Cultural Revolutions

"Power Ministers"

Vladimir Putin adopted his usual serious demeanor during an October 8 meeting with his "power ministers," the men who head Russian defense and security agencies. The ex-KGB operative grimly noted that the U.S. losses in the September 11 terrorist attacks were "colossal," more than twice that of (official) Russian casualties in the Chechen war. Putin then switched gears: Looking directly into the TV camera, he stated that Russia would stand by her "partners" in the international "antiterrorist coalition" Washington was assembling—but only so far. Only "humanitarian aid" for the suffering Afghans would be allowed to cross Russian airspace. Moreover, Russia would not directly take part in any combat operations in Afghanistan. Otherwise, Moscow would cooperate, offering the coalition what intelligence the Russian "special services" could offer on the Taliban and the situation in Central Asia. Putin thus summed up Russia's position on operation "Enduring Freedom," including, by implication, what Moscow wants from the West in return for the use of Russian airspace and an American presence (temporarily, the Kremlin hopes) in Central Asia.

First, by linking the September 11 attacks to Russia's war in Chechnya, Putin was emphasizing that Moscow wants a free hand in crushing the Chechen separatists, some of whom likely have ties to the Taliban and "terrorist...

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