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14 May 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Russia Book Scandal Charges Dropped.
2. Laura Belin: re Luryi on candidates for premier.
3. The Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, KOKH JUMPS THE TITANIC.
4. Eric Margolis: HIGH-RISK RUSSIA: ALL IT NEEDS IS CASH.
5. Rossiiskaya Gazeta: UPHOLDING NATIONAL INTERESTS. Boris
Yeltsin Charts Foreign Policy Priorities.
6. Reuters: Russian Duma advances tighter adoption law.
7. Moscow Times: Andrei Piontkovsky, SEASON OF DISCONTENT:
Thanks, No Thanks For Russia Vision. (Re Brzezinski).
8. Moscow Times: Graeme Herd, Russia No Easy Lesson.
9. VOA: Ed Warner, RUSSIAN REACTION TO NATO.
10. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Skinheads think beatings are
Russia Book Scandal Charges Dropped
May 13, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) - Moscow's prosecutor has ruled out charges in a book scandal
that prompted the dismissal of four key reformers within President Boris
Yeltsin's government, a news agency reported Wednesday.
Interfax quoted Moscow prosecutor Sergei Gerasimov as saying that no charges
were warranted against the four officials since the $90,000 in book advances
that they had accepted had come from a private firm.
``Therefore, at this stage, there is no evidence of abuse of office or
embezzlement,'' he said.
Critics characterized the payments as thinly veiled bribes because the
advances came from a publisher linked to Oneximbank, a major Russian bank that
won the bidding in two key privatization auctions last year.
Gerasimov said prosecutors were still investigating charges against Alfred
Kokh, a former deputy prime minister and head of Russia's privatization
agency. In addition to probing Kokh's book deal, the prosecutor has charged
him with illegally obtaining a state-owned apartment in 1993.
Kokh received a $100,000 payment from a Swiss firm to write a book, which was
never published, on privatization. Gerasimov said he was working with Swiss
authorities to learn more about the firm and the origin of the payments.
The separate book deals did much to discredit young reformers in Yeltsin's
government, and helped stall privatization efforts. Kokh lost his job as head
of privatization last summer when the book deal became public.
Revelations of the second book deal in the autumn set off such a firestorm
that Yeltsin fired three of the would-be co-authors of the book: Deputy Prime
Minister Maxim Boiko, head of the government's privatization program; Pyotr
Mostovoi, the head of the Federal Bankruptcy Agency; and Yeltsin's first
deputy chief of staff, Alexander Kazakov.
He demoted another top official, former first deputy prime minister Anatoly
Chubais, but refused to fire him, arguing his experience was invaluable to the
Chubais headed Russia's unpopular post-Soviet privatization program, which
many Russians view as enriching Kremlin insiders at the expense of ordinary
Date: 12 May 1998
From: "Laura Belin" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: re: Luryi on candidates for premier
A quick response to Yuri Luryi:
I take your point about the possibility that Yeltsin may theoretically have
been required to nominate a different person for prime minister after the Duma
voted down Kirienko the first time. Your reasoning was the same used by the
Communists in drafting the Duma's appeal to the Constitutional Court about
As my father (an attorney) likes to say, reasonable minds can differ. The
court has not yet ruled on whether the president may nominate the same person
more than once. It is unlikely to hear the case before the autumn, and court
Chairman Marat Baglai has said that even if the court supports the
opposition's interpretation of the constitution, its ruling would not apply
retroactively to Kirienko.
You say even a research institute attached to the government agrees that the
use of the plural in section 4 of Article 111 implies that Yeltsin must
nominate a different person for the second Duma vote.
I have a different book of commentary on the constitution, which was produced
by a publishing house linked to the presidential administration. In its
discussion of Article 111 (p. 483), it says the president must dissolve the
Duma if the Duma three times rejects "the candidacies proposed by the
president." But it does not exclude the possibility that the president's
first, second and third nominees for prime minister could be one and the same
person. It does not comment on that issue.
In any case, the wording of the constitution leaves room for different
interpretations in this and many other areas. We'll have to wait and see what
the court says.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Prague
Date: Tue, 12 May 1998 20:30:15 +0400 (WSU DST)
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
The Moscow Tribune, May 13, 1998
KOKH JUMPS THE TITANIC
What does it tell you about the seaworthiness of a ship, when
the rats start jumping off?
And what does it tell you about the vessel that steams to the rescue,
and welcomes the rats aboard?
This isn't a sob-story about an aging lady who remembers the beau who
froze to death after saving her from the plunge of the "Titanic." It isn't
an Oscar-award winner about an unsinkable ship that went to the bottom. This
isn't about love, loyalty, sacrifice, or negligence.
It's about Alfred Kokh, a former deputy prime minister in the Russian
government, head of the privatization ministry, and a man whose credentials
make him the exemplar of economic reform in Russia today. The story is also
about how he recently ran to a country which has no extradition treaty with
Russia; who was allowed to leave Moscow in suspicious circumstances,
notwithstanding an indictment for serious crimes of corruption;
and who may, or may not, return to Moscow, as he and his lawyers have
Kokh is one of several men who administered the privatization of state
property under First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. Including
Chubais, they lost their government posts last year when it was revealed that
they had accepted large bribes, disguised as book royalty advances, from
Uneximbank, a powerful Moscow bank. Kokh moved on to run
Montes Auri (that's Latin for "Mountains of Gold"), a firm created by
Chubais's cronies for trading a variety of government favours, including
Russian T-bills. Pyotr Mostovoi was nominated by the government to
become First Vice President of Almazy Rossii-Sakha, the state-controlled
diamond company, where he's in charge of raising foreign cash. Maxim Boiko
was appointed General Director of Video International. This outfit controls
advertising revenues for the state's RTR and Most Bank's NTV television
networks; plus a major British advertising agency; plus the ratings scheme
that determines how much advertisers on Russian television should pay. Most
recently, Chubais was handed the post of chief executive of the national
electric utility, Unified Energy Systems.
If Russia is sinking, these men are still on the bridge, busy at their
lucrative command posts. Although at least one of the others has been under
Russian and foreign criminal investigation for some time, only Kokh has
been indicted. The charges he faces, it has been noted in the Russian press,
relate to apartment transfers -- relatively petty property payoffs, compared
to the billions of dollars' worth of assets Kokh arranged to transfer
during his government career. According to the independent Accounting Chamber,
those transfers were illegal. But it may take a American-style racketeering
statute to convict those who authorized them of crimes -- unless they
received hidden payoffs that violate Russian law.
It's also clear that Kokh's indictment has been framed in such a way as
to maximize the prosecutor's chances of getting a conviction and sending
him to prison. If that happens, Kokh will be the first of Russia's big
privatizers to take the fall.
He's publicly hinted that the charges are part of a conspiracy against
him -- a claim that, if pressed in an American court, may turn into a plea
for asylum. Kokh's lawyers may be busy whispering in his ear right now
that if he doesn't apply immediately, the US Immigration and Naturalization
Service (INS) may be obliged to arrest him on charges of visa fraud. At
issue is whether Kokh fully disclosed the criminal investigation against
him when he applied for his American visa in February of this year. That is
when the US Embassy issued him with a 3-year multiple-entry permit -- after
the prosecutor opened an investigative file on Kokh, but before charges
So long as Kokh wasn't asked by INS officials about the charges,
he wasn't under a legal obligation to disclose them voluntarily when, or if,
he entered the US.
While the US doesn't have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is
cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of both countries on
individual cases. That has produced at least two visa fraud cases
last year, one involving a Moscow banker in the Washington area,
and another involving a jewellery trader in Florida. Both were
released from prison.
The qualifications for asylum for Russians have recently been broadened
by the American courts to include homosexuals and lesbians, who
have successfully convinced US judges that they face the likelihood of
persecution if forced to return.
Kokh's sexual orientation may not be worth arguing about, if
he hasn't skipped to the US after all. If he has gone to Belgium or Poland,
he should be safe from Russian warrants for his arrest, as Andrei Kozlyenok,
a diamond thief, and Sergei Stankevich, the former Moscow vice-mayor,
have demonstrated. Both successfully resisted extradition demands from
Moscow in corruption cases.
The Russian press agency Interfax has reported officials in the Moscow
prosecutor's office as disclosing the US as Kokh's destination. But when
asked to corroborate this, the press spokesman of the office, Svetlana
Petrenko, replied: "We didn't disclose his destination. We never said he was
going to the US." Yury Syomin, the prosecutor in charge of Kokh's case,
said he wouldn't comment.
For the time being, officials of the US Embassy in Moscow are also keeping
mum. "We have no information that Kokh is in the United States," declared
one of them.
You don't have to have seen the movie "Titanic" to know that the rich and
powerful are often the first in the lifeboats, when the ship starts to sink.
That isn't supposed to be happening to Russia right now. However,
if Kokh doesn't return, his case is likely to expose connivance between
the Russian authorities and the authorities of another state, to allow him to
make his escape.
You don't have to be a ship's captain or a rat-catcher to ask the question
why. The answer is also obvious. If facing imprisonment, Kokh were to
tell all he knows about post-Soviet Russia's privatization,
it could land many of the country's leading reformers behind bars.
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998
Subject: ForeignCorrespondent HIGH-RISK RUSSIA: ALL IT NEEDS IS CASH
HIGH-RISK RUSSIA: ALL IT NEEDS IS CASH
By Eric Margolis
May 10, 1998
MOSCOW- Russia is a nation of halves. Half free-market; Half communist;
Half modern; Half primitive; Half European; Half Asian; Half democratic;
Half authoritarian. Which of these halves eventually wins out is the
question that absorbs everyone here.
Post-communist Russia has taken a great leap backwards into the past.
Today, this vast nation resembles Imperial Russia of 1900. A
well-intentioned, but authoritarian, central government struggles to
impose its authority on a land- mass that spans 12 time zones. Rich
merchants own the media and monopolize industry; they buy and sell
politicians like shares of stock.
The Duma, or parliament, is a powerless talking shop. Criminal
organizations run mini-states. The military is in shambles. Bureaucracy
throttles business. Extremists of right and left lurk in every corner,
plotting coups or revolution. At the bottom of this unhappy heap,
long-suffering Russians, whose living standard continues to drop.
Russia is the world's greatest treasure-house of natural resources - oil,
gas, minerals, timber, gold, gems. Russians are educated, patriotic, and
amazingly resilient. And yet, Russia's spluttering economy is little
better than India's, a primitive Klondike capitalism in which robber
barons and Mafiosi skim the nation's wealth, stashing away at least US $20
billion annually in Switzerland and Monaco.
According to government figures, various mobs control 60% of all business.
Anyone running a business here must either pay protection - known as
'having a roof' - or employ burly, pistol-packing thugs from private
security firms whose number of personnel is said to equal that of the
army. Welcome to the wild, wild east.
In short, a huge mess. But then things have always been a mess in Russia,
where muddling through is a national art form. Adding to current woes,
Russia now faces the threat of a ruble collapse, threatening savage
inflation and an Asian- style financial crisis that might wreck the shaky
banking system and wipe out the modest progress made so far.
In spite of all this gloom and doom, Russia has changed in important ways
since communism's fall. The fearsome totalitarian system that turned the
Soviet Empire into a gigantic gulag is gone. It's hard to imagine that
Stalinist communism could return: too many Russians, particularly younger
ones, have tasted freedom, and love it. The terrible fear that once
infused everything here has vanished like a bad dream. You are no longer
followed, or bugged. People speak openly, and call their leaders names.
The renamed KGB is still very much in business, but, for now, restrained.
Moscow is brighter, spotlessly clean, even, at times, cheerful. People are
far better dressed. The city's popular, dynamic, mayor, Yuri Lushkov is
the Russian version of New York's get-it-done Mayor, Rudi Guliani. This
year, Russia GDP actually rose slightly for the first time after a decade
of economic decline that was worse and longer than America's Great
Depression. One day, Russia could be the world's superpower. It has all
the human and material resources to be rich and mighty. But today what
lacks is organization, political stability, and capital. Boris Yeltsin's
government has been a game of political musical chairs, and murky
rivalries funded by business barons. A sullen, ubiquitous bureaucracy
keeps changing regulations that handcuff anyone trying to do business
here. Ownership of property is still a question of might over right.
Small businesses struggle to survive as they are fleeced by rapacious
officials and vicious gangsters.
In 1975, the famed dissident, Andrei Sakharov and a group of leading
scientists wrote a letter to the Soviet Central Committee. They predicted
that unless the USSR stopped spending 50% of GDP on arms, and began
replacing worn out industrial plants, the economy would collapse in 15
years. They were dead on target. The USSR collapsed in 1990-1991.
Today, everything from bridges to screw factories needs replacing. But
most of Russia's capital wealth remains secreted abroad. Foreign capital
shies away because of political instability, bureaucratic sabotage, and
the lack of law. Only the largest foreign corporations can afford to make
investments in high- risk Russia, and even many of them are deeply
nervous. President Yeltsin's poor health, and an impending succession
struggle, give everyone the willies. While the current front-runner to
succeed Yeltsin appears to be free-marketer Gregory Yavlinsky, or a Gen.
Alexander Lebed-Yavlinsky ticket, no one really has a clue who will be
running the Kremlin in 2001.
Does it matter who is elected? Russia's fate may be decided by a duel of
the titans between the shadowy business tycoons like Boris Berezovsky, Rem
Vvakhirev, or Vladimir Potanin. They are the real power behind the
Kremlin. The fact that many of the tycoon-bankers are Jewish could easily
rekindle a new wave of anti-Semitism. A Russian general Pinochet -or
worse- could seize power.
Having said all this, if I were twenty years younger, I'd seriously
consider moving to Russia. The immense wealth of this nation has barely
begun to be exploited. Business opportunities abound. Russia needs
everything, in vast quantities. All gold-rushes are fraught with crime and
chaos. Russia is no different. But only those with nerves of steel and
Russian-style doggedness need apply. Still where else can you mine gold
during the day, and then go to the glorious Bolshoi Ballet at night?
Copyright: E. Margolis, May 1998
>From RIA Novosti
May 13, 1998
UPHOLDING NATIONAL INTERESTS
Boris Yeltsin Charts Foreign Policy Priorities
President Boris Yeltsin addressed the top-level
personnel of the Russian foreign ministry yesterday.
"The long discussion around the priorities of
our foreign policy is over at last," the president
Russia should conduct a "dynamic foreign
policy" proceeding from four "important tasks":
"preserving its territorial integrity, upholding its
national security, democratisation of society,
effecting reforms and integrating its economy into
the global market economy."
The president described as a "mighty and strong"
achievement of the Russian foreign policy the final formation
of the Great Eight which he sees as a "most valuable mechanism
for us of informally 'timing watches' on the global problems
between the leading political and economic powers."
"Now is the time to learn to use it in the interests of
Russia," Yeltsin pointed out.
Among other recent major advances made by the Russian
diplomacy, the president listed the "successful peaceful
settlement of the crisis around Iraq.' He also praised the
cooperation between Moscow and the UN in settling that crisis.
"The intricate effort to involve the UN secretary general
to the Iraqi problem" has resulted in Kofi Annan's visit to
Baghdad which helped preclude power pressure on Iraq with a
view to settling the conflict.
The Russian head of state highlighted the UN's central
role in establishing a collective method of managing
The president noted that Russia is interested in
renovating the UN with a view to enhancing this organisation's
capacity of upholding security on the global and regional
levels as well as of "strengthening the positions of Russia as
a great power."
"After a period of certain illusions and heightened
expectations, equal interaction is being established with the
US. There is the need to continue the positive dynamics in
relations with that country. But at the same time Russia
should not lie down beneath America, as the saying goes. Our
position on principal disagreements should be explained
patiently and in the spirit of cooperation," Yeltsin said.
Yeltsin sees the "fabric of cooperation with the European
partners becoming visibly thicker" - with France, Germany,
Italy and Finland, in the first place.
The president reminded that the OSCE has launched the
effort to draft a European security charter at the initiative
of Russia. He reiterated Russia's "strictly negative vision of
NATO's expansion policy," but said that Russia was building
constructive relations with the alliance nevertheless. The
main task, according to Yeltsin, is to make this interaction
promote "radical changes in NATO" which should "strengthen
security in Europe, rather than threaten it."
Yeltsin stressed that Russian diplomats should strive to
"have the START-2 treaty ratified the soonest." "We should
state this position of ours in the Duma," said Yeltsin, since
the effort to draft and conclude a START-3 treaty follows the
ratification of START-2.
"It [START-3] will be a breakthrough, a complete balance
with the US in both the level and quantity [of strategic
offensive weapons]. Nobody will then dare threaten us,"
"One important aspect of the disarmament policy is the
prevention of the proliferation of the mass destruction
weapons and their delivery means. This is one of the priority
factors of Russia's national security," he noted.
India has let us down by its nuclear test, said Yeltsin
and suggested a diplomatic road, a visit, so that Russia could
press India into amending its stance.
Even in a multi-polar world, threats to Russia's national
security will persist, said Yeltsin and stressed that there
had appeared new dangers for this country.
"There are not infrequent attempts to force the interests
of any one state or a group of states on the international
community. But everybody is advised to understand that there
is no room for the diktat of one state, even the mightiest
one, in today's world or, even more so, in the world of the
21st century. There is no, nor can there be, single capital
city to which all roads of international politics would lead,"
"Today's global centres of attraction and influence stand
pout because of their economic, rather than military, might,"
the president said and reminded that Russia had inherited the
military might, but no solid economic foundation, from the
Soviet Union. "Redressing this abnormality is both a domestic
and foreign political task."
Speaking of foreign economic ties, the president said, in
part: "It should be clear - we will become a part of the
global economy not as a raw materials supplier, but as an
industrialised nation, an equal and responsible partner... The
time of illusions is past, the tough laws of the global market
are ousting us out of those spheres where Russia can be
realistically competitive. This is especially true of the arms
The "major milestones" in the work of the Russian
diplomacy in this direction are, according to Yeltsin:
"lifting overt and covert discriminatory limitations and
working for beneficial conditions of [Russia's] membership in
the international economic and financial organisations."
Yeltsin described the situation in the CIS as the "main
concern of the Russian diplomacy. Following the disbandment of
the ministry of cooperation [with the CIS] which has been
hardly effective, the foreign ministry is becoming again the
"head organisation in charge of this priority direction for
To quote Yeltsin, Russia has attained "evident successes"
in relations with the countries of the Community, but the "CIS
per se is falling short of the expectations - where our
economic and political interests are concerned."
The president did not analyse reasons in detail and only
said that "our own indecisiveness, sluggishness, lack of
intersectoral coordination and formalism" are also to blame.
Yeltsin discerns successes, "especially in relations with
Belarus, Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan." "They
are seen in the new dynamics of the Customs Union of five
states and in the construction of a new 'threesome' - Russia,
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan."
Those present in the hall took for the recognition of the
merits of the foreign ministry's staff Yeltsin's announcement
to the effect that he had just signed a decree to present
awards to a large group of the ministry's staffers. Foreign
minister Yevgeni Primakov was awarded the Order of
Distinguished Service to the Motherland, 2nd degree.
When the president had gone, Primakov told the media that
the foreign ministry's collegium had decided to award Yeltsin
with a Gorchakov Medal.
"This is the foreign ministry's highest award that has
just been introduced. The Russian president gets the No. 1
medal," the minister said.
Russian Duma advances tighter adoption law
MOSCOW, May 13 (Reuters) - The Russian parliament passed at a second reading
on Wednesday a bill intended to prevent abuses in the adoption of children by
foreigners but which critics say may close the door to better futures for
The State Duma lower house passed the bill on amending the existing Family
Code. It must now receive a third reading before going to President Boris
Yeltsin to be passed into law.
Among key provisions would be a ban on intermediaries acting for profit to
arrange for the adoption of Russian children by foreigners and a clause
limiting eligible foreigners to citizens of countries with which Moscow had
concluded special treaties.
Although the communist- and nationalist-dominated Duma dropped setting a
deadline of 1999 for the conclusion of such accords, supporters of adoption
say the new bureaucratic hurdle will condemn many children to life in
underfunded orphanges when they could otherwise find comfortable homes abroad.
Adoption of Russian children by foreigners has boomed since the collapse of
the Soviet Union. Some 35,000 went abroad in 1996, mainly to the United States
as well as Canada and Sweden, according to health ministry statistics.
However, the practice has been controversial among Russians and a tightening
of conditions saw the number of adoptions drop to just about 3,000 last year,
children's rights activists say.
Two highly publicised cases of mistreatment of children by adoptive parents in
the U.S. last year did not improve public sentiment. An American woman
murdered her Russian son and a couple were accused of maltreating two Russian
girls, whom they had just adopted, on a plane back to the United States.
Reports of large bribes of $10,000 or $20,000 per child being paid by parents
to Russian officials has also clouded the image of adoption among ordinary
``Paying $10,000 for a child -- it's a new slave trade,'' Communist party
leader Gennady Zyuganov said on Wednesday.
Nationalist politicians point to Russia's declining birth rate as an argument
for preventing children going abroad.
For more articles from The Moscow Times, check out their website at
May 14, 1998
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Thanks, No Thanks For Russia Vision
By Andrei Piontkovsky
Special to The Moscow Times
Former U.S. national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski has again
addressed his prolific pen to the subject of Russia's geopolitical
future, observing a sense of uneasiness among Russia's political class
as it currently debates such basic issues as "what and where is Russia."
On these very pages the renowned scholar noted recently with disapproval
that the Russian public hasn't yet formed a clear notion of these
Alas, he is right. For three centuries at least we have been pondering
the key question of our geopolitical identity -- whether we are a part
of Europe or not. For a country situated at the crossroads of three
civilizations, Europe, Central Asia and the Far East, the matter is not
so easily resolved.
But to help us settle the self-identification problem, Brzezinski
reproaches President Clinton for a lack of initiative and furnishes him
with certain instructions: "A major speech by the U.S. president,
outlining how the United States envisages the longer-range relationship
between America, Europe and Russia, would project a longer-term
strategic vision that Russia currently lacks."
For all my deep respect for Bill Clinton and despite the great sympathy
felt by Russians of both sexes for this charming man assailed by
feminists and prosecutors, I doubt very much whether he will be able to
fulfill the mission of spiritual leader of the Russian people.
An enlightening message transforming the destiny of Russia once and for
all should, according to Brzezinski, contain the historic phrase "At
some point in the future even Russia's membership in NATO might make
sense." The world 'even' betrays the author's admiration for his own and
the U.S. president's magnanimity. Although moved by Brzezinski's
readiness to set up a strategic alliance with Russia and take collective
responsibility for the security of Russian borders, I could not help
recalling another of his recent contributions to geopolitics, his book
"The Grand Chessboard."
The work's main message is an impassioned plea for a bipolar
geopolitical world in the 21st century, a strategic alliance of the two
superpowers, the United States and China.
Arguing his case for a U.S.-Chinese strategic condominium, Brzezinski
repeatedly emphasizes how instrumental, in his view, China could be in
undermining Russia's strategic positions: "Greater China's geopolitical
influence is not necessarily incompatible with America's strategic
interests. For example, China's growing interest in Central Asia
constrains Russia's ability to achieve a political reintegration of the
region, ... similarly, China's support for Pakistan offsets India's
inclination to cooperate with Russia, ... China might also project more
overt influence into the Russian Far East," and so on.
This somewhat peculiar determination to confront your future NATO
alliance partner everywhere on the globe in collusion with a power
outside this alliance seems to betray some lack of internal logic in the
distinguished scholar's concept. A more careful reading of the book,
however, shows that the author may be controversial but that there is
certain logic in his attitude. According to Brzezinski's vision, the
Russia of today will at some not very distant juncture break up into
Russia, the Siberian Republic and the Far Eastern Republic. After this,
the European stump of Russia may some day be magnanimously accepted as a
NATO member. This is the engagement of Russia a la Brzezinski.
May 14, 1998
Russia No Easy Lesson
By Graeme Herd
Graeme Herd is a lecturer in international relations, University of
Aberdeen, and deputy director of the Scottish Center for International
Security. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.
While basic freedoms are upheld, Yeltsin has deformed a democratic
transition by creating a lopsided or top-heavy political system.
How do you teach post-Soviet security politics to fourth-year students
at a Scottish university? Is there one dominant paradigm that provides
an explanatory framework that makes sense of the August 1991 putsch, the
disintegration of the Soviet Union, the center-periphery and
executive-legislative tensions that constituted the October 1993 events,
communist-nationalist coalitions, the Chechen debacle, insider
privatization scandals and the specter of regional-led disintegration of
the Russian Federation?
The most persuasive Western interpretation of Russian political
development focuses on the democratization paradigm. This suggests that
the Russian political system is undergoing a transition to democracy,
signposted by the creation of a democratic constitution and
institutions, and the destruction of Soviet-era rules and regulations.
Currently Russia is on the brink of consolidating its democratic
transition. Both the political elite and a growing and vibrant civil
society accept democratic rules -- State Duma election results of 1993
and 1995 were generally uncontested by the political elites, who are
steadily adopting and internalizing democratic practices, while the
creation of democratic institutions is being trumped by
This interpretation appears a rather wilted and battered flower, stunted
by the perils of an overly powerful president. In short, while basic
freedoms within society are upheld, Yeltsin has deformed a democratic
transition by creating a lop-sided or top-heavy political system,
characterized by a weak constitutional court, an ineffective and almost
powerless Duma, a non-existent opposition, whose elites are integrated
into coalition governments hired and fired by the president.
The Duma's recent threats to impeach Yeltsin merely served to highlight
the near impossibility of such an action being successful. Conversely,
power is exercised entirely by the president and the "First Family,"
which constitutes the backbone of the presidential family
administration, leading to shadow decision-making and influence measured
by personal contacts rather than professionalism. This perspective,
although compelling, has been overtaken by another that seeks to locate
the key dynamic in Russian political life on the role of "pragmatic
capital" and the rise of Financial-Industrial Groups, or FIGs.
The growing influence of FIGs is attributed to the role of the Group of
Seven bankers in Yeltsin's 1996 re-election campaign. It is argued that
in 1995 a peculiarly Russian Faustian pact was struck -- not the soul of
a man for knowledge, but the heart of the Russian economy for political
power. In return for democratically re-electing Yeltsin and preserving
capitalism, the business elite, corralled by a Mephistophelian Boris
Berezovsky, was offered the opportunity to create an oligarchic system
through insider privatizations. Media and financial support was
forthcoming in return for shares and management positions in strategic
industries still to be privatized. Through late 1996 and 1997 many of
these industries were privatized by the very banks that held the shares
Some analysts now argue that the FIGs exhibit five defining
characteristics, the most evident of which is their strongly entrenched
economic power base through control of banks and industries.
'Information power' is gained through the control of large parts of the
print and broadcast media and political influence through their
alliances with key politicians and the presidential family
administration. The regional diversity of their economic assets gives a
regional dimension to their power, allowing dependency and
interdependency networks to be created between the FIGs and particular
regional governors. With Berezovsky now heading the CIS, Russian
transnational FIGs are now well placed to exploit privatization projects
within former Soviet space.
The March-April 1998 paralysis in governance and the essential weakness
and de-politicization of the new government gives rise to the
possibility of a disintegration paradigm taking center stage. Where
power is focused in presidential institutions and the federal government
is enfeebled, Russia's 89 regions have the potential to exercise de
facto independence, to challenge the center's monopoly of power, and so
to herald the country's gradual fragmentation.
The North Caucasus and Krasnoyarsk are both net donor regions, in that
they give more to the federal budget than they receive. In April
regional leaders in the former met to discuss economic co-operation, and
representatives from other Russian regions also attended. The
governorship of the Krasnoyarsk region will be decided on Sunday. If
Alexander Lebed wins, some analysts argue that he would simultaneously
confiscate the economic assets of FIGs in the raw material-rich republic
and then re-privatize them, and directly challenge Moscow's power by
dismissing the local leaders of the regional power structures.
He could also ally himself to his brother Alexei, who is governor of the
neighboring Khakassia region. Such an alliance raises the possibility of
Lebed controlling the territorial link between European Russia and the
Russian Far East, legitimizing his actions as patriotic through the
initiation of an anti-corruption drive that depicts Moscow as the prime
instigator of contemporary crisis and chaos.
If faced with a politician who breaks the rules, acts unconstitutionally
and refuses to recognize federal power, what would be the center's
response? Does Yeltsin have any real influence upon events outside
Moscow? Could the army be trusted to move against popular regional
Democratic behavior and the tendency toward presidentialism, the
emergence of oligarchic groupings as political actors and the growing
power of regional blocs constitute the interlinked layers of this new
matryoshka system. Its core characteristic is its ability to bend with
the strain of antagonistic forces and to embrace opposing poles. Russian
contemporary politics is defining a new political system that is
peculiarly Russian in character and operates with a logic of its own.
Voice of America
TITLE=RUSSIAN REACTION TO NATO
BYLINE= ED WARNER
INTRO: THE RUSSIANS HAVE STRONGLY OPPOSED THE EXPANSION OF NATO,
BUT IT IS NOT CLEAR HOW THEY WOULD REACT TO IT. SO FAR, THE
REACTION APPEARS MIXED, ENCOURAGING TO SUPPORTERS OF AN ENLARGED
ALLIANCE, DISTURBING TO THOSE WHO HAVE OPPOSED IT. V-O-A'S ED
TEXT: AFTER THE U-S SENATE VOTED TO APPROVE NATO EXPANSION,
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT BORIS YELTSIN COMPLAINED, BUT ADDED RELATIONS
WITH THE UNITED STATES ARE HEALTHY AND HE WOULD WORK TO RATIFY
THE START-TWO TREATY ON NUCLEAR ARMS LIMITATIONS.
THE RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY WAS LESS CONCILIATORY. IT SAID THE
FATAL MISTAKE OF EXPANDING NATO COULD LEAD TO EXTREMELY NEGATIVE
CONSEQUENCES, INCLUDING A RELUCTANCE ON THE PART OF THE DUMA TO
THESE MIXED SIGNALS FROM MOSCOW ARE CONFUSING TO THE WEST, BUT NO
LESS CONFUSING THAN WASHINGTON THESE DAYS, SAYS NIKOLAI SOKOV, A
MEMBER OF THE RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY WHO IS WITH THE MONTEREY
INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES IN CALIFORNIA.
HE SAYS MANY RUSSIANS ARE ANXIOUS TO PUT NATO EXPANSION BEHIND
AND GET ON WITH OTHER BUSINESS. BUT HE FINDS WASHINGTON'S
AMBIVALENT APPROACH TO NATO TYPICAL OF OTHER POLICY MATTERS
INVOLVING RUSSIA. HE SAYS AGREEMENTS ARE HARD FOR MOSCOW TO MAKE
WITH THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE OF WASHINGTON POLITICAL BATTLES,
ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST TWO YEARS:
// SOKOV ACT //
THE DYNAMIC OF THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE WHITE HOUSE AND
CONGRESS MAKE MANY GOVERNMENTAL ANALYSTS IN RUSSIA QUITE
PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE PROSPECTS OF DEALING WITH THE
UNITED STATES. AN INCREASING NUMBER OF OFFICIALS THINK
THAT WHATEVER YOU AGREE UPON WITH THE ADMINISTRATION,
CONGRESS WILL OVERTURN. I THINK THERE IS A VERY SERIOUS
WAY THAT THE DOMESTIC SITUATION IN THE UNITED STATES
AFFECTS THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.
// END ACT //
MILITARY ANALYST HARRY SUMMERS SAYS HE TOO IS CONFUSED ABOUT
NATO. IS IT SUPPOSED TO BE A CONTINUING MILITARY ALLIANCE OR
SIMPLY A PEACEFUL UNION OF LIKE-MINDED STATES?
WHILE NATO EXPANSION HAS BEEN UNDERWAY, MOSCOW HAS BEEN
PRESSURING LATVIA ON ITS TREATMENT OF RUSSIAN CITIZENS, AMONG
OTHER MATTERS. NATO AMBASSADORS IN RIGA HAVE CAUTIONED MOSCOW,
AND U-S DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS HAVE ARRIVED TO HELP BRING
LATVIAN FORCES UP TO NATO STANDARDS.
COLONEL SUMMERS SAYS THIS IS UNDULY PROVOCATIVE, COMING ON TOP OF
THE VOTE TO EXPAND NATO:
// SUMMERS ACT //
SINCE WE KNOW, OR SHOULD KNOW, THAT IT CERTAINLY DID NOT
PLEASE RUSSIA AND IS A POTENTIAL IRRITANT, WE OUGHT TO
BE VERY CAREFUL NOT TO EXACERBATE THE PROBLEM AND MAKE
IT WORSE. DOING THIS LATVIA THING, FOR EXAMPLE, IS A
CASE IN POINT. IT IS VERY PRECISELY THE KIND OF THING
WE SHOULD NOT BE DOING.
// END ACT //
DO NOT EXAGGERATE THE RUSSIAN REACTION, SAYS HELMUT SONNENFELDT,
A FORMER TOP U-S FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER NOW WITH THE BROOKINGS
INSTITUTION. FEELING WEAK, MOSCOW MAY CHALLENGE THE UNITED
STATES ON VARIOUS ISSUES, BUT SOME OF THAT IS BLUSTER. HE ADDS,
RUSSIAN OPINION IS DIVIDED:
// SONNENFELDT ACT //
ANOTHER PART OF THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT AND THE RUSSIAN
SOCIETY IS EXTREMELY EAGER TO HAVE VERY ACTIVE RELATIONS
WITH THE UNITED STATES AND OTHER WESTERN COUNTRIES FOR
ECONOMIC AND OTHER REASONS. SO THERE IS KIND OF A
DISCONNECT BETWEEN THE ANGER AND DEFIANCE VERY MUCH
CHARACTERIZED BY (FOREIGN MINISTER YEVGENI) PRIMAKOV'S
BEHAVIOR ON THE ONE HAND, AND THE CONTINUED VERY KEEN
INTEREST AND CONCERN WITH BEING PART OF THE WESTERN
// END ACT //
MR. SONNENFELDT SAYS RUSSIA IS INVOLVED IN A NUMBER OF JOINT
ACTIVITIES WITH THE WEST, LIKE THE PARTNERSHIP FOR PEACE, AND
ALSO HAS A ROLE IN NATO. HE SAYS NATO EXPANSION WILL TAKE A
LONG TIME, GIVING RUSSIA A CHANCE TO CALM DOWN.
May 11, 1998
Skinheads think beatings are sport
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
MOSCOW -- Barry Saifoulaye of Guinea calls it "doing a Carl Lewis."
When the doctoral student in international law and the 1,000 other
African students at Moscow's Patrice Lumumba University see skinheads
approaching they often try to make a run for it.
Actually, its not much of a choice. If the students stick around and a
brawl ensues the Moscow police are sure to blame the Africans for the
That's what happened last Wednesday night at a subway station when five
Russian lads with buzz cuts set upon Johnson Kananura of Uganda and a
friend before they had a chance to flee. After the friend was knocked
down by pepper spray, Kanunura used the two beer bottles he was carrying
to defend himself, smashing the nose of one of his attackers before
police arrived to arrest everyone.
Once at the police station the Russians were all quickly released.
Kanunura, who is studying international relations at a school that was
once the pride of the Soviet Union, was detained until he paid a 40,000
ruble ($10) fine because an elderly Russian who witnessed the fight said
the two Africans had attacked the five Russians.
The incident was the latest in a wave of violence by kids with Nazi
tattoos and leather jackets who have let it be known that to honor Adolf
Hitler's birthday they intend to kill a foreigner every day.
This promise has not been fulfilled, but it was apparently in Hitler's
honor that a gang of young Russian men severely beat a black Marine from
the U.S. embassy last weekend as he was out shopping with a black
American woman. It also may explain a spate of recent attacks on Asians
in Moscow and the knifing death of an Azeri vegetable vendor on Thursday
by men who may or may not have had links to the security forces or to
criminal gangs demanding protection money.
The situation has become serious enough that the Indian government has
placed advertisements in the local press urging their nationals to
register with the embassy.
Harassing Africans, Asians and dark-skinned Russian citizens from the
Caucuses has become something of a sport in Moscow not only for young
white louts with time on their hands, but for police who are forever
demanding documents from people who don't look like they are from
"The only difference for us between the police and the skinheads is
that the police have uniforms," Kanunura said as he sat in the spring
sunshine outside his dilapidated residence with students from Tanzania,
Zambia and Yemen.
SCARED TO WALK ALONE
"It's harder for the boys who are often asked to pay 100,000 rubles or
more by the police, but I've had trouble, too, since coming here last
year. I've been stopped for papers so often I can't remember," Juliette
Magambo of Tanzania said. "I'm scared to walk alone, but what can I do?
I can't always have an escort."
"I've been here since 1989 and I've not got one Russian friend. The
segregation is total," said Barry Saifoulaye, who is one year shy of his
PhD. "There were a few problems in the Soviet era, but there was still
respect for the law and respect for foreigners. The ideology said we
were welcome because Russians wanted to believe they were No. 1 in the
world. They created a myth they were helping to nourish poor Africans."
Facing high unemployment and extreme economic hardship, many Russians
now resent the continuing presence of thousands of students from
countries the Soviet Union once tried to impress by offering good
educations for almost nothing. But tuition for foreigners has soared to
several thousand dollars a year, room and board can cost twice that
again and no one is handing out free parkas anymore so that visitors can
survive the harsh Russian winter.
Many students such as Francis Bwalya of Zambia, who arrived last fall,
said they had been duped by Soviet-era photographs showing leafy
campuses with sports facilities that simply don't exist and by stories
that they could buy all the food they needed for less than $30 a month
rather than the $300 a month it really costs.
"These people don't solve their problems by beating us," said Chipasha
Mandona, also of Zambia, who alleges a policeman kicked him in the
testicles on his second day in Russia last year when he couldn't produce
his passport. (It had been taken from him to be registered with the
local registration office.)
"I didn't come here to get killed. I came here to study. When I go home
this summer, I don't think I will be coming back."