Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Russia Lodges Protest with US Over Chechnya Seminar

Russia lodges protest with US over Chechnya seminar

The seminar, "Sadullaev's Caucasian Front: Prospects for the Next Nalchik", was sponsored by the non-governmental organization The Jamestown Foundation and "calls were made for carrying out fresh terrorist attacks on Russian territory" during the event, the ministry said in a statement.

The title of the seminar contained references to Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev, the political leader of Chechen separatist forces, and the city of Nalchik in Russia's North Caucasus, where a brazen attack by Chechen rebels last October left more than 100 people dead.

"It was stressed to the ambassador that the holding of such events on US territory is contrary to the international obligations of the United States in the fight against terrorism," the statement said.

Maybe I shouldn't be the one to say this but ... quid pro quo.

I think it should be stressed to the Russian ambassador that,

  • Selling conventional arms (missles most notably) to Iran, a nation whose leader has repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and,
  • Providing nuclear technology to Iran, which is clearly and transparently moving towards building nuclear weapons and,
  • Defending Iran at the UN Security Council, despite the IAEA asking for Iran to suspend refining of uranium and,
  • Providing $10 Million in funds to the Hamas led government, without requiring the disarmament of Hamas or its self-declared status as a militant terrorist organization calling for the destruction of Israel and,
  • Continued weapons sales to Syria and,
  • The former Russian ambassador to Iraq providing covertly acquired military intelligence to the Iraqi government regarding US and coalition military forces, prior to the Iraq war,
... are contrary to the international obligations of the Russian Federation in the fight against terrorism.

Russia shouldn't expect favorable behavior from the US government, when Russia is doing everything it possibly can to fund and arm nations which support Muslim extremism and terrorist acts against the United States. In fact, the Russian government's own recent behavior would be akin to the US government funding and arming Chechens. The US hasn't come close to that and this seminar was sponsored by an NGO, but can you imagine the Russian reaction if it happened?

Even if what Russia says about this seminar is true (and I believe it probably is true) it is mild compared to the accumulation of actions by the Russian government against US interests over the past several years. The indignation on Russia's part regarding recent calls by members of the US Congress should only be exceeded by their wonderment over what took the US government so long to respond.

I expect some sort of mild rebuke or statements by the US government.
However, we do still have the First Amendment in this country (at least when it suits the government) and I can't see where the US will do much to the NGO's involved.

In short, the Russian government expects favorable treatment from the US ... when they provide nothing of the sort in return.
Further note: From the Jamestown Foundation website, the seminar was a total of 3 hours, with the following scheduled speakers and topics:
Sadullaev's Caucasian Front: Prospects for the Next Nalchik

Date(s): 04/14/2006 - 04/14/2006
Location: Washington, D.C.
Description: Featuring three distinguished contributors to Jamestown's Chechnya Weekly, Eurasia Daily Monitor and Terrorism Monitor.
Friday, April 14, 2006, 9:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

The Choate Room (1st Floor)
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.


09:30 a.m. - Registration

10:00 a.m. - Welcome - Mr. Glen E. Howard, President, The Jamestown Foundation

10:15 a.m. - Instability in the Caucasus: An Overview - Mr. Ivan Sventsistsky, Coordinator, Yalta Initiative for Peace in Chechnya, Moscow

10:45 a.m. - Islam, Jamaats and Regional Implications - Dr. Andrew McGregor, Director, Aberfoyle International Security, Toronto

11:15 a.m. - The Chechen Resistance: New Faces, New Strategies - Mr. Mairbek Vatchagaev, Ph.D. Candidate, L'École des Haute Études en Science Sociales, Paris

11:45 a.m. - Discussion

12:15 p.m. - Concluding Remarks - Mr. Glen E. Howard, President, The Jamestown Foundation

It isn't difficult to guess when the calls for "fresh terrorist attacks on Russian territory" were made or misinterpreted. It would be my guess it was within the 30 minutes scheduled for "The Chechen Resistance: New Faces, New Strategies" by Mr. Mairbek Vatchagaev. The animated gif image above is from a online petition where Mairbek Vatchagaev was one of the initial signers

It is also worth noting that the Jamestown Foundation has issued a statement, Jamestown Denounces Moscow's Distorted Accounts of North Caucasus Conference.
Russian State Television, Foreign Ministry Falsely Manipulate Coverage of North Caucasus

Contact: Glen E. Howard , +1 202.483.8888

WASHINGTON, DC (4/18/06)--The Jamestown Foundation today denounced a Russian state-owned television report on a conference examining instability in the North Caucasus, calling the coverage distorted, manipulative and patently false. The April 14th conference, entitled "Sadullaev's Caucasian Front: Prospects for the Next Nalchik" assembled independent experts from around the world to assess Russian policy and Muslim separatist movements in the region.

"ORT's false reporting on The Jamestown Foundation is a throw-back to Soviet-style manipulation and propaganda," declared Jamestown Foundation President Glen E. Howard. "Far from advocating terrorism, Jamestown's publications and public events provide American and Russian policy makers with the insights they need to prevent catastrophes like the September 2004 hostage crisis in Beslan and the October 2002 Moscow theatre siege."

The report, which ran April 15th on Kremlin-controlled ORT Television, falsely alleged that the Jamestown Foundation is advocating future terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus and incorrectly implied that the United States government is supporting Muslim separatists in the region. The report also speculated wildly about the role of U.S. Vice President Richard Cheney, a long time friend and supporter of the Jamestown Foundation.

"The Jamestown Foundation produces five publications, including Eurasia Daily Monitor and Chechnya Weekly, which covers developments in Chechnya and the North Caucasus," explained Howard. "The Jamestown Foundation is a leader in providing independent, fact-based analysis about instability in Eurasia and global terrorist activities. The notion that Jamestown and the U.S. government are promoting terrorism in Russia is not just absurd, it also shows just how paranoid the Kremlin's repressive regime has become."

The ORT report also featured prominently in today's formal protests to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, in which the Russian Foreign Ministry alleged U.S. support for terrorist attacks in Russia. The Jamestown discussion did not feature terrorists, but included a group of independent experts to discuss recent developments in the North Caucasus. The participants included two Americans, a Canadian, a Paris-based Chechen historian and an independent journalist from Russia.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry's protests come at a time when the Kremlin is shuttering independent media, systematically repressing human rights organizations and funding the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas," argued Howard. "Accusing Jamestown and the U.S. government of promoting terrorism in Chechnya and the North Caucasus is not just ironic, but blatantly hypocritical."


Sturmovik said...

As much as I may agree with some of the points re: Russia & Iraq, I still have a very difficult time giving people like Vatchagaev any kind of forum here in the USA. First Amendment rights do not extend to foreign nationals using a public forum in the United States to advocate terrorist attacks on another sovereign nation.

RC Administrator said...

Agree with some of your points.
By the way, I have linked to your blog on my own (russiancorporatism.blogspot.com), if you don't mind.

W. Shedd said...

Yes, but I'm not sure if that is what happened in this case. I suspect, given the topic of his portion of the program, that it would have touched on terrorists acts within Russia. What he actually said is unknown. The Jamestown Foundation says that the Russian government and media is grossly distorting what he said, so who knows - could have been a rhetorical question or some other remark.

And I may have the speaker who made the remarks wrong - I am just looking at the topics and speakers and making a guess.

I'm not sure if the Jamestown Foundation puts out transcripts of these events, would be interesting to find one.

W. Shedd said...

I should have been more succinct in my remarks. I might summarize as:

1) Jamestown Foundation is bad if they did encourage or allow such talks and

2) The Russian Government are huge hypocrites for jumping on words, when their own actions are far more inflammatory.

Alex(ei) said...

Leaving aside the details, I'd note one major difference. Russia seems to be supporting countries that endanger US interests in the Middle East and support terrorist attacks against Israel, a close ally of the US -- but not the US. By contrast, were it indeed supporting Chechen separatists, the US would be encouraging terrorist attacks against Russia itself. Chechnya is part of Russia, and if it won independence, it would still be dangerously close to Russia in a way that Iran can't be to the US.

On the other hand, I'm not willing to defend Putin's foreign policy whether there are good arguments for it or not.

RC Administrator said...

I don't think we can talk about US supporting the chechen rebels since the organization in question is an NGO...

What is clear though, Russia's views on the west and the US are not that different now than they were in the seventies and eighties.

W. Shedd said...

I would disagree. Iran's high-speed cavitation torpedo, which is remarkably similar to the Russian VA-111 Shkval (wink wink nudge nudge) really only has two legitimate uses: to sink an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf or to sink a submarine in the Persian Gulf. Both scenarios are high-probability American targets. Iran has threatened oil supplies through the Persian gulf in the past, through the use of mines. Iran's threatening oil tankers through the gulf is as much a threat to the US (and others) as terrorists blowing up Gazprom gas pipelines to Europe are to the EU. The only thing that prevented Iran from blowing up more tankers in 1988 was the US military deploying in the Persian Gulf to escort tankers. Now if that scenario plays again, Iran has made clear that they have the means and interest to attempt sinking US carriers.

I think you also remarkably underestimate Iran's hatred of the United States, and willingness to conduct terrorist activities on US soil. Iran has a history of sponsoring terrorist activities through SAVAK, against US and Israeli targets.

I would say you are accurate about Hamas, and personally I think if Hamas disarmed (as there have been calls from the west for them to do) they might reasonably be able to move into what the west would consider political legitimacy. If Arafat can do it, anybody can.

I would say Syria also is a nation that primarily threatens Israel and Lebanon. But I also think there is a big difference between some foreigner coming to a non-government meeting within the US and saying something wrong or inappropriate - versus giving aid and comfort to someone that clearly and unequivocally sees the US and US allies as the enemy.

I'm always sort of amazed at the Russian point of view regarding Iran. Katja says the images she sees of Iran are always rather nice - while the images Americans see is a nation led by people US-flag burning Islamic extremists who preach "Death to the USA, Death to the Great Satan" (their lovely pet name for our nation ... very endearing). I think probably too many Russians agree with Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he questions whether the holocaust of Jews by Nazi Germany actually occurred. (I say this based on my admittedly limited experiences with the willingness of Russians to believe that Jews are evil, etc.)

The only thing that I can add to the Russian governments defense is - that perhaps they view the Baltics, Ukraine, Poland, and other former Warsaw Pact nations - as being armed or supplied by the US, NATO, and the west. They might see increased ties with these Middle East nations as a counter-balance to that. That is a stretch, even with the animosity some peoples in those nations might feel towards Russia. It is also zero-sum, adversarial, cold-war thinking.

andrei said...

Cmon, Wally. Don't beat around the bush. Just say it - nuke Iran into cave age in the name of American safety, freedom and democracy.

W. Shedd said...

Beat around the Bush .. very funny.

I don't think I've said anything close to that. I'm not one of those "bomb the Middle East and turn it into a parking lot" types. Neither am I a "kill them all and let God sort them out" type. But it is an amazing perception gap on the part of Russia. It is as if they forget the Iranian history of hatred of the US since 1979. Or it is a deliberate policy to inflame relations between the US and Russia.

As I have said before, if it had been Russians who were held hostage for over a year in 1979 ... and the flag of the Soviet Union or Russia being burned ... with Iranian leaders calling Russia "The Great Satan" and talking of killing Russians ... the Soviet Union probably would have burned Iran to the ground about 20 years ago.

Instead, you have a Russian policy that seems to be saying "oh, those crazy Iranians, they are so cute, calling for the destruction of Israel ... let's give them some guns, torpedoes, equipment for refining uranium, and missles and see what they do with them!".

Sturmovik said...

I actually emailed the Jamestown Foundation today and requested the transcripts/texts, and it sounds like they are working on this. this is in response to an earlier email today that I sent to them, to which I received a copy of their press release.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: RE: 4/14
From: "Erich Marquardt"
Date: Wed, April 19, 2006 2:25 pm
To: "Sean "

We are working on the transcripts. They are being transcribed and then will be posted to our website. Did you want us to add your to our Events list, that way you will be made aware of the printed transcripts?

All the best,

Erich Marquardt

Jamestown Foundation


From: Sean
Sent: Wednesday, April 19, 2006 10:04 AM
To: Jamestown Foundation
Subject: RE: 4/14

Dear Sirs,

If that is the case, then perhaps the Jamestown Foundation will follow up its denunciation of the ORT report by releasing the transcripts of the event, specifically (but not limited to) the text of the presentation "The Chechen Resistance: New Faces, New Strategies," by Mairbek Vatchagaev?

W. Shedd said...

Excellent idea

Sturmovik said...

FWIW (yeah, I know its MosNews):


"Abdul-Khalim Sadullayev is the president of the self-proclaimed Chechen republic of Ichkeria. Vachagayev told the conference that Sadullayev had finished the integration of North Caucasus jamaats into a unified military Caucasian Front. The members of the conference found that the Russian war in Chechnya had grown into a Russian war in the whole Caucasus that could lead to the loss of Caucasus for Russia. Experts said major attacks by the Caucasus Front could be expected in Russia."

Alex(ei) said...

Propaganda works wonders, which is why I wouldn't pay too much attention to what the Iranian or the Russian or the American crowd/street/ochlos thinks at the moment. I would like to know, though, whether the US government takes Iran's new leader at his word and seriously believes Iran is about to nuke Israel and attack the US with poison gas. I strongly suspect this is cheap talk for domestic consumption, and Iran's military buildup is primarily a political tool. (BTW, back in 1979, the USSR was the Junior Satan for Khomeini.) Bush, like Putin and like that Iranian guy, needs enemies (albeit not so badly as them), and Iran is an acceptable one. Putin will continue as marketing manager for his military-industrial complex but I don't believe he will go beyond the line when and if Washington draws it. In foreign affairs, Putin's habit is making hostile gestures before retreating. He is basically a loser.

The anti-Americanism Russians are reportedly regaining can be reduced to two things -- American interference in Kosovo and Iraq and Putin's propaganda. Holocaust denial, though, will never take root in Russia -- not until the memory of the war is dead. Holocaust revisionism perhaps (6 million or 5 or 4 million), but denial? Please.

W. Shedd said...

I think AMERICANS take Iran's president at his word. As for the US Government, I have no evidence that they see the situation differently. Even before this business in Iraq, before Afghanistan, before 9/11 ... if you asked Americans the #1 country likely to pull a terrorist attack on the US, Iran would have been it.

Personally, I don't believe the report that the going around in Russian newspapers, that Ukraine supplied Iran with nuclear warheads left over from the CCCP. Why don't I believe it? Because if Iran had a nuclear warhead, they would at least use it in a test, to prove they had such weapons. I think Ahmadinejad has an extremely itchy trigger finger and would nuke Israel in a heartbeat. You can call his words Iranian propaganda, but to my mind, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it's a duck.

Before this last election in Iran, there had been some hope of normalized relations with that country. However, a group of moderate candidates were prevented from running (apparently the religious leaders there decide whose name can and can not be on the ballot).

Alex(ei) said...

Well, Americans may be as deluded on Iran as Iranians are on America. Americans have a history of overreacting and falling into a mild version of mass paranoia (in good faith, as it were). How else could Iraq War II start? Most Americans probably thought the USSR was going to nuke them in the 1970s and the 1980s when the Soviets were firmly on the defensive, the Afghan invasion notwithstanding, and headed towards complete impotence.

Who's Ahmadinejad after all? Aren't Iranian presidents subject to the ayatollahs' supreme authority? The ayatollahs don't seem very suicidal.

W. Shedd said...

I wouldn't characterize the CCCP as being on the defensive, considering they and the Warsaw Pact countries outnumbered NATO forces by almost 3 to 1! Something like 20,000 battle tanks for Warsaw Pact vs. 7,000 for all of NATO, from about 1965 to 1985, as I recall. Aircraft and troop strength were on comparable scales. My father was in the US Army and I lived 6 years in what was West Germany. The US saw its role strictly as a deterrent to the CCCP taking the rest of Germany, and their plans were to pull back and slow down any Soviet advance. The former CCCP might have been making claims of being on the defensive and naming streets Prospekt Mira is very sweet and all ... but history and troop strength numbers clearly show they had an enormous advantage that went well beyond the defensive.

I know the Russian perspective was there was never again going to be a war fought on their soil again, and the Warsaw Pact was a military occupation maintained to ensure that. But the troop deployments suggest if a war was going to be fought, it was going to be in West Germany and the Netherlands and maybe France - and not Poland.

It is also pretty hard to forget that one of the cornerstone philosophies of communism was the end of capitalism everywhere. "Мы вас похороним!" was a concept that existed long before Nikita Khrushchev bellowed the phrase. I don't think it is paranoid or delusional to take a man at his word, particularly when he has the means to make his words reality - it is paranoid to believe someone is your enemy even as they shake your hand in friendship.

That should probably be a conversation for another time, because I would actually like to compare Russian citizens information and perceptions of that time, versus the West. I'm always surprised that Russians don't seem to see the Warsaw Pact as a fairly aggressive military occupation by the CCCP. But this conversation is taking us rather far away from the original intent of the posting. Also, I don't like that this has been a rather negative topic - there are several other blogs that engage in more free-handed Russia-bashing than I would want to see here. It is unfortunate that the current international political scene lends itself into such negative discussions. A more interesting discussion might be how Russia's assistance to Iran in developing nuclear technology got this far before reaching its current state. I thought the Russian proposal to refine uranium for Iran (and other nations) was rather brilliant, but it came rather too late as Iran already had acquired the centrifuges.

As the ayatollah's essentially put Ahmadinejad into power by limiting the number of presidential candidates, and they could certainly put a lid on his words - I have to believe they give him 100% support. His religious idealogy did not spring from nothing - he is repeating words preached to him by these very same ayatollahs!

Thanks for the continued comments, this is a good topic if for nothing else than discussing Russia-US viewpoints on Iran.

andrei said...

There are hundreds of memoirs and open to public archives that clearly stay - in 70's the USSR was a gerentocracy. A bunch of very old men who valued above all stability, safety and harmony - in the Soviet sense of the word, of course. These old delapidating men were scared to death to young and full of energy Americans. These old men sincerely believed that if they don't have 3:1 troops ratio the US wouldn't hasitate a second to nuke the USSR into cave age. There's no - I stess it - no evidence that the Soviet gerontologic Potilburo had any agressive plans against the US. They were on defensive - a paroniod defensive - but still all Americans I know somehow believe that the Soviet Union was agressive. At the end of 70's it could only agressively fart. Nothing more.

Tim Newman said...

An excellent dicussion, chaps. Large pats on backs and shots of vodka all round!

Alex(ei) said...

Khruschev was the last Soviet leader who had delusions of world dominance. Moreover, if it had not been for the development of West Siberian oil deposits, the Soviet economy could have collapsed in the mid-1970s, for Khruschev had put an emphasis on improving the standard of living for the average Soviet. Consumption levels, previously suppressed under Stalin in favor of investment, became too high for the autarchic Soviet economy to sustain in the 1960s and the 1970s. Hence the need to import food and consumption goods, which could only be met by exporting (what else?) natural resources.

The troop advantage in Europe was natural given the inefficiency of the Soviet army. To a large degree, it was a relic of Stalin's post-WWII politics but nuclear parity made war in Europe unthinkable. The US overestimated Soviet power and belligerence, that's why I suspect Iran is not what Americans take it for.

W. Shedd said...

Andrei - I understand your point, but surely not all of the Soviet Union was ancient old men, and the soldiers and army themselves were not geriatrics. Who knows how it all might have played out if Gorbachev hadn't come along - the CCCP might have held on for another generation, and seen a wave of young hawks. Imagine Zhirnovsky with the military might of the former CCCP behind him.

As for the US overestimating Soviet power - I don't see how you reach that conclusion. Simply because there was no direct shooting war between the CCCP and USA? Or because the CCCP eventually came apart? I don't think either is a fair assessment of the USA overestimating. If anything, the US responses to CCCP military buildup put further pressures upon the managed economy of the CCCP, helping lead to its downfall.

We should be so lucky - to see a similar outcome happen in Iran. I guess you are basically saying you don't think Iran would use a nuke if they had one? Or are you saying that they are not moving towards building nuclear weapons? Personally, I think their leaders would use radioactive materials to use a "dirty bomb" in either Israel, the US or both - simply because it is the fastest means to attack.

Actually, such outcomes as the former CCCP only reinforces the hawkish beliefs of conversative Americans. They feel it demonstrates the deterrent effect of keeping the US military extremely strong and active in foreign policy.

Myself, I think in this current age, it is a high price for Americans to pay to maintain and use such military force instead of real diplomatic efforts and foresight. The uni-nodal viewpoint of American leaders is only leading to increased resentment as much of the rest of the world sees a multi-nodal model for diplomacy and cooperation. I think diplomatic efforts with Iran might work, if Russia and China were willing to take hard measures to deter Iran. As it is, their policies just encourage Iran's leadership. And this agains leads the US on the path of acting alone, militarily if necessary, to stop Irans nuclear ambitions.

As a side note, recent news articles about Iran "reconsidering" Russia's offer, but without giving up refining uranium themselves seem like just a ploy. If Iran only wanted uranium for peaceful purposes, as they claim - they would accept the Russian offer willingly. Refining their own uranium only fulfills one purpose, and that is building nuclear weapons or dirty bombs.

W. Shedd said...

"The troop advantage in Europe was natural given the inefficiency of the Soviet army."

Oh by the way - I don't think you can chalk up a 3 to 1 troop advantage to inefficiency. Nice try though. Generally for strictly defensive purposes, you could maintain troop strengths of approximately 80% of your opponents and have an effective deterrent. I would sooner buy into the idea that the old Soviet leaders felt only massive numbers would deter the West, and they did this without a clear understanding of how the West would perceive those large numbers troops and armaments.