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Analysis From Washington - A Dangerous Suggestion

  • Paul Goble

Washington, April 19 (RFE/RL) - Two senior military analysts in Moscow have called for the creation of special military formations to reestablish Russian power in the non-Russian former Soviet republics.

Writing in the April 11 issue of the Moscow paper Nezavisimaya gazeta, Lieutenant General Valeriy Dementyev and Anton Surikov, an advisor at the Moscow-based Defense Research Institute, have rejected the notion that Russia does not have foreign enemies. They argue instead that Russia's "fundamental potential adversaries" remain the U.S. and the NATO countries and that Moscow's "primary enemy" consists of "the forces of aggressive nationalism."

Among these forces, they lump together "the army, police and other paramilitary groups in the Baltic republics, the illegal armed organizations of Dudayev, the Tajik opposition, and others."

Further, the authors suggest that "as a result of the events of 1991, the Russian national entity has been divided" and that discrimination against ethnic minorities is taking place everywhere "with the exception of Belarus and perhaps Ukraine."

To respond to these challenges, the two authors suggest that Moscow must be prepared to use force to oppose territorial claims against the Russian Federation by the "ethnocratic" Baltic states and claims to the Caspian Sea bed by Azerbaijan.

They argue that the Russian Federation must be prepared to use force in a "preemptive" manner to prevent a "NATO advance onto the territory of the former Soviet Union.

And they suggest that "specialized elite units" of the Russian army should conduct such "local wars" and carry out a "cleansing" of political opponents from the territory of the non-Russian countries involved. Among the tasks to be assigned to these groups and loyal local militias - "to be formed from representatives of the pro-Russian local population" - will be "the filtration of nationalists and the deportation of some categories of citizens from different areas."

It is disturbing enough that such an outrageous proposal should be made by senior Russian military thinkers and appear in Moscow's leading reformist paper. It is even more disturbing that, in the week since the article appeared, the Russian government has not explicitly disowned it and that Western governments have not condemned it.

For the real danger here lies not with the article itself but the nature of reactions to it.

There is the possibility that this inflammatory article will pass without comment and criticism either in Russia or the West. Some will see this silence as a form of assent and assume that they can push even further.

Moreover, the article could be used by the Yeltsin government as a device to remind the West that Yeltsin is under pressure from some Russians to behave even more harshly than he has. And consequently that the West has no choice but to support him in his "moderate" course and to show understanding when he takes what would otherwise be criticized as extreme steps.

And if there is no response, this article will contribute to the ever harsher rhetoric in Moscow that by itself will have consequences in Russia's relationships not only with the former Soviet republics but with the West as well.