This Date's Issues: 1447
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Johnson's Russia List
22 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Los Angeles Times: Steven Merritt Miner, RUSSIA: America's
2. the eXile: IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECTLY INANE EDITORIAL.
3. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Interview with Sergey Yuryev, president
of the Legal Assembly, "Compatriots Seek Contacts With Their
Homeland." (Problems of Russians in Near Abroad Viewed).
4. Detroit News: Vladimir Isachenkov (AP), Russia calls in NATO
to help dismantle its old nuclear subs.
5. St. Petersburg Times editorial: Kulikov's Worries Over Spats
Among Bankers Is Misplaced.
6. Reuters: New Russia privatisation chief seen as moderate.
7. Interfax: Yeltsin Wants To Abolish Mixed Voting System.]
Los Angeles Times
December 21, 1997
[for personal use only
America's Emerging Nemesis
By STEVEN MERRITT MINER
Steven Merritt Miner, a Professor of Russian History at Ohio University,
is the Author of "Selling Stalin" and a Contributor to "The Diplomats."
ATHENS, OHIO--Americans have watched as their erstwhile Cold War
adversary, the U.S.S.R., disintegrated and as its successor, the Russian
Republic, has failed to halt its economic and military decline. The
once-vaunted Soviet Army is now a hollow shell, sustaining more than 500
suicides a year, more than 1,000 recruits killed annually in brutal
hazings and soldiers starving to death in distant outposts. Meantime,
Moscow's former Warsaw Pact allies all clamor to join the North Atlantic
One influential person unreconciled to the loss of Soviet power,
and determined to reverse it, is Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny M.
Primakov. Unlike his genial pro-Western predecessor, Primakov reflects
Russia's growing xenophobia and the harder international line urged on
President Boris N. Yeltsin by the opposition-dominated Duma.
Primakov first entered government service in 1953, the year of
Josef Stalin's death, and he reflects the views and prejudices of the
old Soviet diplomatic elite. For his generation, the United States was,
and will always remain, the primary rival. This view has only been
enhanced by such things as the unchecked wielding of U.S. power in the
Persian Gulf and the expansion of NATO to include former Soviet
satellites Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.
Primakov's background is well-suited to the tasks of restoring
Russia as a major player on the world scene. He is a Middle Eastern
specialist, with fluent knowledge of the Arabic language. Furthermore,
as a Pravda correspondent in the region from 1966 through 1970, Primakov
got to know many of the major political figures of the Islamic world,
including Saddam Hussein, whom he describes in one of his many books as
an able and relatively moderate character. He also briefly served in the
Russian Federal Intelligence Service, the successor to the KGB.
Not much can be done in the short term to restore Russian military
power. But America's international position has soft spots that even a
much-weakened Russia can probe. As it has been for decades, the Middle
East is the Achilles' heel of U.S. foreign relations. As an academician,
Primakov wrote extensively about this region and about U.S. policy
there; now he is in a position to act on his theories.
In his writings, Primakov points out that the United States suffers
from two liabilities in the Middle East. One, it is tied to Israel by
bonds of culture, political affinity and history. This bond
automatically sets Washington at odds with much of the Arab and Islamic
world while conferring on Russia a natural attraction as a
counterweight. At the same time, the U.S. economy, though seemingly
omnipotent in an unstable world, is heavily dependent on the continued
flow of cheap oil. Much of that oil, as it happens, lies under the
Islamic states that Washington has offended by its support of Israel.
These factors were in force even during the Soviet period, of
course, and they dictated Moscow's role as a "spoiler" in the Middle
East. The Soviet Union armed and supported "rejectionist" states, such
as Syria, Hussein's Iraq and, to a lesser extent, Libya. As Soviet power
disintegrated from 1988 onward, however, Moscow was in no position to
continue this policy. Without the drastic weakening of the Soviet Union,
the U.S.-led drubbing of Iraq in 1991 would have been unthinkable. As it
was, even then the Soviets made a desperate last-minute effort to
prevent a military humiliation of Hussein--and the emissary Mikhail S.
Gorbachev chose to go on this fruitless errand was Primakov himself.
Following a period of diplomatic retreat, Primakov hopes to
reestablish Russian influence by using one of the few levers Moscow has:
access to oil. Russia itself has oil reserves estimated to be nearly
equal to those around the Persian Gulf, and Moscow's former Muslim
Central Asian subjects--Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan--have vast
reserves of their own. Chaos in Russia's politics and economy, plus
corruption, have prevented effective exploitation of these resources.
Furthermore, although Russia dominates these former dependencies,
politically and geographically, and is close to the Persian Gulf, the
low level of Russian oil-drilling technology has made it an unattractive
This is where Primakov believes that Russia can deal with two
problems simultaneously: Unable to compete with the West, especially the
United States, Russia can rely instead on U.S. unpopularity in the
Islamic world to gain a foothold in the Middle East. Thus, last March,
Pyotr Rodionov, Russia's energy minister, signed a $3.5-billion deal
with the Iraqis, promising to help rebuild some of the oil
infrastructure destroyed during the Gulf War. Although not all terms of
this agreement are public, it is reasonable to assume that, as a member
of the U.N. Security Council, Russia let it be known that it would
prevent any further strengthening of the existing sanctions imposed on
This is precisely what the Russians did during the latest showdown
between the United States and Iraq, when Primakov himself traveled to
Baghdad to negotiate a deal that allows Hussein to continue
circumventing the U.N. embargo while keeping U.S. hands tied. Cozying up
to Baghdad has another potential benefit: The Iraqis may repay Russia
the more than $10 billion they owe, mostly for arms purchases made
during the Soviet era.
In Central Asia as well, U.S. oil companies have sought entry into
the lucrative oil and gas fields of the Caspian Basin and surrounding
regions. To date, their success has been modest. The newly independent
oil-rich states are all landlocked, their economies are intertwined with
Russia's and the Russian military still serves as the policeman of the
region. Thus, Kazakhstan's first big independent oil deal was not signed
with a U.S. or Western company but with China, and it clearly did so at
Russia's behest. Primakov envisions playing his own China card. In the
1970s, a shared fear of Soviet power drove Washington and Beijing
together, but resentment at U.S. hegemony now provides common ground for
the two Asian leviathans.
Sharp Russian oil politics provide headaches for Washington, but
they do not amount to a renewal of the Cold War. Russian power is much
too weak for that, and the largely privatized Russian economy is far too
intertwined with the rest of the capitalist world to return to the old
days of Soviet-style isolation. Above all else, there is no real
ideological impulse dictating an all-out Russian-American face-down.
Rather, what we are seeing is the reemergence of an independent Russian
foreign policy. It is inevitable that a nation covering more than
one-seventh of the world's land mass would have interests that sometimes
collide with our own.
Russia may no longer be a superpower, but neither is its influence
negligible. Its population still enjoys a high level of technical
education; its armaments are still desirable to those countries at odds
with the West, and it still possesses nuclear weapons. When Russian
interests are threatened, as they are by NATO expansion, it can still
find ways to extract its pound of flesh from the United States.
Primakov's oil weapon may reflect the politics of comparative weakness,
but it is nonetheless a reminder that Washington cannot take Moscow for
From: "Mark Ames" <email@example.com>
Subject: IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECTLY INANE EDITORIAL
Date: Sat, 20 Dec 1997 20:31:51 +0100
IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECTLY INANE EDITORIAL
We here at the eXile have often been accused of being overly critical,
while leaving the great question of how to be constructive untouched. "It's
easy to tear things down, but harder to build them up," they say.
It's not like we've never tried to be constructive. Last spring, we did our
good Christian deed by trying to help our wheezing, textually anorexic
brothers at the Moscow Tribune get back on their gout-ridden feet. Perhaps
you'll recall how we went through the trouble of polling local PR firms for
advice on how to convince people to pick up the Trib from the stands. The
grand result of our poll was that a new scratch 'n sniff Trib was the only
way the paper could save itself from neglect. But alas, our advice wasn't
taken, and to this day they cannot prove that a single client has ever paid
a dime for a single ad.
This issue, we've turned our attention to our friends over at Ulitsa
Pravdy, The Moscow Times, who seem to be finally tackling the great issue
of how to create the perfect editorial. On December 5th, we received a slew
of phone calls concerning the editorial "Gorbachev Should Not Sell Pizza,"
which most of our readers thought was a practical joke we'd played on the
Times. "How did you guys slip that fake editorial into their newspaper?!"
cried more than one bemused reader.
The embarrassing fact is that we didn't. They--or rather, interim editor
Geoff Winestock--composed that editorial all by his whacky, interim self.
We were nearly struck with jealousy that he had penned such lightly
humorous asides as, "the great man's image will tarnish fast once he starts
exhorting people to visit the salad bar at their local Pizza Hut," and in
the next paragraph, adding fuel to the fire of comedy, "But Gorbachev risks
[...] his halo as the man who ended the Cold War when people start seeing
him as a pizza salesman," and of course who can forget the rousing finale
of cymbal-crashing humor when Winestock concluded with the surprise
punchline, "... the [Gorbachev] foundation's reputation will suffer once
its guiding light starts doing Pizza Hut ads..." This is a knee-slapping,
sides-a-hurtin' example of how Winestock is expanding his reach into high
Oddly, the comedy came to a screeching halt, although the will to
experiment took a mind-bending turn. On Wednesday, December 10th, the
interim editor published his first-ever "must" editorial, as opposed to the
innumerable "should" editorials that have marked his brief tenure.
Headlined "Law MUST Root Out Bad Police," Winestock shocked his readers by
actually taking a clear stand. Not that he'd find too many sane human
beings who would disagree with his argument that bad policemen should be
fired, but we figured that this was a first step, a big toe dipped in the
lake of commitment, and there's nothing more we'd like to do than to run up
behind him at full speed, lower our helmet, and stick him in the lower
back, sending him deep and far into the lamprey-infested waters of Lake
So we at the eXile, sensing change in the Times' editorial-writing
department, decided to lend a helping hand. Posing as Bernie Schwartz from
the Moscow Times marketing department, we called various expat
organizations--particularly local journalists--to find out just what it is
the reader wants and expects from a Winestockian editorial. Each of the
callers was given a short spiel on how the Moscow Times is working on a new
experimental program to fine tune its editorials to the readers'
expectations. Callers were given the alleged topic for the next day's MT
editorial, then asked to recommend, based on a series of choices, which
type of editorial should be written on that subject.
Our first call was to the Business Week news desk.
eXile: Hello, my name is Bernie Schwartz, and I'm calling from the
marketing department of the Moscow Times.
Business Week: Hello.
Exile: What's your name?
Business Week: John Crawford. I'm the deputy bureau chief.
Exile: Nice to meet you, Mr. Crawford. We're doing a new reader's response
survey to help us with our editorials, in which we ask readers of our
newspaper some questions about what they expect in an editorial. Maybe
you've heard of this kind of thing? They do it a lot in the States.
eXile: Why don't I just get right down to it? Tomorrow's editorial is
supposed to be about the Rosneft loans-for-shares thing, about how they
floated the idea, then withdrew it, and now they're floating it again.
eXile: My first question is, should this editorial be humorous, serious, or
a "points-to-a-larger-problem" type of editorial?
Crawford: Uh, let me see. (Pauses) Points-to-a-larger problem editorial.
eXile: Okay. Next question. Should we make this a "there-they-go-again"
editorial, a "the-idea's-not-bad-if-it's-fairly-held" editorial, or should
we use the phrase, "we should not rush to condemn it"?
Crawford: H'm, that's a tough one. What were the three options?
Crawford: I would say "we should not rush to condemn it."
eXile: Okay, and the last question. Should we end off strongly in favor of
the Rosneft loans-for-shares, strongly against, or remain ambiguous?
Crawford: Ambiguous. That way you cover your options.
Wow! He didn't even blink! Like minds think alike. Moving on, we called the
New York Times to see if that ultimate paper of record might do its part to
help pull Winestock onto the conveyor belt of "objectivity." To our
surprise, we were lucky to hook up with one very helpful Marina Lokhman, an
Lokhman: I'd be more than glad to do this survey. It's part of my job, you
know, to read your editorials.
eXile: Oh that's great. We're happy that you read our newspaper. Things
have been getting tough lately, and that's why we're doing these
reader-response surveys for our editorials.
Lokhman: Oh, what a great idea!
eXile: We're doing an editorial on the Rosneft loans-for-shares thing.
Lokhman: Uh-huh, yeah.
eXile: Do you think our editorial should be serious, humorous, or
Lokhman: Oh definitely "points-to-a-larger-problem." I really like those
types of editorials. Usually economic issues point to a larger problem, you
know? Especially here, where it's like, make-up-the-rules-as-you-go-along,
you know? In this instance you always need to point-to-a-larger-problem.
eXile: I see. The next question concerns the body of the editorial. Do you
think that this editorial should a). have a "there they go again" angle,
b). idea not bad if it's fairly held, or c). we should not rush to condemn
Lokhman (pauses): Okay, well. H'm. Okay, I'm not too familiar with this
particular issue. I can only tell you what I'd expect. I always expect in
this circumstance a "here we go again" type of editorial.
eXile: Okay, good. Now the last question. Should we be strongly for,
strongly against, or ambiguous?
Lokhman: H'm, against or for? You want me to say?
eXile: Well, yeah. That's what this survey's about. We're finding out how
people respond, then we'll fashion tomorrow's editorial based on polled
Lokhman: Interesting. It notes a lack of independence... but you guys are
entitled to that if that's what you want. You guys will probably come out
against the loans-for-shares thing. I mean, you guys are real
rabble-rousers in your editorials. I really like them--like what you wrote
about the Moscow Duma and how they should have an opposition? I totally
agree. In fact, I don't know the last editorial you wrote that I disagreed
eXile: (baffled) You think we're "rabble-rousers"?
[Editor's note: If the New York Times's idea of "rabble-rousing" is that a
municipal legislature should not be a rubber-stamp body for an
authoritarian mayor, then we'd be curious to see what they think is tame.]
Lokhman: I don't mean that's bad! But like, for example, you really came
out against Chubais. That was good.
eXile: We did? Oh. Anyway, we're also planning on doing a web site soon.
Lokhman: Oh great! I'm so excited!
eXile: We're going to do a sort of reader interactive editorial page, where
we'll put up the next day's editorial topic, then have readers vote on how
we should write it.
Lokhman: That's so exciting! I think reader-interaction is great to get
eXile: No, I mean we're going to take the average reader response then base
our editorials on that.
Lokhman: Well, so long as people know that your editorials will be based on
reader response, I guess that's really great.
eXile: Actually, no. We're not going to tell our readers anything. We're
just going to leave it the way it is, as a regular editorial. The only
difference will be that our position will be generated by the average
Lokhman: (pauses) If you do, it's weenie.
eXile: Why is it "weenie"?
Lokhman: It's weenie because you're representing the readers' opinions as
that of the newspaper.
eXile: Well, it's all part of the restructuring at the Moscow Times. We're
also thinking of getting rid of the MT Out section. They're saying that it
can't compete with the eXile.
Lokhman: No, I like the MT Out. I mean the eXile's guide is geared towards
people who want to drink or go out to clubs or something, but the MT Out is
It's downright impossible to argue with that!
Next on our list were our old friends at Burson-Marsteller, the renowned PR
firm which once gained fame in our newspaper for jumping on our proposal to
try to cover up St. Petersburg's image as a city whose brutal treatment of
foreigners and undesirables was earning it the ol' "violation of human
rights" tag, which might cut into profits in their Eurobond issue. For the
folks at BM, this wasn't a problem; after all, they're the same guys who
were hired by Exxon after the Valdez spill, Union Carbide after its Bhopal
disaster killed tens of thousands, the Argentinean military junta, the
Indonesian despot, and just about every other ne'er-do-well in the global
village who needed someone to lie for them after they'd hit the proverbial
baseball through the neighbor's window. Like the Wolf in La Femme Nikita,
who cleans up assassination jobs by dissolving the bodies in tubs of acid,
Burson Marstellar can clean up a bad mess like no one!
eXile: We're trying to do reader-survey editorials to make sure that our
editorials are in line with reader expectations. It's kind of the new thing
in the States.
eXile: So if you have a minute-
Marsteller: Go ahead!
eXile: Well, we're doing an editorial tomorrow on the Rosneft
loans-for-shares. My first question is, do you think the editorial should
be humorous, serious, or points-to-a-larger-issue?
Marsteller: I think that, uh, it should be serious.
eXile: Okay, next question. Should we make it a "there they go again"
editorial, a "the idea's not bad if it's done right" editorial, or a "we
should not rush to condemn it" editorial?
Marsteller: (serious tone) That's a good question. H'm. (pauses) I think
the last one, "we should not rush to condemn it."
eXile: Okay, and the last question. Should the conclusion be strongly for
the loans-for-shares, strongly against, or ambiguous?
Marsteller: Strongly for, definitely!
eXile: Okay, good. By the way, I'll need to get your name again.
Marsteller: Jim Vail. I'm a senior account executive.
eXile: Wait, haven't I seen your name somewhere?
Marsteller: Yeah! I used to write for you guys! I wrote for the Moscow
Times last year!
Well, so now we've got to tally up the results and see what we have...
Well, actually, there doesn't seem to be any lesson at all, except that you
can get away with anything, so long as you say nothing. Which means... hey,
wait a minute! You don't need our help, Mr. Winestock. You're already doing
it. Waytago! You're already writing the perfect averaged weighted portfolio
of readers' expectations. Keep up the good work, and be careful of those
"must" editorials, willya?!
Problems of Russians in Near Abroad Viewed
Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Ekonomicheskiy Soyuz Supplement
6 December 1997
[for personal use only]
Interview with Sergey Yuryev, president of the Legal Assembly, by
Leonid Barinov; place and date not given: "Compatriots Seek Contacts With
With regard to the law, the status of our compatriots in the near
abroad has not been changing for the better. That was established by the
International Session of the Coordination Committee of the Legal Assembly
public movement. This public organization was created in March 1993 on the
initiative of prominent jurists and representatives of business circles and
the public of Moscow. Our correspondent held a conversation with Sergey
Yuryev, president of the Legal Assembly and candidate of legal sciences.
[Barinov] What problems were discussed at the session?
[Yuryev] The international-law aspects of the status of our
compatriots abroad. It is no secret that in the near abroad there is an
especially acute problem concerning repatriated individuals, migrants,
refugees, and forced resettlers. We jurists feel that all the problems
involving our compatriots can be successfully resolved only after the legal
status of those individuals has been established.
The Legal Assembly unites the efforts of jurists, scientists,
specialists, citizens, and organizations for promoting the carrying out of
basic human rights. One of the main areas in our work is the studying of
expert evaluations of facts and events and the development of
Here are only a few facts that were reported at the seventh
The pre-election program of the People's Front of Latvia, which was
adopted in October 1989, promised all the country's permanent residents
they would be granted Latvian citizenship at their request. On 15 October
1991 the Latvian parliament adopted the decree entitled "Restoration of the
Rights of Citizens of the Latvian Republic and the Basic Conditions for
Naturalization." By that act the only residents of Latvia who were
recognized as citizens of Latvia were those who had citizenship in the
Latvian Republic prior to 17 June 1940 and their descendants. A third of
the permanent residents of that country were deprived of all the political
rights that they had previously had at their complete disposal prior to
that, which the parliament itself had taken away. That was a unique
situation in the history of parliamentarianism.
The law entitled "Citizenship," which was enacted in July 1994, left
the problem, essentially speaking, unresolved. Since the time when it was
enacted, only approximately 5,000 of the almost 700,000 Latvian
"noncitizens" succeeded in acquiring Latvian citizenship by means of
naturalization. Latvia has a total of 2.5 million residents.
[Barinov] Is this happening only in Latvia?
[Yuryev] Unfortunately, not only there. Despite the fact that the
Estonian Republic ratified the 1966 international Pact on Civil and
Political Rights, the 1950 European Convention on the Protection of Basic
Rights and Freedoms, and the 1994 Framework Convention of the Council of
Europe on the Protection of National Minorities, their legal norms have
been finding practically no application in domestic legislation. Resolution
of the problems of the Russian-speaking population is possible only if
there is an intensification of the attention and monitoring by the
international community of Estonia's execution of international pledges.
The Center for Information on Human Rights in Estonia feels that,
under conditions when the number of Russian citizens permanently residing
there has been growing rapidly, it is also necessary to recognize as an
urgent necessity the conclusion of the Agreement on Protection of Human
Rights on the Territory of Another State between the Estonian Republic and
the Russian Federation, which was stipulated by Article 4 of the 1991
Treaty on the Basic Interrelationships Between the RSFSR and the Estonian
Republic. In addition, Russia must intensify monitoring of the fulfillment
of the Agreement on Questions of Social Guarantees for Recipients of
Military Pensions, which was concluded in 1994 by the Presidents of the two
[Barinov] Our compatriots have different problems. From year to year
it has been stated at various forums that the Russian language, culture,
and mass media are being crowded out in countries of the near abroad. This
is allegedly necessary in order to observe the interests of the indigenous
nations. Definite political forces have been making attempts to nullify the
constitutional guarantees of preserving, using, and protecting Russian
culture. Views that oppose the indigenous nationalities to the Russian ones
are being introduced into school textbooks (especially in the humanities
sphere). A negative perception of everything that is Russian is forming. If
the national culture cannot be reborn where a Russian culture exists, how
will it be possible to do this with the existence of powerful pressure from
[Yuryev] Russia has activated the OSCE [Organization on Security and
Cooperation in Europe] principles and the mechanism for implementing them.
This has somewhat moderated the fervor of the national radicals in several
of the former Soviet republics. True, the hopes of receiving aid from the
West in resolving the problems of guaranteeing human rights have not come
true. Western states have applied a double standard in the sphere of human
rights, frequently failing to react to the massive violations of human
rights, particularly in Latvia and Estonia. But even those comments that
were made by Western experts were ignored by the authorities in those
countries. For example, the Council of Europe; practically immediately
after the acceptance of Estonia into the European Council, on 19 May 1993
the republic enacted a law on elections to local agencies of authority
which disenfranchises "noncitizens" and thus violates the rights of the
Russian population. However, the Council of Europe recognized elections
conducted on the basis of this law as being free, open, and honest.
[Barinov] How has Russia been reacting to all of this?
[Yuryev] Until very recently, the policy of the Russian leadership
with respect to our compatriots has been extremely indefinite. The "Basic
Areas in the State Policy of the Russian Federation With Respect to
Compatriots Residing Abroad," approved by RF Government Decree No. 104,
dated 31 August 1994, established that the strategic line in Russia's
policy with respect to compatriots is promoting their voluntary integration
into the political, social, and economic life of the new independent
states. However, it appears that this must be a policy that enables our
compatriots without any limitations to possess the rights and freedoms that
have been established by international norms.
[Barinov] In your view, what are the interrelationships and
interdependencies between economic policy and human rights?
[Yuryev] In relations among states, it is possible and necessary to
bind together as closely as possible economic questions and pledges to
observe human rights. Of course, we are talking not about economic
sanctions on the part of Russia, but about priorities when choosing trade
partners. For example, in 1996 Latvian ports handled 44 million tonnes of
cargo. Seventy-six percent of the cargo flow passing through the port of
Ventspils is petroleum and petroleum products being shipped, basically in
through shipments, from Russia. In this regard, something that deserves
support is the RF Government decision to build an oil pipeline from the
Kirishi deposit to the port of Primorsk, near St. Petersburg, and an oil
[Barinov] As soon as people begin discussing the situation of our
compatriots in the near abroad, definite difficulties arise with
terminology. Could you possibly comment on that phenomenon?
[Yuryev] It is necessary, for example, to comprehend the application
of the term "diaspora." The name "diaspora" was originally applied to the
areas outside of Palestine where resettled Jews lived among the
non-European population. With the passage of time, the name "diaspora"
began to be applied also to other religious and ethnic groups living in new
areas of resettlement in the status of a national and cultural minority. In
international documents of the United Nations and the Council of Europe,
the term "diaspora" is not used. Moreover, in the federal migration program
that was approved by Edict No. 1688 of the President of the Russian
Federation, dated 9 August 1994, the Russian diaspora is viewed as a
subject of definite legal relations. But what agencies can act on behalf of
the diaspora. And is it possible therefore to view it as a subject of legal
relations? In the near abroad, communities are in operation. Therefore it
is necessary to resolve all questions with them.
[Barinov] In your opinion, what has to be done to improve the
situation of our compatriots?
[Yuryev] For purposes of executing the Framework Convention on the
Protection of National Minorities (approved by the Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe, 10 November 1994) at the level of international
experts, it is desirable to study the question of the creation, under the
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, of a permanent
international investigation commission in order to investigate instances of
massive violations of human rights.
The permanent members of the UN Security Council bear special
responsibility for implementing the goals of the United Nations and the
principles and norms of international law. Therefore, the United States,
Great Britain, and France are obligated to pay special attention to the
problem of observing basic human rights as applicable to the national
minorities in our near abroad.
It is necessary to request the United Nations, OSCE, Council of
Europe, other international, interstate, and nongovernment organizations
and institutions of the world community, the international public, and
organizations of compatriots, to continue their activity aimed at the
complete execution by the new independent states of pledges to observe the
rights of the Russian-speaking population in conformity with the UN Charter
and generally accepted international norms.
December 21, 1997
[for personal use only
Russia calls in NATO to help dismantle its old nuclear subs
Moscow can't afford to break down vessels that pose radioactive danger
Mothballed Russian nuclear submarines await dismantling at the Arctic
base of Severomorsk. Money shortages have delayed the work.
By Vladimir Isachenkov / Associated Press
MOSCOW -- Once instruments of doomsday during the Cold War, scores
of mothballed nuclear submarines are rusting away in Russian harbors,
threatening to unleash radioactive waste that could bring environmental
Russia's cash-strapped government can afford to dismantle only five
or six of the vessels a year. So far, 16 of the 156 retired nuclear
submarines have been fully disassembled. Another 100 subs are slated to
go out of service by 2000.
Russia has called in its former foe, NATO, to help assess the
"When we were building up our nuclear potential, no one thought
about the need to dispose of the waste some day," Ashot Sarkisov, a
member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said recently.
"It's a lesson for the future -- before building something nuclear,
we must first think what to do with it later."
Several dozen Russian and Western experts heard Sarkisov address
submarine-dismantling technologies and the ensuing risks on the first
day of a three-day seminar organized with NATO's help.
"Scientists who used to devote their resources to defense now should
devote their efforts to peaceful purposes," said Nancy Schulte, an
official with NATO's Disarmament Technologies, Scientific and
Environmental Affairs Division.
Decommissioning nuclear submarines is a complex problem also faced
by the United States and other nations. Russia, however, has the largest
number of mothballed subs and is also plagued by severe money shortages.
"Our economy is ill," Sarkisov said. "And our leaders clearly
downplay the potential danger."
Dismantling Russia's old submarine fleet is expected to cost
hundreds of millions of dollars. Sarkisov said the government is
providing only 10 percent of what is needed, but did not give any
Until 1990, the Soviet Navy routinely dumped radioactive waste in
Arctic waters, and the Russian Navy continued the practice in the Far
East until Japan agreed to help in a waste disposal project.
Russia cannot afford to build Western-type facilities for storing
submarine nuclear reactors. In fact, it still lacks capabilities to
unload spent fuel from those reactors -- the first step in a long
process of scrapping a submarine.
Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry, which is in charge of reprocessing
nuclear waste, has only four railway cars capable of carrying
radioactive waste, limiting the number of submarines that can be
As a result, more than 60 percent of the mothballed submarines still
have fuel in their reactors, making them particularly prone to
"Such a submarine may leak radioactivity and its reactor may spin
out of control, leading to an uncontrolled chain reaction," Sarkisov
He added that many decommissioned submarines were in poor condition
and haven't had proper maintenance for a decade. Some have hulls that
are rusted through and are half-submerged, and many others may leak if
they are moved.
Last May, a decommissioned nuclear submarine sank near Russia's far
eastern Kamchatka Peninsula after colliding with another vessel while
being moved. Officials said there was no radiation leak because the
vessel's nuclear fuel already had been removed.
"The main danger would be some sort of accident like a fire, an
explosion in one of the facilities that has a lot of radioactivity
stored," said Leo Gay LeSage, a researcher with Argonne National
Laboratory of Lemont, Ill., who took part in the seminar.
Such a fire or explosion could spew a cloud of radiation into the
air like the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, LeSage noted.
LeSage said he was not aware of any major accidents at Russian
shipyards housing old submarines. But the state of the Russian
nuclear-powered fleet still is shrouded in secrecy, in line with
Russian authorities jailed a retired navy captain on espionage
charges after he helped a Norwegian environmental group, Bellona, write
a 1994 report on the troubled state of nuclear waste storage at the
Russian Northern Fleet.
Nations offer help
* Norway, cautious about possible contamination of fishing waters and
marine life, has promised $35 million to help clean up Russian naval
bases in the Arctic and Far East.
* The United States is helping build a waste disposal plant in
Murmansk, near Russia's border with Finland.
St. Petersburg Times
DECEMBER 22-28. 1997
Kulikov's Worries Over Spats Among Bankers Is Misplaced
Defense lawyers say they have increasingly becoming targets for police
harassment, including beatings.
In a dispute that threatens to become the cliched "international
incident," a Brazilian company alleges that the police are misusing
their powers to crush their frozen chicken importing business before it
Larisa Kharchenko, a 50-year-old woman with heart trouble, remains in a
Moscow detention center under investigation for her role as former St.
Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak's adviser. Investigators are reportedly
denying her medical care..
It would seem just this issue of The St. Petersburg Times alone holds
more than enough to do for Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, Russia's
top cop. Yet Kulikov has his own priorities.
On Saturday, Kulikov called on Russia's squabbling banker-oligarchs to
stop bickering - on grounds that their disagreements were a threat to
"One mistake could destroy not only the basis of the whole system of
economic and political institutions painfully constructed over the past
few years, but also the whole basis of Russia's statehood," Kulikov told
a conference near Moscow. "The key question here is a reconciliation
between financial and industrial groups."
That incredible and sweeping claim, if true, is a damning assessment of
President Boris Yeltsin's Russia. Is it really such a house of cards?
If so, the problem is deeper than quibbling bankers. If Kulikov wants to
get at the roots of Russia's woes, he might start with pervasive
corruption, which ought to fall into his primary area of competence.
Instead, Kulikov's statement is de facto an announcement that past
crimes and excesses of the banker-oligarchs should not be investigated.
Instead, the bankers should simply be crowned the winners, and the
oligarchy made formal via "a high economic council made up of bankers
"Each member of this high council should have the status of financial
adviser to the president," Kulikov adds. In other words, if before the
bankers had to content themselves with access to the president via
proxies - First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, former finance
minister Vladimir Potanin or former deputy Security Council chief Boris
Berezovsky - now they should all have his ear.
This might down on some of the squabbling, and it might not. But
shilling for the banker-oligarchs ought to be lower on Kulikov's list of
priorities, given everything else that he and his colleagues desperately
need to be doing.
New Russia privatisation chief seen as moderate
By Andrei Khalip
MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Russia's new privatisation minister Farit
Gazizullin, appointed by President Boris Yeltsin on Saturday, is a moderate
supporter of reform hawk Anatoly Chubais, who began the Russian privatisation
drive six years ago, analysts said.
``Our opponents are not convinced by the data showing that 125,000 non-state
enterprises make up 70 percent of the Gross National Product,'' Gazizullin
told Delovye Lyudi (Business People) magazine earlier this year.
``But I think that it is one of the most important achievements of
He said privatisation had provided the conditions for competition and allowed
the creation of an equities market that was a source of cheap financial
resources for many enterprises.
But he added that further privatisation and state control over the sell-offs
had to be worked out with and approved by Russia's communist-dominated lower
chamber of parliament, the State Duma.
The opposition-dominated Duma is the biggest opponent of privatisation, and
has used any possible pretext to attack Chubais, who spearheaded Russian sell-
offs in 1991, and his successors.
First Deputy Prime Minister Chubais launched the shares-for-loans
privatisation plan, criticised for insider deals, which traded control of
government stakes in major companies for loans from commercial banks.
Deputies argue that privatisation has led to the sale of Russian crown jewels
for next to nothing and that much of the money has stayed in the pockets of
Investors are hoping Russia will move to a second wave of reform, which
stalled last year during elections and Yeltsin's illness.
They hope a Western-friendly reform team under Chubais could clean up the
investment process, but note that even the group around Chubais seems to be
set in the view that selling assets cheaply to foreigners is not desirable.
Gazizullin is a much more moderate reformer than his predecessors, especially
Chubais and Maxim Boiko, Chubais's close ally since the start of
privatisation, analysts said.
In the magazine interview Gazizullin added, ``All the problems...have to be
co-ordinated and regulated first of all on the legal basis. The privatisation
ministry is fruitfully working jointly with the Duma on a new version of the
law on privatisation of state and municipal enterprises.''
He also criticised some of the results of privatisation, as well as ``an
uncontrolled process of slashing state property,'' which he said was
The privatisation ministry post had been vacant since Yeltsin sacked Boiko
after a political scandal in November. The scandal was over large advance fees
that Boiko, along with other top officials including Chubais, received for a
book on Russian privatisation.
Chubais, who is highly respected in Western financial circles for his
market economics, was stripped of the post of finance minister, but Yeltsin
kept him on his team.
Yeltsin then sacked two other Chubais allies, the head of the state
agency Pyotr Mostovoi and deputy chief of staff Alexander Kazakov.
The two men, along with Chubais and Boiko, were among those who shared a
$450,000 book advance from a Russian publisher owned by bank that has a taken
a leading role in the privatisation of state assets.
Among possible candidates for the post of privatisation minister,
named Communications Minister Vladimir Bulgak, whose position on privatisation
is quite opposite to that of the Chubais team.
Bulgak has criticised major privatisation deals, including the sale of a big
stake in telecommunications giant Svyazinvest to domestic and foreign
investors. Bulgak said a big foreign stake in Svyazinvest would threaten
Gazizullin, who had been first deputy privatisation minister, was also
appointed as deputy prime minister.
Gazizullin, 52 and a former professor of sociology, is married and has
and a grandson. Before moving to Moscow in 1996, he had been first deputy
prime minister and chairman of the state property committee of Russia's
autonomous Tatarstan republic.
Yeltsin Wants To Abolish Mixed Voting System
MOSCOW, Dec 19 (Interfax) - Russian President *Boris Yeltsin* disagrees
with provisions in a bill passed by the State Duma in a first reading
November 19, under which both majority voting in constituencies and
voting on party tickets throughout the country would be retained.
Yeltsin sent a letter Friday to Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznyov
criticizing the bill. The presidential press service made a copy of the
letter available to Interfax.
The election of half of Duma deputies by a proportional system in the
context of an underdeveloped multi-party system and in the absence of
legislation on political parties does not serve the interests of the
electorate or uphold the constitutional principle of power vested in the
people. The existing electoral law does not make the State Duma a
representative body, the letter says.
Under the law, 225 deputies will be elected in proportion to the number
of votes for federal lists of candidates fielded by parties and
electoral blocs, while the other 225 will be elected in single-seat
Currently, "one half of deputies represent a party that was supported by
less than one quarter of the electorate, while nearly 50% of the
electorate, voting for parties that failed to clear the 5% barrier, are
not represented in the State Duma at all," Yeltsin wrote.
This situation "amounts to a flagrant violation of the civil right to
elect and be elected to legislatures and the right to share in managing
the state directly or through representatives," his letter says.
"The weak points in the existing electoral legislation are obviously
responsible for the over-politicization and bellicose nature of the
present parliament," Yeltsin says.
He believes that all 450 deputies must be elected by majority voting in
single-seat constituencies, he said. It will make it possible for the
electorate in the constituency and the representative to be continuously
in touch with each other and will make the deputy dependent on the
electorate, Yeltsin says.
The first-past-the-poll system of voting in single seat constituencies
could be replaced by voting in two rounds, in which a candidate
supported by the majority will be elected, he thinks Yeltsin suggested
specific amendments to articles of the bill.