The recent crisis during the past decade or so has seen numerous human rights violations and draws parallels to
many other conflicts around the world. For example:
It is similar to the situation in Africa, where small nations have been trying to break free from their
regional superpowers and colonial rulers.
It is similar to Kosovo or the Gulf War, where allied and NATO forces used humanitarian reasons and mass
bombings with precise military technology to wage a high-tech war; here Russia attempts (and has attempted
in the past) similar measures, albeit with less success compared to their NATO counter-parts.
It is similar to East Timor, Kosovo, various African and other recent conflicts where, again, the civilians
are the main casualties who suffer most from this conflict.
It is similar to the above-mentioned conflicts as various international conventions, treaties and laws are
violated by powerful nations in their sphere of influence.
And, as with most other conflicts throughout history, there are trade and access related reasons for this
conflict as the issue of geopolitics, Caspian Sea oil and control of it comes to the fore.
Of course, that is not to simply degrade this conflict to yet another conflict as each war has unique
situations and terrible consequences. However, it is another indication of how power struggles are at work
throughout the world and throughout history.
Stalin believed Chechens would welcome Nazi-Germany in return for an independent Chechnya.
The mass deportation of Chechen people, among others, is estimated in the range of 400,000 to 800,000 with
perhaps 100,000 or more of these people dying due to the extreme conditions.
When Russia invaded Chechnya, a bloody war ensued.
Grozny was devastated. Some 70-80,000 people died, mostly Chechen civilians5,
and in 1996, Russia withdrew defeated. In a move that looked as though Russia was trying to do to Chechnya what
the U.S. had done to Iraq in 1991, the war instead revealed how poor Russian military capabilities were.
Around mid-1999, Moscow accused the Chechen leadership of supporting extremist Islamic militants in Dagestan.
While denied by the government, local warlords (mostly independent of the central government) did support militant
Islamic groups there.
Following the Chechen defeat in Dagestan, Moscow and other Russian cities suffered bomb blasts killing more
than 300 people. Chechens were blamed for the attacks, though it was never proven. This has also led to a rise
in racist sentiments10
against people mainly from the Caucasus regions.
Russia' full scale war with Chechnya led to many bombing raids by Russian forces. Some one third to half of
the 1.3 million Chechen people are said to have fled from Chechnya. Slowly Grozny and other parts of Chechnya were
being pounded and destroyed, while civilian population were caught in the middle12
of the conflict. Civilian casualties were high and there was an international outcry at the brutal Russian crackdown
and indiscriminate bombing and targeting of civilians.
Human Rights groups raised concern at the rampage13
that the Russian forces were on after having issued what appeared to be an
ultimatum for citizens in Grozny to evacuate14.
(The previous link is to a report that admits that the Russian government tried to give an opportunity for citizens
to leave but criticized how Russia would assume that those left behind would be considered terrorists.) The
Russian troops were accused of looting and burning homes and buildings, even executing those who resisted. The rest
of the G8 and the European Union had even threatened to isolate Moscow15
if they continued their campaign.
On April 20, 2000 there was an offer of a cease-fire16
by the Chechen President, Ashlan Mashkadov. But it was not clear at the time if it could have been maintained.
Russian demands were stern17
and it was not certain if all factions would abide given the increasing number of criminal gangs and factions of
warlords. And by June 2000, there was more rebel fighting, suicide attacks and increased guerilla warfare by
Chechen combatants, indicating that the conflict was far from over.
As Human Rights Watch further reported18,
in April 2001, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution on Chechnya that condemned serious human
rights violations by Russia's forces, and raised concern about forced disappearances, torture, and summary
executions. Sponsored by the E.U., and with strong U.S. backing, the resolution called for U.N. special
rapporteurs to investigate these abuses in the war-torn republic and for credible criminal investigations by
domestic agencies into all human rights and humanitarian law violations. Russia rejected a similar resolution
adopted by the commission last year, and refused to comply with its requirements. It has vowed to do the same this
In May 2001, they also reported that Russian authorities covered up19
evidence of extra-judicial executions.
A major oil pipeline carries oil from fields in Baku on the Caspian Sea and Chechnya toward the Ukraine.
Grozny has a major oil refinery along this pipeline. For Russia it is important that the oil pipelines and routes
they take so oil can be sold to the western markets also meet their needs. However, there are various pipelines in
discussion that does not involve Russia.
Major Western oil companies and the American government managed to keep out Iran from the picture. In addition,
by also getting oil pipelines routed through Georgia, Russian influence was reduced. As a result, Russia want to
do what they can to control the spoils, while the West do the same, leaving Chechnya in the middle being fought for
by the two.
There are accusations that external (Western) forces have been used to promote and help destabilize the region,
to promote succession to ensure a split from Russia. This would allow them to benefit from a smaller, weaker
nation (if Chechnya is successful) that will also make it easier for the West to ensure the resources they want can
be further controlled. It has also been suggested that Islamic extremist terrorist groups such as Al Quaeda and
others have been involved in some aspects of the Chechen war, and earlier, when such terrorist groups were
supported by the west to destabilize the former Soviet Union. (Breaking down larger regions been a successful
strategy used throughout history by Europe, the US and others, when they divided and ruled various colonial states.
Keeping other nations small works to the advantage of powerful nations. For example, look at the resulting
maps of Africa20 on this web site's Africa pages.) Yet at the same time,
more recently, with Russia claiming to fight its own war on terrorism, it seems as though western leaders have
been giving tacit support.
For more about oil related issues, check out the following:
Russia complained at NATO's actions against Milosevic. Yet various rights groups have accused Russia of
doing the same thing.
NATO told its populations that it bombed Serbia on humanitarian grounds. Russia did the same regarding
As was revealed during the Kosovo crisis that some NATO members (e.g. the U.S.'s CIA) had long
trained27 the KLA against Yugoslavia. That
other western-trained Islamic terrorist groups have also been operating in Chechnya in the past, adds an
interesting twist to the geopolitical ramifications. In that context, both the destabilization of
Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union can be seen as part of the on-going struggle in the 20th century for
western powers to maintain control. That is,
World War I signified a beginning to the end of colonial and imperial world rule as those rulers
fought it out even more so amongst themselves.
This culminated in a second World War. The end of World War II saw the third world finally begin
to break free.
Post World War II geopolitics (the Cold War) by the U.S.-led West against communism and non-aligned
nations (often unrelated to communism, but breaking free28
of western imperial rule) saw various destabilization attempts in Latin America, Middle
East/Central Asia, Africa and Asia.)
This is too big an issue to cover in this section, and for now, therefore direct you to the
Institute for Economic Democracy web site29, for example, for more
details on this crucial issue.)