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European Press Review: What Do Chechnya and Iraq Have in Common?

A day after a bomb attack killed Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, European editorials looked at the future of Russian-Chechen relations. Many newspapers also weighed in on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops.

"Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to put down the rebels in the Caucasus have failed," wrote El Pais from Madrid. "Politically, he hasn’t been accepted by the population, and militarily, he is in no position to stop the terrorism," it observed. Political negotiations are Putin’s only option now, a consideration he has already rejected, the Spanish paper said.

Der Standard from Vienna considered it to be Putin’s strategy to regionalize the Chechnya war with the help of Kadyrov, Moscow's man in the war-torn republic. "His death is a direct humiliation for the Russian president who just began his second term in office with much pomp and ceremony," the paper noted, adding that Putin’s political concept for Chechnya has finally failed. The paper concluded that whatever retaliation the Russian president might have in mind won’t change that fact.

Corriere della Sera from Italy compared Putin’s operations in Chechnya and Bush’s in Iraq and said both have met with the same enemy: an explosive mixture of political nationalism and religious fundamentalism. "They seem to share the same fate, too – with one exception," the paper noted: "After trying out all possible solutions in Iraq, the U.S. can always back down a step maybe even with the United Nations taking on a larger role." The Russians, however, the paper explained, "have got their backs up against the wall."

Other European editorials commented on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

"This illustrates how the U.S. government is trying to work around American laws and the Geneva convention which protects prisoners from torture," wrote Switzerland’s Berner Zeitung. "This attitude has created a catastrophe for America’s image worldwide. If America wants to continue to assert its values of freedom and democracy, the Bush administration will either have to subject all its prisoners to the laws that pertain to U.S. citizens or to the Geneva convention," the paper said.

Britain’s The Guardian said, "the Iraqi revelations have given much of the world its voice back," and quoted The Washington Post as reporting that profound anger is building within the U.S. Army against Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s rule. The British paper added that some soldiers have gone on the record calling for his resignation. All this marks a "quantum shift in the politics of the Iraq occupation," the daily observed and said people now need to hear from others about how they believe the torture system came about – from people like John Kerry and Tony Blair.

Hungary’s Nepszabadsag says the United States, which annually publishes a report detailing human rights abuses in foreign countries, has "lost the moral right to judge others." And this, the paper believes, is "bad news for anyone who believes in freedom and democracy."

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