Ten years ago, Russia was slowly slipping into a quagmire, which seemed shallow at the time but proved to be a bottomless "black hole." Seeking to cover one miscalculation with another blunder, the Kremlin applied increasingly blunt force to the rebellious and conflict-ridden republic of Chechnya. Then on December 11, 1994, three armored columns moved into the territory. A large body of evidence has been presented in recent years to show that political decision-making was driven by petty intrigue and that planning was limited to a "show-of-force"-type operation (Polit.ru, 26, November 26, 29; December 1, 3, 6, 8). The bloody assault on Grozny on the eve of 1995 shocked the country and revealed the depth of its army's degradation. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, with his keen political instinct, sensed a no-win situation, and only his re-election in mid-1996 decided to cut his losses. The peace treaty that he signed with President Aslan Maskhadov in May 1997 marked an opportunity for Chechnya to establish its statehood and for Russia to stabilize its southern underbelly. Instead, Chechnya sunk into violent lawlessness and Russia pretended that this failure was none of its business.
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