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Debate: Foreign military intervention in Chechnya

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Should outside nations intervene militarily in crisis/war in Chechnya?

Background and context

The Muslim people of Chechnya in the Caucasus were incorporated into Russia during the Tsarist era. They suffered persecution throughout the Communist era including widespread deportation to the gulags during Stalin’s government. Racism in Russia directed against the people of the Chechens is widespread and gave rise to the epithet ‘black-arses’. President Putin’s resumption of the conflict to pacify the guerrillas while Prime Minister is widely credited with ensuring his election. This was supposedly a response to Chechens bombing buildings within Russia popular but no evidence has ever been produced. Conspiracy theories abound and the accusations are attached to any act of terrorism, Russia routinely underplays the number of remaining enemy forces but the campaign is effectively deadlocked. Civilian casualties are high and the Chechen capital Grozny has effectively been reduced to rubble. Russia routinely denies access to Chechnya to outside observers and aid workers. Nevertheless the practical bars to an intervention, not least Russia’s thermonuclear enabled opposition mean that I would recommend against choosing to run this case against all but the weakest opposition.[1]


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Civilian casualties - Does the degree of civilian casualties in Chechnya necessitate an international intervention?

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Yes

  • The scale of the civilian damage created by the attacks of the Russian army and the lack of justification produced creates a humanitarian imperative. The United Nations or NATO should immediately override opposition to create safe havens within the territory in order to prevent casualties and provide a conduit for food aid. We cannot ignore this kind of suffering just because it involves a nuclear power.[2]
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No

  • Counter that this implies a moral obligation to intervene in all conflicts where civilian casualties occur. Clearly practicality (limited troops, military opposition) as well as international law (the UN charter forbids overriding sovereign powers) also have a role in our decision. This particular case threatens a direct military confrontation with the world’s biggest nuclear power as well as raising tensions in a regional hotspot that takes in Islamic states and organisations as hostile to America as to Russia.[3]
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Humanitarian rights: Were there human rights abuses in Chechnya that demanded an international response?

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Yes

  • Without action to oppose the attacks on innocent civilians in Russia it is impossible for the International community to set any kind of line on human rights abuses and aggressive military force. It is illogical to condemn the behaviour of Slobodan Milosevic and yet condone by inaction the similar abuses in Russia. That kind of Realpolitik has no place in today’s world and encourages regimes in all parts of the world to believe that such abuses are possible. This is particularly important as rising tensions in the middle east and the Muslim world make it more important that the International Community proves that it is not biased against Muslims in order to confirm its ability to moderate in international disputes.[4]
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No

  • Russia will use its veto in the security council to attempt to block any human rights-based intervention in Chechnya. This cannot be achieved by an intervention in their territory. Chechnya is sovereign territory and Vladimir Putin won a clear mandate to pursue the war. There are countless countries where human rights violations occur including the U.S.A. and it is facile to suggest that only by intervening in all can the general principle be affirmed. It is clear to anyone that the power of Russia protects it and not the permission of the International community.[5]
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Chechen sovereignty: Do the Chechen's have a national sovereign claim that must be protected?

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Yes

  • The Chechens have a legitimate claim to nationhood. They have their own language, religion and culture distinct from that of Russia and have consistently resisted assimilation. The history of their incorporation into Russia is a history of abuse that goes further to legitimate their claim to autonomy. Only the protection afforded by safe havens will allow the Chechens to reconstitute their civil society and choose leaders capable of negotiating with the Russian government. The alternative is insoluble low level conflict.[6]
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No

  • A distinct culture does not automatically confer the right to sovereignty. NATO have recently confirmed a commitment not to encourage the separatist movements that lead to this type of war. There are a variety of examples such as Mindanao in the Philippines where we deny this right. There is also no evidence that safe havens will lead to a rebirth of civil society and eventual autonomy rather than endemic low level warfare supported by the safety net provided by the UN Even if we could set up safe havens it’s not automatic that we should.[7]
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Russian tolerance: Would Russia tolerate any international intervention in Chechnya?

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Yes

  • The Russian government can be persuaded to accept intervention and a brokered agreement. They are currently mired in an apparently unwinnable war in the mountains that has lost momentum. Their equipment and supplies are both out of date and running out. The expense of the war is only just bearable because of the temporary high value of Russia’s oil reserves. Most of the Russian troops are unpaid by the government and in low morale. Casualties are reducing support for the war among Russians. In these circumstances International intervention provides a face saving method for President Putin to withdraw from a war that serves no purpose while appearing statesmanlike.[8]


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No

  • The Russian government has never and will never accept the incursion of foreign power. The idea that the foreign military has the right to determine Russian internal policy is anathema. The strength of Nationalist feeling has grown in the last ten years and contributed to the popularity of Putin’s original offensive. Putin is if anything more hawkish than his predecessor. It is naive to expect anything other than armed opposition to this plan. Even demoralised the Russian army remains the dominant military power in the Southern Caucasus and it is practically impossible to change that so the armed opposition will be successful. Even if it was not it is impossible to discount the threat of nuclear war that this kind of conflict represents. That is a totally unacceptable risk.[9]
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International force - Is an international force capable of being gathered and effectively deployed in some form to deal with the problem in Chechnya?

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Yes

  • EU and UN forces have demonstrated their effectiveness in other fields. The successful intervention in Bosnia culminating in the Dayton agreement and in Kosovo culminating in the re-establishing of autonomy and the ousting of President Milosevic prove that NATO and UN members are capable of running operations in Eastern Europe. They have also demonstrated the respect with which UN troops continue to be treated and their ability to calm explosive situations. Such interventions also prove that there is a working consensus about the value of humanitarian interventions. In this case they will only be expected to establish and defend safe havens awaiting talks. The scale of the humanitarian disaster is too much to allow considerations like cost to dissuade us.[10]
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No

  • The attempt to establish safe havens in Bosnia was a disaster that led at least indirectly to the Srebrenica massacre. The forces against which the UN had to contend were small, divided and generally accepted the UN role and still the outside troops were stretched beyond their limits. The situation in Chechnya is even less likely to work. First, the new Bush administration is more isolationist than its predecessor and unwilling to commit troops anywhere. Second, since the disasters in the Balkans the international community is even less willing to commit troops abroad. Third the UN charter forbids intervention in sovereign territory without the permission of the recognised power. Fourth, Russia, the sovereign power, is not just opposed but united and militarily capable of expelling interlopers. Fifth, the continuing commitment in the Balkans and Africa mean that there are no troops and no money available for this intervention.[11]

Motions:

  • This house would intervene in Chechnya
  • This house would protect the weak and helpless

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also

External links and resources:

Books:


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