The second year of the second Chechen war is ending, and a decisive military victory for Russian forces over "illegal militant formations" remains almost as distant as it was in the fall of 1999. Moscow seems to be losing its resolve to "smash the hydra in its cave," as President Vladimir Putin once put it. As the Russian death count gradually keeps rising, the debate among military planners and policy makers on how to end the fighting in Chechnya is intensifying.
The Moscow-based Vek weekly recently portrayed the Chechnya debate as more and more acquiring the features of a classic clash between "hawks" seeking a total military victory, and "doves," who advocate the immediate opening of peace talks.
Those favoring a military solution are the Russian top brass keen to retain the elusive strategic initiative. On the other side, some top members of the Russian leadership seem to understand that the situation has reached a dangerous dead-end, fueling their desire for a peace deal. The Strana.ru website, which is widely perceived as a semi-official Russian government organ, has suggested a new phase in the Chechen conflict is developing "in which the emphasis will be placed not on the establishment of secular
Igor Torbakov is a freelance journalist who specializes in CIS political affairs. He holds an MA in History from Moscow State University and a PhD from the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He was a Regional Exchange Scholar at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington DC, 1995; Research Scholar at the Institute of Russian History, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1988-1997; and Kiev correspondent for the Paris-based weekly Russkaya mysl, 1998-2000.