Chechnya and Kosovo: Alliances with Islam and the collapse of Russian Influence

Nathan Newman nathan.newman at
Mon Jan 3 06:36:10 PST 2000

Despite the calls in Putin's new Presidency for a return to Russian leadership and power against the West, the reality of the Chechnyan war is that it is asserting Russian nationalism at the expense of Russian influence and power in the world. The reality of the last year is that in both Kosovo and Chechnya, Russia has been seen as siding with anti-Islamic forces. Against a history where the Soviet Union had made great inroads in the Islamic world - especially in the Middle East with alliances with Iraq, Syria, Egypt and others over the years - the last year has seen Russia obliterating much of that historical good will in the name of a retrograde nationalism that undermines, rather than serves the country's interests. Ironically, far-right American forces such as Paul Weyrich and other anti-communist "cultural conservatives" have become Russia's largest cheering squad for their defense of Christian white culture against the Islamic danger. In this story (echoed at times by leftists), Islamic forces in both Kosovo and Chechyna have been characterized as uncivilized and criminal in contrast to the sophistication and enlightenment of the white Christian forces opposing them.

While a lot of analysts painted the US intervention in Kosovo in reductionist political or economic imperialist explanations, I continue to see it much more as building cultural alliances by the US with the Islamic world. In most of the Middle East, this was recognized with the general analysis being that the US was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons - ie. self-interested power projection. Yet the fact was that the US was expanding its influence by siding with non-Christian forces, while Russia retreated to narrow geopolitical and cultural alliances against its Islamic neighbors.

The cultural rise of Islam as a political and ideological force is of paramount importance in the alliances being forced from the Caucasius territories of the former Soviet Union to North Africa. Kosovo and Chechnya are two elements in that restructuring of alliances, where Russia has continued to substitute a retrograde Christian nationalism for the more broad-minded multi-national alliances born of the Soviet era.

- Nathan Newman

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