Anatol Lieven's commentary "A Western strategy for Chechnya," (Views, Sept. 9) makes a sharp and convincing argument that the "moralizing talk" about the Chechen war is worthless in the absence of a consistent strategy aimed at resolving this protracted catastrophe. However, Lieven's proposals, far-reaching as they are, fail to acknowledge that a strategy for Chechnya could only be a part of a broader Western strategy for Russia. . Only Russia has the responsibility and the resources necessary for the reconstruction of this devastated land and rehabilitation of its traumatized society. But Russia cannot commit itself to a peaceful program for Chechnya, which includes the possibility of independence, without first setting its own house in order. The present-day Russia, with its unaccountable and all-penetrating security services that are involved more in seizing control over valuable economic assets than in fighting terrorism, would never be able "to take much stronger action against abuses by the military," as Lieven suggests. . President Vladimir Putin cannot deviate from his tough line toward Chechnya - he has become a hostage of his over-reliance on special services and indeed a "prisoner of the Caucasus." . The West can - and should - design an engagement strategy for Russia, with cooperative initiatives inspired by the vision of a democratizing and modernizing state; but that is obviously not Putin's Russia.
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