But what has motivated Putin to make this choice? Putin's history indicates a deep, emotional commitment to defeating the Chechen rebellion. He denies that the Chechen rebels have any legitimate basis for complaint against Moscow and refuses to negotiate with them. Putin does not appear to doubt the rightness of his hard-line policy toward Chechnya, even in the face of international outrage. Sunni Islamists see Russia as being as much of an enemy as the United States and Israel. European leaders criticize Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya. Even at the height of Russian collaboration with "Old Europe" to block United Nations approval for the U.S-led intervention in Iraq, French president Jacques Chirac raised the issue of Russian human rights violations in Chechnya while hosting Putin at a Paris banquet. After the September 2004 Beslan tragedy, the Russian foreign ministry "reacted with outrage" at the implied criticism of Moscow's policy in an EU statement asking "the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened." Very few have given the unequivocal support for Putin's Chechnya policy that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has.
Sharon, who is fluent in Russian, has established a genuine bond with Putin. Both share a similar mindset about their Muslim opponents: they are terrorists with whom there can be no negotiation. Both Putin and Sharon use force against opponents they believe undeserving of sympathy, and both share a bond formed by their resulting vilification in the West.
While Sharon is not the first or only Israeli official to express sympathy for Russia's Chechnya policy, Sharon's key role in the improvement of bilateral relations is suggested by the improvement under his watch. Prior to Sharon's accession, Putin was content to leave the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the hands of the strongly pro-Palestinian Russian foreign ministry. Only after his first meeting with Sharon in September 2001 did Putin's pro-Israel tilt emerge.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Mark Katz thinks so, writing in Middle East Quarterly, and says Chechen terrorists are one reason for Putin's move: