Chechensgive Balts courage

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The Independent Online
The tenacity of the Chechen resistance to the Russian army has given heart to the Baltic states, where fears of Moscow's intentions remain acute.

Defence experts in all three countries have been closely watching recent developments in Chechnya to see what lessons they could draw.

While the scale of the Russian onslaught has sent shivers down their spines, Baltic officials have been astonished and inspired by the success of Chechen tactics. "It's encouraging to us that such a small nation is fighting so well against such a big nation," said Margus Kolge, head of the Estonian Defence Ministry's security policy department. "It's quite promising because it means maybe Estonia could do the same."

Janis Trabans, Defence Minister of neighbouring Latvia, has ordered a study of the campaign, to analyse the strong points of the resistance and what he terms the "grievous miscalculations" of the Russian military.

"What is happening in Chechnya has a direct bearing on the defence of the Baltics," Mr Trabans told the Independent. "We have to reconsider our own security concepts in the light of it."

Baltic officials point to the Chechen deployment of small units, hit-and-run tactics, disruption of Russian supply lines and selected targeting by night as good examples of how to stave off such a powerful enemy. They are full of admiration, too, for wh a t Mr Trabans described as the "immense bravery and utter desperation" displayed by the Chechens.

When news of the Russian move against Chechnya first broke, many in the Baltics compared it to Mikhail Gorbachev's attempts to crush their independence movements in the dying months of the Soviet Union.

Given their own struggle for freedom from Moscow, the Baltic states are sympathetic towards the Chechen cause. When fighting first broke out, Lithuania sent a "goodwill mission" to the region.