Saturday, September 04, 2004

Chechnya and problems of crumbling empires...

You can read an excellent article about Chechnya on Slate right here

It explains the history of the troubled Russian territory and explains why the Chechens were by no means unreasonable when they first petitioned for independence in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Of course, this is in the news because a stand-off between Russian soldiers and Chechen terrorists who took over a school in Russia ended with at least 340 deaths, children and parents among them.

What is Russia to do now?

They can't simply wash their hands of the situation, declare Chechnya independent and walk away. A decade ago, they could have done that but, in an attempt to preserve an oil pipeline and to keep other regions from leaving the Russian Federation, they invaded the territory and wrecked it. If Chechnya is allowed independence now, ravaged as it is, it will become the next Afghanistan. Poverty and a lack of infrastructure will make it inevitable that terrorists from around the world will flock there and take advantage of the desperate population.

The best solution would be for Russia to grant Chechnya independence but acknowledge the criminality of its invasion and pay massive reparations, offering aid for security while it rebuilds the country. But empires, even those ailing like Russia almost never admit that they've done anything wrong and Russia's economy is still in iffy territory so there's some question about whether they could pull it off, even if they have the will (which, they don't).

So, they can't walk away and they can't leave with grace. This is what the United Nations is for. Chechnya should be granted independence and it should be rebuilt as a global project. The money the world spends now will save lives and money later.

I fear that the U.N. will not live up to that responsibility. The result, I predict, will be a war in Chechnya, fought by U.S. troops. Not soon. But, if something isn't done -- if the Chechens aren't given a chance at self government and prosperity, if the opportunities taken from its people by the Russian military are not restored, it will degenerate into a cesspool for extremism.

This is a tragedy that can be averted. If we act now. Does anybody care?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home