Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Memorandum submitted by Mr Robert Chenciner

  My recent book Daghestan Tradition and Survival is in the House Library. I attended the first part of the evidence session on 23 March. In addition, may I submit the following background, analysis and suggestions.

  The Soviet empire fell apart because it had failed economically and the resulting great dislocation has often meant that provincial industry has stopped dead. GDP figures for these regions have only recently been calculated and look optimistic because unemployment is high (50 per cent to 90 per cent) and average monthly wages of $US 10 to $US 30 are pre-extortion-cum-tax. Real GDPs judging from "quality of life" criteria are probably nearer $US 500—that is below the IMF hunger level. Birth rates are high, causing population increases from 20 per cent to 25 per cent per decade and the economic gap between the elite ruling clans and the peasants is huge.

  The Russians, as the previous colonial power, have the expertise to employ divide-and-rule techniques to re-establish their influence. The Russians have actively intervened in every recent "ethnic" conflict in the region, often secretly supporting both sides. Further Russian ambitions to recreate the Soviet empire are the real threat to regional stability. Russian motives are to control the regional natural resources and to replace Chinese, Turkish, Fundamental Islamic or Persian influences. The Russian game will in due course additionally affect Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

  Unless you are an oil multinational, it is highly risky to make major financial commitments during what is likely to be a prolonged period of reconstruction, lasting a minimum of 50 years, even without civil wars, endemic corruption and crime. The 1997 Russian legal ruling against Star Mining Corporation NL on ownership of the Lenzoloto gold-field also highlighted the lack of commercial law or remedy.

  Alternatively, Britain can pre-empt Russian neo-colonial aims by playing a more active Great-Game role as follows:

      (1)  By giving export credit guarantees to British contractors for infrastructure projects.

      (2) Less expensively, by intelligent proactive entry into information and legislation strategy, as in the following three examples:

    (i)  By intervening in the Caspian Sea boundaries debate.

    (ii)  By using the "good governance" conditions of international aid to legally challenge Russian human rights violations towards non-Russians.

    (iii) By publishing a regular illustrated magazine, superior to and broader than the enclosed Turkish government's TICA Review [not printed], which is useful as far as it goes.

March 1999

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