If you read the newspapers, you would think that the recent terrorism in Russia is simply a side-effect of Russia’s policies in Chechnya and the failure to make peace with the rebels of that region before the elections.
However, I think there is a lot more going on here than Chechan elections, and especially so in the case of the school seige that recently ended. The newspapers are leaving out a ton of details which are probably relevant.
The school seige took place in North Ossetia. Ossetia is a muslim region split between Russia and Georgia; Russia controls North Ossetia and Georgia controls South Ossetia. Interestingly, the region of South Ossetia has been threating to secede from Georgia (and in fact currently claims to be independent) and join North Ossetia to become part of Russia. Georgia responded by moving troops into South Ossetia, and Russia indirectly supported the South Ossetians. Over the past few months, several hostile actions and troop buildupshave brought Russia and Georgia to the verge of war. Less than two weeks ago, on August 24, the president of Georgia told his people that war was imminent and they should prepare.
Now, it is interesting that the muslim terrorists raided a school on the Russian side of a territory that is in a dispute between these two powers at the verge of war. But this doesn’t mean that the terrorists were acting at the behest of Georgia.
But consider this. Very shortly after 9/11, Russia complained mightily that U.S. special forces were on the ground in Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge near the Russian border. At first this was denied, then admitted. The story is that the U.S. was helping Georgia hunt down Chechan terrorists. Soon after, Russia and Georgia announced that they would be working together to clean out the Chechan terrorists in Georgia; no need for American help. However, it didn’t take long for Russia to raise questions about Georgia’s sincerity in fighting the Chechan terrorists. For the past two years, Russia has accused Georgia of secretly tolerating, even harboring, the Chechan terrorists; while Georgia protests that it’s just too difficult to control the Pankisi Gorge.
Then, last fall, Georgian president Shevarnadze was deposed in a bloodless revolution. The new president, U.S. educated lawyer Saakashvili admitted to Russia in Januarythat Georgia had been harboring some Chechan terroristsandhe promised to put an end to it. In May, Saakashvili acquired the status of a legend by ending a 13-year old conflict and averting civil war in another bloodless coup; this time convincing the leader of renegade Ajara region, Aslan Abashidze, to step down.
But ever since, Ossetia has been challenging Saakashvili’s image as a diplomatic superman. Georgia has been dragged ever closer to war with Russia over Ossetia, and Saakashvili doesn’t seem all that reluctant to use military force.
Back in early 2002, the general wisdom was that the tensions between Russia and Georgia were caused by U.S. interference in Georgia. Georgia and Armenia are neighboring Christian republics at the edge of central asia, surrounded by muslim neighbors. The Armenian lobby in America works behind the scenes, but has been extraordinarily effective. Although Georgia and Armenia have disputes, it seemed that the U.S. would be attempting to extend the Armenian sphere of influence into Georgia for various strategic and ?war on terror? reasons.
However, Georgia and Russia were supposedly working together, and the U.S. had been pushed out. So Irecently read the theory in TOL that the most recenttensions are caused by Russian expansionism — that the Russian people are in the mood to expand territory. But there is also the fact that the new premier of Georgia has U.S. ties, and just last month he replaced the Russian-educated head of Georgia’s military with someone who was eductedat the U.S. college of war.
But whatever the reason, it is a fact that Russia and Georgia have been hurtling toward war over Ossetia. And it is a fact that Chechan terrorism has been used as a pawn in this conflict. I think that both of these facts ought to bear at least some mention in the stories about the school seige.