MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Boris Kaimakov) - We are talking in different idioms-"we" and "they." We think we are a civilized community.
They think our civilization is a sworn enemy of their ideals and world-views, even of their sheer survival. By "them," I mean everyone who is ready to die for his ideals and take with him to the other world as many innocent lives as he can. They may be Chechen and other mojaheddin, religious extremists or Basque separatists. Skin color, facial features and religion do not matter. What matters are the means they use to get their ends. As they see it, killing defenseless hostages is the shortest cut to their goal. We see it as murder, they as lawful execution.
We Russians saw our kidnapped diplomats were doomed the instant the criminals-I don't see any other name for them-advanced their demands. Russia's Foreign Ministry was certainly the wrong partner for talks on such terms. Now, who would make the right partner in the situation? The answer lies in the drama of Budyonnovsk, a small town in the steppe of European Russia's south, where Shamil Basayev's terrorist gang seized a maternity hospital several years ago. Boris Yeltsin, then Russian president, was in hospital having therapy, so Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin made chief negotiator in the hostage crisis-and went down in history with, "What do you want, Basayev?"-the words that opened his talks to rescue the patients and doctors.
Now, it took not the Kremlin alone, nor the State Duma, the Foreign Ministry or the Cabinet but the entire nation to rescue the diplomats. Is this remark empty talk? The answer is "yes" and "no" at the same time. No one has moved a finger to save four lives. All looked with idle curiosity at a "talking head" on their television screens as it tried hard to make the impression of knowing something too secret to make public. In fact, he did not know anything at all. He was not even sure whether the diplomats were alive at the time. Now, the four deaths delivered Russia's Foreign Ministry a double blow-its pain comes not only from losing colleagues but from the haunting awareness of its own helplessness in the tragedy.
We all live in glass houses today. The Iraqi bloodshed proves that. From time to time, stones are thrown from the most unexpected sides. We can come down on the United States to our heart's content for headlong action in Iraq, and America can pay back with attacks on Russian policies in the North Caucasus. Russia will never give up those policies as they reflect our concept of our vital interests. Likewise, the U.S. is sure it is working for its own interests in the Middle East.
A conclusion from it all suggests itself. Politicians and professional demagogues may pile as many accusations on each other as they like-but Russian and U.S. secret services have to join hands as we are strategic partners, whether we like it or not.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.