Since Russia launched its "anti-terrorist campaign" in Chechnya in the fall of 1999, the West has stepped up criticism of Moscow's actions in the North Caucasus. While recognizing the lack of credible information from the conflict zone, the United States and its European allies continue to express growing concern about the level of civilian casualties and the number of refugees in Chechnya and neighboring regions. In this context, the OSCE Istanbul summit in November 1999–formally convened to sign the European Charter and the adapted CFE Treaty–provided a timely opportunity for the West to emphasize the international ramifications of Russia's operation in Chechnya. However, if Western countries hoped to pressure Russia into seriously reviewing its Chechen policy by making it the dominant theme at the Istanbul summit, the idea was doomed from the very beginning. It was clear that Russia would resist any outside interference in Chechnya, including advice from the United States. Aside from advice, the West had limited options and leverage with regard to Russia's policy in the breakaway republic.
The prospects for a full-scale internationalization of the conflict in Chechnya are drastically limited by a number of factors, with Russia's nuclear power status alone serving as a powerful deterrent. To put it bluntly, the option of outside military intervention under the pretext of averting a "humanitarian crisis" in Chechnya is in principle ruled out. As President Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stated, "it is certainly not anybody's intention to intervene in a military way in the situation in Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Federation." […]