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Georgia’s Dangerous Quest for American Weapons

Since Mikheil Saakashvili took power in Georgia, the small post-Soviet republic has become one of the U.S.’s most devoted allies. It has been the highest per capita troop contributor in both Iraq and Afghanistan — even while two of its erstwhile territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, host hostile Russian forces.

Saakashvili was frightened of the Russian...

And Georgia hasn’t been particularly shy about suggesting that it sees its contributions to U.S. military missions as part of a quid pro quo. “As soldiers here, we help the American soldiers,” one Georgian corporal in Iraq told the New York Times in 2007. “Then America as a country will help our country.” In Afghanistan, it’s volunteered to serve in the dangerous Helmand province, where seven of its soldiers have been killed so far.

The help Georgia wants in return is protection against its nemesis, Russia, and to help Georgia regain control over Russian-occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Thus far, though, aside from rhetoric, the U.S. hasn’t given much actual help. George W. Bush visited Tbilisi in 2005 and called Georgia “a beacon for democracy.” Last month, a U.S. Marine Corps general effusively praised Georgians’ service in Afghanistan, noting: “Georgians like to fight.”

But talk is cheap, and there has never been much action to back up those words. Tellingly, when war broke out in 2008 over South Ossetia, the U.S. — after giving Saakashvili the impression that Washington would have his back in the case of conflict with Russia — stood by, except for one poignant move: U.S. military planes flew the Georgian soldiers serving in Iraq back home. But, by the time those troops got home, the war had already been lost.

Georgia’s primary security goal for most of Saakashvili’s rule has been to join NATO, and the U.S. did back that, but to no avail — the war with Russia took serious consideration of NATO membership off the table. After all, had Georgia been a member at the conflict’s onset, it would have forced the U.S. and the rest of NATO to declare war against Russia. Now Georgia has a new target in its sights: American weapons. Last year, it began a serious push to get the U.S. to provide it with “defensive weapons,” in particular air defense and anti-tank systems.

Providing Georgia with weapons would perpetuate a “Berlin Wall mentality”

“[L]eaving Georgia defenseless doesn’t help the situation,” Saakashvili told Newsweek. “Georgia cannot attack Russia, while a defenseless Georgia is a big temptation for Russia to change our government through military means. … As part of ongoing security cooperation, we hope that the U.S. will help us with defense-weapons capabilities.”

Lately, he’s upped the rhetorical stakes by claiming that only the U.S. could sell Georgia the weapons it needs to protect itself: “What Georgia really needs is something that it cannot get from anywhere else and that’s anti-air and anti-tank [weapons] and that’s completely obvious. … That’s where should be the next stage of the cooperation.”

The U.S. has never been a particularly large supplier of weapons to Georgia, which inherited Soviet equipment upon independence and then came to rely on other former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries for reinforcements. While the Pentagon has set up a number of military training programs with Georgia, those programs focus on preparing the Georgians for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the issue of American weapons has now come to define the state of the U.S.-Georgia relationship, with Georgia and its allies in Washington arguing that if the U.S. doesn’t give Georgia weapons, it’s kowtowing to Russia for the sake of a wishful-thinking “reset.” U.S. Senator John McCain is the leading advocate for weapons provisions; in March he told a Congressional hearing, “It is hard for me to understand, since the Russians still occupy territory that is clearly Georgian territory and continue to threaten Georgia, and yet we’re not even giving them weapons with which to defend themselves. It is not comprehensible.”

Georgia spent about $1.5 million on four top D.C. lobbying firms last year alone, far outpacing comparable countries. Those lobbying efforts include an aggressive press campaign arguing that the State Department is enforcing a “de facto embargo” by quietly blocking Georgia’s attempted arms purchases, although there is no evidence of such an embargo.

One key, but answered, question is whether Georgia expects to buy the weapons or for the U.S. to give them as aid. When asked, Georgian officials duck the question, saying that discussions aren’t that far along. But it’s one thing to allow Georgia to buy weapons, and quite another to use U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund them. But the numbers suggest that Georgia could never afford American hardware on its own.

Georgia is poor and Americans weapons are expensive. Tbilisi’s estimated defense budget for 2011 is about $370 million, of which one-third — $123 million — is available for procurement. The United Arab Emirates, to take one point of comparison, has just spent $7 billion on U.S. air-defense equipment. A single Patriot anti-aircraft missile costs nearly $6 million, meaning that 20 missiles — to say nothing of the launchers, radars or other essential components — would be all Georgia could afford with an entire year’s budget..

If Georgia actually wants to use its own money for weapons, then, it would do better to buy weapons from a cheaper source. Russia has intimidated many of Georgia’s former arms suppliers, especially in Eastern Europe and Israel, into ending cooperation with Georgia. But other arms manufacturers, such as China, India, Brazil, or Turkey, could surely step in.

Even if Georgia were armed to the teeth, however, it’s not clear how much good it would do them. Russia’s military is so much stronger than Georgia’s that additional weapons would be a moot point. Or worse: Though Georgia repeatedly emphasizes that it is only seeking “defensive” weapons, any defensive weapon makes aggression easier by improving defense against a counterattack. Georgia touts the threat of a Russian attack, but it was in fact Georgia which fired the first shots that precipitated the 2008 war with Russia, in an apparent belief that Russia would stand idly by.

In a paper published earlier this year, two scholars of the region, Cory Welt and Samuel Charap, argue that providing Georgia with weapons would perpetuate a “Berlin Wall mentality” of eternal conflict, and block the path that Georgia really needs to take with regard to its lost territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That, Welt and Charap write, is the slow, painstaking process of “conflict transformation that reduces tensions, brings people together across the conflict lines, creates trust, builds trade links, and normalizes contacts among authorities.”
But subtlety is not Saakashvili’s strong suit. While American weapons may not make any difference on the ground, they would be a tangible sign of hard support from the West, which Saakashvili clearly craves. Over the last few years, Georgia has perhaps done more, for less reward, than any other ally of the United States. That’s not an argument for shipping Georgia free missile systems, of course. It just makes the situation all the more tragic.

Georgia’s Dangerous Quest for American Weapons

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Russian military has only a few minutes to hit target missiles

February 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The target missiles Strizh (“Swift Bird”) and Kaban (“Wild Boar”) are a must for full-scale tests of air defense systems such as the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system, which will be tested on February 19 at Kapustin Yar, near Astrakhan.

Target missiles are a specific type of military equipment – a kind of simulator used to train the missile battery crews of the air defense forces. These targets are used to test new air defense systems before they are used in service.

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Experts: «It’s not up to Gorbachev to speak of democracy»

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Well-known politicians, including the opposition, said they did not consider the ex-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev a politician who tried to democratize the country and even more so, an expert on political modernization. According to them, there were many times when Mikhail Gorbachev contacted the West for help to intervene in the internal affairs of their country, and most of his “projects” like “perestroika” and “acceleration” were either idle talk or have failed and led to the destruction of the statehood.

In an interview with British TV channel Sky News, the former head of the Soviet Union discussed Russia’s path towards a “democratic state” and appealed to foreign audiences with an advice on “what has to be done to move forward in this direction”.

Stanislav Belkovsky, the director of the Institute of National Strategy in an interview with Politonline.ru said that he did not believe Gorbachev to be a Democrat or modernizer. “I believe that Gorbachev was not a modernizer, because with a strict approach to the concept of modernization, it is the process of building a modern state, modern society and modern institutions. Under Gorbachev in the Soviet Union the destruction of these institutions was commenced, including large systems of socialization of people,” said the political scientist. “Gorbachev has launched the collapse of all systems of the Soviet Union and initiated the process of de-modernization of the country, which continues to this day,” Belkovsky said. “It seems to me that Gorbachev did not have a political strategy. He had to finish Andropov’s personnel revolution in the apparatus of the communist party, a generational shift, but planned no large-scale reforms. He had to finish cleaning the government and advance his own personal power and to keep the communist regime,” he explained. The expert noted: “This was a weak leader who has got into power at the wrong time and that’s what happened. And so what that we gained our “freedom.” Gorbachev was in any case not a democrat, he was a classic party member, the flesh of the Communist Party. He did not want any democracy, of course,” continued Belkovsky and added: “He has always strongly resisted democracy, but then he faced the forces that brought the story to the forefront – and was weaker than them, much weaker. When the USSR collapsed, Gorbachev did not want to plead guilty, did not want to admit his mistakes, and took credit for our newfound freedom. Since we have the crisis of moral authority in society, some of our countrymen are inclined to attribute to him the great advantages and historic role, which he did not possess and did not play,” noted the analyst.

In turn, the publisher and writer Prokhanov said in comments to Politonline.ru, that the appeal Gorbachev made to foreign audiences, counting on media and political reaction of the West, was traditional and telling for the former head of the Soviet Union. “I will make a radical statement – I think that Gorbachev is one of the most extraordinarily effective country’s agents in the entire history who was recruited in a complicated manner or under the influence of strategic rivals of the USSR to deliberately ruin the country,” he said. “Perestroika” was inherently not a process of democratization, but an algorithm of layering effect launched in the Soviet society. It destroyed the bases of the Soviet Union – first the party, then the ideology and then the economy, military, and moral,” said Prokhanov. “Under the slogan of “democratization” and with the support of the energy of the masses who wanted change, within four years the Soviet Union was weakened and presented a heap of still apparent, but already unsteady systems. The Communist Party was taken out of the picture, law enforcement, military, social motivation, intelligence and economy were discredited,” he added.

“If we look at any strategic polls or conduct them in any part of the country, you will be convinced that Gorbachev is a negative persona, a negative authority for the majority of Russian, and earlier, Soviet citizens. He would have an unbelievably low rating with a negative sign, and he cannot consider himself an authority and teach someone,” Prokhanov thinks.

Deputy General Director of the Institute of Social Systems Dmitry Badovsky suggested that Politonline.ru takes a hard look at Gorbachev’s “modernization” and “democratization”. “We see that Gorbachev’s economic modernization has choked. The social one did have certain dynamics, and the political one was a complete and catastrophic failure, resulting in the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

In addition, bloggers discussing the persona of Gorbachev wrote: “And what did he give us but the idiotic prohibition? Democratization? And what’s this – the nationalist hysteria? The collapse of the Soviet Union? The withdrawal of troops from Europe, for which the country received nothing? “Gorbachev was always a can’t-do under the gray cardinal Yakovlev and the Central Committee, therefore here he cannot compete with the intellectuals and argue with serious politicians,” Internet users said.

 

‘It’s not up to Gorbachev to speak of democracy’ – Experts

Sweden rats out Russia’s internet to US, now for Assange

February 12, 2011 Leave a comment

As Sweden battles for the extradition of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks cables on the country’s close co-operation with the US are provoking a public backlash.

­The text revealed Washington’s push to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country can be intercepted. Now Sweden is bugged and wiretapped – at the behest of the US.

The Swedish intelligence service, the FRA, has the power to monitor and intercept all internet traffic in the country. And thanks to leaked US State Department cables, we now know the controversial law was adopted after pressure from Washington. And the security services were deliberately kept out of the process to reassure Swedes there was no “funny business”.

“Forced to operate under strict data storage and protection laws for Swedish citizens, they [FRA] are concerned that the public may perceive their involvement as an attempt to work around these restrictions by using a foreign intermediary (the United States), thus poisoning any chance for success,” US State Department cable (UNCLAS Stockholm 000704) goes on.

The US interest is clear. Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden. And from there, to America.

Swedish MP Christian Engstrom explained the set-up. “It was mentioned by the government representatives that ‘No, the purpose is not to spy on Swedes, it’s to monitor, among other things, Russian transit traffic.’”

But what kind of information are they after?

“I think the information that is made accessible to special services by this law is, of course, sensitive and there are ways it can harm Russia’s political interests,” head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Konstantin Kosachev believes.

The law has been slammed by some as “the most far-reaching eavesdropping plan in Europe,” and prompted widespread protests ahead of its implementation. Cables also suggest the Swedish government was colluding with the US to avoid involving the public at all costs.

“The agreement may have to be presented to Parliament under a vague constitutional requirement for ‘matters of great importance’. If so, the process will take considerably longer and be subject to public scrutiny, something the Government of Sweden will want to avoid. As the Ministry of Justice continues to analyze the proposed text, it is also considering how to craft an arrangement that will avoid the need for parliamentary review,” says US State Department cable (UNCLAS Stockholm 000704).

“There is no parliamentary control of what the FRA does, and of course the public in Sweden has even less control,” Christian Engstrom says. “Much of the pressure comes from the US and the copyright industries, and the Swedish government is more than happy to do whatever these American corporations ask through the American government,” Swedish MP revealed.

Judging from the dates on the leaked cables, while Sweden was debating whether to pass the bill, the Americans were already negotiating with the Swedish authorities on what kind of information they wanted.

“They [the Swedish Ministry of Justice] see your October 23 meeting as an opportunity to seek precise details on the type of information the United States wants and overall aim of the agreement,” the same cable informed.

And it is clear that the US ended up getting what it was after – at least in terms of information on the 80 per cent of Russian internet traffic that passes through Sweden.

“Our intelligence co-operation with Sweden on Russia is excellent,” acknowledged another cable (Stockholm 00000266 002 of 003). “DIA Director Lieutenant-General Burgess will be here next week for exchanges with the Swedes on Russia and other topics.”

Now it is not just information on Russia that the US is after from Sweden. America is reportedly carrying out its own investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the source of all this information about the deal, to see if it can bring espionage charges. If it can, and applies to Sweden for Assange’s extradition, all this close co-operation we have seen may mean his feet will not touch the ground in Stockholm.

Sweden rats out Russia’s internet to US, now for Assange

Guardian Reporter Expelled from Russia in “Cold War” Echo

February 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Luke Harding, the accredited Moscow correspondent of the British Guardian newspaper, has been expelled from Russia in what appears to be the first incident of its kind since the end of the cold war.

Mr. Harding, who has reported on the full range of Russia issues since arriving in Moscow in 2007, was detained at Domodedovo airport last Saturday as he attempted to reenter the country after spending two months in London working on the paper’s WikiLeaks coverage.

According to Harding’s Twitter feed, he was kept in a cell for 45 minutes with a group of other detainees, then placed aboard a flight to London and told “Russia is closed to you.”

“Stopped at [passport] control, put in a locked cell and deported. No explanation given,” Harding tweeted. “Extremely sad to leave Russia under these circumstances.”

Rare even in Soviet times

According to the Guardian, two non-accredited British journalists have recently been blocked from entering Russia. One of them, Thomas de Waal, worked for many years in Moscow and is widely recognized expert on the North Caucasus but was refused entry in 2006. The last time an accredited British reporter was kicked out of the country, according to the Guardian, was when the Moscow correspondent for the Sunday Times was expelled in 1989. Nicholas Daniloff, US News & World Report correspondent arrested by the KGB in 1986, was held for two weeks before being forced out.

But even in Soviet times, this practice of kicking out journalists working on the staff of major international newspapers was quite rare and usually connected with some sort of diplomatic crisis. In some of those cases, it could be clearly seen that the journalist was being used as a pawn in a larger game.

It’s not at all clear what’s going on in Harding’s case.

An unnamed source in Russia’s security establishment told the official RIA-Novosti agency that Harding was blacklisted at the request of a particular security agency, which suggests he incurred the wrath of either the Federal Security Service (FSB), which deals with domestic matters, or the SVR external intelligence agency.

No official reason has been yet given for the expulsion of a foreign correspondent who was accredited by the Russian Foreign Ministry and issued a visa to work as a journalist under international agreements signed by Russia.

In a statement, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger called the expulsion a “very troubling development with serious implications for press freedom … it is worrying that the Russian government should now kick out reporters of whom they disapprove.”

British Member of Parliament Chris Bryant proposed that the government rescind an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit Britain next week in response.

Harding’s coverage of Russia included hard-hitting stories about terrorism and Russia’s long-running counterinsurgency war in the north Caucasus – where he interviewed the family of a Dagestani suicide bomber – as well as the increasingly authoritarian drift of Russia under presidents Vladimir Putin and his successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

The WikiLeaks connection

But Harding has suggested that his role as one of the Guardian’s team of analysts tasked with assessing the WikiLeaks cables may have been particularly riling for official Moscow. While in Moscow he wrote about several controversial US embassy cables, including one that quoted a Spanish prosecutor as saying that Russia is “a virtual mafia state,” and another that queried Mr. Putin’s possible foreknowledge about the 2006 murder-by-radiation of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

“The Russians have been unhappy with my reporting for a while. But it seems WikiLeaks may have been the final straw,” Harding tweeted Tuesday. He is coauthor of “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy.”

But an unnamed official source quoted by the independent Interfax agency said Tuesday that Harding’s journalistic work couldn’t be the reason for his expulsion. “The reason for expelling him is not yet clear,” the official said. “But whatever the British journalist wrote cannot be the reason for invoking such measures.”

The chair of Russia’s Union of Journalists, Vsevolod Bogdanov, says the Kremlin has an obligation to explain its reasons for kicking out an accredited foreign journalist.

“Public opinion has a right to know what he did wrong, or what ethical rules he violated,” Mr. Bogdanov says. “The Guardian is a respectable and well-regarded newspaper. This is probably the decision of some official who has no idea of what a journalist’s job entails. If no explanation is forthcoming, then this is a violation of normal relations in a democratic society.”

The head of the Kremlin’s in-house human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, told journalists Tuesday that he will review Harding’s case.

“We do not know yet why his visa was canceled,” Mr. Fedotov said. “There must have been some very serious reasons for that …. The creation of favorable visa conditions for journalists is an obligation accepted by all member states of the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and we should fulfill this obligation.

“Of course, there are issues of national security to take into account,” he added.

Veteran Russian human rights activist, Lyudmilla Alexeyeva, says Russian authorities appear to be reviving Soviet-era practices of blaming the messenger.

“Judging by this case, we might soon be left without any foreign correspondents,” she says. “Even in Soviet times, Moscow always had foreign journalists here,” even if they had to work under tough conditions, she says.

Foreign Ministry’s explanation

Late Tuesday the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Harding was expelled for “violating the rules of accreditation,” a process that Russian officials take seriously. “He violated a number of rules governing the work of foreign correspondents [that] were approved by the Russian government in 1994 and which all journalists are well familiar with,” the ministry statement said.

Normally, journalists receive an accreditation card from the Foreign Ministry after providing proof that they represent a legitimate news outlet. The document is treated as official ID in Russia, and the journalist receives his visa on the basis of it. Visas are always issued for exactly the same period – usually one year – for which the accreditation is valid.

The ministry statement suggested that Harding had failed to renew his accreditation before leaving for a London assignment last November, but failed to explain how Harding held a visa that was valid until May.

Other officials, anonymously quoted in the Russian media, have said that Harding may have failed to obtain special security permission required to travel to the “zone of counter-terrorist operations” in the north Caucasus.

The Guardian responds

In a response e-mailed to Moscow-based journalists Tuesday night – adding to the confusion surrounding Harding’s expulsion – the Guardian said: “We are baffled by the statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry today. We have still not received an adequate explanation of why Luke Harding was deported on arrival at Moscow airport on Saturday February 5th, despite having a valid visa. Failure to collect his press card before leaving urgently on a trip to London is manifestly not a plausible reason for detaining Luke at the airport and refusing him entry to Russia. This is part of a pattern of behavior by the Russian Foreign Ministry who first expelled Luke Harding in November 2010. That expulsion was partially delayed after intervention by the British government, but it was understood that Luke would have to leave by May 2011. We did not make this public at the time but it discredits attempts to portray this week’s expulsion as an administrative error.”

 

Guardian reporter expelled from Russia in cold war echo

Moscow’s “Days of Wrath” turning into freak shows?

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

The Moscow authorities have approved the “Day of Wrath” rally. It will be held on February 12 at the Theater Square near the monument to Karl Marx. The organizers of the rally talk about a “great success of the Muscovites”.

However, we must stipulate that the approval of the rally was announced by the coordinator of the Left Front Sergei Udaltsov, and as of yet there has not been an official confirmation from the authorities. However, Udaltsov said that the opposition would not hold rallies without reason.

According to him, the Moscow authorities banned the march to the presidential administration building in Old Square, “referring to the fact that the participants in the procession will create obstacles to traffic.” However, as stated by Udaltsov, after the rally the procession will still take place.

This event is the rally of one person, the coordinator of the Left Front Sergei Udaltsov. In fact, he copied the idea of Eduard Limonov to hold an event dedicated to a particular article of the Constitution on a certain day of the month. In this case the rally would be dedicated to the 12th Article which guarantees the local self-government.

Udaltsov announced the monthly rally last year. In total there have been seven attempts, all of them in front of Moscow City Hall on Tverskaya Square. The opposition failed to get any of these rallies approved. Although they were regularly offered alternative venues for the meetings, Udaltsov has always rejected them.

The rallies did not have numerous participants, and the organizers have failed to attract more than a hundred people for each rally. Usually they would have five to seven dozen participants and the same number of journalists. In fact, this was the entire point of these rallies.

In general, pretty soon people got used to the “Days of Wrath” at the building of the Moscow government. All rallies involved the same activities: a group of people would gather, someone would light a fire, Udaltsov would give interviews, the police would repeatedly warn that the rally is illegal and call everyone to disperse, those calls would be ignored, then a few very active protesters would be detained while being filmed with photo- and video cameras.

However, sooner or later people must have got bored of it. Each time the “Day of Wrath ” at the City Hall would have fewer participants. It was easy to predict what would happen there, how things would go, and how it would all end. As a result, in late 2010 Udaltsov announced that the rallies would be held quarterly. Later it was decided to hold the “Day of Wrath” at the federal level.

This means it would be held not at the City Hall, but as close to the Kremlin as possible.

It must be admitted that “creative ideas” visit the mastermind behind the “Day of Wrath” rather infrequently. This is unless the idea to ask everyone to bring toy megaphones to the rally can be considered creative. Today the organizers intend to revive the idea of “black marks.” This is when the protesters bring to the venue an object of black color that symbolizes a “black mark” for the government. Earlier the undertaking did not enjoy great success. The imagination of the most participants was limited to a black bag or a piece of black paper. The organizers decided to give it another try.

Sergei Udaltsov has been trying to hold his “Days of Wrath” for over two years. The first such rally took place in November of 2008 on Triumph Square in Moscow. Incidentally, it was approved by Moscow authorities.

This is the description of the events by a political scientist Boris Kagarlitsky: ” . . what I saw on the square killed every desire not only to speak (it was initially ruled out), but even to be there. On a small square in front of a monument to the poet Mayakovsky there was a small crowd of about 200 people, uniting schizophrenics and freaks of all ideological hues – from liberals to fascists, who were freezing under a couple of dozen of red flags [. . . ] Cheerful patriotic songs were played, calling to be like Ivan Kalita and resist the democrats and all non-Russian trash which seized the power and was tormenting the Slavs.” It will be interesting to see what has changed over the past two years…

Moscow’s “Days of Wrath” turning into freak shows?!

The US should leave the Caucasus alone – Chechen leader

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of Russia’s Chechen Republic, says in an exclusive interview with RT that the West is consciously building a negative image of the restored Chechnya.

­In the aftermath of the terror attack at Domodedovo Airport, he stresses that the West eagerly promotes the idea of a “Caucasus trace” in any terror acts, and even uses human rights activists for its own agenda of unhinging Russian unity. He drew attention to the fact that in Chechnya, they build both Orthodox churches and mosques, and that Muslims are restoring Orthodox cemeteries, but despite that, foreign terrorists sent to the Caucasus by the West preach jihad against Russians and Christians in the Russian language.

RT: Why is a negative image of Chechnya being built in the West now when Chechnya is being restored, as contrasted with the period of war and breakdown?

Ramzan Kadyrov: The West implements such a policy towards Russia.  They are not interested in the Chechen Republic. Their attitude to the Caucasus is dictated by their global interest. The West is interested in ruining the sovereign state of Russia. Why far away, across the water, are they so interested in Ukraine and Georgia? Why is America building its policy towards them in such a way? Because America knows that Russia is a great power and someone has to interfere with its plans so that its affairs will be damaged. That’s the reason why the West is constantly showing that it seems as though there is no democracy in Russia and human rights are violated. They are working on ruining Russia step by step, as they ruined the USSR before.

RT: Could the US do something positive for the Caucasus?

RK: If they left the Caucasus alone, we would have resolved the issues with Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If only they could stop interfering with our affairs and leave us alone, If only they could ask the people whether they want NATO troops or American troops present in the Caucasus. Who needs them in the Caucasus? Who’s interested in hostilities in Georgia, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and Abkhazia? We lived peacefully and had brotherly relations with all people. If they had left us alone, our peaceful life would have been restored. That’s the best thing they can do for us.

RT: After the explosion in Domodedovo, Western newspapers were the first to mention a Caucasian link ahead of the first investigators’ reports. What do you say to that?

RK: It’s always this way. They are always in a hurry to tell the whole world that the Caucasus is a place where there is no order and people are ready to kill anyone, as if we are all murderers and terrorists. They present Chechen, Dagestani, and Ingush people as criminals to the international community. That’s the way they conduct their politics. I’ve always said so.

They want Siberia, the Volga Region, St. Petersburg and other regions to treat us with apprehension. They do not want to let our society consolidate in Russia. It’s dirty politics.

Once a terrorist happens to be from the Caucasus – why do they always underline it in public opinion? He is Russian anyway. We all are citizens of Russia. The Caucasus belongs to Russia. We are citizens of Russia as well as the others. Why are we always separated from Russia?

If one comes from the Caucasus and appears to be a terrorist, then he turns into a common enemy and is to be arrested or eliminated. We are doing it day and night – I’ve lost everything fighting against terrorism and extremism.

We put everything in order on our territory, and we will continue doing so. We can assist Americans in this – they have huge problems with it in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do not display their affairs, but interfere with ours.
I am sure that if it turns out that a Caucasian is involved in this case, we are to speak of him as of a criminal without a nationality, religion or homeland. He’s a terrorist. If he dies – good; if not – we are to find and neutralize him. It’s not correct to base a policy on whether he’s a Muscovite or a Caucasian.
Both our high-ranking authorities and security agencies often mention the so-called Caucasian link when reporting on versions of an incident. I often have to hear it. I even raised this question at the Security Council several times.

There is no such thing as the Caucasian link. There is no Caucasian jamia [Muslim association], as many like to say, like there is no Moscow jamia. We aggravate the situation and give grounds for such suspicions in society. As if there is a jamia in the Caucasus, and here they have Command. It turns out that the same people say that the terrorist network is being destroyed, but at the same time we build up confidence that the network becomes stronger. There is a group of criminals, but we’ll destroy them.

RT: In your opinion what’s the situation today – war or reconciliation?

RK: We have neither a war nor reconciliation. There are terrorists in the Caucasus, but they are everywhere. There are terrorists in Moscow, St. Petersburg, the UK, and the US. There are terrorists guided by the security agencies; there are self-made ones; there are terrorists who heard an appeal and came.

We had Arab mercenaries. They’ve been in the Chechen Republic for about 15-16 years and do not speak a word of Chechen, but speak Russian perfectly.

Think why! Who sent them here? Why was it so hard to eliminate them? Abu-Valid spoke Russian, Khattab spoke Russian, Turks and other mercenaries speak Russian well. They preach that Russians are disbelievers and they must be killed, but they made all, including the Chechens, speak in Russian about it.

Those are specially-trained people sent here by the security agencies so that problems would continue in Russia.

The Chechen people have realized that it’s a made-up war against the sovereign state of Russia. We realized that definitely we are to eliminate those people, and we are to protect our children from them.

In the Caucasus, there are regions with problems. Recently there was a meeting on the development of the North-Caucasian Federal District chaired by the head of the government. All law-enforcement and security agencies work in the region. It’s important, but what’s more important is to fight together with the people against extremism and terrorism. Only then will they disappear. We are on the way to it.

RT: Ok, then. Mercenaries preach terrorism in Russian. But what about the Russian population? Are they coming back? What’s being done for that?

RK: There are things that surprise people in this country, including many Russians. For example, in the Orlov Region you can’t build a mosque. In Stavropol, where hundreds of thousands of Muslims live, you can’t build a mosque. But we give a contrary example.

In the Chechen Republic, where there allegedly was a religious war, we build both mosques and Orthodox temples and restore churches.
When I became deputy prime minister, the first thing I did was to gather volunteers to clean the Orthodox cemetery. I was the first to call on Russians to come to the republic and visit the cemetery and pray for their relatives. We were the first to pay for transport for the people to be able to come. As a bonus, I gave every person who came a sum of money from a social fund. We respect Christians.

When the Prophet – Allah bless and greet him – left Mecca and arrived to Medina he did not fight either with Christians or Jews. He said that everyone should sign agreements so that Christians and other communities could trade and prosper. When the Prophet returned to Mecca, he made many concessions to Christians. Our religion says that if you are not prevented from praying, you should obey the laws of that country. We – Muslims of Russia – live in the legal area of Russia, and as no other nation we feel a high level of affiliation with society.

In the Chechen Republic, our religion is real and not just words. We work with young people and organize religious scientific conferences, invite scientists from the Caucasus and around the world, including Christians and Muslims. We explain that we were not divided so that no one will impose Wahhabism, extremism or anything else in relation to our separation.

Recently I told religious leaders to preach sermons in Russian, Kumyk and Tatar languages.

We see that religious Christians are honest people. In the Naur Region we are building a complex for Christians – even better than they wanted. In the Shelkovskoy, Sunzhensky and Gudermes regions Christians needed buses for their trips to church. We settled that for them – bought buses for the church to transport them.

We are implementing the right policy. I haven’t seen a single dissatisfied person. In our region, Muslims cleaned the cemetery together with Christians.

The Archbishop of Stavropol, Pheophan, asked to move the church in Grozny to another place, farther from the road where it is now. I invited him to choose the place, and we’ll build it – with a hotel for guests and on a big piece of land. Chechens support that.

RT: What’s the reason for the conflict and tough relations with human rights activists?

RK: There is no conflict. I appeal to them to protect the rights and not violate them. I tell them that if they want to protect rights, they should come to me and voice the issue they think important. I have authority. I can invite the Prosecutor General, the Interior Minister, the Head of the Federal Security Service Directorate, heads of the municipals, and the religious leaders. If there are human rights violations, we can solve issues fast.

Accommodation, a patch of land – we help in any situation.

But activists do not want that! They are paid huge grants. They need to make a precedent to show that rights are not protected in Chechnya. They are ready to do whatever it takes for a $10,000 grant. There is evidence that there are dishonest people among them. They accuse people, knowing that they are not guilty. It’s the court who should decide on guilt and not human rights activists who are paid from unclear foundations and sent here by unknown organizations.

When I stepped up to my post, I gave an oath to respect human rights. A man’s word is the most important thing to him. I tell you, I’ve lost the dearest people in my life for the sake of the rights of the people in my republic, for peace and stability. How can Kadyrov violate human rights? How can any of the activists coming to the republic be interested in human rights more than me?

If you want to see a real picture, come to any village. I gave 14,000 orders within one week. And all of them were fulfilled. We receive phone calls, meet with people and get letters. We solve all kinds of issues. That’s what we are here for.

There was not such a case that human rights activists protected human rights better than we do in our republic. They are protecting their pockets, which explains their cold attitude to the present Chechen Republic.

I invited them to come and ask questions and proved that they were not right. But they are never ashamed. A person should have principles: live for your motherland and give your honor to no one. But evidently they are guided by a different principle. Allah created them like that, I will pray for them.