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Johnson's Russia List
4 April 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian PM vote put off, Yeltsin stands firm.
2. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Boris does his spring cleaning.
3. David Nissman (RFE/RL): Caucasus: A Mixed Blessing For Caspian Oil.
4. Journal of Commerce: Michael Lelyveld, Russia, in shift, turns
cooperative on Caspian pipelines.
5. International Herald Tribune: Alexei Pushkov, Russia and America
Aren't Foes but Have to Be Rivals.
6. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Inara Filatova and Aleksandr Budberg,
"Bureaucrat No. 1: An Excursion Into the Country's Main Office."
(Yeltsin's Daily Schedule, Work Habits Eyed).
7. USIA: SESTANOVICH SAYS NEW RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD PERFORM BETTER.
8. Vladivostok News: Russell Working, Yeltsin firings mean little in
FOCUS-Russian PM vote put off, Yeltsin stands firm
By Alastair Macdonald
MOSCOW, April 3 (Reuters) - Russia's communist-led parliament accepted an
olive branch from Boris Yeltsin and, with a bit of constitutional conjuring,
put off Friday's confirmation debate on the president's youthful nominee for
The week's delay was agreed to make time for talks with Yeltsin but the chief
Kremlin spokesman said the president had no intention of giving way to
communist calls for a coalition cabinet.
Nonetheless, a pattern of compromise began to emerge and the eventual
confirmation of 35-year-old Sergei Kiriyenko as prime minister began to look
more likely, despite vocal opposition.
``Today a dialogue began to take shape, and that's very important,'' Interfax
news agency quoted Kiriyenko as saying.
The political uncertainty persuaded Yeltsin to postpone a planned trip to
Japan on April 11-13 by one week.
``President Yeltsin told Prime Minister (Ryutaro) Hashimoto that because of
the internal situation in Russia he would unfortunately have to delay his
visit,'' Japan's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Speaker Gennady Seleznyov told the State Duma lower chamber a new date for a
confirmation hearing on Kiriyenko would be set on Tuesday, after the ``round
table'' talks between Yeltsin and political leaders. The debate is now
expected next Friday.
The round table, and the postponement of the Duma debate, have averted an
immediate showdown. But the battle lines are still drawn for next week as the
latest Kremlin pronouncement, from chief spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky made
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said on Thursday he would reject Kiriyenko
on the grounds the energy minister lacked experience and would not alter the
free market policies of his sacked predecessor, Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Yastrzhembsky told Interfax on Friday that Yeltsin would never grant
demands for posts in the new cabinet to reflect their strength in the Duma,
and that he expected the new team to maintain fiscal rigour and a steady
Yeltsin has the last word on appointments, he said, later adding that he
expected reformist first deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov, 38, to keep a
job in the new cabinet.
The prolonged battle of wills between Yeltsin and the Duma has raised
that economic reforms could be held up.
But liberal finance minister Mikhail Zadornov, one of a handful of
Chernomyrdin's key ministers so far re-appointed by Yeltsin, stressed that
tight policies would be maintained and said a new credit deal with the IMF was
If the Duma blocks the president's nominee three times, the constitution
requires parliamentary elections, not otherwise due until December 1999.
Yeltsin has warned he will not hesitate to dissolve the Duma if it rejects
Kiriyenko three times.
The Communists, the biggest party in parliament but short of a majority, say
they are ready to defy him and go to the polls.
But with all eyes on the June 2000 presidential election, for which
Chernomyrdin received Yeltsin's somewhat lukewarm endorsement this week,
neither the Kremlin nor the Communists seem truly keen on an early Duma
Plucked from obscurity, Kiriyenko has quickly established himself as a
politician of some substance in a hectic round of meetings with Duma leaders
and top officials, including, on Friday, re-appointed defence minister Igor
He drew praise from Seleznyov, who told a news conference that Kiriyenko had
``strong nerves.'' ``He is calmly passing through the purgatory of
consultations with Duma factions.''
Seleznyov also said Kiriyenko's economic programme, with its focus on
industrial policy, signalled a change in Russia's economic course.
``If these points are singled out in the cabinet programme, then why shall we
not give this cabinet a chance to carry out its programme under strict control
from deputies,'' he said.
Chernomyrdin, 59, said he felt Kiriyenko was now on course for confirmation.
He told Itar-Tass news agency: ``I think they will confirm him, though maybe
not at the first attempt.'
March 27, 1998
[for personal use only]
Boris does his spring cleaning
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
During our weekly banya sessions in one of Moscow's most popular
bathhouses, a close friend of mine spends hours fruitlessly speculating
about who is up and who is down in Boris Yeltsin's peculiar universe.
My reaction to my friend's palaver has always been the same. Why bother?
Playing on President Yeltsin's team is a lot like coaching the Maple Leafs.
There may be a few brief moments of glory, but whoever is chosen always ends
up getting sacked.
As audacious, irrational and cold-blooded as Yeltsin can be, it was hard
to believe his stunt this week when he confounded common sense by dismissing
his entire cabinet.
Despite the massive international publicity which attended this week's
cabinet shocker, it is now obvious that Yeltsin will actually only get rid
of three or four ministers. However, those let go were Russia's biggest players.
Publicly humiliating and sacking underlings is the president's way of
venting gas and diverting attention from his own stupendous shortcomings.
Given the parlous state of Russia's finances, many more such diversions may
be required if Yeltsin is to cling to power. It's a good thing he's got a
None of this explains why Yeltsin chose the same moment to fire his loyal
puppy dog, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, his grossly overrated deputy
prime minister and economics guru, Anatoli Chubais, and his war-mongering
security minister, Anatoli Kulikov. With little in common and having never
been thought of as allies, it's an unlikely trio to be sent off to purgatory
Many in Moscow and elsewhere have seen in all this the dark hand of Boris
Berezovsky, who is what Russians somewhat disingenuously call a banker.
Reputedly the richest man in Russia and a great chum of Yeltsin's daughter,
Tatyana, Berezovsky is known to detest Chubais for allegedly favoring other
"bankers" in the on-going fire sale of Russian state assets to Kremlin insiders.
Berezovsky, who had no money to speak of before starting a car dealership
seven years ago, also had problems with Chernomyrdin over similar issues.
The billionaire's third enemy in government has been Boris Nemtsov, another
deputy prime minister and reformer, who Yeltsin has not dumped - yet.
There are other explanations for the shakeup. As uninspiring as
Chernomyrdin was, the 59-year-old former pipe fitter had begun to look like
a vigorous rival for the presidency when compared with Yeltsin, who
confronts a new health crisis every few weeks.
Chubais had been caught taking a bribe and his aloof manner and his
economic policies had cost Yeltsin dearly with the Russian public and the
Kulikov was similarly unloved. His hardline adventurism during the
Chechnya debacle proved the once mighty superpower could not even invade itself.
That the president himself, and not just those whom he appoints and
dismisses, bears primary responsibility for the awful state of the country
seems to have never occurred to him. Yeltsin's Red Army is full of rogue
generals who have amassed great personal fortunes while recruits starve. His
navy seldom puts to sea. His air force almost never flies.
Soldiers, teachers, miners and pensioners in the hinterlands haven't seen
a kopeck from Moscow in months. Many factories pay their workers with pots,
pans, cut glass and towels to sell in the street. The medical system barely
Cops are dirty when not outright murderous. Gangsters run amok. The Swiss
think up to $55 billion may have been smuggled out of Russia and into
numbered accounts in Zurich and Geneva.
Many westerners have been seduced into thinking that life in Russia is
improving because the only place they visit is Moscow. But the capital is a
Potemkin village of glitzy billboards and fancy shops. This relative
prosperity has been achieved by skimming off most of the profit from oil and
gas exports and by gorging on western loans and a big slice of what little
foreign investment Russia still attracts.
President Yeltsin's only success is that for all his failures he remains
Caucasus: A Mixed Blessing For Caspian Oil
By David Nissman
Washington, 3 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A study examining the discovery of Caspian
Sea Oil and its potential impact on Azerbaijan and other Caspian countries,
concludes that, among other things, it can be a double edged sword -- the
revenue bringing prosperity or feeding corruption.
The study, entitled "Caspian Sea Oil Riches: A Mixed Blessing" was done
conflict resolution center at the University of Maryland. It was written by
Erjan Kurbanov and Barry Sanders.
Kurbanov is managing editor of Caspian Crossroad, published by the
U.S.-Azerbaijan Council and affiliated with the Center for International
Development. Sanders is affiliated with the Center.
The two authors provide numerous examples of countries to which oil wealth
brought misery, not social well-being, from the degradation of the Indonesian
economy, to the genocide directed against the Ogoni people in Nigeria, to the
disintegration of Libya's infrastructure.
Kurbanov and Sanders say the development of an active civil society in a
democracy is required to avoid the social and economic catastrophes that have
accompanied the discovery of oil in other countries. This ensures the equal
distribution of wealth and provides greater freedom of choice.
One of the problems that can affect a suddenly oil-rich country is the
so-called "Dutch disease," named after the effect produced on the Netherlands’
economy by its natural gas exports.
The first consequence of the cash flows generated from oil is that national
currencies become very strong in comparison with the U.S. dollar. This makes
imports cheaper because the local currency is so strong, but hurts local
products because they cannot compete with imported goods. Non-oil exports
become expensive and non-competitive in foreign markets as well. The result is
that most branches of the national economy outside of oil exploration and
transport quickly deteriorate.
As Kurbanov and Sanders point out, the well-developed political and economic
structure of the Netherlands prevented the 'Dutch disease' from having a
long-term negative effect.
But they say the Caspian countries may be in serious jeopardy. Most of the
region's industries are already at a standstill, working equipment is
outdated, and products are not competitive on world markets.
The 'Dutch disease' would further complicate this situation since the
modernization of industries outside the oil sector is less attractive when
required goods can be cheaply purchased abroad. The important point, the
authors say, is that a strong government commitment is needed to invest
petrodollars in local industry, and this does not always bring a quick
This process can tie an economy too closely to the oil sector, making the
economy susceptible to wild fluctuations in world oil prices. In a country that
proclaims all natural resources as state property, a landowner on whose land
oil is discovered does not prosper, but is forced to vacate the land. The
compensation he gets in return won't even cover the costs associated with
The landowner is protected from this only in countries where land property
rights are strictly enforced. In the Caspian countries, governments have
exclusive rights to all natural resources, so the people will only receive
their share of the oil wealth through the government. In other words, the
large amounts of petrodollars in the government's hands are not necessarily
translated into prosperity for the general population.
Adequate social and economic planning is necessary to prevent many of the
negative social and political consequences of a flood of petrodollars. First,
if the agricultural sector collapses due to neglect by the state, it can cause
a migration from rural to urban areas and oil-producing enclaves by people
searching for jobs. Since jobs might not exist, a reliable social safety
met is essential.
Another side effect can be a worsening of existing social and ethnic
fueled by disparities in the standard of living between those living in large
cities and oil-producing enclaves, and those in less fortunate regions.
Another fundamental problem is that oil profits create few incentives for an
authoritarian government to conduct economic and political reforms.
Kurbanov and Sanders conclude that there is a need for greater
in the Caspian region and suggest that the leaders of the Caucasian and Central
Asian states break with the past and demand human and environmental investment
rather than decimating the land and ignoring the people.
It cannot be business as usual, the authors say. Oil revenues must stay in a
local workforce and its profits must be used to develop an infrastructure that
supports continued growth in a sound environment. They add that there is
plenty of oil and a lot of time to move slowly and plan carefully.
Journal of Commerce
April 6, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia, in shift, turns cooperative on Caspian pipelines
BY MICHAEL S. LELYVELD
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE STAFF
Russia has suddenly turned cooperative on the contentious issues of
dividing the Caspian Sea and choosing export pipeline routes.
But analysts wonder whether the change represents a shift in policy or a
short-term maneuver over control of the strategic oil reserves.
Common position seen
At a meeting last week of energy ministers from the Group of 8
industrialized nations in Moscow, acting First Deputy Prime Minister
Boris Nemtsov said that Russian and U.S. positions on the choice of a
main export pipeline route from the Caspian are getting closer to common
"The U.S. and Russian sides acknowledge that different routes are
possible, and the criteria will be based purely on economics, not
politics," said Mr. Nemtsov, according to Reuters. The stand contrasted
with Kremlin vows since 1994 to maintain control over the region's oil.
While Moscow has backed its Caspian export route from Azerbaijan to the
Russian Port of Novorossiisk on the Black Sea, Energy Secretary Federico
Pena and other U.S. officials have been pushing for a pipeline from
Azerbaijan to Turkey's Port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
But Mr. Nemtsov's new emphasis on economics in the pipeline choice was
nearly identical to that of former Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin,
who said last month that the market would decide the outcome.
New policy in place
Although that word came shortly before Mr. Chernomyrdin's dismissal, Mr.
Nemtsov's comments suggest that a new formulation of Russian policy is
firmly in place.
Russia also proved accommodating during a meeting last Monday between
First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov and Azerbaijan President
Mr. Pastukhov said that Russia was ready to compromise with other
Caspian shoreline states, agreeing that the waterway's petroleum
resources could be divided into national sectors.
While details must be worked out, the statements imply progress, at
least in principle, after years of deadlock on the Caspian. The Russians
have previously insisted that all five littoral states must agree to
development, giving them a virtual veto over projects.
Moscow now says that the seabed should be divided quickly to prevent
costly delays, while the waters themselves should be shared to allow
free navigation and other uses.
Despite the conciliatory positions, experts are suspicious. For one
thing, Mr. Pastukhov said Russia strongly opposes building trans-Caspian
pipelines between the Caucasus and Central Asia on environmental
Julia Nanay, director of Petroleum Finance Co. in Washington, said that
the trans-Caspian extension has become key to U.S. plans for the route
to Ceyhan, which is so expensive that it can be justified only by adding
Central Asia's resources to the line.
Blocking a trans-Caspian project could be tantamount to killing the
whole idea. Russia's new position that the pipeline contest will be
market-driven may also be a ploy.
Mr. Nemtsov noted that the Novorossiisk pipeline is the only one that is
already up and running, making the route more economical. The line
handles small volumes of "early oil" from the Azerbaijan International
Operating Co. Mr. Pastukhov said Moscow is prepared to increase the
pipeline's annual capacity to 124 million barrels (340,000 barrels a
day) in the near future, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline
If Russia has changed its position, it may still have the upper hand. A
pipeline to Ceyhan would cost at least $2.5 billion, a sum that
companies will find high if oil prices are low.
The possibility of swapping Caspian oil with Iran could also slow plans
for any ambitious project. Companies may wait out the continuing changes
in U.S.-Iran policy to see whether Washington still resists oil swaps
six months from now when a pipeline decision is due.
International Herald Tribune,
April 2, 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia and America Aren't Foes but Have to Be Rivals
By Alexei K. Pushkov International Herald Tribune
The writer is foreign affairs columnist for the daily Nezavisimaya
Gazeta and a member of the board of the Russian Council on Foreign and
Defense Policies. He contributed this comment to the International
MOSCOW - ''I will disappoint you, I will not be fired,'' Yevgeni
Primakov retorted at a press conference in Bonn, when asked whether he
would stay on as foreign minister after the recent fall of the Russian
For quite a few in the United States, disappointment it was. Mr.
Primakov is demonized in the American press as the evil genius of a
Russian foreign policy that tends to oppose America whenever it can, be
it over Iraq, Iran or Kosovo.
But this is a false judgment, and an unfair one to Mr. Primakov. His aim
is not to confront America but to pursue Russian national interests. The
problem is that those interests enter into contradiction with U.S.
policies more often than they coincide with it.
The eventual departure of Mr. Primakov would not change that basic fact.
This is not to say there are no common grounds for action.
On Iraq, Russia and the United States cooperate on the basis of a common
UN Security Council platform and share important goals. They agree that
all weapons of mass destruction which Iraq might have should be
destroyed, and that sanctions should stay in force until there is full
evidence that Baghdad has stopped working on such weapons.
Moscow also understands that without the U.S. military forces in the
Gulf region and the threat to use them, Saddam Hussein would have been
much less inclined to listen to Russian diplomats and Kofi Annan.
The Russian and U.S. approaches to the Iraqi crisis were complementary.
Only their combination could assure success for the Annan mission. ''It
was a sort of teamwork,'' says a top Russian diplomat.
But at some point this teamwork stops. Moscow is against the so-called
military solution because it will fail to solve anything, while
certainly delaying the day when the sanctions are lifted and Baghdad
starts to pay Russia back its $7 billion debt, as Russian oil companies
start operations in Iraq.
Also, Mr. Primakov starts from the assumption that Saddam Hussein is the
undisputed master of Iraq, and that as long as this remains the case he
is the one to deal with.
U.S. and Russian approaches are even further apart on Iran.
Russia is threatened neither by Iran nor by the terrorist groups it
reportedly supports. For Moscow, the danger of radical Islam is
associated not with Iran but with the Chechens or the Taleban
fundamentalists. Iran is important to Russia because they share
approaches to the Caspian Sea oil resources and Iran plays a significant
role in the Transcaucasian and Central Asian areas, which remain a high
priority for Russia. Iran is a traditional trade and economic partner,
and a source of lucrative deals in the oil and gas area. Tehran supports
Moscow's positions on oil and gas pipeline routes from the Caspian area.
Moscow sells Tehran arms and nuclear reactors, and is ready to engage,
together with France and Malaysia, in a multibillion-dollar gas
transportation project on Iranian territory.
There are strong mutual suspicions, too. Americans accuse Russians of
selling missile technologies to Tehran. Moscow strongly denies this and
suspects Washington of trying to squeeze Russia out of the lucrative
There is no easy way out of this deadlock. Russians fail to see why they
should not sell Iran nuclear reactors of the same type the United States
agreed to give to North Korea (which cannot be used for making weapons
plutonium), and why they should abandon an $800 million contract for
construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran. Moscow insists that its
cooperation with Iran is limited to civilian nuclear power and complies
with the restrictions of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Russia is ready to show some restraint by not signing any new deals on
sales of arms to Iran. But it does not think it should shun ties with
Tehran at a time when the U.S. policy of ''containment'' is not accepted
even by America's European allies.
There are different perspectives on Kosovo as well. The U.S. policy
might result in further partition of Yugoslavia. As a multinational
state with secessionist pressures in a number of its own Muslim regions,
Russia has to weigh the implications of such an outcome.
The ''end of ideology,'' at least of the Communist one in the case of
Russia, precludes a new global confrontation. It does not preclude
rivalry between Russia and the United States due to difference of
interests. However, the Iraqi crisis showed that it can be a rivalry of
partners, and not that of antagonists. Such rivalry supposes a capacity
to listen to each other and a desire to reach a balance of interests.
Yeltsin's Daily Schedule, Work Habits Eyed
17 March 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Inara Filatova and Aleksandr Budberg: "Bureaucrat No. 1:
An Excursion Into the Country's Main Office"; passages within slantlines
published in italics
Can you imagine yourself in Yeltsin's place? We all berate him, but if
you stop and think about how many different things he has to handle, it is
frightening... Ideally, a president should be trained for the job from
kindergarten, so that he can learn from childhood how to deal with
paperwork and give orders. But even a president experienced in the job has
to juggle things to avoid drowning in a sea of paper—he has to leave
many issues to be dealt with by his aides, separate the "kernels from the
husks," and settle for extremely condensed information—also prepared
by his entourage... Just how dependent is the president of Russia on other
people? And in general, what are his "bureaucratic" methods? Let's take a
The Constitution is not the most popular thing to read among the mass
public. But it is precisely there that one can find out what the
presidential duties are. The description of his powers takes up 3.5 pages.
The first impression: The president possesses enormous powers. The
current Constitution, unlike the previous one--the 1978 one, with
amendments--is generous in this area. For instance, the old one
devoted only 1.5 pages to the president, and his powers appear somewhat
meager... It also contains this point: "The RF President does not have the
right to disband parliament or suspend the activities of the RF Supreme
Soviet." Now it appears completely different: "The RF president disbands
the State Duma according to events and in keeping with the procedures
envisaged by the RF Constitution."
Second impression: The president's powers are vague, and the
"fundamental law" itself is not burdened by excessive detail. For instance,
one encounters these phrases in the text: "The Russian Federation president
/has the right/ to chair meetings of the Russian Federation Government" or
"/may/ use conciliation procedures to resolve differences between organs of
state authority." Perhaps this was done intentionally: The more
uncertainty, the greater room for maneuver.
In the US Constitution, the US President's powers are defined in one
sentence. But what a sentence! "Executive authority belongs to the
President of the United States of America." This line gives Clinton almost
unlimited power. It is not accidental that the US President is called "the
most powerful man on earth." For instance, if necessary he can declare war
unilaterally, without even consulting the Congress.
Neither is our president shackled when it comes to his personal
behavior. As a recent incident demonstrated very well, he can easily get up
and leave in the middle of the government's periodic report, without
hearing it out to the end. And why not—the Constitution is silent on
the subject of his behavior in such situations. For comparison... The Queen
of England must be present at the opening of the British Parliament and
stay there a certain number of minutes strictly established by tradition.
Should Her Majesty leave the noble assembly even one second earlier (for
reason of boredom or feeling unwell), a scandal is inevitable.
One would not want to be in the Queen of England's shoes--her
life is regimented to the minutest detail. Everybody knows (and watches
attentively) how many days a year she is to live in a particular residence,
which vacation she is to spend in Scotland, and which--in Windsor.
Boris Nikolayevich is a completely different matter--if he wishes, he
personally travels to Valday to check out whether it is suitable for
A Dent in the Mountain of Paper
The higher a bureaucrat's rank, the more "bureaucracy" surrounds him.
One can picture the paper flow moving daily in the president's direction as
a pyramid with a huge foundation and a minute tip converging at one point.
But even with this, the paper barrage dumped daily on the country's main
office is impressive. Every day the president looks through about 100
papers (in 1992-1993 it used to be up to 300). And this is considering that
Yeltsin gets everything in a form condensed to the utmost (!). A sizable
apparat and administrative staff of about 2,000 diligently work on this.
B.N.'s daily battle with the influx of paper is the stuff legends are
made of... If Boris Nikolayevich is absent from public view for any length
of time, how does his press service explain it? Right... He is working on
papers. Paperwork of all sorts has become a scourge for the president's
family as well. His granddaughter Katya even tells foreign journalists
about grandpa's home desk on which papers are piled high. The president
himself talks about this when vacationing in places like Volzhskiy Utes:
Look, they brought me two suitcases of paperwork yesterday, I need to look
through it. And even on the plane he does not read or sleep—he works
on papers. At least, this is what his entourage says.
But is any person, even a president, capable of handling such an
explosion of paper? Especially considering that writing appears to be among
Boris Nikolayevich's least favorite pastimes...
The people helping Yeltsin deal with "bureaucracy" acquire particular
influence. There are many ways. For instance, there is the apparat trick of
"laying out folders." The documents the president will be working on are
laid out along the desk before he arrives. Naturally, some end up closer to
the president, some—further away. Having reviewed the document,
Yeltsin either writes instructions for further action or puts a check mark
in the upper left corner, indicating that he has read it. Now make a guess
as to which folders the president will look at first. One has to be fair to
his staff--they frequently put truly important documents in the best
positions. But one cannot rule out the possibility of unobtrusive influence
on the president. By the way, freedom-loving Chubays, in order not to fall
under his staff's influence, demands that all papers be brought to him in
"random order" and does not let anyone close to his desk.
Speaking of pressure, by the way... We heard that from time to time a
newspaper with the "right" article is "accidentally" left in the room where
the president always stops. (By the way, Yumashev once maintained that he
was the person who brought the press to the president.) Someone invisibly
turns up the volume on the television set at the "right" moment: B.N.'s
hearing in his right ear is somewhat impaired. Wicked tongues talk about a
certain unofficial institution of "trusted persons" who allegedly make
important state decisions. Instead of the president. In the beginning,
Burbulis was considered such a person; then he was replaced by Ilyushin,
then Barannikov, Yerin, Tarpishchev, and eventually Korzhakov and Barsukov.
Then later--Chubays. Now Yumashev and daughter Tatyana are being named
as "gray cardinals." Allegedly, all these people in their time were
permitted to write any presidential edicts on blank stationery signed in
advance by the guarantor of the Constitution.
How We Wrote the President's Speech
In addition to paperwork, the president has other business to attend
to as well. The head of state is invited to dozens of events daily. He will
never learn about most of them, however. The merciless weeding out of "the
unworthy" is done as early as at the administrative divisions level. Their
chiefs decide where it would be advisable to send a cable on behalf of the
president, where to send a personal representative, and where He Himself
should appear in person. In the latter case, the collection of information
about the event, its organizers, and other invited guests begins. If there
are no indications to the contrary, First Deputy Chief of Staff Yarov
briefs the president. The final decision is always left to Yeltsin. If he
agrees, work begins on writing all sorts of memos on the subjects related
to the event. (Paperwork again!) These also are written by different units
and agencies. Memos are divided into detail—5-7 pages--and
summaries--1-2 pages. They are submitted together: If the president
sees something interesting in the short one, he reaches for the detailed
one. (By the way, intelligence and special services' summaries, which
Yeltsin receives at least once a week, cannot be longer than 2-3 pages.
Unless, of course, something out-of-the-ordinary happens.)
Once, just before the elections, we expected Boris Nikolayevich to
attend our newspaper's festivities in Luzhniki. His staff has asked us...to
write a speech for B.N. Every journalist worked frenetically on his piece
of the text--naturally, it would be flattering to hear one's words
from the mouth of the head of state! There was a little bit of everything:
youth, pop-culture, democracy... We were in for a disappointment. Our
sleepless nights were a waste: At the last moment Yeltsin canceled his
visit. But at least we learned a few things about the "kitchen" of
All this together is the "routine paperwork" that every bureaucrat,
including the president, has to deal with. But before making its way to his
office, it is, of course, organized and sifted through... Yeltsin's
schedule is usually prepared for a year, half-year, month, week, and day
under the guidance of Yuriy Yarov. We heard that the work on the
president's schedule is accompanied by almost Byzantine intrigues. It is
unlikely that he himself knows how much ingenuity certain "dear Russian
citizens" can display to ensure that he, Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin, visits
precisely this event and not another, or looks through this document and
not the one next to it.
It may sound blasphemous, but the president does not at all have to be
present for the bureaucratic routine to follow its course. It is not
accidental that there is a facsimile of his signature in the
Kremlin—just take it and stamp papers, like an assembly line! During
the time Yeltsin was in seclusion in Barvikha, Duma deputies compared two
documents on which Boris Nikolayevich's signature was absolutely identical,
and sounded the alarm. But the use of facsimile is a common practice. If
Yeltsin had to personally sign every piece of paper, it is hard to imagine
the bottlenecks in the world of bureaucracy...
But the president is, after all, the president, and besides routine
paperwork, he deals with very special things. For instance, he makes
crucial decisions. He has the levers to do this. They also are enumerated
in the Constitution. For instance, the right to form the government, and to
fire or pardon high-ranking state officials. Or the ability to issue edicts
and directives, which, as is known, are "mandatory for execution on the
entire territory of the Russian Federation." And, of course, Boris
Nikolayevich plays a significant role in law-making, since he can submit
draft laws to the State Duma and has to "sign and make public federal
Yeltsin's favorite business is firing and making appointments. Because
through this he practices the exciting game political scientists call "the
system of checks and balances." In this, Boris Nikolayevich already has
achieved serious success and is considered an experienced player. He even
has developed his own style. One thing that is known is that a bureaucrat's
dismissal cannot be predicted. As happened, for instance, with Mr.
Berezovskiy: He was, in fact, fired by the president when nobody expected
it and contrary to the president's assurances that this would not happen.
Just over the past two years there have been more than enough
spectacular ousters and appointments. The exodus of Soskovets' team from
the government, the appointment of the "young reformers," the twice
replaced minister of defense, and General Lebed's brief voyage to the
pinnacle of power...
As to the government, during Yeltsin's presidency it has changed four
times. Minor "cosmetic" reshuffling in it takes place almost monthly...
The second most pleasant occupation for the president is issuing
edicts. Of course, the most famous was No. 1400, after which the Supreme
Soviet was disbanded. But there are other, no less memorable ones. For
instance, on switching bureaucrats to domestic-made cars. As is known, a
presidential edict substitutes for any law. For instance, the Russian
anthem, flag, and state emblem live only in edicts... Particularly
sarcastic individuals even point out that we could dispense with
lawmaking--its absence is made up for by edicts.
Although Yeltsin does not shun lawmaking either. The Duma portfolio
currently contains 75 draft laws "from the president" (58 of them have not
yet passed the first reading, and some have been sitting in the Duma since
1995), although more than 40 of them are international treaties requiring
ratification. The deputies frequently accuse the president of neglecting
his duties. They would like the head of the Kremlin, for instance, to send
them more draft laws. "You already have enough of my laws..." comes the
reply from the president. The people's elected representatives have other
gripes about Boris Nikolayevich, too. He does not sign on time—within
seven (or 14, depending on the law's status) days—the laws they pass.
Actually, this may prove to be not so much Yeltsin's negligence as
stubbornness. For instance, he still has not signed the law on
restitution--the return of "captured" valuables to Germany. Even
despite the fact that the Duma has overridden the president's veto and the
Federation Council supported the Duma. The Constitution in this case is
unequivocal: The president has to sign the law, no matter how much he
loathes it. But the guarantor of the Constitution has de facto put it in
the back drawer and not signed it...
The Constitution also grants powers the current president has never
used. There are two. Our president has never imposed martial law (even in
Chechnya it was limited to a state of emergency) and has not disbanded the
Duma. And thank God... At least two cataclysms less.
Does Yeltsin Have a Double?
There is one thing that remains a great mystery. If one adds up all
the days when the president (let us take only his second term) was
vacationing, took days off, underwent medical exams, was sick, or was on
the operating table, it comes to slightly more than half a year. At the
same time, officially, his powers—and the nuclear
briefcase--were transferred to Chernomyrdin for only several hours.
Who then works as "president" the rest of the time when Boris Nikolayevich
is in the Central Kremlin Clinic or getting warm in front of a fireplace in
Gorkiy-9? A mystery shrouded in darkness... One can only guess... Someone
probably does some of the work for the president. On the other hand, when
Yeltsin is ill or resting, the country is in a state of political calm, and
there are no cataclysms or sensational ousters. Perhaps during such times
the head of the Kremlin simply is not predisposed for "destiny-setting"
business... Or he is accessible to only a small circle of people who do not
burden him with diverse information. Which is what usually prompts the game
of checks and balances that, as a rule, spills into a storm in Russian
politics... Thus, Nemtsov was probably right: "Better a sick Yeltsin than a
healthy Zyuganov." More reassuring somehow...
03 April 1998
SESTANOVICH SAYS NEW RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD PERFORM BETTER
(Albright's advisor discusses security issues at forum) (620)
By Lydia Voronina
USIA Staff Writer
Washington -- "Security issues are those in which the new Russian
government must work better and demonstrate more than just continuity
of the old policies," Ambassador-at-large and Special Advisor to the
Secretary of State for the New Independent States Stephen Sestanovich
said at the "U.S.-Russian Trade and Investment Forecast '98" forum
sponsored by the U.S.-Russia Business Council here April 1.
Addressing a panel of U.S. officials, businessmen and scholars,
Sestanovich focused on the short- and long-term impact of the latest
"sudden and radical changes" in the Russian political scene and how
they would affect Russian-American relations, paying special attention
to the unsolved security problems.
As far as the short-term impact is concerned, Yeltsin himself revealed
that his reasons for the changes were to give "additional push and new
energy to reforms." Sestanovich said that is definitely "good news"
and can immediately contribute to further development of the
Any replacement or change in composition of a government prompts
questions about its future political course. But since Yelstsin's move
was a real turnover in which none was accused of disloyalty or
treason, Sestanovich said the matter of continuity/discontinuity is
especially important. On a number of occasions, Sestanovich reported,
U.S. officials -- for example, Secretary of State Albright who met
with Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Yevgeniy Primakov recently
and Secretary of Energy Federico Pena who is in Moscow now -- have
already received confirmation that current policies will prevail in
However, Sestanovich emphasized, "there are many areas in which we do
not only want continuation of the Russian political line, but would
like to have better results...." First of all, these are security
issues that constitute the very foundation of U.S.-Russia relations
and are "exactly those which might experience a long-term impact from
drastic changes in the Russian government."
Sestanovich pointed out that the way the new Russian government is
going to handle the unsolved security issues will determine how
successfully the U.S.-Russia partnership develops. He defined that
partnership as a "durable relationship which reflects each side's real
According to Sestanovich, there are three security issues which are
crucial in the context of U.S.-Russia relations:
-- START II ratification. The treaty was signed more than 5 years ago.
Its ratification by the Duma is urgent because it will make possible
not only the reduction of weapons stipulated in it, but also
negotiation on future strategic forces. "The Russian government wants
these negotiations.... So do we," Sestanovich said.
-- Non-proliferation. This matter is of the highest priority for the
Clinton administration and is one of "the most complicated legacies of
the Soviet Union and its vast military industrial complex,"
Sestanovich said. Opportunities for uncontrolled use of high
technology are obvious, and, he emphasized, they are "very alarming to
us, the Congress and any country which is concerned with the thought
of Iran having an advanced missile capability."
-- New challenges of the post-Cold War period. These are new and
various problems (from Kosovo to Iraq) on which Russia, Sestanovich
pointed out, "must work cooperatively with the United States and
The ambassador discussed security issues with other experts
participating in the panel, titled "Political and Economic Forecast
'98," at the annual forum. Other participants included Andreas Aslund
of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Mark Gage of the
House Committee on International Relations; and William Courtney,
special assistant to the president and senior director for Russia,
Ukraine and Eurasian affairs, National Security Council.
3 April 1998
Yeltsin firings mean little in Vladivostok
By Russell Working
Foreign media were describing it as “stunning” and “a bombshell
announcement that shocked the nation.”
But while few in Vladivostok had foreseen Yeltsin’s dismissal of his
government Monday, most people said they expected little to change. And
there was little sympathy for Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin, First
Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, and others fired by the
Yeltsin said the government failed to deal with the nation’s economic
problems, including wage non-payment.
Anatoly Noskov, a City Fire Department worker who was fire-proofing a
new building amid the odor of fire retardant, said the government has
done nothing for the people. “They should have been sued long ago –
Chubais and the other guys,” he said.
His co-worker Gennady Rybalkin added, “They are all crooks and
swindlers, and they got together and stole all the budget, and now they
don’t know what to do. Can you imagine their salaries? They get $24,000
a month, while workers are getting 200 rubles ($32).”
Victor Kondratov, FSB chief and presidential representative in Primorye,
said he assessed the situation positively. A crisis was coming to a head
in the government, and the president took care of the situation. There
was also a political rationale for the dismissals, Kondratov said.
Primorye Duma Speaker Sergei Dudnik said the dismissals were a
legitimate and constitutional means of dealing with a severe situation.
“If the president sees economic reforms going at a slower pace than
planned and social tension is not reduced, then he has the right to make
this decision,” Dudnik said. “And I think it is the right one.”
For some, anger against the government boiled over into support for
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the radical leader of the Liberal Democratic Party
of Russia. Yelena Chiminkova, a cook on a fishing trawler, said she
doesn’t care about Yeltsin’s action; the country would be better without
a government. But although Zhirinovsky has been criticized for a State
Duma speech in which he lambasted his colleagues and sprayed them with
mineral water, Chiminkova likes his fiery temperament. “I watch programs
on TV in the Duma,” she said. “I saw it with my own eyes – everyone
sitting and sleeping there, and he’s the only one who’s awake.”
Alexander Reznichenko paused while washing his car with a bucket of
water and shrugged off the decisions of Moscow, 7,000 miles away.
Nothing will change with a new cabinet, he said, and thus he too looked
to Zhirinovsky. “Unlike the rest of them, Zhirinovsky at least can
accomplish something,” he said.
Victor Ryzhkov, spokesman for the Russian Pacific Fleet, said the
military doesn’t comment on political matters. But asked for his
personal opinion, he expressed exasperation with the government. “We are
sick and tired of all those political games,” Ryzhkov said.
Tatiana Skupko paused while laying out towels, underwear, plastic purses
and sweaters at a stand where she sold clothes. “Hardly anything will
change,” she said. “For so long, we’ve been waiting, and nothing
changes. People are hungry, and there’s no hope for my children and