Yeltsin’s War in Chechnya

To the Editors: In his review of William Taubman’s biography of Mikhail Gorbachev, Strobe Talbott also comments on two subsequent rulers of Russia: Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin, like the last leader of the Soviet Union, writes Talbott, “was loath to use force or risk instability as the world’s largest territorial state dismantled itself,” whereas Putin pursued a “scorched-earth strategy in subduing Chechen secessionists.” Yet it was Yeltsin in late 1994 who first chose force to crush Chechnya’s separatist movement, by launching a devastating war that entailed massive indiscriminate bombing of the capital city Grozny and smaller Chechen towns.

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