The horror of the kidnapping and slaughter in Beslan has barely passed and already Russia is gearing up for another huge crackdown. This time the Russian bourgeoisie has learnt the lessons of September 11th and is instituting a large number of new repressive laws aimed as much at its own population as 'foreign terrorists'. Meanwhile, in Chechnya, they are waiting for the next attack.
It would seem a prime opportunity for the 'democratic' powers to attack Moscow's handling of this 'internal issue' with hypocritical denunciations of 'human rights violations'. Instead, there is voluble and unconditional support from Blair, Bush, Chirac and Schroeder. Indeed, there is no real difference in the foreign policies of these leaders: all are united in their support for President Putin and his own 'war on terror'.
Why has Russia been left to its own devices on this question? There is the very real fear that the tensions in the Caucasus area might lead Russia to go the way of ex-Yugoslavia: the break-up of the Russian Federation, chaos, civil war, genocide - with the potential use of nuclear weapons looming in the background. None of the major imperialist powers has an interest in such instability which could only increase the perspective of the entire world being riven by chaos and barbarism. As a result, they have averted their eyes from Chechnya and allowed the dirtiest war imaginable to go largely uncriticised and unabated. In the present situation they have no choice in the matter - Putin knows this and has taken full advantage.
A contradictory dynamic
But even though they don't want to see the break-up of Russia, the major powers still cannot stop the dynamic of 'each for himself', the tendency for each imperialist power to seek full advantage for itself at the expense of its rivals and without any kind of restraint.
For the British ruling class it is still important to maintain good relations with Russia, despite its weaknesses. After all, they were allies in the both the First and Second World Wars, in which the common enemy was Germany. Despite the rhetoric over Britain's 'special relationship' with the US, the British ruling class also has an interest in restraining the world's only remaining superpower in its quest to gain control over the Middle East oil supplies and its present strategy of encircling Europe.
In the present context, the UK has to compete with Germany and France who have been making a big push towards Russia, especially in the period since Putin came to power and just before the present Gulf war. This was reflected in the Moscow/Paris/Berlin axis against the war.
Of course, Moscow also has an interest in defending its southern flank in the Caucasus region, an area where the US state has made big inroads in setting up military bases in the 'Stans' (Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan etc). Russia, for its part, will do everything it can to prevent Chechnya breaking away and initiating a chain reaction within the Federation.
The perspective for the Caucasus, at least in the short and medium term, is one of increasing instability. This reflects the overall perspective of the world situation: economic crisis, famine, wars and barbarism. The continuation of all of the above, and the inability of the most powerful countries and leaders to improve the situation, also shows that the bourgeoisie is no longer a progressive force in society.