May 7, 1998
This Date's Issues: 2167•
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Johnson's Russia List
7 May 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
I am back in Silver Spring after a busy 10-days of
immersion in the New Moscow. In a few days I may have
modest reflections on the brief experience. I am most grateful
to the friends in Moscow who supported my visit and the many
readers of JRL who I had the good fortune to meet. The whole
enterprise is much more real now. Thank you!
1. Reuters: New Russian govt paints bright future.
2. Reuters: Russia, US prepare for Clinton-Yeltsin talks.
3. Fred Weir on Buddhist protest.
4. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, BEREZOVSKY, SCHLEMIEL OR
5. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Aleksei Pushkov, THE SHADOW GOES EAST.
6. Vek: Vyacheslav Andreyev, KIRIYENKO AND HIS "PROVISIONAL"
7. Washington Post editorial: Russia's New Team.
8. Moscow Times editorial: Kokh Shows Means Can Sap the Ends.
9. Moscow Times: Tatyana Matsuk, 3rd Force's 2nd Coming.
10. Interfax: Yeltsin Spokesman Denies Family Influence In
11. Yeltsin to chat live on MSNBC.
12. Capitalism in Russia is Topic of Conference May 13 at Columbia
University's Harriman Institute.]
FOCUS-New Russian govt paints bright future
By Oleg Shchedrov
MOSCOW, May 7 (Reuters) - Russia's new government on Thursday forecast rising
growth and falling inflation in an upbeat economic outlook for the next three
A government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko mapped out a
budget plan until 2001 under which annual economic growth would hit five
percent and inflation would drop to between 3.7 and 4.5 percent from about 12
percent in 1997.
First Deputy Finance Minister Vladimir Petrov told a news briefing that Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) was expected to grow 2.5 to 3.0 percent next year.
It rose 0.4 percent in 1997, the first year of officially recorded growth
since 1989. Output fell through the early 1990s, accompanied by a general fall
in living standards, during the painful transition from communist central
planning to the free market.
President Boris Yeltsin sacked veteran premier Viktor Chernomyrdin on
and appointed Kiriyenko, a little-known energy minister, to pursue reforms
with more vigour.
Yeltsin and Kiriyenko started building the new government on April 24 after
the Communist-led parliament grudgingly approved the Kremlin nominee rather
than see the lower chamber dissolved.
Most of the new government is in place but some ministers have yet to be
named. Further appointments are likely after Yeltsin meets Kiriyenko again on
Kiriyenko, 35, has said the frail economic growth seen last year has
effectively been halted due to lower oil prices and the financial crisis in
Asia, which translated into higher borrowing costs for other developing
countries like Russia.
Kiriyenko, whose government mixes a handful of fresh new faces with the old
guard, will also have to deal with growing wage and pension arrears and an
ineffective tax system.
``Unfortunately, there's a hole in the budget,'' Yeltsin told reporters,
saying the streamlined government would have to work fast and run its finances
in a way the public could understand.
The new team will have to work in a hostile environment as the
dominate the lower house of parliament, have vowed to move a no-confidence
vote by the autumn.
The Yeltsin-drafted constitution makes it difficult for parliament to
government. But the Communists want revenge for the humiliation they suffered
when Kiriyenko was endorsed, and a confidence battle could hold up
Adding to the uncertainty about the new government's future, Yeltsin signed a
decree earlier this week under which his presidential staff would no longer
review cabinet decisions.
Formally, the decree was prompted by Yeltsin's desire to enhance the
of the new government and shrug off opposition allegations that it was his
In fact, the new system lets Yeltsin distance himself from future clashes
between the government and parliament -- and may make it easier for him to
turn against Kiriyenko.
As the new premier struggled to work out how to achieve the steady economic
growth demanded by Yeltsin, the Kremlin fought media allegations that many key
decisions, including the government reshuffle, have been dictated by a small
clique of Yeltsin's aides rather than by the president himself.
Kremlin spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky told Mayak radio that Yeltsin was
firmly in control of political decision-making.
``It is not true that there is some narrow clan closed to fresh ideas and
proposals...which puts constant pressure on the president. This is an
invention...dreamt up by opposition media,'' he said.
During Yeltsin's long illness following his re-election in 1996, Russian
speculated that Anatoly Chubais, then head of the presidential administration,
had assumed the role of regent, effectively taking major decisions of state.
Yastrzhembsky denied this had ever been the case. Yeltsin has made a strong
political comeback since undergoing life-saving heart surgery in November
1996, and Chubais was sacked from the government in March.
FOCUS-Russia, US prepare for Clinton-Yeltsin talks
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, May 7 (Reuters) - U.S. and Russian officials met on Thursday to
complete preparations for a meeting between presidents Boris Yeltsin and Bill
Clinton during next week's Group of Eight summit in the English city of
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott
held talks with First Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov but gave no details.
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger had talks scheduled with Security
Council Secretary Andrei Kokoshin and with Defence Ministry officials. Russian
officials declined to say whether those meetings had begun.
``Normal diplomatic work is underway to prepare an important meeting between
the leaders of our two countries,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Valery
Nesterushkin told a news briefing.
``The main themes are the traditional matters in Russian-U.S. dialogue. They
include cooperation in preventing the arms race, non-proliferation and all the
political issues that could be discussed at the Birmingham summit and a
separate meeting between the Russian and U.S. presidents.''
The summit of eight industrial powers from May 15 to 17 brings together the
leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the
The timing of the separate Clinton-Yeltsin meeting, which is not a formal
summit, has not been announced.
The last Russian-U.S. summit was held in Helsinki in March last year and no
date has been set for the next one, despite pledges by the two leaders to hold
annual summits. Clinton has not been to Russia for more than two years.
Clinton and Yeltsin have a good personal rapport but Russian-U.S. relations
have cooled since a honeymoon period after the collapse of the Soviet Union in
Differences have been clear over Iraq, Kosovo and NATO's plans to expand into
eastern Europe. Washington fears sales of Russian technology may be helping
Iran to develop a nuclear arsenal, a charge that Moscow denies.
The two presidents have been careful to play down the differences in
prevent any further damage to ties, but they could discuss these matters in
Another sticking point is the failure of Russia's State Duma, the lower house
of parliament, to ratify the START-2 treaty setting out large cuts in their
strategic nuclear arms.
The White House hopes the Duma will ratify the 1993 treaty, which has already
been approved by the U.S. Senate, before the next summit but has not made it a
Another issue which could be raised is cooperation in building the
International Space Station, which has been held up because Russia has fallen
behind schedule in constructing the service module in which the astronauts
Yeltsin told his new government this week to ensure that it met its
obligations over the space station but NASA head Daniel Goldin said on
Wednesday he expected Clinton to raise the matter in his talks with the
Goldin said he made a mistake when he let Russia build the module,
Russian space agency official to call his comments ``regrettable and
Nesterushkin declined to criticise Goldin and said the problems could be
overcome. He also welcomed news that Clinton is considering withdrawing one of
the two U.S. aircraft carriers based near Iraq.
``Naturally, the reduction of foreign military presence in the Gulf
objectively contributes to bringing down tensions and naturally diminishes the
risk of military action,'' he said.
Date: Thu, 07 May 1998 14:07:44 (MSK)
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir in Moscow
MOSCOW (HT May 7) -- Russian Buddhists are up in arms after
police forcibly seized a sacred book of Tibetan drawings from a
Siberian monastery in order to send it on tour in the United
States, beating and arresting several monks in the process.
The incident, which occured Tuesday in the Siberian republic
of Buryatia, has provoked widespread protests among Russia's
1-million strong Buddhist community over what they describe as
high-handed and violent tactics by political authorities.
At the centre of the dispute is a rare copy of the 300-year
old Tibetan Medical Atlas, containing 76 drawings, which
Buddhists in Buryatia regard as sacred to their faith.
Last year the Russian and Buryat governments signed a deal
with a cultural agency, Pro Cultura, to send the artifact on tour
to several American cities. The first exhibition is slated to be
opened in Atlanta this week by the Dalai Lama.
But religious leaders in the largely Buddhist republic were
not informed of the tour until March, and say their concerns
about security for the sacred object were never met.
"This contract to send the book to America was illegally
drawn up and did not contain sufficient protections for the
book," Lupsan Renchin, a Buddhist monk who says he was among
those brutalized by Russian police during the seizure of the
book, said in a telephone interview.
"It was all arranged in secret and without considering the
safety of the book or the wishes of the religious believers."
According to Russian news reports, local authorities decided
to settle the dispute by sending 100 armed riot police to remove
the book from the building in Ulan Ude, the Buryat capital, where
it was being stored. About 50 Buddhist monks passively attempted
to protect the artifact.
Several monks were beaten and three were arrested. The book
was removed, and sent on its way to the United States. A special
commission of Russia's Interior Ministry arrived in Buryatia
Thursday to investigate the incident.
"The monks did not resist, but we were attacked by soldiers
in masks and uniforms," said Mr. Renchin. "We were held down and
beaten. Our book was stolen and taken away to New York."
Buryatia, near the border with Mongolia, is one of three
Russian republics with Buddhist heritage. Russia itself is a
multi-ethnic and poly-confessional patchwork that can ill afford
political trouble among its many religious minorities.
But a Russian orientalist said the issue is complicated, and
may have more to do with local Buryat politics than larger
relations between religious and secular authorities.
"They are on the eve of local elections in Buryatia, and
this may have become tangled up with the issue of the book," says
Tatiana Shaumian, head of the Moscow regional Society of Friends
"Nevertheless, the beating of unarmed Buddhist monks by
police will cause indignation among all Russian Buddhists, and
this creates a serious human rights problem for Russia."
The spiritual head of the Yellow Hat sect, to which most
Russian Buddhists belong, is the Dalai Lama, who has been closely
involved in organizing the U.S. tour of the sacred book.
The Dalai Lama responded to the dispute by issuing a
statement endorsing the tour and urging Buryat Buddhists to
accept that it is in their interests to do so as well.
"This medical atlas is a masterpiece of our Buddhist
culture, and therefore it is with great pride that we should
share our great cultural heritage with people from all nations,"
the Dalai Lama's statement said.
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 12:37:04 +0400 (WSU DST)
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
The Moscow Tribune, May 7, 1998
BEREZOVSKY, SCHLEMIEL OR SCHLEMUZZLE
Is Boris Berezovsky a schlemiel or a schlemuzzle?
For hundreds of years, in the finest centres of East European learning,
great minds have struggled to answer this question. Not which one Berezovsky
is -- an academic and then a car-parts dealer, he didn't count enough to
warrant a debate on the distinction until five years ago.
The difference between these two Yiddish ways of describing fools is a
crucial question in history. The answer helps point out which fools deserve
to be laughed at, and which get the last laugh.
It's plain that Berezovsky, in the breathlessly earnest, pleading way
he has in front of a camera, believes he is such a serious fellow, he should
never be laughed at. That's the first sign of the schlemuzzle, the man
who never admits to mistakes, and who never laughs at his own follies.
There was the video, for example, which Berezovsky arranged several years
ago, and which he planted in brown-paper envelopes at western news bureaus in
Moscow. The film purported to be a personal video report prepared by
Berezovsky for President Yeltsin, who is addressed through the
camera every few moments. In the report, Berezovsky sits behind a desk,
anchorman style, to break the news that one or another of his business
rivals, including the head of at least one well-known Moscow bank,
is a murderer. Berezovsky is very earnest in describing the precise
motivations for the assassination of Vladislav Listyev, the television
executive, and other crimes, including the attempted murder of himself.
All that's missing is the evidence. But Berezovsky claims to have been
confiding directly to Yeltsin, and maybe in that quarter Berezovsky was used
to being believed unquestioningly. That's the second sign of a schlemuzzle:
he thinks everyone else believes him, and anyone who doesn't must be a fool.
"I think that fools cannot be trained at all," Berezovsky recently told
Moscow News, a journal which has more schlemiels and schlemuzzles in its
pages than almost any other Russian weekly. "Clever people learn only by their
That was Berezovsky's pitch for a new Kremlin job in the runup to Yeltsin's
dismissal of the government on March 23.
Now that Berezovsky has got his job, head of the secretariat of the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), what clever example can he
be aiming to set?
Six years ago, Yegor Gaidar -- another fellow who may be either schlemiel
or schlemuzzle, if we could only decide which is which -- plotted to cut as
many of the economic links with the CIS as he could, starting with the
common rouble. Even at a time when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was
not in favour, Gaidar did what he could to destroy the CIS. None of
the CIS leaders still in power will ever forget that, nor the fact that
Yeltsin sat by, protesting that he meant none of it. If there is a lesson
clever people should learn from the recent past of the CIS, it is that
none of the CIS states trusts Russia, because none of the CIS
potentates trusts Yeltsin.
The Kremlin can go on extraditing Gaidar Aliyev's or Eduard
Shevardnadze's enemies from Moscow to prisons in Azerbaijan and Georgia,
and it won't make a difference. Even if Berezovsky gave Shevardnadze's
family even more scholarships to costly American universities than they used
to get from American sources in Soviet days, that too won't change matters.
The CIS problem started with Yeltsin, and it's ending with Yeltsin. If the
Russian president tried to make theatre last week out of Berezovsky's
appointment, pretending it was a Ukrainian idea, that can only make more of
a farce of the CIS's, and berezovsky's, role than they might be.
When he was gallivanting around the Caucasus as deputy secretary of
the Kremlin Security Council a year ago, Berezovsky was credible for one
thing -- his influence with Yeltsin. That was relevant because Chechnya was,
if only loosely, a part of Russian territory. But Yeltsin is someone the CIS
leaders have known for years longer than Berezovsky has known him, and they
don't put much stock in that. This means they needn't, and won't put much
value in Berezovsky.
It's clear Berezovsky doesn't think this. It's also clear that he
wanted the job more badly than the job itself is wanted, at least from a
Moscow or CIS point of view. Is it a clever example then of Berezovsky's
claim to manipulate Yeltsin, or is it the choice of an untrainable fool?
This brings us back to the distinction made by the great Yiddish scholars.
Among fools, they used to say, the schlemiel had qualities that were at least
likeable, because he recognized his limitations, and made fun of them. The
schlemuzzle was different, because he could not see beyond his vanity, and
there is nothing to laugh at in that.
One last point: in the charters of all the great Yiddish banks,
there was always a clause which can be roughly translated as: It doesn't
matter whether a client is a schlemiel or a schlemuzzle. Don't lend him
anything, or he will lose it.
That's an idea sly Soviet veterans, like Aliyev, Shevardnadze, and Nazarbayev
of Kazakhstan, already accept. In commenting on Berezovsky's appointment,
they hint that Yeltsin is lending Berezovsky prestige that he's bound to
lose. But in the management of the CIS, they don't think there was much
Yeltsin hasn't already loaned, and lost long ago.
>From RIA Novosti
May 6, 1998
THE SHADOW GOES EAST
Europe's security cannot be strengthened at the expense of Russia
By Aleksei PUSHKOV
On the last day of April, the US Senate approved the
admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO.
This virtually means that the NATO enlargement is assured. Our
congratulations to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
This may be a time of political bliss for Budapest, Prague
and Warsaw, but the situation is much more complicated for
Russia. The thing is that the restructuring of the European
security system can take two ways. It can be either relatively
acceptable, or completely unacceptable to Moscow.
The one reason for this conclusion is the outcome of
debates in the US Senate. Not that they passed off in an
atmosphere of complete unanimity. On the contrary, quite a few
critical speeches were made. Several Senators spoke up against
turning the bloc into an international police force, with the
USA responsible for it. Senator Pat Roberts, Kansas, said it
would be dangerous to turn NATO into a nuclear supercop to the
Far from all Senators support Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, who believes that it is the duty of NATO to protect
its principles far beyond its boundaries. It is not by chance
that Senator John Ashcroft (Rep., Missouri) suggested an
amendment which limits the role of NATO to the defence of the
territory of its members in case of attack against any one of
But this and other amendments, designed to set certain
limits to the enlarged NATO, were blackballed by the lobbying
of the Clinton administration. The voting showed that the USA
is firmly upholding the open-door principle coordinated in
Madrid, rejoiced Jeremy Rosner. We are resolved not to limit
admission to the bloc to several countries, he said.
This may mean three things for Russia. First, we shall
soon have a doctrine of increased NATO activity beyond the zone
of its direct responsibility. Reuter quoted an anonymous
American official who said the Senate voting proved that NATO
must be free to undertake any missions which its members want
to undertake. Here is a ready international supercop for you.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warns that these are not mere
words, as the NATO headquarters in Brussels do not exclude the
possibility of NATO involvement in the affairs of Macedonia and
are even looking at Nagorno-Karabakh.
Some people may say that this is not that bad, that we'll
have at least a semblance of order in these crisis regions. But
this also entails certain dangers. Encouraged by the USA, which
walks on air propelled by the feeling of power, NATO can make
mistakes. In other words, it can blunder, as the USA had
blundered in Vietnam, Nicaragua and Iran. And other countries
will have to pay for this blunder, and pay dearly.
The second danger is that Russia can be invited to take
part in a NATO operation, but on NATO conditions. Refuse to
accept the conditions, and you are out. In view of the possible
sweeping enlargement of NATO, this operation can be held in
regions located very close to Russia, where we have quite a few
interests. In this case, the bloc will have a chance to flex
its muscles to cut short Russia's involvement in the handling
of matters which have a direct bearing on its problems.
Conclusion number two: the NATO enlargement will hardly
have geographical borders. The five other aspirants - Romania,
Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania - have been promised
that their requests would be discussed quickly, writes David
Broder of The Washington Post. Virtually treading on their
heels are Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Slovakia. And why
not admit Ukraine and other ex-Soviet republics? This will be
deterrence [of Russia - Author] with a capital D, the
This has brought us to conclusion number three: No matter
what we may be told, the NATO enlargement is based on the logic
of the potential deterrence of Russia. This foundation of the
enlargement, which Clinton and Kohl refuse to admit, is clearly
seen by the Poles. "The decision of the US Senate means the
final defeat of the Yalta agreements by the only remaining
superpower," said Polish Premier Jerzy Buzek. "The shadow which
hung over Poland is gradually receding."
What shadow, you may ask? A correct question. Shadows
cannot exist of themselves, and threats are never anonymous.
Warsaw may reply that they mean the German shadow. But despite
unpleasant historical reminiscences, few Poles see the current
Germany, which is an established member of NATO and the EU, as
a threat. The Czech Republic and Hungary would laugh at this
suggestion. So, the Polish Premier could mean only one thing,
that the shadow over these states still comes from Russia.
The myth that Russia still dreams of restoring its
hegemony in Eastern Europe is a component part of the NATO
policy of eastward enlargement.
Consequently, Russia-NATO relations will depend on how far
NATO and East European countries will go in their enlargement
drive. What if the integration of Poland, Hungary and the Czech
republic into NATO highlights not political, but military
aspects, despite the absence of any threat from Russia? What if
the bloc hurries to admit Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the
next few years, without establishing normal relations with
Russia, and thus reaches Russia's borders? What if the NATO-
Russia Permanent Joint Council degenerates into a discussion
club, or rather a fig leaf covering the US unwillingness to
heed what Russia says?
If all this happens, it will be a powerful proof of the
anti-Russian nature of the NATO enlargement. In this case, that
mythical shadow which allegedly overhang Poland will become
very real and could seriously darken our relations with NATO
for a long time.
>From RIA Novosti
Vek, No. 18
KIRIYENKO AND HIS "PROVISIONAL" GOVERNMENT
Boris Yeltsin's "Spring-Time Offensive" Simplifies
Russian Political Landscape
By Vyacheslav ANDREYEV
It's an open secret that there is nothing more permanent
than temporary and provisional things.
Sergei Kiriyenko's government, which has not yet got down
to business and which has not yet been completely formed, has,
already earned the nickname of "provisional" from the Russian
But the thing is that there are no permanent governments.
Viktor Chernomyrdin's "five-year plan" (when the cabinet's
line-up had been repeatedly changed under the watchful eye of
that "eternally alive" premier) serves as additional proof of
Any "provisional" government is now out of the question.
On the contrary, one should talk about a permanent presidential
The dismissal of Viktor Chernomyrdin's government can also
be explained by the very same circumstances. The "political
order" has changed, with the government turning into an arena
of behind-the-scenes struggles. However, the president could
not tolerate such struggles because the ordinary Russian
man-in-the-street began to think that Yeltsin is leaving the
Kiriyenko has appeared as a result. Will the government be
something effective in conditions of all these reservations?
This is seen as the most important question of them all.
The answer is as follows -- the cabinet's competence
depends on the goal of its formation. It would be naive to
think that the president is counting on a socio-economic
breakthrough alone (a breakthrough that would be ensured by the
latest government reshuffle).
It goes without saying that the new deputy prime minister
Khristenko will never replace Chubais. It takes time to gain an
insight into specific state affairs (even when the government's
"backbone" has been preserved). Apart from that, given the
current procedure for establishing regional bodies of power,
the execution of various orders will still leave a lot to be
desired. And the election-race frenzy is also going to affect
the cabinet's performance (provided that the government is
allowed to work).
Therefore Yeltsin's hopes lie inside a somewhat different
field, e.g. the political sphere. The president's hopes are
mostly linked with the fact that this is a "friendly" team,
which won't stick any daggers into Yeltsin's back.
Given this viewpoint, the answer will be quite equivocal
-- the Kiriyenko cabinet is going to become a competent entity
just because it is the president's brain-child.
People used to inquire about each particular minister's
"puppeteers" in the past.
But this issue is no longer topical.
The old-time government had provided people specializing
in all those behind-the-scenes Kremlin power struggles with
ample food for thought. However, such experts no longer get any
The role and place of the third deputy prime minister Oleg
Sysuyev are currently being discussed. However, one can hardly
discuss the roles of prime ministers or deputy premiers at a
time when Russian has an extremely active (sic!) president.
Political arithmetics are still seen as something topical.
Boris Berezovsky has been appointed to the post of CIS
executive secretary, with Anatoli Chubais simultaneously coming
to head the joint-stock company RAO UES (United Energy
What does this signify? Does this point to a "balance of
That would be too trite. By retaining Berezovsky and
Chubais among active politicians, the president has not just
retained them inside his field of vision. Boris Yeltsin has
deliberately established a "reserve bridge-head" for subsequent
games with that discredited but far from tamed Duma.
Indeed, these two men can distract the Duma's ardent
members from essential aspects of Russian politics, channelling
their "energy" in a "peaceful" direction and inducing them to
examine the "personal cases" of both men.
"Die-hard" politicians are overjoyed because the president
can no longer distance himself from the new cabinet's
activities. However, Yeltsin should worry about this in the
last place. You see, his official tenure of office is now
expiring; in this situation, the Kiriyenko cabinet might well
decide to take some "resolute" (emergency?) actions, provided
that the president okays such actions.
Boris Yeltsin's latest decree "On Relations Between the RF
President's Administration and the Government and on the
Relevant Interaction Procedure Between Them" highlights the
president's complete trust in the new cabinet. The president is
ready to grant certain autonomy to his loyal government.
In other words, Boris Yeltsin's brilliant "spring-time
offensive" has simplified Russia's political landscape to the
greatest possible extent.
Everybody knows what the Government and the Duma are all
about. It's crystal clear that Kiriyenko's cabinet is just
about as "provisional" as the president; besides, it's about as
effective as Yeltsin.
To cut a long story short, the executive-power branch,
which is located on Krasnopresnenskaya embankment, has, at long
last, acquired a face of its own.
Whose face is it? The answer to this question also seems
7 May 1998
Russia's New Team
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Boris Yeltsin yesterday was putting the finishing
touches on his new cabinet -- and it's a striking team. Past Russian
governments have been coalitions of pro- and anti-reform elements,
almost designed to produce stalemate. The newcomers are almost uniformly
young and pro-reform, with experience not in Communist bureaucracy but
in post-Soviet business and local government. They are pragmatic, not
ideological, and they are not under the control of Moscow's oligarchs.
Just look at the ages and resumes of the new government leaders. The new
prime minister is Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, a successful businessman from
Nizhny Novgorod with only a year's experience in Moscow. He has named
three deputy premiers (down from an unwieldy eight in the previous
cabinet): Oleg Sysuyev, 42, the reform-minded former mayor of Samara;
Viktor Khristenko, 40, a technocrat from Chelyabinsk; and Boris Nemtsov,
38, who promoted reforms as governor of Nizhny Novgorod. The labor
ministry will be headed by a 40-year-old St. Petersburg liberal; the
agriculture ministry, long a redoubt of Communist forces, has a new
40-year-old boss who made a fortune selling meat to McDonald's. In the
national security field, Mr. Yeltsin has retained his older-generation
foreign and defense ministers. But it is clear that the economy will be
the top priority for the new team, and in the economic area there are no
Soviet holdovers of the ilk of dismissed prime minister Viktor
Youth and inexperience can be handicaps, of course. But in Russia, so
can experience; anyone with more than a decade of government service
grew up with five-year plans and crackdowns on "speculators." Just as
important, the new team seems relatively independent of the financial
titans who amassed wealth by buying state assets cheap as the Soviet
system crumbled and who now expect favored access to the public trough
in perpetuity. The Kiriyenko government can be expected to promote a
fairer, more open and hands-off relationship with business.
None of this means that Russia will now move smartly to solve all its
problems: the non-collection of taxes, the disintegration of the
military, the millions living in poverty. These are structural
challenges that no one could overcome quickly; and the parliament, among
others, continues to present an obstacle to needed change. But if Mr.
Yeltsin stays healthy, engaged and supportive -- big ifs all -- Russia
will have a government that should at least be pulling together, and in
the right direction. That would represent a major improvement over the
past half-decade's performance.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
May 7, 1998
EDITORIAL: Kokh Shows Means Can Sap the Ends
Anatoly Chubais has long argued that in Russia's difficult transition
from communism to capitalism, the ends often justify the means. Over the
years, this has been the underlying rationale for a lot of unsavory
compromises, such as giving enterprise directors perks to push through
voucher privatization or selling off state assets to insider banks at
bargain prices in return for political support. To some extent, it has
There are, however, some big flaws in this Machiavellian approach, as
Alfred Kokh should know. A close ally of Chubais, Kokh has recently been
charged with illegally handing out Moscow apartments to government
officials, including himself, while he was deputy head of the State
Property Committee in 1993. He faces up to 10 years in prison.
Granted, Russian prosecutors can be manipulated, and Kokh has plenty of
enemies who could be behind the charges, such as the losers of last
summer's auction of a stake in state telecommunications holding
Svyazinvest, which he oversaw. And in the Chubais model, the alleged
apartment handouts could be seen as a necessary evil to gain corrupt
bureaucrats' support for reform. After all, what are a few hundred
square meters compared to the greater good of the nation?
But as a government employee, Kokh seems to have had mainly his own good
in mind. In a recent interview with the daily Izvestia, defending his
moral right to ride around in a Mercedes when he was Russia's
privatization chief, he encapsulated his attitude toward civil service.
"Getting a tiny salary, carrying a huge responsibility, living in an
aquarium, not having a dacha and making trillions of rubles for the
budget, I believed that I should have at least something good -- let it
be an automobile," he said. "Or should I breathe gasoline fumes in a
Volga on my way to work?"
Reasonable. Government officials deserve some perks. But apparently the
same attitude allowed Kokh, while in office, to accept a $100,000
payment from an accounting firm tied to Uneximbank -- the winner of the
Svyazinvest auction -- allegedly as an advance for an unpublished book
on privatization. Or, along with Chubais and others, to accept a
separate $90,000 advance from another Uneximbank-affiliated company,
also for an unpublished tome on privatization.
There is much more at stake here than just some apartments or extra
spending money. Chubais and his team promised to help bring Russia out
of its dysfunctional Soviet past into a more prosperous, equitable
future. In doing so, at least for the short time they spent in
government, they should have held themselves to a higher standard than
their predecessors. Instead, they let their means get out of hand, and
as a result, they have undermined their illustrious ends.
May 7, 1998
3rd Force's 2nd Coming
By Tatyana Matsuk
Tatyana Matsuk is a senior researcher at the Academy of Sciences
Institute for Employment Studies. She contributed this comment to The
Special to The Moscow Times
A union in which Lebed were the presidential candidate and Yavlinsky the
prime minister would have every chance of winning.
The report of my death was an exaggeration," the great scoffer Mark
Twain once wrote. Now, retired General Alexander Lebed could rightly,
and to the dismay of his opponents, say the same of his political
career. The first round of elections for governor of the Krasnoyarsk
region has shown that, regardless of the final results of the vote,
Lebed is capable of running for president and winning in 2000.
The Krasnoyarsk region, which is more than four times larger than
France, is a model of the rest of Russia. Its inhabitants usually vote
as the citizens of the country on the whole do. At the gubernatorial
elections, as many people turned out at the polls as normally show up
for presidential elections -- up to 77 percent in certain districts. Of
them, 45 percent voted for Lebed. This demonstrates the following:
The voters no longer believe in those who were and are now in power,
communists and ex-communists-turned-"democrats" alike. As in other
regional elections, people vote for candidates with clean moral
reputations or those who are effective in their work. For this reason,
successful entrepreneurs are elected, for example. Or voters reject the
current authorities and so, out of spite, cast their ballots for
candidates such as the recently elected mayor of Nizhny Novgorod, Andrei
Klementyev, who was immediately arrested.
Lebed is unquestionably outstanding, honest and confident of his
professional worth. He is seen as capable of defending the interests of
those who do not want to participate in the government's game of
Monopoly when the players who are in power change the rules all the time
in order to receive even more property, money and power.
The majority of politicians in Russia today could not come to an
agreement with Lebed. In this sense, he is close to Grigory Yavlinsky,
the leader of the only true oppositional faction in the State Duma,
Yabloko. He has not tainted himself by making compromises with the
current authorities or by "services" performed during communist times.
It was precisely Lebed and Yavlinsky, together with the renowned eye
doctor Svyatoslav Fyodorov, who could have formed a "third force"
coalition during the last presidential elections that would have been
capable of opposing both President Boris Yeltsin and Communist leader
Gennady Zyuganov. But no such coalition was put together. Why? What are
the prospects for Lebed and Yavlinsky becoming allies, and what would
such a union achieve?
When Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov arrived in Krasnoyarsk to save
Russia from Lebed, he said he would be a catastrophe for the country:
Lebed would remain a general, because he does not know how to do
anything else. He does not know what civilian life is. He takes money
from very wealthy people, and will have to work off his debts.
Unfortunately, much of this is true. It is a consequence of Lebed's
military profession. From this stems his indiscriminate choice of
allies, the majority of whom, with time, turn into his enemies.
A strong but not extremist person, Lebed attracts simple people, who
consider him capable of handling the current social and economic
catastrophe in the country and those responsible for it. But highly
educated, albeit now impoverished, professionals fear him. Their
candidate is Yavlinsky, even though he, according to many people,
including those who vote for him, is too weak.
The Yabloko faction is the only political force that came out ahead as a
result of the last government crisis. Even Yavlinsky's ratings for
president were raised. I must agree, however, with the several analysts
who see Yavlinsky as losing rather than gaining points.
During the last elections, Yeltsin neutralized Lebed by bringing him
into the Kremlin as chairman of the Security Council. Now something
similar is happening with separate members of Yabloko. The first to
break off was Mikhail Zadornov, who was made finance minister. Now
Oksana Dmitriyeva heads the Labor Ministry. Proposals have been made to
other members of Yabloko. And this puts Yavlinsky, who, along with his
faction, refused to vote in favor of the new prime minister, Sergei
Kiriyenko, in an ambiguous position. Either everything had been agreed
upon in advance, or Yabloko is not a united team of like-minded people.
Why are the strongest people leaving it?
One thing that prevents Lebed and Yavlinsky from coming to an agreement
is that, with the exception of the Communist Party, Russian political
parties are created not under programs, but under leaders. Heads of
parties are accustomed to collaborating only under a vertical structure
of power. And two bears, especially with dissimilar characters, cannot
live in the same den.
But a union in which Lebed were the presidential candidate and Yavlinsky
the prime minister would have every chance of winning. If Lebed proves
to be a good governor of Krasnoyarsk, he could win the presidential
elections on his own. Yavlinsky could win if he united with Moscow Mayor
Yury Luzhkov or the former head of the border troops, Igor Nikolayev,
A victory of a "party of professionals," however, which Yavlinsky and
Lebed, by complementing each other, could theoretically create, would
substantially change the situation in Russia and return hope to the
people for a different life. A different outcome at the elections in
2000 would only sharpen the agony of the current nomenklatura system.
This would very likely pave the way for another "third force" to come to
power, which would not be ashamed of either Nazi ideology or Bolshevik
methods of "class struggle."
Yeltsin Spokesman Denies Family Influence In Decision-Making
MOSCOW, May 7 (Interfax) - Presidential spokesman *Sergei Yastrzhembsky*
said assertions made by opposition representatives that an inner circle
has come to exert inordinate influence over Russian President Boris
Yeltsin were untrue.
"A tight clan of people, shut off from fresh ideas and constantly
putting pressure on the president, does not exist," Yastrzhembsky said
in a program broadcast by the Mayak radio station Thursday. "It is a
concoction, a fiction produced by some opposition left-radical mass
media organs," he said.
"There is no future in trying to pressure the president. The situation
which evolved over appointment of Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko
provides vivid evidence," said Yastrzhembsky, who also serves as deputy
head of presidential administration.
People who think that Yeltsin's family determines everything in the
Kremlin should recall another image, "now forgotten, but widely used
during the president's illness. At that time they spoke about a certain
'regency' and 'regent,' referring to Anatoly Chubais, at that time head
of the presidential administration. Just as there was no 'regent,' there
is no 'family' in a political sense of the word and in the content
attributed by the opposition," he said.
Yastrzhembsky said the work of the presidential administration has
become more focused over the past two years. "There are fewer
disagreements between different departments, which allows the president
to use it more efficiently," he said.
He refused to say whether a decision had been taken to establish an
media holding company based on state-owned television and radio
companies, but said such a project would not occur in the near future.
The state should maintain its role in television and radio companies as
instruments for carrying out "its policy throughout CIS and Russia," he
said. Yastrzhembsky compared state broadcasting companies with such
fundamentally important structures as the Railroad Ministry, Russian
natural gas monopoly Gazprom and national power utility Unified Energy
Systems. "They cement the country together," he said.
However, "the role of the state in television and radio broadcasting is
minimal" in those countries which Russia looks to as market models. "We
are likely to attain the same, but gradually," he said.
Yastrzhembsky told one caller he would raise the issue of re- installing
"a permanent hotline" in the presidential administration.
Yeltsin to chat live on MSNBC
Internet chat will be Russian leader’s 1st
By Preston Mendenhall
May 6 — Russian President Boris Yeltsin has agreed to take part
in an exclusive Internet chat with MSNBC on the Internet next week. The
30-minute chat, scheduled to begin at 5:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday, May 12,
will originate live from the Kremlin in Moscow.
Capitalism in Russia is Topic of Conference May 13 at Columbia University's
NEW YORK, May 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Arthur Kent, former NBC News and CNN
correspondent, will be the keynote speaker at a conference May 13 on
"Capitalism Russian Style" at Columbia University.
Jointly sponsored by the Harriman Institute and The Associated Press, the
long conference, which is open to the public, will feature academic experts
and representatives from the business community who have recent experience in
privatization and market reforms in Russia. The conference begins at 9 A.M.
at the Kellogg Center, 15th floor, International Affairs Building, 420 West
118th Street at Amsterdam Avenue. Journalists are invited to cover the event.
Please call 212-854-6579, if you plan to do so. Members of the public who
wish to attend should call Susan Holmes at 212-854-8487 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Kent is the author of Risk and Redemption and will be an anchor of a news
broadcast jointly produced by the Public Broadcasting System and Independent
Television News and scheduled to launch in June. He will speak at a noon
luncheon at Columbia's Faculty House.
The conference will feature an assessment of Russia's economy and business
environment at 9:15 A.M.; a discussion of business successes and failures in
Russia at 10:30 A.M. and a panel on the cost of market reforms at 2 P.M.
Participants will include Jack Henessey of CS First Boston; Grace Kennan
Warnecke of SOVOS Business Consultants; Eric Whitman of PepsiCo Wine and
Spirits; Donald S. Schwarzkopf of AI Finance Inc.; Steve Handelman of the
Toronto Star; Eugene Linden of Time Magazine; Eliza Klose, Executive Director
of ISAR and Columbia Professors Richard Ericson, Padma Desai and Mark Von
Hagen, director of the Harriman Institute.
The final panel at 3:45 P.M. will be a discussion by journalists of the
challenges of covering Russian economic issues. Participants will include Tom
Kent, international editor of The Associated Press; Jonathan Sanders of CBS
News and other journalists from AP/Dow Jones, ProMedia and The AP.
This document is available at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/pr/.
SOURCE Columbia University