This Date's Issues: 1409 • 1410
Johnson's Russia List
5 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
A modest suggestion: It would be useful to many
readers if writers provided some minimal identification
1. Victor Raskin: Re Resignation.
2. Anne Williamson: Yeltsin.
3. Stephen Shenfield: Language/Soviet technology.
4. Stanley Kober: Yeltsin and Gorbachev.
5. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Yeltsin's house of cards.
6. Reuters: Yeltsin faces standoff on return from Sweden.
7. Interfaks-AiF: Lebed: Yeltsin Paid Off Opposition Groups.
8. Financial Times (UK): Storm tactics used to ride out the
9. Mayak Radio Network: Poll: 41% Say Russian Invasion of
10. Reuters: Old suspicions resurface at NATO-Russia talks.
11. The Times (UK): Yeltsin aides tire of bizarre behaviour.
12. Reuters: Russians overwhelmingly back death penalty--poll.
13. Reuters: Russia's biggest headache tax
14. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Aleksandr Gamov, "What 'Clever
Is Thinking Up."
15. The Guardian (UK): Tim Phillips, Comrade, share my software.]
Date: Thu, 04 Dec 1997
From: Vladimir Raskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: Resignation
Lately, it has become sort of a fashion for JRL readers to blame Yeltsin
for everything what's going on in Russia. Let's not forget three simple
1. It was Yeltsin (and not Gorbachev, despite the West's inexplicable
obsession with him!) who actually started real political and economic
reforms in Russia in 1992.
2. It was Yeltsin who ensured the irreversibility of reforms
and impossibility of the Communism comeback in Russia.
3. It was Yeltsin who guaranteed the peaceful transition in Russia
(with the exception of
the unforgivable war in Chechnya.) Other scenarios were also more than
possible, just look at Yugoslavia!
Indeed, lots of mistakes have been and are being made. But it was hard to
this unique historic experiment could be completed without any. The
peculiarity of the present Russia's development course is that it
remains heavily dependent on a charismatic, powerful leader and a few
other personalities. Does it surprise us? Hardly, given the millenium of
autocratic tradition in this country. Could some things have been done
differently? Possibly, but it would be a waste of time to speculate on
Yeltsin has proved to be a survivor and the last thing he thinks of is his
resignation. But, theoretically, could his resignation help Russia now?
Most certainly, not. If not Yeltsin, then who? Luzhkov, Lebed,
Chernomyrdin? Will they do any better? Given the present
"superpresidential" system in Russia, the Byelorussian scenario seems very
probable in this case.
I believe, what needs to be done is a peaceful transition of power after
the presidential election in 2000 accompanied by the constitutional reform
that would take effect in 2000 in order to prevent the next president,
whoever he is, from turning Russia back to authoritarianism.
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies
University of Washington
Date: Thu, 04 Dec 1997
From: Anne Williamson <awilliamson@MCIONE.com>
Let's see what's in the cupboard to keep the boogeyman away? Military
cuts! It worked for Gorby, so why not Borka? Nice to see a fresh voice
(new to me anyway) - Martin Nesirsky - who was the only one to connect the
dots in his reporting - #1407.
Yeltsin intoxicated? N-o-o-o-o, but probably higher than a kite from some
nice "heart medicine" sure to induce the warm and fuzzies when ingested and
for which the good doctors wrote up a permanent script. At least Gorby was
merely stunned and not flying high when it all came crashing down around
his head. And it is all crashing down. Now. Rapidly. As I write.
If the West will just allow what quasi-market devices that do exist in
Russia work, we can look forward to the spectacle of the oligarchs - that
motely crew of ex-Komsomol creeps - racing for the jets they keep
permanently fueled and crewed, awaiting their long-anticipated emergency
departure on the tarmac at Vnykovo. Yes, it will be horrible for the
people, but at this point it is going to be horrible for the people no
matter what. The sooner these absurd boyar constructions collapse, the
sooner the rebuilding can begin and the sooner the nation's assets will
return to their rightful owners - the Russian people - and be developed.
And let's not send any false gods led by Crimson Tide careerists preaching
market economics while practising statism on G-7 taxpayers' collective dime.
It seems appropriate to recall at this sad moment what one of the most
classically liberal Russian intellectuals of my acquaintance told me a
little over a year ago before Yeltsin's surgery. I had asked him what he
thought might happen should Yeltsin go to that great Choot-Choot in the
sky. His reply? "Don't be ridiculous, Anya. Of course, he will survive.
Yeltsin is going to die alright, but only at the end of a rope." When I
repeated the man's remark to one nationalist/bolshie pal, he sniffed that
that was the only correct thing the classical liberal had ever said in four
decades. So you see? People can agree.
So, everybody ready? Yeltsin isn't
Date: Thu, 04 Dec 1997
From: Stephen_Shenfield@brown.edu (Stephen Shenfield)
Tom Whitehouse says it's as difficult for a Russian to learn fluent Estonian
as it is for an English-speaker to learn fluent Hindi. That is a bad example
to choose because English, Russian and Hindi in fact belong to the same
Indo-European language group (though to different sub-groups), while
Estonian belongs, with Finnish and Hungarian, to the Finno-Ugric group.
The solution, of course, is for both Russians and Estonians to learn
Gary Kern's piece about the worthlessness of the technological development
of the Soviet era is a little one-sided. While the overall pattern of
development was indeed highly distorted and militarized, enormous numbers of
people received scientific and technical educations way above the level of
not only the Third World but even most Western countries. And quite a few of
them made advances in specific fields that put them ahead of their Western
colleagues. The best source I know of about this is the volume "Sectors of
Mutual Benefit in U.S.-Soviet Relations" edited by Nish Jamgotch (Duke UP,
1985). The Soviet system was unable to put these advances to effective use,
but it did create this intellectual potential -- "human capital", if you
like -- that a successor system should have been able somehow to mobilize
for the good of the country and the people. And that didn't happen. Instead
almost all of it is going to waste. Nor do I see why that should be regarded
From: Stanley Kober <StanleyKo@aol.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Dec 1997 21:26:32 EST
Subject: Yeltsin and Gorbachev
Although I generally share your view of Yeltsin and do not regard him as a
democrat, suggesting that he resign is an utterly useless proposal. This is
someone who risked death to run for re-election. He does not accept
responsibility for Russia's problems: like a Tsar (to which he now likens
himself), he has ministers to fulfill that role. Rather, it seems to me we
should be thinking of how we react to the danger of a possible financial
collapse in Russia, because the signs are not good. When capital leaves a
country on a sustained basis, that suggests there is something very wrong with
the economy. And the capital, as an editorial in today's (Dec. 4) Washington
Post noted, is now flying out of Russia.
On another subject, I am getting a little tired of people continuing to mock
Gorbachev. I mean, what could be worse than starring in a TV commercial? And
for a food that is high in fat and cholesterol! What fiendish thing will he
think of next?
More seriously, I take my cue on Gorbachev v. Yeltsin from the late Andrei
Sinyavsky. In an article published in the British newspaper, the Guardian, on
Oct. 19, 1993 (it originally appeared in Nezavisimaya gazeta), he wrote:
"What did Gorbachev do? 1: He withdrew the troops from Afghanistan. 2: He
gave us freedom of speech. 3: He allowed eastern Europe to regain
independence. 4: He freed Andrei Sakharov and other political prisoners. 5:
He put an end to the cold war.
"You can count Gorbachev's achievements on one hand. But what important
achievements they were. He was the first Bolshevik reformer and the destroyer
of a hated system. But the intelligentsia, who had been given freedom by
Gorbachev himself, disliked him....
"Today the most terrible thing is happening. My old enemies have begun,
occasionally, to speak the truth and my fellow Russian intellectuals have,
instead of opposing Yeltsin and trying to correct the mistakes he and his team
have made, welcomed the appointment of a strong leader and again call for
strong measures to be taken.
"We have seen all this before. That was how Soviet rule began."
4 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin's house of cards
By MATTHEW FISHER, Sun's Columnist at Large (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
MOSCOW -- No matter how much evidence to the contrary piles up, many in
the West continue to insist that Russia is about to turn the corner and
enter the Promised Land.
Bill Clinton says so. So does Jean Chretien. Jacques Chirac and Helmut
Kohl parrot this line religiously.
Even the latest debacle involving corruption in Boris Yeltsin's inner
circle couldn't quite shake the faith of the reform-happy Economist. The
usually sensible British magazine, which inexplicably prefers to style
itself a newspaper, recently pondered the question of whether Russia was
hopelessly screwed up.
After a lot of zigging and zagging and fretting over the fate of Deputy
Prime Minister Anatoli Chubais, who recently was caught (and not for the
first time) helping himself to some loot, the weekly, like many other
prestigious western publications, decided that Russia is still going forward.
This is wishful nonsense. Russia has turned a corner, alright. It's
entered a muddy dead end.
Privatization has been wonderful for the government's chosen cronies and
a cruel joke on the masses. Relatively little foreign money ever came here,
but the money that did is running away this winter.
Russia is paralyzed by gangsterism. Nukes aside, it is militarily feeble.
It is colossally corrupt. It is bankrupt. It barely functions. In many
spheres it only functions at all because of western handouts or because of a
complicated shell game, with bailout money being moved between government
accounts to create the illusion that taxes are being collected.
With even International Monetary Fund gifts now in peril, the nascent
stock market in freefall, extortion and contract killings commonplace,
interest rates racing upwards and millions of workers waiting for billions
of dollars of unpaid wages, the economy is producing negative growth for the
umpteenth year in a row.
Without IMF emergency cash, the Yeltsin administration is incapable of
meeting its most basic budget requirements.
Whenever Yeltsin is in grave political trouble television cameras are
allowed into the Kremlin to record the president ritualistically humiliating
a few of his appointees for incompetence before firing them. Things must be
especially bad now because Yeltsin staged this time-worn bit of theatre once
last week and had scheduled another public tantrum for this week before
postponing this performance because he had to play the role of statesman for
a couple of days in Stockholm.
In once again denouncing those aides he had chosen to help him guide
Russia, Yeltsin is trying to buy his presidency a little time. But the day
surely approaches when there must be a reckoning which involves the
president taking some of the blame himself.
It is never said often enough that Russia still has many decent,
hard-working people. But in today's environment they don't stand a chance.
Yeltsin's country gives the appearance of being a nation of bandits because
so many of those in positions of power - in the police, the army, politics,
government, banking and industry - are exactly that.
The West's biggest mistake isn't that it has thrown so much money at
Russia. It is its habit of fixating upon a few Russians as the only
potential saviors of the nation.
For the longest time the object of its affection was Mikhail Gorbachev.
With great initial reluctance that affection was transferred to Yeltsin. Now
Chubais is the darling. No matter how much trouble he gets into or how
meagre his actual results are, the illogical consensus is that he is
Operating in a legal vacuum, those in and near power have plundered as
they pleased under Yeltsin, arranging sweetheart deals such as low-interest
loans and impossibly generous book contracts for themselves with those they
are charged with regulating.
Blinded by the new neon lights in Moscow, Russia's new friends in the
West continue to shout "Bravo." But without more western handouts, the
lights are about to go out.
Yeltsin faces standoff on return from Sweden
By Philippa Fletcher
MOSCOW, Dec 4 (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin arrived home on Thursday
from a controversial visit to Sweden to face a fresh standoff between his
government and its Communist parliamentary foes.
Yeltsin brought back a number of lucrative business deals from his three-day
visit, but left behind a trail of complaints in the Swedish media for his
erratic behaviour during the trip.
The president upset his Swedish hosts by keeping their king waiting and
a series of off-the-cuff remarks on arms control, forcing his aides to issue
``The Russian president's visit has led to widespread consternation,'' the
conservative daily Svenska Dagbladet said.
As Yeltsin's plane landed in Moscow, Communist parliamentarians were
to strike a new blow against the government, declaring they would reject its
1998 budget during a first reading in the State Duma lower house on Friday.
``That's bad. We need a budget,'' said First Deputy Prime Minister Nemtsov,
one of the young reformers appointed by Yeltsin to give a new boost to
Russia's capitalist transition.
``There are politicians in Russia who think that the worse things are, the
better it is,'' Nemtsov told journalists during a visit to the western Swedish
city of Gothenburg when he heard about the Communists' decision.
He said the cabinet, already embroiled with trying to protect Russia's
economy from world market turmoil and make good on Yeltsin's promise to pay
overdue state wages by the end of the year, would keep trying to get the
The government, which watched with relief on Thursday as share prices
bond prices steadied in response to its efforts, hopes the draft will fuel a
recovery in 1998 after years of economic depression.
But it has been a source of bitter conflict with parliament, which has
helped persuade Yeltsin to strip reform chief Anatoly Chubais of his post as
Zyuganov said the document, already revised once to take the Communists'
into account, still did not do enough to address his party's concerns.
``The Communist Party has decided not to vote in favour of the budget,
above all it does not change the social-economic course,'' he said.
The decision substantially reduces its chances of being passed, since
Communists hold 138 out of the Duma's 450 seats and often enjoy support from
the rest of the opposition which together makes up a majority in the house.
But last-minute bargaining could still swing the vote in the government's
``We'll wait until tomorrow, our deputies' minds are always changing,''
Alexander Livshits, Yeltsin's economic adviser, said at an investor
A previous standoff over the budget in October, during which parliament
threatened a no-confidence vote in the government, was resolved when the draft
was revised to appease the Communists by a government-parliament commission.
The liberal opposition Yabloko party said on Thursday it would call for a new
no-confidence vote, but similiar Yabloko initiatives won little support the
previous time around.
Duma speaker Gennady Seleznyov, himself a Communist but more inclined to
accept the budget than many of his comrades, warned them they could provoke
Yeltsin into disolving the Duma.
Yeltsin demonstrated his penchant for getting his own way in Sweden when he
tried to bulldoze first his own entourage, then Swedish Prime Minister Goran
Persson, into signing deals on gas.
His spokesman explained his errors away at one point by saying Yeltsin, who
had a major heart operation a year ago, was tired -- a view backed up by his
appearance on several occasions.
``The Yeltsin who came to Stockholm on Tuesday was judged by the people
as a man who is not well,'' liberal Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter said in an
Lebed: Yeltsin Paid Off Opposition Groups
Interfaks-AiF, No. 45
November 10-16, 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Interview with Aleksandr Lebed by Georgiy Gulia, under the "Yesterday
and Today" heading; place and date not given: "The Peculiarities of the
National Holiday. Aleksandr Lebed: 'The Pseudo-Opposition's Sun Has Set'"
[Gulia] Aleksandr Ivanovich, what is your attitude toward those who
went out to demonstrations and marches recently during the anniversary of
the 1917 Revolution?
[Lebed] Today, the large number of Zyuganov's supporters is explained
not by the fact that many people have started pining for party meetings,
party dues, and party commissions. The point is that there is a wall in
front of the majority of the country's population—they have nowhere
to go. And then they turn their heads back and take a good look at their
past. It is usually idealized, and an instinctive yearning for it is born.
But if the wall that blocks people off from the future is pulled down, it
will be understandable where to go, and the prospect will be clear. And the
majority will go there.
There is another, so to speak, plane to the problem—that is the
current political leaders, including the leaders of the opposition. What
excited them so much about that date is not very clear...
A few days ago, a moment of truth arrived. Certain "ill-wishers" are
even naming a specific price in the question of the collusion between the
government and the opposition—R325 billion; 15 percent of it was
received by Yabloko, 15 percent by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia,
and the rest, by the Communist Party. I do not know whether to believe it
or not. But it is completely obvious that the government and State Duma
have simultaneously knocked a goal into their own goalposts; the score has
not changed, the play was made, and the spectators are looking around, but
they cannot make out what is going on here.
That's that--the pseudo-opposition's sun has set. I believe that
now this opposition has been installed in power, and has become one of its
component parts. Now it remains for the authorities and the Communists to
persuade the people that accord has truly arrived. It remains for salary
debts to be paid, pensions to be brought up to a level compatible with
survival, and conditions to be created for a dignified life for people,
which will cost a bit more than harmonizing relations with the opposition.
In this situation, one must pity the wretched Russian taxpayer. A
horrendous position: Pay Zyuganov for his loyalty, pay Zhirinovskiy, pay
the two Ryzhkovs, pay Shokhin, and now the CIS members have gotten into
line, too... And all at the expense of the taxpayer. But will the poor
fellow be able to shoulder the burden, will he be able to cope?
[Gulia] Did you yourself celebrate the 80-year anniversary of the
[Lebed] No, I did not celebrate it, because that is the professional
holiday of the party nomenklatura.
But, of course, that day has to be observed. It is our history. We are
all Soviet people, because that was your fortune and mine, and most of us,
a certain time after the famous shot from the Aurora, were born here, in
the Soviet Union. We can never get away from that. We lived the greater and
the better part of our lives in a country that does not exist today. No one
chooses his parents or his country.
I observed that day by remembering all of those who honorably,
receiving reprimands, heart attacks, sometimes, it is true, medals, built
the bright future at the orders of those who preferred for themselves a
very bright present. I remembered those who in the name of that bright
future were shot, left to rot in the camps. I remembered my grandfather who
was dispossessed as a kulak in a massive sweep. He had two cows, and he
found himself with his whole family beyond the Baykal. I remembered my
father, who in 1937 got five years for two tardinesses. Straight from the
camp, he found himself in a penal battalion in the Finnish war, and when
the war ended, they sent my late parent to serve in an ordinary unit,
counting the day of his arrival at the unit as his first day of service.
They just wiped their feet off on him as on a wet rag...
[Gulia] But are there today, 80 years later, any true heirs of Ilich?
[Lebed] I think that there are. But it's just not pleasant to deal
with them. I am convinced that the greatest stupidity that can be committed
in our country is to organize a great all-Russian fight with the accustomed
division into "Reds" and "Whites," with a mixture of "Greens," "Powder-Puff
Blues," and so on. That would signify a catastrophe.
True or untrue, the heirs of Ilich are striving for that; they need a
fight, they need shocks, they need a revolution. But Russia can be raised
only by reason.
We turned to representatives of the factions mentioned above with a
request to comment upon the rumors voiced by A. Lebed on the transfer of
money for accord with the government.
Aleksey Batogov, Chief of the Press Service of the Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia Faction:
"First of all, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia [LDPR] did not
participate at all in the no-confidence vote, but, on the contrary, came
out against it. So I do not understand what they would give us money for.
From the very beginning, our faction said that in the event that a vote of
no confidence was passed, Chernomyrdin would go, and in his place,
Nemtsov's candidacy would be proposed. Naturally, the Duma would never
confirm Nemtsov, and it would be dissolved. But new elections would not be
held. They would simply not find the money for them. And then Yavlinskiy
would become vice premier."
Yevgeniya Dillendorf, Press Secretary for the Yabloko Faction:
"Over the course of the government crisis, Yabloko voted several times
for no confidence in the government and remained the only faction not to
renounce passage of a vote of no confidence."
Irina Makkaveyeva, Press Secretary for the Communist Party of the
Russian Federation Faction:
"That is just another 'sensation,' which has nothing in common with
the truth. On our part, there will be a reaction to follow, because no one
is allowed to throw such accusations around. If Lebed has confirmation of
these facts, he should present them. The trial will be moved from the pages
of the newspapers to a courtroom. We are prepared to present evidence that
no agreements between us and the government existed or could have existed.
By Aleksandr Belonovskiy [End box]
Financial Times (UK)
5 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Russia: Storm tactics used to ride out the economic gale
By Chrystia Freeland and John Thornhill
When Soviet managers wanted to fulfil their plans on time they would
often resort to shturmovshchina - or storm work. A looming deadline
would spark lackadaisical workers into a frenzy as they rushed to build
that bridge or produce that extra tonne of nickel.
Such practices may have made the rickety Soviet command system tick over
but they are hardly a way to run a modern economy. And yet Russian
public finances appear to be run on precisely this principle.
In the past few days the Russian government has been in "storming" mode,
desperately trying to plug a hole in its finances and pay off its
Rbs10,200bn ($1.72bn) wage arrears to federal workers by the end of the
year as President Boris Yeltsin has promised.
The challenge has been complicated by repeated clashes with parliament
and the recent turmoil in the world's financial markets. The
communist-dominated lower house of parliament has been frustrating the
passage of the 1998 budget, which the government argues is essential to
put finances on a sounder footing. Ministers have had to spend their
time cajoling unruly MPs rather than addressing their mounting financial
After months of fighting, the parliament is still at loggerheads with
The communist party, which dominates parliament, said yesterday it would
vote against the first reading of the budget today.
But even if the Kremlin does push through the budget in short order, its
woes will hardly be over. The government's poor record of tax collection
this year has meant it is still unhealthily dependent on both domestic
and foreign borrowing. That has left Moscow vulnerable to the Asian
contagion, which has badly infected Russia by temporarily cutting off
access to cheap international capital and pushing up the cost of
The government fears there could be a further swirl in this vicious
circle. Foreign money is already flooding out of the domestic debt
market, pushing up interest rates and pulling down the rouble. That
instability has already prompted ordinary Russians to buy dollars,
threatening a possible devaluation of the rouble next year.
The central bank's gold and foreign exchange reserves have been rapidly
running down. Sergei Dubinin, the central bank governor, revealed this
week international reserves had fallen to about $18bn, implying the bank
has spent more than $3bn in defence of the rouble in the past two weeks.
Any devaluation of the rouble would bankrupt much of Russia's fragile
banking sector and turn the redenomination of the rouble, planned for
January 1, into a rout. The government's credibility would be shattered
and Russia's hard-won stabilisation programme would be set back months,
if not years.
Because that prospect is so bleak, the chances of avoiding it may be
correspondingly high. Russian officials have already visited Washington
to sound out IMF and World Bank officials about accelerating
disbursement of big loans. This week, the Russian government approached
a group of foreign commercial banks in
Moscow to arrange up to $2bn in emergency financing.
In an effort to restore calm on the financial markets, the central bank
has raised the refinancing rate from 21 per cent to 28 per cent and
announced a more flexible trading regime for the rouble. Mr Dubinin said
he was prepared to raise interest rates further to defend the rouble and
would let the government debt market rise to its equilibrium level.
"I am confident we are at the turning point as far as foreign investors
are concerned," said Dirk Damrau, head of research at Renaissance
Capital, a Moscow-based investment bank. "But there is still the risk of
a mistimed domestic run on the currency."
Economists predict the recent rise in interest rates will steady the
rouble in the short run but argue this policy will become self-defeating
after a certain point. ING Barings calculates that every percentage
point increase in interest rates adds $640m to the government's domestic
borrowings costs over the year. High real interest rates will also choke
off economic growth, further reducing the government's revenue next
Given these pressures on the budget, Andrei Illarionov, director of the
Institute of Economic Analysis, an independent think tank, argues the
government will have no choice but to tackle its runaway public finances
in a more systematic way next year.
But for the moment, he thinks the government's "storming" should enable
it to pay off wage arrears by January 1. "Although it does seem
improbable, the government has recently demonstrated an amazing capacity
to solve insoluble problems. So I would not rule out that the government
will fulfil this latest promise," he said.
Poll: 41% Say Russian Invasion of Chechnya 'Mistake'
Mayak Radio Network
2 December 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Forty-one percent of Russian citizens believe that Moscow committed a
fundamental mistake in sending federal troops into Chechnya in December
1994, since such questions should not be resolved by force. Another 40
percent of Russian citizens consider that this step had not been thought
through since, in any event, the lives of soldiers and citizens should not
have been risked. These are the findings of a poll of 1,600 Russian
citizens by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion.
However, 11 percent of those questioned consider that, given the
circumstances, the center's decision was, in principle, the correct one,
which only led to two years of bloody war because of the incompetence and
indecisiveness of the leadership of the army and the special services.
Old suspicions resurface at NATO-Russia talks
By Douglas Hamilton
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Russia's suspicions about the eastward expansion
and ``Partnership for Peace'' activities of its old foe NATO surfaced again
this week in otherwise amicable meetings of top military commanders at NATO
Top-ranking Russians including Defence Minister Marshal Igor Sergeyev and
chief of defence staff General Anatoly Kvashnin suggested that NATO may have a
secret agenda for bases and exercises near Russia's borders, NATO sources
NATO replied that Moscow had no grounds for concern or complaint because it
had been invited to take a more active part in the East-West exercises it was
On Thursday, General Kvashnin expressed concern about plans for the military
infrastructure NATO is about to acquire when three new candidate members,
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, join the alliance in 1999.
The previous day, Marshal Sergeyev had suggested that a Black Sea exercise
under NATO's Partnership for Peace (PFP) had certain characteristics which
could be termed militarily offensive.
The Russians, because of suspicions about NATO objectives in courting former
Soviet states, has taken only a very limited part in PFP.
German Defence Minister Volker Ruehe told the Marshal that there was a simple
way of checking his suspicions, namelyw-?o its intentions...we have clearly
stated that we have no intentions, no plans with regard to nuclear weapons,
and that we will not station substantial forces on the territories of the
three invited countries.''
Russia opposes the eastward expansion in principle but is itself working in
closer cooperation with NATO. This week, NATO headquarters hosted the top
military brass of 28 countries stretching to Central Asia which have joined
PFP since the post- Cold War programme started in 1993.
Naumann told a news conference he had assured the Russians they had no reason
to be concerned but also no reason to raise this question at a NATO-Russia
``It is not the NATO attitude to discuss with Russia above the heads of other
sovereign nations,'' Naumann said.
``The present NATO-Russia cooperation is a discussion between the 16 NATO
countries and Russia and we will not touch on any issue which concerns another
A high-ranking military source said Russia had expressed concern about naval
exercises in the Baltic which were in no sense on any scale that could have
been considered a threat.
The same went for the military exercise in the Black Sea which Sergeyev had
suggested had elements of an attack plan.
A high-ranking NATO source expressed surprise at the Russians' worries,
especially since they had been well informed in advance by NATO about its
plans and had invited Moscow more than once to join in exercises near Russian
``I was on a ship in one exercise and there they were aboard the electronic
surveillance trawler watching us. We told them they would be better off coming
aboard because they could learn more in the command room than by
eavesdropping,'' he said.
Naumann said he would not characterise Thursday's exchanges as robust but
simply as ``factual.'' Certain political issues, it had been agreed in
advance, were not to be discussed.
The Times (UK)
December 5, 1997
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin aides tire of bizarre behaviour
FROM RICHARD BEESTON IN MOSCOW
PRESIDENT YELTSIN received a mixed welcome when he returned to Moscow
yesterday after a visit to Sweden, where he appeared tired, incoherent
and prone to bizarre public statements.
As officials struggled to explain the Russian leader's dramatic arms
control offers and his confused comments on everything from energy to
nuclear weapons, senior Kremlin figures were privately reconsidering his
packed schedule of foreign trips.
President Yeltsin has a long history of unpredictable behaviour abroad
that has cast lingering doubts over the wisdom of letting him loose on
the international stage. However, most of his previous escapades
occurred when he was prone to heavy drinking and had recurring heart
ailments. These problems were supposedly cleared up after bypass surgery
last year, which saw him emerge fitter than he had been in years. This
time aides complained instead that he seemed too tired to cope with the
busy schedule of meetings and public appearances.
Mr Yeltsin announced unexpectedly that Russia was willing to get rid of
a third of its nuclear arsenal. Although the statement sounded dramatic,
it was an empty gesture, since Russia is already behind in carrying out
its previous arms reduction commitments and further cuts are a long way
His behaviour, which left many perplexed, was summed up by Aleksandr
Budberg, a Russian reporter travelling with the presidential team.
"Yeltsin looked inadequate," he wrote in the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.
"He created the impression of a computer that had gone haywire.
Instead of the information you expect, all the wrong files kept coming
Russians overwhelmingly back death penalty--poll
MOSCOW, Dec 4 (Reuters) - About 70 percent of Russians support the death
penalty despite Moscow's international pledges to scrap it, an opinion poll
quoted by Interfax news agency showed on Thursday.
Russia's Public Opinion Fund carried out a survey questioning 1,500 people
across the country. Only 21 peercent wanted the death penalty scrapped, it
President Boris Yeltsin imposed an unofficial moratorium on executions
after his re-election in July last year. In April Russia signed a protocol of
the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans executions in peacetime.
But the Communist-led parliament threw out a bill confirming Yeltsin's
moratorium and seems unlikely to ratify the protocol or strike the death
penalty from the new criminal code.
While the row rumbles on, capital convictions continue.
Itar-Tass news agency said a court in Russia's central republic of Udmurtya
sentenced a man found guilty of five murders to death on Thursday.
Yuri Artamonov, 25, of Izhevsk in Udmurtya pleaded guilty of killing five and
attempting to kill two women. He posed as a plumber to enter people's homes,
usually women's, killed them and stole their belongings.
Artamonov will join Russia's death row, now holding about 700 convicts,
although he does not face immediate execution.
Russia's biggest headache tax collection-Camdessus
TOKYO, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Russia's biggest headache is not
the Asian crisis, but the slow pace of reform of its
tax-collection system, International Monetary Fund Managing
Director Michel Camdessus said on Thursday.
"We are not panicking at all. I don't see the crisis is
Asia as the most pressing problem for Russia," Camdessus told a
news conference in Tokyo.
"The most serious problem for Russia is the slowness in
improving the system of tax collection which is paralysing the
progress in the public and private economy in Russia,"
Camdessus also said that changes in the Russian cabinet
would not affect Russia's relationship with the IMF.
"No, absolutely no, for many reasons, one of them being
that IMF negotiations and agreements are with countries, not
with individual governments nor with individuals within
governments, so countries are free to change their governments,
it does not interrupt our relationships," he said when asked
about any possible impact.
Camdessus also said the IMF was in "permanent dialogue"
with Russian authorities and was discussing with them any
possible repercussions of the Asian currency crisis.
The Russian government, in the throes of a deepening
financial crisis, is scrambling for cash including bank funding
of up to $2.0 billion and additional help from the IMF,
international monetary sources said on Wednesday.
In November, Russia's government went through a shake-up in
the wake of a money scandal that cost First Deputy Prime
Minister Anatoly Chubais, the government's top economic
reformer, his post as finance minister. Three of Chubais'
liberal allies were sacked.
Camdessus said that if Russia were to be in a situation of
crisis due to developments in Asia or other reasons, "We would
be sitting with them and seeing how we could help them."
"I can guarantee you that I am personally very attentive to
(Russia) and I hope that very soon the government will be able
to demonstrate by new measures its commitment to putting tax
collection in order to allow us to continue to contribute to
financing the Russian economy," he said.
Chubays Protection of Cabinet Considered
3 December 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Aleksandr Gamov: "What 'Clever Chubays' Is Thinking Up"
Does the first vice premier have the diplomatic skill to protect the
cabinet of ministers from the president's ire?
We have come to understand more clearly why the president, despite all
Chubays' transgressions on the writing front, has not handed him over to be
eaten up by the opposition and what meaning was invested here in his
statement: "He is clever!" (Obviously not an argument for Russia). While
passions were seething in the Duma, while the "four" were debating in the
Kremlin, deciding fates including Chubays' own, Chubays himself was not
As we know, in late September the "young reformers" team was struck a
blow more terrible to the executive branch than the fees scandal. The IMF
mission suddenly ended its work in Moscow. Its experts noted at the time
the intolerably low level of receipts of Russian revenue for the Russian
treasury. As a result the allocation of the next tranche of extended
credit of nearly $700 million was delayed.
Of course it is not so much a question of the sum as of the actual
fact that the question was raised: Since Russia is unable to pursue a
skilled tax policy and fill the state coffers with its own reserves, what
is the point in giving it credit?
"Clever Chubays," caught in the crossfire of all conceivable and
inconceivable Russian oppositions -- from the Duma and government
opposition (there is such a thing) to the "financial-oligarchic" opposition
controlled by Boris Berezovskiy -- set himself the aim of persuading the
IMF experts that ours is not an entirely lost cause and that come what may
the IMF mission should return to Moscow.
According to our information it is on this that the first vice premier
and his apparatus have been painstakingly engaged for the past few days:
With telephone calls and correspondence.... At Chubays' initiative Sergey
Aleksashenko, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank of Russia, was sent
to Washington and met with the IMF leadership.
And it looks as though the ice was broken. The fund's new mission
started work in Moscow yesterday. It will study in detail the situation in
the Russian economy including its "tax revenue" sector.
It is true that here, as before, there is nothing to boast of --
receipts for the treasury are not increasing. But it has become known to
us that Chubays sincerely hopes that this time he will succeed in
persuading the IMF emissaries that "positive dynamics" can already been
seen with the naked eye on the Russian economic landscape. And since that
is the case, international currency support promises quite a good return.
They say that the wily Chubays is looking even further. According to
his estimates, if the IMF experts deem Russia to be "economically
efficient" then we can count not only on a "one-off grant" of $700 million
but also on a broader program.
Incidentally, it was the two weeks of talks with International Finance
Corporation representatives which in my view were the main reason for
deferring the government's "tooth-gnashing" report in the Kremlin. If
Chubays has enough diplomatic skill he will not only protect himself in the
continuing "armed conflict of defamation" but will also defend the Cabinet
of Ministers from the president's ire.
The Guardian (UK)
3 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Comrade, share my software
By Tim Phillips
>From the government down, piracy is a way of life in Russia. Tim Phillips
meets the Muscovite charged with counterattacking the counterfeiters
“We have a phrase for the people we employ at Microsoft Russia,” says
anti-piracy marketing manager Eugene Danilov. “Literally translated, we are
With a job the size of Danilov’s, that’s essential. As Microsoft’s stolen
software gumshoe in Moscow, he is central in the fight against a trade that
the Business Software Alliance estimates is worth $3.5 billion in Europe
alone. And in Europe, by far the biggest market for illegal software is Russia.
He is visiting London to meet his Western European colleagues. But the
meeting couldn’t have come at a better time, for two reasons. The first is
Christmas shopping (his children want Lego, not easily available in Russia).
But Danilov also has used his visit to catch up on police leads on last
month’s armed raid on Thompson Lith, a company that presses CD-Roms for
Microsoft in East Kilbride. “I feel I will be seeing some of [this] software
in Moscow,” he says.
In the raid four masked men tied up two security guards and stole 100,000
CD-Roms — worth £9.6 million — and 200,000 Certificates of Authority
(COAs), the hard-to-copy inserts that are supposed to show the software is
genuine. British police were shocked that software pirates were carrying
guns, but for Danilov, this is another day at the office. His job is to
stamp out the use of pirated Microsoft software in Russia, and he proudly
announces that piracy rates fell by three per cent this year. Software
piracy in Russia is at an all-time low, he says — 91 per cent.
“In Russia this year there will be 1.5 million PCs sold,” says Danilov,
“that’s as many as in Australia. But in Australia, we sell $300 million of
software. In Russia, it’s $25 million.”
With a ready supply of $3 pirate copies of Microsoft software falling off
the back of a lorry from Kilbride or shipped across the Black Sea from
government-owned factories in Bulgaria, it’s surprising Microsoft Russia
makes as much as it does.
The result is a bizarre set of initiatives to stamp out piracy. Danilov’s
most potent weapon is bribery. “We have to give users something that the
pirates can’t give them. So if they buy our software, we might give them a
printer or a free connection to the Internet as a reward. But there are
older guys, maybe 50 or 60 years old, who lived under the communists. They
don’t care. For them, the only thing that would stop them pirating software
is if it damaged their reputation.”
In a country where sharing software is considered a human right, he says,
that is quite hard to do. “Russians like to share everything with
everybody,” he says. “And that includes their software.”
At trade shows, Microsoft hands out free T-shirts to users who register
their software and palmtop computers to companies who admit they are using
stolen software. At the last show, 300 T-shirts and 12 palmtops were
awarded. Danilov also uses a self-confessed pirate to put across his
message: a flea market trader in Siberia who encourages other pirate
software traders to sell some legitimate software alongside pirate copies.
You might not sell much, is the message, but the profit margins are bigger.
However, Danilov refuses to predict further declines in the pirate
software business. Even Russia’s new criminal code makes it impossible to
bring a prosecution against a pirate unless Danilov can prove that Microsoft
lost a “considerable” amount of money. The definition of considerable
depends on how busy the state prosecutors are. “Some wouldn’t consider $1
million to be enough,” he says.
One recent successful prosecution shows how endemic piracy is in Russian
society: a $350,000 deal between a software dealer and its customer involved
pirate software shipped from Cyprus. The deal was set up by the chief
accountant of the dealer, who also happened to be the chief accountant of
the customer. The customer’s name? The Moscow City Department of Education.
But doesn’t Danilov have some sympathy for his comrades in a country
where a legitimate copy of Microsoft Office costs three times the average
monthly wage of $143, and there are 6.6 million unemployed? Danilov’s
labour-holic features harden. Russia can no longer be different from the
rest of Europe, he says. “So if they can afford a computer, they can afford
the software for it. They should stop crying about it and try to find a job.”
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