For Immediate Release: November 21, 2000
Contact: Julie Shaw, 202-939-2211

 

Russia?s Southern Periphery Greatest Threat to Security
Experts Discuss Chechnya, Central Asia and
the Caucasus, the Middle East

Webcast and Transcript Available

With the end of the Cold War, the greatest near-term threats to Russia?s security have come from the country?s southern periphery, or its soft underbelly as Winston Churchill once called it. The war in Chechnya continues with no clear end while Moscow?s stance against Islamic "extremism" complicates relations with Muslim neighbors to the south. Carnegie Endowment experts examine these and other issues in "193 Days of Putin: Russia and Security Challenges from the South," a panel discussion now available at www.ceip.org/files/daysofputin.

In Chechnya, "the prospect for negotiated settlements are literally zero," says Anatol Lieven, senior associate and author of a seminal book on the first Chechen war. A public settlement would negate what both sides have been fighting for. Even if the Russians gain ground militarily, lower level attacks by the Chechens will certainly continue, Lieven adds. "I think it extremely likely that at some stage this will in fact turn into a terrorist struggle as well."

In Central Asia and the Caucasus, Russia is acting like "a pragmatic state that is engaged in advancing its security interests," says Martha Brill Olcott, senior associate and a specialist on Central Asia. "Russia has a potentially appealing security message that it is putting forward, a shared security message. It is really clear that Russia shares with [the Central Asian states] a sense that extreme anti-regime ideologies are infiltrating the CIS, including Islam," she adds.

In the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Russia has played a passive role, says Shlomo Avineri, visiting scholar from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "If the Americans cannot solve the issues, why try to be partners in failure?" Russia has tried, however, to forge a bond with Israel by way of a common threat?Islamic fundamentalists. Avineri adds that this "doesn?t make it easier for Russian policy to get many friends in the Islamic-Arab world."

"193 Days of Putin" was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on November 16, 2000 by the Endowment?s Russian and Eurasian Program. This was the second of three seminars examining initiatives and policies of the Putin administration?s first six months in power.

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