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30 December 1997
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Yeltsin promises Russians better year in 1998.
2. Interfax: Yeltsin Administration Upbeat On Outgoing Year.
3. Journal of Commerce: Russia's Coke syndrome.
4. Christian Science Monitor: Molly Colin, Car Culture in Russia
Shifts Into High Gear.
5. Interfax: Most Russians Regret Breakup of USSR; 13% Have 'No
6. Interfax: Ten Percent of Russians Assess Government Positively.
7. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Vasiliy Stepanov, "Scandal in Kremlin:
Washington Agent Among Top Officials. Livshits in Role of Private Eye."
8. Rossiiskaya Gazeta: THE PRESS CAN BE INDEPENDENT ONLY IN A RICH
COUNTRY. Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin in an Interview with
Zhurnalist Magazine Chief Editor.
9. Interfax: Lebed Says Early Presidential Elections Possible In
10. Interfax: Personnel Changes In Russian Govt Impact Economy-Poll.
11. Reuters: Primakov criticises U.S. on Iraq, superpower role.
12. Izvestia: Alexander Bovin, POWER CRISIS.
13. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Sergey Aleksandrov, "Will Chernomyrdin
Try To Become Czar? Tussles Over TASS Report."
14. Reuters: Russians racing to pay off 1997 public sector debt.]
Yeltsin promises Russians better year in 1998
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Boris Yeltsin, pointing to increased financial
stability in 1997, Monday promised Russians a better year in 1998, despite new
warnings by his critics over the state of the economy.
The presidential press service announced the 66-year-old leader would start a
two-week vacation Jan. 5, having just returned to his Kremlin office last week
after two weeks' absence with a cold and viral infection.
``I am convinced it (1998) will be better than 1997,'' Yeltsin declared in a
speech at an awards ceremony in the Kremlin.
``We had stabilization, financial stabilization, in 1997. Now we have to
secure growth and go on upwards,'' he said, reading clearly but hesitantly
from a lectern in televised comments.
Yeltsin, who had heart surgery just over a year ago, stood firmly through the
50-minute ceremony. He appeared well although his voice occasionally croaked
after the illness that forced him to spend two weeks at a sanatorium outside
His schedule until he starts his vacation in Valdai,northwest of Moscow, is
unclear, but it is likely to be less busy than usual because of the New Year
Two of Yeltsin's prominent foes, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov and
former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, did not share Yeltsin's optimism
for the year ahead.
Zyuganov said the reformist government would not be able to meet its promises
to settle all its wage debts to public sector workers, who include doctors and
teachers, by Jan. 1.
``The wage debt will not be eradicated to about one-third of citizens,''
Interfax news agency quoted Zyuganov as saying.
The wage debt and poor tax revenues are among problems that have taken the
shine off more positive signs, which have prompted Yeltsin to hope 1998 will
be the first year of major economic growth since the Soviet Union collapsed in
Zyuganov, who finished second to Yeltsin in a presidential election in 1996,
said he believed First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais would be fired in
January as a scapegoat for the economic problems.
Chubais, 42, has led Russia's privatization campaign and been a pivotal
in shaping economic policy. But he is hated by the Communists and many
Yeltsin stripped him of his other post as finance minister in November after
he and colleagues accepted advance fees of $90,000 each for a book that has
yet to be published.
The president has hinted strongly that government changes are imminent, and
many political analysts say Chubais' days in office are numbered. Chubais
himself said over the weekend the government faced an uphill struggle to end
the wage arrears.
Gorbachev, Yeltsin's old foe, said in a television interview broadcast early
Monday that he feared major upheavals in the year ahead.
``I have a feeling we are on the brink of tough changes. They may be carried
out within the democratic system ... but if things come to the worst, the
changes may be far tougher,'' he said, without giving details.
Gorbachev criticized Chubais but said Yeltsin also bore responsibility
economic problems because he had supported his aide's policies.
In a boost for the Kremlin, former Justice Minister Nikolai Fyodorov was re-
elected president of the small Chuvashia region east of Moscow Sunday,
preliminary results showed. Fyodorov is a supporter of market reforms.
Yeltsin Administration Upbeat On Outgoing Year
MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Interfax) - Russian presidential administration
officials painted a picture of modest achievements across a wide range
of issues during 1997, from restructuring of the government to improved
relations with Japan, the CIS and Europe.
The reorganization of the government began with the Cabinet, leading to
a reduction in the number of ministries and departments, cuts in
presidential administration personnel and in the number of presidential
aides, an expert said. All top-ranking officials have declared their
incomes; the prestige of civil service has ben raised and measures to
combat corruption have been taken.
The repayment of wage and salary debts was another aspect of the
presidential administration's work, he continued. This summer the
authorities repaid debts to pensioners, and this autumn salaries to
servicemen. The size of the wage debt owed to workers of state-run
enterprises has been diminished.
The authorities managed to avoid confrontation with the lower house of
the Russian parliament on two occasions, which demonstrates the
efficiency of their policy aimed at agreement and reconciliation. The
president visited the Russian Duma twice, the first time in four years.
A council of the president, prime minister, and chairmen of the two
houses of parliament has helped in coordinating government policy, and a
roundtable of key public leaders has been set up. Peace is maintained in
Chechnya and a Law on the Freedom of Conscience has been adopted.
The presidential administration has taken serious measures to ensure
The ruble' stability has been ensured and a transition to the re-
denomination of the ruble has been accomplished. The national currency
was maintained at a proper level even during the world financial crisis.
A record grain crop was harvested, which allowed Russia to start
exporting grain. Economic recession has been checked.
Military reform has been promoted, in part to the appointment of Igor
Sergeyev as defense minister.
The number of general's posts has been reduced and a blow has been
delivered to corruption in the armed forces. The military prosecutor's
office has stepped up the campaign to combat hazing. The airborne troops
have become a special reserve force answerable directly to the
commander-in-chief; a military inspection department has been set up.
All law enforcement and defense agencies have coordinated their
positions on the concept of military reform.
The presidential administration has done a great deal to develop culture
and education. A TV channel specializing in cultural programs was
launched; a decree on training personnel abroad has been issued; the
Security Council devoted one of its sessions to education.
Serious moves have been made to enhance Russia's international prestige.
A Russia-NATO founding act was signed. Russia was a full- fledged
participant in the G8 summit in Denver, and joined the APEC. Signs of
improvement made themselves felt in Russian-Japanese relations largely
due to a "no-ties" meeting between *Yeltsin* and Japanese Prime Minister
Certain positive changes have occurred in the CIS. Russia was actively
involved in settling the situation in Transdnestria and Tajikistan.
Relations with Ukraine are being normalized. Despite problems, the
Russian-Belarussian Union has been saved.
Journal of Commerce
December 30, 1997
[for personal use only]
Russia's Coke syndrome
Acute aversion to imports, once confined to Japan, is spreading into
Russia. Imports are causing a rapid rise in digestive disorders if you
believe Vladimir Gusev, Communist chairman of the parliamentary
industrial policy committee. He claims medical research shows the
consumption of "non-national" food and drink led to a 30% increase in
Russian digestive disorders.
Tsutomu Hata, one of Japan's split-second prime ministers in 1994,
similarly claimed in the 1980s that Japanese intestines couldn't digest
American beef, and that's why domestic ranchers had to be protected.
Russian brands certainly struggle against foreign competitors. But the
country's health problem isn't that Russians spend $1.2 billion on Coke
products. A more likely culprit is that the government spends less than
that on national health service.
Christian Science Monitor
December 30, 1997
[for personal use only]
Car Culture in Russia Shifts Into High Gear
By Molly Colin, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
NIZHNI NOVGOROD, RUSSIA -- When Sasha Uiden bought his car two decades
ago, he shared the potholed roads with some trucks, buses, and a few
other privately owned automobiles.
Today Mr. Uiden still navigates potholes, but he must also dodge
oncoming BMWs designed for the slick autobahn asphalt, not for the
lunar-like surface of Russia's aging highways.
He laments the 20 minutes he recently spent in chas peak or rush-hour
At the end of a drive, he padlocks his 20-year-old, dent-free yellow
Lada into a tiny steel shack that is a 40-minute walk from his high-rise
Uiden's experience is typical of drivers here. A marginally improved
economy and increased consumer choice have put more cars on Russia's
roads than ever before, with a record number of women now behind the
Some urban Russians take a dim view of the surge in traffic congestion
and dearth of parking places.
But others call the rise in car sales - the streets are crammed with
Mercedes, Toyotas, and Fords - an indicator of economic progress.
Most economists would agree. Whenever per-capita income in a country
reaches around $6,000 a year, car sales rise steeply. At $5,300,
Russia's per- capita income is slightly lower, but still follows the
What's more, economists forecast market demand in developing countries
like Russia to more than make up for lagging car sales in North America,
Japan, and Europe.
And that increase in car ownership, observers say, will alter the
country's landscape and the lifestyles of Russians as it has elsewhere
in the world.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, car ownership among
Russians has more than doubled. That's the case in Nizhni Novgorod,
Russia's third-largest city.
Officials here project an increase of 10,000 privately owned autos a
year. And in the nation's capital, Moscow, the 3 million private cars
clogging the streets will rise another million by 2005, according to
officials at City Hall.
The principal reason for increased car ownership is that consumers have
more money and more choices than before. Car buyers in Soviet times
could face as many as five years on waiting lists, where Communist Party
elite took priority.
Today, Russians can plunk down their rubles at any car dealership.
Optimism is high enough that more middle-class Russians will buy cars
that one of Russia's top automakers - Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, based
in Nizhni Novgorod - has formed a partnership with the Italian auto
Problems associated with an influx of cars are not unique to this old
Volga River city. The road-warrior behavior of many drivers can leave
pedestrians shaken, if not injured.
"Unfortunately, our drivers don't follow the rules of driving," says
Nina Chatalina, vice director of the city's transportation department.
Surprisingly, the number of road accidents has actually declined here in
proportion to the increased number of cars, according to department
statistics. With nearly twice as many cars on the road today as when the
Soviet era ended in 1991, reported accidents have increased by 50
Mrs. Chatalina credits the good news to an increase in road-safety
precautions, such as traffic signals, safety belts, road dividers,
improved street surfaces, and police vigilance.
Residents of Nizhni Novgorod have also found a way to combat car theft
while they dine out - they pick up a Happy Meal at the local
A drive-through supermarket is eagerly awaited by Tatiana Danilova, who
saw one on her first trip abroad to Australia last year. "Everything was
designed after thinking things through twice," the secretary recalls
Mrs. Danilova aspires to car ownership. Her choice: "A Jeep - you can
drive it anywhere." And a house with an attached garage to put her new
Growing along with the number of automobiles are such car-related
phenomena as vintage auto clubs, car magazines, auto shows, and
customized interiors - velvet is a favorite seat cover. Thankfully,
bumper stickers are rare, and vanity plates still unavailable.
But lots of car alarms can be heard. Antitheft devices such as Lojack
are popular with those who can afford them.
Women Slip Over To Driver's Seat
Nina Yevtushenko is one of the growing number of Russian women getting
behind the wheel. The director of a driving school in Nizhni Novgorod,
she only recently obtained a driver's license.
"Women are more independent, and it's more convenient if both the
husband and wife drive," Mrs. Yevtushenko says.
As with many driving schools in Russia, her business is prospering.
What's more, she says, 30 percent of her students are female, and many
of them are older. "A car is more of a means of conveyance than a luxury
now," she adds.
Nascent feminism may have something to do the growing number of women
drivers. But according to sociologist Zara Saralieva, the phenomenon has
more to do with economic freedom. "Most of the women driving the cars
don't own them," she says. "They belong to husbands, and they have
permission to drive them."
Most Russians Regret Breakup of USSR; 13% Have 'No Regrets'
Moscow, Dec 25 (Interfax) -- More Russians have come to regret the
break-up of the USSR over the past five years, according to a recent poll.
In December 1997, 61 percent of people living in Russia were unhappy
with the dissolution, up from 33 percent in December of 1992.
The Public Opinion Fund polled 1,500 people living in Russia on the
eve of the first and sixth anniversaries of signing the Belaya Vezha
agreement. Interfax received the result of the polls Thursday [25
The number of people who have no regrets about the break-up has fallen
sharply, from 32 percent in 1992 to 13 percent this year.
Most of those who are unhappy with the dissolution are retired people,
who lived most of their lives in the Soviet Union. Such sentiment is less
frequent among younger respondents, although most of them also regret the
Ten Percent of Russians Assess Government Positively
Moscow, Dec 25 (Interfax) -- More Russians have given a negative
assessment to the federal government's work in the second half of this year
The Public Opinion Fund polled 1,500 people living in Russia in
September through December. Interfax received the poll results Thursday
In mid-December, 10 percent of those polled gave a positive assessment
to the government's work, down from 12 percent in October and 13 percent in
The opposite tendency was shown for a negative attitude to the
government's work. In December, 32 percent of the respondents said their
evaluation of the government's work was negative, up from 26 percent in
November and 18 percent in September.
The activity of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was
approved of by 29 percent of those polled, and 53 percent disapproved.
Government 'Obedient' To West's Will
20 December 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Vasiliy Stepanov: "Scandal in Kremlin: Washington
Agent Among Top Officials. Livshits in Role of Private Eye"
Readers of Sovetskaya Rossiya, which has written many times about how
the Russian Government dances to the IMF's tune, will hardly have been
surprised by the facsimile of IMF managing director Michel Camdessus'
letter to Russian Prime Minister V. Chernomyrdin, which was front-paged by
Nezavisimaya Gazeta 18 November [month as published]. The letter was dated
15 December, that is, it was written one week after the Temporary
Extraordinary Commission for Strengthening Tax and Budget Discipline
session 8 December. A similar letter was also received from World Bank
President James Wolfensohn. This was the session, as is well known, at
which the commission made the decision which caused such an uproar -- the
decision to sequester and sell the assets of persistent budget tax
defaulters, in this case the Omsk Oil Refinery and the Angara Petrochemical
Complex. The former belongs to the Sibneft holding company, which forms
part of Berezovskiy's group, while the latter belongs to the Sidanko
holding company, which is part of Potanin's group.
In the opening lines of his letter Camdessus congratulates
Chernomyrdin on the "fifth anniversary of his extraordinarily effective
premiership." He then goes on to inform the premier that the IMF mission
which visited Moscow recently conducted the sixth check into the fund's
program in Russia and that the results of this check will be examined by
the IMF board 5 January next year. The IMF, according to Camdessus, will
most probably approve the granting to Russia of the next $700 million
tranche of its loan. Given that at the end of the letter Camdessus
congratulates Chernomyrdin on the approaching Christmas holiday, these glad
tidings should be regarded as a Christmas gift to the Russian premier for
faultless implementation of the IMF's instructions.
As is obvious from the subsequent content of the letter, however, this
"gift" will be presented to the Russian premier if Russia fulfills... 21
(twenty one) conditions! We are not going to list them all here, and
anyone who wants to familiarize himself with them can read them in
Nezavisimaya Gazeta. However, it is not simply a question of the IMF's
dictating terms to Russia, because Russians are already used to this. It
turns out that Russia has no secrets from the IMF and the World Bank.
Messrs. Camdessus and Wolfensohn know everything that happens inside the
Kremlin and the government. "How is it that people thousands of kilometers
away in Washington can have incredibly accurate information known only to a
few White House officials," A. Livshits, deputy chief of the Presidential
Staff, says in feigned indignation -- "information about which of the many
thousands of protocols at any given moment on any given day the Russian
prime minister has or has not signed?" If there is no such thing as
telepathy and if you do not believe in transcendental powers (the Latin
word transcendo means "I go beyond the bounds of"), it is obvious that this
information is coming from Moscow and then returns to Moscow from
Washington. In that case, who is doing this and what state is the country
in?" Livshits asks. But Premier Chernomyrdin is incensed at the fact that
the Temporary Extraordinary Commission for Strengthening Tax and Budget
Discipline's reports on the Omsk Oil Refinery and the Angara Petrochemical
Operation got into the press. "The decision has not been adopted, the
protocol has not been signed yet, but it has all already been published and
is already being commented on everywhere," the premier stated at the
Temporary Extraordinary Commission for Strengthening Tax and Budget
Discipline session 18 December.
It has nothing to do with telepathy or transcendental powers but has
to do with the fact that the present Russian Government is merely an
apparatus monitoring the fulfillment of instructions from the IMF and other
Western financial structures, and the government and the Kremlin have and
can have no secrets from them. Furthermore, it is not only government
decrees that are written according to IMF and World Bank instructions but
presidential edicts too. For example, it is obvious from Mr. Camdessus'
letter that the president's recent edict on the improvement of state
finances was issued on the recommendation of the IMF (point one of the
IMF's recommendations contains the word "done" in parentheses). The letter
also recommends that the president instruct the government to issue a
decree empowering the tax police to sell the assets of organizations with
tax arrears. And such an instruction has been issued. Livshits read it out
to journalists 18 December: "I request that the normative acts adopted on
the results of the 18 December Temporary Extraordinary Commission for
Strengthening Tax and Budget Discipline session be made to accord with
legislation." Livshits explained that this refers to acts on the Omsk Oil
Refinery and the Angara Petrochemical Company.
The feigned indignation of Chernomyrdin and Livshits and the show that
they staged for the television cameras 18 December are designed to divert
public attention from the obvious fact that the Kremlin and the Russian
Government are merely obedient executors of the will of the IMF, the World
Bank, and other Western institutions. You can only smile at the mass
media's futile efforts to make it seem as though some official, an enemy of
Potanin and Berezovskiy, has decided to use Camdessus and Wolfensohn to
force the Russian Government to sequester the property of the Omsk Oil
Refinery and the Angara Petrochemical Company and sell it at auction. But
Chernomyrdin did not flinch and postponed the decision on this question...
for a whole week, until 26 December! The government's situation must be
pretty bad, clearly, if it is forced to resort to such cheap stunts. It is
nothing to do with any official. When the Federal Security Service was
asked whether it is taking measures to prevent the leak of secret
information from the Kremlin and the White House, it replied: We do not
keep tabs on ministers. Livshits himself will have to moonlight as a
>From RIA Novosti
December 30, 1997
THE PRESS CAN BE INDEPENDENT ONLY IN A RICH COUNTRY
Russian Premier Viktor Chernomyrdin in an Interview with
Zhurnalist Magazine Chief Editor
Question: You met with chief editors in Russia's White
House four years ago to be one of the first Russian politicians
to announce the policy of state protectionism towards the
media. How come the new Tax Code which the government has
presented for the consideration of the State Duma, contain no
provision of state support for the media? Moreover, the press
seems to be losing even those tax benefits that it has had
under the law on state support for the media and book
publishing. Your comment?
Answer: I remember well the meeting we had in January
1994. I still favour assistance to the media or, to be more
precise, I favour beneficial conditions of their activities.
By the by, the tax benefits for the press under the law on
state support for the media and book publishing will be
preserved in 1998.
Yet we appreciate that state support as provided for in
that law, equates the poor and the rich - both a district paper
and the bankers who own separate media. This is unfair, of
course. It seems the state assistance should be more
Question: What is your vision of the press today and of
Answer: I would describe today's state of things as
confrontation. The printed and the broadcast media are venues
for a bitter clash of the various political, financial and
other forces' interests. Is this a reflection of the real life?
Of course it is. Should society be in the know? Of course it
But I think that the clash of interests as depicted by the
media looks more bitter than in real life, if not bordering on
a catastrophe, so to speak. It is not for me to explain why.
Enough has been said about biases in, and the dependent stance
of, the press.
Do you want to know about the kind of the press I would
like to see? The press should defend the interests of the whole
society, rather than serve political or financial interests.
The press should help us all, and not only by way of
criticising shortcomings and exposing misdeeds.
Question: What else should it be doing?
Answer: One example. In 1997, for the first time in the
reform years, there has been a slight growth - the GDP and the
industrial production. The economy has been on the rise. Is
this too little? Yes it is.
Still I think that describing specific successes and
analysing the experience of those who did it would help. Some
how, I get the impression it is no longer 'in' to describe
successes. One needs no compliments nor defamations. You have
to be unbiased.
Question: Do you have a personal grudge against the press?
Answer: Of course I do, but I think I have learned to
leave personal grudges outside the office.
Question: Politicians seem to just love to write books.
Are you writing one?
Answer: I cannot say the press or TV show no interest in
me, the government, the trips. But what they write or show does
not describe even a tenth part of what we really have to do.
The country was shaken by a series of incidents,
catastrophes, quakes in December. We had to make urgent steps.
Please believe me: my heart ached because of these
misfortunes, because after all the government, and me
personally, are responsible for everything. If you were in my
shoes, would you be able to engage in penmanship?
Still, I think some day will be able to share my visions
of today and tomorrow with the readership.
Question: What are your wishes to the media in the New
Answer: The press can be independent only in a rich
country. Therefore, I wish your subscribers, your audiences to
become more affluent. I wish they would not have to choose
between daily bread and subscription.
When this comes true, the press would really be
independent of the money bags.
(Published in the Zhurnalist Magazine's New Year issue.)
Lebed Says Early Presidential Elections Possible In 1998
MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Interfax) - Former Security Council Secretary and leader
of the Russian Popular Republican Party Alexander Lebed told Interfax
Tuesday that early presidential elections may be called in 1998.
"In the Year of the Tiger, Russia must make a leap into a civilized
future. Russia does not need slaves," he said.
He said that the outgoing year was one of trials. "A great deal of work
has been done to create a party system," he added.
"The next year, the Year of the Tiger, is my year. I hope that the work
already done will bring tangible results," Lebed said.
He expressed the hope that his party's popularity would grow next year.
"In individual regions we have already beaten the ruling party and are
second only to the Communists," he said.
He announced that at the beginning of 1998 he is planning to make a
series of tours in and out of Russia "to deploy the pieces on the chess
He said he would unveil his concept of national security.
He also said that the concept of national security approved by
*President Yeltsin* is "feeble and not worthy of a great country."
He said regarding his possible allies that "Russia has its share of
intelligent, strong-willed people with untarnished reputations."
Personnel Changes In Russian Govt Impact Economy - Poll
MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Interfax-FIA) - Russian economic analysts polled by the
Interfax Financial Information Agency singled out the appointment of
*Anatoly Chubais* and *Boris Nemtsov* as first deputy prime ministers as
the chief financial events of 1997.
Analysts from 20 business media outlets published in Moscow were
The personnel changes made by Russian President Boris Yeltsin in March
set the tone in the economy for the rest of the year, according to the
results of the poll.
Fourteen respondents cited the world financial crisis as the second most
important financial event of the year.
The majority of those polled emphasized the breakthrough made by the
Russian government in restructuring the debts it inherited from the
ex-USSR. Russia's full-fledged membership in the Paris Club of creditor
nations will influence its position in the world financial markets over
the next few years. Signing an agreement on a long-term restructuring of
the former Soviet Union's debt to London Club members is of drastic
importance for Russia, according to those polled.
The respondents attached little significance to ruble redomination.
Privatization of large enterprises, including telecom holding
Svyazinvest, Norilsk Nickel, the Tyumen Oil Company and the Sibneft oil
company will not significantly affect Russia's economy, the respondents
Primakov criticises U.S. on Iraq, superpower role
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov expressed
concern on Tuesday about U.S. domination of world affairs and urged Washington
to be more realistic and less emotional over Iraq.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, the
spymaster reiterated Russia's opposition to NATO membership for the Baltic
states and dismissed U.S. charges that Moscow was selling nuclear technology
But he also said Washington and Moscow could find a common language on
security matters, applauded the United States for listening to Moscow's fears
about NATO expansion and hailed his relationship with U.S. Secretary of State
Primakov, 68, set out his vision of a ``multi-polar'' world in which no
country was dominant. Achieving this, he said, would be a gradual process.
``But several trends can develop in the course of this process, including the
tendency for American dominance in world affairs,'' he said in the interview,
published just before he completes two years as foreign minister next month.
``One may indeed consider there is now one superpower in the world. But we
must not close our eyes to the processes going on in other parts of the
Relations between Moscow and Washington have cooled since the honeymoon
after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and Primakov's appointment in 1996
was greeted nervously abroad.
He has since won wide respect in the West as well as among nationalists at
home. Relations with the United States are uneasy on a number of issues, but a
major chill has been avoided.
On Iraq, Primakov said Washington and Moscow shared the same ultimate goal of
destroying Baghdad's weapons of mass destruction. But he criticised what he
called a U.S. show of force in a dispute over United Nations arms inspectors
which came to a head last month.
``We would like the emotional overload to be removed from the American
approach so that it becomes more realistic,'' he said.
Primakov rejected U.S. charges that Moscow, which is helping Tehran build an
atomic power station, is helping Iran develop nuclear weapons. He dismissed
U.S. demands for other countries to sever business ties with Tehran,
Wahington's ideological foe.
Primakov said Russia would review ties with the North Atlantic Treaty
if the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania joined the
alliance. Moscow would consider such a move by NATO as a security threat.
Primakov also regretted a ``NATO-centric'' security policy in Europe and
called for a bigger role for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe (OSCE), which monitors democracy, human rights and arms control.
But, asked if Moscow and the United States could find a common language on
European security, he said: ``Yes, I think we can find a mutually acceptable
Primakov said Washington had shown during negotiations over NATO's expansion
into eastern Europe that it was ready to build a new relationship with Russia
despite their differences.
Those talks led to the signing of the NATO-Russia founding act in May, which
established a new post-Cold War partnership. That deal also created a NATO-
Russian council on security matters, which Primakov said must be allowed to
Primakov criticised former U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher for
making ``propagandistic'' statements in office but said he could not complain
about his relationship with Albright, even though she defended U.S. national
``The relationship is quite honest on both sides -- she says what she thinks
is necessary and I say what I think is necessary. And she knows the limits of
our flexibility and I try to determine the limits of our partners'
flexibility,'' he said.
>From RIA Novosti
December 30, 1997
By Alexander BOVIN, Izvestia
In his Friday address to the nation, the President told
the people that there were few major successes this year. And
he is right. On the other hand, there were several minor
successes. Something stirred in the economy. The number of the
poor diminished. The situation has become a bit calmer. Opinion
polls are a subjective business, yet look at these figures:
46.7% of the respondents said the departing year was a good one
(25.1% in 1992) and "barely" 28.5% said it was a bad year
(53.6% in 1992).
In general as they used to say once, we made a change, but
not a breakthrough. To ensure a breakthrough, we should carry
on. I mean, carry on the reforms. Develop material production.
For unless we do this, we may follow the president out of the
prison of economic materialism only to get into another, worse
prison, the prison of bankruptcy and dependence. But - and this
is the main thing - we will hardly move on unless we restore
order in the top managerial echelons and overcome the power
crisis, which marred political life throughout 1997.
What do I mean when I say "the power crisis"?
First, the inability of the powers that be to clearly and
unambiguously formulate the development strategy, the strategy
of reforms in the economy and politics, set the guidelines, the
milestones along the way we are covering (should cover? will
cover?), and do this in the language understandable to the
people. Instead of a single will governed by a single idea,
instead of a consistent political line translated into
practical managerial decisions carried out by "teams," we have
zig-zags and running around, intrigues and machinations, a
chaotic, Brownian movement. Hence the atmosphere of
unpredictability, unreliability and instability permeating the
whole of Russia, which dooms us all to a humiliating position
of the passive expectation of a "miracle."
Second, the strangling of nascent democracy by the giant,
monstrous bureaucratic machinery, incomparable even to what we
had during the stagnation period. A machinery driven by
old-time engineers. A machinery which, in accordance with the
Parkinson laws, is working not to the benefit of Russia, but to
the benefit of bureaucrats. Bureaucracy, uncontrollable and
corrupt, is the real power which has risen above us and is
Third, complete chaos in relations between the legislative
and executive branches of power and, much more dangerous,
between different elements of the executive authority. The
parliament, which has not right to control the government. A
flabby left-wing opposition, which can no creative talent and
is only pining for the past. The government which cannot act
independently and is only waiting for summons to the boss,
where it will answer questions the answers to which are known
beforehand to both sides. It is shameful to see how Russian
ministers behave when the president is near, like naughty
schoolchildren summoned to the strict principal.
Fourth, the alarming growth of independence in the
regions. The republics and regions approve more and more laws
which contradict the federal legislation. The situation has
reached a stage where some people call for recognising the
priority of regional laws over the federal ones. I can
understand the psychology of regional leaders, but I cannot
accept it. What I cannot understand and accept is the flabby,
indecisive position of the federal centre, which does not want
(or cannot?) to restore constitutional order in the federation.
Hegel once said that the only lesson of history is that nobody
ever drew any lessons from history. But then, he did not know
Fifth, the prestige and the role of the president, who
occupies a unique place in the current system of power, is
ebbing, as I see it. Too often does he make dubitable impromptu
statements, which call for even more dubitable interpretations
and explanations. It is more and more often that personnel
decision engender questions to which no clear and
understandable answers are provided (the latest example is the
resignation of Andrei Nikolayev). And more and more of the
papers sealed by the president's signature remain nothing more
I remember how a special department of the Communist Party
Central Committee compiled a thick volume of Politburo
decisions which had not been fulfilled, before each party
congress. I think we should draw on this experience and,
without waiting for the congress, analyse the heap of
presidential documents from the viewpoint of their
implementation. So as to promote self-awareness.
We have become clever and know now that the court is
playing the king, especially if the king has not been crowned
to rule the people. It sometimes appears that the court, which
the "king" instructed to play himself, is not doing its best.
And lastly, the power crisis is reflected in and takes the
form of growing alienation of citizens, the Russian people from
politics and the "nomenklatura democracy" which has developed
in this country, it is reflected in the growing disbelief that
the voice of the man in the street, an ordinary citizen and
voter can be heard and can influence the affairs of state. The
people are disillusioned. They are sick and tired of politics.
Because they do not understand it. Because nobody speaks
frankly and to the point with them.
I will end with what I had begun. Unless we master the
courage to see the truth and master the brains to understand
what is happening at all levels of power and why, unless we
brace up in order to change the situation, radically
reform state structures and make them more democratic, we will
hardly progress. We will hardly be able to seriously speak
about the "benefit of Russia." Or our own benefit, for that
Furor Over Possible Chernomyrdin Presidential Bid Reported
26 December 1997
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Sergey Aleksandrov: "Will Chernomyrdin Try To Become
Czar? Tussles Over TASS Report"
How curious, this business of presidential candidates. Although some
politicians are named, both in the corridors of power and in popular polls,
as potential "monarchs of all Russia," the politicians themselves modestly
scrape their foot, saying: "We need none of this!" Our premier is,
perhaps, in their number. Under no amount of atmospheric pressure would
Viktor Stepanovich [Chernomyrdin] admit he has designs on the
Throughout all the recent months the heroes of scandals have been the
sweet pair of first vice premiers, but yesterday unwanted publicity also
came the way of their nominal boss, Viktor Chernomyrdin. Whereas Anatoliy
Borisovich [Chubays] came close to ruin over the book he had written,
Viktor Stepanovich broke into a cold sweat over...just a one-page ITAR-TASS
report. According to that government agency, the leader of the
pro-Chernomyrdin NDR [Russia Is Our Home] faction Aleksandr Shokhin stated
at a news conference Wednesday evening: "At the 2000 elections, a
political figure who will help to unite all democratically oriented forces
in Russia should be a candidate for president." This was followed by the
correspondent's commentary: "Shokhin did not rule out that Viktor
Chernomyrdin may be such a candidate."
All hell broke loose! The staff of the loquacious Shokhin grew
exhausted answering phone calls. Viktor Stepanovich, who went to the Duma
in the morning, paid some attention to the words of his party comrade and
dissociated himself from all that. Aleksandr Nikolayevich [Shokhin] was
trying to defend himself in every way he could. According to him,
ITAR-TASS had it all wrong. What he had in mind was different; first he
mentioned a hypothetical candidate and later, without any connection with
it, he spoke of Chernomyrdin's qualities as premier.
As a result, there appeared another, corrected version of the report,
which no longer contained a single word about Shokhin's not ruling out the
possibility of ChVS's [Chernomyrdin Viktor Stepanovich's] running for
president. According to ITAR-TASS correspondent Ivan Novikov, who wrote
the story, it was Shokhin who had asked him to make corrections. The
journalist, however, believes that the "finest candidate is Chernomyrdin"
logical connection was quite clear at the NDR Duma leader's news
Does this mean that the scandal is over and we can forget it? Hardly
so. Such a hysterical reaction to what appeared to have been an innocuous
statement speaks volumes. In particular, it indicates that the persistent
rumors of Boris Nikolayevich's readiness to once more become the one and
only president are not all that far from the truth.... There is also an
alternative explanation: Aleksandr Shokhin is known as someone who does
not say anything just for the sake of it. It is also not ruled out that by
using these two "juxtaposed" statements Aleksandr Nikolayevich had decided
to fly a "trial balloon."
Russians racing to pay off 1997 public sector debt
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Russian officials are running out of time to
fulfill the president's promise to pay off public sector debt by year's end
and in some cases will fall at least a few days short, a spokesman said on
``The leadership of the government is working practically around the clock,''
said government spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov. He said Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin had spoken to regional governors on the issue early on Tuesday.
President Boris Yeltsin earlier this year pledged the state would pay off its
debts to teachers, police, doctors, pensioners and others reliant on state
funding by the end of December.
The January 1 deadline has not just a symbolic importance but a practical
accounting reason. On that day Russia is also redenominating the value of its
currency to lop three zeros off the rouble so that 1,000 roubles will be worth
Last week officials said the federal government had paid off its debts
rest of the task was up to the regions. But Yeltsin said this was not enough,
and that the federal government should make sure everyone had received their
money by the end of the year.
The issue is very sensitive politically for Yeltsin and failure to meet his
demand may have grave consequences for some ministers, including top reformers
and First Deputies Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.
Still, it appears that the Russian government will fail to live up to its
``We already know that in a few cases the paying off of salaries will be in
January for technical reasons,'' Shabdurasulov told a news briefing.
``If the money arrives to regional or local accounts on December 30 or 31 --
that is federal funds in addition to local funds -- you need time to get the
money physically to districts, cities and villages.''
In the regions, some workers struggling to survive on salaries paid months
behind schedule are threatening strikes and other protests.
In the Siberian coal-mining region of Kemerevo, miners owed 300 billion
roubles in back wages have threatened to go on strike by January 15 if not
paid, regional spokesman Sergei Cheremnov said.
Chernomyrdin called Kemerevo's regional governor on Tuesday morning and
promised to pay these wages from federal funds, the official said.
Another region experiencing difficulties in paying off the public debt
Far Eastern Primorsky region which includes the port city Vladivostok.
Deputy governor Nikolai Sadumsky blamed the delays in pay on late transfers
from the federal budget and said he expected the debt would be liquidated only
``In many regions their inability to pay their debts is connected not only
with poor work of regional leaders,'' Shabdurasulov said. ``The matter also
lies in not getting paid for their delivery of goods and on the difficult
position of a significant number of enterprises vital to local budgets.''
The spokesman added that Chernomyrdin was expected to address the issue of
back wages in a statement later in the day.