How to Stay a Big Power without Really Trying [Archives:1999/48/Focus]

November 29 1999

Common Sense  By: Hassan Al-Haifi 
Most Yemeni journalists tend to keep their thoughts and pens confined to local issues and affairs. This may be justified by the logic that there are enough problems, agonies and self-inflicted disappointments to be found domestically on which to dwell. On the other hand, it is hard enough for conscientious Yemeni journalists and commentators to influence events and trends at home, let alone try to influence the course of events overseas, where Yemeni press opinion would be of a lesser consequence than it is at home. Moreover, a full grasp of current international events and international affairs in general is rarely to be found in Yemen, even at the Foreign Ministry, let alone in the Yemeni press. It is seldom that real expertise can be found that is capable of analyzing and communicating the perplexities of foreign affairs. This is therefore left to the international press agencies and/or the “we have on the line here the expert onÉ” that is often heard on the Arab satellite channels, coupled with video footage taken from CNN. 
As a leading Yemeni newspaper with strong regional and international links, this observer believes that the Yemen Times should give more coverage to regional and international affairs and should also try to convey the feelings of the people of the Republic of Yemen on international events. This becomes more necessary in light of the often apparent contrasts between the general public mood and the official position taken up by our government on such events and the general passive stance taken by the government on regional and international issues that do not go beyond “expressing concern and regrets” or “joy and encouragement,” as the case may be, leaving aside whatever the majority sentiment may be accordingly. 
In the past, Common Sense has dealt with several regional and international issues, and will continue to do so, in light of the large expatriate community in Yemen, from where a significant share of the readers of the YT comes, and in the hope of reflecting the feelings of the Yemeni people, or those of this observer based on his knowledge and experience in such affairs. 
The events in Chechnya, and in every Moslem country, are of interest to the Yemeni people, in view of the fraternal religious bonds that bind the Yemeni people and their Moslem brothers everywhere, and in light of the heavy humanitarian overtones that are bound to raise the conscience of any sincere objective observer. On the other hand, a long history of friendship with the Russian Federation (in its Bolshevik form and in its somewhat unsettled more liberal open political and economic framework Ð and its somewhat smaller size), and I would assume our Russian friends would surely be interested in finding the views of the Yemeni people on a situation that has become the No. 1 issue facing the Russian Federation today. 
What becomes clear and obvious to any observer of the Chechen situation is that the Russian official justifications for their highly disproportionate action in the Caucasus region does not add up to any political or even “security” logic. Moreover, it points to a serious infraction of a political arrangement agreed upon in 1996 between the heretofore recognized authority in Chechnya and the government under President Yeltsin himself, with a more pragmatic Prime Minister at the helm. While the arrangement may have been the result of a legitimate struggle by the Chechen people against Russian domination, it goes without saying that the Russians have reneged on a clear settlement that took the interests of both the Russian people and the people of Chechnya into consideration. In fact, the Chechens, in that agreement, were willing to compromise significantly on their demands for immediate full independence, to lessen the political effects of the harsh defeat suffered by the Russians in the first encounter with the Chechens, in order to save the face of the Russian leadership domestically and internationally. 
But under Vladimir Putin, a more chauvinistic Slavic nationalist, the Prime Ministry of the Russian Federation has considered that revenge of the defeat of the Russians in Chechnya is the only means of restoring Russia as a world power and letting the world know that the Russian Federation is still the inheritor of Soviet international hegemony, and no one should ever forget it. One would think that, as far as the Russian people are concerned, there are more important steps for the Russian government to embark on to restore its prestige and position in the international community than to expensively settle an old score, with a relatively small “menace”, that arose out of the blue, and probably is a result of Russian or international conspiratorial intrigues, the details of which have yet to materialize. 
In other words, it is not the Chechen people en-masse that are the “security” risk that the Russian government must deal with, but a band of international renegades who have found religion to be a worthwhile mercenary enterprise, funded by clandestine operations, that are either non-Moslem inspired or goaded, letting Islam become the scapegoat for half the world’s problems (Some Moslem analysts are quick to attribute such activities to Masonic or Zionist clandestine origins cloaked in “fundamentalist” cover-ups, of which Islam and Moslems, in general, are wholly innocent of). 
Viewed in another context, the Chechen expeditionary mission of the Russians is not free from international arrangements, as part of the New World Order, in consideration of the Russians pursuing nothing more than vocal distaste for the belated tough Western stance on the barbarity of their Slavic cousin (Milosovic) in Serbia (In fact, the leading Western power has made it clear that the “excessive” Russian action in Chechnya would not influence the continuation of Western aid to the Russian Federation, even though they are not “pleased with it,” which obviously entails a prior Western “nod of the head” for the Russian action. Moreover, it may be Western policy to tie up the Russians in whatever adventures that would drain their poorly managed resources and thus keep their claims to world power status in check. 
When looking at the present state of the Russian federation, one is rather surprised by the inability of the heirs of the Soviet Union to manage the appalling conditions of their economy and administrative capabilities. Even after 10 years of “adjustment” from an erstwhile totalitarian and Communist framework, it is clear that the heirs have failed to channel the vast resources and human resource capabilities which Russia is endowed with towards setting the country on a proper well-defined course of real progress and political development of the Russian people, who are known for their industriousness and obedience. In fact, it is not far-fetched to conclude that the Chechen adventure of the Russian leadership is no more than the exploitation of nationalist fervor, to leap over the rising discontent, both at home and abroad, at the poor performance of the Russian leadership in the management of domestic economic and social affairs. At home, it is clear that the Russian people would wish to have answers to the question of the high rate of corruption that has been given firm rooting in the administrative structure of the Russian Federation and the inability of the Russian Government to harness the vast resources and assets of the Russian people towards improving the lot of the Russian people from their conditions, which were left by their Communist “predecessors,” and in putting the country on a more reliably stable political footing. 
Whatever the case may be, it is clear that another Islamic people have become victims of an injustice and an obvious lack of “fair-play” under various disguises, that refuse to take into consideration the high humanitarian overtones that Moslems, in general, must pay, so that domestic political opportunists like Putin and Milosovic can rise to the helms and remain there forever, and so that international adventure seekers can continue to trade in war at the expense of their Moslem “brothers,” without achieving for Islam or their Moslem brothers any rewards for their disguised “fundamentalism.”Moreover, it would be inappropriate to believe that the present leadership of the Russian Federation, even if rejuvenated by Putin, can convince us that they are a world power to be reckoned with by unleashing their deadly inherited Soviet military hardware in killing thousands and chasing hundreds of thousands of helpless people out of their homes, when at the same time more than US $10 Billion can fall into unclean hands without so much as mobilizing an extensive investigation probe of the matter by the very same ambitious Russian leadership that seeks to call itself the savior and mirror of real Slavic chauvinism.