The American Committee for Peace in the Caucasus (formerly the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya) is a Freedom House initiative that bills itself as the "only private, nongovernmental organization in North America exclusively dedicated to promoting the peaceful resolution of the Russo-Chechen war." According to Freedom House, ACPC "coordinates with an international network of activists, journalists, scholars and nongovernmental organizations to advocate for and support human rights and rule of law, to monitor the upward trend of violence in the region, and to promote peace and stability in the North Caucasus." As of early 2013, the committee appeared to be largely defunct.
Founded in 1999 by U.S. liberal hawks and neoconservatives primarily interested in using the conflict in Chechnya to press an anti-Russian agenda, the ACPC eventually updated its name and broadened its focus after conflicts erupted between Russia and other parts of the Caucasus, including Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachay-Cherkessia, and North Ossetia.
In early 2013, the committee attracted attention when the suspects in the April 2013 Boston marathon bombing were identified as ethnic Chechens. Although early reports did not indicate that the suspects were driven by Chechen nationalist motivations, some writers questioned whether the FBI had improperly ignored warnings from Russian authorities that one of the alleged bombers had met repeatedly with a suspected terrorist leader in Dagestan.
A writer for Antiwar.com suggested that groups like ACPC had promulgated an anti-Russian bias in Washington that precluded serious consideration of Russian warnings about potential Chechen terrorists. "How did [the bombers] manage to evade the multi-billion dollar 'security apparatus, which was set up with so much fanfare after 9/11? The answer is to be found in the manipulations and odorous alliances dictated by our interventionist foreign policy, a throwback to the cold war era, which has deemed Russia an enemy and the Chechens the Good Guys."
Noting the neoconservative slant of ACPC's membership, David Weigel of Slate.com ironically remarked shortly after the Boston bombings that "even neocons were for Chechens before they were against them." According to Weigel, the ACPC was formed after the start of the second Chechen war in 1999 in an effort to paint Russia as a threat by publicizing atrocities committed by Russian forces in the region. After 9/11, when Putin "presented himself as a natural ally who understood exactly what Americans were going through," ACPC and colleagues in like-minded journals such as the Weekly Standard warned that U.S. support for Russia's war in Chechnya would, as one writer put it, jeopardize "our new effort to gain Muslim allies and supporters."
Commented Weigel: "Gaining Muslim allies—easy to forget, but that was what neoconservatives aspired to after 9/11. Agitating for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and announcing solidarity with non-radicalized Chechens were simultaneous causes. The American Committee had its own specific successes, like an August 2002 peace summit (on the very neutral turf of Lichtenstein). Occasionally these whack-a-mole D.C. 'letterhead' groups, the ones that start up to agitate for a cause from a think tank's spare rooms, score some wins. … The American Committee's long-term win was preventing Putin from credibly describing everything he did as just another piece of the 'global war on terror.'"
Shortly after the Boston attack, ubiquitous neoconservative pundit and ACPC supporter Bill Kristol appeared on a conservative Boston-area radio program to discuss U.S.-Russian ties in light of the bombing. Although Kristol conceded that the Russian authorities had offered the United States "a pretty detailed dossier of [bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's] contacts," he also mused that the Russians are "trying to get us to be suspicious of every Chechen who came to the U.S., especially of everyone who came as a political refugee."
ACPC's activities have included organizing public education programs, developing policy recommendations for lawmakers, and collaborating with activists, journalists, and scholars. It also works closely with a range of nongovernmental policy groups and think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Jamestown Foundation. At one time, the committee distributed a weekly email news service and newsletter. ACPC's web site contains a news archive, policy papers relating to the U.S. role in the Caucasus, and academic papers, maps, and photos of the conflict.
Glen Howard, the president of the Jamestown Foundation, was ACPC's last listed executive director. Howard previously worked as a military analyst for Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a high-tech defense contractor, and has served as a consultant for the Department of Defense, National Intelligence Council, and "major oil companies operating in Central Asia and the Middle East."
The publications of Howard's two organizations often overlap. For example, the Jamestown Foundation produces North Caucasus Weekly, an ezine that features contributions by ACPC board members. Both groups also work extensively with former Soviet defectors and Chechen dissidents.
As of 2013, ACPC's website did not list its membership or board of directors. But in its American Committee for Peace in Chechnya formation, its board of directors was co-chaired by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Steven J. Solarz, and the late Max Kampelman. The committee's more than 100 listed members reflected a wide political spectrum, including such figures as Richard Gere, Morton Ambramowitz, and Geraldine Ferraro. However, membership was overwhelmingly hawkish, and many high-profile neoconservatives, some associated with the Project for the New American Century, featured on its membership rolls, including Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, Elliott Abrams, Midge Decter, William Kristol, Michael Ledeen, and James Woolsey, among others.
ACPC supported the Chechen rebel movement, apparently as a strategy to weaken Russia and establish better U.S. ties in a region of increasing geopolitical value, which has vast, unexploited natural resource reserves including rich oil, gas, and hard mineral deposits.