by Franz Schurmann
Russia preparing for a "final solution" of the Chechen problem?
Given the failure of NATO's bombing campaign of Kosovo last spring to evict the Serbian army and its militia allies, much less weaken them, it may not be surprising that some Russians -- in print, over the airwaves, at top level policy circles -- are debating how to "physically exterminate" rebel forces in Chechnya.
Genocide -- the most heinous of all crimes -- is not that easy to commit and carry out. Hitler and Stalin thought they could carry out genocide and get away with it. Hitler paid for genocide with death and defeat only a short time after the gas extermination chambers went into operation. Stalin thought his genocide had won out but within a few decades the targeted people came back. His genocide was a major historical factor in the break-up of the Soviet Union.
No nuclear weapon has been used to kill people since the U.S. bombed Nagasaki in August 1945. America only had two nukes at the time. And large numbers of Japanese victims were conveniently concentrated in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia now has thousands of nukes each of immense destructive power. But with Chechens scattered throughout Russia and neighboring countries, the only way of getting rid of them would be to nuke all Russia and its neighbors.
I don't believe atomic weapons brought America final victory in 1945. The Japanese military knew they were defeated when Germany fell in May. What most terrified them was fear that a huge Russian army would invade from the north, taking not only Manchuria and Korea but Hokkaido and northern Honshu as well. Like the Germans they preferred American to Russian occupation.
Nuclear weapons only create chaos without victory. Those who survive come back stronger than before. Look at the Jews who survived the Holocaust -- or the Germans who survived the fire bombings, and especially the Japanese who suffered horrendous fire bombing and then atomic bombing.
Let's say the Russians do use "biological weapons, psychotropic gases, napalm and everything at the disposal of our once powerful army," as urged by one of Russia's leading newspapers. Threatened with genocide, a lot of Chechens will find refuge with fellow Muslims. Many Muslims are indistinguishable from Russians. They live in apartment blocks like Russians. It wouldn't be long before every week more apartment blocks get blown up all over Russia.
Destroying Chechnya itself would have the effect of someone shooting himself in both knees. Key oil and gas pipelines go through that tiny country. The Russians badly need foreign currency and oil exports are its chief foreign exchange earner. So Russia's economic situation which had begun to improve somewhat earlier this year would plunge back downwards.
Hitler and Stalin were able to deport vast populations to distant concentration camps because both dictators had disciplined organizations and patriotic people supporting them. But when Russia made its first effort to subdue Chechnya in 1994-95, its army fell apart.
Today, Russians have great love for Russia but little patience for genocidal stupidity on the part of their leaders. The enraged Russian political class can kill many Chechens but nowhere enough to constitute a "final solution." Chechens -- and a lot of their fellow Russian Muslims -- will be more revenge minded, and more Islamically radicalized, than ever.
If that political class thinks that wiping Chechnya off the face of the earth can eradicate the "Wahhabis" off their back, then they are stricken with criminal amnesia. They tried that in Afghanistan and today a fundamentalist Islamic movement has triumphed there which sends out revolutionary ripple-out effects deep into Russia.
In August 1914, the ruling Russian elite maneuvered the country into World War I as a way of getting out of insoluble internal problems. Three years later they were swept away by revolution. There is a chance that if their current successors once again commit the same stupidity, the surviving victims of intended genocide could end up in the Kremlin.
October 4, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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