Beware Russia's Motives

By Kuzio, Taras | The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2001 | Go to article overview

Beware Russia's Motives


Kuzio, Taras, The Christian Science Monitor


The United States has welcomed Russia as an ally in its war on terrorism. And there are ways Russia can be helpful - not least, through its position on the UN Security Council and its influence in the Arab world and Iran.

But Washington should remain cautious; Moscow is using the terrorist acts of Sept. 11 to further four strategic goals:

* Russia is demanding a free hand in dealing with its own "terrorists" in Chechnya. Russia would like the US and international organizations to allow it, in effect, to eradicate "terrorism" from Chechnya. This would lead to even greater human- rights abuses. The US and some of its allies have already begun to change their rhetoric on Chechnya.

Russia believes that international outrage over the Sept. 11 attacks provides a good opportunity to influence world opinion that the Chechens are not pursuing a "national-liberation struggle" but are, in reality, simply terrorists. Russian Army Gen. Anatoly Kulikov has offered to share not only Russia's experience in combating Chechen "terrorists," but also Soviet experience in fighting the "nationalist underground" in western Ukraine, western Belarus, and the Baltics after World War II. Many Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Baltic Americans remember what this antiterrorist experience entailed: ethnic cleansing, atrocities, and mass disregard for human rights in their former homelands.

* Russia wants the US to recognize the territory of the former Soviet Union as a Russian sphere of influence, especially in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Ukraine. An important element of this reassertion of power is to prevent the US and NATO from gaining a foothold in countries that are distrustful of Russia, such as pro-US and pro-NATO Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Ukraine, which, together with Moldova, are united in a regional organization.

* Russia wants to take the three Baltic states off the list of potential members of the second round of NATO enlargement, which will be announced in a year at a NATO summit in Prague. In a recent foreign-policy speech in Warsaw, President Bush announced his support for continued NATO enlargement, and - unlike his predecessor - he is more willing to ignore Russian sensibilities over NATO membership for the former Soviet republics. Russia is hoping that, in return for its cooperation against terrorism, the US will agree to respect its Soviet "red line" as a NATO no-go area.

* Russia wants to use its new alliance with the US to halt Washington's plans for a national missile defense shield.

Russia's double standards

Although newspaper columnists in Canada and Britain have pointed out the alleged double standards the US holds on combating terrorism, there has been little, if any, acknowledgment that Russia also consistently pursues double standards. …

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