Mon, 06 Mar 2000

Chechnya and the West

The second Chechen war is having effects well beyond the Caucasus.

It has already reshuffled the political pack in Moscow, clearing the way for an election success for interim president Vladimir Putin and, with that, a more nationalist and authoritarian administration than that of Boris Yeltsin.

Today, it is encouraging the West -- struck as much by the new attitude in the Kremlin as by the horrors of Grozny -- to review its relationship with Russia.

The current Western position -- not getting involved in any way with the war in Chechnya on the grounds that it is a Russian interior matter -- is maybe "realistic" given the distribution of forces. But is not the only way possible.

Voices that can be termed reasonable are calling for political or economic pressure to be put on Moscow, by the U.N. Security Council or the International Monetary Fund, in the name of universal human rights.

And in the name of consistency: didn't the United States and its allies invoke just that principle to intervene last year in Yugoslavia?

-- Le Temps, Geneva, Switzerland