Why cannot Europe talk with Osama bin Laden if it suggests that Russia should talk with Aslan Maskhadov? This is the first thing that comes to mind when one reads the buried draft resolution on human rights violations in Chechnya, presented by the EU to the UN Human Rights Commission the other day.
That the Commission rejected it is logical. But who in the EU thought of writing it in the first place? I would like to look him or them in the eye and try to understand the logic of their action.
I would like to remind you about the explosion in the Moscow metro and a series of similar explosions in Spain, the recent arrest in Manchester of a group that planned to explode the bomb in the city stadium.
These events convinced many of those who still doubted it that the creation of a united front of struggle against international terrorism and close interaction in rallying resistance against this global evil is becoming a key task in Russia-EU relations.
This task can hardly be fulfilled unless a zone of isolation and intolerance is created around terrorists, where common political and legal norms would be effective. Anyone who makes an attempt on the life of innocent civilians must know that whoever he or she is, whoever they represent, and wherever they are located - they will be meted out due punishment for their crimes anyway.
We must not allow the appearance in Europe of "save heavens" where terrorists will rest, lick their wounds, enjoy the benefits of civilisation, and even find good-hearted sponsors. Likewise, it is inadmissible for one terrorist to be judged to be "better" than some other terrorist, which gives him a chance for a more humane attitude to him or even the halo of "a freedom fighter."
These pronouncements seem trite, but Russia has reasons to assume that united Europe should honour them more consistently.
Regrettably, this is not always the case, which brings us back to the aforementioned draft resolution on human rights violations in Chechnya. The draft was rejected by a considerable majority of votes because its bias is apparent. The authors of the draft tried to sharply criticise Russia for its alleged failure to investigate military crimes, ensure the voluntary return of refugees, and many other failures.
The text of the draft shows that its authors do not know anything about the current situation in the republic. There is nothing new in it: the same old unsubstantiated accusations which the EU had submitted to the UN Human Rights Commission in the past three years and which the Commission invariably rejected by a majority of votes.
Meanwhile, Chechnya in 2004 is quite different from what it was in the preceding years, but European officials are probably not aware of this.
Moscow has largely succeeded in reducing the war to a waning internecine conflict, changing the tactic of mass mopping up operations to pinpoint spetsnaz missions, liquidating or neutralising over 30 prominent field commanders (including Raduyev, Khattab, Barayev and Gelayev), and holding a successful constitutional referendum and presidential elections there.
Seventy hospitals, over a hundred schools, and five universities have been put into operation there.
Of course, there are elements of martial law there, as war has treacherously polluted human souls, as Chechens say. The new president of Chechnya, Akhmad Kadyrov, admits that people still disappear but, unlike in the past, each case is registered and investigated. 92% of those Chechens who voted for Vladimir Putin approve of his policy of a political settlement in the republic.
But the authors of the EU draft resolution refuse to see these changes. Moreover, using unproven data from newspaper items or biased reports to draft such documents, the EU (unlike many international organisations) hardly interacts with Russia on the Chechen problem. It also refrains from extending practical assistance that would help Chechnya become a calmer place more suited for living.
But this is not all. The main damage from such unfriendly anti-Russian actions is that they indirectly play into the hands of Chechen fighters. They destroy the common area of intolerance that should surround terrorists irrespective of where they perpetrate their sanguinary deeds - in Moscow, Madrid or Grozny. Those who plan new attacks on innocent civilians use these actions as propaganda encouragement. And lastly, these actions split the international coalition of countries that are fighting the global terrorist threat.
This is why we hear the kind voice of Osama bin Laden address the European leaders with a mutually beneficial, in his opinion, deal. If you pull out troops from Iraq, we will guarantee that there will be no terrorist actions in Europe.
London, Rome and other capitals rejected this offer outright as violating the main principle of behaviour with regard to terrorists: There can be no negotiations with them.
At the same time, these capitals deem it possible to persistently call on Moscow to launch talks with Aslan Maskhadov, former president of Chechnya, without delay. In the amount of blood shed on his orders, he is not far behind Osama bin Laden, the more so that Chechnya and the Maskhadov regime have always been in the sphere of influence of bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Movsar Barayev, one of those who took hostages during the Nord-Ost musical in October 2002 in Moscow, spoke about Maskhadov as the terrorist leader. He told the Moscow correspondent of Sunday Times: "We are subordinate to him [Maskhadov] to a large degree..." When the shocked correspondent asked Barayev to repeat what he had just said, he complied, saying that Maskhadov knew about and "blessed" the attack on the Dubrovka theatre centre.
But some European structures think Maskhadov embodies "the constructive political opposition in Chechnya" and it is with him that Moscow should talk.
To further complicate the situation, let us imagine that Europeans are offered to think about negotiations with some of the leaders of the Iraqi revolt (or rebellion), which has not been suppressed so far. For example, with Shiite leader Muktada al-Sadr. This is indeed a difficult problem, as before talking with him, Europe will need to determine if he ordered the murders of civilians, the taking of hostages, and so on.
But the connection between the leaders of the global jihad and Chechen leaders and terrorists is real and sinister. It is impossible to imagine that the leadership of united Europe does not understand this. However, it is one thing to understand something and quite another to admit it publicly. Admitting the existence of the terrorist international, with a Chechen section, would be tantamount to losing the moral right to draft resolutions where Moscow is conveniently criticised for the inclination to use force instead of holding talks with the healthy forces of the Chechen opposition.
What is it, if not double standards in the attitude of some EU quarters to terrorism?
By doing this, they seem to point Russia to the place of a second-rate partner in the international counter-terrorist coalition, a partner with whom one can co-operate only when terrorists hurt Europe, the West, and not Russia. Moscow will not accept this position.
Negotiations are underway on the use of airfields in Cuba, Venezuela and Algeria. South Africa, Syria and Egypt are likely to join the list