In between his night at the opera with Tony Blair and his tea with Queen Elizabeth, Vladimir Putin refused to see Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, when she was in Russia in April. That Putin was able to snub a representative of the UN investigating war crimes but then was embraced (literally) by Western statesmen and royalty is one of many reminders that this war is not front and center for policymakers dealing with Russia.
Why is this the case? Most Westerners believe that the war in Chechnya, however horrible, is an internal matter and should not interfere with or at least not influence the West's relations with Russia. Many add that given Russia's nuclear weapons, what could the West do anyway? NATO is hardly ready to rush in. Yet the international community does sometimes interpret human rights abuses as worthy of decisive response, and there are many options available to states and international organizations short of using force. So why the comparatively muted response to Chechnya? I argue that few of the conditions necessary to stop human rights abuses have yet been created. […]