published in: CONTRASTS AND SOLUTIONS IN THE CAUCASUS, Ole Høiris and Sefa Martin
Yürukel (eds.) Copyright: Aarhus University Press, 1998.
Russia's efforts to quell the Chechen
bid for independence by military force was a failure. But the political strategy which the
Federal authorities worked out to retain the breakaway Republic within the Federation also
Russia's military defeat was confirmed
by the separatists re-seizure of Grozny at the beginning of August 1996 and by the
agreement signed shortly after in Khasavjurt, by the Chechen Chief of Staff, Aslan
Maskhadov and the Russian Security Council Secretary, Aleksander Lebed. The fact that the
political strategy failed was confirmed when the Chechens in January 1997 went to the
polls and elected a new President and Deputies to the Chechen Parliament on the basis of
the Chechen Constitution (adopted in 1992 under Dudayev), and the Chechen election laws;
not on the basis of the Federal Constitution, nor Federal election laws.
Actually the Russian Government is back
where it started in December 1994, when Federal forces were set in to 'reestablish
Constitutional order' in the Chechen Republic, or the 'Chechen Republic of Itchkeria' as
it was renamed under Dudayev. After 18 months of devastating war, at a cost of more than
80,000 civilian lives and some 200,000 refugees, the fundamental issue, and the very
reason why military forces were set in, is still unsettled.
The new Chechen President, Aslan
Maskhadov, has declared that Chechenia has no intention of giving up its political
independence, as officially proclaimed by the first elected Chechen President, Jokhar
Dudayev, on November 1, 1991. Elected with the consent of the Federal authorities and on
the basis of agreements, signed at Governmental level between the Russian Federation and
the Chechen Republic Ichkeria, Maskhadov, in contrast to Dudayev and his successor
Selimkhan Yandarbiev, cannot be treated as an illegitimate 'bandit', as these men were
labelled by President Yeltsin and other Federal officials.
Having recognized the Chechen
elections, accomplished on the basis of a Constitution defining Chechenia as an
independent state, the Federal authorities have legalized Chechen claims to independence.
This is a fact of principal importance for the forthcoming negotiations on the mutual
relations between the Russian Federation and Chechenia.
However, Chechen negotiators will not
be satisfied with the mere legalization of Chechen independence claims. They will insist
that Chechenia is independent.
According to the Khasavjurt agreement,
the issue of mutual relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic
shall be resolved before 2001.
The two parties interpret this
provision somewhat differently, however. While the Russians claim that settlement of the
issue be delayed until the year 2001, the Chechens insist that it be clarified before
2001. Thus, shortly after he was elected, Maskhadov declared that '... it is necessary to
start tackling the issue as soon as possible'.
In the negotiations that are to come,
previous agreements will play an important role. Chechen negotiators will refer to
documents signed by both parties and oblige the Russian side to adhere to them. The
Russians, for their part, will probably take a less legalistic approach, stressing the
need to consider new political and economic 'realities'.
Against Chechen attempts to force
through substantial decisions, the Russian side will most probably prize 'the value of
dialogue in itself', or more concretely, draw out the negotiations as long as possible.
This was also hinted at by the new Secretary of the Russian Security Council, Ivan Rybkin,
who, in an interview to Izvestija shortly after the Chechen elections
declared that: 'It is better to sit for years at the negotiating table than to fight'.
of the Article
The aim of this article is to examine
the dynamics of the negotiation process between the two parties to the conflict and assess
the principal importance of previous agreements to forthcoming negotiations. The period of
time discussed will be from August-September 1991, witnessing the Dudayevites seizure of
power in the then Checheno-Ingush Republic, to August 1996, when the Khasavjurt agreement
was signed. I shall demonstrate that although the negotiation process only gained
momentum after the outbreak of war, efforts to find a political solution to the conflict
were also made before December 1994. Officials at the Federal level made several calls to
negotiate with the authorities of the insurgent Chechen Republic. President Dudayev at an
early stage called for negotiations with the Federal authorities.
The attempt to solve the conflict by
military means was not only the most costly variant in all regards. Neither was it the
only option available. I shall argue that if the central decision-makers in Moscow had
listened to those voices that had opted for negotiations, and if they had reacted
adequately to Chechen proposals, the war could have been avoided.
The first part of my article shall
demonstrate, that both parties to the conflict had developed a strategy for a political
solution to the conflict long before the outbreak of war. While the Chechen strategy was
more or less manifest from the outset, the Russian one crystallized first at the end of
1992. Common to both strategies was a stubborn adherence to principal positions, not to be
subject to negotiation. On the Chechen side this concerned Chechenia's status as an
independent state and a subject of international, not Federal constitutional law. On the
Russian side the unshakable principal position, before as well as after the development of
a coherent strategy, was that Chechenia was a constituent part of the Russian
Federation. The Chechen strategy was based on the concept of Federal-Chechen State
negotiations only and a readiness to compromise on any issue except Chechenia's status
as an independent state.
The Russian strategy was based on the
concept of 'non-governmentals only', to be more exact, contacts and support to Dudayev
opposition forces only. Any official negotiations between Russia and Chechenia, except on
the basis of Federal laws, was out of the question.
After eight months of warfare, in the
autumn of 1995, the Russian strategy was transformed into a 'Chechenization' strategy,
aimed at making the conflict into an 'internal Chechen dialog'. At this time, however, the
Russian side had already made several politically 'strategic mistakes', dooming the
'internalization' policy to fail.
The second part of my article will
examine the dynamics of the negotiation process after the outbreak of war and demonstrate
that also on the political level the Chechens turned out to be more judicious than the
Russians. With the Khasavjurt agreement, the Chechens obtained what they had insisted on
since Dudayev formulated his first proposals to negotiate. Russia recognized that the
authorities of Chechenia-lchkeria were the only parties empowered to decide on Chechenia's
future, and that Russian-Chechen relations should be based on international, not Federal
In the concluding chapter the prospects
for a final solution to the issue of Chechenia's status and the role of previous
agreements in forthcoming negotiations are discussed.
Chechen Revolution. Moscow's Contradictory Reactions
Russia did not recognize the
Presidential election in Chechenia on October 27, 1991, when 90% out of a total of 72% of
the Chechen population that took part in the election voted for Jokhar Dudayev, former
General in the Soviet Airforce, and since 1990 Chairman of the 'parallel parliament', the
National Congress of the Chechen People (NCCP). Russia did not recognize the declaration
of Chechen independence, first adopted at the founding congress of the NCCP on November
25, 1990 and officially proclaimed by Dudayev on November 1, 1991. Russia did not accept
the procedure whereby NCCP seized power from the then functioning Chechen state bodies.
But Russia's reactions during the
'Chechen revolution' were contradictional and inconsequential. President Yeltsin and the
Acting-Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet, Ruslan Chasbulatov (a native Chechen) at
first supported Dudayev and the NCCP. Yeltsin and the 'democratic' leaders in Moscow
wanted to get rid of the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Checheno-Ingush Republic,
Doku Zavgayev, who also held the post as Secretary of the local branch of the Communist
Party. Zavgayev had incurred Yeltsin's anger when he, like most regional leaders, failed
to renounce the August 19, coup attempt in Moscow.
Yeltsin, by this time engaged in a
power battle with Gorbachev, had encouraged bids for sovereignty in the 16 autonomous
republics of the Russian Federation, as this was something he could instrumenatlize in his
efforts to dismantle the Soviet system.
When NCCP demanded the dissolution of
the Chechen Supreme Soviet, Secretary of State of the Russian Federation, Gennadij
Burbulis and Ruslan Chasbulatov travelled to Grozny. Both urged Doku Zavgayev and the
Chechen Supreme Soviet to resign.
A Temporary Supreme Soviet was established which announced elections to a new Parliament
NCCP however, was not satisfied with
the composition of the Temporary Supreme Soviet (several members were deputies to the
dissolved Supreme Soviet) and claimed that it ought to consist of NCCP members only. The
Temporary Supreme Soviet was forced to resign, (according to Dudayev it dissolved
voluntary) and NCCP
announced Parliamentary and Presidential elections to take place on October 27.
Moscow became growingly worried about
the developments of events in Grozny. Surely the Federal authorities were interested in
getting rid of Zavgayev. But Dudayev and NCCP obviously 'overfulfilled the plan' and
clearly strived for more than the mere ousting of the local communist nomenclatura.
On October 8, the Russian Supreme
Soviet issued a resolution, demanding the reinstatement of the Temporary Supreme Soviet
(and disarmament of so-called armed formations')
Elections, however, were accomplished
as planned by NCCP on October 27. Vice-President Aleksander Rutskoy, who also paid a visit
to Grozny in this turbulent time, and sided with the Temporary Supreme Soviet, declared
after meetings with all implicated parties, including Dudayev: 'This is not a revolution.
It is banditisrn.
When Dudayev on November 1,
proclaimed Chechen state sovereignty, Yeltsin lost his patience.
Orders Troops: Russian Supreme Soviet Opts for Negotiations
On November 8, Yeltsin declared a
state of emergency in Chechenia and
dispatched 2,500 Internal Ministry
troops to the disobedient Republic. The troops never got into action thouh, partly because
they were already stopped by Dudayev's National Guard at Grozny airport, and partly
because the Russian
Supreme Soviet repealed Yeltsin's decree a few days after it was issued.
In its ordinance the Russian Supreme
Soviet renounced the 'emergency means' and called for a political regulation of the
conflict. They proposed the appointment of an official delegation who, on behalf of the
Russian Federation (RSFSR) and with a mandate confirmed by the Russian Supreme Soviet,
would 'negotiate with all political forces in the Checheno-Ingush Republic'. The ordinance
also stated that 'it was necessary to take measures to stabilize the political situation
in the Russian Federation and secure its territorial integrity'.
The Russian Supreme Soviet's annulment
of President Yeltsin's decree revealed that there were divergent attitudes in Moscow as to
how the conflict should be handled.
At this time a draft Russian Federation
Treaty was worked upon in Moscow, codifying relations between the Federal centre and the
89 administrative entities of the Russian Federation. Deputies to the Russian Supreme
Soviet were obviously more concerned than the President about the effects of a military
assault on Chechenia or other ethnically defined entities. (Most of them had adopted
declarations of sovereignty in the course of 1990-91 although inside the framework of the
Russian Federation or the Soviet Union) A military assault could easily provoke negative
reactions among the non-Russian entities, making them opt for not signing the Federation
The averted military assault
consolidated Dudayev's position. Confronted with a threat from the outside, Dudayev's
opponents rallied around him.
Conditions and the First Russian-Chechen Meetings
Even if the interference of the
Russian Supreme Soviet was to Dudayev's advantage, he was nevertheless not pleased. He
perceived the formulation 'negotiate with all political forces in the Checheno-Ingush
Republic' as a disavowal of the new Chechen authorities.
'The Russian delegation intends to
negotiate with some public organization and not with the legal authorities, not with the
popularly elected President', he said in an interview to Sovietskya Rossiya.
In the same interview he informed,
that'...the Chechen Parliament has made a decision on the impossibility of negotiations
until Russia recognizes the legally elected President and Chechenia's independence'.
Nevertheless, in the first part of 1992
Russian and Chechen delegations met and held talks on two occasions. The first meeting
took place on May 28 in Dagomys (Sochi), the second later in the summer in Moscow. The
meetings were held at Parliamentary level and the head of the Russian delegation in both
cases was Deputy Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet's Council of Nationalities, V.
Shigulin. However, according to members of the Russian delegation neither meeting was
official. They were only preliminary briefings 'oriented at holding meetings between
official delegations'. But the Chechen
side ascribed great importance to these meetings. At a meeting with the members of an
International Alert fact-finding mission in September 1992, the Chairman of the Chechen
Parliament, Ch. Akhmadov, claimed that the meeting in Dagomys was 'a political recognition
of the independent Chechnia'.
In Grozny, members of the International
Alert delegation got photocopies of two letters, signed by President Dudayev and addressed
to President Yeltsin. In one of them Dudayev writes:
In accordance with the traditions of
our peoples and for the sake of their peace and prosperity, I hold out the hand of
friendship to you and propose a meeting in the near future at which we, in the name of a
better future, might be able to solve all complicated questions.
In the other letter he writes:
Looking back at the first months after
the August coup attempt and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we both have to admit
that errors and insulting mistakes were made by both sides. But nevertheless I think that
the time of mutual demands has passed. Let us return to the sole base on which mutual
understanding and a neighbourly atmosphere can be built. This base is economic
cooperation on civilized premises, and collaboration on mutual development that follows
from this. It seems to me the time has come to give up political quarrels, to soberly
consider the realities that have emerged and to follow the lines of civilized economic
cooperation, taking a point of departure in the actual situation.
Also in interviews and other public
announcements, Dudayev signaled his willingness to negotiate. On the question 'Would it
be possible to find an agreement with Russia?' asked in an interview published in Kavkazkij kray he
answered: 'In order to act correctly and with the aim of maintaining good relations we
will not conclude any agreement with any other country. We are waiting for the signing of
a treaty with Russia'.
In a letter to International Alert,
commenting the Chechenia Report, Dudayev wrote: 'Negotiations between the Chechen Republic
and Russia are the only acceptable way to resolve the present situation. We are ready to
discuss with you or any of your representatives suggestions about the possibility of
involving a third party in the negotiating process.' But, he adds, 'We are ready for
compromise on any difficult question, but we are firm regarding our independent status.
Chechen Constitution: The Federal Treaty
On March 12, 1992 Chechenia, as the
first among the former autonomous republics, adopted a new Constitution, codifying its
independent status. According to the preambula, Chechenia is 'an independent state' and
'an equal subject in the system of the world-wide commonwealth of nations. The new Chechen
Constitution also stipulates that Chechenia independently defines her own internal as well
as foreign policy; has the highest authority regarding her own territory and national
resources; adopts constitutions and laws that have priority on the territory of the
Chechen Republic; has the right to armed forces of her own; may declare general or partial
mobilization and declare a state of emergency in case of a military assault on Chechenia.
This of course was perceived as a
provocation in Moscow, especially the preambula, defining Chechenia as a subject of
international law. But also the 'timing' must have been perceived as a provocation to the
Federal Government. The Chechen Constitution was adopted only two weeks before the signing
of the Federal Treaty (scheduled on March 30, 1992) granting extensive rights to the
former autonomous republics. Dudayev, however refused to sign it.
The dispatch of the Russian delegation
to Dagomys was probably aimed at persuading the Chechens to sign the Federal Treaty.
Priorities in Moscow: The Challenge from Tatarstan
But even if the behaviour of the
Chechens was challenging, after Yeltsin's declaration of a state of emergency in November
1991, Russia did not undertake any drastic measures to bring them back to order.
Actually the Federal authorities more or less ignored Chechenia throughout most 1992. But
Russia did impose economic sanctions. These measures seriously affected the Chechen
population and contributed to the growth of anti-Dudayev sentiments.
In Spring 1992 all Russian troops were
withdrawn from Chechen territory, leaving behind a large quantity of weapons, which were
overtaken by Dudayev's National Guard and private businessmen. According to a Chechen
government Memorandum, the withdrawal of troops and 'partition of weapons' was
accomplished in accordance with an 'intergovernmental agreement with Russian authorities',
signed on May 26,1992. (The Memorandum
does not specify who these authorities were. Rumours insist that the weapons were handed
over to Dudayev with the consent of Russian Minister of Defence, Pavel Grachev).
In 1992 Russia gradually also got other
concerns than Chechenia. In the Federal centre a new power struggle was emerging between
President Yeltsin and Russian Supreme Soviet. This battle got higher priority than
'vertical' disputes with 'regional' leaders. As regards centre-periphery relations, a
threat considered much more serious than Chechenia also had emerged, diminishing the
interest for what was going on in the small North Caucasian Republic. Tatarstan, in the
heart of Russia and both politically and economically considered more important than
Chechenia, also made claims on independence and refused to sign the Federation Treaty. A
week before the signing of the Federal Treaty, Tatarstan carried through a referendum in
which 61% of the population voted for the upgrading of Tatarstan to a subject of
While one high ranking Federal official
after the other travelled to Kazan to hold meetings with Tatarstan leaders, and President
Yeltsin held talks with the President of Tatarstan, Menitimer Shaimiyev, Moscow refused to
negotiate directly with Dudayev and the Chechen Government.
Draft Treaty on Russian-Chechen Relations
In the summer 1992 the Chechen
Parliament worked out a draft 'Treaty on the Basis of Interstate Relation between the
Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic'. After an introductory provision that both
parties recognize each other's right to independence, the draft Treaty proposed
cooperation and coordination in the following fields:
The status of Russians in Chechenia and Chechens in
Regulation of migration and organized criminality;
Economic coordination, including customs and finance policy;
Agreement on best-favoured status in trade;
Regulation of the property of the parties on the two parties
Coordination of communications and transit through the
territories of the parties;
Cooperation in the fields of culture, science, social health care
The draft Treaty also proposed
coordination of foreign policy, cooperation in international organizations and an
agreement on defence cooperation based on the sovereignty of both parties. But this
initiative was also ignored by the Federal authorities.
On September 24,1992 a group of Russian
parliamentarians arrived in Grozny. The head of delegation was Deputy Chairman of the
Russian Supreme Soviet, J. Yarov. The delegation was invited by the Chairman of the
Chechen Parliament, Ch. Akhmadov. Assessing the outcome of this visit, Deputy Chairman
of the foreign policy committee of the Chechen Parliament, S. Abumuslimov, called the
negotiations 'an important step on the road to full political recognition of the Chechen
He stressed the fact that the head of
the Russian delegation this time was Deputy Chairman of the Russian Supreme Soviet. This
lift in status was a good signal he maintained, as was the fact that Yarov had confirmed a
protocol to the May meeting in Dagomys, according to which:
the topic of negotiations between the
authorized Russian and Chechen delegations ought to be the issue of recognition of
Chechenia's political independence and state sovereignty.
Yarovs high-level position and the fact
that he had confirmed the protocol was, according to Abumuslimov 'indirectly a de facto
recognition of the independent Chechen state.
Akhmadov, head of the Chechen delegation, held the view that Yarov, and thereby the
Russian Supreme Soviet, had recognized Chechenia. 'Now Russia has to do it too'. According to
Akhmadov, Chechenia's principal position was the following:
We do not want to go back into the
Russian Empire. We want an equal agreement. We will not go into the Federation. We are
ready to consider membership in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), but as an
equal member. We want to maintain economic relations with Russia, but also with other
countries, and we will accept no Russian vetos over what we do.
But also this time the Russians cooled
down the Chechens. According to Yarov's assistant, this meeting too was only informal:
You keep saying that this is a Russian
Federation delegation. I repeat, this is not an official Russian delegation. It is an
unofficial visit arranged on the basis of an invitation from your leaders and with the aim
of discussing questions that interests both sides.
Second Forced Attempt
Chechen hopes for official high-level
negotiations did not materialize. Instead Moscow once again threatened with military
force. This happened in late October 1992, when Federal forces who were dispatched to the
conflict-ridden Prigorodnyj region in neighbouring North Ossetia, were ordered to move to
the Chechen border. Dudayev, perceiving this as 'an act of aggression against the Chechen
Republic declared a
state of emergency and threatened with general mobilization if the Russian troops did not
withdraw from the Chechen border. They did.
The most probable explanation to
Moscow's second forced attempt is that the Russian delegation which visited Grozny in
September, had, on its return to Moscow, told about a growing dissatisfaction with
Dudayev, and that this had inspired Yeltsin to take this measure. If that is correct
Yeltsin made premature conclusions. My impressions from talks with opposition groups in
September 1992 is that although dissatisfaction with Dudayev was great, few opposed his
profile claim on Chechen independence. On September 28, the opposition paper, Spravedlivost published
a proclamation, signed by the most influential opposition groups, including the democratic
party 'Dajmokh' headed by Professor Chadsjiev (later to become Chairman of the Provisional
Government in Chechnia), The National Front, the parties Nokh Mochk, Niyso, Marso and
others. The proclamation expressed the signatories 'unequivocal' support for the 'striving
of the Chechen people's for freedom and independence' and stated that 'no matter how the
situation develops in the Republic we categorically reject any form of outside
interference in the internal matters of the Chechen Republic.
Confronted with yet another outside
threat the opposition again rallied around Dudayev and the Federal forces' onward march to
the Chechen border confirmed Dudayev's position as a garant for Chechenia's national
Russian Security Council: Support the Opposition
By this time the Russian Security
Council had set up a commission mandated to analyze the situation in the North Caucasus
and draw up principles for Russia's policy towards the region. In January 1993 the
commission presented two reports. Both concluded, that the most serious problem in the
region was 'national separatism' and that the best way to refute this was 'assisting the
creation and growth in popularity of pro-Russian oriented social movements'.
The recommendations of the Security
Council Commission were materialized immediately.
After the averting of the outside
threat in October 1992, internal Chechen conflicts again flared up. The opposition now
gathered around leading figures in the Chechen Parliament who had fallen out with Dudayev.
Contacts were established with these people, among which were Ch. Akhmadov, Premier
Marnodayev and Y. Soslambekov (Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Chechen
Parliament). On January 14, a Russian delegation, headed by S. Shakhray, Chairman of the
State Committee for Nationalites, travelled to Grozny to discuss the principles for a
Russian-Chechen agreement with the oppositional Chechen parliamentarians. According to a
protocol for the meeting, working groups should be set up to work out a draft agreement
'On Delimitation of authority and mutual delegation of powers between the Russian
Federation and the Chechen Republic'.
This would be an agreement confirming
that Chechenia was a part of the Russian Federation. 'Delimitation of authority' is
something that takes place inside states. The previous Chechen Draft Treaty did not
propose internal Federal sharing of power. It proposed inter-state cooperation, based on
the two parties independence.
The highly estimated guest from Moscow
did not bother to visit the Presidential palace, situated some few meters from the
Parliament building, at the opposite side of the Central Square in Grozny. According to
earlier quoted Fiona Hill, there was a clear connection with the reports of the Security
Council Commission and the Russian delegation's visit to Grozny in January 1993:
The reports provided the rationale for
refusing to find a 'modus vivendi' with Dudayev's Chechen government and promoting Chechen
opposition movements. Thus a pattern was established of meetings between top Russian
officials and prominent members of the Chechen opposition. The juncture marked the end of
attempts to negotiate with the Chechen leadership around Dudayev, and the beginning of
attempts to put Russian forces in power in place of Dudayev.
Opposition Maintains Claims of Independence
In spring 1993 the conflict between
Dudayev and the Chechen Parliament intensified. Premier Mamodayev was fired and replaced
by Selimchan Yandarbiev who was also appointed Vice-President. After violent clashes
between Dudayev supporters and opposition groups in the centre of Grozny in June 1993,
Dudayev suspended the Parliament (which continued to work on a provisoric basis) and the
Chechen Constitutional Court. Large pro-Dudayev demonstrations suggest, however, that
Dudayev was still widely backed.
At the end of 1993 both the opposition
and obviously also significant parts of the population demanded a more reconciliatory
position towards Russian demands. My impression from a second visit to Chechenia in
November 1993 was that extensive support existed for 'the Tatar model', that is an
associated status with Russia. But none of the those I talked to were prepared to give up
In the Nadteretjny region in the
northern part of Chechenia (that has the biggest concentration of Russians after Grozny) a
Provisional Council, headed by the local Mayor, U. Avtorchanov, was established in late
1993. According to Russian analysts, he was the only opposition leader in Chechenia that
was prepared to give up Chechen independence.
The Deputy Foreign Minister, referring to the 1992 Chechen draft treaty, formulated the
official Chechen position in the following way:
We would like to normalize our
relations with Russia. But this can only be done through negotiations, where our first
demand is Russian recognition of Chechenia's independence.
After a pause for about a year, Russia
took new initiatives. Probably inspired by a treaty between Russia and Tatarstan, signed
on February 15, 1994, the newly elected State Duma on March 25 adopted a resolution 'On
the political regulation of the relations between the organs of power of the Russian
Federation and the organs of power of the Chechen Republic'. The resolution, reportedly
drawn up by S. Shachray, proposed a Russian-Chechen agreement, modeled on the February 15
Russian-Tatarstan treaty. V. Shumeiko,
Chairman of the Upper House (Council of Federation) proposed to declare Dudayev legitimate
and that President Yeltsin should begin talks with him, but on condition that Chechenia
'through her President undertake the duty of signing the Federation Treaty'. (This condition
was a bit surprising since Yeltsin actually had suspended the Federation Treaty by
omitting it from the new Federal Constitution, approved in December 1993).
Also Yeltsin's Chief of Staff,
S.Filatov, proposed to legitimize Dudayev but insisted that Chechenia sign the Federation
Treaty before negotiations started and before Russia signed a treaty with her.
In May, V. Chernomyrdin appointed
Shachray to head a delegation to Grozny.
Security Council Applies the Brakes
However, a few days after Shachray was
appointed to head the delegation, he was fired as Minister of Nationalities, and was
replaced by N. Yegorov, former Head of Administration in Krasnoyarsk. The appointment of
Yegorov, a notorious hard-liner, known for his anti-Caucasian sentiments, signaled that
Yeltsin still preferred an uncompromising policy towards Dudayev. On August 3 and 9, and
again on September 6, the Russian leadership promptly rejected a proposal from Dudayev to
Dudayev even went as far as offering
to resign if the international community recognized Chechenia as an independent state.
The Federal Governments
attitude to Dudayev suggested that it stuck to the January 1993 Security Council
recommendations. From summer 1994 and onwards the Russian leadership actively supported
the anti-Dudayev opposition in northern Chechenia. On August 26, opposition forces began
a blockade of Grozny. The action, which failed, was financed from Moscow. In the
beginning of November the Russian Security Service (FSK) dispatched armed units to
support a new attempt by opposition forces to storm Grozny. Also this attempt failed and
70 Federal officers were captured by Dudayev's fighters. The Security Council decided on
November 29 that the Chechen problem should be resolved resolutely, using armed force if
On December 6, Russian Minister of Defence, Pavel Grachev, travelled to Nazran to
discuss the release of the captured Russian officers with Dudayev. This was the first and
last time high-level negotiations took place between Russia and the 'independent'
Chechenia. On December 11, Russian tanks crossed the Chechen border to effectuate
Yeltsin's decrees of November 30 and December 9, to 'reestablish Constitutional order in
the Chechen Republic by all available means'.
to Part I
Armed force was not the only available
option in solving the Chechen problem in December 1994. There were several proposals to
negotiate from the Dudayev side. A draft agreement was presented. Russia did not react
adequately to the Chechen initiatives. Instead of entering into negotiations with Dudayev,
who was the real power in Chechenia, Russia pinned her hope on a disorganized and
ineffective opposition without substantial support from the Chechen population. There were
voices and actors on the Federal side who opted for negotiations with Dudayev. But Yeltsin
preferred to follow the hawks in the Security Council and other places. Dudayev's position
was incompatible with the Federal one. But he was clearly interested in negotiations and
advantage could have been taken of this by holding talks on a 'delaying principle',
putting off decisions about substantial matters to 'somewhere in the future'. A decision
on the issue of Chechenia's status could have been delayed, for example, by complicated
technical and procedural problems. The important thing would just have been to negotiate.
The status question could have been linked to other Chechen issues of high priority,
especially economic. The possibility that Chechenia would sign a treaty similar to the one
with Tatarstan was not excluded, provided enough pragmatic and contradictory
formulations had been found. There were perspectives in the Chechen proposal to enter the
Russia followed a strategy worked out
at the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993, and at a time when Dudayev's opposition was
growing. The Federal government actively supported the opposition but overestimated its
strength and popular support. Russia also underestimated the military strength of
Dudayev's forces. This will be discussed in the following.
July 1995 Military Agreement
The Russian Foreign Minister, Pavel
Grachev, prognosed that the military operation in Chechenia would be completed in a couple
of days. This prognosis turned out to be too optimistic however. The decision-makers in
Moscow had clearly underestimated the military capability of Dudayev's fighters and the
power of resistance of the Chechen population. President Yeltsin, however, maintained that
negotiations with the 'bandits' were out of question.
A Chechen hostage-taking action, lead
by Field Commander Shamil Basaev in the south Russian town of Budyonnovsk in the middle of
June 1995, forced the Russians to the negotiating table.
A Russian delegation, headed by Russian
Deputy Minister of Nationalities and Regional Policy, V. Michailov, was dispatched to
Grozny to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the conflict with the Chechen side. Other
members of the delegation were Arkadij Volskij, Chairman of the Union of Industrialists,
A. Kulikov, and Chief of the Federal Forces in Chechenia, (since June 6, Russian
Minister of Internal Affairs). On the Chechen side a delegation was appointed including
Usman Imayev, Minister of Justice, (head of delegation) and Arnat Zakayev, Minister of
Culture. Later, Chief of Staff, Aslan Maskhadov, was included and Imayev was replaced as
head of the delegation by Kh. Yarikhanov. The negotiators met on June 19, at the
headquarters of the OSCE Assistant Group dispatched to Grozny in April 1995. The meeting
defined a group of military, economic and political issues to be discussed and resolved.
After complicated negotiations, several
times on the brink of collapse, a military agreement was signed on July 31, 1995. The
agreement stipulated that a ceasefire be monitored by a Special Monitoring Group, exchange
of detained peoples, disarmament of 'illegally armed formations', establishment of self
defence groups in the demilitarized areas and a gradual withdrawal of Federal troops.
The Grozny talks were of great
importance. Firstly, because Russia agreed to meet on an official level with
representatives of the Dudayev side, hitherto regarded as illegitimate. Secondly, because
Russia agreed to negotiate with the Dudayev side only. To begin with, the Russian
delegation insisted that representatives of the Russian backed Provisional Government,
(Government of National Revival) headed by S. Khadsjiev and the Committee of National
Accord, headed by U. Avtorchanov, participate in the negotiations. The Chechen
delegation, however, refused to let representatives of these two bodies participate on
the Chechen side. As a result they were included on the Russian side. The delegations at
the negotiating table thus represented only the Russian Federation and the Chechen
Republic of Ichkeria.
The 'two sides only' structure of the
Grozny talks was confirmed by the composition of the Special Monitoring Commission,
established in accordance with the July 31 agreement. The SMC was headed by the Commander
of the Federal forces in Chechenia and Dudayev's Chief of Staff. No representative of the
Government of National Revival and the Committee of National Accord was included.
Also of great importance was that the
document agreed upon on July 31 did not specify what was actually meant by 'illegal' in
the paragraph stipulating 'disarmament of illegal forces'. This made possible for the
Chechen side to maintain that Chechen fighters were not to be disarmed, as they were not
illegal, but authorized by the Defence Law of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria.
But the most important outcome of the
Grozny negotiations was that the Russian side signed a military agreement without Chechen
concession on the issue of Chechenia's status. During the negotiations, the Russian
negotiators insisted that before a military agreement could be signed the Chechens should
admit that Chechenia was a part of the Russian Federation.
The Chechens, however, refused to link
a military agreement to the question of Chechenia's status and insisted that military and
political issues be negotiated separately. By signing the agreement without Chechen
concessions, Russia actually renounced the military invasion, initiated with the very aim
of restoring 'the Constitutional order' in Chechenia.
During the negotiations, the positions
held by both sides on the issue of Chechenia's status were as follows: On the Russian
The distinctive features of the future
status of the Chechen Republic will be defined after the accomplishment of free,
democratic elections after mutual coordination on terms agreed upon by the state
authorities of the Russian Federation and the state authorities of the Chechen Republic,
on the basis of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the Constitution of the
Chechen Republic and international law.
On the Chechen side:
The Russian Federation recognizes the
independence of the Chechen Republic and Dhokhar Dudayev; the Cabinet of Ministers and
Parliament resigns automatically. The future status of the Chechen Republic will be
defined following the accomplishment of free, democratic elections, after mutual
coordination of the terms agreed upon by the state authorities of the Russian Federation
and the state authorities of the Chechen Republic on the basis of the Constitution?
Had the Chechen negotiators consented
to the Russian position before signing the military agreement, negotiations
on Chechenia's 'future status' would proceed from the fact that Chechenia was a part of
the Russian Federation.
Now political negotiations had to
proceed from the same positions as before the signing of the agreement, but on changed
premises. Russia had agreed to withdraw without obtaining her goals. In reality this meant
that Russia had relinquished Chechenia to Dudayev, insisting on Chechen independence. By
accepting the Chechen delegation's refusal to include representatives of the Provisional
Government, Russia had admitted that this organ had no power to decide on behalf of the
Chechen Republic. By failing to qualify 'illegal formations' as forces, not authorized
by the Russian Defence law, Russia actually gave Dudayev's fighters the green light to
spread all over Chechenia assuming the function of 'self defence groups', provided for in
the military agreement. Moscow realized that strategic mistakes had been made. How, and by
whom, could Federal power now be restored in Chechenia?
Further negotiations with the Dudayev
side would obviously not promote the restoration of Federal power. Russia therefore
developed a new strategy, adapted to the new realities. The essence of this strategy was
to avoid negotiations with the Dudayev side and to 'internalize' the conflict. To that
purpose, new organs of power, balancing the Dudayev side and empowered to negotiate on
behalf of the Republic of Chechenia, had to be established. Both the head of the
Government of National Revival and the Chairman of the Committee for National Accord, were
forced to resign. On October 24, the Checheno-Ingush Supreme Soviet which was dissolved on
September 15, 1991, was restored.
Deputies of this dissolved body
appointed its former Chairman, Doku. Zavgayev, as Head of the Government, now called the
Government of the Chechen Republic. The new government and the restored Supreme Soviet
were to act upon the laws of the Russian Federation and the Constitution of the Checheno-Ingush
Constitution was adopted in 1990, when the Checheno-Ingush Republic was still an
Autonomous Socialist Republic in the RSFSR).
The logic behind this 'restoration'
strategy probably was the following: By reinstating the authorities that existed before
the 'separatists' took over in 1991, Chechenia got organs of power, bestowed with
legitimacy in pre-Dudayev internal Chechen laws (the Provisional Government had acted on
Federal laws and decrees). Complaints that the Chechen Government was imposed from outside
could be refuted. The Dudayev side would be reduced to an opposition group competing with
other public organizations about influence on the issue of Russian-Chechen relations.
Federal forces could be kept on Chechen territory not as a party to the conflict but as
law enforcement organs securing order in a 'subject of the Russian Federation'. According
to an Interfax report
on October 25, Zavgayev said:
Touching upon talks between the Federal
authorities and Dudayev's supporters... they should be gradually turned into inter-Chechen
talks because they are an internal affair of Chechenia with which nobody should interfere.
According to an ITAR-TASS report,
Zavgayev 'expressed the view that representatives of the Chechen Government headed by
himself could replace the representatives of the Federal authorities at the negotiating
table'. According to
Russian Minister of Internal Affairs, A. Kulikov:
The situation in Chechenia is taking on
a different qualitative nature with the arrival of the new leader, Doku Zavgayev. It seems
to me the time has come when the further political development of the Republic should be
discussed with Zavgayev,s government. The restoration of the constitutional structure and
the restoration of the legitimate authority which existed under the criminal regime of
Dudayev should be considered abandoned. ... All political discussions with the Dudayev
side should end.
The legitimacy of Zavgayev and the
restored Checheno-Ingush Supreme Soviet was not unproblematic, however. Russia never
approved the procedure of the transfer of power in the 'Chechen revolution' in 1991. But
the Russian government and President Yeltsin promoted the ousting of Zavgayev and the
dissolution of the Checheno-Ingush Supreme Soviet (see p. 410). The restoration of a
former Supreme Soviet on the territory of the Russian Federation in 1995 could hardly be
justified in legal terms. The Checheno-Ingush Supreme Soviet was elected under the 1977
Soviet Russian Constitution and not under the existing Constitution of the Russian
Federation , adopted in 1993. Besides it was also elected as the representative body of a
compounded Republic. Since 1992 the Ingush have had their own Republic.
To improve Zavgayev's legitimacy, on
November 18 the Chechen Supreme Soviet decided to hold elections for a 'Head of Republic'
on December 17, the same day as the election of deputies to the Russian State Duma was to
At a press conference in Moscow on
November 20, Yeltsin's Chief-of-Staff, Sergey Filatov, expressed that: 'it is absolutely
necessary to hold elections for a Chechen leader in order to legitimize the authorities in
All this was of course perceived by the
Dudayev side as provocation. It was perceived as a gross deviation from the negotiation
line agreed upon in June 1995 and a violation of the July 31 Military agreement,
confirming that there were only two parties to the conflict, the Russian Federation and
the Dudayev side, and that the latter was the only party empowered to negotiate on behalf
of the Chechen Republic. The Dudayev side categorically rejected the restored Soviet
power. Negotiations on Chechen-Russian relations could only be conducted with
representatives of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, not the Zavgayev Government. At a
press conference on November 17, President Dudayev stated:
There is a war going on, a Russian-Chechen
war, the continuation of 350 years of confrontation. There is no internal conflict.
There will be none, nor can there be any. We will get over all our internal ills
ourselves, without any third party.
Accordingly, nobody except the
legitimate authorities of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria was entitled to carry through
elections to new organs of power in the Chechen Republic. Elections could only take place
on the basis of the Chechen Constitution, adopted in 1992, which, by the way, does not
provide for a 'Head of republic'. It provides for a President. Commenting on the planned
December 17 elections, Kh. Yarikhanov (who replaced Imayev as head of the Dudayev
delegation at the July negotiations) stated:
There will be no elections on
December 17 in Chechenia. The question of Chechenia's status shall be clarified before the
election campaign. Since President
Yeltsin and Oleg Lobov (the representative of the Russian President to Chechenia,
appointed in September 1995, MLM) decided, without consulting us, that the Republic's
leader must be elected now, this means that they have given up further negotiations.
According to Yarikhanov the election of
a 'Head of Republic' was 'basically unconstitutional', and elections to the Russian State
Duma on Chechen territory was totally out of the question since this was the legislative
body of another state.
According to Duclayev's spokesman,
Minister of Information, Movladi Udugov, a meeting of field commanders had adopted the
resolution that 'any person who would dare to organize elections to the state bodies of a
foreign country would be held personally responsible to the Chechen people. Such action,
he said, 'will be regarded as a treason of national interests and will be punished
according to war time realities'.
Udugov also said, 'there will be no elections in Chechenia until Russian troops are pulled
On November 27,1995, Dudayev's Defence
Committee met to adopt a final plan of measures to prevent the December elections. The
meeting, chaired by Dudayev, adopted a resolution, describing the actions of the Federal
authorities as a gross violation of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria
and all norms of international law. The meeting reiterated that before the full withdrawal
of Federal troops from Chechen territory, any elections in Chechenia were illegal.
But the elections took place. Zavgayev
was reportedly elected by 93% of the votes. (Chernomyrdins party 'Our Home is Russia',
gained the majority of votes in the Russian State Duma election). In order to avoid
approving the elections, the OSCE Assistant group left Grozny temporarily in mid-December.
On December 8, a week before the
elections, Zavgayev, Russian Premier V. Chernomyrdin and Lobov signed a Treaty on 'The
main principles of the relations between the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic',
granting extended powers to Chechenia, but as a part of the Russian Federation. On January
2,1996, Zavgayev declared that elections to a
Chechen Parliamentary Assembly were to take place in March or April.
The December election exacerbated the
situation. Dudayevs forces returned to a growing degree to guerrilla operations. The
Federal side, obviously opting for a military solution escalated massive strikes and
bombings of towns and villages suspected of being Dudayev strongholds. Clashes took place
regularly, both inside and outside Grozny, indicating that the work of the Special
Monitoring Group had collapsed.
Since the December elections a new
device in the framework of the 'internalization' policy had been worked out. This was the
so-called 'peace zones'. Inhabitants in towns and villages were persuaded to sign
documents in which they obligated themselves not cooperate with, or support, Dudayev
In practice these documents were
signed under threat. The 'peace zones' were established with the aim of 'balancing' the
self-defense brigades provided for in the July 1995 Military agreement. The brigades often
proved to consist of persons sympathizing with the Itchkeria side.
In the beginning of February 1996
Chechen Field Commander, S. Raduev, launched a raid against Federal military installations
in neighbouring Dagestan. The operation failed and the fighters barricaded themselves in
the village Pervornajskaja. Russia responded by massive bombardments of the village, but
the fighters managed to escape. Raduevs action was a reaction to the developments of
events in Chechenia and attempts to internalize the conflict. Its aim was to demonstrate
that the Dudayev fighters were still around, and to force Russia to resume negotiations on
the basis of the July 1995 military agreement.
In a speech on February 15, President
Yeltsin said that the military operation in Chechenia 'perhaps' had been a mistake.
Shortly after he said he would study proposals submitted by commissions set up to find a
solution to the war.
At the end of February Chechen
fighters launched an attack on Grozny and actually controlled the capital for several
days. This too was a power demonatration aimed at refuting Federal attempts to decide on
Chechenia's future, bypassing the authorities of Ichkeria.
March 31 Peace Initiative
On March 31, Yeltsin declared that
all military operations in Chechenia would cease at midnight. With the aim of 'reaching an
agreement on Chechenia's status' the Russian side was prepared to 'negotiate with the
Dudayev side through mediators'. Elaborating on his peace initiative on Russian TV,
Yeltsin said that Chechenia's status was to be defined within the Russian Federation, but
containing a 'maximum' of autonomy. (Yeltsin thus seemed to have forgotten, that an
agreement granting extended autonomy to Chechenia inside the Russian Federation already
was signed by Zavgayev and Chernomyrdin in December 1995.) Yeltsin's peace initiative also
called for 'free democratic elections in Chechenia to the Republic's parliament'. However,
only two days after Yeltsin announced his peace initiative Federal forces resumed the
shelling of villages in the south of Chechenia. On April 23, President Dudayev was killed
in a Russian air strike.
Yeltsin's initiative was announced
three months before the Russian Presidential elections and at a time, when opinion polls
indicated that Communist party leader, G. Suganov, would likely win the elections. Opinion
polls also showed that the war in Chechenia was extremely unpopular among the Russian
population. Continuos fighting thus threatened to jeopardize Yeltsin's reelection.
Moscow and Nazran Negotiations
The Chechen 'separatists', now led by
Dudayev's successor, Vice-President Selimkhan Yandarbiev, realized that internal political
developments in Russia worked in their favour. Yeltsin's need for an end to the fighting
enhanced their bargaining power.
Through the mediation of Tim Culdiman,
Chairman of the OSCE Assisting Group in Grozny, contact was established between S.
Yandarbiev and V. Chernomyrdin. On May 27 they met in Moscow and signed an agreement on
regulation of the armed conflict. President Yeltsin was present at the meeting.
According to the agreement, a ceasefire was to come into force on June 1. Detained peoples
were to be released in the course of two weeks from the signing of the agreement. The
negotiating Commissions were to continue their work.
At a press conference in Shali on May
28, Yandarbiev told that the Russian side had presented a draft agreement stating that
Chechenia was a part of the Russian Federation. But just as in the summer negotiations in
Grozny in 1995, the Chechen delegation rejected to link a military agreement to the issue
of Chechenia's status. 'The important thing is not where we belong but to stop the war' the
Chechen delegation had said. 'We did not concede that Chechenia belongs to any particular
place', Yandarbiev stressed.
When the Chechen delegation arrived at
the May 27 talks in Moscow, they discovered that Doku Zavgayev also had been invited. But
just as in the summer negotiations of 1995, they refused to include on the Chechen side
representatives of marionette organs. This was accepted and the negotiations proceeded on
the basis of the July 1995 military agreement, with two parties only. The Russian
commission, set up in accordance with the agreement, and headed by V. Michailov included a
representative of the Zavgayev Government. The Chechen commission set up was first
headed by Vice President S. Abumuslimov, with Chief of Staff, Aslan Maskhadov, as deputy
head. He later became the Head of Commission. While the Chechen delegation was still in
Moscow, Yeltsin travelled to northern Chechenia, where he met with Federal soldiers and
declared that they had won the war.
The talks in Moscow were followed up
from June 5 to 10, 1996 by meetings of working groups under the Commissions in Nazran. In
a protocol adopted at a meeting of the Commissions on June 10, the parties agreed on
details in relation to the ceasefire: Checkpoints outside settlements should be eliminated
and the withdrawal of Federal forces should be completed before the end of August 1996.
In the June 10 Nazran protocol, the
parties for the first time agreed also on issues related to the political dimension of the
negotiating process. According to point 5 of the protocol, it is necessary to hold
free and democratic elections to the organs of state power at all levels of the Chechen
Republic and with the participation of all genuine political forces. The elections shall
be subject to public and international monitoring after the withdrawal of the Temporarily
United Forces (Federal forces, MLM) from the territory of the Chechen Republic, and its
These elections to the organs of power
in Chechenia were defined as 'an internal matter of the Chechen Republic'.
This second provision was especially
important. Since negotiations had begun in the summer of 1995, the Chechen side had
insisted on elections on the basis of the Chechen-lchkeria Constitution only. This was
provided for in the Nazran protocol, signed with the Ichkeria side only, and stipulating
that elections were Chechenia's 'internal affair'.
Thereby the Parliamentary elections
announced on June 16 by the Zavgayev administration were declared null and void. (The
Chechen side did not oppose the carrying through of Russian Presidential elections in
Chechenia, 'for citizens of the Russian Federation).
The Zavgav-organized elections were
nevertheless held, and of course the Chechen side perceived this action as a provocation.
But Yandarbiev obviously had decided to hold a low profile pending the outcome of the
second round of Presidential elections on July 3.
However, the implementation of the
Moscow and Nazran agreements went slowly. On June 28 the two Commissions met in Atagi, and
both sides reportedly reproached each other for not fulfilling the agreements. Shortly
after the Presidential elections, Federal forces resumed strikes and shellings of Chechen
towns and villages. On August 6, Chechen fighters again seized Grozny.
This second seizure of Grozny
definitely demonstrated the military strength of the Chechen forces and the incompetence
of the Zavgayev administration. It also demonstrated who had the real power in Chechenia and thus who could
decide on Chechenia's future. Yeltsin appointed General Aleksander Lebed, newly appointed
Secretary of the Security Council, to take responsibility for working out of a solution to
the Chechen conflict. On August 22, he travelled to Grozny. A ceasefire agreement was
signed by him and Maskhadov, stipulating the termination of all fighting on August 23.
An exchange of prisoners was to begin immediately.
On August 31, Lebed and Maskhadov
signed an agreement on 'The basis for mutual relations between the Russian Federation and
the Chechen Republic'. The crucial point in the document was that
An agreement on the mutual relations
between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Chechenia, in accordance with the
universal principles of international law, shall be reached before October 31, 2001.
Russia agreed that the relations
between Chechenia and Russia should be based on international law. There were no
references to the Federal Constitution. The agreement also confirmed the full withdrawal
of Federal troops. The Chechens had finally obtained what they had fought for since
In the negotiations that are to come,
the Chechens will insist that they are independent. They will stress that Russia by
recognizing the January elections also have recognized the attributes of the independent
Chechenia: her organs of state power and her Constitution. Attempts to revoke the legal
basis of the elections can be refuted by references to the Nazran protocols, which
stipulated that elections to Chechen organs of power are to be her own internal affair.
References to the remarks added to the Nazran protocols by the Russian Commission,
stating that the Russian Commission do not recognize the legality of the Chechen Republic
of Ichkerya, can be refuted by the fact that the Russian side nevertheless signed it, and
that no such remarks were added to the May 1996 agreement, signed by President Selimkhan
Yandrabiev and Victor Chernomyrdin, nor the Khasavjurt agreement.
The Russians will have a hard time
rejecting the fact that the authority of the Chechen President and Parliamentary Deputies
originates in Chechenia, not in Federal Russia.
The Chechens will also claim that
Russia has recognized the existence of a Chechen army, another attribute of an independent
state. By signing the July 1995 and May 1996 agreements without Chechenia conceding that
it is a part of Russia, Russia admitted that what was going on was indeed a war between
states. If Russia makes another attempt to gain control over Chechenia by force, this will
again be regarded as an act of war by the Chechens.
After the poor performance of the
Federal forces in Chechenia and the humiliating defeat to a numerically insignificant
adversary, Russia will probably not try another military invasion. Contrary to 1994, a
military option would be most unpopular among the Russian population, already outraged by
the loss of thousands of young soldiers in a meaningless war.
to Part II
While a new military campaign seems
to be out of the question, Russia's possibilities to maintain control over Chechenia are
not exhausted, and to a certain extent have even improved. The external reactions to the
Russian-Chechen conflict have confirmed that whatever strategic fears' Russia may have
had in connection with the Chechen insurgence have turned out to be exaggerated. Neither
Russia's rivals on her southern fringes nor any other state tried to profitize on the
Chechen insurgence. On the contrary, the international community unanimously declared that
the Russian-Chechen conflict was an 'internal Russian matter' and that Chechenia,
according to international law, was a constitutional part of the Russian Federation. Even
after the Chechens military victory over Russia and the unambiguous popular support for
independence, manifested in the January elections, no state has announced that it
intends to recognize Chechenia as an independent state. This, together with the economic
realities will be Russia's most important bargaining card in future negotiations with
While the position of Western countries
towards the Russian-Chechen conflict was determined by considerations about the outcome
of the Russian Presidential elections, the issue of recognizing Chechen independence has
emerged in the context of calming the Russian resistance to NATO extension.
So even if Chechenia today is defacto independent,
there is still a long way to go in terms of obtaining de jure independence.
As long as the international
community sticks to a 'Russia first'
approach, the Chechens also will have to take a 'Russia first' approach, making her the
first to recognize the independent Chechenia. But Maskhadov will probably try to make the
international community put pressure on Russia. This could be done by 'internationalizing
the Chechen problem. Chechenia has the potential to inflate the already existing, but
calmed down, conflicts in the Trans-Caucasus republics. This can be used as a bargaining
card. A reunited Chechen-Ingush Republic with claims on Prigorodny would press thousands
of South Ossetians, settled in Prigorodny back to South Ossetia in Georgia, destabilizing
the situation in that Republic. Likewise, the 'export' of experienced, now unemployed
Chechen fighters to Abkhazia or other conflict-ridden areas in the Transcaucasus would
have destabilizing effects.
Hopefully, nothing of the kind will
happen. Maskhadov has proposed that Chechenia enters a loose, confederal relationship with
Russia. Time will show if Russia can accept this offer, which was available also before
December 1994. Russia's premises for resisting are different today. After all, Russia lost