Edward W. Walker Speaks on War in Chechnya at San Francisco World Affairs Council

Article excerpt

EDWARD W. WALKER SPEAKS ON WAR IN CHECHNYA AT SAN FRANCISCO WORLD AFFAIRS COUNCIL

"The War in Chechnya: Islamic Jihad or National Liberation Struggle?" This question was discussed by Dr. Edward W. Walker, executive director of the University of California at Berkeley's Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on Jan. 21.

"It's a national conflict," stated Walker, "not a religious one." He views the conflict as simply a struggle by the Chechens to defend their territorial homeland against Russia as an imperialist occupying force. According to Walker, many of the Chechnya-based Islamic rebels who invaded neighboring Dagestan in the first incursion last August, triggering the renewed Russian-Chechen warfare, were not Chechens at all. Some Russian government officials even believe the militants were followers of Emil Khattab, a Jordanian citizen who allegedly ran Islamist guerilla-training camps in Chechnya and Dagestan.

Walker said the efforts of these militants to transform the nationalist movement into a religious movement were a failure, as the local population did not support them. Even their allies, the neighboring Ingush, would not take up arms to create an Islamic state.

Although up until now the Chechen campaign has been popular among the Russian public, Walker stressed that it remains to be seen whether support will hold or diminish. …