Cameron Sawyer wrote, "But the main purpose of Yeltsin in deciding to resist by force the Chechen secession attempt was the same as Lincoln’s in deciding to fight the Confederacy: preserving the territorial integrity of the country which had a new and weak central authority. Russia is a huge federal state with dozens of semi-autonomous republics and regions, and coming at the time when the new Russian state was forming, Chechen secession might well have been the signal which would have led to final disintegration of the country." Christopher Jones comments:I believe that Cameron has hit the nail on the head, although we may not necessarily agree and I haven't made up my mind completely. On one hand, we have the forces of globalization chipping away at the old concept of the "nation." Yet to exit that "nation" (for whatever reason) is forbidden because of historical ties going back to the mid 19th century! This is a dilemma that simply has not yet been resolved. So far, we've had some bad examples: Yeltzin and Putin are using essentially the same argument that Abe Lincoln used: defend the integrity of the union. But it was the same argument that Slobodan Milosevic used to justify war on Croatia, Bosnia and so on -- he was fighting to keep Yugoslavia a viable state. Yet Milosevic is on trial in Den Haag while Yeltzin enjoys his retirement. Milosevic's methods may have constituted crimes against humanity but what were Yeltzin's methods in Chechnya? Lincoln's in the War of Southern Independence? If a peaceful plebiscite is carried out as in Quebec or in the Basque provinces and the population votes in an overwhelming majority to leave, I don't think that any nation is justified in sending in troops. It is just part of that "societal change" Jon Kofas always writes about.
RH: This is an extraordinarily important question. The American Revolutionary War took place because the British government could not see that colonies would become independent. The EU is set up in such a way as to bring the regions back to life at the expense of the nation state. The USSR was an attempt to build a new, larger state. It failed. Nevertheless, the world may be moving toward large unions, such as the EU and Latin America.
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September 26, 2004