Letter: Diplomatic silence over Chechnya

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Sir: In his moving plea ("Halt the fall into barbarity", 29 April) for the international community to take action to stem the slide into barbarism in Chechnya, Jean-Marc Bornet of the International Committee of the Red Cross asks whether the diplomatic silence would have been so deafening had this appalling war broken out in the days of the Soviet Union.

The short answer, of course, is no. Western politicians would have shed crocodile tears at the spectacle of the plucky Chechens struggling to cast off the yoke of the "evil empire", while the CIA would have been equipping them with Stinger missiles.

But now that Russia has joined the "Free World", the US Secretary of Defense, William Perry, categorises Russian policy in Chechnya, which has resulted in the indiscriminate mass slaughter of civilians, as "entirely correct".

At the recent G7 meeting in Moscow, President Clinton, displaying as great an ignorance of his own history as that of Chechnya, likened the conflict to the American Civil War.

If the war in Chechnya resembles anything in US history, it is the genocidal Indian wars of the 19th century.

Professor Richard Clogg

European Studies Centre

St Antony's College

Oxford

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