14 February 2006

A Chechen View of the Cartoon Offensive

David MacDuff's well-informed blog A Step At A Time keeps a close watch on events affecting Chechnya and Chechens abroad. From the Russian-language Chechen Society website, he translates posts a portion of an intriguing interview with Musayev Ilias, Copenhagen spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Independent Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ICR).
- How are your relations with the Danish government?

- They are definitely good and friendly. If they were not so, I do not think that we could have the possibility to lead such a way of life as we do now. The Danish government practically helps us in all kinds of conflicts with Russian authorities by supporting the Chechen community here.

- I am sure that you have heard about the scandal of the published Muhammad drawings in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. What is the position of the Chechen community on this issue?

- Definitely, we consider the drawings to be scandalous but I think there is one very interesting point in this story: I realized Jyllands-Posten’s editor of culture is married to the daughter of a FSB [formerly KGB] general. And he had been working in Moscow as Jyllands-Posten’s correspondent. I suppose that this scandal is nothing else than another regular provocation of the Russian Special Services. Why did they do this? That’s another question. We all know very well that Russian authorities for a long time have been trying to close the North Caucasus' door for western humanitarian organisations, which have a good experience of supporting the Chechen population and also collected a large data archive about war crimes permitted in Chechnya. Of course, they do not want this information to be used by international human rights prosecutors. And the present situation with the Danish Refugee Council is not surprising. Of course the official position of our government in exile is that we would like the Danish Refugee Council to remain in Chechnya. Ramzan Kadirov, the prime minister of Chechnya, only has a 3rd grade education, and he is only a Kremlin mafia's puppet. He never had his own opinion. And he cannot do such kind of steps without the Kremlin's special edict. Also it is a possibility for FSB to create in Denmark the same massive phobia that we have now in Russia. It is the same dirty business, they only changed the picture of the public enemy. If in Russia it is Chechens blasting Russian buildings, in America and, now in Denmark , it is warlike Muslims burning the Danish flag. Using their own agent in Jyllands-Posten, they felicitously prepared the world for the 3rd World War. War between two civilisations – East against West. And I do not really think that Russia will take sides in such a war.
If this has any measure of validity, Putin's FSBocracy may have decided that turnabout's fair play. This time it's Russia's turn to play the nonaligned Third World role while the Islamists take over the role of the Third International in trying to overthrow bourgeois Western society--and impose a totalitarian war-footing on their compatriots until they achieve that goal. Putin can play one side against the other, just as much of the Muslim world did during the Cold War, when every frontline client state enriched its thugocracy and enfeebled its civil society in the process.

In any case, it's more than your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theory.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Richard Cohen in the Washington Post notes how stark the difference is between Putin's policy toward Hamas and his policy toward the Chechens. (via PeakTalk)

Stratfor has also weighed in on Russian's new game. A Step At A Time has the whole thing. Here's a small chunk.
Russia's willingness to speak to Hamas creates a new dynamic in the Muslim world. Syria and Iran are seeking "great power" support against the United States. Indeed, we could expect an evolution in which the Iraqi government also would be looking for counterweights to American power. By inviting Hamas and possibly opening a channel between Hamas and the Israelis, Russia is positioning itself to become a mediator in other disputes, and to walk away with relationships that the United States has been unable to manage.

Given the robustness of Russia's arms industry, which is much more vital and advanced than is generally understood, the Russians could return to their role as arms provider to the region and patron of governments that are hostile to the United States. The situation from 1955 to 1990 was a much more natural geopolitical dynamic than the current situation, in which Russia is really not present in the region. Russia is a natural player in the Middle East.

Remember also that Hamas is very close to Saudi Arabia, with which Russia has an intensely competitive relationship in the energy markets. And then there is Chechnya. The Russians have long charged that "Wahhabi" influence was behind the Chechen insurgency as well as insurgencies in Central Asia. In the Russian mind, "Wahhabi" is practically a code word for "Islamist militants," including al Qaeda. The Russians also feel that, while the Americans have forced the Saudis to provide intelligence on al Qaeda, they have not elicited similar aid on the issue of the Chechens. In other words, Moscow perceives the United States not only as having neglected to help Russia on Chechnya, but as actually hindering it.

The Russians badly want to bring the Chechen rebellion under control without allowing Chechnya to secede. They believe that the Chechen insurgents, and particularly the internationalized jihadist faction among them, would not survive if outside support dried up. They believe that the United States is not displeased to see the Chechen war bleeding Russia, and that Washington has discouraged Saudi collaboration with Moscow. All things considered, this is probably true. In reaching out to Hamas, Russia is also reaching out to the Saudis. The Saudis cannot control the Chechens, but they may have some means of determining the level of operations the Chechens are able to maintain.

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