Peace in Chechnya: 1996-1997

Landyn Rookard POLS 322 20.1.2011

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The First Chechen War: A Background The First Chechen War was a conflict rooted deep in the history of the Chechnya region. According to Lee Banville of PBS, the area first experienced turmoil as early as 1722, between Muslim tribes and czarist Russian forces, setting the tone for the region. It would continue to be embroiled in intermittent violence into the mid-twentieth century when, in 1944, Stalin deported the Chechens as part of his communist purges.i This event exaggerated the ethnic division existing between Chechens and Russians, and, in 1991, Chechnya ultimately seized the opportunity brought by the collapse of the Soviet Union to demand its independence. Led by exSoviet General Dudayev, the Chechens (under the title “Republic of Ichkeria”)ii refused President Yeltsin’s offer of autonomy, electing to instead fight Russia as secessionists. This declared independence would go formally unrecognized by both the Kremlin and the international community, and armed conflict shortly followed, with Russian troops entering Chechnya in 1994.iii After nearly two years, the conflict reached its climax.iv The capital of Chechnya, Grozny, had been captured by the Russian forces, but lack of pay, quality equipment, and training for Russian soldiers led to the city being recaptured by the severely outnumbered Chechen rebels.v An estimated 100,000 people had lost their lives over the course of the conflict, and both international and domestic pressure resulted in an agreement that would put “a full stop to 400 years of history” of violence, according to then-president of Russia Boris N. Yeltsin.vi In May of 1996, about 18 months into the conflict, leader of operations for Russia General Lebed, and Aslan Maskhadov, who replaced the deceased Dudayev as leader of the rebels, engaged in their first formal negotiations and developed the Khasavyurt Accord in neutral Khasavyurt, Republic of Dagestan.vii This accord formed the framework for what would then

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progress into a treaty signed May 12, 1997, in the Kremlin.viii While this was significant in that through the agreement the two principle sides “agreed to abjure forever the use of force or threat of force in resolving disputed issues,” the treaty left open the true identity of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria as something to be decided five years in the future, leaving the republic in a state of quasi-independent autonomy.ix The document also guaranteed a degree of economic restitution to the impoverished and war-ravaged Chechnya.x Factor: A compromise is negotiated via offers acceptable to all parties based on their interests The two year conflict was brought to an end as the result of the timely presence of several peace-enabling factors. Among these was the presence of a compromise that was acceptable to the parties at the time based upon their respective interests. In understanding how an agreement was resolved between seemingly opposite parties, it is first crucial to consider these interests and the ways they may vary from the publically projected positions. The Russian Federation had a vested interest in maintaining its image. It had already lost 14 former Soviet republics with the breakup of the USSR, and further secessions would have weakened its already-weathered façade of stability. Furthermore, the Russian economy would have taken a hit if the republic that housed oil fields and an international oil pipeline connection successfully seceded. xi Chechnya, meanwhile, sought independence in part as a mean to guarantee that the oppression of the Chechen people by Russians (Stalin’s deportation of the entire ethnicity as an example) and suppression of the majority Islamic religion of Chechnya could not occur again. These interests led to irreconcilable positions for the two parties: Russia refused to allow Chechnya to secede while Chechnya sought recognized independence from the Federation. Only once the parties had reached the point of stalemate, as both parties came to acknowledge after

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Grozny fell to Chechen forces in 1996,xii could talks ensue and compromises be formulated to reach an acceptable agreement. The cost of continuing the conflict at this point was far greater for either side than the cost of reasonable concessions. This is not possible when one side feels that it maintains a militaristic advantage that could result in fulfilling all of its interests through an outright victory; therefore, a compromise would be have to be developed by both Chechnya and Russia to reach peace. The task of reversing a near-perpetual trend of violence would not come easily. As one Chechen diplomat put it, the parties were trying to “accomplish the impossible” in reconciling the demands of actors with such contrasting positions. The centerpiece of the aforementioned Khasavyurt Accord illustrated the manner in which the interests of the two parties had changed. In agreeing to put off deciding the official relationship between Chechnya and Russia (enabling each ruler to proclaim a victory to their own followersxiii) for another five years, the nations were acknowledging the presence of a more pressing interest: the need for stabilization. Russia, in agreeing to this particular term, conceded their assertion for a permanently united land in exchange for relaxed international pressure, which was mounting largely from alleged human rights violations, the opportunity to assert itself in the international community as a democratic nation, and the ability to fix the crucial international oil lines that were damaged in the conflict. Chechnya similarly deferred their desire for absolute independence while receiving hope that their initial goal could still come to fruition and needed rest after a prolonged period of volatile conflict. This particular compromise did little in the way of expressing a long-term solution to the fundamental issues of the conflict. The great ambiguity left in what ultimately was a timelimited peace accord reflected a lack of desire on either side to truly set aside their fundamental

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positions and instead showed a Russian desire for political posturing and a Chechen desire to regroup. According to a New York Times article from 1997, “Mr. Yeltsin seized a chance to repair Russia's reputation as a democracy, which was badly damaged by the brutal conduct of its campaign to defeat the separatists” in the period immediately preceding elections while “Chechnya's economy and society [were] in tatters and [were]…badly in need of assistance from Moscow.”xiv While these were crucial and balanced benefits to reaching peace at the time, they were the result of negotiations that “[did] not mention capitulation on either side…, proclaim anyone the winner, [or] formulate clear principles for governing relations between Russia and Chechnya. The addressing of these questions was postponed. The most important thing was to denounce the war," according to Andrei Babitsky of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.xv The greatest issue with this sort of agreement is that each party still maintained hold of their “trump card;” there was no change in dynamic among the parties. Each party still maintained the same threats of action and mechanisms of conflict without any orderly forum to return the relations between the two parties to a civilized state. Other parts of the agreement compounded on this notion, with Russia agreeing to Chechen demands of being hands off. The cease-fire component of the treaty “gave Chechnya de facto autonomy within Russia, which was forced to hastily withdraw its troops and abandon any pretense of maintaining control there.”xvi While an agreement such as this gave Russia little room to work toward peace building and reconciliation, it could do this at little immediate political cost, as it was the present result of peace that was touted and showcased to the interested domestic and international communities, not the theoretical future implications of the peace. Conclusion and the Failure of Peace

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Peace was reached between the Republic of Ichkeria and Russia as a result of an agreement that postponed the making of true concessions. Instead, what was agreed upon was a ceasefire without further planning as to how a beneficial relationship could be enacted between the two parties. Without any further development of the peace accords that read more like a ceasefire agreement, Chechnya was headed for another conflict. Due to the pressure for peace, each party’s concessions were limited to immediate end of conflict and were not directed in any way to a greater goal of achieving reconciliation. The parties never agreed on a manner by which they could communicate, and without any communication to work toward a sustainable relationship, the Chechen region would again be thrown into turmoil.
                                                            
 Banville, Lee. "Conflict in Chechnya: Russia's Renegade Republic." n.d. PBS. 6 January 2011 <http://www.pbs.org/  newshour/bb/europe/chechnya/history.html>.  ii  Stanley, Alessandra. “Yeltsin Signs Peace Treaty With Chechnya.” 13 March 1997.  The New York Times. 13  January 2011 < http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E04E7DF1E39F930A25756C0A961958260>.  iii Nelan, Bruce W., John Kohan, Ann M. Simmons, Mark Thompson, and Yuri Zarakhovich. "Why It All Went So Very  Wrong." 16 January 1995. Time. 6 January 2011 <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/  0,9171,982351,00.html>.  iv  Chadayev, Umalt. “Ten years since the end of the ‘first Chechen war.’ Prague Watchdog. 31 August 2010  <http://www.watchdog.cz/index.php?show=000000‐000005‐000004‐000130&lang=1>.  v  “Timeline: Chechnya.” 19 October 2010. BBC. 13 January 2011 < http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/  country_profiles/2357267.stm>.  vi  Ibid. ii.  vii  Asatiani, Salome. “Chechnya: Why Did 1997 Peace Agreement Fail?” 11 May 2007 Radio Free Europe/Radio  Liberty. 14 January 2011 <http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1076426.html>.  viii  Ibid. ix.  ix  Maksakov, Ilya. “Aslan Maskhadov: Five Steps into History.” 29 September 2003. Prague Watchdog. 10  January  2011 <http://www.watchdog.cz/?show=000000‐000004‐000001‐000096&lang=1>.  x  Fuller, Liz. “Chechnya: Khasavyurt Accords Failed To Preclude A Second War.” 30 August 2006. GlobalSecurity.org.  12 January 2011 < http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2006/08/mil‐060830‐rferl02.htm>.  xi  “First Chechnya War – 1994‐1996.” n.d. Global Security.org. 19 January 2011 <http://www.globalsecurity.org/  military/world/war/chechnya1.htm>.  xii  “Hot August in Grozny.” 18 August 2006. Prague Watchdog. 18 January 2011 <http://www.watchdog.cz/  index.php?show=000000‐000005‐000004‐000128&lang=1>.   xiii  Ibid. ii.  xiv  Ibid. ii.  xv  Ibid. viii.  xvi  Ibid. ii. 
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