Chechnya

Chechnya

Only a few months after the end (?) of the war in Kosovo, another war started in the Caucasus region. Russia staged a full-scale attack on Chechnya, with the official aim of destroying the terrorist cells functioning there. So far, the war has proved to be a steady, yet gradual, military victory for the Russian army. Its immediate result is the consolidation of the Yeltsinite apparatus in power, the reaffirmation of that disgusting element of contemporary social life called national unity in both Russia and Chechnya, the complete devastation of the population and the economic structures of Chechnya and the reassertion of Russian dominance over the north of the Caucasus.

The need to understand the ongoing war in Chechnya does not originate from a humanitarian concern about the catastrophe in the Caucasus. To take a humanitarian side means to set aside the class nature of capitalist society, and to appeal to a morality which is both misleading and useless in explaining the current situation. Rather, the need comes from the realisation that one form of violent resolution of social antagonisms in one part of the capitalist world corresponds to a 'more peaceful' one in another part, both constituting the different sides of the barbaric world of capital.

This war is neither a clash of the Christian and Muslim civilisation, nor - an even more stupid view - Russia's attempt to get revenge for the previous lost war in 1994-96. Every war in contemporary society represents an attempt to violently resolve the contradictions and social antagonisms which appear all the time in a class society ruled by capital and its 'voracious appetite' for surplus value. In the peripheries of capitalism, such as Chechnya, these contradictions take the form of archaic and pre-capitalist production processes, combined with which is a lack of a modern state, the necessary mediation for the creation of the conditions of uninterrupted (until the next break up of class struggle, that is) capital accumulation. For the aspiring modernising faction of the bourgeois class in Chechnya, the need to find a way to facilitate the emergence of commodity production, and to break away from the isolation imposed by Russia's dominance in the region, mathematically led to the boosting up of nationalism, i.e. the abstract community of capital. On its part, the Russian bourgeoisie attempts to hide the devastating reality of its economic reforms, whose only result is the impoverishment of the proletariat, through the unification of the population under the banner of the biggest of all lies: national unity.

The Caucasus region, which used to provide almost 45% of oil production for the Soviet Union, has been broken down into a mosaic of ethnic groups and semi-nations, and its relative stability stems from the fact that the interests of Russian capital force it to provide many of these semi-nations with big percentages of their budget in order to avoid their total disintegration. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, oil production has drastically decreased, the industrial plants have been largely abandoned due to a lack of technical expertise formerly provided by the Soviet Union, and the economies are only sustained through the illegal trade of drugs and weapons (1). The rapidly increasing population of these countries, when not involved in this trade survives through petty agricultural production. For the countries of north Caucasus which belong to the Russian Federation, a minimal level of stability is maintained through Russia's subsidies. For those who chose independence from Russia but were unable to create profitable links with the west -e.g. Chechnya-, the only way out of this dead end is the constant attempt to expand towards any direction which would give them access to some of the areas resources. This constant stirring up of trouble however gravely threatens Russia's interests.

Although the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 meant that the eastern industrial economies were to be gradually integrated into the western free market, it was obvious from the very beginning that such a process was not going to be harmonious. Not all eastern economies had either the same impetus or the same financial capabilities to become fully operating economies of the type needed by western capitalist development. It was seen as unavoidable that, at least for a long time, many eastern countries would be left outside the parade of integration and would be dumped into the 'third world' providing a source of a cheap and mobile labour force.

Regardless of the peculiarities and potentials of the economies of each country as it was formed after the collapse of the eastern bloc, all were destined to go through a privatisation process, a short sharp shock of mass unemployment, and a steady declining of the living standards of the proletariat. On top of all that it was proven that in some cases integration to the western market presupposed a break up of former countries, either in order to nationalise -and thus neutralise- the emergence of fierce class struggles (as was the case in Yugoslavia) or simply as a practical facilitation for the abolition of state subsidies from the richer parts of former republics to the poorer ones (as was the case for Czechoslovakia).

The abolition of state ownership of the means of production and of state control over the production process as hindrances to private capitalist accumulation also meant, by definition, that former notions of state protectionism or full employment were quickly abandoned. The mass of proletarians in the eastern countries had to suffer a steady decrease of their living standards, until the 'miracle' of the free market would restore all their previous aspirations towards the western economies that western propaganda presented them as so eager to join. Yet there is no miracle in free market capitalism. The fact is that capitalist accumulation and the full cycle of valorisation of capital cannot be realised at any given moment of time in any given place. It was considered as a given from the beginning of the process of integration that many countries would simply not make it in the world competition. And the fact is that so far only a few countries {Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech republic) have managed to integrate themselves -with low levels of economic growth- in the fiesta of western capitalism. For the rest of them a fate even worse than capitalist development awaited -as we said in the previous issue, there is one thing worse than being subjected to capitalist integration and that is being redundant for capital.

The economic policies dictated by the West meant that economic growth was simply not a likely development for many of the Eastern states, and Russia seems to be one of them. Dismantling of 'uncompetitive' industries, drastic reductions of state subsidies, letting prices go free and thousands of proletarians off work has only managed to devastate the population. And even if the ideological propaganda of the West wants to see a positive -yet gradual- development, the reality is far from it. Life expectancy has dropped to levels similar to many 'under-developed' -to borrow a capitalist vocabulary- countries in Africa, wages have been frozen for massive lengths of time and in many cases not even paid (as well as taxes obviously), while health provisions are almost non-existent. It seems to be the case that so far the only thing achieved by the integration process is the formation of a corrupt state apparatus, for which the notion of capital accumulation refers to the pockets of old party officials and cunning entrepreneurs. The conditions for 'normal' capitalist development are strikingly absent. The recent scandals in which it was proven that IMF loan money was neither used for the re-payment of old debts nor for providing potentials for future western investments, alarmed western capital to the degree of publicly admitting that even for a free market economy, a strong, stable and regulatory state is necessary to ensure that social and not individual capital is prioritised. And if the objective of western capital is to create the conditions for the 'normal' cycle of valorisation (2), the necessity of some sort of organisation of production overseen by a stable state, which ensures the 'smooth' process of capital's creation of value is strikingly obvious. With the country's GNP at 50% of its former status, and with a political scenery as explosive as the bombs which hit Moscow last summer, it becomes increasingly surprising how the bourgeois press insists on calling Russia's development a progress. In light of this, the over-optimistic utterings seem more like attempts to hide the fact that other possible alternatives to Russia's contemporary performance -be it a disintegration and collapse of the Russian Federation, a return to massive nationalisation or a proletarian uprising- are even less favourable for both Western and Russian capital.

Western policy towards Russia is contradictory. On the one hand, Western capital is blatant in its denunciation of the nationalist factions of the bourgeoisie, fearing that the rise of a nationalist party in power would jeopardise Russia's commitment to the IMF economic reforms. On the other hand, by constantly undermining Russia in their international dealings, western capital creates the conditions for the rise of support for the nationalist factions, since Yeltsin and his lackeys are seen (for obvious reasons) as the pro-western modernisers who have brought the Russian economy to the brink of total collapse (3).

Already before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the soviet administration facing huge internal problems, the Russian policy towards the various republics was summarised by the Kremlin's statement in August 1990: "take as much independence as you can incorporate". By supporting the separatist/de-centralising tendencies in the republics, the Moscow administration was hoping to get rid of the unnecessary spendings of the Russian budget towards the republics. This selective federalist approach led many of the former Soviet Union states to take their chance in the world market, something which presupposed the destruction of the soviet bureaucratic institutions and their replacement by new structures capable of legitimising the political power of the new leaders and incorporating the newly formed states to free market capitalism. Yet, the adoption of integration policies to the western-led world market were only made by those states which managed to gain control of the oil and gas resources formerly exploited by the Soviet Union (such as Georgia and Azerbaijan), whereas the rest chose to keep close to Russia which, although economically ruined, still provided many of them with the biggest percentage of their budget (e.g. 90% of the budget of Daghestan, 60% or so of Armenia, etc).

As soon as Russian capital managed to -even temporarily and with big problems- stand on its feet, it returned to the newly independent states and tried to reassert its dominance over the exploitation of the available resources. Major diplomatic and economic conflicts -primarily concerning the exploitation and transport of the oil in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan- broke out between Russia, Turkey, western oil companies and the oil-producing countries. Turkey had tried after the collapse of the Soviet Union to gain important influence over resources in the Caucasus, an attempt which was ideologically filtered with appeals to the 'forgotten Turks' of the region. Yet, its wish to retain good relations with Russia (4), the lack of incentive of its NATO allies and serious internal social problems (such as the Kurdish separatists) did not allow such a development to take place. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh area was seen as a chance for both Russia and Turkey to establish good relations with Azerbaijan (and its oil). Yet, Russia's unwillingness to accept Turkey as the mediator in the conflict, as well as pressure from the West (5), meant that Turkey's interference in the conflict was reduced to a mere diplomatic -and thus verbal- war. For the modernising faction of the bourgeois class of Azerbaijan, the issue was further complicated. On the one hand it was eager to assert its independence from Russia and to gain support from the West, a policy which resulted in the establishment of good relations with Turkey and western companies. On the other hand, it soon realised that neither Turkey nor the West were going to provide military help for solving the problem with Armenia, since any mention for such an interference immediately received threats from Russia. Thus, it turned towards Russia, hoping that the latter would exert its influence on Armenia for a quick solution. In return, oil deals favourable to Russia were discussed.

Although Azerbaijan decided to join the CIS (Confederation of Independent States), it kept balancing between Russia and the West in terms of oil interests, seeking a solution to its ongoing war with Armenia and a favourable economic deal for its oil. In March 1993, and with the more dynamic entrance of western companies in the "debates", the decision was taken to built an oil pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, a result which seriously threatened Russian interests in South Central Caucasus.

In an attempt to restore some dominance over the region, Russia tried to maintain control -either militarily or politically- of the remaining countries (which were dangerously flirting with the west) and with the regions' oil and gas resources. When Chechnya blocked the pipeline which transferred oil from the Azeri port of Baku to the Russian port of Novorosisk, Russia decided to react in a dynamic way. A full scale attack on Chechnya was ordered in late I994, but the ridiculous organisation of the army, the lack of incentive of the Russian conscripts (6), the internal resistance to the war (7) and the fierce resistance of the Chechens led to a Russian military defeat in 1996.

The victorious Chechen ruling class tried to take over the task of modernising Chechen society to a degree capable of facilitating the dictatorship of capitalist economy. Although the former Russian army official General Dudayev, aimed at establishing a special status for Chechnya within the framework of the Russian Federation, the experienced guerrilla fighter Basaev (8) and the new president Mashadov, overwhelmed by the military victory over Russia, began the initial steps towards the formation of a proper nation-state, only to realise that any sort of economic restructuring proved to be an almost impossible task. The problem of the modernisation of the economy posed itself as a direct result of the development of history: the underdevelopment of the productive forces impeded the social structures which would make the transition to free market capitalism an immediate possibility. The expertise needed to function the industrial plants was as gone as the Russian technicians formerly positioned in Chechnya, who fled due to the war and sought refuge in Russian territory. Economic assistance from anywhere else than Russia was highly unlikely.

In the aftermath of the 1994-96 war the only thing left in Chechnya was national pride -and that was definitely not enough for an economic recovery. Yet the problems that the Chechen economy faced were not simply a direct result of the destructiveness of the previous war. Even before the war, during the years of 'independence' (1991-1994), the new state mechanism had come across extreme difficulties in its attempts to escape the fate of Chechnya becoming a mere pathway for international illegal trade. Although president Dudayev himself seemed to have tried to maintain control over prices (at a time when prices were being set free all over the former Soviet Union), the laws of the motion of capital dictated that 'good national will' was not enough to halt the downslide of the Chechen economy. Goods were being purchased in Chechnya en masse and then sold above their price anywhere across the 300 kilometres long border. Soon, and regardless of the measures erected to halt this development, the Chechen economy was nothing but a centre of illegal trade.

In terms of the oil in Chechnya the development was similar. Although production of oil had fallen drastically from the early 80's, Chechnya still had three oil refineries which could have been used to boost some hard cash in the economy. In fact, Dudayev did try to make some oil deals with the West, without however any results (9). At the same time, entrepreneurs tried to extract oil for themselves by making holes in the pipelines, something which created an illegal trade of oil, but which, being beyond state control, damaged the budget rather than relieving it (so much for national unity!). On the other hand, proletarians trying to survive dismantled the refineries and tried to valorise their acts of sabotage by selling them to the market. For that part of the population which did not (or could not) resort to this trade, the situation was worse. Even when Chechnya was still part of the Soviet Union, and subsidies were running high, the rural proletarians faced chronic unemployment of about 40 per cent, their survival being dependent on the possibility of seasonal migration to Russia. After independence however, this was no longer possible. As a result, most of them turned to primitive forms of agricultural production.

In this disintegrating society, the Islamic religion found a foothold. Financially backed to a certain degree by Saudi Arabia and other middle-east Islamic states, Muslim preachers found their way into the mountainous region of Chechnya with the aim of spreading the word of Islam, and establishing Islamic law. Although the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is overrated and thus highly misleading when used as the only explanation of the situation in Chechnya (and the rest of the Caucasus, for that matter), it is significant as an indication of the ways in which the Chechens, faced with the devastating characteristics of post-Soviet society, try to re-organise their everyday lives. For the disenchanted and lumpen youth of Chechnya and Daghestan, which organises itself in gangs in order to face the increased poverty and the corrupt 'nouveau-rich', "...Islam appears as the only force capable of replacing the old certainties and clear social order which was previously provided by the soviet system' (10). As a result, Basaev and other Chechen warlords turned to Islamism during the 94-96 war, as the Islamic sariah proved an effective tool in providing the necessary discipline of the soldiers. Yet, after the war, the rising ruling class found itself torn between armed Islamic warlords -who saw in Islam a new collective identity which would guarantee the obedience of the population -and bureaucrats, supporting the continuation of the soviet institutions. The violent conflicts between them increased the confusion and uncertainty of the Chechen population whose initial collective expectations after 'independence' turned into the need for protection from the Islamic warlords through clientelist relations. Although it was firstly the marginalised youth, which grew up in the post-soviet chaos, that identified with Islamic fundamentalism, gradually, and since no coherent alternative appeared, Islam turned into a new unifying ideology of the state by integrating all political forces. Even Mashadov flirted with this peculiar Caucasian wahhabitism, a mixture of hardcore and militant Islamism that Saudi Arabia refuses to accept as a real descendant. If finally the ruling class chose Islamic fundamentalism as its ideological vehicle for the capitalist restructuring of Chechnya, the consequences of such a choice had the opposite effect. The 'moral economy' that the wahhabites promoted did not contribute to a smooth reproduction of human capital. The ruling class sought the solution of the dead-end in imperialist expansion.

In August 1999, a group of Chechen nationalists -or Islam fighters if you wish- and mercenaries led by Basaev and the Afghani (or Saudi, opinions vary) Khattab invaded the neighbouring Daghestan in an attempt to financially exploit the gains from a direct access to the Caspian Sea and to escape from the economic blockade imposed by Russia after the war. The Chechen government kept an uneasy distance from this invasion, stating that it represented a 'personal affair' of the Basaev-Khattab duo, or an 'internal affair' of Daghestan, or even a 'conspiracy of the West and Moscow'. The Islamic invaders were particularly polite to the Daghestani cops, whom they treated as '...brothers' and to the local population, allowing them to leave if they wanted -something which they did en masse. In themselves, the leading Islamic clans of Daghestan were not particularly happy about this invasion, and even though the Chechens labelled the invasion 'an Islamic revolution against the infidel Russians', whose expressed aim was the destruction of the 'corrupt apparatus' and the 'liberation' of the population of Daghestan, the latter not only refused the unification with Chechnya, but was eager to join the Russian forces that were sent to fight back the Chechens.

For Daghestan, a member of the Russian Federation since 1992, and one of the most heavily populated areas in the Caucasus, the prospect of unification with Chechnya was particularly undesirable. In a country of 2.1 million people and of 40 distinct ethnic groups, withdrawal from Russia would almost certainly mean civil war amongst the various clans. Furthermore, and most importantly, they would lose 90% of their budget which at the moment comes from Russia (11). And although industrial plants hardly function, agricultural production is at a pathetic state, and unemployment has risen well over 30% (others speak of 80%!), financial help from Russia is seen as the only way to maintain the existing social peace which, at least, brings some wealth to the clans at the top of the hierarchy of the Daghestani society. Furthermore, the possibilities of seasonal migration to Russia, which temporarily relieves the impoverished unemployed population, would no longer be possible. Not to mention the fact that unification with Chechnya would mean, if Islamic law was to be followed, a re-distribution of the existing wealth, something highly unfavourable to the chieftains of Daghestan.

In response to the Chechen invasion of Daghestan, Russia send a considerable military force and managed to drive the Chechens out by the 30th of August 1999. The reason for Russia's decision was not, as it was claimed, a counter-attack against Islamic fundamentalism, but the knowledge that should Chechnya control Daghestan, the oil pipeline that was built through Daghestan to bypass Chechnya was going to fall into the hands of the Chechens. Moreover, Russia's other plan for another pipeline from Kazakhstan to Novorosisk, whose foundations were laid on May I999, was also threatened.

As soon as this excursion was over, bombs started flying all over the place in Russia claiming more than 300 dead, and before anyone knew it, a full scale attack was launched against Chechnya, with the official aim of getting rid of the Chechen terrorists once and for all. Although the process of identifying those responsible for the bombs was surprisingly fast, and the real origin of the bombs is still highly contestable (12), the result was the same: with the excuse of counter-terrorist activity, the Russian state gathered its forces and attacked Chechnya (13). Thus started the second military excursion of the Russian military in Chechen land which, in contrast to the previous one, has for the time been much more effective, since it follows the example set by Nato in Kosovo, summarised by the cynical 'bombs good, body bags bad'.

So what does Russian capital have to gain from this military attack? On the one hand, it is important to look at the internal situation of Russia itself in the beginning of the war. With parliamentary elections coming up on December 19th, and presidential ones in the summer of 2000, it was obvious that Russian capital was reaching dangerous rimes. With a constant decrease in living standards and growing poverty, with unemployment reaching explosive levels, and with no visible prospect of any escape from the imposed economic reforms, there was a growing realisation that the period of economic reform is a mere disguise for setting the basis for capitalist dictatorship. And although Yeltsin's administration of post-Soviet Russia was a disaster, it had at least managed to retain some social peace. But Yeltsin's rule was coming to a constitutional end, and widespread dissatisfaction (14) could well be channelled towards less stable factions of capital's administrators -be it the neo-stalinists of Zuyganov or the incompetent centre-left. Any such election result was unwelcome by both the west and the local ruling class for reasons of stability. Combined with that was a feeling of isolation (summarised in the popular belief that "the whole world is conspiring against Russia") resulting in resentment towards the west, which has had the effect of fuelling a nationalist trend to every single party running for the elections in December. This resentment was pretty evident during the Kosovo war, yet its roots lay more in the ongoing process of economic reform which for the Russian proletariat is a process of growing impoverishment, and for which some see the west as responsible (15). Although this feeling of isolation could to a certain degree be channelled towards the external enemy (the US, the west, etc), and thus mystify the true nature of capitalist social relations, it was unable to provide stability inside Russia. A growing number of strikes and social turmoil testified that even the nationalism of the political parties could not accommodate the alienation of the disintegrating Russian society. Only the Chechen war managed to put the national above the social question, thus allowing Vladimir Putin to win the elections and continue with the economic reforms that Yeltsin started, with the knowledge however that its temporal prolongation could turn things on their head and render it a potential danger for social peace in Russia.

Externally, the attack on Chechnya represents an attempt of Russian capital to maintain some control over the explosive region of the Caucasus, whose oil and gas resources are vital to the Russian industry (16). Although the loss of the dominance over the majority of oil resources in the Caucasus is now considered a given for Russian capital since two alternative oil pipelines have already being built which bypass Russian controlled land, Chechnya's invasion of Daghestan threatened the last remaining oil pipeline which brought oil to Russia through Daghestan. Furthermore, by achieving military victory over Chechnya, Russia does not only pursue its immediate economic interests but also pre-empts any domino effect that could result from Chechnya's insubmision, and which could potentially even lead to the demise of the Russian Federation. At the same time, this -so far -successful war gave Russia an opportunity to revitalise itself. Through the boosting of the moral of the army -the war was seen by many russian conscripts as defensive - and its modernisation, Russia is given a chance to prove that she (as much as the West) can also act like an exporter of protection in the periphery, a very modern commodity.

Basically, the central problem in Chechnya is reminiscent to that of Kosovo in the Balkans. With a backward and unproductive agriculture, with the rising problem of overpopulation, with high levels of unemployment, and a severe lack of capital accumulation, the problems that Russian capital faces in the Caucasus go far beyond the 'threat' of Islamic fundamentalism or the loss of oil pipelines which, although important, have seen a big decrease of their production rates for many years. As in Kosovo, the problem of the reproduction of human capital is visible. It has become increasingly obvious that a future process of modernisation of the Chechen economy requires the abandonment of unproductive forms of agriculture, the suppression of illegal trade (which, although beneficial for individual capitalists, does nothing to accommodate the dominance of social capital) and the integration of the population into modern capitalist structures, i.e. their proletarianisation. As soon as it was clear that the wannabe modernisers of Chechnya (Basaev and Mashadov, etc) were unable to perform these necessities with considerable success, war presented itself as the only possible resolution of the contradictions of the Russian Federation.

The Russian attack has also had the effect of re-igniting Chechen nationalism and uniting the nation against the 'common enemy', something that Basaev himself jokingly admitted to as soon as Russia began its attacks. In face of widespread dissatisfaction with the pathetic state of Chechnya, social peace was, in Basaev's words, hard to maintain for much longer. For the aspiring modernising faction of the bourgeois class, whose links to Moscow are well-established (17), the nationalisation of social antagonisms is the only positive development.

In general the west has kept rather silent during the war in Chechnya, a result of the west's complex position. On the one hand, western interests for Caspian oil have led to an aggressive policy towards Russia which has effectively drawn Russia out of south-central Caucasus. US presence in Azerbaijan -either directly or with Turkey as a middleman- and in the Ukraine, seriously influenced Russia's decision to embark into another military expedition to retain some control in the North Caucasus. Similarly, the EU's policies -such as aid programmes in Eastern Europe etc.- were aimed more towards the EU's internal interests rather than the Russian ones (18) , and were generally disastrous for Russian interests. In this way the west has forced Russia to acknowledge its loss of dominance over the Caucasus and thus to attempt to maintain at all costs the parts which she can still control.

At the same time however, faced with the potential of an uncontrollable motley crew of armed-to-the-teeth warlords who dangerously flirt with the Islamic states of the Middle East, and who want a share of the regions resources, the west definitely prefers to have Russia in charge of both the existing resources and their further development.

The underlying principle is the fact that, although Russia's economy needs to be kept in check, it is crucial for western capital that it develops enough to be opened towards western investments and to be made a capable competitor/partner in the world market.

The war in Chechnya is a consequence of the nature of post-Soviet society, in the same way as the Yugoslav war or the war in Kosovo. It is an expression of the attempts to integrate the 'underdeveloped' parts of the capitalist world into the global division of power.

The outcome of the war might be favourable to either Russian capital or the Chechen ruling class, yet whether Russian or Chechen, wherever capital dominates there are only slaves. As such, the development of capitalism brings with it the subversive element that constantly threatens the established order and the explosion of class struggles is as unavoidable as capitalist society presents itself to be. In the current situation, this radical element has not been expressed, and thus to take either side in this conflict means to prioritise one form of capitalist development to another. To support that is, either the interests of Russian capital, or the national-liberation capitalism of the aspiring modernisers of Chechnya. This however, is the task of bourgeois ideology, not radical/revolutionary critique.

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Notes:
(1) "Daghestan has become the centre of illegal trade and smuggling. Ingushetia the peripheral centre of the illegal trade of gold and drugs. North Ossetia the main producer of illegal vodka and a point of transport for the tycoons of alcohol", (Le Monde Diplomatique, December, 1999)

(2) Although even that seems uncertain since, for example, during the whole period of economic reform in Russia in which hundreds of uncompetitive industries were shut down, not one single factory or industrial plant has been built! (Aufheben, #8, page 7, footnote 11)

(3) For some (see Aufheben, #8, article on Kosovo war), these historical developments were used to explain Nato's recent war in Kosovo. However one-sided this view seems though, it proves to be useful when dealing with the war in Chechnya. In accordance to this view, put forward by Aufheben, western capital was forced to realise that, faced with widespread dissatisfaction for Yeltsin's commitment to the western-led economic reforms, and with the Russian economy even more seriously damaged by the financial crisis of 1998, their loyal subordinates of the Yeltsinite apparatus might not survive the next elections, and that the nationalist factions of the Russian bourgeoisie might take control of the economy and threaten the -necessary for the west- economic reforms, by imposing a re-nationalisation of the economy. By attacking the last ally that Russia had in Europe (Serbia), Russia's isolation would be firmly established, and the weakness of the ultra-nationalist faction of the Russian bourgeoisie exposed -they would not be able to support their 'Slav brothers'. Thus, the US's decision to embark into a Nato offensive in the 'insignificant' area of Kosovo was essentially an attempt to show Russia that there can be no alternative to the IMF imposed economic reforms and that military force will be used to demonstrate the isolation of Russia and thus the necessity for following the western-led reforms.
The development and outcome of the Kosovo war however verifies that this view was problematic. On the one hand, this view ignores recent developments in the Balkans themselves and problematically focuses on Russia (and the US) to explain a war in the Balkans. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, although it is a fact that Russia's isolation was publicly demonstrated, the result of the war was not the strengthening of the Yeltsin apparatus, as the view implies, but rather its weakening. Although the nationalist tendencies of the Russian bourgeoisie were seriously impaired (as the election results show), Yeltsin's position was undermined since Russia's international position was undermined. In this way it is hard to see how Aufheben can claim that the result of the Kosovo war would be to pre-empt any alternative to the economic reforms of the IMF. Yeltsin's faction, which is seen in Russia as primarily responsible for the pro-western policies, was discredited due to its inability to cope with the Kosovo crisis. Through its successful appeal to national unity the economic reforms imposed by the west have been prolonged rather than threatened. What the standpoint of Aufheben ends up with implying is that western capital collaborated with Yeltsin to ensure that both Yeltsin's position, and the economic reforms, would remain unchallenged. Yeltsin's position after the war though, was not as safe as this view implies. In fact, the only thing that managed to save Yeltsin's modus operandi was the war in Chechnya, which managed to boost up the illusion of national unity, i.e. the necessary prerequisite for the continuation of the economic reforms, by setting aside the social reality of exploitation, and neutralising its potential explosiveness, through appeals for national unity.

(4) "In 1994 more than 250 Turkish firms were working in the Russian market, especially in the construction business. Russia was easily the most important trading partner Turkey had in the CIS accounting for about five times its volume of trade with all the Turkic republics combined", in Contested Borders in the Caucasus, Chapter VIII, 'Turkey's Policies in Transcaucasia'.

(5) Although Turkey wished to support Azrebaizan and not Armenia (for historical reasons as well), it seems to be the case that the influence of the Armenian diaspora in France and the US was strong enough to 'convince' Turkey not to take any drastic steps.

(6) Most of them preferred to sell their weapons to the Chechen nationalists than engage in war with them, something which provided the Chechens with modern weaponry and undermined the Russian army. In the most recent war on the other hand, apart from the barbarism of the thousands of murders, mutilations, rapes, of the destroyed houses and the looting, the trade of dead bodies and hostages is blooming. The Russian generals of the 'security zone' sell the dead Chechens to their families and the prisoners to the Chechen rebels who collect ransom from their families, sharing them afterwards with the Russian officers.

(7) On the one hand there were the mothers of the conscripts and the general outrage of the population, and on the other hand there was a faction of the ruling class (politicians, media, etc) which, frightened by the popular outrage, understood that the moment was not right for such a military expense. The war of 94-96 did not have the support of the majority of the Russian or Chechen population, and that explains why no nationalist conflicts from below appeared. In contrast, the Russian mothers which took to the Chechen villages, while the war was still going on, looking for their children, stayed in Chechen houses and often ensured the liberation of their sons. It is also hardly known that the Chechens named the main street of Grozny, Gorbachev, honouring him as the father of democratisation and of perestroika.

(8) Trained by the Russian army during the 92-93 war between Abhazia and Georgia, Basaev fought with the Russians in support of the former. More than anything else, Basaev seems to be an opportunist: in the autumn of '96, a while after the victory of Chechnya over the Russian army, Basaev started created a cosmic image of himself, grooming his beard and appearing well-dressed for the interests of his electoral campaign, scorning the Islamic candidates for their 'newly-acquired' Islamism. This did not however stop him from invading Daghestan in 1999 dressed in the colours of the 'Islamic revolution'.

(9) Some evidence suggests that a Texan based oil company approached the Chechen government, but was soon discouraged from making any deal by a dispatch of the US embassy in Moscow. After that, Chechen officials made many business trips to European countries, trying to make new deals. These were not met with any success though, either because of the incompetence of the Chechen delegates, or because no western company was willing to invest in the uncertain economic and social environment of Chechnya.

(10) GM Derluguian, 'Che Guevaras in Turbans', New Left Review 237

(11) In late August, in a meeting between Yeltsin and Magomedov (president of the State Council of Daghestan) the Russian government promised a further help of 300 million roubles.

(12) In the town of Ryazan the Russian security forces were caught while planting explosives in an apartment building (in the Economist, October 9th 1999)

(13) The excuse of counter-terrorist investigations was not only useful for the Russian state at an external level. As soon as the bombs went off, the police used it as an excuse to arrest and interrogate hundreds of people in Moscow, most of which were not (surprisingly enough) Chechens but Russians.

(14) Opinion polls showed that 90% of the population did not feel very strongly about Yeltsin (see Socialist Action, December 1999, 'Russia Prepares for Elections')

(15) This view was re-inforced by the economic crash in August 1998 that many directly linked to the western-imposed harsh economic reforms.

(16) Even until 1993, Russia had not stopped the oil going into the refineries of Chechnya with the blatant excuse that such an action would threaten Russian interests.

(17) A big scandal erupted in Moscow when it was proven that B. Berezovski, the model self made Mafioso businessman of the Russian economy who controls major oil companies and most of the media in Russia, as well as being the major influence behind Yeltsin's "Family", has never stopped his financial connections with Chechnya and, more specifically, Basaev.

(18) "Money was being channelled to Western consultants rather to the needs of Russia's people and their economy", and " ... Europe's leaders have been guilty of pursuing short term interests, such as the disposal of the EU's agricultural surpluses under the guise of food aid to Russia..." (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1999). Of course it reaches the limits of stupidity to claim that any sort of economic policy could be aimed at meeting the needs of the population, yet the remarks are indicative of the EU's attitude towards Russia.