were made moot when Russia had to retreat, its nose bloodied; and they were overshadowed by the criminally incompetent and wild prosecution of the war - from the rapes and murders carried out by occupying forces, to the bombings that killed thousands of children.


Yet what justification can there be today for shelling Grozny - the television station, the energy infrastructure, civilian housing?


The terrorist bombings have not been linked in even a remotely convincing way to Chechnya. Basayev - who has a track record of frankness about the terrorism he carries out - denies involvement.


Even if it is Basayev, or some other Chechen faction, why bomb Grozny? The lone point of sanity in Chechnya is President Aslan Maskhadov. He shares Russian distaste and hostility for Basayev. If the goal is national security, Russia should be strengthening Maskhadov's hand by granting Chechnya formal independence.


But clearly - and frighteningly - national security is beside the point. We are about to rescue Basayev from irrelevance just as a previous ill-considered war revived General Dudayev's flagging career. The Russian government is waging a reckless war of revenge - one with full public support, and even some hesitant Western support.


This is utter disaster. And aside from the immorality of it all, does anyone believe the Chechens intend to lose a game of revenge?