Chechnya: Calling The West's Bluff, Or Passing The Buck?

From Caucasus Report Volume 2, Number 50
Meeting in Makhachkala on 14 December with OSCE Chairman in Office Knut Vollebaek, Russia's Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu proposed that the OSCE should take over the administration of the districts of Chechnya currently under the control of Russian federal forces. At present those districts are being administered by military commendants. The Russian government has made an effort to provide in these areas many of the services that President Aslan Maskhadov's government earlier was unable to deliver. That failure, together with Maskhadov's inability to clamp down on the criminal activities of some of his fellow former field commanders, generated widespread disenchantment among many rural Chechens (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," Vol. 2, No. 48, 3 December 1999).

Visiting the so-called liberated zone on 15 December, Vollebaek apparently made no reference to Shoigu's suggestion, which may well have been intended to call the OSCE's bluff. Even if OSCE member states endorsed such an undertaking, its implementation would be extremely difficult in terms of security and logistics. The OSCE administrators would have to work in coordination with, and possibly rely for their security on, the permanent Russian military presence that Moscow is intent on maintaining in Chechnya. They would also have to work with pro-Moscow Chechen politicians such as former Grozny mayor Beslan Gantemirov. And, as in Kosovo, the OSCE would inevitably be blamed for reprisals by Chechen militants against fellow Chechens who ceded villages to the advancing Russian troops without a fight. (Liz Fuller)

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