Friday, September 17, 2004

will putin choose peace or power ?

frederick starr has a fascinating and hopeful post in the wapost today discussing the framework of a peace plan for chechnya. putin's response to beslan has made it clear that his interest in that conflict is first and foremost as a rationale for a long-term consolidation of power and erosion of democratic instituitions; this column illustrates that there is, and was, another way. starr notes that both chechens and russians envision a solution involving a largely autonomous state within russia, and an end to a war from which neither side benefits on any level.

It is no secret that there are terrorists among revenge-seeking Chechens and that there are radical Islamists among the desperate population of that land. But if Putin persists in painting all Chechens with the same brush of terrorism and Wahhabism, he will block the only remaining path to a peaceful solution and deny Russians and Chechens the only approach known to have the support of responsible figures on both sides.

200,000 Chechens dead; an estimated 25% of their population. . .

- LH

UPDATE: david ignatius takes on the same topic but arrives at an odd conclusion:

Westerners like to believe that democracy and free markets go hand in hand. That optimism should have been tempered by China, which is becoming a global economic powerhouse even as the Communist Party keeps a lid on political expression. And now there is Putin's Russia, which seems to be following a Chinese path. What should the West do about Putin's putsch? The right model, many analysts would argue, is U.S. policy toward China. In dealing with Beijing, the United States is clear about its values -- condemning human rights violations and advocating democratic reforms. But at the same time it maintains an economic relationship that, over time, is making China richer and eventually freer. The same process should happen with Russia, and an attempt to isolate and punish Putin would almost certainly backfire.

so even though our priorities - democratization and human rights - are essentially comatose in china, that's the model we should follow in dealing with russia ? i'm not 100% certain ignatius is wrong about punishment for putin backfiring, but that notion deserves a bit more elaboration than a throwaway dismissal . . .

- LH


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