This Date's Issues:
Johnson's Russia List
26 July 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
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1. Reuter: Confident Yeltsin rules from holiday resort.
2. Sydney Morning Herald: Robyn Dixon, Why the Orthodox Church
has taken to bible bashing its rivals.
3. Chicago Tribune letter: CULTURAL STRUGGLE.
4. Interfax: Luzhkov Says Law on Religion Must Protect Against
5. RIA Novosti: MOSCOW MAYOR ENCOURAGES POLICE INFORMERS, UP IN
ARMS AGAINST TRAMPS AND STREETWALKERS.
6. RIA Novosti: DEBTS TO SERVICEMEN TO BE PAID OFF BEFORE END OF
AUGUST, SAYS DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS OFFICE.
7. RIA Novosti: RUSSIA IS BOTH EUROPEAN AND ASIAN STATE AND IT
IS QUITE NATURAL IT "WALKS ON TWO LEGS" IN ITS FOREIGN POLICY:
8. InterPress Services: Dragging the Russian Army Into the 21st
9. Paul Goble (RFE/RL): A Watershed In Central Asia.
10. Moskovskiye Novosti: Sanobar Shermatova, "The Washington Factor.
The Commonwealth of Independent States Has Virtually Split Into
Pro-Russian and Pro-Western Blocs."
11. Reuter: Better Russian crop outlook masks deeper problems.]
Confident Yeltsin rules from holiday resort
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, July 25 (Reuter) - Boris Yeltsin says his heart is working like
clockwork and, likening himself to Russia's tsars, has jokingly described
himself as Boris The First.
The Russian president's relaxed manner after three weeks on holiday is a sign
of his confidence and firm grip on power, five months after returning to the
Kremlin following a quintuple bypass operation in November.
Yeltsin, 66, has temporarily switched the hub of power to the Volzhsky Utyos
resort where he is staying in central Russia, summoning one minister after
another to discuss policy and issuing decrees from his makeshift office.
He is thinner after his heart problems. But the almost daily television
pictures of him praising the local fishing, or chatting to farmers, is a
sharp contrast to his disappearance from view with heart problems after his
re-election a year ago.
``He is in a very strong position. I still have some doubts about his
physical state, but politically he has no rivals to challenge him,'' said
Andrei Piontkovsky, head of the Centre for Strategic Studies think-tank in
``Taking a long holiday clearly shows he is confident but he is also
intervening (in politics) all the time he is away as if he were Big
Some Russians say Yeltsin's behaviour is more reminiscent of a well-meaning
tsar than Big Brother, the totalitarian leader in George Orwell's ``1984.''
Comparisons with tsars used to irk Yeltsin but he now seems confident enough
to joke about them.
Leaving Karelia in northwestern Russia after the first part of his holiday,
he told reporters: ``No Russian leader had come here on holiday since (18th
century ruler) Peter I. Now Boris the First has been.''
In Volzhsky Utyos, by the Volga river southeast of Moscow, Yeltsin declared
``my heart works like a clock.''
Such comments are clearly for public consumption and stage-managed, but they
also reflect a mood change in Russia.
Speculation about Yeltsin's health is now muted, the promotion of young
liberals into the government this spring has breathed new life into economic
reforms and Russia has concluded a partnership deal with former Cold War foe
Yeltsin's new-found energy has continued on holiday, where he mixes work with
fishing and going to the banya (steam bath).
He has issued decrees on major military reforms and important economic
reforms, as well as risking a new battle with parliament and the influential
Russian Orthodox Church by vetoing a controvesial law that could curb some
He has hosted a stream of officials including his prime minister, defence
minister, energy minister, the chairman of the Central Bank and Finnish
President Martti Ahtisaari.
For most of 1995 and 1996, apart from a brief period of vigour during his
re-election campaign, Yeltsin's health problems sharply restricted his
workload and access to visitors.
As a result he often appeared isolated and poorly briefed.
``The period has passed when I was a little out of touch in connection with
some circumstances, but now everything is in my hands,'' he recently told his
advisory Defence Council.
Yeltsin's methods on holiday fit a pattern that has developed during his
presidency. There is now little doubting his authority and his personal role
at the final stage of decision-making in addition to his vast constitutional
But he is also heavily reliant in policy-making on his top aides,
particularly first deputy prime ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.
``He is strong because he has a very energetic team of good administrators
which he never had in the past. He had either ideologues or bureaucrats
before,'' said Vyacheslav Nikonov, who helped plan Yeltsin's election for a
``He is great at organising publicity campaigns but does not really get down
to the substance. This leaves his new team with the possibility to really
Nikonov, who heads the Politika Fund think-tank, said this style of rule had
both positive and negative side-effects.
``Is it good or bad for the future of reforms? I think it is bad for some
aspects of reforms and for the reform course in general because I do not
think Yeltsin has a real vision of what he really wants,'' he said.
``On the other hand those people who are in control of policy are definitely
reformers and they do what they consider, and I consider, is right for
Communists and nationalists disagree. They say the influence of the young
reformers is too big and that Chubais and the financial groups backing him
Others say there is no unity among Nemtsov, Chubais and Prime Minister Viktor
``All three heads of government say different things -- one thing in the
morning and another in the evening. This is not politics, it is a real
bazaar,'' Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said in a recent television
But the opposition communists have stopped short of pushing Yeltsin so far
that he might dissolve parliament. They fear they would lose seats in a new
parliamentary election and this reduces the threat they pose to the Kremlin.
Most Russian politicians now say that Yeltsin is likely to survive until the
next presidential election in the year 2000, although the constitution says
he cannot seek a third term.
He still faces many problems. Pledges to pay off wage arrears to millions of
Russians will put further strains on the government's resources and failure
to carry out the promises could touch off a dangerous wave of protests.
Reforms are by no means guaranteed to succeed and regional leaders have
enough power to slow down and upset reforms.
There are also divisions in the team of businessman who helped bankroll his
election campaign and remain influential.
Yeltsin's health could also take a turn for the worse, particularly if he
drives himself too hard. His fragility was evident when he had to skip a gala
concert at a summit with the Group of Seven industrial powers in Denver last
Sydney Morning Herald
July 26, 1997
[for personal use only]
Why the Orthodox Church has taken to bible bashing its rivals
By ROBYN DIXON, Herald Correspondent in Moscow
WHEN Baptist missionaries invaded a small, conservative village, not far
from the communist stronghold of Smolensk, several hundred kilometres
west of Moscow, it was too much for the local Orthodox priest.
Watching the slow parade of his competitors handing out their Protestant
brochures, he was seized by a hot surge of ungodly rage. He snatched a
Bible from one of the Baptists and whacked him over the head with it.
After suffering 74 years of religious persecution in the Soviet Union,
something very strange is happening in the Russian Orthodox Church. It
has become the new oppressor, trying to hound out foreign churches and
missionaries competing to save the souls of Russians.
Harassment of members of foreign religions by Orthodox priests has
turned violent on several occasions.
The Hare Krishna organisation claims a Russian Orthodox priest led an
attack on one of its temples in the southern Russian town of
Rostov-on-Don during a religious meeting in June last year. Ten Hare
Krishnas went to hospital after they were beaten with shovels and clubs.
One was unconscious for a week. The organisation claims another of its
devotees in the town of Nizhny Novogorod was grabbed by a priest after
she tried give him a Hare Krishna leaflet.
The group alleges the priest took the young woman to his church, beat
her and then took her to the police station, demanding she be punished.
Despite the religious freedoms permitted since perestroika, there is
still not much religious tolerance in Russia. In ancient times, the
Church was conservative and xenophobic. Today, it remains suspicious of
Recently, the Russian Orthodox Church and the Communist Party formed a
strange alliance to try to undermine foreign churches. Both pushed for a
law that would restrict the activities of most of the churches operating
But the Russian President, Mr Yeltsin, clashed with the Orthodox Church
for the first time when he vetoed the law on Wednesday. His decision
stunned the Orthodox hierarchy. At Moscow's ancient Danilovsky
Monastery, the headquarters of the Russian Orthodox Church, a team of
gardeners manicures the formal garden, spread like a floral eiderdown
beneath the glittering golden cupolas of the churches.
Equally measured and formal is the church press conference in response
to the veto, held in the luxury hotel in the monastery grounds.
The atmosphere is plush and powerful. Overhead, icons of Christ and the
Mother of God hang poised above the debate. On the table stand bottles
of Saint Springs mineral water, a handy little earner for the Church. Mr
Yeltsin vetoed the law because it undermined the rights of many Russian
churches and contradicted the Russian Constitution, which guarantees
equality of all religions.
The law, attacked by Pope John Paul II and the United States Senate,
gave favoured status to four "traditional" Russian religions - the
Russian Orthodox Church, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism - while all others
have to prove they have been operating for more than 15 years or face a
15-year bureaucratic struggle for registration.
Every new branch would have to go through the 15-year registration
process and could not proceed without the permission of the
"traditional" churches in the area. Those without registration could not
own property, preach publicly or distribute literature.
The Catholic administrator of European Russia, Archbishop Thaddaeus
Kondrusiewicz, said that although Catholicism in Russia dated back to
the 12th century, there were only two Catholic churches left by the
1930s. There are now 23.
The Archbishop fears that under the law, the Catholic Church would be
forced to surrender all but the two churches it owned 15 years ago,
facing a 15-year delay to register any new church.
The battle over Russia's law on religion is far from over. Communist
deputies say the Parliament is likely to overturn Mr Yeltsin's veto.
Mr Victor Ilyushin, chairman of the security committee of the State
Duma, the lower house of Parliament, said the law was required to limit
Western pressure on Russian minds.
"The free and uncontrolled activity of foreign religious confessions in
Russia is a threat to state security," he said. One of the law's main
advocates in the Duma, the communist deputy Mr Victor Zorkaltsev,
attacked the President's veto, saying: "Russia has been trampled
In the days of the Soviet Union, members of the Church hierarchy learned
to co-exist with communism. Some Orthodox priests were persecuted but
others colluded with authorities and survived. And there was, at least,
no competition from outside.
The coincidence of the interests of Orthodox faith and orthodox
communism reflect where the natural conservatives lie in Russian society
today. They are nationalistic, anti-foreigner, against change and
opposed to outside competition. The Church and the Communist Party share
supporters, with many elderly Russian Orthodox believers also being
When Mr Yeltsin vetoed the law, he took a principled stand at
considerable political peril. It is difficult for a president to win a
debate against God and his earthly envoys. And it is risky for a Russian
leader to alienate the powerful Russian Orthodox Church with its vast
and devout constituency.
Indeed, Mr Yeltsin's stand is unlikely to win him any political friends.
On the day of the last presidential election, the Russian Patriarch,
Alexy II, made his preference clear when he blessed Mr Yeltsin, which
suggested the President and his people understand the power of the
But now the risk for Mr Yeltsin is that the shared conservative
persuasion of the Orthodox Church and the Communists could evolve into a
more permanent alliance.
25 July 1997
[for personal use only]
Anatoly Bezkorovainy, LINCOLNWOOD
I take exception to your July 18 editorial "In Russia, the more things
change. . . ."
Your editorial writers unfortunately do not understand that the Russian
people are struggling to recapture their historical culture, which is
inextricably linked to Orthodox Christianity. This culture is more than 1,000
years old and was mercilessly suppressed by the Bolsheviks during their
75-plus-year reign over Russia.
When that regime fell apart, well-financed hordes of Western
"missionaries" descended upon the spiritually unsophisticated Russians to
entice them away from their historical past and their national identity with
offers of their 30 pieces of silver.
It is ironic that the Western press enthusiastically supports national and
cultural self-awareness among other peoples, which often includes violations
of basic human rights. Thus, the Balts have become very good at this, and
proselytizing is hardly the norm in Israel and the Arab countries. It seems
that only the Russians have no right to protect what is theirs and must
somehow emulate the "diversity" doctrine so popular among U.S. intellectuals.
The "Mormons and many Protestant sects" that are recruiting converts in
Russia would do better to concentrate on the hedonistic and morally corrupt
inhabitants of their own countries and leave Russia alone to retrieve its own
Christian traditions. Had they done this in the first place, the Russians
would have had no need to consider legislation that the Tribune dislikes so
Luzhkov Says Law on Religion Must Protect Against Sects
MOSCOW, July 24 (Interfax-Moscow) -- The law on freedom of conscience
and religious associations must protect society from anti-humanitarian
sects, Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov told Interfax Thursday.
However Luzhkov said he saw "nothing tragic" in President Boris
Yeltsin's refusal to sign the bill approved by both the Russian State Duma
and the Federation Council, the two houses of parliament.
The situation with the law is "very, very complicated," Luzhkov said.
"On the one hand, our traditional confessions must be protected from
various sects. We do need neither sects nor their members as we have heard
enough of the 'White Fraternity' and other organizations preaching inhuman
goals," he said.
On the other hand, "it makes sense to improve the text of the law and
its legal definitions," he said. "In my opinion, the president's refusal
to sign the law is an invitation to work more on it to protect society from
inhuman sects," he said.
The relations between different religious confessions in Moscow are
stable, he said. Representatives of 27 religions peacefully coexist in
Moscow, Luzhkov said. The Moscow government "treats equally all
confessions, though the majority of the city population belongs to the
Orthodox Church," he said.
"Peace exists among them thanks to the efforts of the Russian Orthodox
Church," Luzhkov said. The mayor expressed gratitude to Patriarch of
Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II for "pursuing the wise policy of uniting
the churches preaching virtue."
"Not only the leaders of religious confessions express the will for
accord. Ugly disputes between representatives of different religions have
not surfaced in Moscow," he said.
MOSCOW MAYOR ENCOURAGES POLICE INFORMERS, UP IN ARMS
AGAINST TRAMPS AND STREETWALKERS
MOSCOW, JULY 25 (from RIA Novosti correspondent Alexandra
Akayeva) -- Mayor Yuri Luzhkov appealed to the police "to blow
up the underworld from within" with a ramified informer network.
He is willing to help with money and equipment.
As he addressed an enlarged coordination conference of the
city prosecutor's office, the mayor said that it was too early
for law-enforcement bodies to sleep on their laurels despite
their recent spectacular success. We cannot yet describe Moscow
even as a "relatively safe city". Nevertheless, 71 per cent of
crimes were successfully detected in the first half-year,
against a previous 58 per cent.
The mayor ascribes the subsiding crime wave not so much to
police efficiency as to the underworld's money outflow into
above-the-board business. This situation brings economic crimes
into the foreground of law-enforcement efforts.
Mr. Luzhkov is specially uneasy about skyrocketing drug
abuse (by 70 per cent against last year), tramps and
prostitutes. He has by now approved a bill introducing criminal
liability for habitual vagrancy, to be offered to the State Duma
as a legislative initiative.
The mayor was not yet sure about what punishments to
introduce for prostitution, and only quoted alarming statistics
saying that every third out of the 26,000 recently detained
prostitutes was a syphilitic patient. Possibly, they will be
prosecuted for deliberate spreading of venereal diseases.
DEBTS TO SERVICEMEN TO BE PAID OFF BEFORE END OF
AUGUST, SAYS DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS OFFICE
By RIA Novosti correspondent
MOSCOW, JULY 25 /RIA NOVOSTI/ -- Money allowance arrears to
servicemen and back wages to civilian personnel of the armed
forces will be paid off in July-August 1997, and outstanding
social benefits, compensations and other payments as set by the
Russian Federation's legislation, in September-December.
This is said in a telegram sent by Russia's Defence
Minister General of the Army Igor Sergeyev to commanders of all
services and arms, military districts an fleets, and heads of
main and central departments of the Defence Ministry.
A RIA Novosti correspondent was told at the Defence
Ministry press service that the telegram, which was sent out
yesterday, says that "in pursuit of the Russian Federation's
government's decision No. 885 of July 15, 'On Paying Off Arrears
in Cash Allowances to Servicemen and Wages to the Civilian
Personnel of the Armed Forces, and also to Staff, Servicemen and
Workers of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian
Federation'", the Defence Ministry and the Finance Ministry, at
a working meeting on July 19, agreed on the procedure for joint
steps to pay the debts and remit the money to the troops.
To monitor the progress in repayment the Main Military
Budget and Financing Department of the Defence Ministry will
arrange a round-the-clock reception from July 28 to September 5
applications from armed forces personnel on a special
multi-channel telephone: /095/ 296-09-93.
The Defence Minister demanded from heads of army and fleet
structures that money being allocated for repaying existing
debts to armed forces personnel be used strictly for its stated
Any attempts at diverting it for other ends will be cut at
once, and official guilty of the misdeed penalised.
By August 20, the Minister must be handed in a report on
progress in paying off arrears to the servicemen of the army and
navy. A final report will be presented to the Defence Minister
by September 10.
RUSSIA IS BOTH EUROPEAN AND ASIAN STATE AND IT IS QUITE
NATURAL IT "WALKS ON TWO LEGS" IN ITS FOREIGN POLICY:
SEOUL, JULY 25 /FROM RIA NOVOSTI CORRESPONDENT SERGEI
KUDASSOV/ -- Not only in statements but also in practical
aspects Russia, when dealing with preparation of foreign policy
decisions, "is guided by its willingness to identify those
spheres and act on those fields where its national interests
coincide with the interests of other states", Russia's Foreign
Minister Yevgeny Primakov said at the University of Hanyang
after having been awarded with Ph.D. (Political Science) when he
was talking about the principles of Russia's policy in the Asian
and Pacific Region.
The Russian minister stressed that the greatest attention
is given to strengthening of peace and stability. According to
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia is a state located both in Europe and
Asia and it is quite natural for it "to walk on two legs" in its
foreign policy. In addition to that, he noted, that Russia is a
regular member of UN Security Council, a nuclear power,
co-chairman and co-sponsor of a number of international
negotiations and mechanisms on the settlement of conflict
situations, and it also enjoys membership with the G-8.
In its foreign policy, Yevgeny Primakov stated, Russia
proceeds from the assumption that after the end of cold war
times and bloc confrontation, we are witnessing a process of
development to a multipolar world. However, he noted that the
development of the international system to multipolarity is yet
to gain stability.
Equal partnership seems to be one of the most important
tasks in this issue. Understanding of this is the basis of
Russia's policy in the Asian and Pacific Region, which in the
new century will definitely turn into one of the biggest global
economic and political centres. Russia, as part of this Region,
would like to create conditions for stability and safety here.
Dragging the Russian Army Into the 21st Century
July 24, 1997
MOSCOW, Jul. 24 (IPS) -- It's a testimony to the parlous state of Russia
's military that officials can say that "only" a third of those called
up in the 1997 spring draft have serious drug, drink, health or
emotional problems, or a criminal record.
Officials insist that they are satisfied with this year's spring draft.
More than 214,000 people responded and 85 percent of the armed forces'
non-commissioned officers and enlisted men's posts are currently
This satisfaction hides deeper problems. One-third of the conscripts
arrived at induction centers underweight, some with criminal records or
substance-abuse problems. Draft-dodging remains a serious problem, with
more than 31,000 conscripts not responding to the call-up.
There is also a growing body of conscientious objectors, with 5,000 in
St. Petersburg alone. Although Article 59 of the new constitution
guarantees the right to perform alternative service, the State Duma
(parliament) has not yet passed the necessary legislation.
St. Petersburg Gov. Vladimir Yakovlev is proposing to set up an
experimental battalion for youths who refuse to perform military
They would serve for three or four years instead of the two years
required for military service. They would live at home and work on city
improvement projects or in hospitals.
There is, in any case, a growing body of opinion within the military
that Russia can no longer depend on the call-up and support is
increasing for the establishment of a professional army.
At present, contract soldiers earn more than three times the amount paid
to conscripts and by autumn the defense ministry is planning to submit
to the government a program for changing to a contract system of
The armed forces currently have 240,000 contract servicemen, over a
third of them women, mostly wives of commissioned and warrant officers.
The move to a professional army, however, is only part of much more
profound change under way. After five years of debate Russia has finally
embarked on full-scale and long-term military reform, with a
presidential decree issued on July 16.
Under the proposed far-reaching changes, the strategic missile forces,
military space forces and space defense forces are to be combined into a
single entity -- the Missile Strategic Forces. The air defense force is
to be merged with the air force.
There are also to be changes also in ground forces including the
abolition of the post of their commander-in-chief.
Overall, the cuts will affect 500,000 servicemen. The optimum size of a
reformed professional army sought by Russia is 900,000 men, or about 0.6
percent of the country's population.
"The image of Russia's armed forces should be determined by a political
situation in the world," says Russian defense council secretary Yuri
The Government has been instructed to draw up and submit proposals for
the target-specific financing of the reforms including measures for the
social protection of the servicemen to be discharged from military
service, including the provision of housing.
Some proceeds will be obtained from the privatization of organizations
to be withdrawn from the Armed Forces such as the construction troops,
and of immovable property, as well as from the sale of surplus military
equipment and payment for services provided on a contractual basis.
More than 100 organizations of the military construction complex are to
be privatized in line with another presidential decree signed on July 8.
According to Colonel-General Alexander Kosovan, deputy defense minister
responsible for the construction and billeting of troops, enterprises of
the military-construction complex which are taken out of the army will
be transformed into joint-stock companies.
The federal government will retain control of 51 percent or 25.5 percent
of the shares in these new companies.
The government, which originally pledged around $18.9 billion to the
nation's armed forces (since cut to around $15.1 billion) has failed to
pay up all of even this reduced amount. It has undertaken to repay the
balance to the armed forces by Sept. 1, though the extent of the debt is
Initially, the government said that it still owes the armed forces a
balance of 4,600 billion rubles ($836 million) but then increased it to
5,300 billion rubles ($964 million). General Georgy Oleinik, the chief
financier of the Defense Ministry, says the armed forces need to be paid
8,100 billion rubles ($1.47 billion) to meet the shortfall.
At present there is little control over the disposal of money within the
defense ministry. Usually unit commanders decide whether to spend money
on children's playgrounds, a pool or on salaries for contract soldiers.
Sociological research conducted by the Defense Ministry shows that 61
percent of servicemen are permanently short of money, and 29 percent
live below the poverty line.
Most officers do not believe that the situation will improve, or that
army service can give them any benefits, and so plan to leave it when
their contracts expire.
Military experts say that the monthly remuneration in the army is not
consistent with the complexity and hazards of modern military service.
Platoon commanders (lieutenants) get 620,000 rubles ($112) a month;
company commanders (captains), 870,000 rubles ($158); and battalion
commanders (lieutenant-colonels), 11.3 million rubles ($206).
Their salaries have not been indexed since April 1995, although the
minimum civilian wage has increased by a statistical 4.07 times since
then. Salaries, which are not paid for months at a time, are virtually
the only source of subsistence for officers' families.
Unlike civilians, servicemen may not seek a second job, and their wives
can seldom find employment in the areas where their husbands' units are
deployed. In addition, 100,000 officers' families have no housing of
The military admit that only 10 percent of the army personnel are fitted
out with all requisite clothes. The Defense Ministry has not ordered
uniforms for two years. Neither do the enterprises provide the army with
underwear and linen.
Only 48 percent of servicemen are issued winter caps and barely nine
percent have top-boots. Over 11 percent are without ordinary boots.
Only the use of the emergency stocks has saved the soldiers from both
cold and hunger. But the allowance of 5,000 rubles (about 90 cents) a
day are not enough to feed an 18-year-old boy.
Last year's plans provided for daily rations up of 10,550 rubles
($1.90), but eventually the figure was halved.
The Russian government initially planned to spend 104,320 billion rubles
($18.9 billion) on defense in 1997, but it is estimated that this will
be enough to satisfy only 61 percent of the minimum demands of its
What was allocated, never mind what will actually been paid, will only
suffice for barely 10 months. Allocations on the purchase of foods will
lasted only nine months.
Yet worse is to come. The army has been warned that its forces will get
only 83,180 billion rubles ($15.1 billion) of its 104,320 billion ruble
allocation this year.
A movement in support of the army has been set up in Moscow by
Lieutenant-General Lev Rokhlin, a veteran of the Chechen war and now
chairman of the parliament's defense committee.
Other military retirees protesting against army cuts include former
defense minister Igor Rodionov, who was dismissed by the President last
spring for dragging his feet on army reform.
However, the reformers believe that restructuring the armed forces and
putting them on a professional basis will help to end demoralization and
economic crises which have plagued the armed forces for the past several
Central Asia: Analysis From Washington--A Watershed In Central Asia
By Paul Goble
Washington, 25 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A meeting of the leaders of
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan intended to highlight Central
Asian unity has called attention to an issue -- access to water --
likely to increasingly divide them in the future.
Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Askar Akayev of
Kyrgyzstan, and Islom Karimov of Uzbekistan met in the Kyrgyz city of
Cholpon-Ata yesterday and today to promote integration among their
countries and to push for a settlement in Afghanistan.
The three leaders of the Central Asian Union established in 1994
discussed expanding economic cooperation and the creation of an
They talked about the progress of the Central Asian peacekeeping
battalion established under the auspices of NATO's Partnership for
Peace. And they reiterated their interest in finding a peaceful
resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan.
In all three cases, these Central Asian leaders sought to emphasize the
amount of accord among them, even as their meeting inevitably called
attention to the fact that the region's two other countries,
Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, were not represented.
But even within this summit's limited circle, there are serious
disagreements. And none is more serious in terms of what it portends for
the future than the emerging conflict between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan
over the region's limited water resources.
Earlier this year, Tashkent unilaterally reduced the flow of water from
Uzbekistan to southern Kazakhstan by 70 percent, a reduction that Kazakh
officials say could ruin more than 100,000 hectares of land.
Following talks between the two governments, Uzbekistan agreed to
restore some of the flow. But residents of southern Kazakhstan argue
that this is not enough. And this week, they staged a demonstration near
the Uzbek border.
Gaining access to water has always been a problem in Central Asia. And
that problem has only intensified as the growing populations of the
countries there put additional pressure on the limited water supply.
Indeed, the Soviet leadership used competition for water among the
Central Asian republics as a means of control. It routinely sought to
play off the water surplus republics of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan
against the others who did not have enough.
But in order to promote economic development, the Soviet government
imposed a water-sharing agreement on the five Central Asian republics.
That accord specified just how much water would go from one to another.
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the five countries in this
region maintained that agreement because they recognized that fighting
over this resource could tear the region apart and allow one or another
outside power to exploit these divisions for its own ends.
But the civil war in Tajikistan and continuing population growth
throughout the region now have combined to call into question the
earlier set of arrangements.
And consequently, both Uzbekistan's decision to reduce the flow of water
to Kazakhstan and the Kazakh reaction to that decision should come as no
Even now, the conflicts over water in the region are relatively minor.
But that is likely to change rapidly over the next few years.
On the one hand, rapidly expanding populations will inevitably lead some
governments to seek to keep whatever water they have or to somehow get
more from their neighbors.
And on the other hand, ever more people and politicians are likely to
focus on water questions because of such high visibility events as the
disappearance of the region's Aral Sea.
If the countries of Central Asia can cooperate on this issue, they may
find it necessary to increase the level of integration among themselves
on other issues as well.
But if they find themselves unable to cooperate on water, they may find
it increasingly difficult to agree on anything else. In that event,
disputes over water could easily overshadow all the other disputes that
currently wrack this region.
CIS Seen Forming Pro-Russia, Pro-West Blocs
Moskovskiye Novosti, No. 29
July 20-27, 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Sanobar Shermatova: "The Washington Factor. The
Commonwealth of Independent States Has Virtually Split Into Pro- Russian
and Pro-Western Blocs"
The United States is beginning to play a more active role on the
territory of the former Soviet Union. Three regions which link their
political prospects with the West stand out on the map of the CIS --
Ukraine, the Transcaucasus, and Central Asia. The visits, following one
after the other, of the presidents of Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan
to the United States are also to be a demonstration of strengthening bonds
The problems of Kyrgyzstan's collaboration with the International
Monetary Fund were at the center of attention of Askar Akayev's working
trip to Washington. The republic, by fulfilling the IMF's demands in a
disciplined way, has a chance of receiving a new credit program, which
Askar Akayev agreed on with the fund's leadership.
In contrast to the Kyrgyz leader's, the Georgian president's visit was
not of an economic character only. Eduard Shevardnadze's official visit to
Washington had been postponed several times at the Georgian side's request,
so as not to annoy Moscow, as they said in the lobbies. But this time the
visit was recheduled from August to July. The reason is that on 31 July
the Russian peacekeepers' mandate in Abkhazia will come to an end. Tbilisi
insists on Moscow helping in the fight with the Abkhazian separatists,
otherwise the Georgian side will demand the withdrawal of Russian
peacekeepers and the winding up of the present four Russian military bases.
The president of Georgia apparently intends to influence the United
States' position on this issue and to find out how the Transatlantic
partners are going to help. In this sense Shevardnadze is repeating Heydar
Aliyev's tactics. It was the Denver accords of Presidents Clinton and
Yeltsin which sharply changed Russia's position and led to the signing of a
series of very important agreements between Baku and Moscow, including
Boris Yeltsin's famous statement that the Russian Foreign Ministry's
priority will be a settlement in Karabakh.
This problem is expected to be at the center of talks between Bill
Clinton and Heydar Aliyev during the Azerbaijani president's forthcoming
official visit to the White House. Problems of separatism, which are
"domestic" problems for Georgia and Azerbaijan, are strongly tied up with a
project in which the United States has a major interest.
Large amounts of Caspian oil, in combination with the riches of Tengiz
[in Kazakhstan], were the magnet which brought major Western energy
companies to this region. As a result the United States openly declared
the Transcaucasus a zone of its interests. The Western policy factor is
starting to determine the situation in Central Asia, too. The battle for
Afghanistan is, among other things, a fight for control over the territory
through which the transfer of Turkmen oil across the southern seas to
Europe will be possible in the next century. The participation of
America's Unocal in the project to lay a gas pipeline through Afghanistan
can explain the role played by Washington in the Taleban movement. But the
gamble on the Taleban movement as a force capable of guaranteeing the
country's stability and security of gas communications has as yet not been
justified. Washington is considering Ashgabat as a prospective partner.
Turkmenistan holds the third place in the world in gas reserves; today the
"blue fuel" is exported to Europe through the territory of Commonwealth
countries. Ashgabat is looking for its own outlet onto world gas markets.
For this reason it cannot be ruled out that in the end the Afghan variant,
with the participation of American and Saudi companies, will have
significant chances of realization. Active journeys by high-ranking
-- Russian Federation Deputy Foreign Minister Posuvalyuk to Islamabad,
Pakistani Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan to Moscow -- are portents of
changes in the Afghan game. It is only a question of time.
In Washington voices are even heard in favor of a revision of policy
regarding Iran, if this will assist in strengthening relations with Central
Asia and the Transcaucasus. Recently Zbigniew Brzezinski put forward a new
concept of the "Islamic belt." He proposed reviewing policy on Iran to such
an extent as to allow doors to the West to be opened up to the new
independent states, the CIS. According to Brzezinski the Muslim countries
of the former Soviet Union are the United States' friends which must be
Besides Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan, this also includes
Uzbekistan. The transformation which American-Uzbek relations have
undergone in recent years is interesting. On several occasions in
1991-1992 Washington made representations to Tashkent on instances of
infringement of human rights and freedoms. The affair even went as far as
the expulsion of an Uzbek parliamentary delegation from the United States.
But President of Uzbekistan Islom Karimov patiently bided his time. He
foresaw that the euphoria of the detente between Moscow and Washington
would pass and then the time of the other post-Soviet leaders would come.
His predictions have fully come true. After Kiev and Baku, Tashkent became
the next pro-American point on the CIS map. Divergences between the West
(the United States) and Russia were officially recorded for the first time
in 1994 in the [Russian] Foreign Intelligence Service report "Russia-CIS:
Does the West's Position Need Adjusting?". It is curious that the first
conflict in relations between Moscow and Washington happened because of
their differing views on the fate of the post-Soviet area. Russian
politicians are inclined to explain the appearance of a "Western" bloc in
the post-Soviet area as being the result of active operations by
Washington, severing Russia from its closest neighbors to prevent the
rebirth of Moscow's hegemony. Doubtless Washington policy faces such a
task, all the more so since control over huge energy reserves is at stake.
But it is impossible not to also see the coincidence of the interests of
the United States and a number of the new independent states. Large-scale
economic projects which these countries are involved in are in need of
major investments, and these can only come from the West.
In response to the emerging pro-Western bloc, a group of pro- Russian
CIS countries is forming. Yerevan may become the third candidate to join
the Moscow-Minsk union, followed by Dushanbe. Armenia considers that its
interests are being encroached upon by the West on behalf of Azerbaijan, to
please oil companies engaged in the development of Caspian oil. Dushanbe
needs Russian credits and military aid. If the choice of pro-Western
orientation is explained firstly by economic factors, then political,
economic, and military reasons are at the basis of the pro-Russian course
adopted by Yerevan, Dushanbe, and Minsk.
Is a conflict between the two emerging blocs within the CIS possible?
The answer is more "no" than "yes." The confrontation is hardly likely to
assume extreme forms. Russia's sphere of influence in the post-Soviet area
is shrinking in direct proportion to its economic potential. However,
Moscow retains political and military levers to influence the situation.
For this reason Russia and its Western partners will look for a compromise
in each individual case. Especially as Russian oil companies and Gazprom
will continue to seek to take part in big projects. But Moscow will have
to consider the Washington factor more and more often in its relations with
its recent allies.
Better Russian crop outlook masks deeper problems
By Lynnley Browning
MOSCOW, July 25 (Reuter) - Russian farms, privatised in name but barely
touched by six years of market reforms, face future perils as the reformist
cabinet leans toward scrapping the old Soviet system of multi-billion dollar
Forecasts of a recovery in grain output this year largely reflect better
weather conditions and not the structural changes the crippled farm sector
needs if Russia is to feed itself and rebuild livestock numbers.
``On the grains side, we inevitably come back to the word 'potential','' said
a senior Western grains source.
``Russia, and Kazakhstan and Ukraine, could be huge producers. But on the
inputs side, it's a total disaster.''
Market analysts are pleased the Russian crop will not slip on last year's
69.3 million tonnes and could even make a comeback to 75 or million or more
after two of the worst harvests in three decades.
But the fact that weather is the reason for the recovery is troubling
analysts, especially with the state ready to cut funding further next year.
Only one third of Russia's farms are thriving, and the lack of vertical
integration since central planning collapsed in 1991 has left farmers
scrambling each year for seeds, fertiliser and fuel.
Most farms, functionally no different from the kolkhoz collective farms from
which they emerged, bargain away output for inputs and are mired in
Many farmers, with no hope of bank financing, are no better off than their
19th-century serf predecessors.
``It's not going to turn around overnight,'' said a senior agriculture source
in Moscow. ``But the dramatic decline was in the early 1990s and now we're
starting to see a little bit of a turnaround, although nothing dramatic.''
The newly reformist Finance Ministry, which poured $96 billion equivalent
into the sector as recently as 1991, has warned that such weighty handouts
will not continue, saying the next budget would allot a puny $470 million
Analysts say this could spell disaster if bad weather strikes.
Russian farm output has halved since 1991, with last year's grain output down
53 percent on peak levels of 130 million tonnes or more in the late 1970s.
Not even First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, the former governor of
the Nizhny Novogorod region, has been able to touch the sector on a national
scale, though he has forecast the grain harvest rising to 80 million tonnes.
Nizhny Novgorod, home to the first farm to go private, has not been able to
transplant its experimental model to other regions.
But the government, increasingly out of the picture of financing farms and
food imports, has not imported grain for the past three or so years and would
not do so this year, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin said on Friday.
That is because Russia is eating less and has fewer cattle to feed, since
farmers find it more economical to slaughter livestock than to purchase
grains to feed them.
Russia once spent much of its oil export revenues on multi-million-tonne
grain imports. But agriculture analysts reiterate the government will not be
a presence on world grain markets this year.
``What has struck us most is the collapse in the livestock numbers and the
drawdown in the inputs,'' said the senior Western grains source.
Russia already imports around 40 percent of its food needs, soaking up
lower-value meat products unwanted in the West, like dark poultry meat and
even ox liver.
``The processing industry is in a very sorry state,'' the source said. ``To
what extent will Russians rely on domestic output?''
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