Putin's Doctrine of "Balanced Forces"At the G8, Putin Criticizes Israel
The Middle East conflict threatened to plunge today's G8 summit of world leaders into crisis last night as President George W Bush and his Russian host took sharply opposing views of the escalating violence.And since this is a Russian criticism, no doubt the most applicable model that should be consulted is Russian behavior vis-a-vis the Chechens.
Mr Bush squarely blamed Hezbollah and Syria, one of the militant group's traditional backers, and remained staunchly uncritical of Israel - in stark contrast to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, who pointedly condemned America's close ally for its air strikes on Lebanon.
"The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking," Mr Bush said. "And therefore, I call on Syria to exert influence over Hizbollah."
Mr Putin, however, tempered his criticism of Hezbollah with condemnation of Israel, saying the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas and the Israeli retaliatory air strikes were unacceptable. "In this context we consider Israel's concerns to be justified," he said, but added: "The use of force should be balanced."
THE SPATE of terrorist attacks in Russia illustrates that President Vladimir V. Putin's hard-line policy in Chechnya is failing to resolve that conflict or to make Russians safer. Worse, it has led to a broadening of the Chechen conflict that threatens surrounding areas in the North Caucasus.
Still, Mr. Putin shows no sign of reversing his failed policy, promising only more of the same.
The Russian president has argued for two years that the war in Chechnya is over and that the situation in Chechnya is "normalizing." The past months disprove this argument.
Or how about this?
An estimated 26,000 Chechens from the villages of Kurchaloi, Sernovodsk and Assinovskaya fled their homes in the face of Russian terrorism. Chechen men were beaten and tortured. Many are feared dead. It is claimed, as well, that Russian soldiers took Chechen hostages and demanded ransom money for their release. "One hundred dollars per head if you want them alive," one Russian mediator allegedly declared.
Russian Gen. Vladimir Moltenskoi, Russia's top officer in Chechnya, frankly admitted the behavior of his troops. Itar-Tass quoted him as complaining of "widespread crimes in carrying out passport checks in Assinovskaya and Sernovodsk."
It is the formula of the Putin regime, as it was under Yeltsin, to deplore the useful terrorism of the Russian Army. Quite naturally, any admission of anarchy in the ranks is useful in depicting Russia's disorganized state. Admissions of corruption and wrongdoing by Russian authorities also satisfies Western observers that Moscow is struggling to correct abuses. At the same time, all of this serves to advertise Russian brutality to the country's enemies. This double-sided use of honesty is like a game of "good-cop, bad-cop." Gen. Moltenskoi is now the good cop. His officers in the field are the bad cops.
Is this what Mr. Putin considers balanced force? Or does he reserve one model for himself and another one for other countries? Or particularly for Israel?
Or does he believe that the status-quo between Israel and Hizb'allah should remain, now that there is a chance to resolve it at last?