| ETHNONATIONALISM: FEARS, DANGERS, AND POLICIES IN THE POST-COMMUNIST WORLD |
In the post-Communist world as in centuries past, ethnonationalism hasplayed an important part in both domestic and international politics. Itsrole has been evident in the outbreak of violent conflicts, the creation ofnew states, and the revision and attempted revision of interstate borders.Ethnic doctrines and perceptions have also influenced, and in some casesdominated, political outlooks and have affected decision-making on securityand other issues.Specifically, ethnonationalism has fueled the fears andsuspicions that currently beset relations between the Russian Federation,the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union, and the states ofeastern Europe. As a result, ethnonationalism is widely perceived as one ofthe major threats to security in Europe today.
To address these issues, the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) I organized adiscussion in Moscow in January 1995 among high-level East European andRussian policymakers and advisors. Americans and West Europeans, who have animportant stake in such a dialogue, also observed and participated. Themeeting contained surprises for all the participants regarding the views ofthe others, and the process encouraged them to take further steps towardcreating greater transparency in their relations.
The present report summarizes the conversations and debates that took placein Moscow. PER acknowledges with pleasure the participation of the Centerfor Political Technologies (CPT), which organized Russian participation inthe meeting. Boris Makarenko, PER's Moscow representative and CPT's DeputyDirector, worked with PER and CPT on coordinating the agenda, and preparedthe basic draft of this report, which was supplemented by contributions fromGeorge Schopflin, a participant, and Julie Burkley of PER's staff. PERSenior Editor Robert A. Feldmesser is responsible for the final editing. Thereport has not been reviewed by the meeting participants, and is the soleresponsibility of PER.
Allen H. Kassof, Director
Princeton, New Jersey
Liberated by the revolutions of 1989, the countries of East Central Europepromptly forsook their political, economic, and historical connections withRussia in favor of efforts to restore their ties with the West. Russia, too,began to look westward, often ignoring its former satellites in an attemptto assert its parity with the established democracies. The result was thegrowth of mutual ignorance among the neighbors in this region, despite theirshared recent history and the potential advantages of cooperation in thefuture.
This gap is very much in evidence in the differing perceptions of theethnonational currents that are sweeping the region. Many policymakers inEastern Europe are convinced of the immutability of Russian views andintentions and so assume that Russian behavior will continue as in the past.This assumption has been allowed to persist at least in part because of thefailure of the East Europeans to discuss with post-Soviet Russians theiractual views or to consider the possibility that history does notnecessarily repeat itself. Meanwhile, many Russian policymakersunderestimate or are simply unaware of their neighbors' fears (real orimagined) about the possibility of resurgent Russian nationalism. Thecountries in the region, preoccupied with matters within their own borders,miss important opportunities to grasp the regional security dimensions ofinterethnic rivalries and to profit from comparing experiences.
Concern over this problem prompted the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) toconvene a meeting of prominent decision-makers and political experts fromthe former Soviet Union and eastern Europe to discuss the dangers ofethnonationalism and to generate recommendations for policies that mightavert them. Participants from Bulgaria, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania,Russia, Slovakia, and Serbia gathered in Moscow on January 20 and 21, 1995.Western observers also attended (see the list of participants, appended.)Assistance in the conduct of the meeting was provided by the Center forPolitical Technologies, a Russian nongovernmental policy institute.
The discussion at the meeting was divided into three topics. The first topicwas the phenomenon of ethnonationalism generally and the participatingcountries' experiences with it. To what extent are Russian and East Europeanpolitical leaders conscious of the impact on others of their pronouncementsand behavior concerning ethnic and national issues? Do they accurately"read" the domestic politics of other states on these issues? How cancommunication and understanding be improved? What are the implications ofcontemporary ethnonationalism for regional development and cooperation?
The second topic was the emergence of Russia in a new role in theinternational arena and the ways in which this role is influenced bydomestic politics. What is the spectrum of views within the Russianpolitical establishment concerning ethnonational issues? Do East Europeansfeel threatened by Russian nationalism? What are the grounds for Russia'sfears of being excluded from the potential "club" of West and East Europeannations?
The third topic, taking up the entire second day of the meeting, was therole of the West. What do post-Communist states expect from the West and canthe West live up to these expectations? What does the West expect in return?
The opening remarks were delivered by PER's director, Dr. Allen Kassof, whosaid the purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for an honestand unprejudiced discussion of ethnonationalism in the post-Communist world,a discussion designed to address the lack of communication on the issue ofethnonationalism and its implications for the countries of the region onboth the national and the regional level.
Ties between the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact, Kassofnoted, were officially dissolved with the collapse of Communist rule. Sincethen, the level of political dialogue among these countries has declined asthey concentrated on renegotiating their relationships to the rest of theworld. This lack of communication has allowed false perceptions andmisunderstandings to develop about the intentions of the countries' foreignand domestic policies. In this environment, for instance, Russia is troubledby the pro-western orientations of many of the former Soviet satellites andtheir desire to join NATO. Meanwhile, East Europeans are suspicious of whatthey view as traditional imperial behavior in Russia's relations with nearbystates. East Europeans also fear that Russia will try to block theirintegration into Western economic, political, and security institutions.
Kassof stressed that the problems of ethnonationalism and regional securityare not merely European problems. The United States has a strong interest instability in this region of the world. Continuing wars and tensionscomplicate U.S. domestic politics, particularly when the United States isasked to intervene.
One Western observer stated that he was both pessimistic and optimisticabout these problems. He is a pessimist because of the continuinghostilities between Serbia and Croatia and the continuing violence in Bosniaand Chechnya. On the other hand, he is encouraged by the restraint onethnonationalistic behavior displayed by Russian and Hungarian politicalleaders. Equally important, there is little public support in the countriesof eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union for settling ethnic disputesby force. In fact, it is clear that there is a gap between elected leadersand the masses, a gap seen most recently in attitudes toward the conflict inChechnya. However, the lack of public support should not allow us tounderestimate or dismiss the problem of ethnonationalism.
ETHNONATIONALISM AS A REGIONAL PHENOMENON
The participants agreed that the post-Communist world has accumulated arecord of "missed opportunities" in failing to identify ethnic tensions atan early stage and to prevent them from erupting in mass violence, as in theformer Yugoslavia and in Chechnya.
As several participants noted, the appearance of ethnonationalism since thedismantling of Communism should not have been unexpected. Ethnic feelingsand tensions had been long present in this part of the world, although theCommunist regimes swept them under the rug. But surprising or not,ethnonationalism is nevertheless troublesome because it threatens thestability that could be achieved in a post--cold-war world.
Some participants did point to recent instances in which leaders had beenable to prevent ethnic tensions and nationalistic rhetoric from exacerbatingpotentially explosive situations. Examples were the "velvet divorce" betweenthe Czech Republic and Slovakia; the lack of interstate violence betweenHungary and its neighbors, including those with sizable ethnic Hungarianminorities or long-standing territorial disputes; and the 1994 electoraldefeat of a Hungarian government that claimed to represent all ethnicHungarians living in diaspora. Other positive developments were Poland'simproved relations with Germany, the Baltic states, and Russia, and the factthat the military campaign in Chechnya has not given rise to a wave ofchauvinistic hysteria. This last development is especially important becauseit dispelled the notion of a "red-brown" political union of survivingCommunists and nationalists.
It was agreed by the participants that the ethnonationalism seen today is afunction of a specific stage of European history and therefore must beexamined in its specific historical context. Ethnonationalism, asdistinguished from other forms of nationalism, promotes the economic,historic, or other interests of a particular ethnic group and is closelylinked to geopolitical issues. One participant argued that this linkage canhave a positive effect; for example, ethnonationalism can help delineate thegeographic, political, and cultural space that a nation sees as its own, solong as that does not encroach upon the geopolitical interests of otherstates.
Several participants suggested that another way to look at contemporarynationalism in eastern Europe is to view it as the last stage ofCommunism--i.e., "national Communism." This becomes salient if one exploresthe historic roots of the phenomenon. Many nationalist leaders in the regionare former Communist bosses attempting to defend their past and to salvagetheir power in the new system. Often, ethnonationalism has been used toblock radical economic and social reforms in the post-Communist countries.
Other discussants disagreed with this interpretation, stating thatethnonationalism and communism have overlapping histories, which sharecertain characteristics. Both were born at almost the same historic momentand both constituted social utopias, though their further development can beseen as historic competition.
One participant, an ethnologist, argued that it is misleading to concentratetoo much on the "unique cultural mosaic" of eastern Europe as the reason forthe ubiquity of ethnonationalism in the region. A more likely explanation isthat eastern Europe is that part of the world where ethnonationalism filledthe vacuum of doctrines and forms of collective action that was left by thecollapse of Communism. The segmentation of societies along ethnoculturallines superseded other forms of segmentation. In these countries, communismnurtured ethnonationalism. However, under totalitarian rule, ethnicsentiments tended to be reduced to declarative "rights of nations," whichhad no effect on political life. With the disappearance of Communistgovernments, ethnicity acquired a new, much more salient role in politics.
One East European participant objected, stating that the notion of a"post-Communist vacuum" did not accurately describe the situation. There wasa much stronger vacuum under Communism by virtue of the restrictions onfreedom of thought and the absence of democratic rights. Throughout theformer Soviet camp and especially in East European countries, there were fewtrue believers in communism. By contrast, the region today is experiencingwhat could well be described as a "chaos of ideas." While there waswidespread agreement that democracy was the only acceptable form ofpolitical rule, the actual practices and content of democracy varied and didnot necessarily resemble the practices and content of democracy asunderstood in the West. Until a consensus on the nature of the democraticorder was reached, there would continue to be disagreement about politicalfundamentals, and different interpretations of democracy would be incompetition, with potentially destabilizing effects. In this situation,ethnic loyalty could be a source of stability.
This opinion was supported by a Russian participant, who stressed that whilethe link between ethnonationalism and Communism was obvious, it was moreimportant to understand the function of ethnonationalism in thepost-Communist countries. Since 1991, not only the power institutions butthe whole structure of Russian society has collapsed. In this condition offragmentation, there are no institutionalized interest groups, andethnonationalism serves as a means of consolidating society, of formingrelationships between the individual, the community, and political power.
A Western observer emphasized the importance of the distinction betweencivic and ethnic identity. Ethnonationalism is not limited to thepost-Communist nations; it is also a Western phenomenon, as seen in Ireland,Spain, and the extreme right in France. However, in Western countries ethnicidentity is balanced with a kind of "civic nationalism," and citizenshiprather than ethnicity is the underlying principle of the state. Nowadays,when the West looks at eastern Europe, it perceives the perils ofethnonationalism as the outcome of the policy of "demonizing others." Ethnicgroups in eastern Europe will come to terms with one another only if civicidentities are developed to counterbalance ethnic delineation. Thedevelopment of civic identities will come, in turn, with the progress ofdemocratization in these countries.
Indeed, ethnonationalism, many discussants agreed, was not an accurate term.Any form of nationalism can contain an ethnic component. For example, thereferendums on the Maastricht agreements revealed nationalistic feelings ina number of West European countries, though they were of a different,predominantly economic character. In eastern Europe, ethnic nationalismserves the general public as a moral compensation for economic backwardness,but political elites use it in power struggles, taking the political notionof "nation" to an extreme in order to secure their power. In other words,they use ethnonationalism as a way of mobilizing support and to establishabsolute values of right and wrong, and as a result minorities and minorityviews are easily marginalized and suppressed. The long-term resolution ofthe problem of ethnonationalism thus depends on the progress made by EastEuropean countries in three related areas: modernization, democratization,and the promotion of civic identities.
In democracies, the legitimization of statehood is much more complicatedthan in other polities because it requires citizenship rather than ethnicityto act as the unifying force. From this perspective, the Chechnya crisis wasan example of the failure to promote civic national identities in theRussian Federation, because the Chechens had not developed a sense ofloyalty toward Russia.
One participant argued that a reliance on ethnonational politics could leadeither to further ethnic disintegration or to ethnic reintegration, both ofwhich pose dangers to European security. In the former case, minorities inthe newly born states could attempt to secede; in the latter case, leaderscould pursue policies aimed at the reunification of ethnic groups scatteredacross several states.
Another participant pointed to the process of disintegration that has beenmanifested in the Chechnya conflict. This conflict underscores the absenceof a unifying ideology of Russian citizenship, which could have maintainedthe stability and tranquillity of the Russian state. Its absence allowed theChechen leader, Dzhokar Dudaev, to use ethnonationalism as a rallying cryagainst an external threat, Russia, when his authority was being challengedinside the republic. This spontaneous mobilization of society onethnonational grounds helped Dudaev dissolve the parliament and the SupremeProvisional Council, to oust opposition figures in the government, and toestablish dictatorial power.
To minimize the dangers brought about by the cognitive association ofstatehood with ethnicity, another participant added, it would be necessaryto use such forms of political leverage as cultural autonomy, the creationof ethnically mixed territorial units, and adjustments in electoral andlegislative systems to assure proper political representation of minorities.It would also be important to develop new flexible forms of associationbetween the central government and subsidiary units.
The participants concluded that in struggles for self-determination, thetest of the viability of a new entity based upon ethnic mobilization iswhether it is able to maintain its stability. This criterion is one of thefactors distinguishing Russia from Yugoslavia. In the Russian case, entitieslike Chechnya would not be stable even if they had successfully seceded.
There was also agreement that the dissolution of Communism in eastern Europeand the former Soviet Union marked the beginning of a new phase of history.The world is currently in a state of transition, a time when the principlesof the twenty-first century are being shaped. The oldprinciples--Enlightenment rationalism, the market, democracy and theconsequent destruction of traditional communities and solidarities --arebeing reappraised and, with the rise of globalization, they are having animpact throughout the world. Extreme caution is needed in implanting thesevalues, particularly in the third world, for there is a risk that thepromotion of these principles might well result in an explosion of newethnonational conflicts.
The new world has created new challenges, including increased geopoliticalcompetition, the increased saliency of the ethnic dimension, and newtensions in "center-periphery" relations--i.e., the domination of weakereconomies by stronger ones and the imposition of alien values by the latteron the former. This inevitably creates resentment, and it can brinng onresponses ranging from instability to massive upheaval. The challenge is tofind an appropriate counterbalance to ethnonationalism. Hope for the regionlies in the pursuit of the ideal of a cultural pluralism that is to beprotected and respected by the state. This would require the"de-statization" of ethnicity and the "de-ethnicization" of statehood, or,in other words, decoupling the concept of the state from that of the ethniccommunity and a corresponding decline of the idea that the end-goal of everyethnic community must be independent statehood. Achievement of this idealwould eliminate fears and obsessions about "divided nations"--i.e.,countries (e.g., Romania, Hungary, and Russia) that have ethnically similarpopulations spread across international borders.
Cultural pluralism would also require a reexamination and redefinition ofthe term "minorities" as it is applied in eastern Europe and the formerSoviet Union. Minorities in this region differ from those in North America,which have their origins in immigration. In contrast, most Europeans ethniccommunities are groups of people living in their historical territories.Also, there needs to be a shift away from traditional definitions of theterm that focus upon their relatively small proportions in the population.Instead, a country's minorities should be thought of as equal communities orpartner groups. No ethnic community should aim for the status of a titularnation or nationality, since this almost invariably leads to other ethnicgroups being placed in an inferior position.
Overall, the participants agreed that recent experiences with ethnonationalpolitics have shown that there is no easy or uniform way to deal with itsperils. Success has most often resulted from a series of trade-offs andself-restraints. The critical element is a change in political behavior,such that high-level politicians make decisions consciously aimed atavoiding worst-case scenarios. As one participant put it, the goal is tobreed "mental antibodies" that would prevent politicians from makingimprudent decisions. Such antibodies might create reflexes that would nothave to depend on politicians' capacity for rational decision making.
RUSSIA IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER
The discussion at this session focused on the military operation inChechnya. The participants felt that it was important to determine whetherthe conflict there should be perceived as an isolated case or represented amore general pattern of dangers posed by ethnonationalism. The moderator ofthe session, Dr. Alexei Salmin, said that it was impossible to extractuniversally applicable lessons from the war in Chechnya. Although theoperation may give many insights into Russian politics, he added, it is nota defining instance of ethnonational politics, nor does it provide a broadunderstanding of the nature of the Russian state.
A discussion then began about the Russian state since 1991, in an attempt toevaluate the country's progress on the road to democracy. One Russianparticipant argued that, unlike the case in other post-Communist countries,nationalism did not play a significant role in the dismantling of Communismin Russia. For the first time in modern history, the Russian state was nowneither an imperial state, as the tsarist empire had been, nor a utopiansupranational experiment like the Soviet Union. Democratic and nationalistpolitical trends were oriented differently, and Russian nationalists foundthemselves on the periphery of the emerging political establishment. Whilemany other countries were suffering from excesses of nationalism, Russia didnot have it available as a rallying point, and that hampered the process ofdetermining the new state's raison d'etre.
Several Russian participants pointed out that much had been accomplished inthe state-building process in the past year, especially with the creation ofthe 1993 constitution, which proclaimed the "self-determination of theRussian Federation on behalf of its multiethnic population as the possessorof sovereignty and the sole source of power in the state."
However, the Russian participants acknowledged, the situation remainscomplicated. While centripetal trends tend to override ethnic separatism inmost parts of the country, the war in Chechnya demonstrates that centrifugalforces have not been vanquished and can gain strength when nationalinterests and priorities are not well defined.
In Chechnya, Russia began the military operation without a clear vision ofthe desired outcomes, either short-term or long-term, and without acomprehensive and directed strategy for achieving its goals. According toone Russian participant, politicians in Moscow failed from the outset torecognize the fact that Soviet-style federalism was not a sharing of powerbetween the center and its territorial units, but rather a number ofethnically based entities subordinated to a totalitarian center. In theyears following the collapse of the USSR, politicians pursued divergent andincompatible goals. On the one hand, the federal center tried to bargain forequal relations with all members of the federation, Russian and non-Russianalike. On the other hand, the federal government was trying to accommodatethe demands of ethnic leaders for greater autonomy from the capital. Thereis as yet no solution to the problem of federalism in Russia.
To prevent further crises of federalism, other Russian participants noted,certain policy measures may be needed. One requirement is the elaboration ofmodels of relations between Moscow and members of the federation. Withinsuch a framework, special provisions could be made for particular ethnicsituations, such as in Tatarstan. Additional mechanisms should be developedfor collaboration with Russia's various ethnic groups. For example,associations of ethnic minorities are emerging throughout the country. Theseassociations could become the government's partners in implementingarrangements for cultural autonomy; today, however, the legal status of suchassociations is not distinguished from that of any other privateassociations, and that does not allow them to perform such a role.
Several participants agreed that the best guarantee of Russia'snon-aggressive character is the completion of state-building on seculardemocratic principles. The federal treaty signed by the constituent membersof the Russian Federation in 1992 signified the beginning of that process.From this perspective, the events in Chechnya should be seen not as anethnic crisis but as an effort to consolidate Russian statehood, toeliminate the last "black hole"--an illegal entry port and a place wherefederal laws are disregarded and meaningless. Thus, the military solution tothe problem of Chechnya can be interpreted as a sign of the weakness of theRussian state rather than as an illustration of the strength of the Moscowgovernment.
One Russian participant warned that Russia has inherited the images formerlyattached to the Soviet Union, such as superpower and leader of a strategicbloc. With the reimposition of such characterizations during the fragileperiod of state identity-formation, there is the danger that Russia willadopt these as self-definitions. Most dangerous is the belief that strengthis of primary importance, since the strong have gained the most from thecollapse of the Soviet Union.
There are also several issues that will probably prompt Russia to develop amore assertive policy toward the outside world. With the dissolution of theSoviet Union, some twenty-five million ethnic Russians found themselvesoutside of the Russian Federation. Russia may find it necessary to assistthese people either in obtaining Russian citizenship, if desired, or inprotecting their human rights in the countries where they live. This problemhas to be resolved in bilateral negotiations with the other members of theConfederation of Independent States (CIS). Russian policy will also beaffected by the implementation and enforcement of the CIS Convention onMinorities.
There is also the need for Russia to safeguard its boundaries and to gaintighter control over its natural resources. The lack of a proper immigrationand customs system has led to illegal exports from Russia. For example, thesmuggling of Russian nonferrous metals over the Estonian border has made thelatter country one of the world's biggest exporters of such commodities,even though it neither extracts or processes these metals on its territory.
Another Russian participant made a case for the uniqueness of the Russianexperience. Russia was not a state like any other, he said, but ageopolitical entity, a bridge between nations. It had never conqueredpeoples, but it had "collected" them at their own request. Furthermore,Russia had an inherent cohesiveness that would prevent it fromdisintegration. The experience of Russia in dealing with its ownmultinational nature would help it in stabilizing central and easternEurope.
THE PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA
Some Russian participants stated that perceptions die hard in Russia, andthey continue to affect the decision-making process. It has taken a longtime for the idea of public opinion and leadership built upon a consensus totake hold in Russia. Since the late 1980s, the democrats in Russia havetended to associate nationalist movements among minorities with democracy.The taking up of arms by people was perceived to be part of anantitotalitarian struggle for self-determination. Even the negativeexperiences of Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia, where armed populationsdeveloped into quasi-regular armies that seized and retained externalterritories and expelled "ethnic aliens," did not teach Moscow democrats alesson. They failed to reconsider this perception until the crisis inChechnya forced them to do so.
One of the Russian participants stressed that the Russian public has madetremendous progress in acquiring Western values in recent years. Westernattitudes regarding individualism, respect for private property, andacceptance of new types of occupations are spreading, demonstrating thecontinued growth of civil society in Russia. Nevertheless, sociologists haverecently observed that democratic parties are losing their influence andthat many people now believe that democratic values, such as human rightsand a free press, are antagonistic to their economic interests, which theyassociate with a more paternalistic state. One could even argue thatanti-Western and antidemocratic sentiments are on the rise. This "backlash"can be understood if one remembers that for a year or so after the abortivecoup of 1991, society was euphoric about the ideas of freedom and democracy.Consequent developments, disappointments, and difficulties led to theevaporation of many expectations. Current public opinion and attitudesshould be perceived as normal and expected and not as a return to xenophobiaand hostility to democracy.
The East European participants expressed a fear that Russia may neverthelessadopt a hard line toward many of its problems. In response, one of theRussian participants noted that public-opinion surveys indicate that theRussian public would not support such a stance. A hard line would requirethat hard-liners come to power, either by direct interception or byelectoral victory, and they might then use the mass media to aggravate theinferiority complexes that are present in transitional societies. Under suchcircumstances, ethnonationalism could be elevated to the status of a publicpolicy.
However, such an outcome is unlikely, according to the counterargument madeby another Russian participant. The threat of another coup is minor, becausethe operation in Chechnya proved to be a disaster for the "hawks." Also, thebehavior of the top government figures at later stages of the crisisindicates that the influence of hard-liners in the Kremlin is declining. Asfar as elections are concerned, the democratic forces still have elevenmonths in which to formulate their strategy. Instead, the greatest threatscome from (a) the alienation of Russian society and of the independent massmedia from the government, and (b) the disagreement between the currentregime and its democratic supporters over the Chechnya issue.
Yet another view was put forth by a participant who stated that the crisisin Chechnya involves not only Chechen nationalism but also Russiannationalism. The operation was closely connected with Russia's strategicgeopolitical interests--i.e., its external boundaries and challenges to itsintegrity. There were fears that if Russia embarked on an intervention, aprecedent would be set that could be repeated elsewhere. The eruption of thewar in Chechnya prompted many outside observers to ask, "Who is givingorders in this young democracy?" The course of the conflict demonstrated thelack of civilian control over the military and the underdevelopment of civilsociety in Russia.
The war in Chechnya causes concern about the future of democracy in Russia,said one Western observer, because the decision to intervene ran counter tothe logic of democratic development on several grounds. First, theintervention did not rely on any sizable public support, signifying that thegovernment chose to pursue an unpopular line of action. Even in a divideddemocracy, governments normally seek support from at least one large segmentof public opinion before undertaking any major political action. Second, thewar has proved to be extremely costly, further aggravating economicanxieties--a precarious situation for a government facing upcomingelections. Third, the war will seriously damage Russia's foreign-policyinterests in the Middle East and in the Islamic world. Similarly, theconflict will damage relations with East European countries by fortifyingtheir attempts to get into the NATO alliance, something Russia considers tobe contrary to its interests. Fourth, the war exacerbated the divisionsamong the democratic forces in Russia, thus reducing the chances for thematuration of democracy. The question then arises, Why was the decision madeto intervene? The push appears to have come from the old guard in theRussian leadership. Whoever convinced President Yeltsin to move troops intoChechnya must have used the arguments of nationalism and patriotism.However, these leaders pressured their commander-in-chief to commit aserious error.
One important question pertaining to Chechnya, raised by a Russianparticipant, is the proverbial one of who benefits. The military operationin Chechnya coincided with the growth of authoritarian elements in Russianpolitics. It has led to the strengthening of Russia's "imperial" identity asa tool of state-building, while the needs of economic recovery pull it inthe opposite direction, toward a closer rapprochement with the West. Such atension is not in the Russian democrats' interest and is in fact, harmful totheir position inside the country. The potential long-term stabilizingfactor in Russia's relationship with the West, as well as with central andeastern Europe, is that Russia is run democratically. Democracy, oneparticipant asserted, is incompatible with imperial ambitions--hence theconcern over the implications of Chechnya and the ambiguity of Russia'scurrent policies.
Another Russian participant, in an attempt to assess the impact of thecrisis in Chechnya on Russia's ties with the outside world, argued thatChechnya should not be presumed to be a precedent. In contrast toAnglo-Saxon common law, where precedents set rules for the future, theevents in Chechnya do not drastically change Russia's relations with herneighbors, even within the CIS. Instead, Chechnya demonstrated that Russianauthorities can no longer manipulate society according to an authoritarianmodel, if only because the governmental institutions are too weak. An EastEuropean participant agreed that we should not overestimate the effectChechnya has had; it is not, after all, a global conflict. However, it canbe seen as a test case from which lessons have already emerged. Theoperation in Chechnya clearly illustrates that Russia will defend itsterritorial boundaries. Russia even breached the framework of Europeansecurity arrangements by moving masses of troops unilaterally--i.e., withoutgiving required warnings--in the southern flank of the zone embraced bysecurity regulations. The international community, though critical of theoperation's methods, nevertheless supported Russia's right to safeguard itsterritorial integrity. Thus, Russia successfully tested the limits of thereaction of both domestic and external actors to such an action.
Other participants expressed the belief that, although Russia's involvementin Chechnya may not set a precedent, Russia may nevertheless now find itmuch easier to intervene throughout the CIS, especially when its proclaimedpurpose is to protect ethnic Russians. While Chechnya was the first case inwhich Russia used military force in a conflict on its own territory, it hasalready applied it several times in similar situations elsewhere in theformer USSR--in Moldova, Georgia, and Tajikistan. The idea that Chechnya isa special case, as claimed by Moscow politicians and commentators, ismisleading, because by such logic, any ethnic conflict or secessionist trendmay be interpreted as a special case.
Yet, although the crisis in Chechnya may be protracted, it does notconstitute a critical threat to the state-building process in Russia. Theeffect will be felt most strongly in the efforts to promote integrationwithin the CIS and in Russia's policy of protecting co-ethnics abroad.Unfortunately, an opportunity was lost to use Chechnya as a positive modelof closer interaction between Russia and its non-Slavic neighbors. Instead,it may lead to increased ethnonational tensions in other Russian republicsof the North Caucasus region and to the emergence of alliances among ethnicentities against the federal center. It is notable, for instance, thatDudaev's regime has established ties with other trouble spots in the formerUSSR, such as Transdniester and Abkhazia, and with supporters of the oustedGeorgian president Zviad Gamsakhurdia. These ties are being developed inopposition to the governments of the respective states of the region and aretherefore perceived as a threat to stability and integration. Furthermore,they may contribute to ethnonational tensions when anti-state attitudescorrespond to ethnic cleavages in the area.
An East European participant pointed out that the Chechnya case was alsoimportant because it reflected the mentality of the Russian military. Itsimpact on Russian politics would not directly affect relations betweenRussia and eastern Europe, but it is still relevant because it will affectthe East Europeans' perception of Russia.
Overall, the significance of the Chechnya case was far from clear, accordingto one Western observer. One should remember that during the transitionprocess, Russia is departing not only from a totalitarian model but alsofrom an empire model. Such changes do not take place automatically just bychanging the name of the state from the Soviet Union to the RussianFederation.
Several Russians stressed that the process of decolonization is not yetcomplete. The present federation embraces many ethnic areas seized by theRussian empire, areas which are at very different levels of development andwhich are not equally prepared for moving into a liberal, democratic,free-market society. Models of relations between the former metropoliscapital and the region still need to be developed, and that will inevitablyinvolve the legacy of "the white man's burden"--the paternalistic attitudesof yesterday's colonizers.
One Russian observed that the ultimate goal of ethnonationalism, amonoethnic state, is a counterproductive doctrine. The emergence of newstates out of the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and the breakup ofCzechoslovakia were based upon this doctrine. In none of these cases haveethnic rivalries been solved. The departure of ethnic Russians from Chechnyaafter Dudaev's ascent to power only aggravated the situation; Russians inChechnya used to constitute a considerable portion of the educated stratumand of the middle class, both of which tended to moderate the conflictsamong Chechen clans and other groups. Having become more homogeneous,Chechen society was left to deal with these struggles and cleavages withoutany experience in conflict resolution.
It was noted, incidentally, that the secession of Chechnya from Russia wouldnot resolve the Chechen problem, because about half of all ethnic Chechenswould then find themselves "abroad"--i.e., outside their ethnic homeland. Inother words, the presence of Russians in Chechnya is paralleled by theChechens outside it. This is, of course, a widespread problem throughout theformer Soviet Union.
Another factor that dims the prospects of a negotiated settlement betweenMoscow and Chechnya is the legacy of Soviet values, which fosteredintolerance and encouraged harsh criticism of others and self. A Russianparticipant pointed out that one Chechen member of Dudaev's negotiating teamat the talks in Vladikavkaz said scornfully that he was in a "revolutionarymood, because that's what they taught us to be for seventy years."
RUSSIA, EASTERN EUROPE, AND THE WEST
The final session of the meeting, moderated by Professor George Schopflin ofthe University of London, concentrated on the relations between the nationsof the former Communist bloc and the nations of the West.
One of the major problems in dealing with ethnonationalism in eastern andcentral Europe, said a Western observer, is that the international communityfailed to develop appropriate intergovernmental institutions to use as atool for the amelioration of ethnic tensions. However, the recenttransformation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe intoa more institutionalized organization indicates the willingness of its morethan fifty member states to create an international mechanism for themediation of conflicts, perhaps including those between ethnic groups.
The crisis in Chechnya signifies the end of the age of new statehoods.Doubts about the universal applicability of the principle ofself-determination have grown as the situation in the former Yugoslavia hasdeteriorated, but the conflict in Chechnya may precipitate a definitiveshift in the attitude of the international community toward this issue.
One of the participants argued that Germany's reserved reaction to Russianactions in Chechnya is probably explained by the subconscious remorse thatGerman politicians feel because of their role in leading the West's hastyrecognition of Croatian independence. It was that recognition that triggeredthe subsequent violent conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
The experience of imposing sanctions against Serbia, added anotherparticipant, teaches an important lesson: Sanctions tend to becounterproductive, because they play into the hands of the mostisolationist, xenophobic, and authoritarian forces inside the country. Theyalso worsen the economic situation in the country, undermining primarily thealready weak middle class, which would otherwise exert its influence in thedirection of political moderation. The Yugoslav experience has shown us theneed to be cautious before we consider punitive measures for Russia'smisbehavior in Chechnya.
Several Russian participants stated that it would be a mistake for Westerndecision-makers to unequivocally identify Russia and President Yeltsin withthe policies in Chechnya. It is important to remember that in the balancebetween democrats and hard-liners, the former are still stronger, thoughtheir advantage is diminishing. Isolationist tendencies inside Russia wouldonly be exacerbated by excluding Russia from Europe as "punishment" for itsactions in Chechnya. Similarly, it would be unwise to allow displeasure overChechnya to lead to a breakdown in negotiations for a loan from theInternational Monetary Fund. The role of the international community shouldbe to advise, to stabilize, and to ask skeptical questions, in the hope ofinfluencing Russian politics.
One participant observed that the readiness of the international communityto welcome secessions under the banner of ethnic self-determination hasvanished with the growth of a sorrowful record of wars and "ethniccleansing." This is important for those groups that are struggling forseparation from multiethnic states. Instead, they should be helped to find away to coexist within the borders of their current states. An Americanobserver also warned that when minority ethnic groups turn to theinternational community for assistance, they should not have unrealisticexpectations about the scope and willingness of the West to become involved.Rather, they should rely on their own political resources and skills innegotiation with their neighbors.
While a number of East European countries have explicitly stated theirdesire to join NATO and Russia has voiced its opposition to the alliance'sexpansion eastward, both Russian and East European participants noted thatthere has been little direct exchange on the subject. This lack ofcommunication is significant, especially in light of the conflict inChechnya, which will strengthen the East Europeans' desire to join NATO.
An East European participant argued that when Russia describes itself as agreat power, it should realize that it cannot occupy the same role that theUSSR played in the region. At the very least, Russia does not have theeconomic capacity to do so. Today, most of the political means available toRussia are passive: It can block a process but cannot initiate or promoteone. Nor has Russia yet developed a comprehensive concept of its interestsin central and eastern Europe. This will become essential once Russia joinsthe Council of Europe. Russia will need to engage in a meaningful dialoguewith the other "club members," who will want to know Russia's aspirationsand demands.
A Russian participant defined the security dilemma Europe is now facing: IfNATO does not expand, the old divide between East and West will persist,upsetting the East Europeans; yet if several East European countries joinNATO, a new divide will emerge, discomfiting Russia, which will perceiveNATO as a hostile alliance approaching its borders. There is a real fear insome circles in Russia of a renewed "bloc mentality" and the revival ofstereotypes that would exclude Russia from Europe. If this is combined withthe pauperization of Russia and the consequent rise of extremism, theoutlook would be very grim.
In view of these concerns, it would be important to take a step-by-stepapproach to the construction of a new system of European security. The firststep should allow the expansion of NATO to be counterbalanced by thepolitical integration of Russia into Europe. Otherwise, security problemsand concerns will continue to accumulate. The dialogue between Moscow andthe central and East Europeans is crucial in this connection. Its absence isa source of concern to the latter because it creates the semblance of theold Warsaw Pact type of relationship.
Another participant reiterated eastern Europe's suspicion about Russianintentions in the region as the motivation for membership in NATO. Yet thisalliance is gradually being transformed from a military bloc into a securityorganization, and in that context compromise should be sought betweenRussia's concerns and East European membership. Inclusion of new EastEuropean members in NATO is an inevitable and positive process, added awestern observer, but it must be based on the premise of the inadmissibilityof a new division in Europe.
The principal role of NATO is to provide a security umbrella for all itsmembers, but this role should not overshadow the need for complementaryarrangements that would promote the economic security that underpinspolitical stability. It should be in the interests of all the prospectiveNATO members to involve the East European countries in pan-Europeanprocesses. For example, Hungary, a primary candidate for membership in NATO,should institute parallel security arrangements with Romania, thus helpingto bring the latter into the European system of common security.
Other concerns pertaining to the future of NATO were also voiced by a numberof participants. The expansion of the alliance will involve various sets ofcompeting and conflicting interests. In terms of security issues, it willrequire the unification of the weapons systems of the member countries, anissue closely linked to the arms trade. Such issues are of great interestnot only to the American military industry, but also to the strugglingRussian military-industrial complex. In terms of economics and trade,Russian industrialists will try to retain their traditional East Europeanmarkets while eastern Europe will orient itself toward Western markets.
A participant from Bulgaria noted that the expansion of NATO provides ahistoric chance to build a new, undivided Europe. However, the interests ofall parties should be taken into account. In the Balkan region, changes inthe configuration of European security priorities have led to a massivedeployment of troops and arms, yet this buildup has not been accompanied byany security guarantees from the actors in the conflict. A dialogue on thepolitical future of the Balkan sub-region is essential, because any furthershift in the balance of power may precipitate large-scale conflict.Hypothetically, for example, if Kosovo proclaimed its independence, therewould be repercussions from Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Greece.
THE NEED FOR DIALOGUE
Several East European participants stressed that there needs to be a normaldialogue between themselves and their Russian colleagues. They need to knowwhat Russia wants and, in return, they must recognize that Russia'sintegration into the West is necessary in order for it to throw off feelingsof isolation. Above all, they need to recognize that a strong Russia isbetter than a weak one.
The differences in historic backgrounds between Russia and eastern Europecomplicate the process of the peaceful settlement of disputes and theidentification of the interests of each country following the dissolution ofthe Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON),affirmed one East European. These differences have interfered with thepolitical dialogue among the former member countries of these organizations.In the case of Hungary, for example, the new leaders tended to look westwardrather than retain their ties with Russia. However, these relations must berebuilt on the new foundations of equality and a free-market economy. Newmeaningful forms of cooperation should be found. While eastern Europe is notinclined toward reintegration with Russia, it would be in the interest ofeach country to explore possible opportunities of trade and economiccooperation. To utilize these opportunities, Russia and eastern Europeshould seriously try to restore a high-level political dialogue. Thesubstantive topics of such a dialogue should include the expansion of NATOand avenues for Russia's rapprochement with Europe.
Most of the participants agreed that the meeting constituted an importantstep in promoting dialogue between Russia and eastern and central Europe.Frank conversations on outstanding issues would influence officialdiscourse, since the participants will report the discussions todecision-makers in their respective countries. This means that such meetingscan have a practical effect on policy-making, rather than being merelyoccasions for theoretical deliberations or social interaction.
It was suggested that future cooperation should be pursued on a variety oftransnational problems. Potential areas include: (a) preservation of thetreaty on nonproliferation of nuclear weapons; (b) environmental issues; (c)strategic arms control; and (d) economic development.
As a means of follow-up to this meeting, a two-tier approach was suggested.First, the flow of information among the involved parties should beincreased. Second, future meetings should be planned, perhaps with broadenedparticipation.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Vassil Donchev, Member of Parliament, XXI Century Foundation Center forStrategic Business and Political Studies
Alexander Tomov, Member of Parliament, president, XXI Century FoundationCenter for Strategic Business and Political Studies
Csaba Tabajdi, State Secretary, Prime Minister's Office (Minority Affairs)
Istvan Ijgyarto, Head of Dept of Political Analysis, Government office forHungarians Abroad
Vladimir Solinari, Member of parliament, president, Committee on humanrights and national minorities
Andrzej Potocki, Member of parliament, chair, Parliamentary caucus of theFreedom Union
Ioan Mircea Pascu, Secretary of State, Ministry of Defense
Adrian Severin, Vice-Chairman, Democratic Party of Romania, member ofparliament
Khasbikar Bokov, Deputy Minister for Nationalities and Regional Policy
Igor Bunin, General Director, Center for Political Technologies
Valery Chibisenkov, Head of Department of External Relations, Ministry ofNationalities
Leokadia Drobizheva, Head of Department, Institute of Ethnology andAnthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Vladimir Kolosov, Director, Center for European Geopolitical Studies,Institute of Geography
Sergey Mndoyants, General Director, Foundation for Development ofParliamentarism in Russia
Emil Payn, Member of the Presidential Advisory Council, head of group onnational relations, Analytic Center under the Presidency of the RF
Alexei Salmin, Member of the Presidential Advisory Council, director of theRussian Public Policy Center
Igor Soudarev, Senior Councellor, Department of International Problems ofthe Federation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Valery Tishkov, Director, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RussianAcademy of Sciences
Mark Urnov, Director, Analytic Center under the Presidency of the RF
Milan Zemko, Director, Department for Domestic Affairs, office of thePresident
George Shopflin, Department of Government, University of London
Charles Gati, Senior Vice President, Interinvest, fellow, John HopkinsUniversity - Foreign Policy Institute
Katherine Penchuk, American International Group, Country Representative inRussia
Milos Macura, member, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Project on Ethnic Relations
Allen Kassof, Director
Livia Plaks, Associate Director
Boris Makarenko, Representative in Moscow
Larry Watts, Senior Consultant, Representative in Bucharest