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Christopher Jones and Cameron Sawyer disagree and agree: They disagree on Putin. Replying to my questioning, Christopher says: "If Putin is not an outright war criminal, he is very close to one. The percentage of the Chechen people exterminated in two wars: the first one under Yeltsin (brought to an end by Gen Lebed) and later the second war under Putin is beyond belief -- I will endeavour to find the André Glucksman interview, which includes numbers for a posting. I do not see any real difference between these two Russians and say Slobodan Miloseviç who is , as we all know on trial in Den Haag. But I am convinced that Putin's dictatorship will serve us a fearful surprise one day. There is already talk that the next target for Chechen terrorists could be a nuclear reactor, located near Moscow -- a prospect that should put shivers into all of us. Just like George W, Bush, Putin and Yeltsin never learned that you cannot solve a political, economic or social problem with military means. Russia is no democracy -- it is a cleptocracy".

Cameron Sawyer, an American lawyer/businessman in Moscow, replies: "Putin is not a "bloody monster". cksman He has plenty of faults, a tasteless and weird sense of humor being only one of the minor ones, but overall is the best and most effective leader Russia has had since Catherine the Great (perhaps not saying much, but still). Thanks to Putin, capitalism and democracy are flourishing in soil once considered unsuitable to those institutions. Putin did more effective reforms in one year than Yeltsin did in eight; he did more than anyone thought possible, at a time when in the West the reforms had been all but pronounced dead, and Russia's reversion to communism all but certain.

Christopher Jones should trouble himself to get acquainted with the facts of the war in Chechnya. It has been prosecuted by the Russians with unnecessary brutality, which is lamentable and condemnable, and with surprising military incompetence. This is not, however, the same as genocide or destruction of Chechen culture, neither of which has taken place. Chechnya has been a part of Russia since the mid-19th century, and Russia surely has the right to suppress Chechnya's secession. As much, surely, as the Spanish have the right to resist Basque secession, or the U.S. the secession of the Confederacy. And the Chechen secession movement is lead by bandits using unbelievably barbaric methods, far worse than what the Russians have done, including the widespread practice of hostage taking, torture, mutilation".

RH: I am surprised to see Cameron justifying George III. I look forward to seeing the Glucksman article. For the subject on which Cameron and Christopher agree, see the following posting on Germany and the Nazis. Both the disagreement and the agreement seem to me perfectly healthy.

Ronald Hilton - 1/8/03