16 October 2003, 15:05

Dash from democracy. Warning

After the events of late October 2002, Moscow has tried to alter the global situation in its favor. What was happening to Russia in the last 15 years can be called forcible democratization. Because Russia is an underdeveloped country, it is very difficult for it to establish democracy. Democracy for such a country is a "too expensive pleasure". Yet Europe developed a system of forced democracy for those countries which for some or other historic reasons have made independent transition to democracy. This system is aimed at creating a mechanism of forcible retention of the country in the channel of democratic adjustments.

The key principle developed by Western European countries is to force underdeveloped countries around the world to apportion some funds from their meager budgets to develop and support democratic institutions. This is very expensive, but there is no other way. Full-scale funding of the judiciary alone can upset the budget of a quite developed third-world state.

This is all the more difficult because in developing countries most funds are simply embezzled or spent to support the obedient officialdom; privileges to officials in such countries are much better than those to orphans and the disabled.

So what did Russia do in late 2002 when it guessed a complicated and one can say without false modesty crucial moment in the evolution of the civilized states around the world and decided to change the global rules? Under the "we are living in a different world" slogan Russia decided time came when "everything is allowed."

Unfortunately, Russia found the an example in U.S. actions after September 11, 2001, when in defiance of all rules effective over more than 50 years, counter to the rules the UN had drawn up for a bipolar world the US used force round the UN Security Council that guards world tranquility. Full-scale military force was used against an independent state, Afghanistan, and the US persuaded the entire world not to consider it aggression, but a counter-terrorist operation. And the entire world headed by the UN swallowed it. Shortly after that though and no longer as peremptorily this time, the US was going to launch military action against Iraq and arranged lengthy consultations with a lot of countries around the world, in the first place obtained a positive reaction of the Security Council. But the move against Afghanistan had been taken and this played its role in Russia's decision after the terrorist act in Moscow in late October 2002.

Following the U.S. pattern, Russia began rapidly changing its view of human rights both inside and outside the country. The attack primarily concerned the issue of Chechnya. The balance between observing and violating human rights Russia was maintaining all the time after the second Chechen campaign was sharply disturbed, not in favor of human rights. Russia made a sharp dash from democracy. This was primarily manifested in ethnicity becoming the key principle of large-scale violation of human rights. All Chechens had to undergo the procedure of having their finger-prints taken; in Moscow the Chechen ethnicity for several days already has been a basis for large-scale imprisonment of citizens. The next step was an attack on freedom of speech, in particular searches of Versiya newspaper's editorial office. Authorities' abuse in the Chechen Republic, last year driven into a certain regulated channel very poorly resembling a norm, is going to expand, according to some most recent statements. What Chechens living in refugee camps in Ingushetia and Chechnya talked about has started to be carried out. The invigoration of the Russian army and suspension of the so-called pullout of troops are brilliant manifestations of this. Apparently, in the near future one should expect new reports on violence during large-scale "clean-up operations" in many settlements in the Chechen Republic. The fragile balance will be disturbed and one should be expecting a new outburst of violence.

For some reason the authorities are sure the population, which recent polls show en masse has already begun to disapprove of military action in Chechnya, will be supporting them after the events in Moscow. But this is wrong. An outburst of anti-Chechen moods, an outburst of ethnic hatred playing into the power's hands and to some extent kept up by government media in the form of some movies opportunely demonstrated on the first and second channels, as well as some news about crimes across Russia with mentioning the criminals' ethnicity, has had no effect on the population's utterly negative view of war in Chechnya. The majority of citizens as before continue to believe war should be stopped.

At the same time, Russia's authorities have vigorously taken the offensive on human rights at the international level. It was most clearly manifested in the issue of extraditing Zakaev from Denmark. Instead of submitting sufficient proof of Zakaev's guilt, the Russian authorities deployed hard pressure at the international level, seeking Denmark to make a political decision on this matter, which is impossible in principle according to European standards. As Russia is not capable, following the U.S. example, to deploy military action or powerful economic pressure aimed at the accomplishment of its tasks, the results are not going to be impressive.

It should be observed the Russian authorities pursue the only objective of untying their hands for vigorous actions in Chechnya. Seeking the West to do only one thing: recognizing all Chechen opposition leaders as terrorists. This would justify in Chechnya all possible methods of reinforcing military action and toughening the human rights violation regime. The U.S. demand that the Chechen opposition repudiate the terrorist act in Moscow, which the latter did not fail to make use of, had a strong cooling effect on Russian policies. This dealt a powerful blow to Moscow's attitudes. As long as there is opposition in Chechnya uncontrolled by Russia, but respected and honored by the Chechens, stabilizing the situation in the Chechen Republic is impossible. Moscow is cognizant of it and it is seeking all possible ways to resolve this problem.

So what can soon be expected in Chechnya? After statements by the US and Denmark, the Russian authorities understood it would most likely be impossible to make the situation with human rights favorable for Russian policies, but they will still be making efforts along this line. More so, that they have been able to achieve some successes in this area, exemplified in particular by statements of the European Court with respect to the Chechen militants detained in Georgia when the European Court revised its former decision. The European system of human rights has been shaped over more than one decade already. Unlike the UN Security Council system, which is in crisis, it is much stronger and is presently on the rise. Efforts taken along this line will therefore be futile. This is most likely to lead to a certain show-off demarche by Russia politicians to save face.

As for Chechnya and Russia, the situation can take a bad turn for the Russian authorities. A new round of bloodshed the federal authorities are escalating will, alas, claim and is already claiming Russian soldiers' lives. The number of Russian soldiers killed daily is again on the rise, which will lead to a conflict with Russian residents. Toughening the regime inside the country, even if not too substantially, is already receiving disapproval from Russian intellectuals, primarily with respect to freedom of speech that's under the most intensive attack presently. Trampling on the European human rights value system is not going to be unnoticed either and can lead to international relations becoming more complicated.

Russia's authorities have already begun feeling it and the tonality of statements by senior officials has therefore started to change. The strongest statements are made in remote regions of the country (Ivanov's statement about stepping up action in Chechnya and suspending the pullout). This gives some hope. At the same time, the quite abrupt invigoration of law enforcement agencies in their search of the "Chechen trace" across Russia with the added increasing amount of information in media about violence to foreign citizens and ethnic minorities throughout Russia arouse concern.

Most likely, Russia has failed in its dash to the wild from democracy this time; and it's worse if I am mistaken.

International society Memorial (Syktyvkar, Russia), November 4, 2002

Author: Igor Sazhin, human rights commission Memorial (Syktyvkar, Russia);

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