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13 February 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Tony Weselowsky (RFE/RL): Russia: Costs Render Educational
Reforms Almost Prohibitive.
2. Moscow Times: Roy Medvedev, Fall and Rise of Military.
3. Reuters: Opinion Pollster Optimistic about Russia.
4. Matthew Rendall: Changes in Russian foreign policy.
5. Russky Telegraf: NEMTSOV ON GOVERNMENT'S PLANS FOR 1998.
6. Reuters: Russian defence chief blasts U.S. over Iraq.
7. Moscow Times: Leonid Bershidsky, MEDIA WATCH: How to Cover
8. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Yeltsin Seen Smashing 'Conciliation'
9. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Danger From Russia's
Scientists: Selling Weapons Know-How.
10. Izvestiya: A Blow at Iraq May Result in Chemical Catastrophe.]
Russia: Costs Render Educational Reforms Almost Prohibitive
By Tony Weselowsky
Prague, 12 February 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Soviet educational system was
monolithic in encouraging political obedience and discouraging
initiative and freedom of thought.
Every day in every classroom across 11 time zones, school children
turned the same pages in the same textbooks following the same strict
lesson plan. No deviation was allowed.
Today, the countries of the former Soviet Union and East and Central
Europe are no longer shackled by Marxist ideology. Schools are teaching
topics that were once taboo. In Russia, history is being re-examined
from a non-Marxist perspective. Some of the great Russian authors, such
as Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn, long banned by the Communists, are once
again being studied and openly discussed.
But reform has its costs, quite literally. For all its faults, the
Soviet educational system was relatively well-funded. As a result, it
could boast of some incredible achievements, such as attaining nearly
hundred percent literacy rates and envious results in the study of math
Alessandra Cusan, consultant with the Economic and Social Policy
Research Program of the UNICEF International Child Development Center in
Florence, Italy, says schools are now scrambling for funding once
provided by cash-strapped governments. In a recent interview with
RFE/RL, Cusan warned that with schools forced to turn to private
financing, children from poorer families are being denied access to a
Her findings come in a recent study of Russia, the three Baltic nations,
Ukraine and Poland. Cusan says her paper will be included in a
comprehensive UNICEF study, due to be released in May, of educational
reform in the so-called countries in transition.
Cusan says funding has rebounded in all five countries she studied,
except for Russia. Financing there dipped to only three percent of Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) for both 1995 and 1996. The figures for similar
time periods in Latvia and Lithuania were 6.6 and 5.6 percent,
respectively. But with GDP at about half their 1989 levels in the
region, Cusan says funding of education in real terms has dropped
dramatically. Only Poland, Cusan says, has bounced back to pre-1989
levels of spending on education. Cusan says, the Baltics are in front in
educational reform among the five countries she studied, while Russia
and Ukraine lag behind.
Cusan says a lack of textbooks, crumbling classrooms and low teacher pay
are among the most urgent problems facing schools. Especially worrisome,
according to Cusan, are low teacher salaries which dampen teacher morale
and drive away the most talented from entering the teaching field.
The cash shortage has prompted schools to turn to students' families to
make up the loss of funding. Cusan said parents are being asked to pay
for new textbooks that are in short supply partially due to rising
printing costs. Schools are also asking that parents pay for courses
most in demand, such as English and computer courses. Even free school
lunches, according to Cusan, have become a thing of the past in many of
the countries she studied.
Moreover, Cusan notes 45 percent of 16 to 18 year olds from poor
backgrounds in Russia had dropped out of school, compared to 25 percent
of students from wealthier families. Paradoxically, more Russian
students--mostly from wealthy families-- now enjoy greater educational
opportunities at the post secondary level.
Vocational schools also are closing as they face diminishing funding
from the enterprises and as students see less prospects in attaining
jobs in the enfeebled industrial sector, Cusan said.
Cusan warns that if the governments of the region do not increase
funding for education they not only risk wiping out the bad elements of
the previous system, but the positive legacy too.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
February 13, 1998
Fall and Rise of Military
By Roy Medvedev
Roy Medvedev is a historian and author of "Let History Judge." He
contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
Since antiquity, most countries have experienced army interference in
politics and the use of the army to solve political problems. Military
plots and coups can be counted in the thousands. There have been many in
the history of Russia as well. The army has overthrown emperors (Pavel
I, Peter III) and put others on the throne (Catherine the Great,
Alexander I). In Soviet times, conflicts between the political
leadership and the military generals took place under Stalin and Nikita
Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev. It was only under General Secretary
Leonid Brezhnev that there were no such conflicts, because he tended to
carry out almost any wish of the generals and the heads of the
Many consider the main opposition force in Russia today to be the
leftist opposition in the State Duma, but the "military opposition"
poses a far greater challenge to the authorities.
Although the officers and generals who serve in the armed forces do not
have the right to participate in political activities, this ban does not
extend to those who have been discharged. There are probably more
officers who have left the military before serving their full term than
in active service.
Retired officers have increasingly become active in many political
parties and movements and have found work in various kinds of
semimilitary and security structures (including criminal ones).
Until recently, the military opposition was headed by Lieutenant Colonel
Stanislav Terekhov and Colonel General Albert Makashov, who did not
enjoy any noticeable support either in the army or in society. In the
last few years the situation has changed. National organizations headed
by authoritative generals have come into being.
In 1995, largely on former General Alexander Lebed's initiative, the
Honor and Homeland movement was created. Last year, Lieutenant General
Lev Rokhlin formed the Union for the Defense of the Army and Military
Industry, in which former Defense Minister Igor Rodionov took part. In a
different form, Colonel General Boris Gromov came out in support of the
army. There is no doubt that Lebed, Rokhlin, Rodionov and Gromov are the
most famous and popular generals in the army and society today.
They are all speaking out against the military and general policies of
the president and government. Although until quite recently they were
all loyal to the government -- Lebed occupied an important post in the
presidential administration; Rodionov supported President Boris Yeltsin;
Rokhlin was on the party list of pro-government Our Home is Russia
movement in the State Duma -- they now are staunchly in the opposition,
and have begun a campaign not only to defend the army but have called
for the dismissal of Yeltsin, whom they view as the main culprit for the
difficult situation in the army and military industry.
The army has no means for carrying out military exercises and training.
A significant number of the officers do not receive their pay on time.
The fall in the country's prestige in the world arouses feelings of
anxiety and dissatisfaction. The Russian army is a national force with
great traditions. Its commanders have been raised in the spirit of
patriotism. But today this army feels in many ways debased.
The army is offended not only by its current position but by the
extremely scornful way Yeltsin has treated many popular and respected
military officers. The way in he dismissed Rodionov, for example, was
The present military opposition is more clearly defined, more visible
and stronger than in the past. It is no accident that many people are
now asking whether this opposition will lead to the collapse of the army
Government circles and those around the president are alarmed at the
possibility. Leftist opposition circles including the Communist Party,
on the contrary, speak hopefully about the military opposition, although
it is clear to the leaders that it has distanced itself from the
communists. For the time being, the military opposition has not managed
to unite into a single movement, and there are several disagreements
among its leaders.
If the leaders do manage to unite, however, then it will be almost
impossible for Yeltsin, as he said recently, "to sweep all those
Rokhlins away." Moreover, the army has much more of the people's
confidence today than other institution of power. The level of trust,
according to polls, vacillates between 30 and 40 percent, whereas the
Duma, the government and the president normally enjoy the confidence of
between 10 and 15 percent of the population.
The mood of the military has changed substantially since 1993. But even
in 1993, former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi enjoyed more trust than
Yeltsin. The army did not, however, lend him support. Rather it strove
to be neutral, and supported Yeltsin without much enthusiasm.
Today, Lebed is saying he would not allow another disbanding of the
legislative body of power, and these, apparently, are not just words.
The insubordination of even one military subdivision could cause a deep
political and military crisis in the country. Only the privileged
Interior Ministry troops could oppose a regular army unit. But the
Interior Ministry troop commanders are for the most part former army
generals. It is difficult to imagine that military men would take up
arms against other military men, even if they were ordered to do so by
Opinion Pollster Optimistic about Russia
12 February 1998
MOSCOW -- A widely respected pollster said on Thursday his latest
opinion research gave cause for optimism about Russia's future and
showed resistance to economic reforms had declined.
Nugzar Betaneli, head of the independent Institute of the Sociology of
Parliamentarianism, said Russia now seemed more stable than for several
years and the overall environment for reforms was positive, despite
recent financial problems.
"I am optimistic, more optimistic than I have been for a long time," he
said in an interview.
"Russia is gradually coming round after all these reforms, like a person
regaining consciousness after a shock."
Betaneli's polling center boasts one of the more impressive records in
Russia. It was almost alone in foreseeing the success of
ultra-nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky in a parliamentary election in
1993 and its reputation was confirmed in the 1995 parliamentary election
and the 1996 presidential vote.
Betaneli said his polls in recent months indicated Russians had accepted
economic reforms of some kind were needed, despite the hardships they
have endured in the past five years.
Thirteen percent of Russians polled this month would be ready to join
protests if everyday problems were not solved, a considerable drop from
17 percent at the start of October.
"The level of social resistance to reforms has gone down. People now
agree there is a need for reforms, even if they disagree on what form
they should take," he said.
This was partly due to the government saying it had carried out promises
to pay wages owed to millions of workers and partly because winter is
not traditionally a time of protest in Russia.
Other encouraging signs he listed were an increased willingness to
compromise by both President Boris Yeltsin and the Communist-led
opposition, and what he described as a strong list of possible
candidates for the 2000 presidential election.
He also said support for political parties was higher than first met the
eye. His latest poll showed only 26 percent of voters trust political
parties, but 54 percent believe the victory of one party or another
could improve their lives.
"The political situation is stable," Betaneli said.
The economic situation has been more volatile than the political scene
this year. Foreign investors have taken large sums out of Russia because
of doubts triggered by the financial crisis in Asia and the knock-on
effect on world markets.
Russia's financial markets have come under heavy pressure and the
central bank increased interest rates two weeks ago to defend the ruble.
But Betaneli said there were plenty of good signs overall.
"I think the outflow of foreign capital was speculative and the
situation in Russia is really quite good," he said.
He also sounded a cautionary note, saying there always remained a risk
of some kind of social unrest in Russia.
"Much of society either follows the authorities or the opposition, but
there is also a section of society under no one's control. There is
still a risk, though not a very big one, that they could destabilize the
situation," he said.
He also said that despite the positive signs, there was no guarantee
Russia's politicians would capitalize on them.
"I am optimistic about the state of Russia but much depends on the
wisdom of the authorities," he said.
Betaneli's latest poll showed Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov would
garner 14 percent support if a presidential election were held now.
Polling of 6,000 people in 250 cities and villages across Russia gave
law-and-order general Aleksander Lebed and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov 8
Young reformer Boris Nemtsov was backed by 7 percent, liberal Grigory
Yavlinsky by 6 percent, Yeltsin by 4 percent and Prime Minister Victor
Chernomyrdin by 3 percent.
Date: Thu, 12 Feb 1998
From: Matthew Tobias Rendall <email@example.com>
Subject: Changes in Russian foreign policy
Albert Weeks' comparison of recent Russian policies with Soviet
policies in the 1970s (JRL #2055) is illuminating. Not because the
comparison is accurate, but because it illustrates the persistence of the
double standard in U.S.-Russian relations. Raymond Garthoff and others
have analyzed the detente era's double standards in detail. Let's compare
recent U.S. and Russian policies.
Since the end of the Cold War, Moscow has meddled repeatedly in
its traditional sphere of influence, much as Washington does in Latin
America. It has, on occasion, sold weapons or technology to countries the
United States doesn't like or believes ought not to have them, and it has
interfered with U.S. efforts to build support for military intervention in
Bosnia and Iraq. Washington, on the other hand, has exploited Russian
concessions to expand a hostile alliance into Eastern Europe, and bombed
over Moscow's objections both in the Middle East and in the heart of
Europe. Washington now refuses to rule out expanding NATO all the way to
the Russian frontier. Has any aspect of Russian foreign policy been
nearly as provocative?
Imagine if Russia threatened unilaterally to bomb another state on
the grounds that it was building weapons of mass destruction, or acting in
violation of United Nations resolutions. Cold warriors like Weeks would
scream bloody murder. Yet when Russia merely criticizes U.S. threats
against Iraq, this is read as evidence of its sinister intentions.
Russia's overtures to Baghdad is not surprising given Washington's
increasingly ambitious, unilateralist policies. If Russian policy is
changing, it is partly the United States' fault. Overall, to be sure,
NATO's 1995 bombing in Bosnia may have done more good than harm.
Similarly, Russia may be taking a short-sighted view of the Persian Gulf.
One can argue that the U.S. is acting as a benevolent hegemon, and
providing the public good of international stability. It is unrealistic,
however, to expect rival powers such as Russia to acknowledge or
appreciate the favor.
A question in closing: why the recent spate of attacks on
Primakov? Wherever one goes one reads that he is a "former spymaster," a
"seasoned Soviet bureaucrat known for anti-Western and pro-Eastern
stances" (McFaul), etc. etc. This captures only part of the picture. Why
does one never see him described as, say, "former head of IMEMO, and a key
force behind the Soviet new thinking?" (For details on Primakov's role,
see Jeff Checkel's recent book.) Of course, P's not radically
pro-Western, but, as McFaul notes, under his tenure "policy did not change
fundamentally." That it has not changed more may in part be due to his
ability to build an elite consensus behind a moderate foreign policy,
which his predecessor, Andrei Kozyrev, was notoriously unable to do.
Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University
>From RIA Novosti
February 11, 1998
NEMTSOV ON GOVERNMENT'S PLANS FOR 1998
Boris Nemtsov's meetings with President Boris Yeltsin last
week showed that the reformers' stocks were up for the first
time in the past six months. Market players are now trying to
figure out how stable this trend might be. Russky Telegraf's
Andrei Serov and Yelena Tregubova try to find this out directly
from Nemtsov who has agreed to answer their questions.
Question: How is the government going to fulfil the
instructions it received from the President last week now that
its first vice-premiers have lost some of their key powers
under a new line-up? The market's reaction has been negative.
It is clear that there must be some changes in the government
so that the market sentiment changed.
Answer: Yes, I absolutely agree with you that there must
be changes but they should be in work, not in the distribution
of duties. Second spring is coming. It is spring 1998, not
1997, and it will be different. It has already been announced,
but few have noticed it. It has been said that Rosneft will be
put on sale and there will be no restrictions and the rules of
the tender will be clear. Svyazinvest and a number of other
companies which were never mentioned before will also be sold.
It has been said in the most unambiguous manner that the
government will work with large non-payers regardless of
affiliation with any grouping. The plans for reducing
government spending, which have been made public, are no empty
words: behind them are concrete actions, including cuts in the
budget financing of inefficient state apparatus. These are no
slogans hanging in the thin air but a protocol of intention
which need to be translated into life in order to arrest the
We are actively promoting the idea of simplified taxation
for small business. I think that our efforts will be a success.
The only thing we lack is what under communist rule was called
the ideology of action. We have a 12-point program of action
but no ideology explaining why all this is done. I have an idea
of my own on this matter. I think that the domination of
conglomerates in the defense industry complex is wrong. By the
way, the financial crisis in Southeast Asia is largely
connected with such an oligarchic system in the economy. Large
financial-industrial empires created in Southeast Asian
countries concentrated huge labour resources, had powerful
friends in the upper echelons of power and their performance
was based on borrowed money. Such a system was extremely
unstable, and it eventually collapsed, causing the current
financial crisis in these countries. The same lies in store for
Russia if the trend is not arrested.
More than 80% of population are small and mid-size
business employees in industrialised countries. The situation
is just the other way round in Russia: more than 80% people
work at mid-size and large enterprises, each with the staff of
500 and more. It is impossible either to combat unemployment or
to create a socially oriented market under such circumstances.
That is why our key task is to support small and middle
business. This does not mean that large enterprises should be
eliminated. Let them stay, as they are the trade mark of the
country. However, when large enterprises produce more than 50%
of gross domestic product, the social system becomes very
unstable. I have arrived at this conclusion since I have come
to Moscow. By concentrating resources in five or six
conglomerates, Russia will be on a collapse course. I do not
even talk of corruption, public opinion manipulation and
control over the mass media, which is a way to nowhere.
Question: Nothing is said about the reformation of natural
monopolies in connection with the government's new plans. Could
you comment on this issue?
Answer: It is included in the government's 12-point
program. Besides, we have adopted a decision to reduce tariffs
at the wholesale electric energy market by 5% on April 1. The
program for railways de-monopolisation has been adopted as
well. So, the Railway Ministry's tariffs will also be reduced
by 10%. In addition, no rise in the tariffs on wholesale gas
deliveries is projected.
Question: What is your main goal till 2000?
Answer: The goal is to create the middle class. The means
of accomplishing it include, first, pressure on natural
monopolies. For the first time in decades they lowered their
tariffs last year. Second is support for small and middle
business. Third is encouragement of housing construction and
creation of mortgage funds and banks. Fourth are feasible
direct-investment projects. Fifth is the pushing of Russian
products to the domestic market by including advertisement
spending in their production costs. In addition to advertising
domestic products, we will carry out anti-dumping investigation
with regard to those Western companies which often behave
rather unceremoniously in Russia. We need to protect domestic
commodity producers without detriment to domestic consumers.
And sixth is personnel training. Such is the plan.
FOCUS-Russian defence chief blasts U.S. over Iraq
By Jonathan Wright
MOSCOW, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Russia's defence minister, dispensing with all
diplomatic niceties, warned U.S. Defence Secretary William Cohen on Thursday
that military strikes against Iraq could do untold damage to U.S.-Russian
Cohen rebutted Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev's charges one by one, but
reporters said he was visibly taken aback by the ferocity of an attack which
signalled how far apart Washington and Moscow remained over Iraq after a day
``I would like to relay to you our deep concern over the possible prospects
for Russian-U.S. relations in the military field, especially if military
action occurs,'' reporters and television crews heard Sergeyev tell Cohen at
talks in Moscow.
``Is America ready for all the possible consequences? Does the uncompromising
and tough stand of the United States on the issue of Iraq help to strengthen
stability and security in the world?''
In comments likely to be broadcast widely for maximum effect in Russia,
Sergeyev cited late U.S. president Abraham Lincoln, saying: ``We remember his
words that force is all-conquering but its victories are short-lived.''
His remarks were among the toughest Russia has made to oppose the U.S.
contingency plans to use force to end Iraq's stand-off with the United Nations
over U.N. weapons inspectors.
Cohen was clearly surprised by the frankness of the exchange before
journalists were ushered out of the room and sat taking notes before
``President Clinton has exercised great caution in not making haste quickly
but rather proceeding cautiously and with great prudence,'' he said.
``You properly raised the question of what are the possible consequences of
acting militarily. It is equally appropriate to ask the question 'what if we
fail to act and allow Saddam to continue to flout the U.N. resolutions, to
continue to play hide and seek with the inspectors?'.''
He said the United States was also keen to ensure relations with Russia did
``We regard this relationship as of critical importance to our two countries.
Russia is a great power. The United States is a great power. It is our mutual
interest that we are able to sit down at a table like this,'' he said.
Cohen, who arrived in Moscow on Wednesday evening after a six-nation Gulf
tour, said his visit was primarily intended to focus on nuclear safety and
But Iraq came up at talks with Andrei Kokoshin, secretary of President Boris
Yeltsin's advisory Defence Council, at a meeting with Russian parliamentarians
and finally with Sergeyev.
``Basically we are in agreement. We think that the best solution is the
diplomatic solution but one that must really comply with U.N. mandate and U.N.
resolution requirements,'' Cohen said in an interview with NBC's Today show.
But he added: ``There is a disagreement on whether or not military power can
be used to enforce diplomacy.''
On the morning of Cohen's arrival, the Washington Post reported that U.N.
inspectors in Iraq had evidence that the Russian government agreed in 1995 to
sell Iraq sophisticated equipment that could be used to develop biological
Russia dismissed the suggestion as ``crude inventions'' and Cohen said he
could not confirm or contradict them.
``I think what we have to have is more information and this is precisely the
reason why I think that these types of meetings that we are having today --
talking about enhancing export control -- are so important,'' Cohen told
Chemical and biological weapons are at the centre of U.S. demands that Iraq
give unrestricted access to the U.N. inspectors, who are seeking weapons of
Moscow, which has tried to maintain the close relationships it had with
Baghdad in Soviet days, has said repeatedly it rejects the use of force to end
the stand-off and has sent a high-ranking diplomat to Iraq to negotiate a
diplomatic way out.
Asked about reports of a new Russian initiative to break the deadlock over
Iraq, Cohen said he had no specific knowledge of new proposals but fresh ideas
were being constantly introduced.
February 13, 1998
MEDIA WATCH: How to Cover Bank Wars
By Leonid Bershidsky
One could argue that all political and business journalism in Russia is
actually war journalism. There are enough wars going on for every
serious reporter to get his share.
Of course, while armed conflicts abound in and around Russia, the most
traditional form of war journalism flourishes and spawns heroes whose
fame goes beyond the media community: NTV's Yelena Masyuk, for example,
is widely admired for her courage in covering the war in Chechnya. But
most other journalists, who do not get shot at or kidnapped as Masyuk
was last year in Chechnya, are also covering wars.
These wars create hero correspondents of a different kind -- the likes
of Novaya Gazeta's Alexander Minkin, who broke the story of First Deputy
Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais' preposterous $90,000 book advance (paid
by an affiliate of Uneximbank) last year. Minkin is a hero to some
because he has uncovered real ethical violations in the government and
achieved real results with his witty, acerbic writing on them. But he is
a villain to others who allege he is a hired gun used by powerful
tycoons in their fights against other powerful tycoons.
Minkin's defense is simple and seemingly unassailable. He says what he
writes is true, therefore it does not really matter whom it benefits.
Minkin contends that he serves the public good by exposing the
questionable doings of public officials. If his reports help business
magnate Boris Berezovsky score some points against Uneximbank's Vladimir
Potanin, well, that's just a side effect.
A journalist, of course, serves the public good as he perceives it. If
he believes something is right or wrong, he can get that point across
without ceasing to be objective in the accepted sense of the word. There
are all these little tricks of the trade -- the judicious selection of
experts, the allotment of different amounts of space to different points
So if a journalist believes the public good lies, say, in letting
Chubais go on with his version of economic reforms, he can pass on a
story like the one Minkin wrote even if it jumps up and bites him on the
nose. I have heard journalists at the daily Russky Telegraf, owned by
Uneximbank, say they do not do the bank's bidding in supporting Chubais
and the other "young reformer," Boris Nemtsov. They claim they merely
believe these men are working for Russia's public good.
The problem with trying to write according to certain principles is that
in the modern-day jaded Russia, few readers believe in principles that
are not reinforced with hard cash. So when a banker reads a story that
is critical of his bank or the bank's political protégé and not critical
of the bank's competitor, he is quick to draw the conclusion that the
writer or editor has been paid by the competitor. They often refuse to
believe that the journalist or editor acted according to his conscience
because they've had personal experience with reporters and editors who
don't have consciences.
If a journalist is trying to avoid being placed in one of the camps in
Russia's bank war, he may benefit from the following paradoxical
observation I made after hearing some industry rumors of hurt feelings
and pulled stories.
It's no good saying you have crucified Berezovsky in previous stories to
justify the fact that you're only hitting out at Potanin today. Some of
the fighters in the War of Big Businesses would rather have themselves
and their enemies criticized in the same breath than see that done in
two different issues of a newspaper. Like all fighters, they have a
short attention span. Someone who slams both Berezovsky and Potanin in
the same story is seen either as someone neutral and not worth worrying
about or as a loose cannon that needs tying to the deck.
It might be a good idea to cover the bank war like a real war. In news
reports from wars, both sides are always quoted giving wildly diverging
casualty figures. Similarly, every story about an event that has taken
place in the course of the bank war should report the opinions and
assessments of both belligerent parties. For instance, a news story on
the Svyazinvest auction that set off the war should have had
Berezovsky's side alleging that Potanin used government money deposited
for a short term in his bank to pay for its share of Svyazinvest, and it
should have had a pro-Potanin commentator saying Berezovsky was a
proponent of insider deals as opposed to fair auctions.
Neither side would have been happy, but neither side would have had a
reason to suspect the reporter of being on its competitors' payroll.
Yeltsin Seen Smashing 'Conciliation' Agenda
7 February 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Aleksandr Frolov: "Hefty Advance. Who Yeltsin Is
Protecting the Highly Sullied 'Young Reformers' From"
Yeltsin's statement the day before yesterday that Chubays and Nemtsov
will remain in their jobs until the year 2000 is an undoubtedly significant
and to some extent pivotal event irrespective of whether the president
intends to defend the young reformers to the last drop of blood or whether
it is just another machinatory exercise in setting his subordinates against
each other. Any experienced politician in the youngsters' shoes would be
more wary than overjoyed. This is not the point. What matters here is that
in making this deliberately categorical statement Yeltsin took a patently
confrontational step and thereby violated the recently incipient logic
governing the development of relations between the executive and
legislative branches. For good or ill, since the time of Yeltsin's phone
calls and visits to the Duma society has started getting used to the
building of dialogue between the branches of power, although some people
categorically condemn it while others are sympathetic.
Turnabouts of this kind are part of the president's style, but it is
by no means always the case that the first person to opt for confrontation
gains the initiative. It often turns out the other way around. The
initiative might now end up in the hands of the opposition precisely
because it will adhere firmly to its line of conduct.
If you sum up all the opposition's actions in the last six months the
line that emerges is approximately as follows. The accent is on an
evolutionary change of course by modernizing the existing system of power,
introducing additional conciliation mechanisms and procedures into it, and
thereby broadening parliament's potential. The "big four," the
"roundtable," and the trilateral commissions on various issues all fit in
with this. A kind of unity of the State Duma and Federation Council
positions on the need for changes to the Constitution is taking shape.
As yet this is a slowing rather than a change of the official course.
For example, the questions of land, housing and municipal reform, and the
fate of some of the natural monopolies have been successfully halted for a
time. A start, albeit a creaking start, has been made on the problems of
compensation for devalued savings, the reduction of energy and
transportation tariffs, and the reduction of the tax burden. But these are
only half-measures, of course. A next step suggests itself -- forming a
new government reliant on the support of the majority in both houses of
parliament and responsible to it. But this is the very thing Yeltsin does
not want or is not allowed to hear about. Having said "A" the president
refuses to say "B." The result is a breakdown of the barely incipient
By insisting on the continuation of this process, the opposition gains
a definite moral advantage. But given the change in the situation and the
tough and categorical nature of Yeltsin's statements, the response must be
equally tough and definite. Nobody should harbor frivolous illusions that
the crisis of the conciliation process will not bring in its wake a crisis
of executive power and political destabilization. And it is the president
and the government that will be to blame.
At the same time it is no longer enough for the opposition to confine
itself to a general and not very specific demand for a "change of course."
There is a need for a more precisely formulated alternative to present to
society. The only possible such alternative today is a "shadow cabinet,"
without the existence and - - most importantly -- the operation of which
the demands for a government of people's confidence will remain an airy
abstraction and fail to win mass support outside the walls of parliament.
But if there is a "shadow cabinet" with a specific program for a
change of course, it would be logical to raise the question of a new
government in an absolutely official and businesslike manner -- at the
"roundtable," for example.
Ideally this proposal could be formulated in a special State Duma
resolution. And in the event of an equally official refusal by the
president to discuss this issue a parliamentary vote of no confidence in
the present cabinet could be initiated on the grounds that the government
is patently incapable of implementing the just- adopted budget within the
framework of the course it is pursuing.
There is a 99 percent chance that Yeltsin would dig in his heels and
again try to blackmail the Duma with the prospect of dissolution. But
should this be feared?
In answering this question it has to be borne in mind that today a
vote of no confidence would no longer be a means to exert pressure on the
government, as was the case in October, but a lever with whose assistance
it is possible to smash the political calendar mapped out by the party of
power through the year 2000, no less, and disrupt its plans.
There are still 22 months until the next State Duma elections. The
party of power is preparing for them ten times more carefully that for the
1995 elections. Bankers' groupings state totally frankly that, relying on
the bureaucrats, they literally let those elections go by, but they will
not make that kind of mistake a second time. Consequently no fewer
resources than for the presidential election will be mobilized, and
techniques tested in Saratov, Rostov, Nizhniy Novgorod, Moscow, and
Chuvashia will be applied. A mutual accommodation and coordination of
interests among bank groupings has already begun. But, considering the
current divisions within the banking oligarchy, this is an extremely tricky
task for them. They nevertheless still have time to resolve it.
The federal authorities' latest flirtation with the regional "elites"
is evidently also starting at the same time. The day before yesterday
Yeltsin promised to transfer additional new powers to them. Clearly in
exchange for loyalty to the center in Russia- wide election campaigns.
That applies to ordinary elections. But whether the party of power
would be able to thoroughly prepare for extraordinary elections is a big
question. In such a situation it is beneficial for the opposition to
minimize the authorities' room for maneuver, reduce the time available to
them to consolidate their ranks, and put them under time pressure -- that
is, bring the Duma elections closer.
What would an increase in the time gap between the parliamentary and
presidential elections from six months to a year or 18 months entail? The
Duma elections would turn into a self-contained fact of political life and
cease to be a dress rehearsal for the presidential elections. The impact
on the presidential elections of the factor of political inertia, which has
been shown to be a two- edged sword, would be weakened. There would not be
the euphoria that let the opposition down in 1996.
It is important to consider all the possible options here. If the
people's patriotic forces were to develop their success they would gain
time to realize their increased potential more effectively. If they retain
their current position the left-wing forces lose practically nothing.
Finally, if their position weakens they win sufficient time to critically
analyze and adjust their tactics.
But the latter is indeed the least likely possibility. On the other
hand, the continuation of the current state of unstable balance makes it
more likely. It would be a good thing to realize this and draw the
Christian Science Monitor
February 13, 1998
[for personal use only]
Danger From Russia's Scientists: Selling Weapons Know-How
Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
MOSCOW -- All it could take to endanger world peace would be a dish of
microbes or a few pounds of uranium. Or a hungry scientist.
Ever since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, pundits have worried
about nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons falling into the hands
of governments such as Iraq or Iran.
The softening of strict surveillance of Russians and the creation of 15
new porous borders in the former Soviet republics have created the risk
not only of leakages of materials, they say. There is also the
possibility that an impoverished and disillusioned scientist could slip
abroad to sell deadly secrets.
Scientists at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow describe a
profession in crisis - where they have lost their venerated place in
society and on average earn $150 a month.
It is not wildly inconceivable that someone might be tempted to
supplement a meager wage with a shady deal, says Vsevolod Medvedev, the
academy's deputy scientific secretary. The possibilities are there,
given Internet communications with the outside world, powerful organized
crime, and widespread corruption.
"The limits on scientists are absolutely useless," says Dr. Medvedev.
"If one wants to sell an idea he can always find a way."
Even after the cold war's end, Russia today has the largest chemical
arsenal on earth and an official stock of more than 10,000 nuclear
weapons. Add to that the more than 1,000 scientific institutions and
hundreds of factories that were involved in defense-related activities,
each of which employed hundreds of experts.
Concern was stoked last year when Russia's former security chief, Gen.
Alexander Lebed, claimed dozens of portable nuclear weapons were
missing. Military authorities quickly denied his assertion, but many
observers were not reassured.
Intelligence officials say they made arrests last year in three separate
incidents of people who attempted to sell military equipment and
know-how to Iran. The materials included units for missile systems and
documents connected with the production of missile engines and jets. But
that does not mean everyone was caught. Officials with the Federal
Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, said it would be
harder to stop the flow of people and their ideas than of physical
"We keep under control everyone who goes directly to Iraq, and the
number is very small. But we can't control those who go there via a
third country," says FSB spokesman Col. Mikhail Kirilin.
The threat of biological weapons in particular is hard to assess, as
officially Russia will not admit to owning them. And the Russian Foreign
Ministry on Thursday strongly denied a report in The Washington Post
that United Nations weapons inspectors had found what they believed to
be evidence Russia agreed in 1995 to deliver to Iraq a fermentation tank
that could be used either for brewing animal feed or in the production
of biological weapons.
"Russia has never made any deals with Iraq in violation of the sanctions
or supplied to that country any equipment or material which could be
used for wrong purposes in biological or any other fields," says Foreign
Ministry spokesman Gennady Tarasov.
On the chemical weapons front, diplomats are encouraged by Russia's
ratifying of the Chemical Weapons Convention, but say that given the
magnitude of stocks, the margin for error exists.
To stem the risk, Washington is encouraging exchange programs to retrain
Russian scientists for civilian work. The US has also helped tighten
security at Russian nuclear installations and laboratories, facilitated
the removal of highly enriched uranium from Kazakstan, and aided the
transformation of military plants to serve civilian purposes.
These measures have been judged a move in the right direction, but
diplomats will not rest easy until even the slimmest potential for
danger is removed.
Robert Mosher, first secretary at the American Embassy in Moscow, says,
"The risks associated with the possible use of weapons of mass
destruction are such that we would have to take seriously any slightest
possible leakage that would contribute to it."
>From Russia Today Press summaries
12 February 1998
A Blow at Iraq May Result in Chemical Catastrophe
Researchers from the Russian Meteorological Service, which forecasts
weather for Russia and the CIS, have conducted experiments modeling the
possible consequences of the proposed bombing of Iraq.
According to their calculations, it may result in terrible consequences
for tens of millions of people, even in the countries that do not have
common borders with Iraq.
The Americans suspect that Iraq has chemical weapons. The daily said
that if a bomb hits a storage area for poisonous substances, the
contamination zone may spread to Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
and Tajikistan. It could also cover the Middle East, Turkey and the
Greek islands, depending on the direction of the wind.
The concentration of poisonous substances will not leave anything alive
in the areas of contamination, which will be within 500 to 600
kilometers of the explosion, the daily wrote.
The calculations were done for 10,000 tons of poisonous substance, which
is the average amount contained in one storage receptacle, according to