Russia Today - Nothing good for Russia in Chechnya campaign, says US

WASHINGTON, Dec 20, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russia will become bogged down in its military offensive in Chechnya, a campaign that promises no benefits for Moscow but only global isolation, White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said on Sunday.

But Berger said cutting U.S. aid to Russia would hurt American national interests and would have no impact on Moscow's policy toward the breakaway region.

Russian forces stepped up their assault on Chechnya's capital Grozny on Sunday, with warplanes blasting the battered city and rebel strongholds to the south. Thousands of hungry civilians remained huddled in Grozny's freezing cellars.

"This is precisely what we warned the Russians against, both publicly and privately," Berger told the CBS News program "Face the Nation."

"We said to them as firmly as we can, the Europeans have said to them as firmly ... as they can, 'This is not going to have good results for Russia,'" Berger added.

Berger said the United States is concerned about civilian casualties and the refugee crisis caused by the Russian campaign.

"Russia is going to suffer in two ways," Berger said. "It's going to get bogged down in a conflict in Chechnya - there've been conflicts between Moscow and the northern Caucasus of Russia for 100 years that have never come out well for Russia - and it's going to alienate itself from the international community."

Berger's comments came two days after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, during a gathering of Group of Eight foreign ministers in Berlin, confronted Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov with photographic evidence showing a Chechen village that had been razed during the offensive.


Berger renewed the U.S. call for Russia to begin a dialogue with the leaders of Chechnya - not the guerrilla leaders Moscow blames for bombing attacks in Russian cities - to try to produce a political solution.

But Berger said cutting U.S. financial assistance to Russia would be "against our interest and would not have an effect on Chechnya."

Berger said three-quarters of U.S. financial aid to Russia pays for dismantling Russian nuclear missiles, helping the Russians keep control of their nuclear materials, and other threat-reduction programs.

"Those are in our interests," Berger said.

Berger said most of the rest of the money did not go directly to the Russian government but to non-governmental programs to nurture an independent media, cultivate Russian democracy and other purposes.

Discussing future loans to Russia from the International Monetary Fund, Berger said: "Obviously, we'll act in our national interest in making a judgment when the time comes on international lending."

Asked what actions the Clinton administration will take, Berger said: "We'll continue to press them to act in a way that we think makes sense for them as well as the world."

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