This Date's Issues: 2526 •
Johnson's Russia List
19 December 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times letter: Georgi Arbatov, In response to "A Russia Built
on Sand," by Jeffrey Sachs.
2. Reuters: Russian general demands U.S. end strikes on Iraq.
3. Boston Globe: David Filipov and David Marcus, Rift widens between
4. Washington Post: Thomas Lippman, U.S. Confident Bombs Won't Sink
5. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, Banning The Party, Saving The
6. Reuters: Moscow mayor sets out new Russian party's plans.
7. New York Times: Michael Wines, Impeachment Also Is Proceeding, in a
Convoluted Way, in Russia.
8. AFP: Press laments Russia's passage from superpower to Third World
9. New York Times: Steven Erlanger, Russia: Public Anger in Moscow Is
Tempered in Private.
10. Helsinki's Helsingin Sanomat: Kalle Koponen, "Ruled by Media.
Russia's Media Promoting Discordant Owners' Interests."]
December 19, 1998
Dodging the Flak
In response to "A Russia Built on Sand," by Jeffrey Sachs, Nov. 28:
Although I have my own first-hand impressions of Jeffrey Sachs, and his
presumptuousness and impudence, I was surprised by the arrogance displayed in
his comment (reprinted from the Los Angeles Times). He, one of the "godfathers
of shock therapy" blames for the absolute failure of economic reform in Russia
the International Monetary Fund, Boris Yeltsin's government, Viktor
Chernomyrdin, the West - in short, everybody but Boris Yeltsin and himself,
who at this crucial time served extremely actively as an economic advisor to
the Russian government.
I would accept his harsh criticism of the IMF and the Russian government,
would add to the list of "villains," Yegor Gaidar, Anatoly Chubais and their
team, as well as Mr. Sachs himself, together with other American and West
European consultants who helped to make reform a bad word in Russia.
Director Emeritus of the Institute of U.S.A. and Canada,
Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian general demands U.S. end strikes on Iraq
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Dec 19 (Reuters) - A Russian general, in comments published on
Saturday, renewed calls for an end to U.S.-British air strikes on Iraq.
He also voiced concern about the impact of the crisis on Moscow's military
ties with the West.
Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov reiterated Russia's condemnation of the air
attacks and the U.S. decision not to first seek the approval of the United
Nations Security Council where Moscow has the right of veto.
``This is a gross violation of norms of international law and open disregard
of efforts by the international community to solve the situation around
Iraq,'' he said in an interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper.
``The only resonable decision in this very difficult situation would be to
stop the strikes immediately and for the participants to return to the
Russia's military chiefs have followed the line of the country's political
leaders in condemning the use of force against Iraq, with whom Moscow has long
had sympathy and who it hopes will repay large debts when U.N. sanctions are
Ivashov, who is in charge of international cooperation at the Defence
Ministry, is an outspoken conservative who has been critical of the United
States and the NATO military alliance on other issues, including Balkans
Shortly after Russia recalled its ambassadors to London and Washington for
consultations on Friday, Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said Moscow must
rethink its security strategy, including relations with NATO.
Russia's armed forces have an interest is making their voice heard
sign of tensions with the West increases pressure on the government to raise
Ivashov reiterated Sergeyev's concern about the impact the air strikes will
have on Russia's military cooperation with the West and particularly with
``What cooperation and partnership with the Alliance can be spoken of now if
Russia's opinion is openly ignored?'' he said.
``By attacking Iraq the Americans have put in doubt the implementation of
promising lines of cooperation between the U.S. armed forces and Russia for
These included various military, naval and anti-missile force exercises,
``The adjustment of military contacts with the United States will depend on
how the situation around Iraq develops,'' he said.
Despite Ivashov's rhetoric, the Defence Ministry issued a statement which
seemed intended to ease concern raised by media reports that some military
units had been put on heightened alert because of the air strikes against
``It is the practice in Russia's armed forces to take urgent measures for
maintaining the necessary levels of combat and command readiness in the event
of a deterioration of the situation in some regions of the world,'' the
Media reports that Russia might be considering sending naval vessels to the
Gulf have not been confirmed.
The Russian military's warnings have also been accompanied by moves which
suggest it is keen to smooth over any problems in relations with the West. A
senior diplomat issued soothing remarks after a meeting with NATO in Brussels
``Russia does not intend to argue seriously with NATO,'' the Kommersant
newspaper said on Saturday.
December 19, 1998
[for personal use only]
Rift widens between Washington, Moscow
By David Filipov and David L. Marcus
MOSCOW - Along with the wrecked buildings and destroyed Iraqi military
facilities caused by the American and British attack on Baghdad, there may be
a far more lasting casualty: The close ties Russia and the United States have
enjoyed since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Angry that Washington has ignored its calls to halt the bombardment, Russia
warned yesterday of potential serious damage to the rapprochement of the
world's largest nuclear powersthat followed the end of the Cold War.
The threat of an unraveling of relations clearly concerned the White
spokesman said President Clinton, who infuriated the Kremlin by not tipping
off President Boris N. Yeltsin before the raids on Iraq, had sent the Russian
leader a letter explaining his decision, and that Secretary of State Madeleine
K. Albright planned to visit Moscow next month.
On Thursday, Moscow took the rare step of recalling its ambassador to the
United States, something the Soviet Union never did during all the spy
scandals, arms races and political standoffs during its 40-year confrontation
with the United States after World War II.
''If this action is not stopped, Russian-American relations can seriously
suffer,'' Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said he told Albright in a
phone call. ''Everything must be done to rule out a setback in our
A senior military official, General Leonty Ivashov, went further, warning
Moscow that Russia may ''be forced to change its military and political course
and may become the leader of a part of the world community that disagrees with
the dictate'' of Washington.
Some reports said the Russian Northern Fleet, home to the ballistic-missile-
carrying nuclear submarines that form a large part of Russia's strategic
arsenal, was putting some units on alert because of the Iraq crisis. But
Russia's Defense Ministry denied that ships or troops were being deployed, and
other officials said the move was merely symbolic.
But the message was decidedly chilly and the US administration scrambled to
reassure Moscow. State Department spokesman James Rubin described the
Albright-Ivanov conversation as a ''useful exchange'' that reaffirmed the
importance of US-Russia ties, even while acknowledging ''a profound
disagreement on the wisdom of using force against Iraq.''
In fact, the US-Russian relationship has been fraying for some time. It has
suffered from Russia's August economic collapse, the appointment of a new
Russian government that has been slow to embrace economic policies favored by
Washington, and an increase in anti-Semitic and nationalistic statements from
among Russian lawmakers.
What was supposed to be the Clinton administration's greatest foreign policy
success, aiding the transformation of Russia to a liberal, market-oriented and
law-abiding state, has fizzled. Not only have billions of dollars in Western
aide from the International Monetary Fund been wasted, but now it appears that
Russia will need another bailout in the form of a restructuring package, or
join Sudan as the only two countries to default on IMF loans.
Even if the IMF does pitch in, something it says it does not want to do
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov shows the fund a realistic 1999 budget, Russia
will probably not be able to pay more than a fraction of the billions of
dollars it borrowed from private investors. The money was lost when Russia
admitted in August it could not meet its obligations.
Six weeks ago, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott warned the Primakov
government it would get no help from international lenders until it put its
finances in order. It was a significant about-face for Talbott, an architect
of Clinton's Russia policy who once was optimistic about Russia's reforms.
US officials softened that stance only slightly at a briefing during a visit
here by Talbott and Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers, saying that
they were ready to talk ''business'' with the Primakov government but that
they had not made any new breakthroughs on aid.
Russia, meanwhile, is smarting from more than hurt feelings over having its
efforts to end the Iraq crisis squelched by the US and British airstrikes on
Baghdad. Yesterday, Russia said it had also recalled its ambassador to
What really makes Russian politicians angry is knowing their country,
Soviet days struck fear in the hearts of Western policy makers, cannot respond
to the US attack. They cannot because today's Russia depends on the United
States for aid to its nuclear scientists to keep them from defecting to
countries that want to make nuclear weapons, like Iraq. Another US-funded
program is keeping Russia at the forefront of space travel. A third is aimed
at helping Russia feed its hungry this winter.
The Russians are ''so agitated because they feel so helpless,'' said
Goldman, associate director of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at
Harvard. ''They've just been completely emasculated. What else can they do but
roar and rant? It's such a stange position for them to be in.''
The State Duma, the lower house of parliament, issued emotional
of US policy for the second straight day. The Duma has already shelved plans
to ratify the 1993 Start-2 treaty reducing nuclear weapons. One lawmaker
compared Clinton to the Roman emperor Nero, and another warned that Washington
was planning nuclear strikes against North Korea.
Outside the US Embassy in Moscow, an angry crowd of about 100 Communist and
nationalist sympathizers shouted ''Clinton! Murderer!'' and burned American
flags. Later, 300 Muslims held a rally outside the embassy.
Goldman said he doubted this amounted to a new Cold War rift, a sentiment
echoed by Yeltsin spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin.
''The president believes that under no circumstances should we slide towards
confrontation,'' Yakushkin said at a briefing. ''But we should call things by
their name. The military strikes are unacceptable and should be stopped.''
But many Russians feel they have been driven to their current helpless state
because Yeltsin had trusted the traditional US enemy too much.
The man who forged those ties as foreign minister from 1992 to 1996, Andrei
Kozyrev, was one of the few voices here yesterday who pointed out that Saddam
Hussein, traditional Moscow ally though he may be, posed a threat to Russia,
''When I look at our reaction, I feel like I'm living in the old days,''
Kozyrev said. ''The presence of chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons
in the Middle East is more of a threat to Russia than to America.''
But no one here listens to Kozyrev, a discredited liberal from Russia's
discredited liberal past. They listen to people like Russian Defense Minister
Igor Sergeyev, who said yesterday the Western strikes threatened Moscow's
relations with NATO.
Last year, Russia grudgingly accepted the Western alliance's plans to add
former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe in return for a role as a NATO
partner. But Russian politicians no longer trust NATO, and Sergeyev canceled
plans to attend a NATO meeting yesterday in Brussels.
''How can we talk about cooperation and partnership with the alliance now,
when Russia's opinion is openly ignored?'' Sergeyev remarked.''
David L. Marcus reported from Washington.
December 19, 1998
[for personal use only]
U.S. Confident Bombs Won't Sink Russian Relations
By Thomas W. Lippman
As U.S. cruise missiles pounded Iraq on Thursday night, President Clinton
a letter to President Boris Yeltsin acknowledging Russia's fierce opposition
to the strikes, but insisting that Washington had no alternative.
Earlier in the day, a U.S. official said, Vice President Gore had
similar message to the Russian prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, telling him,
"We can't let differences over Iraq hurt our underlying relationship."
Yesterday -- after Russia underscored its anger over the airstrikes by
recalling its ambassador from Washington for "consultations" -- it was
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright's turn, in a telephone conversation
with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
It was "an extremely useful exchange," State Department spokesman James P.
Clinton and his senior advisers were responding to an outpouring of fury
Russian politicians and officials over the assault on Iraq. Yeltsin called the
strikes "simply unacceptable." Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov called
them "an act of state terrorism." Vladimir Lukin, a member of the liberal
Yabloko faction in parliament, called them "absolutely intolerable."
Yet U.S. officials express confidence that while the bombing of Iraq has
a catalyst for Russian grievances, the criticism will have little real impact
on U.S.-Russia relations, which have hit a rough patch over issues more
complex than Iraq. As a practical matter, U.S. officials and independent
analysts said, Russia has little leverage over Washington and wants a stable
Albright, for example, came away from her conversation with Ivanov with the
message that "the Russians understand the importance of maintaining a broad-
based relationship with the United States; that they recognize the importance
of having U.S.-Russian relations be a stabilizing factor in the international
community, not a destabilizing factor; and that they are going to continue
working with us on a wide variety of issues," Rubin said.
"Each side wants to be able to put this behind us after the bombing
senior U.S. official said.
To some extent, the Russian government agreed: "There is no question of any
severing of relations either with the U.S.A. or with Great Britain," the other
country engaged in pounding Iraq, Yeltsin spokesman Dimitri Yakushkin told the
ITAR-TASS news agency. "We must not fall back on the vocabulary of
Even as Russian politicians and members of parliament have been flogging the
United States over Iraq, Ivanov has been giving interviews this week that
stress positive developments in the bilateral relationship on a broad range of
One example of Russia's effort to keep the relationship on an even keel
despite the acknowledged differences, U.S. officials said, was Russia's
accommodating stance at a meeting in Madrid on Monday of the Peace
Implementation Council for Bosnia.
Russia, traditionally pro-Serb, at first objected to U.S.-supported plans to
strengthen the Bosnian central government, U.S. officials said. But in the
end, as one senior official put it, "once they saw we are on the same basic
course, we worked quite cooperatively." Another U.S. official went further,
saying the Russians "gave us everything we wanted."
One immediate casualty of the Iraq bombing appears to be the prospect of
ratification by the Russian parliament, after more than five years, of the
Start II nuclear arms reduction treaty. The Russian government has been
pressing hard for ratification, and Ivanov had invited Albright to Moscow next
month in the belief that ratification was imminent, but now the vote is likely
to be delayed at least until February, officials here and in Moscow said.
Rubin, however, said Albright is planning to visit Russia next month anyway.
"We have developed a very effective working relationship with President
Yeltsin, with Foreign Minister Ivanov, with Prime Minister Primakov, and we
continue to value that relationship very highly," he said. "That's the reason
Secretary Albright will be going to Russia in January. And we will continue to
work with the Russians."
Several U.S. officials yesterday minimized the significance of Russia's
hostile reaction to the strikes, describing it as a predictable outpouring of
long-held and well-known views that the Clinton administration rejects.
"Russian policy on Iraq is incoherent," a senior U.S. official said. "They
acknowledge that the threat of force has value, but the use of force is
another matter. How credible is the threat of force if it's never used? And
what happens when a guy doesn't respond to the threat?"
Russian security strategists are anxious over U.S. decisions in
affairs -- including Iraq and the Yugoslav province of Kosovo -- that they say
circumvent the U.N. Security Council, where its veto gives Russia some
leverage. And many Russians are uneasy over U.S. proposals to expand NATO and
its sphere of operations into parts of Europe formerly under Russian influence
On the U.S. side, the greatest current source of irritation with Russia
Iraq but Iran, where Russia is building a nuclear power plant, providing
nuclear materials technology and aiding in the development of ballistic
missiles, all over U.S. objections.
When new details of this cooperation were published in the Wall Street
this week, Rubin said Russia had failed to abide by a promise to limit its
nuclear cooperation with Iran to commercial power reactors, and threatened to
limit participation by U.S. companies in commercial rocket ventures in Russia
"until Russian entities cease cooperation with Iran's ballistic missile
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- Banning The Party, Saving The
By Paul Goble
Washington, 18 December 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Following the latest anti-Semitic
outburst by a Communist Duma deputy, one of Russia's most powerful business
leaders has again called for banning the Communist Party. But this appeal
may have less to do with opposition to anti-Semitism than with a defense of
the interests of Russia's powerful new rich.
On Wednesday, Boris Berezovsky said the Russian government should ban the
Communist Party because its anti-Semitic leaders should "sit in the dock and
not in the Duma." He added that the authorities must be prepared to use
force to do so, noting that "the later they use force, the more blood will
Berezovsky's call came the day after Duma Security Committee chairman
Viktor Ilyukhin suggested that Jews in President Boris Yeltsin's entourage
were behind what he called "a genocide against the Russian people." This
appeal repeats one he made two months ago following the anti-Semitic
statements of another Communist Duma deputy, Albert Makashov.
But now just as then, many Russians have been skeptical of Berezovsky's
proposals. Even those who are appalled by the views expressed by Makashov
and Ilyukhin and who fear a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Russia have
expressed doubts about the wisdom of banning the Communists altogether.
The reformist Yabloko faction this week called for a resolution
denouncing Ilyukhin personally for his remarks rather than attacking the
party as a whole.
And the Moscow newspaper Komersant even suggested that Ilyukhin hoped to
provoke the Russian government into banning his party, something that the
paper said "would strengthen the party's image as the main opposition force."
Berezovsky, who is Jewish himself, has never had a good relationship with
the Russian Communist Party. For many of that party's members, Berezovsky
has become almost a symbol of what they believe has gone wrong during the
transition from the Soviet system to an unregulated capitalist system.
And thus his proposal certainly reflects his personal outrage at the
anti-Semitism of many in the Communist Party. But like other proposals for a
ban, it may reflect something else as well: an effort by some of the
oligarchs to destroy a group that they may believe threatens their property
More than any other group, the Communist Party opposes the uncertain
title many of the oligarchs, as the new rich are known because of their
influence over the state, have to property that has been privatized into
their hands. The party's leaders called for renationalization of some
property and a revision of the division of previously nationalized property
that took place after 1991.
And thus it is no surprise that members of this group, the people who
have benefited the most from the way in which Russian privatization has
taken place would be especially interested in breaking the Communist Party
as an institutional force.
Indeed, viewed from that perspective, Berezovsky's proposal may represent
the latest development in what many have called nomenklatura privatization,
the process that transferred much of the country's wealth into the hands of
the party's most senior officials and put them at odds with the party's
That process, begun by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s,
helps to explain why the members of what many had thought were the core of
the Communist Party refused to defend that party and the Soviet Union in
And it also clarifies why so many of the former members of the
nomenklatura, now newly rich because of this pr ocess, have become among the
most active and vociferous opponents of a party still committed to
Indeed, many of the businessmen-oligarchs, both former members of the
nomenklatura and those newly rich individuals who have allied themselves
with that group, appear to believe that the destruction of the Communist
Party would eliminate a group that has sought to limit the power of the
newly rich in Russia.
But to the extent members of this group seek to use the fight against
anti-Semitism to destroy a political party and thus defend their own
parochial interests, they will do little to promote either the free society
or the free market they claim to be defending.
Moscow mayor sets out new Russian party's plans
MOSCOW, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, a likely presidential
candidate, set out his vision for making Russia great again at the founding
congress of his centrist Fatherland movement on Saturday.
Luzhkov, 62, also said he believed the era of what he called radical liberal
reforms was over in Russia.
He has until the end of Saturday to register his movement to enable it to
part in a parliamentary election due in December next year. His aim seems to
be to build a platform to launch a presidential bid in an election due in
``The international community needs a strong Russia as a great power that
respects itself and other powers,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted Luzhkov as
``We need a modern army, a reliable nuclear deterrence system...Russia
a great military and naval power.''
Criticising the reforms of the so-called radical market reformers who
the economy from 1992 until August of this year, Luzkhov said in televised
comments: ``The experiment is over.''
He supports market reforms but wants less radical steps towards reform than
those taken by successive governments until August, when the government
brought about its downfall by letting the rouble devalue and defaulting on
The new prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, has taken a more conservative
approach since then.
Luzhkov, who was elected leader of the new movement, hopes his reputation
strong manager with his own populist brand of capitalism will help him unite
centrist forces and win a large share of seats in the State Duma, the lower
Nobel Prize winning author Alexander Slozhenitsyn sent a message to the
congress saying he hoped the movement would unite the ``forces that we need.''
Kremlin aide Oleg Sysuyev wished the party well but distanced himself from
Luzhkov's criticisms of economic reforms.
Luzhkov hopes that by creating a nationwide party he will overcome what his
opponents say is his biggest weakness -- a lack of support and trust outside
Critics say some of Luzhkov's projects are built on flimsy ground and the
bubble of relative prosperity in Moscow could burst. Human rights activists
criticise him for strict regulations against non-Muscovites staying in the
If Luzhkov stands for the presidency, challengers are likely to include
regional governor Alexander Lebed, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, liberal
Grigory Yavlinksy and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.
Primakov, 69, says he does not want to become president when Boris Yeltsin's
term ends in 2000 but could yet be a candidate.
New York Times
19 December 1998
[for personal use only]
Impeachment Also Is Proceeding, in a Convoluted Way, in Russia
By MICHAEL WINES
MOSCOW -- If Russians are perplexed by the prospective impeachment of
President Clinton over his testimony about extramarital sex -- and they are,
to a man and woman -- perhaps they can be forgiven. Their own Parliament, you
see, is trying to impeach President Boris Yeltsin over accusations of
genocide, treason and abetting murder. And almost no one gives it a second
Indeed, most people expect that the impeachment will still be lumbering down
the constitutional garden path when Yeltsin wraps up his second term and
leaves office in 2000.
Such is the yawning divide between impeachments, U.S. and Russian-style. One
is saturnalia; the other Saturn, ungodly big and going in circles. One is
convulsing a nation; the other is so somnolent that legislators have been
known to snooze through investigative hearings. One is extraordinarily
partisan, but rooted, at least in part, in the democratic axiom that no one is
above the law. Actually, so is the other.
"The most important result of the committee's work is not whether we have
considered evidence of a crime in presidential acts," Yelena Mizulina, the
deputy chairwoman of the impeachment committee in Russia's lower legislative
chamber, the Duma, said in an interview this week. "It's that for the first
time, a constitutional precedent is created.
"Those who occupy this post in the future will know that no matter how
sophisticated the process is, it is quite realistic. They will have to control
Sophisticated is not the word most people might attach to the proceedings,
Ms. Mizulina readily admits.
The Communist Party and its allies on the far right (in Russia, the
Communists are right-wingers, not leftists) inspired and have managed the
impeachment from its start in May.
Most accusations against Yeltsin read like a party manifesto: that he
committed treason by signing the accord that dissolved the Soviet Union in
1991; that he stage-managed the decline of Russia's ragtag military forces;
that he abetted murder when his troops put down an armed rebellion by the
Communist-led Parliament in 1993; that he committed genocide by allowing
living standards, and the average Russian's life span, to decline.
While many legislators resent Yeltsin's forceful quelling of the 1993
Parliament rebellion, not even the Communists who dominate the impeachment
commission have seen fit to charge the president with manslaughter.
Independent analysts dismiss the other charges as confections whipped up to
give the Communists a platform for denouncing the Yeltsin government.
Denounce they have, in regular Monday sessions that began in June and are
supposed to end soon, but probably will not. Yeltsin has been called a
clueless military strategist, a deserter of constitutional principle and a
pawn of NATO and the United States.
The panel's most flagrant hothead, the Communist legislator Viktor Ilyukhin,
stunned many last week by declaring, during hearings on the genocide charge,
that fewer Russians would have perished under Yeltsin's rule had the president
not surrounded himself with Jewish advisers.
The final accusation -- that Yeltsin exceeded his powers by waging a costly,
failed war in Chechnya -- resonates more broadly across Parliament. Ms.
Mazulina, a member of the pro-democracy, centrist Yabloko Party, supports the
accusation. Were it to reach the floor in Parliament, it might even be
But for a raft of political and legal reasons, that seems unlikely. In the
United States, President Clinton's impeachment would take a rapid, straight
path to a Senate trial presided over by the chief justice. Not so in Russia: a
vote in the Duma to impeach would first require a two-thirds majority of the
chamber's 450 legislators. It would then have to pass muster in the nation's
Supreme Court and its Constitutional Court. Only then would impeachment
proceed to the more moderate upper legislative chamber, the Federation
Most believe that will never happen. "You should read the Russian
Constitution to realize that we will not have to deal with this matter," the
chamber's Speaker, Yegor Stroyev, said last month.
Moreover, all of this assumes that the Duma genuinely wants to impeach
Yeltsin, as the Communists insist. Most experts say the party is content
simply to flog Yeltsin in public hearings and hope the economy continues to
"They want to undermine presidential authority while waiting for 2000, when
they'll win in elections because the situation will continue to deteriorate,"
Sergei Karaganov, a political analyst and head of the Moscow-based Institute
of Europe, said in an interview.
Ms. Mazulina said that tactic would explain why the impeachment panel has
spent months looking into "ridiculous" charges like genocide and why, now that
its official work is approaching a close, some members want to tack on a new
charge blaming Yeltsin for this year's economic collapse.
The tortuous process explains why Ms. Mazulina and some analysts express
admiration for America's quick and comparatively clean method of presidential
removal, even as they assert that removing a Russian president for concealing
adultery is unimaginable.
Well, almost unimaginable. In denouncing the United States for its attack on
Iraq, the Communist Party leader, Gennadi Zyuganov, sputtered on Thursday that
the bombings are inextricably tied "with the Yeltsin impeachment, with his
relations with a certain lady."
Zyuganov stopped, then smiled. "Clinton, of course. Clinton," he corrected
Press laments Russia's passage from superpower to Third World impotence
MOSCOW, Dec 19 (AFP) - Washington's decision to launch massive air strikes
against Iraq despite Moscow's vehement opposition sounded the death knell of
Russia as a superpower, newspapers here said Saturday.
Despite its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the latest Gulf
had shown Russia to be as impotent as any Third World state, commentators
said, while some evoked the spectre of a new era of "Cold Peace."
"Russia is already a superpower no more," ran the banner headline in the
moderate reform daily Izvestia, while Sevodnya titled its front page article
on the Iraq crisis: "Moscow doesn't matter any more."
"Russia has the same influence on world affairs as any Third World country,"
the liberal Sevodnya said, accusing President Boris Yeltsin of trying to
reassert his waning domestic authority by talking tough on Iraq.
But it warned that risked only further humiliation: "Either (Yeltsin must)
follow the logic of escalating any conflict, and pass from diplomatic to
military action, or back down and recognize that what has gone on is a farce."
Moscow has led vociferous international condemnation of strikes, launched by
the United States and Britain to punish Baghdad's hampering of efforts by UN
weapons inspectors to root out proscribed weapons of mass destruction.
The Kremlin upped the ante on Friday by recalling its ambassador to
consultations, a day after it did likewise with its ambassador to Washington,
and pulled its defence minister out of talks with NATO counterparts in
Russia, a long-standing Iraq ally, has led efforts to stymie US punishment
attacks on Baghdad, vowing to veto in the Security Council any attempts to
secure UN approval for military action. Britain and the United States went
ahead regardless, saying no fresh mandate was needed.
Izvestia noted that Yeltsin's "an unprecedented anti-western diplomatic
offensive" came at a sensitive time for Russia, which was making headway in
attempts to secure IMF financial aid next year, renegotiate its debt morass
with foreign creditors and still hope to receive substantial US food aid.
And the paper lamented that "anti-Americanism" appeared to be the only force
capable of uniting Russia's fractious political class, asking: "Is the
situation where an idea which starts with the prefix 'anti' becomes the
uniting force of the country, in Russia's interests?"
The respected business daily Kommersant meanwhile said that even if Russia
wanted to counter US military might, its cash-starved armed forces were in no
position to offer Iraq concrete support.
Moscow has no operational information coming from the Gulf because its
solitary electronic surveillance satellite over the region updates its
information once every 24 hours, Kommersant reported.
Russia's radar post in Azerbaijan can only track incoming or outgoing Iraqi
Scuds or ballistic missiles, not US cruise missiles used in the air raids, it
Any Russian warships despatched to the zone would need three to six weeks to
arrive on station, and would be powerless to act given the size of US forces
present in the region, the paper argued.
Significantly, the defence ministry backtracked on its announcement that
units had increased their state of readiness over the Iraq crisis, saying it
was "practice" to do so "in the event of a deterioration of the situation in
some regions of the world," Interfax reported.
Kommersant noted that the last time the country's armed forces had been
on alert was June 1982, for military manoeuvres based on a scenario for World
As a result, "Moscow was forced to get involved in the Star Wars arms race,
whose expense was a determining factor in the economic and political collapse
of the Soviet Union," the paper concluded.
New York Times
19 December 1998
[for personal use only]
Russia: Public Anger in Moscow Is Tempered in Private
By STEVEN ERLANGER
WASHINGTON -- Despite Russia's anger over the bombing of Iraq and the recall
of its ambassador from Washington, Moscow's private conversations with U.S.
officials reflect a desire to preserve and protect the U.S.-Russian
relationship, senior American officials said Friday.
Russian fury has been leveling off from its peak on Wednesday, the officials
said, noting that the most positive conversation yet occurred Friday morning
between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Secretary of State Madeleine
Ivanov repeated an invitation for Albright to come to Moscow, and she
expects to go there toward the end of January, said her spokesman, James
Rubin. The conversation Friday, which lasted half an hour with some
translation, was "an extremely important exchange," Rubin said, and Ivanov
emphasized "that the Russians understand the importance of maintaining a
broad-based relationship with the United States."
A senior U.S. official said later: "The Russians recognize that they need to
keep good political and economic ties to the West, even if they are angry and
embarrassed. And they won't risk all that for the sake of Iraq."
Ivanov also passed on a relatively conciliatory message from President Boris
Yeltsin to President Clinton, officials said. On Thursday, Clinton sent a
letter to Yeltsin explaining the U.S. and British decision to bomb Iraq and
asking the Russians to work to manage their differences with Washington and
concentrate on vital areas of common interest, including Moscow's financial
Also on Thursday, Vice President Al Gore telephoned Russia's prime minister,
Yevgeny Primakov, to explain the U.S. position. When Primakov asked Gore to
stop the bombing, Gore responded that the attacks would continue.
Hours later, the Russians recalled Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, who was due to
retire and return to Moscow soon in any event. Vorontsov left Washington
Friday. The Russians simultaneously recalled their ambassador from London.
The recall was believed to be the first since 1979, when Washington recalled
its ambassador from Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and
the Soviets recalled their ambassador from Washington.
But given the tensions of the nuclear-tipped Cold War, both sides considered
it more important to retain diplomats in each other's capitals than to give
vent to pique.
Discussions with Moscow about its budget and possible new loans from the
International Monetary Fund are proceeding on a separate track, the officials
said. U.S. officials do not want the Russians to think there is a crude
economic or political price to pay for their opposition on Iraq, an official
The Russians will keep up loud, public criticism of American and British
actions so long as the bombing continues over Iraq, a senior U.S. official
said. "No one should be surprised by that, and we shouldn't overblow it," he
said. "Both sides are mindful of the importance of bilateral relations, there
will be more meetings between officials next week and life will go on."
The official identified three reasons for Russian anger. First, Moscow and
Primakov personally have tried to be key players in resolving the Iraq crisis,
but their efforts have failed, producing frustration.
Primakov is an Iraq expert and knows its leaders well, including Saddam
Hussein and Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister. In November 1997,
Primakov, then foreign minister, personally arranged a deal with Iraq to
comply with U.N. resolutions and work with U.N. weapons inspectors that short-
circuited American plans to bomb Iraq.
But Saddam broke his promises to Primakov then, as he broke similar promises
made last February to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Second, the Russians felt insulted that they were not consulted, as Security
Council members, before the bombing began, and that the bombing in fact began
in the middle of a Security Council debate on Iraq. While Washington says it
consults Moscow, Russian officials often complain that such consultations
often have the humiliating feel of lectures or briefings.
The Chinese and French sometimes complain of the same feeling, U.S.
Third, Russian domestic politics essentially demands a tough reaction to the
U.S. superpower taking nearly unilateral action against Russian wishes,
whether it be in Iraq or in Bosnia.
"People and bureaucrats in the Russian system itself are frustrated by many
factors, by the poor economy and Russia's reduced status, and they want to
vent," an official said. "Events like this one can become a way for Russians
to vent their frustrations about everything."
Finnish Daily Views Russia Media Scene
Helsinki's Helsingin Sanomat
14 December 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Kalle Koponen: "Ruled by Media. Russia's Media
Promoting Discordant Owners' Interests"
When Sergey Dorenko, news anchor of Channel One, ORT, of Russian
television, was removed from his job last week, the assumption in the media
was that the political influence of billionaire Boris Berezovskiy was
decreasing. Dorenko took over the job in early September, and it was
assumed at that time that Berezovskiy was behind the appointment, together
with Valentin Yumashev, secretary general of the Kremlin. Yumashev was
fired by Boris Yeltsin last Monday.
Journalists are thrown around in Russia depending on the politicaltrends.
Russia's media today are, to a large extent, private enterprises and
formally separate from the government. However, the country's media have
exceptionally strong ties to the squabbling among Russia's political elite.
According to experts, the country actually has no newspapers operating as
western-style businesses. They are primarily mouthpieces of the political
and economic interests of different industrial bank conglomerates. They are
mainly economically unprofitable. Berezovskiy alone is presumed to control
with direct ownership, with funding and, among other things, by
guaranteeing loans, besides ORT, several newspapers, such as the
prestigious Nezavisimaya, "Independent."
"Newspapers are not businesses. In Russia the press has been purely a
(political) instrument. It is not possible to understand what is going on
based on newspapers," says Yassen Zassurski, deacon of the Journalistic
Faculty of Moscow University.Recession Put End to Advertising Income
While the economic crisis in August put Russia's banks on their knees,
also the media that they own have now encountered unpredictable
difficulties. According to some estimates, advertising income has
collapsed as much as 70 percent since August.
"Newspapers have started to cut editors' salaries and their numbers.
The same has happened in television," notes Zassurski. Russkii Telegraf,
which was established by Oneximbank as its high-quality newspaper, had to
close after one year, and it has been combined with the formerly famous
Izvestia, owned by the same group. Today there are several competing
versions of Pravda, the crown of the Soviet Union, but hardly any of them
are read.Television channels are resorting to reruns and cheap entertainment.
At worst, newspapers have started to sell political advertising, which is
masked as ordinary articles. "These articles are generally the prerequisite
for the existence of the papers. Many of them publish articles that have
already been ordered and come through the advertising departments. They do
not have any notation that they are advertisements," reports Ruben Makarov,
who observes the press and journalists' legal protection in the Glasnost
Foundation."Often even a specialist cannot tell these advertisements from
articles."Andrey Uglanov, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper Argumenty i
Fakty, defends the papers.
"According to law, we can sell one third of the space on a page to
advertisements, and that is what we do. We do not differentiate between
commercial and political advertising," says Uglanov.Disputes Within Papers
Unrestricted freedom of speech after the dissolution of the Soviet
Union made Russia's press wild. Later in this decade bankers and
industrial groups competed in buying prestigious newspapers to be their own
flagships and mouthpieces. The Russian moralistic tradition in journalism
suited well to these tycoons, who are called oligarchs and who competed in
insulting each other through their papers.
"American journalism emphasizes facts. Investigative journalists are
trying to explain in detail where and when Clinton met Lewinski and to
prove with facts that the president broke the law. Our journalism is
noisier, it uses stronger words. The writers have great moral passions.
However, these lose their significance when the papers become political
instruments of certain interest groups," notes Zassurski.
In Russia, writers are unrestrained in offering their own opinions in
news articles in newspapers and on television. Even television news
anchors sometimes blatantly insult their political opponents, most often
the Communists. The Communists have responded with censure requirements
and, among other things, accusations of a conspiracy by Jews in the world
of media.Whom to Support for President?
However, Russian elite papers are in a political crisis. It is
considered certain that Boris Yeltsin will not continue long as the
country's president. But it is completely unclear who will succeedYeltsin.
"At the moment the press does not know whom to support, from which
direction they could they expect economic benefit in return," notes
Zassurski. In the presidential election of 1996, new industrial magnates
decided to force through Yeltsin's re-election. Newspapers and television
channels did what they were told.
Later on, the magnates started fighting among themselves while
grabbing Russia's government property, which was being privatized, and
there is no obvious alternative for Yeltsin.
"There will not be a free press in this country for a long time. We
have had a simulation of that. The media are not in such a state that they
could participate or even want to participate in developing a civil
society," Ruben Makarov notes.
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library