Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Putin's Rage

Some interesting quotes in the Putin strikes back at Western critics story by Susan B. Glasser in the WaPo. Emphasis added.

President Vladimir Putin angrily condemned critics in the West for pushing him to negotiate with Chechen separatists, saying former Cold War rivals were unreliable partners in the war on terrorism and failed to understand that the carnage at a Russian school last week was the work of "child killers" just as bad as Osama bin Laden.

"Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House, engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?" Putin said to a group of Western academics and journalists late Monday night. "You find it possible to set some limits in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child killers?"

At a time when his government has come under intense criticism in Russia for its failure to prevent the blood bath in the town of Beslan, Putin rejected commissioning an independent inquiry akin to the Sept. 11 commission in the United States and castigated Western journalists for calling the hostage takers rebels rather than terrorists.

He also said surveillance tapes from inside the school had picked up a conversation in which one hostage taker bragged over his walkie-talkie about executing children during the siege. "One asks, 'What's happening? I hear noise,' and the other says, 'It's okay, I'm in the middle of shooting some kids. There's nothing to do.' They were bored, so they shot kids," Putin said, according to detailed notes taken by former CNN Moscow bureau chief Eileen O'Connor. "What kind of freedom fighters are these?"


Putin has blamed the siege on international Islamic terrorists -- his government claims 10 out of 35 attackers were Arabs -- and he used his unusual, nearly four-hour session with the Westerners Monday night to complain about what he described as a double standard being applied to Russia. "If these people come to power in Chechnya," he warned, "they'll come to power in your country."

He stopped short of directly accusing the United States or its allies of sponsoring terrorism here and praised President Bush as a "predictable and reliable partner." But he argued that other Western officials hoped to undermine Russia and were willing to use whatever tools available to do so.

The United States officially maintains that Russia should find a political solution to end the Chechen war, but does not push hard for that goal. European governments have been more vocal in promoting talks as the only way to end the war.

"It's a replay of the mentality of the Cold War," Putin said of Western critics. "Certain people want Russia focused on its internal problems. They pull the strings so that Russia won't raise its head." At that, O'Connor said, he gestured with his hands to indicate strings being pulled. "I've seen it with my own eyes. We're seeing partners in the anti-terror coalition having a difficult dilemma. They might want to pull the strings without transgressing the point at which it goes against their own interests."


"The mentality of the Cold War is still alive," said Vladimir Vasiliev, chairman of the security committee in parliament. "When the cruelest bandits who committed this awful crime are called fighters for liberty by newspapers in the West, this feeds the mentality of the Cold War. Terrorists were sent here and certain tasks were set for them here," he said in an interview, refusing to specify who he believed sponsored them. "The idea was to make Russia weaker."