This Date's Issues: 3112•3113
Johnson's Russia List
"The bible of serious Russia watchers"
27 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: Yabloko Leader: NATO Puts Out Fire With Gasoline.
2. Reuters: Russian papers see NATO aggression, sex frustration.
3. Fred Weir reports on Russia and NATO airstrikes.
4. The Independent (UK): Russian Reaction - Moscow aspires to peace role.
5. W. George Krasnow: Washington meeting March 27. Russian American
6. The Daily Telegraph (UK): Niall Ferguson, Why the West should fear the
snarl of the bear.
7. Boston Globe: John Powers, Russia has remained skating superpower.
8. Financial Times: RUSSIA: IMF begins vital loan talks.
9. Argumenty i Fakty: Andrey Uglanov, Yeltsin Will Not Survive
10. Moscow Times: WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: NATO vs. Serbia Is a War With No
Yabloko Leader: NATO Puts Out Fire With Gasoline
MOSCOW, 26 Mar (ITAR-TASS) -- NATO "puts out the
fire in Yugoslavia with gasoline" and that may bring about "a colossal
unstable factor" in the center of Europe, leader of the Yabloko movement
Grigory Yavlinskiy said in a program of the Russian NTV television
company on Friday.
"It is absolutely unclear why countries which take part in the operation
breaking the international law do not realize what instability they are
driving at. Such centuries-long ethnic conflicts as we are witnessing in
Yugoslavia, Serbia can be settled only with the help of a genuinely
peacemaking contingent, but in that part of the globe they cannot be
settled without the peacemaking participation of Russia," Yavlinsky noted.
He described as "serious and positive" the initiative of Russian
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to hold a ministerial meeting for the
discussion of the current situation. "It is very good that Russia has,
finally, put forward such an important initiative," Yavlinsky said. "It
is only a matter of the Russian ability to offer at the meeting such a
plan it will manage to implement with Milosevic. I think that is the main
subject of the work in Russia. That is the way Russia can and must help
settlement of the tragedy which has been on in Yugoslavia for several hours."
Russian papers see NATO aggression, sex frustration
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, March 26 (Reuters) - The Russian Defence Ministry's official newspaper
attacked the United States on Friday for leading ``immoral'' NATO bombing of
Yugoslavia and said it was a sober lesson about the need to boost Russia's
And a Moscow tabloid opined that President Bill Clinton's enthusiasm for the
Kosovo strikes stemmed from his sexual frustration after ending his affair
with Monica Lewinsky.
``It's time to worry about ourselves, our economy and security and to
strengthen the armed forces,'' the military daily Krasnaya Zvezda wrote.
``There is no such thing as friendship on the world stage, there exist only
cold calculations of real potency.''
Reviving a theme popular during the Cold War, the newspaper portrayed an
American-led NATO as engaged in an ``immoral, amoral act'' aimed at blackmail.
``The banner of the unholy war is in the hands of the United States,'' it
wrote on the front page. ``Europe is America's apprentice. All the talk about
equal rights and consensus in NATO decision-making is complete hypocrisy.''
The popular tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets implied sexual frustration had led
U.S. President Bill Clinton to initiate the attacks.
``Bill without Monica has become a complete beast,'' it wrote in its top
headline. A front-page cartoon showed a NATO jet dropping a bomb bearing the
inscription ``For Monica.''
Russian protesters threw ink and eggs at the U.S. embassy in Moscow on
Another Moskovsky Komsomolets article on rising prices and falling value of
the rouble used the headline ``Clinton's eggs'' -- a double entendre that in
Russian also refers to testicles.
Other papers were critical of the muted policy response so far despite hard
words from Moscow, which has historically backed its fellow Slavs in Serbia.
``In February Boris Yeltsin said that we would not allow Yugoslavia to be
touched,'' the Nevavisimaya newspaper wrote. ``In March Moscow has turned out
to be unable to fulfil its promise.''
Others feared wider aggression from NATO, which two generations of Soviet
citizens grew up to loathe and fear during the Cold War.
``Today they are bombing Yugoslavia. What comes tomorrow?'' Komsomolskaya
Pravda wrote. While Krasnaya Zvezda saw the need for a military build up, the
business daily Kommersant drew the opposite conclusion.
``The Kommersant publishing house in no way supports the NATO attacks against
Yugoslavia. But the moves undertaken by the (Russian) prime minister and the
president behind him have put the country at the edge of a new Cold War,'' it
wrote in a front- page editorial.
The paper said the logical extension of the government's sharp criticism of
NATO would be increased Russian military spending and international isolation
which the country can hardly afford.
``The next step, transforming the economy into mobilisation mode...could leave
Russia among the ranks of such nations as Iran, Iraq, Libya and others.''
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
Subject: Russia and NATO airstrikes
For the Hindustan Times
From: Fred Weir
MOSCOW (HT Mar 27) - Russia has loudly condemned NATO airstrikes against
Yugoslavia while continuing to quietly plead for more Western financial
aid -- a delicate balancing act that a single wrong step could turn into
disaster, analysts warn.
Russian officials have denounced the air raids with some of the
toughest language to be heard since the demise of the USSR. President Boris
Yeltsin even thundered that Russia has "a number of extreme measures
prepared" to counteract the NATO bombing but has "decided against using them
Mr. Yeltsin said: "On the moral level, we are superior to the
In contrast to the political lassitude of the post-Soviet years,
large crowds have turned out to demonstrate before the U.S. embassy,
sometimes pelting American officials scurrying in and out of the downtown
Moscow complex with eggs and tomatoes.
Russian newspapers, reflecting the public mood, have blamed NATO's
military action on Washington's naked ambitions for world rule and some warn
grimly that Russia must shed its post-Cold War illusions of a peaceful and
united world order.
"It's time to worry about ourselves, our economy and security and to
strengthen the armed forces," wrote the military daily Krasnaya Zvezda
Friday. "There is no such thing as friendship on the world stage, there
exists only cold calculations of real power".
Analysts say that whatever happens next, the events in Yugoslavia have
been a watershed in Russian public perceptions of the West.
"Russians are far more anti-American today than they have ever been,"
says Nikolai Zyubov, an independent political analyst. "More than that, they
now feel threatened. Seeing U.S. missiles land on Belgrade makes the idea
that Moscow could one day be a target seem quite credible.
"Even at the peak of the Cold War that didn't seem quite real. It does
The American-led assault on Yugoslavia has angered Russia in several
ways. First, Moscow has traditionally opposed the use of force to solve
regional security problems in the Persian Gulf, the Balkans and other areas.
That is partly because it maintains cautiously positive relations with
many regimes labelled "rogue states" by Washington -- a Soviet legacy --
and partly due to misgivings over the American penchant for cruise missile
"Many European countries, even members of NATO, understand we're
dealing with a complex web of historical problems in the Balkans," says Mr.
Zyubov. "Bombing the Serbs may or may not force them temporarily into line,
but it will definitely make everything worse in the long run".
Second, as historical friend and protector of beleaguered Serbia,
Russia feels obliged to take its side in the present conflict.
Serbs are Slavic, Orthodox and culturally close to Russians. Coverage of the
conflict on Russian TV -- which has been extensive on the ground in
Serbia -- has stressed these similarities.
Third, and perhaps most important, Moscow feels humiliated at being
completely sidelined in the decision-making process. As a permanent member
of the United Nations Security Council, a "strategic partner" of the United
States and a crucial European power, Russia is furious that it was given
only a minor
consultative role and not even informed in advance of NATO's battle plans
"Not so long ago we were a great power and nobody took a step without
consulting us or at least considering our reaction," says Vadim Medvedev, a
senior political expert with the Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank run by
the former Soviet leader.
"Now we are being shoved aside in rude and quite unnecessary ways.
The impact of this on the Russian political elite and population has been
quite dramatic. We can only hope there is no lasting damage to U.S.-Russian
But in sharp contrast to the Soviet past, Moscow today has few cards
to play. Though still nuclear-armed, Russia's military is a pale shadow of
its former self. Moscow has been shorn of all its allies while NATO has
expanded into eastern Europe, absorbing former members of the pro-Soviet
Most crucially, Russia's national treasury is bare, and without
Western debt restructuring or massive financial assistance Moscow will be
forced to default on its sovereign debt, an international financial debacle
that could arrive as early as May.
"Even while we are shouting outrage and condemnation at the West, we
are continuing to urgently negotiate for more money," says Alexei Chesnakov,
an analyst with the Centre for Political Trends in Moscow. "It means we are
walking a very fine line, with potential catastrophe on either side".
Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov dramatically canceled his
visit to the United States last week in protest against the planned NATO
military strikes. But, without publicity, most of his delegation proceeded
to Washington where they held many of the scheduled meetings.
"There is a real effort to ride this tiger by keeping up the
appearance of principled opposition to the war, while as much as possible
carrying on business as usual with the United States," says Mr. Chesnakov.
But all calculations could go awry if public demands grow for
actions, rather than just words, to support the embattled Serbs.
Russian opposition leaders are talking openly of scuttling the START-2 arms
control treaty with the United States, of unilaterally lifting the arms
embargo against Yugoslavia, and raising Russian volunteers to join the
fight against NATO.
"Russia has the right to begin mass deliveries of military technology
to Yugoslavia, including anti-aircraft weapons," Viktor Ilyukhin, a leading
Communist deputy, said last week.
The Yeltsin administration appears divided, with some ministers
calling for action and others urging restraint.
"If the war goes on a long time, if the TV pictures of suffering
Serbs become more dramatic, we can expect Russians to grow more restless,"
says Mr. Medvedev. "After all, we have a strong and deep affinity with
Yugoslavia. Russians view the Serbs as a brother people, and therefore take
the aggression against them quite personally".
On the other hand, if the NATO military campaign fails to subdue
Yugoslavia, Russia might be handed a golden opportunity.
"The West has reacted very calmly to Russia's political opposition to
the airstrikes, and part of the reason for this is that they might need
Moscow's help to deal with the Serbs in future," says Mr. Medvedev.
"At some point the U.S. is going to realize that it cannot defeat
Yugoslavia with bombs alone, and then it will be back to the diplomatic
drawing board. Russia will be needed, because only we are trusted by the
Serbs. Because of this, we may even hope the Americans will give us some
money to keep us from total bankruptcy".
The Independent (UK)
27 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Russian Reaction - Moscow aspires to peace role
MOSCOW moved to reclaim some of the global diplomatic authority that post-
Soviet Russia has so patently lost by casting itself as a peacemaker in the
Yugoslavia conflict yesterday. The furious protests continued, with the
expulsion of Nato's man in Moscow, but the government shifted tack with claims
by its Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, that the Yugoslav leadership was open to
negotiations. "We can say this firmly," he said.
The Serbs are being told Nato's attacks will only cease after they "throw out
the white flag, and naturally Yugoslavia is not agreeing to this", he said.
The Milosevic government was ready to discuss a document, already approved the
Contact Group, that would give Kosovo considerable autonomy, but not
independence, he said.
Russia is acutely aware of the benefits that could accrue if Moscow can
eventually persuade Slobodan Milosevic to accept a negotiated settlement.
It would allow Moscow, which has claimed the moral high ground over the
affair, to present itself as ending a global stand-off that was, in its view,
brought to a head by the aggression of a US-led Atlantic alliance.
"The Americans need someone to bail them out of this situation, as they don't
know how to get out of it themselves," said Alan Rousso, director of the
Carnegie Centre in Moscow. "So if the Russians broker an agreement, it would
be a win-win situation."
The issue will have dominated a meeting yesterday between Boris Yeltsin - who
has been galvanised into working by the Kosovo crisis - and his senior
ministers and intelligence chiefs. His government, led by former foreign
minister Yevgeny Primakov, has sought to strike a balance between its
expressions of genuinely heartfelt fury over the bombings, and any action that
would deepen Russia's isolation.
This has partly flowed from Moscow's anxiety to win another multi-billion loan
from the International Monetary Fund, whose head, Michel Camdessus, meets Mr
Primakov in Moscow this weekend. Russia's decision to moderate its initial
anger will stand it in good stead during these negotiations, and it will
doubtless hope to be rewarded.
But there are still hard economic differences between the fund and the
Primakov administration that must be resolved.
But there are also signs that Russia is being careful not to place itself so
unequivocally on the side of Mr Milosevic - about whom it has, in reality,
considerable reservations - that it would lose any credibility as peace-making
intermediaries. The meeting of Russia's leadership yesterday agreed to send
humanitarian aid to Belgrade but it has stopped short of doing anything more
substantial - although Nato's representative in Moscow was thrown out. Ukraine
appears to be adopting a similar tack: its foreign and defence ministers were
due to fly to Yugoslavia yesterday in the hope of playing a role in a peace
The wild card - apart from the Serbs themselves - is the Russian military,
whose stance differs significantly from that of the government. It is livid:
the military said it would not co- operate with the US over the millennium
bug; for now at least, plans for a US-Russian nuclear command over the next
new year are on ice.
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999
From: "W. George Krasnow" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Mayflower Meeting Details
First of all, I wanted to inform JRL subscribers and readers that everyone
is welcome to RAGA membership drive meeting on Saturday March 27 at 1 PM in
The Mayflower Hotel downtown Washington.
In addition to what was already announced in The Washington Post and
JRL.(#3109), I want to make it clear that the hotel is listed as
Renaissance Mayflower in the Yellow Pages. The address is 1127 Connecticut
Ave., NW (at L Street near Farragut Noth metro station).
In regard to the Open Letter which was run twice on JRL (#3083 and 3094), I
am happy to report that the response has been tremendous and we continue to
receive endorsements and encouragements.
As was promised, on March 24 the latter version of the letter, endorsed by
nearly one hundred people, was mailed to President Bill Clinton, U.S. State
Department secretary Madeleine Albright, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin,
National Security Adviser "Sandy" Berger, and Vice President Alebert Gore
Jr.. (A copy of cover letter to Clinton follows below).
Copies to Primakov and the Russian Ambassador Yuri Ushakov were delivered
to the care of Russian Embassy in Washington.
Furthermore, encouraged by enthusiastic support, we started a quick
fund-raising campaign to produce a paid advertisement to welcome Primakov
to the United States. Although still short of funds, we were able to
publish a quarter-page advertisement in The Washington Post (p.A4) on March
24 under the auspices of the Russian American Goodwill Association (RAGA)
that I founded in 1992. However, my Op Ed article on the same topic
submitted to The New York Times was rejected.
Since Primakov's visit was derailed by U. S. - led attack on Yugoslavia, I
had to rephrase the ad draft in the last moment to accomodate the change
while staying close to what has been endorsed by so many individuals from
all over the world. (We apologize for not being able to afford to list all
of our endorsers)
The Ad includes an announcement of a RAGA membership drive meeting on
Saturday 27 to discuss the current state of US-Russia relations and future
The agenda of the meeting is rather open - we welcome input of all
newcomers. Our mission remains the same: the improvement of
Russian-American relations toward a pivotal strategic partnership for the
next century and strenthening of friendship and mutual goodwill between the
two nations. The issue of war against Yugoslavia will be certainly raised.
The Russian American Goodwill Association (RAGA)
Cover Letter to Bill Clinton:
Dear Mr. President:
Enclosed is an open letter from a group of scholars, business people,
journalists and others deeply concerned about the U. S.'s role in Russia's
transition to democracy and a free market economy.
The signatories to the letter feel that the time is upon us for active
scrutiny and self-appraisal. Further assistance must be substantial,
effective and accountable. It must make sense to the U.S. It must make
sense to Russia. In spite of the cancellation of Russian Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov's visit to Washington, a constructive dialogue must go on.
Russia must be considered for IMF loans, as well as the inclusion in the
program of debt forgiveness proposed by President Clinton. Those Russians
suffering now are innocents with no means of escape from the grinding
poverty. The very survival of Russia as a distinct civilization and a major
contributor to the cultural "biodiversity" of the planet is at stake.
Anyone who has studied Russian history knows that Russians will survive.
And they will remember how they were treated by the West.
We do not pretend to know all the answers to the Russian crisis. But we
find the current U. S. Russia policy flawed and in need of speedy revision.
W. George Krasnow, Ph.D.
The Russian American Goodwill Association
1332 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20005
cc: Yevgeny Primakov
Once again, I thank each and everyone who endorsed our initiative or
otherwise encouraged us to act. Without the monetary contributions and
volunteering organizational jobs done by several JRL readers the RAGA would
not have been able to do what we have done.
I apologize for not having responded to each endorser individually (partly
because of my limited email access), though I still intend to. And I
promise to keep your readers updated on the recent RAGA initiative.
W. George Krasnow
Russian American Goodwill Association
email@example.com and http://www.raga.org
The Daily Telegraph (UK)
March 26, 1999
[for personal use only]
Why the West should fear the snarl of the bear
Niall Ferguson argues, as more bombs fall on the Balkans, that Russia will
pose a formidable threat to Nato's offensive
The author is Tutor in Modern History at Jesus College, Oxford, and author of
The Pity of War (Penguin)
THE 20th century seems determined to end more or less where it began. It was
Serb-sponsored terrorism that provided the pretext for a coalition of great
powers to go to war in the Balkans back in 1914, after years of internecine
strife between the various Balkan states. Now, 85 years on, here we go again.
Well, not quite. The biggest difference between the present and the past is
the composition of the anti-Serb coalition. Then it was only Germany and
Austria-Hungary, as well as Bulgaria and Turkey, that went to war against
Serbia. Now Serbia's former First World War allies - Britain, France, Italy
and the United States - as well as all the lesser Nato members, are on the
same side as Germany. Only Russia supports the Serbs today, as it did in 1914.
On Wednesday night, Boris Yeltsin roused himself from his vodka-induced trance
to denounce Nato's "naked aggression" and to warn that Russia reserves the
right to take "adequate measures, including military ones, to defend . . . the
overall security of Europe". Russia, he added, would "never agree" to Nato
playing the role of "world policeman".
But who cares what the Russians think? That, at any rate, is the mood in
Washington and London. The Russians are bankrupt. Their government is a joke.
Sure, they'll growl, just like they did back in the Gulf war and during the
more recent air strikes against Iraq. But they're too desperate for Western
money to bite.
Well, maybe they will just growl. But if so, it won't be because they are
afraid of the International Monetary Fund and the Western banks, as they
undoubtedly were back in the early 1990s. For the Russians have realised
something that Honore de Balzac realised more than a century and a half ago. A
small debtor is at the mercy of his creditors. But a big enough debtor can
reverse the roles. By threatening not to honour his debts, he can frighten the
creditors into reducing them. Balzac applied this principle to his own,
chaotic personal finances. Today, Russia is applying it, too.
Last August, the Russian government effectively defaulted on part of its
external debt. Foreigners, mainly banks, lost more than £6 billion as Russian
bonds and the rouble nose-dived. At first this seemed like the knell for
Russia's half-reformed, half-wrecked economy. But then the Russians discovered
the power of the big debtor.
At the end of last month, the united front of Russia's creditors crumbled when
Deutsche Bank accepted the Russian government's offer of debt "rescheduling".
Another word for this is "cancellation". Of around the 70 billion roubles (
£1.6 billion) that Russia will owe to foreign banks by the end of this year,
the Russians propose to pay three billion in cash. The rest will be paid in
new rouble bonds, the proceeds of which the banks will have to keep in Russia.
For Deutsche Bank that means kissing goodbye to 94 per cent of its investments
And the Russians are getting away with it. Their own economy has not (yet)
completely collapsed, while the "oligarchs" - or "robber barons", if you
prefer - who run the country are still merrily salting away £1.2 billion a
month abroad. (The most Deutsche Bank can hope for is that some of its lost
money will end up in the savings accounts of Russian mafia clients.) So when
the Russian prime minister decided in mid-Atlantic to abort his flight to
Washington, where he was scheduled to meet the IMF's managing director, he was
not just protesting at Nato's air strikes. He was also playing the Balzac
card. This could have serious political as well as financial implications.
For most of the second half of the 1990s, Russian domestic politics have been
sliding gently down a historical slope that leads from democracy via oligarchy
back to despotism. It is like the Whig theory of history in reverse. In this
slide, Russian nationalism is the grease determining the speed of the descent.
For any Russian with a memory stretching back as recently even as the 1980s,
the bombing of Kosovo is an invitation to slap on some of that grease. It is
not so much that the Russians and Serbs are Slav brothers, united by Orthodoxy
and a love of strong drink. Even back in 1914, the Russians had a pretty low
regard for the Serbs, who never did what the Russians told them to do. (It was
the same story in the Cold War.)
The real point is that these air strikes have come just days after Poland,
Hungary and the Czech Republic were ceremoniously admitted to Nato. From a
Russian point of view, it is pretty hard to stomach that Nato should launch
its first offensive action in Europe so soon after recruiting Russia's former
allies. So what will the Russians do? They certainly won't, 1914-style,
mobilise their own army. One possibility is that they will breach (or have
already breached) the UN arms embargo against Yugoslavia. I think this
unlikely, although this week it was reported that Azerbaijan had seized a
consignment of MiG fighters bound for Yugoslavia. The Russians say they were
on their way to Slovakia. This is news to the Slovaks.
The best Russian option, however, is to make as much trouble as possible for
Nato at the UN. This they are well placed to do. I yield to no one in my
dislike of Slobodan Milosevic and my horror at the behaviour of Serb forces in
Kosovo. Nevertheless, the present Nato action is very hard to square with
Article II of the UN Charter, the Helsinki Accords Final Act and, indeed,
Nato's own charter. In this case, Serbia has not committed aggression on
another state, Nato member or otherwise: it is Nato that seems to be
challenging Serbia's existing frontiers. In any case, I doubt very much if air
strikes can achieve the objective of improving the lot of the Albanians in
Kosovo. This can be achieved only by deploying ground forces and establishing
a Nato protectorate in the region.
On both legal and practical grounds, then, Russia has ample scope to make
mischief. You do not need to think that history repeats itself to expect some
old-fashioned Muscovite mischief to ensue.
March 26, 1999
[for personal use only]
Russia has remained skating superpower
By John Powers
HELSINKI - The Motherland is in the dumper. The economy is back to barter, the
Red Army couldn't handle a battalion of babushkas, and the ruble costs more to
print than it's worth.
All Russia has any more besides chaos, it seems, is vodka and what Ogonyok
magazine calls ''these sliding gods,'' its gifted and graceful figure skaters.
The Soviet sports machine has been dismantled for the better part of a decade
and yet the Russians still rule the ice. They won three of the four gold
medals at last year's Olympics in Nagano and they're on track to do the same
when the world championships end here tomorrow evening.
Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze retained their pairs title, which
Russia now has won a dozen times in 15 years. Though they're trailing going
into tonight's free program, defending champions Anjelika Krylova and Oleg
Ovsyannikov are still favored to claim the dance, which the Russians have
owned since 1992. The women should win at least one medal tomorrow afternoon.
And last night Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko both placed ahead of US
champ Michael Weiss in the men's event for the first 1-2 sweep since Canada's
Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko did it in 1993.
''This shows there are talented people in Russia still,'' said Yagudin, who
has won back-to-back global titles but never his own national championship.
''We have others, too. They are not yet ready, but you will see them.''
The Russian dominance was supposed to have ended within a few years after the
Soviet Union broke apart in 1991. Once the state-supported system that paid
for everything from boot laces to apartments and produced 13 Olympic champions
and 47 world titlists had vanished, and Russia had to compete without the
Soviet-era talent from other republics like Ukraine, the medal flow figured to
slow to a trickle.
Though the rest of the world undeniably is catching up - the Chinese nearly
won the pairs here, the French (with a Moscow-born woman) are leading in dance
and the US males are hitting their quadruple jumps (18-year-old Tim Goebel
last night landed the first quad salchow-triple toe at a world championships)
- the Russians are still winning more world-level medals than anybody else and
still producing a deep, and stunningly young, bench.
Yagudin, who became the youngest world men's champion in 35 years when he won
last year, just turned 19. Plushenko is only 16. The Russians, who were barely
able to put two world-class women on the ice for years, now have five and two
of them (Julia Soldatova and Viktoria Volchkova) are still juniors.
''We have a new generation of girls,'' says Elena Tchaikovskaya, who coaches
Maria Butyrskaya and Soldatova. ''We don't give them to pairs and dance
The women, who won two world medals for the first time last year, are so deep
that runner-up Irina Slutskaya and Elena Sokolova, who was fourth in the Grand
Prix final, couldn't make this world team. And there's still more in the
pipeline - the Russians hold both the men's and women's junior titles.
They've managed it even though their federation is broke, rinks have closed,
coaches have been bailing out for America and skaters have been scrambling for
money and facilities.
''We were taught all our lives to do the best we can do in spite of the
difficulties,'' says Tamara Moskvina, their legendary pairs coach. ''We never
complain about things, saying `This is bad, this is not good.' If we don't
have good ice, we replace it with some other thing. That is how we keep our
tradition. That is how we stay on top.''
For a while, the defunct Soviet machine clanked on from sheer momentum. But as
Russia's primitive version of capitalism took root and the government
subsidies ended, the coaches and skaters found themselves on their own. ''The
difficulties exist. It's life,'' Moskvina told her pairs. ''Be clever. Be
inventive. Be fighting.''
The Russians, after all, invented the recipe for stone soup: one grapefruit-
sized boulder, a few liters of water and whatever else can be scavenged - the
odd cabbage, the overlooked carrot, the serendipitous potato. They know how to
live off scorched earth.
While the socialist system made life comfortable for their Meritorious Masters
of Sport, it kept them in a gilded cage. ''There is more opportunity now and
more freedom in choosing opportunities,'' says Moskvina. ''But there is also
The Russian skaters now have to cover their own living expenses, pay their
coaches, and give 10 percent of their earnings to their national federation,
which does little for them. So they've used hunger and hustle to keep
themselves going, helped by a global skating boom that now spins off five-
figure checks nearly year-round for anybody who can make a global podium.
Some of their top athletes, like Plushenko and Yagudin and Butyrskaya, have
remained in Russia. But many of them have decamped to the States, where they
spend most of the year anyway, either skating in open events or the Champions
on Ice tour.
Olympic champion Ilya Kulik trained at the New England Ice Center in
Marlborough, Mass., before he went to Nagano. Yagudin now works out of
Freehold, N.J. Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze split their time between St.
Petersburg and Hackensack, N.J. And the dancers are all at the University of
Russia's skating diaspora was both logical and predictable. The coaches needed
to make a living after their state subsidies dried up. Rinks were
disappearing. And America, conceded Moskvina, has ''beautiful conditions.''
The Russians get free ice at suburban rinks delighted to have them mingling
with the double-runner set. They live in spacious apartments, drive sports
cars, and can afford whatever Wal-Mart can put on a shelf. And nobody's making
them feel guilty about living the upper-middle-class life while everybody
around them is scraping by hand-to-mouth. ''Some people back home will say,
`Why do you have money and I no have?''' says Sikharulidze. ''And they make it
bad for you.''
Still not every top coach or skater can, or wants to, leave the Motherland for
Uncle Sam. Plushenko and Urmanov still work with coach Alexei Mishin in St.
Petersburg at the newly-renovated Yubileini rink and the women are still in
Moscow. ''I very like America but my family is in Russia,'' says
Tchaikovskaya, who has been coaching for 40 years. ''I live in the land.''
For those who've stayed home, though, keeping programs running is a continual
challenge. Only five cities still have skating centers and scraping money
together from a bankrupt government and a busted economy is hellishly
Tchaikovskaya has gotten enough from the city of Moscow and a bank sponsor to
keep her elite skaters going. She has sufficient up-and-comers ''for five or
six years'' plus a skating school for 300 young children with 10 coaches.
''But we had thousands before,'' Tchaikovskaya shrugs. ''Now, not so many.''
The old system is dead and its last crop of state-supported skaters, and those
who coached them, are making their exodus one by one to a place with beautiful
conditions and five-figure paychecks.
''Maybe this will not help us,'' Moskvina muses. ''We will see. I know that
only good conditions do not produce champions.'' The Russians' challenge for
the next millennium will not be scarcity but prosperity. How do you keep 'em
hungry in Hackensack?
March 27, 1999
[for personal use only]
RUSSIA: IMF begins vital loan talks
By Richard Wolffe in Washington and John Thornhill in Moscow
Michel Camdessus, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, begins
talks in Moscow today over a new loan package to stop Russia defaulting on its
But any expectations that the IMF will agree to an imminent release of funds
are wide of the mark, according to Washington officials. The IMF stresses that
Mr Camdessus's visit - if successful - must be followed by another staff
mission to Moscow to continue talks.
Yuri Maslyukov, first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy, said the
Russian government was prepared to compromise on "all spheres under
discussion" with the IMF. But he stressed any deal must be in Russia's overall
"That is, the advantages which our economy receives from an agreement with the
IMF must exceed the losses which it will suffer as a result of fulfilling its
individual conditions," he told the FT. Mr Maslyukov said the IMF had already
backed away from some of its "categorical demands", which - had they been
implemented - would have led to the swift dismissal of the government and
political and economic chaos.
Yesterday he said the two sides had agreed about 95 per cent of all
outstanding issues, but that assessment was sharply challenged in Washington.
The US insists that the conflict in Kosovo has not changed the fundamental
dynamics behind the IMF negotiations and seems unwilling to relax its demands
for structural reforms and a sound economic policy.
"There is no doubt that Russia is special. But it is not fair to interpret
that as meaning there is more interest in some big foreign policy imperative
than a credible economic strategy," said one regional expert.
Furthermore, the Clinton administration - while acknowledging the political
difficulties faced by the Russian government - faces political pressures of
its own to prevent any mismanagement of IMF funds.
Few in Washington appear to doubt that the IMF will ultimately agree to a new
financial programme to allow Russia to meet its public debt repayments. These
total $17.5bn this year, including $4.6bn to the IMF itself, compared to the
government's total budget revenues of $22bn.
The IMF has already agreed to support the Russian request to reschedule some
$9.5bn of Soviet-era debt repayments this year, and points to Moscow's
relatively healthy reserves to try to calm the sense of impending panic.
Instead, the focus of the talks will be to close the Russian government's
budget gap, by raising an additional Rbs100bn ($4.2bn) of revenue to cover
social welfare spending.
Any such moves, however, would require the Communist-dominated lower house of
parliament to amend the 1999 budget.
That could prove especially difficult in the wake of Nato's bombing of
Yugoslavia and the upsurge of anti-western feeling among many MPs.
In an unusual move, Mr Camdessus is due to meet Gennady Zyuganov, the
Communist party leader, and other senior parliamentary figures to impress on
them the urgency of supporting any new agreement.
Yeltsin 'Will Not Survive Impeachment'
Argumenty i Fakty, No. 961
(Signed to press 23 Mar 99)
Article by Andrey Uglanov in the "Analysis" column entitled "Yeltsin
Will Not Survive Impeachment."
The first paragraph is an introduction published in
Italics. Passages and words within slant lines are published in boldface.
Subheadings are as published. The article is illustrated by a picture of
Just one voting on the resignation of the
prosecutor-general in the Federation Council made the possibility of
Yeltsin's resignation quite real. And here is why.
//First//. On 15th April, the Duma is likely to vote by a constitutional
majority in favour of launching impeachment procedures on at least two
counts. //The events of autumn 1993 and the war in Chechnya//. Deputies
feel more confident in the run-up to the Duma elections. They would like
to be seen as "fighters against the regime". And they feel confident
because they cannot be punished for their decision since it is to be
approved by someone else.
//Second//. Documents from the State Duma are to be handed over to the
Court// and the //Constitutional Court//. The Supreme Court will be
studying them for evidence of crime. The Constitutional Court will be
checking if the necessary procedures are observed and both courts will be
working at the same time. The Supreme Court will probably find the
evidence. //Anatoliy Lukyanov// is said to have recommended //Vyacheslav
Lebedev// for the post of court chairman and the latter will naturally
remain loyal to him. As for the Constitutional Court, Yeltsin has hardly
any of his men there.
//Third//. If the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court produce positive
conclusions, the Federation Council will have to act as a jury. At the
moment one cannot say for certain that the Federation Council will not
approve the impeachment procedures, and this more than anything else
should worry the president and prompt him to use his instinct for power.
However, one political expert said that the impeachment may not be
announced. //The situation started to resemble that of August 1991//,
when the USSR president was isolated in Foros.
There is a lot to consider here. The president's power-wielding staff seem
to be quite weak. They are unlikely to prevent the emergence of //the
SCSE-2// [Russian: GKChP - state committee for state of emergency].
Such developments can be described as a crisis. And the president likes
crises. He has survived much worse situations. But what can he do now?
The only answer is //to get rid of a state body from which the
impeachment will "fly out"//. Generally speaking, preparations for this
operation have started a long time ago and are quite comprehensive. Where
is the intrigue in this? //Counterbalancing the government// [subhead]
Last Friday, the head of the presidential administration, //Nikolay
Bordyuzha//, was replaced by his deputy in charge of economic issues
//Aleksandr Voloshin//. Rumour has it that he drew up an economic
programme for Krasnoyarsk governor //Aleksandr Lebed//.
Voloshin's appointment to the top post was preceded by an operation to
discredit //Bordyuzha// in the eyes of the president. //Boris Yeltsin//
was convinced that the head of his administration was //"Primakov's
man"//. Accusations against Bordyuzha included good attitude of Duma
communists to him, the scandal linked to the sacking of CIS executive
secretary Boris Berezovskiy, failures in connection with the resignation
of Prosecutor-General //Yuriy Skuratov// and, according to some, his
unwillingness to be involved in preparing a decree on banning the
Communist Party of the Russian Federation. However, his is not the main
target. //Target No 1 is Yevgeniy Primakov//.
Bordyuzha's resignation significantly weakens the political position of the
prime minister. An economic opposition to the government is shaping up in
the presidential administration. What's more, the possibility of //Viktor
Chernomyrdin coming back to head the government has become more real//.
//Instinct for power against impeachment// [subhead]
A high probability of Chernomyrdin being appointed as prime minister
is linked, above all, with the fact that the Kremlin "has finally become
convinced that the State Duma may declare the impeachment on 15th
April//. In this situation, a game of replacing the prime minister gives
the Kremlin a legal chance to prevent the impeachment by dissolving the
parliament, since no-one doubts that the deputies will not approve
//Chernomyrdin// for the post of prime minister. In that case, Viktor
Stepanovich [Chernomyrdin] will become an acting prime minister, and,
after his candidature is rejected for three times and the Duma is
dissolved, he will automatically become the prime minister.
If //by 15th April Primakov// is not sacked and the Duma is not
dissolved, one will have to wait for three months, until 15th June.
Exactly the same time was allocated for the impeachment, and the prime
minister cannot be replaced during that time. The problem may simply
disappear after that time. The impeachment is unlikely and Yeltsin will
be out of danger.
//Undermining Primakov// [subhead]
It seems that the presidential administration has already decided on
Primakov's resignation. It could have happened at the beginning of March.
It was thought that the prime minister would be replaced by the head of
the upper chamber of Russian parliament, //Yegor Stroyev//. However,
Yegor Semenovich, who is known to be rather cautious, delayed the
procedure. The idea was abandoned altogether as soon as Kremlin players
realized that Stroyev's appointment would significantly strengthen the
position of Moscow mayor //Yuriy Luzhkov//, who may almost automatically
become the head of the Federation Council.
As a result, Chernomyrdin is currently the main candidature for
replacing Primakov. An active campaign in the mass media to improve his
popularity shows the seriousness of the plans for the former prime
minister's third reincarnation.
Primakov's resignation may take place after he returns from the USA with mere
promises of loans instead of real money and his resignation will be
somehow connected with the presidential message to the Federal Assembly.
As is known, the message will put forward an economic strategy which is
completely opposite to the policy pursued by the present Cabinet of
Ministers. Primakov will probably be sacked for failing to improve
relations with Chechnya and prevent terrorist acts in the North Caucasus,
for unsuccessful talks with the IMF and his poor handling of the mass
media. In addition to all this, Primakov will probably be accused of
allowing the Communists to hold him hostage, leading them to power and
even voicing the idea of returning to the republic of soviets by
abolishing local self-government and abandoning the idea of governors
being elected by the population.
//New allies// [subhead]
However, Chernomyrdin may not return to the government. A new layout of
forces in the immediate entourage of //Boris Yeltsin// may play a quite
significant role in this. Eagle-eyed observers note that the position of
//Tatyana Dyachenko// in the family has somewhat weakened recently
because of //Yuriy Skuratov's unsuccessful resignation// and because of a
scandal in connection with certain accounts in Switzerland. Rumour has it
that the president's oldest daughter //Yelena//, her husband //Valeriy
Okulov//, the head of Aeroflot, and //Naina Iosifovna// [Yeltsina]
herself have unexpectedly become //Primakov's// allies.
Therefore, if Primakov manages to delay the crisis until Yeltsin's spring
activity dies down, the situation may improve on its own or as a result
of some other political developments. It is important for the president
to prevent the impeachment one way or the other. If the threat of him
being removed from office decreases, Primakov's government may remain in
power until the next elections.
March 27, 1999
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: NATO vs. Serbia Is a War With No Winners
Prime Minister Primakov has not completely given up his long-held idea of
achieving concord in Russia and is rushing to use the NATO military action in
Serbia to try and somehow revive the country's economy. It was not accidental
that he said during the government meeting Thursday that given NATO's use of
force against Yugoslavia, the Russian government should intensify its work
above all in the economic sphere. In Primakov's words, it is necessary above
all to "maximally mobilize internal resources" and not to show "any kind of
leniency" to anyone who fails to fulfill the Cabinet's directives.
It is true that Primakov noted that "decisive measures in the economic sphere"
will be carried out without deviating from reforms. But how to carry out
reforms under a mobilization economy is probably something unknown even to
such high-ranking specialists as vice-premiers [Yury] Maslyukov and [Gennady]
Kulik, one of whom straightforwardly said that resistance to NATO is the
national idea that Russia has lacked in recent years.
Izvestia, March 26
Help for Hard-Liners
Zyuganov has received a royal gift from Clinton. The party of retrogrades, not
findingwithin themselves the strength to develop a convincing strategy
following defeat in the 1996 elections, now does not need any kind of new
strategy at all, inasmuch as the NATO alliance, with its own hands, has given
proof of the accuracy of the slogans of anti-American propaganda.
On hand is an undoubted act of aggression. This time the "peacekeeping"
operation of the West differs in all respects, and negatively, from Operation
Desert Storm. Then the international forces attacked Iraq, which had invaded
Kuwait and before that attacked Iran, and was building weapons of mass
destruction for more extensive aggression.
Today they are punishing Serbia which - for better or for worse - is involved
in solving strictly internal problems. Then, the international forces had the
sanction of the United Nations. Today the decisions are being made by ...
NATO, which has thereby arrogated for itself the function of international
guardian, which world society did not confer on it. This is a dangerous
precedent and the most important negative aspect of the event.
On hand is an unquestionable double standard, which is very characteristic of
U.S. policy. If one recalls how harshly Turkey - a NATO member - deals with
the Kurds ... then this alone is enough to understand the bitter twist of fate
involved in NATO's attempt to be Serbia's judge, jury and punisher.
Noviye Izvestia, March 26
Once again an attempt to rewrite the history of Europe once and for all is
being carried out. This time the business is being taken up by the daring
cowboy in the White House. At a map and with a pointer in his hands, he tried
to explain to his slow-witted fellow citizens where Kosovo is located and why
American guys need to shed their blood there.
It seems that those in the White House have not assimilated the lessons of
recent history very well. There have been, more than once, embargoes and
military operations against the evil enemies of Washington - Libya and Iraq.
And who remains? Former U.S. President George Bush went into well-earned
retirement long ago. Baroness Margaret Thatcher is writing her memoirs. And
their sworn enemies Moammar Gadhafi and Saddam Hussein continue to occupy
their posts as before. And no Tomahawks could toss them from the saddle.
Tribuna, March 26
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