Letter: Western approaches to Chechnya's claims

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The Independent Online
From Dr R. Bennett

Sir: There are several points arising from your editorial "Chechnya is not the West's cause" that need addressing. The equating of the Chechen leadership with "gangsterism and corruption" is to vastly oversimplify things. It also ignores the role the former USSR played in fuelling the rise of the Chechen mafia through their economic blockade of Chechnya since 1991. Secondly, there is no evidence that the Chechens supported Hitler's Wehrmacht, except in the narrow sense of wanting to be free of the yoke of Stalinism.

Until now the West's main concern has been to support Yeltsin as the guarantor of Russian stability and the preservation of its infant democracy. But with his increasingly eccentric leadership, and the likelihood of his defeat in the presidential elections, the West needs to reassess its response to the events of Chechnya. This must encompass not only its relationship with Moscow but also its relationships with the republics in the Caucasus and Asia. Both of these will be of increasing strategic importance through oil production and supply.

Furthermore, if the West wants to champion democracy and freedom, it must recognise that the ethnic minorities within the former USSR share these rights with ethnic Russians and that their fears and aspirations must be respected.

Yours faithfully,

R. Bennett

Newcastle upon Tyne

18 January