Contributed by Jef Bossuyt, Workers Party of Belgium (PTB).
On October 7 the Chechen president Maskhadov sent a letter to the new Nato secretary-general George Robertson. The president of the rebellious Russian republic called upon him
“to intervene in accordance with the new world order established by Nato”
Today 118,000 Chechens are fleeing from a war that started already 277 years ago. In 1722 czar Peter the Great incorporated Daghestan into the Russian empire. Ever since the region of Chechnya has been used as a crowbar to force a way into Russia from the south and to invade the country.
In 1918 the ‘White’ general Denikin occupied Chechnya. He formed part of an international coalition trying to undo the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. During the intervention English and French war ships crossed the Black Sea and troops disembarked in the Caucasian harbours of Sukhumi and Novorossiysk. They were repelled and the Red Army acclaimed as victors in Chechnya in 1920
In 1942 the German Nazis occupied part of Chechnya. Many Chechens collaborated and joined German volunteer units, fighting the Red Army
. The Chechens were relocated to other parts of the Soviet Union to prevent a second front from attacking in the rear. In the fifties these people returned to Chechnya.
In 1989 the American press demanded the Soviet Union be dissolved and opened up to the free market and western multinationals. The first republics to secede were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The ‘Popular Fronts’ that organised the secession received help from a general of Chechen origin, Diokhar Dudaev. In August 1991 Dudaev supported Yeltsin’s coup d’état and the end of the Soviet Union. In December 1991 he proclaimed the independence of Chechnya and designated himself as its president. Since the Soviet Union has been dissolved, the western powers have set out to break up the Russian state in order to secure their control on Eurasia. The strategist of the United States of America, Zbigniew Brzezinski, phrased it this way:
“A more open Russian confederation, consisting of a European Russia, a Siberian republic, and a republic in the Far East, would speed up its development. Each of these three constituents would also be more capable of developing its own creative potential, that has been suppressed for centuries by Moscow’s leaden bureaucracy of “
Chechnya no longer recognised the authority of Moscow and appropriated the petroleum transported through its territory. In December 1994 the Russian troops invaded the region. A bloody war made 70,000 victims, in particular during the Russian aerial bombardments, till the last Russian soldiers left Chechnya in 1996. In April 1996 a Russian missile hit Diokhar Dudaev, while he was placing a satellite phone call. Elected as the new president in 1997, Aslan Maskadov signed an armistice with the Russian general Lebed. In 1998 a group of Chechen warlords led by Shamil Basayev demanded president Maskhadov to resign, because of his reconciliatory position towards Moscow.
In August 1999 the war lords Shamil, Basayev and Khattab invaded the neighbouring Russian republic of Daghestan. They murdered police officers, hoisted the green flag of the ‘Islamic republic’ and advanced on the capital Makhachkala. In the Russian cities of Moscow, Buynaksk and Volgodonsk bomb outrages killed 292 civilians in September. Russia imputed the bomb attacks to the Chechens and replied with mass retaliatory bombardments on Chechen villages as well as on the capital of Grozny. In the beginning of October the Russian army invaded the north and occupied a third of the Chechen territory. On 7 October Maskadov sent a letter to Nato secretary-general George Robertson. He asked him
“to intervene in the settlement of the relations between the Chechen republic and Russia, in accordance with the norms of international law and the new world order established by Nato”
A Holy War for Oil
The two thousand soldiers mustered by Shamil Basayev to invade Daghestan were remarkably professionally trained, supplied, and armed. They had at their disposal Stinger-2 rockets, reserved by Nato for its most loyal member states. With these rockets they destroyed three helicopters in front of the TV cameras. During the invasion in Chechnya they used them to bring down a Sukhoi-25 warplane as well as a Sukhoi-25 bomber, one of the best in the world. It recalls the period when the CIA overtly supplied Stingers to the Afghan resistance opposing the Soviet troops. The money appears to come from the pro-western regimes of the Arab oil countries. General Khattab originates from Jordan, where he organised King Hussein’s Chechen body-guard. The invasion has allegedly been sponsored with 20 million dollars from Jordan
. According to the Italian newspaper
one of the financiers of Shamil Basayev’s troops is the Saudi oil billionaire Bin Laden. “
His favourite residence is Afghanistan. However, his contacts with the Chechen warlords date from 1997. He offered money to Khattab in exchange for the training of his followers in the Chechen guerrilla camps. Driven by his project of establishing a unified Muslim state in the Caucasus, he has invested 25 million in the operation of Basayev and Khattab. In February the World Front of the Jihad was raised in Pakistan with the help of Bin Laden. It intends to unify the main fundamentalist currents. It supports the armed rebellions in Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Daghestan, and Chechnya
In Afghanistan Bin Laden fulfilled the role of ally for the United States against the Russians. Meanwhile however he became a nuisance and was chased out … to Chechnya.
has become more and more difficult in Afghanistan. The US have decided to use every means, including diplomatic, to exert pressure on Pakistan and force the Taliban to extradite him. The Afghan soil became too hot for him and he would have chosen Chechnya as a safer haven. The Russians have no say in the matter and the US won’t bombard him as it is Russian territory
The Chechen warlords declared their objective to be “
to establish a Muslim state and to chase the Russians out of the Caucasus
“. This objective perfectly fits in with the aims of the American and European oil multinationals. They want to control the oilfields and oil transport in the Caucasus and therefore eliminate pipelines on Russian territory. All oil would then have to be transported through Georgia or Turkey, two states controlled by the US. For the Arab oil countries the war is the ideal means to weaken their Azerbaijani rival, whose export routes are being threatened.
The US and the Strategy of Terror
In the magazine
the American major Raymond C. Finch describes the use of terrorists in the military strategy of the United States.
The future war
“, Finch writes, “
is most likely not the son of Desert Storm
[the war against Iraq],
rather it will be the stepchild of Somalia and Chechnya. In Somalia, despite overwhelming superiority in firepower and technology, a group of lightly-armed ‘rebels’ effectively forced the US military out of the country. For the time being at least, the Chechens, under the courageous leadership of Shamil Basayev, have won their independence and freedom.
In August 1991 Basayev was in Moscow, and, armed with a couple of hand grenades, went to help defend Yeltsin in the Russian Parliament. In 1992 he hijacked a passenger plane in the nearby city of Mineralnye Vody demanding the Russians lift the state of emergency or the plane would be blown up.
In 1995, concealed in two trucks, Basayev and about 150 handpicked fighters entered Russian territory. His intent was to reach Moscow and unleash something of the terror the residents of Chechnya have been exposed to for the past six months. He hoped to force the Russian leaders to the negotiating table. In Budennovsk, a city 120 km north of the Chechen border, the local police stopped him. Reaching the hospital, they sealed the exits. There were 1500 patients in the hospital. He positioned hostages along the windows to discourage the Russians from shooting. Over a hundred of the hostages were killed when special forces attempted to storm the hospital. To insure safe passage, Basayev demanded that a number of hostages accompany the Chechens back to Chechnya. It took some time for the Russians to assemble six buses. The convoy entered into Chechnya, hostages were released and Chechens began to celebrate.
Conventional military prowess is no match against rebel forces, led by skilled and committed leaders. The notion that the battlefield is isolated and that fighting is restricted to those who wear uniforms is absurd. As we move into the 21st century, the structure of the game appears to be changing. In a football game the uniformed players only compete against an opposing team. Soldiers fight other soldiers. Now some of these players have moved up into the stands, wreaking all sorts of havoc.
The military appears to insist upon maintaining the notional divide between military and criminal operations. But it must develop the necessary doctrinal concepts to handle a wider variety of villains and challenges
The conclusion of the American Major Finch reaches is that “
the methods Basayev has employed are cruel and vicious, and have often been in violation of recognised laws of warfare. At the same time, however, his actions, when cast in the light of Chechen independence, are courageous and praiseworthy
Thus it is brazenly admitted that support to terrorists like Bin Laden or Shamil Basayev poses no problem, in so far as they take action against the adversaries of America.
In a second stage, as soon as the dirty work has been completed, the terrorists have to give way to an intervention of Nato ‘peace-keeping forces’. The terrorists are put aside, although it’s not always plain sailing. Major Finch explains: “
Finally, the US must be wary with whom it shares its military skills and secrets. Basayev illustrates the problems that can develop when legitimate governments elect to provide military training and equipment to dubious allies. Today’s freedom fighters might be transformed into tomorrow’s terrorists
This is the same attitude with respect to terror that the US assumed in Kosovo. Until the end of 1998 they declared – rightly – that the Kosovar Liberation Army (KLA) was a terrorist organisation, a drugs gang. Nonetheless the US decided to support the KLA since their terror was in the interest of the West. The increasing violence between Kosovars and Serbs gave Nato its pretext to bombard Yugoslavia and invade and occupy Kosovo.
(1) ORT TV-News, 10-7-99 and
Le Monde Diplomatique
, January 1995
Etudes Marxistes / Marxistische Studies
, September 1996, p 125
(4) Zbigniew Bzezinski, ‘The big chess-board’, 1997, in
Etudes Marxistes / Marxistische Studies
, January 1999, p 124
(4bis) Itar-Tass, 10-1-99
(6) R.C. Finch, Foreign Military Studies Office, ‘A face of future battles: Chechen Fighter Shamil Basayev,’
, June-July 1997