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Hosted by Mark Reid. Do you agree with our contributors?
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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 11:05 GMT
Should the West intervene in Chechnya?

Earlier this year President Yeltsin himself drew up what he called a concept for security in the 21st Century ... one of the points it made was that human rights issues cannot be considered a matter for the exclusive internal jurisdiction of a state.
Jonathan Steele, journalist with the British newspaper, The Guardian

Russian civilians have suffered greatly over the last months; we have all seen the devastation terrorism from Chechnya has wreaked on the Russian capital.
Paul Colston of the Russian Information Agency/Novosti

The Background:

As Russia continues its offensive against Chechnya, the world criticises Moscow for what it sees as the use of undue force against civilians. Refugees continue to leave in thousands.

Talking Point - Europewide
President Yeltsin made his view of western criticism clear at the OSCE security summit in Istanbul: world, mind your own business.

Russia sees as perfectly defensible its actions on sovereign territory in pursuit of those believed responsible for bombs which have killed hundreds of Russian civilians.

Should the West do any more than issue words of condemnation? Should there be an intervention, like that in Kosovo against Yugoslavia?

Joining Mark Reid for the Europewide debate are Jonathan Steele, journalist with the British newspaper, The Guardian, and formerly a Moscow correspondent, and Paul Colston of the Russian Information Agency/Novosti, which is partly funded by the Russian government.

Do you agree with our contributors?

Your reactions

The people who want the 'West' to intervene in every war zone in the rest of the world are the same people who would have been howling about Western imperialism thirty years ago. You can't have it both ways. Western countries should look after their own affairs and leave others to do the same. Think how high our taxes would be if we sent troops to every corner of the globe that the media gets worked up about.
John Singleton, New Zealand

I think that the West has not only the right to intervene, but also it is obliged to do so both morally and legally. Only recently we were told that Bosnia and Kosovo must never be repeated. Yet, once again the international community is failing to act. My question to all is; why is it that the government of Russia, as opposed to Serbia or Indonesia, has the right to kill civilians?
Roman Khalilov, the UK

No. I say we stop wasting our time with clearly internal affairs like Kosovo and Chechnya, no one tells us how to handle Northern Ireland! How about the thousands and thousands of human rights abuses that occur in the Chinese dictatorship? If we are going to intervene we should do it in the right places rather than do business with murderers...sadly we live in a world of hypocrites where money comes before anything else.
We invite murderers to our country and even use bayonets to subdue protestors, a joke and a something the labour government needs to address, or rather not bother because hopefully they won't be in power after the next election.
Tomasz, England

If there is someone to blame it is Basayev and his gang. Noone forced them to go to Russia and attack police and kidnap people. They already had their independence.
Voislav, Canada

Russia is a harbouring country, with a poorly trained military. Since they didn't take action in Kosovo, so they do in Chechnya. After all they are getting money from West. Russia never cared for people, they treat people like slaves. In future if any Republic tries to break away from Russia, it will have to face the same circumstances.
Slawko, USA

I think that this entire debate underlines the double standards that are in operation in the West. On one hand, we ask (if not demand) Russia's tacit support in Western military operations, but on the other ask them not to intervene in an internal military matter. It is not the place of the West to interfere.
Of course, we should monitor the situation, but only in the same way as the rest of the world has monitored events in Northern Ireland over the past 25 years. I find the hypocrisy quite striking. The West should certainly not intervene, as it would be a Nato intervention in an internal matter.
Jonathan, England

Russia's policy toward non-Russians has always been agressive - Chechnya is just the latest victim.
Jurij Petrakov, Ukraine
Chechnya never recognised Russian rule. They deserve freedom just like every other nation in Eastern Europe, formerly under Russian rule. How the hell do you know Chechens blew up homes in Moscow? Was Russia right in putting millions of Chechens into exile after WWII? Who fought for Russia during that time? Unjust action is unjust no matter where it is. Long live Imam Shamil!
Ather Masood, America

I think the West should intervene as they did in Kosovo, what is happening in Chechnya is exactly what happened in Kosovo but why is the West not doing anything to help the Chechens?
Rob, UK

No, the west has no right to intervene and quite frankly no guts either. It is very easy to pound on a weak defenceless Serbia. Russia is another story... I think any moves against Russia would split the world in two again and lead to very serious problems. Furthermore Russia has every right to protect its boarders and its citizens from terrorists.
I would be very curious to see Clinton's reaction if Texas (for instance) started bombing the rest of USA for independence... And who is intervening as the Kurds fight for independence and are slaughtered well beyond Turkish boarders because of it? I consider the western politicians to be very biased and very hypocritical in both these matters.
Vivien Cooksley, Cyprus

After the west (NATO) supported the bombing in Kosovo, do they have the moral right to tell Russia not to use force in Chechnya? Why was it OK to use force in Kosovo, with the so-called 'collateral damage'?
Parksson, Sweden

This is not about terrorism. The government is using the military for their own purposes and is looking out for their national interests as well as for the welfare of their people.
Dr Paul Kindlun, USA in Moscow

As a US citizen residing in Belgium, I greatly resent President Clinton's hypocritical interference into Russia's war of self-defence against brazen and undisguised Chechen 'terrorism'.
MP Fleming, US

I think Russia is doing the right thing in destroying the terrorists and protecting their oil and gasses and the USA and the west have no right to condemn them. The west should take a good look at themselves, at what they did in Kosovo and the refugee problem they created before they start critisising.
Nikolas, Australia

I don't agree with the hardline policy of the Russians, but I am afraid that we in the West would make the same mistakes under similar circumstances.
Saibal Mitra

Russia is doing the right thing in destroying the terrorists
Nikolas, Australia
Why is the West talking of 'moral justification'? In Kosovo our governments bombed without considering morals, or even the views of the electorate. Such hypocrisy is typical.
Edmund, UK

The human misery inflicted on the civilian population in Chechnya cannot be justified. Russia has reverted to the Soviet era notion that world power is synonymous with world bully.
Nik, Russia

The action of Basajev in Dagestan justifies the Russian invasion of Chechnya. But the bombings in Russia (probably NOT committed by Chechens) were perfectly timed for Putin to increase his popularity. The victims of the criminal governments of Russia and Chechnya are the Chechen population and the ordinary Russian soldier.
Bram Trouwborst, The Netherlands

Chechnya has been a hell on earth for its inhabitants with no law and order in the capital. It is the duty of the Russian Duma to make the republic safe for all. It is typical for the West to adopt an indignant stance and to advocate a political solution when a non western nation resolves it's own problems. Why do the US & UK always forget their own horrific records with civilian casualties, e,g Vietnam, Northern Ireland and lately Kosova?
Stephen J Newton, Moldova

Great Chechens blasted four apartment buildings in Russia. What barbaric people those Russians are!
Alex, Singapore

Russians should realize persisting in the policies of bullying everyone will only pour oil onto the fire.
Petr Tuma, Czech Republic
With a history of violent suppression of "problematic" ethnic groups, Russians should finally realize that they will continue to reap what they sowed for some time to come, and that persisting in the policies of bullying everyone will only pour oil onto the fire.
Petr Tuma, Czech Republic

Yes to the greatest extent. Unfortunately it is the population that pays the dearest price.
Russians are moving in by destroying land and people to minimise their losses. But let's be honest; isn't this the same thing that Allies did in WWII (Germany's bombardment, Hiroshima, etc) and Nato in Serbia more recently? Russia is eager to prove that it is strong and after Nato's expansion and the Yugoslavia crisis handle by Nato, it is eager to make a point. Of course as a Greek I cannot but point out the hypocrisy of Nato when comparing Kosovo and Chechnya.
Petros, Switzerland


Absolutely, if some terrorists take over parts of my country and my military says that some rogue neighbour is supporting them, I trust my country's army to completely wipe them out. Granted that killing civilian is not justified. But if citizens of Chechnya cannot control their terrorist guests then they ought to be labelled as "co-conspirators" rather than innocent civilians. Russia didn't mess with independent Chechnya (May 1996), there was a decent state-to-state relationship until Aug 1999 i.e. until it decided to support terrorism inside Russia (Dagestan).
Kosovo and Northern Ireland are different situations, there people are seeking self-determination/independence, which Chechnya had (1996 to 1999) and would have continued to have, had it not had excessive territorial ambitions. I as an independent observer think Russia's actions toward Chechnya are totally justified. But it is imperative that at the end of all this if Chechens ask for independence referendum, they should be allowed to choose for or against independence from Russia.
Shankar, Canada

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