This Date's Issues: 2529
Johnson's Russia List
22 December 1998
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times: Big Companies Accused of Funding Yeltsin.
2. AP: St. Petersburg Elects Many Liberals.
3. Reuters: Russia seeks strategic alliance for stability.
4. Newsweek: Bill Powell, Yeltsin's Legacy.
5. Itar-Tass: START II TREATY RATIFICATION UNLIKELY AFTER IRAQ STRIKES.
6. Literaturnaya Gazeta: Aleksandr Yakovlev, Symbol of Terror.
7. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, The East: Analysis From Washington--Beneath A
8. Moscow Times: Gary Peach, THE ANALYST: Russia Still Exists 100 Days On!
Thank You, Primakov.
9. Washington Times: James Morrison, Russian recall.
10. Boston Globe editorial: Anti-Semites in the Duma.
11. San Jose Mercury: Murdoch eyes Moscow.
12. Chicago Tribune: Michael McGuire, RUSSIAN ANGER GROUNDED IN FADED
INFLUENCE. BUT DON'T WRITE US OFF YET, EX-FOES CAUTION.
13. Reuters: Russian Stalinists commemorate dictator's birthday.]
December 22, 1998
Big Companies Accused of Funding Yeltsin
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
A liberal auditor on Monday accused two of Russia's largest companies of
giving campaign contributions to President Boris Yeltsin in exchange for tax
breaks, a news report said.
Yury Boldyrev, deputy chief of the parliament's Auditing Chamber, did not
specify the amount of the contributions allegedly made by the natural gas
giant Gazprom and the energy monopoly Unified Energy Systems during the 1996
In exchange for the donation to Gazprom, for example, Boldyrev charged that
Yeltsin authorized the transfer of a 33 percent stake in Gazprom from the
government to the company's chairman for management under proxy, Interfax
Gazprom made 33 trillion rubles (about $6 million) from the stake, but paid
only a fraction of the profit taxes it owed, Boldyrev told a meeting of the
parliamentary anti-corruption commission.
Tax collection has been a chronic problem for the Russian government and
Gazprom has been one of the biggest debtors.
The Auditing Chamber is appointed by the Communist-dominated parliament,
frequently accuses the government of economic mismanagement and corruption,
usually without offering evidence.
St. Petersburg Elects Many Liberals
December 21, 1998
By ANDREW KRAMER
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- Voters in St. Petersburg sought to end a wave
of deadly, dirty politics, and gave liberal candidates the biggest chunk of
seats in city council elections, according to preliminary results Monday.
Liberal candidates capitalized on voter anger over lawlessness in Russia's
second-largest city, campaigning on anti-crime, anti-corruption platforms. The
run-up to the election was tainted by contract hits, beatings of candidates,
and reports of vote buying in this traditionally pro-Western city.
Sunday's runoff was seen as a test of the strength of liberal groups
nationwide, which have been in disarray recently. The vote also attracted
attention after a leading liberal legislator was slain in St. Petersburg last
Only six of the 50 seats were filled in the first round of voting Dec. 6.
the runoff, with a turnout of 32 percent, didn't produce the sweeping victory
many liberals expected.
Three liberal parties captured a combined total of 24 seats in both
voting. Communist groups -- who enjoy much greater support elsewhere in Russia
-- took five seats and independents and smaller parties took the remaining 21,
election officials said.
The largest single block, winning 15 seats, was the local liberal group
It was followed by local representatives of Russia's main liberal party
Yabloko, headed by Grigory Yavlinsky, from which Boldyrev's movement
splintered off several years ago. Yabloko won eight seats, up from three in
the previous city council.
Many of the independents were expected to side with liberals.
``Today in St. Petersburg, Communists present no danger to anybody,''
said on Russia's Hero of the Day television program after the vote results
were announced Monday.
But there have been other dangers.
During the campaign, attackers beat up one candidate with metal rods, and
windows of a city council member's apartment were shot out. Most shocking was
the slaying Nov. 20 of liberal politician Galina Starovoitova, who was gunned
down outside her home.
Observers also reported vote buying and busing of pensioners to election
sites. Some losers immediately demanded recounts.
Boldyrev candidate Oleg Sergeyev, who won a seat Sunday and was beaten up
during his campaign, welcomed the liberals' victory as a triumph over ``image
makers and criminal organizations'' who tried to trick voters. Two other
candidates appeared on the ballot with Sergeyev's name, a tactic to confuse
voters that was widespread in this election.
``These elections were trash,'' said resident Oleg Kuznetsov. ``Somebody
to my house and offered me 35 rubles ($1.67) to vote for somebody else, I
forget who, I was so insulted.''
Russia seeks strategic alliance for stability
By Sanjiv Miglani
NEW DELHI, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said on
Monday he favoured a strategic triangle involving China, Russia and India to
ensure regional geo-political stability.
``A lot depends in the region on the policies of China, Russia and India. If
we succeed in establishing a strategic triangle, it will be very good,''
Primakov told reporters after a ceremonial welcome at New Delhi's presidential
But both Primakov and and his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee
formal proposal had been made for such a three-way partnership.
``This is not a formal proposal. It was made in the framework of partnership
between the three countries which could bring about greater stability not just
in the region but the world,'' Primakov told reporters later in the evening.
Vajpayee said: ``No formal proposal has been made. India's relation with
Russia are time-tested.''
He said India was trying to improve and normalise relations with China, with
which India fought a brief border war over three decades ago.
India and Russia signed a clutch of agreements on Mo;nday, including a long-
term defence cooperation pact lasting until 2010.
Primakov arrived in New Delhi against the backdrop of U.S. bombings of Iraq
last week, which Moscow bitterly opposed. His visit also brought into focus
the close ties India had with the former Soviet Union.
``We will never change our position. We are very negative about the use of
force bypassing the (U.N.) Security Council,'' he said when asked how Russia
would react to renewed air strikes on Iraq.
India joined Russia and China in strongly criticising the air raids on Iraq
and said it favoured diplomacy rather than use of force to resolve the dispute
over weapons inspection in Iraq.
Primakov's visit is aimed at deepening strategic ties with its former
ally into the next century, and seven agreements including a long-term
military cooperation pact were sealed on Monday.
``They (agreements) are a sign of development of bilateral relationns
from science and technology and all the way to military cooperation,''
Primakov said after the signing ceremony.
The new defence cooperation builds on and extends an existing pact to 2010,
About 70 percent of India's military hardware is of Soviet origin, and it
run low on spares since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Primakov endorsed New Delhi's bid to seek a permanent seat in the United
Nations Security Council, saying this was ``appropriate.''
Russian trade officials said Moscow was keen to rejuvenate trade ties with
India and vowed to resolve their differences, including the imposition of an
anti-dumping duty on steel by New Delhi, and streamlining the Russian debt.
Trade between India and Russia totalled $1.57 billion in 1997/98 (April-
March), down sharply from the Soviet-era figure of about $5.0 billion a year.
Indian officials have stressed that the Primakov visit is the first trip by
the head of government of a U.N. Security Council permanent member since
India's controversial nuclear tests in May.
But Indian officials also pointed to New Delhi's sensitive arms control
dialogue with Washington that began weeks after the nuclear tests in the
``We would like to treat this as a normal visit, in view of the
the talks at another level with the U.S.,'' a key cabinet minister, who asked
not to be identified, told Reuters.
He said India's shared opposition to Washington's bombing of Iraq was well
known, but New Delhi wanted to exercise restraint in view of the talks with
Washington aimed at negotiating India's entry into a global nuclear test ban
December 28, 1998
[for personal use only]
Once the very symbol of democracy's triumph over communism, the country is now
in free fall. Is the president to blame?
By Bill Powell
It is an article of faith among U.S. foreign-policymakers that history will
treat Boris Yeltsin well. The Yeltsin they see is the Yeltsin who stood atop
the tanks in 1991, then prevailed in a free and fair democratic election in
Russia! in 1996. All he has to do now to cement his legacy, in this view, is
to oversee a presidential election in 2000 and then leave office gracefully.
To these observers, all the problems of Yeltsin's tenure the corruption, the
unfolding economic depression, the increasingly embarrassing efforts to cover
up for his chronic illnesses will fall away over time, like leaves dropping
from a sturdy oak.
There aren't many Russians who share that view. Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin's
approval ratings are at a record low and given the country's economic
straits, have nowhere to go but down. There's little mystery about why
Russia's people dislike their president so much. When you work, say, at an
airfield and receive your back pay not in rubles but in ... airplanes (a
10-seat AN-2, in the case of the workers in Ryazan, 110 miles south of
Moscow), you don't dwell much on the good points of the man credited with
leading Russia's transition to a "civil society." Instead, you try to extract
some economic value from the plane you just received (ingenious solution: tear
the engine out, tow the plane's shell to a nice plot of land in the country
and-voilà! instant summer dacha). The high- minded shapers of American
policy utter the appropriate expressions of concern about the plight of
Russia's people, of course. But they tend not to harp on it because Boris is
our guy, and history will treat him well.
We think. Even though Russia and Boris Yeltsin had a bad year in 1998.
Really bad. The currency and the banking system collapsed, the country
defaulted on its internal debt and now inflation is rising rapidly. Meanwhile,
at no point did Yeltsin, Russia's guarantor of democracy, show up for work at
the Kremlin for more than three weeks straight. When he did appear, those
around him often wished he hadn't. On Aug. 14, for instance, Yeltsin insisted
that "there will be no devaluation" of the Russian ruble. But by that point,
virtually everyone in the world knew there was going to be a devaluation. In
fact, that very evening, Sergei Kiriyenko, the young prime minister Yeltsin
hired in April and fired in August, had summoned economic advisers to his
office for an emergency meeting on the devaluation. Asked later about
Yeltsin's out-of-the-blue "there will be no devaluation" statement, Kiriyenko
would later say, "I was flabbergasted."
It was downhill from there. The lawlessness for which post-Soviet Russia is
justly infamous reached a bloody peak (or nadir) on Nov. 20. Galina
Starovoitova, a stalwart democrat who traced her political lineage back to
Andrei Sakharov, was murdered in St. Petersburg. Russia's prominent democrats,
who spend more time fighting with each other than with anyone else, all showed
up for the funeral. All except the president. He was too ill to attend.
Optimists saw some hope in the fact that there was a bit of a political
backlash in the wake of Starovoitova's killing. In an election in St.
Petersburg two weeks later, the democratic parties for which she had been
campaigning did better than expected on turnout that was unusually strong
for a bitterly cold December day.
So maybe, the optimists say, Russia isn't on the brink of slipping into
anarchy, revolt and the authoritarianism that so many outsiders now worry
about. But the country that Boris Yeltsin presides over is an embarrassment
a wreck in virtually every sense. In more than a few other places, the
president would be fleeing the country or swinging from a lamppost. But in
Russia, there's barely a whiff of any of that. The vast majority of people are
tired and poor. The Russians just want to get through the winter (particularly
this one). Seven decades of living in a communist state has evidently wrung
almost every ounce of organized political fury from their systems. And Boris
Yeltsin, for one, would be wise to thank God for that.
START II TREATY RATIFICATION UNLIKELY AFTER IRAQ STRIKES
MOSCOW, DECEMBER 17 (ITAR-TASS) -- "IN THE NEAR FUTURE REAL PROSPECTS
FOR THE STATE DUMA LOWER HOUSE TO RATIFY THE 1993 START-2 STRATEGIC ARMS
REDUCTION TREATY ARE VERY POOR," CHAIRMAN OF THE DUMA COMMITTEE FOR
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS VLADIMIR LUKIN STATED HERE ON THURSDAY AFTER A
MEETING OF THE DUMA COUNCIL.
ACCORDING TO HIM, RATIFICATION OF THE START-2 TREATY HAS BEEN
POSTPONED FOR INDEFINITE FUTURE" TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE FACT OF THE
U.S. MISSILE STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ.
VLADIMIR LUKIN STRESSED THAT ACTUALLY RATIFICATION OF THE START-2
TREATY "WAS POSTPONED NOT BY THE STATE DUMA BUT BY THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
AND THE PRESIDENT."
"I THINK THAT THE REAL REASONS BEHIND THE AIR RAID ON IRAQ ARE VERY
SPECIFIC INTERNAL PROBLEMS OF THE UNITED STATES," HE SAID.
IN VIEW OF LUKIN, U.S. PRESIDENT "IS SEEKING TO PUT OFF VOTING ON THE
IMPEACHMENT PROBLEM FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE. IN THE LAST ANALYSIS, MONICA
LEWINSKY IS TO BLAME FOR ALL," LUKIN EMPHASISED.
COMMENTING ON THE IMPOSSIBILITY TO CONSIDER THE START-2 TREATY IN THE
NEAR FUTURE, LUKIN NOTED THAT THE "LARGEST FACTION IN THE STATE DUMA (THE
COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION) WILL LINK THIS WITH THE AIR
STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ AND PUT OFF CONSIDERATION OF THE TREATY FOR AN
INDEFINITE PERIOD."ON HIS PART, CHAIRMAN OF THE DUMA COMMITTEE FOR DEFENCE
POPKOVICH NOTED THAT THE PROCRASTINATION OF CONSIDERATION BY DUMA OF A LAW
ON TREATY RATIFICATION "IS NOT CONNECTED DIRECTLY WITH TODAY'S EVENTS."
HOWEVER, IN HIS WORDS, "IT IS INEXPEDIENT TO DEBATE THE START-2 TREATY
TODAY FROM A MORAL POINT OF VIEW."
POPKOVICH BELIEVES THAT NOW IT IS MORE IMPORTANT TO SETTLE ISSUES
CONNECTED WITH RUSSIA'S DEFENCE STRATEGY.
ACCORDING TO HIM, ONLY ON WEDNESDAY MEMBERS OF THE DUMA COMMITTEE
FAMILIARISED THEMSELVES WITH A CONCEPT OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF NUCLEAR FORCES
OF RUSSIA AND THE SUBSTANTIATION OF THEIR FINANCING.
NOW, POPKOVICH SAID, THE STATE DUMA PLANS TO CONSIDER THE LAW ON THE
DEVELOPMENT OF STRATEGIC MISSILE CORPS WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN PREPARED.
PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY IN THE STATE DUMA LOWER HOUSE OF RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT
ALEKSANDR KOTENKOV TOLD REPORTERS ON THURSDAY THERE WAS LITTLE PROBABILITY
THAT THE STATE DUMA, IN ITS PRESENT COMPOSITION, WILL VOTE FOR THE
RATIFICATION OF THE START-2 TREATY.
RATIFICATION OF THE TREATY WAS SUBJECT TO DOUBT EVEN EARLIER. AND NOW
AFTER THE U.S. MISSILE STRIKE AT IRAQ, CHANCES OF RATIFYING THE START-2
TREATY DECREASED CONSIDERABLY, MANY ANALYSTS BELIEVE.
THE DEPUTIES WHO WERE AGAINST RATIFYING THE TREATY, TOOK A FIRMER
STANCE IN THIS ISSUE, WHILE MANY DEPUTIES WHO WERE HESITANT ABOUT THE
MATTER, ARE NOW UNWILLING TO RATIFY THE DOCUMENT, HE SAID.
AT THE SAME TIME THE PRESIDENTIAL ENVOY SAID THAT THE SITUATION MAY
CHANGE, AND THE DUMA IN ITS PRESENT COMPOSITION MAY RESUME THE MATTER OF
RATIFYING THE START-2 TREATY. ANYWAY, THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT THE MATTER
SHOULD BE SHELVED FOR AT LEAST ONE MONTH, KOTENKOV SAID.
"U.S. MISSILE STRIKES AGAINST IRAQ MAY HAVE WRECKED CHANCES OF THE
DUMA TO RATIFY THE START-2 TREATY," PRESIDENT YELTSIN'S DEPUTY
CHIEF-OF-STAFF FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS SERGEY PRIKHODKO STATED HERE ONTHURSDAY.
"YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT START-2 RATIFICATION," HE STATED SAYING HE WAS
BASING HIS FORECAST ON STATEMENTS BY DEPUTIES OF THE LOWER HOUSE OF
PARLIAMENT ON THURSDAY.
COMMUNIST LEADER GENNADIY ZYUGANOV, WHOSE FACTION IS THE BIGGEST IN
PARLIAMENT AND HAS LONG BEEN RELUCTANT TO RATIFY THE START-2 TREATY, SAID
THERE WAS "NO POINT" IN DISCUSSING THIS ISSUE NOW.
HE CALLED FOR AN INCREASE IN ARMS SPENDING TO COUNTER WHAT HE CALLED
"STATE TERRORISM" ON THE PART OF THE UNITED STATES.
AT THE SAME TIME FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER YURIY MASLYUKOV, A
MODERATE COMMUNIST WHO JOINED THE GOVERNMENT IN SEPTEMBER THIS YEAR, URGED
HIS FELLOW PARTY MEMBERS TO RATIFY START-2 AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
THE KREMLIN HAS BEEN CALLING FOR RATIFICATION BUT THE DUMA INSISTED
THAT RUSSIA SIMPLY CANNOT AFFORD THE EXPENSIVE PROCESS OF TAKING MISSILES
OUT OF SERVICE WITHOUT ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL AID FROM THE UNITED STATES.
SOME COMMUNISTS ALSO BELIEVE THAT RUSSIA SHOULD NOT WEAKEN ITS
SERGEY PRIKHODKO CONFIRMED THAT RUSSIA HAD NOT BEEN OFFICIALLY
INFORMED OF THE MISSILE STRIKES BEFORE THE AIR ATTACK ON IRAQ BEGAN.
Commentary Warns of Communist Schemes
9 December 1998
[translation for personal use only]
Aleksandr Yakovlev, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences,
comment: "Symbol of Terror"
All politics is symbolic. American culture, with its aspiration to
independence, begins with the Statue of Liberty, a fascist dictatorship,
with a Swastika and Fuehrer, a communist concentration camp, with military
parades and stone giants that have grown up on the rubble of churches and a
punitive machinery and leader cult. Lubyanka began with "Iron Feliks," and
the democratic revolution of August 1991, with his overthrow.
The decree of the lower house of parliament adopted on 2 December 1998
recommending the restoration of the monument to the founder of the
Cheka--the father of state terrorism--symbolizes the beginning of the end
of democracy. The prospect of a reckless descent into bloody chaos may be
read even now in the succession of anti-Semitic shrieks of the people's
elect and the ideas of a revival of penal servitude and control over the
news media. Ksenofontov, Dzerzhinskiy's Cheka assistant, liked to say:
"Every communist should be a Cheka informer." Nikolay Kharitonov, who
proposed the insane idea of Feliks' restoration, explained that "the
government will fight crime not in words but in deed," evidently draws his
inspiration from the Cheka experience. The communists, who have gotten a
whiff of power, are moving toward it gradually (a second October 1917 is
impossible), biting off piece by piece and swallowing the freedom that
their regime buried. They have acquired for themselves the State Duma,
having converted it into an arena for political opportunism and their own
amorality and lack of ethics, their political cretinism. Our entire
distraught people busy today trying to earn a living could be next. Since
1917 society has disintegrated into two parts: the first looks back and
protests at being treated this way--it needs Dzerzhinskiy; the second has
retained its senses and believes that it is necessary to move toward
democracy, however difficult this may be. Primarily to blame for the new
outburst of communist boorishness are the democrats themselves, who have
done nothing to prevent a recurrence of this--they have been a disorganized
mob suffering from the disease of leader-mania. No one has since 1991
tackled de-Bolshevization--the Communist Party has not been banned, Lenin
has not been removed from Mausoleum. Everything has happened impulsively,
and for this reason many opportunities have simply been missed. We need
today to start everything from the beginning.
The East: Analysis From Washington--Beneath A Daunting Diversity
By Paul Goble
Washington, 21 December 1998 (RFE/RL) - Just as has been the case every year
since the collapse of the USSR, the post-Soviet states in 1999 are likely to
continue to become ever more different one from another.
But beneath this increasing diversity, all 15 -- the 12 former Soviet
republics and the three Baltic states -- now face three common challenges,
each of which appears likely to intensify and generate crises in many of these
countries over the next 12 months.
First of all, these countries will be forced to respond to the
this diversity itself, even as many inside and outside the region deny it or
even try to reverse this trend.
Second, they will have to deal with the increasing split between popular
expectations and political and economic realities. And third, they will have
to do so with fewer resources because they appear likely to receive ever less
outside assistance and attention.
Dealing with any one of these sets of problems would challenge the
virtually any state. Coping with them all at once is likely to be beyond the
capacity of many of these countries. And even the effort to do so may plunge
some of them into turmoil.
The diversification of these countries following the demise of the Soviet
system should not have surprised anyone. After all, these 15 countries have
very different national traditions, and these are reasserting themselves with
ever greater force.
But if the diversification was both understood and expected by most of the
participants, its consequences have been far greater for them, for their
neighbors and for the world at large than many had acknowledged.
For each of the countries, this diversification has opened many questions
about just what kind of a society it should have and where it should position
itself on the map of the world.
For their neighbors, such questions have opened an even larger number of
questions about what kind of relationships should be maintained between and
among countries bound together in the past.
And for the larger world, these same questions have challenged assumptions
about how this region should be conceived or even whether the former Soviet
space remains in any sense a proper region for analysis and political action.
As 1999 dawns, all these questions remain open and thus likely to generate
The second challenge of post-Soviet development, however, may have even more
immediate and severe consequences. In all too many of these countries, popular
expectations about democracy and free markets have run into some harsh
In some post-Soviet countries, this revolution of rising expectations has
ever more people to think about challenging the ruling elites, many if not
most of whom are holdovers from the former system even if they have proclaimed
their allegiance to a new one.
In others, this clash between hope and reality has led to demobilization of
public opinion, a situation in which governments find it hard if not
impossible to generate support and thus open themselves to a different kind of
And in a few, this contrast has allowed some political figures to generate
support by identifying one or another group as a scapegoat or by seeking to
return to a past that was never as good as they present it or as those now
suffering appear to believe.
But in almost every case, the differences between hope and reality are
generating conflicts that governments currently lack the resources they would
need to overcome these problems quickly.
And that situation in turn is likely to get worse during the next twelve
month. Given the financial crisis in Russia, fewer Western governments and
fewer outside firms are likely to supply the kind of assistance that many in
this region would need to stave off a crisis.
Moreover -- and in a reflection of the difficulties many have in making
distinctions across this area -- these same governments and firms are likely
to reach judgments about all the countries of this region on the basis of what
has happened in the Russian Federation.
Even if some outside sources do in the end provide more help, it will likely
come with more strings attached, something certain to offend many if not all
of the political elite and populations -- even those who acknowledge that such
strings may be necessary.
And that response too will put additional strain on the political and
systems of these states, driving some into crisis while forcing others to face
up to their difficulties in one or another way.
The difficulties that many of these countries are likely to have in 1999
undoubtedly may lead some to argue that these countries would be better off
But the enormous differences in the ways in which they are likely to respond
during the next year as in the past in fact will be yet another indication of
why that outcome, among all the possible ones, is perhaps the least likely of
December 22, 1998
THE ANALYST: Russia Still Exists 100 Days On! Thank You, Primakov
By Gary Peach
Saturday marked Yevgeny Primakov's 100th day as prime minister. A favorite
device of pundits to measure the success of new leaders, the 100-days
threshold is largely unfair in that such a brief span is insufficient to
accomplish much of anything, particularly in a country as ungainly and as
dysfunctional as Russia. Still, it is a useful gauge for sizing up what is to
be the style of new leadership, if not its main policy direction.
Considering the almost complete absence of tangible results since Primakov
took office, picking highlights is not an easy task. Nevertheless, it is easy
enough to identify the best news over the past 100 days: The country is still
Many observers had risked their reputation on the prospect that Russia
awfully similar to the Soviet Union in the fall of 1991; a complete fracturing
along regional boundaries was just around the corner, they claimed. To his
credit, Primakov prevented this nightmare scenario from even approaching
reality, and the only individual to publicly announce an intention to split
away from mother Russia, the inexperienced governor of Kalmykia, was
overwhelmed with an avalanche of caustic criticism.
Picking the worst news is far more tricky. Some would suggest it is the
snail's pace at which state policy is being formulated and submitted for
discussion to legislators. Others might point to the sudden rise of public
prejudice and hatred - much of it emanating straight from parliament members
and pointed at certain ethnic groups of the population. Still others would
stress the docket of tax cuts being prepared for passage and presidential
signature. The tax-collection incompetent federal government, they say, is
shooting itself in the foot.
The real dreadful news is yet to come. Next year Russia will have a Gross
Domestic Product of 4 trillion rubles, which is $200 billion in dollar terms,
or roughly the same amount of national wealth created in Belgium or Sweden.
Next year each citizen of Russia will produce goods and services worth $1,370,
a level of productivity lower than in either Bulgaria or Romania. As The
Economist pointed out in an article last week, the size of Russia's '99 budget
will match up to Finland's, a country that spends a larger part of the year
covered in darkness and ice and must import two-thirds of its energy needs.
The bad tidings: Russia's economy is in the hands of individuals who
understand remarkably little about economics. Command an economy they can;
manage one, never. There is not a soul in government who is capable of
radically reversing the country's ongoing stagnation and drastically
transforming the economy into an attractive, thriving hub of investment
activity. Primakov, aware of his limitations, has relegated economic
leadership to Yury Maslyukov, a die-hard Communist who hasn't the first clue
about steering a resource-abundant nation like Russia into the global economy
of the 21st century.
Maslyukov's instinct is to revive the economy through expansion of the
military-industrial complex. Russia's increased diplomatic activity with India
and China is motivated not only by an anti-NATO, alliance-building strategy,
but by one state lobbying another. "Buy our weapons," the Russians are
whispering. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with this, as long as Russia
remembers its moral obligations when hawking missile technology and other
destructive goodies. (But then again, morality and Marxism never did mix, so
we should expect Russia to continue sharing technology with whoever has the
cash.) What Maslyukov doesn't seem to realize is that on weapons alone he will
never be able to save the economy, a lesson learned bitterly by the Soviet
Another disaster in the making is the 1999 budget. Like every federal budget
that has come before it, the '99 fiscal bible is unrealistic and will have to
be amended umpteen times during the year. Inflation is pegged at 30 percent,
even though Maslyukov and Zadornov know how much new money the government will
have to print next year. The ruble rate is set at an average of 21.5 per
dollar, a forecast that will be long buried by February. The radical tax
reformer Grigory Boos believes that it will take only six months before the
proposed tax cuts manifest a wider tax base; in other words, before more
companies start paying. Can he really be that naive?
Though Central Bank chairman Viktor Gerashchenko has a plan for revamping
financial industry, the plan is not very transparent, and is largely based not
upon a bank's fundamentals, but how friendly that bank's managers are with the
government. The economy is in the hands of men born in a different age with a
whole separate set of ideals. Watching Maslyukov speak on investment at the
Foreign Investment Advisory Council was as absurd as imagining Fidel Castro
eulogizing at a meeting of Amnesty International.
All these men are in the wrong government at the wrong time, and as a
consequence Russia will go nowhere in 1999.
December 21, 1998
[for personal use only]
By James Morrison
Russian Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov was sending out invitations to his
farewell party when he learned last week that he would be making a premature
departure for Moscow to protest the U.S. bombing of Iraq.
Mr. Vorontsov, who left Friday, is planning to retire next month.
His Jan. 7 goodbye reception is now on hold, and the expected midmonth
arrival of a new ambassador, Yuri Ushakov, is uncertain.
A Russian Embassy spokesman said he expects Mr. Vorontsov to return to
"This is not permanent. He is recalled for consultations. We don't know
how long it will take," said Mikhail Shurgalin.
Russia's Interfax news agency said Moscow has not recalled an ambassador
to the United States since World War II.
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said she regretted Mr.
Vorontsov's withdrawal, but added she had no plans to recall U.S. Ambassador
James Collins from Moscow.
Mr. Collins left Moscow last week on a previously planned vacation, the
U.S. Embassy said.
Mr. Vorontsov's diplomatic recall reflects Russian anger over the
Some observers believe the U.S. attacks will permanently damage
U.S.-Russian relations. Mr. Vorontsov has spent more than four years in
Washington trying to build those relations.
That he was no ordinary ambassador was demonstrated by his swift
reception at the White House when he presented his credentials on Aug. 11,
President Clinton often made foreign ambassadors wait months before
receiving them, and he frequently took them in batches of up to a dozen at a
Mr. Vorontsov, who was serving as Russia's ambassador to the United
Nations, dashed down to Washington to present his credentials and flew back to
New York the same day. He had not even moved into the Russian ambassador's
residence on 16th Street, a few blocks from the White House.
Mr. Vorontsov was also an expert diplomatic survivor. He began his tour
at the United Nations representing the Soviet Union.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, he lowered the Communist hammer-and-
sickle flag and raised the tricolor flag of the Russian Federation.
Without a trace of irony, Mr. Vorontsov declared the new banner a
Two of Mr. Vorontsov's most visible efforts in Washington were
encouraging business investments in Russia and warning against the expansion
He called NATO expansion a threat to Russia and "the last mistake of the
Mr. Vorontsov was also noted for a sense of humor.
Addressing the Heritage Foundation on the 1996 Russian presidential
election, he said Russian voters were practicing greater democracy than
"It was five times more democratic than the U.S. We had 10 candidates,"
21 December 1998
Anti-Semites in the Duma
Russia's vestigial Communist Party, the largest faction in the Duma, or
parliament, continues to allow certain members to portray the heirs of Marx
and Lenin as the spawn of Hitler.
The latest eruption of fascist ideology from a Communist legislator was the
anti-Semitic outburst of Viktor Ilyukhin, chairman of the Duma's defense
committee. At a hearing that he knew was being taped, this prominent Communist
deputy offered a scapegoating explanation for Russia's current troubles that
rivals, for sheer viciousness, anything propagated by Josef Goebbels.
Ilyukhin termed Russia's troubles in the post-Soviet years a genocide,
blamed that genocide on - Who else? - the Jews.
''The large-scale genocide wouldn't have been possible if Yeltsin's inner
circle had consisted of the main ethnic groups and not exclusively of one
group, the Jews,'' the Communist lawmaker said.
He used one big lie to explain another, revealing not only a profound hatred
of Jews but also a totalitarian contempt for reality. There has been no
genocide in Russia since Stalin's death, and most members of Boris Yeltsin's
different inner circles have not been Jewish.
To its credit, Yeltsin's government has come down hard on the
the Communists. The Kremlin refused the Communists' demand to ban from the
Duma the TV networks that reported Ilyukhin's calumny. Yeltsin's chief of
staff delivered a letter to Gennady Seleznyov, the Communist speaker of the
Duma, warning of dire consequences if the Communists do not curb their
extremists and complaining that the Duma's indifference to racist tirades from
Communist deputies has harmed Russia's reputation in the world.
When the Communists held power in the Soviet Union, they exercised a state
monopoly on all forms of ideology and racism. Under the guise of
internationalism, Stalin starved to death perhaps 7 million Ukrainians and
deported to the East nearly the entire Chechen nation. But certain big lies
were not allowed to be spoken in public. Now the Communists can show their
San Jose Mercury
December 19, 1998
[for personal use only]
Murdoch eyes Moscow
Stake in Russian TV channel
Knight Ridder News Service
Speculation is increasing in Moscow that Rupert Murdoch may seek a stake in
Russia's biggest TV channel.
Chronic cash problems are forcing the Kremlin to consider selling a 10
stake in state-dominated Channel One, known as ORT. But it seems that up to
another 10 percent of privately held shares may be up for grabs.
If Murdoch secured a stake in the channel, which is viewed from the
the Pacific, his vast media empire would take a leap toward girdling the
Leading Russian newspaper Arguments and Facts said a change in ownership is
likely. ``Persistent rumors mention one name -- Rupert Murdoch, Australian-
American owner of dozens of papers and TV channels around the world,'' it
The newspaper also suggested that any deal might involve deepening a
link Murdoch already has with Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who has long
exerted major influence at the country's most-watched TV channel.
Earlier this year, Murdoch announced that his News Corp. was buying 38
of Russian telecom operator PLD from Cable & Wireless, with half the shares
sold to Berezovsky's LogoVAZ company. In April media analysts speculated that
the deal would pave the way for a larger TV deal.
Until recently Berezovsky has been seen in Moscow as the consummate Kremlin
insider, prompting claims of ``crony capitalism'' for his links with Boris
Yeltsin and the Russian president's inner circle.
More recently, Berezovsky's influence with Yeltsin may have waned but he
remains Russia's richest tycoon and a hugely powerful business player.
``If he would help Murdoch get what he wants, he would become Murdoch's
ORT,'' said the newspaper. Concern over the station's future was aired on the
main news bulletin by ORT's general director Igor Shabdurasulov. Claiming the
channel's future was being threatened by political arguments, he said: ``The
ORT TV company has been put in an absolutely un-thinkable position.''
21 December 1998
[for personal use only]
RUSSIAN ANGER GROUNDED IN FADED INFLUENCE
BUT DON'T WRITE US OFF YET, EX-FOES CAUTION
By Michael McGuire, Tribune Staff Writer.
On a gray October evening in 1973, a U.S. Air Force attache and his family
sat down to dinner in the Moscow apartment of an American news correspondent.
Quickly the conversation turned to war.
Egypt had blitzkrieged Israeli troops across the Suez Canal, but the
Israelis soon chased their foe back into Egypt. When the Israelis encircled
the Egyptian Third Army and sent a column driving toward Cairo, the Kremlin
delivered a frightening ultimatum: stop in your tracks or face crack Soviet
paratrooper divisions standing by for flights into Egypt.
Both superpowers put their strategic missile systems on high alert, and
Henry Kissinger, then U.S. secretary of state, was winging to Moscow in what
would be a successful effort to defuse the crisis.
"This could be it, nuclear Armageddon," the Air Force attache told his host
in Moscow. "And I'd rather be here than in Washington. The U.S. could explode
a missile 10 feet above the roof of this building, but Soviet technology would
land a warhead 25 miles outside (Washington), D.C., and everyone would die a
slow death of leukemia."
The event was a grim scene from the Cold War, a four-decade era of
Flashbacks of the Cold War flared last week when Russia recalled its
ambassador from Washington--a first since World War II--and Britain in outrage
over the decision to attack Iraq. Politicians across Russia's political
spectrum competed with one another in condemning the U.S. and calling for an
increase in defense spending.
Two top Russian military officers alluded to a new Cold War when they spoke
of damaged relations between Washington and Moscow and a need for the Kremlin
to change its security strategy. Demonstrators paraded in front of the U.S.
Embassy and burned an American flag and a caricature of President Clinton.
"It looks like relations between Moscow and Washington are entering a
period of very serious crisis," said the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The next
step after recalling ambassadors can be only a break or freezing of diplomatic
relations. No one would want to believe in that happening, but the Americans
are doing business in just that way."
Russians on the street and veteran policymakers echoed the fear.
"God save us from the Cold War period," said Georgi Shakhnazarov, a top aid
to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. "My hope is that (the American-
British strike) will not reverse the march of history."
By Monday, it seemed clear that the roar was little more than an expression
of anger over Moscow's lost ability to influence world events and fear that
one of these days Russia or one of its territories might be the victim of an
"My friends are worried; first you did it in Yugoslavia, then Iraq," a
young professional said. "What's to say that you won't bomb here when
something happens that you don't like?"
Interviews with Russian foreign policy experts and comments from Moscow's
streets indicated that a new era of world polarization and superpower
hostility is unlikely but that a blur has appeared after years of Russian-
American progress. It appeared to end a Russian dream of partnership with the
United States in solving the world's problems.
Most agreed that the once-powerful country and its military, seriously
disabled by a devastated economy, could do little but roar with indignation.
It couldn't even afford to offend the United States too much. Moscow, after
all, remains dependent on Washington for food and other assistance.
Perhaps the biggest blow to Russia's dignity came from being left out of
the decision to bomb Iraq. Insiders said President Boris Yeltsin first learned
of the bombing raids from the French.
Washington's decision not to seek approval from the UN Security Council
left Russia unable to use its veto as one of the five permanent members.
"We're sick and tired of the way we are treated these days by the world,"
said Edward Alexandrovich Ivanian, editor in chief of the academic journal
USA-Canada Economics, Politics and Culture.
"Everyone considers that Russia's strength, power and authority is a thing
of the past," Ivanian said. "We simply have to reaffirm that we are a nation
to be taken into consideration. Let me paraphrase Mark Twain: Rumors of our
demise are premature. We had to reaffirm that we still are alive and kicking."
"It's a tragedy when a big power loses its status," said Shakhnazarov,
director of a think tank founded by Gorbachev. "Still, it would be a big
mistake for anyone to neglect Russia's international role. It still remains a
superpower, even though cornered, and it still requires a serious and delicate
The substance behind that opinion appeared to register with President
Clinton, who sent Yeltsin a letter explaining his decision to bomb Iraq. The
U.S. State Department also announced that Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright would visit Moscow next month.
Viktor Alexandrovich Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute for USA
and Canadian Studies, said it is crucial for Russia to feel itself a major
power capable of asserting its influence.
"This fits the desire of many people that Russia should be there," he said.
"Take for example the Palestinians: They want Russia to be a player in the
Middle East. The Iranians want Russia to be there. Indians want Russia to be
there, and even China wants Russia to be a presence in the Far East."
Russian Stalinists commemorate dictator's birthday
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Several hundred Russian Communists marched to Red
Square on Monday to lay carnations at the Kremlin wall tomb of Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin on the 119th anniversary of his birth.
The solemn scene, amid a light drizzle, underscored the extent to which the
question of Stalin's legacy still divides Russians seven years after the fall
of the Soviet Union.
Most Russians have come to regard Stalin as he is regarded in the West -- a
capricious tyrant who murdered millions during nearly three decades of
Some years after his death in 1953, the Soviet Communist party took down
nearly all of Stalin's statues and moved his embalmed body from the
ostentatious mausoleum in the centre of Red Square -- where it lay next to
that of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin -- to a more prosaic grave nearby.
But many, especially some elderly people, still recall with fondness the
when Russia was a superpower, and credit Stalin for leading the country to
victory in World War Two.
Although open signs of reverence toward Stalin remain rare, even among the
Communists who make up the largest party in parliament, a few Stalinists
gather at the anniversaries of his birth and death each year.
Despite an exhortation from the man next to her not to ``give an
the Zionists,'' Tatyana Kryzhanovskya told reporters that she remembered her
childhood under Stalin with pride. Clutching a portrait of the dictator, she
described the celebrations his birthday once drew.
``In 1940, we gathered with our teachers in Moscow. They put red Young
ribbons around our necks with metal clasps. And now, our teachers walk by and
do not say that this is our beloved father,'' she said.
``During the war I lost my mother and father. We worked alongside the adults
and defended our motherland, believing in our own Stalin.''
Mikhail Ivanov, who said he was a child during the 900-day siege of
said: ``Under Stalin, Russia became a great power that helped other countries
fight for their freedom.''
Russia's NTV television over the weekend reported another sign of how
image continues to haunt Russians.
A bust of the dictator was unveiled in a provincial Ural Mountains Russian
school on Saturday, to applause from local Communists and protests from some
NTV said it was the first time a memorial to Stalin had been restored in
Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
``It was because of his command that the Soviet Union achieved victory in
World War Two,'' one schoolgirl told NTV.
But liberals held a demonstration outside the school. ``Those who are for
Stalin today are simply trying to blame the present government for all their
troubles,'' one man said.
Liberal politicians have warned in recent months that the economic crisis
which has engulfed the country since August is fuelling political extremism.
They point to a recent spate of anti-Jewish statements by Communist party
leaders. During Stalin's reign, Jews were widely persecuted by Soviet
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