This Date's Issues: 3114•3115
Johnson's Russia List
"The bible of serious Russia watchers"
28 March 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
YUGOSLAVIA WARNING: I regret that I will not have room in JRL to
pass on most of the messages I receive from recipients related to
the war in Yugoslavia. I trust there are other venues for debating
this issue. There is plenty of content here on this subject in any
1. AP: Shots Fired at US Embassy in Moscow.
2. AFP: Yeltsin to brief Russia on double crisis.
3. Reuters: Russian liberal chiefs leave on Yugoslavia mission.
4. Itar-Tass: NATO COUNTRIES - FAR FROM CHRISTIAN IDEALS-PATRIARCH.
5. Reuters: Russia Sees Few Differences With IMF On Loan.
6. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Condemnation of NATO muted in Duma
7. Itar-Tass: Russia's Nuclear Arms Facilities Undergoing Conversion.
8. Grigory Essbuketov: Re: 3106-Glinski and Reddaway/What Went Wrong
9. Cali Ruchala: Re: 3113-Filipov/Russia and Serbia.
10. New York Times obituary: Vladimir Petrov, 83, Who Wrote of His Time
as a Soviet Prisoner.
11. U.S. News and World Report editorial by Mortimer Zuckerman,
Weighed down by debt. On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small
12. Peter Ekman: Anti-Americanism.
13. The Sunday Times (UK): Inside Moscow by Mark Franchetti.
14. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Yeltsin's eye is off the ball -
despite the specs.]
Shots Fired at US Embassy in Moscow
By Nick Wadhams
March 28, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- Gunmen armed with grenade launchers and an assault rifle
attacked the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Sunday, but were driven off by
police guards firing pistols. No one was hurt in the attack apparently
linked to protests against NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia.
Several bullets hit the embassy, but caused little damage.
A white jeep pulled up in front of the embassy and two of the occupants
aimed grenade launchers at the building, as shown in film of the incident
on the NTV television network. Police who saw the attackers shot at them
One attacker in a ski mask and camouflage fatigues, who had got out to aim
a rocket launcher, jumped back in the jeep when police bullets shattered
one of the vehicle's windows. One of the attackers then opened fire with a
semi-automatic rifle, sending police and bystanders diving for cover.
The two rocket launchers were left on the road as the jeep sped away. It
was not clear if they had failed to work or if the attackers dropped them
when police opened fire.
An embassy spokesman, who declined to be named, said nobody in the embassy
had been injured, but declined to comment further.
The jeep had been stolen, said police, who would not confirm Russian news
reports that it was a police vehicle. The jeep later was found abandoned
near the embassy.
Scores of police, including security troops with automatic weapons and
members of the FSB, the Russian intelligence service, ringed the embassy
after the attack. The embassy is located on the Garden Ring, one of
Moscow's main streets.
People protesting the NATO airstrikes on Yugoslavia have been demonstrating
outside the embassy for the past four days. There were scores of arrests
Thursday when protesters, mostly gang members and skinheads, hurled scores
of bottles, rocks and other objects at the building.
In September 1995, a masked attacker fired a rocket-propelled grenade at
the embassy, which exploded in an empty office. No one was injured and
there was no claim of responsibility, but the attack came a day after the
Kremlin accused NATO of genocide against the Bosnian Serbs.
Sunday's attack came as three of Russia's top liberal officials set off on
a peace mission to appeal to world leaders, including Yugoslav officials,
U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Pope John Paul II, to resume talks on
ending the Kosovo crisis.
Former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, former Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov
and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov left for Hungary, where they
hoped to meet with U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke.
The three men said Saturday that the bombings only encourage Russian
hardliners to ``bury (Russia's) chances for democratic development.''
Given that none of the three holds a government post and NATO has ignored
demands from President Boris Yeltsin to stop the attacks, the trip is
likely to be mostly symbolic.
Russia has concentrated on largely symbolic actions and expressions of
solidarity with Yugoslavia -- leaving the door open for Russia to serve as
a mediator in the conflict.
In its weakened state, Russia is in no position to directly confront the
West despite its anger over the strikes. Russia is no longer a major
military power, and it desperately wants Western aid to revive its
Yeltsin to brief Russia on double crisis
MOSCOW, March 28 (AFP) - President Boris Yeltsin is to
deliver a difficult address to parliament in which he must explain Russia's
plans for Yugoslavia and its strategy to end a financial crisis.
Russia's 68-year-old Kremlin chief will make his annual state of the nation
address before a joint session of parliament on Tuesday. The speech has
been delayed by several weeks because of Yeltsin's poor health.
The Russian leader's performances on the podium in recent years have been
judged primarily by how he looks rather than what he actually says.
Kremlin watchers cherish Yeltsin's annual appearance before lawmakers as
one chance to glimpse the reclusive president and judge how his health is
Yeltsin's nearly decade-long reign of Russia is coming to an end with a
slate of outspoken opponents gunning to succeed him in an election due in
And Yeltsin will be hard-pressed to explain Tuesday why the economy is
still in shambles and Russia's international prestige diminishing by the day.
"The Russian state will continue to defend the market economy, stop
inflation and continue to stabilize the ruble," Yeltsin said in his last
state of the nation address, a speech that has since been succeeded by
three different Russian governments.
"Ratification of the START II treaty is among one of our vital goals," the
Russian president added.
Yeltsin's two main accomplishments up to that point had been keeping
runaway inflation in check and the ruble exchange rate stable. Relations
with the West also remained on track and odds of ratifying nuclear arms
reduction treaties appeared promising.
But the economy imploded when the government -- three days after Yeltsin
swore it would never happen -- effectively devalued the ruble and defaulted
on Russia's huge internal debt.
The nation's fragile private banks were obliterated. Private accounts were
frozen while foreign investors fled in fright.
Worse, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) withdrew its financial
lifeline, leaving Russia gasping for foreign help.
Yeltsin became reclusive and publicly withdrew from decision making,
leaving Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in charge of foreign policy and the
economy. Primakov's communist aides have done little to endear IMF
leadership ever since.
The Fund's head Michel Camdessus arrived in Moscow on Saturday after months
of lower-level negotiations, promising little beyond a commitment to send
another mission to Moscow soon.
But Russia faces a default on billions of dollars in its foreign
obligations, much of which are due to the Fund itself.
Economists here speculate Russia will fall behind an economic iron curtain
should the Fund fail to issue a new loan that can help cover Moscow's old
Russia's debt relief dreams have been further clouded by the Kremlin's
unbending support for Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
Primakov last week turned around his plane headed to Washington for talks
with US and IMF leaders following news that NATO planned to attack Yugoslav
Serbia, which makes up Yugoslavia with Montenegro, is an historic ally of
Russia has since threatened to break an international arms embargo on
Belgrade, entering direct confrontation with Washington for the first time
since the Cold War.
All of which leaves Yeltsin trying to pick up the pieces in a speech before
lawmakers who have already launched a process to impeach him.
Communists and nationalists have already promised to rubbish Yeltsin's
address, as a formal condemnation of what they call his failed term of
Russian liberal chiefs leave on Yugoslavia mission
MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - Three leading Russian liberal politicians
left on Sunday on
what they hope will be a mission to Yugoslavia, Rome and Washington to help
an end to NATO's strikes against Serbia.
Yegor Gaidar, Boris Fyodorov and Boris Nemtsov left for Budapest,
intending to make their
way to Belgrade by road. They hope to act as intermediaries in relaunching
the Kosovo crisis and stop the strikes.
"I am not convinced that it is quite right to make our proposals public
at the moment but we will definitely be ready to do this after we have
finished our consultations, I hope in Belgrade, Rome and Washington,"
Gaidar told NTV television.
Anatoly Chubais, another well-known member of the liberal camp who was not
meetings for his three colleagues had already been arranged with key
officials although meetings in
Belgrade were not yet confirmed.
The arranged meetings included U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, Italian
Foreign Minister Lamberto Dini, Prime
Minister Massimo D'Alema, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and
Vice President Al Gore.
The three say that their trip has been blessed by the Russian Foreign
and President Boris Yeltsin.
The liberal politicians on Saturday joined in the wave of condemnation of
strikes that has flowed out of Russia from all parts of the political
called on NATO to halt the bombings and return to dialogue.
The three men are all former members of government. Gaidar was acting
in 1992 after he helped launch the shock therapy reforms of the economy.
NATO COUNTRIES - FAR FROM CHRISTIAN IDEALS-PATRIARCH
MOSCOW, March 28 (Itar-Tass) - Alexy II, the Patriarch of Moscow and
All Russia, called as an outrage upon the sacred feelings of Serbian
people actions by British pilots who write inscriptions "Happy Easter"
on bombs hitting Yugoslavia. This is how he commented, at a request by
Itar-Tass, on reports received from London on Saturday.
"The NATO countries which call themselves Christians, are far from
Christian ideals. This is a sacrilege," said Patriarch Alexy who
performed on Sunday a divine liturgy at the Nicholas-Ugreshsky
monastery near Moscow.
Russia Sees Few Differences With IMF On Loan
March 28, 1999
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov met
International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Michel Camdessus for talks on new
loans Sunday and said only slight differences remained on reaching a deal.
Russia hopes the IMF will approve its economic policies and provide almost
five billion dollars in new loans this year to enable it to repay looming
debts to the Fund and make talks with other creditors easier.
``Only millimeters of difference remain,'' the Interfax news agency quoted
Masylukov as saying after the talks.
Russian news agencies quoted Maslyukov as saying he hoped the remaining
differences would be overcome ``today or tomorrow.''
He added that a meeting between Camdessus and Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov Monday would be decisive.
Maslyukov said that remaining differences with the IMF concerned the role
of natural monopolies, such as gas giant Gazprom, and budget revenues.
RIA news agency said Camdessus would Monday meet President Boris Yeltsin,
Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev, and Anatoly Chubais, the head of the vast
electricity company, Unified Energy Systems EESR.RTS.
Maslyukov said Russia had been achieving good results in revenue collection
recently although Camdessus had said that more could be done, Itar-Tass
news agency said.
The agency also quoted a source close to the talks as saying Camdessus had
proposed increasing budget revenues by ending tax breaks for the mass media
and increasing the amount of tax paid by Gazprom into the budget.
Approval of Russia's economic policies would strengthen Russia's hand in
talks with other creditors on cutting the country's $140 billion debt burden.
Camdessus arrived in Moscow Saturday after Primakov cancelled a trip to
Washington on the eve of NATO air strikes against Yugoslavia, with whom
Moscow has traditional ties.
Maslyukov, a Communist in charge of economic policy, has led the talks with
the IMF. He was joined at the meeting with Camdessus by Finance Minister
Mikhail Zadornov, Tax Minister Georgy Boos and central bank head Viktor
Russian officials have been more optimistic on the chances of success in
the talks than the Fund itself.
Zadornov said Saturday the government would present to parliament an
amendment to delay a cut in value added tax to next January 1 from July 1
of this year. The IMF has been worried about the cut in this important
source of revenue.
An agreement has also been hampered by the size of Russia's primary
surplus, which excludes debt repayments, although Russian officials have
said the IMF has recently reduced the size of the surplus it requires for
28 March 1999
[for personal use only]
CRISIS IN KOSOVO
Condemnation of NATO muted in Duma resolution
By David Filipov
MOSCOW - One Russian lawmaker wanted to boycott US goods to protest NATO's
bombardment of Yugoslavia. Another suggested moving the United Nations from
New York to Geneva.
And then there was ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who
declared the NATO airstrikes the ''beginning of World War III'' - and came
prepared for battle in his military uniform.
And yet, the West got off surprisingly easy yesterday at an emergency
session of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, called to
discuss the situation in former Yugoslavia.
In an angrily worded four-page resolution passed in a 366-4 vote, the Duma
condemned NATO and declared ''solidarity with brotherly Yugoslavia.''
But the more jingoistic blocs in the Duma, the Communists and Zhirinovsky's
Liberal Democrats, failed to muster the votes to include such proposals as
sending arms and troops to Yugoslavia, or providing tax breaks for
factories that send aid to the Serbs.
The resolution merely asked the government to ''show respect'' to Russian
citizens who wish to help ''brotherly Yugoslavia.''
The relatively staid nature of the document was a bit of a surprise. This
was, after all, the State Duma, where anti-Western sentiments have
dominated ever since Communists and nationalists won a majority in the
450-seat body in 1995. The Duma has never been shy about issuing thundering
denunciations of Western policies before, especially since the house's
resolutions are merely recommendations to the government.
''This document represents a defeat'' for the Communists and the
nationalists, concluded Pavel Lapkov, a commentator for NTV television.
If so, the winner was the government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov,
who still hopes to secure a $4.8 billion bailout from the International
Monetary Fund and then use the IMF loan as a bargaining chip to help
persuade other lenders to restructure Russia's foreign debts.
Primakov, who yesterday began three days of talks with IMF Executive
Director Michel Camdessus, has made sure to temper Russia's harsh
denunciation of the US-led attacks just enough to avoid isolation.
Yesterday, though some Duma members advocated putting Russia's army in a
higher state of combat readiness, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the
house session that Russia would make no military response to the NATO strikes.
''Those who expect Russia to act on impulse and retaliate with similar
steps [to NATO's] are mistaken,'' Ivanov said.
The Duma also voted to put off ratification of the 1993 Start II treaty
limiting strategic nuclear weapons. Some lawmakers wanted to pull out of
the treaty altogther, which earned the Duma a stern admonition from
Russia's defense minister, Igor Sergeyev. ''Do you want to start a nuclear
war or something?'' Sergeyev snapped.
The Duma later voted to return to Start II after the NATO airstrikes are over.
To hear some members of the Duma speak, the airstrikes might as well have
been aimed at Russia. This was especially true of leading Communists, who
blame Russia's inability to deter NATO from bombing on the pro-Western
foreign policy pursued by President Boris N. Yeltsin for much of his eight
years in office. ''I am convinced that the tragic situation in Yugoslavia
and in Russia ... stems from the president,'' said senior Communist
lawmaker Viktor Ilyukhin.
The mood in the Duma was echoed on the street. For the third day,
demonstrators protested in front of the US Embassy, shouting anti-American
chants and carrying posters bearing often obscene slogans, many with
references to President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky.
But the protesters were prevented by hundreds of riot police from adding to
the large splotches of ink that gave the embassy's facade the appearance of
a huge Jackson Pollock painting.
Almost no one in Russia supports NATO's action. Three Russian politicians
known for their prominent roles in the country's market reform efforts,
Yegor Gaidar, Boris Fyodorov, and Boris Nemtsov, have joined in the Russian
condemnation of the attacks. The three plan to travel to Belgrade today to
meet with Serb leaders, then head to the United States and other NATO
countries, to try to work out a peaceful solution to the conflict, Russian
news agencies said.
No one in the Duma addressed NATO's argument that the bombings are aimed at
weakening the military ability of Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic
to crack down on ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Only one legislator, Konstantin Borovoi, tried to say anything about that,
but the Duma voted not to let him have the floor. ''I'm also against NATO
because they're not bombing Milosevic hard enough,'' Borovoi quipped later.
Russia's Nuclear Arms Facilities Undergoing Conversion
Moscow, 25th March, ITAR-TASS correspondent Anna
Bazhenova: Conversion is being actively pursued in Russia's nuclear
sector. Reductions are progressing from tens of thousands to thousands of
Russia's first deputy minister of atomic energy, Lev Ryabev, stated at a
press conference today that to date the production of weapons-grade
plutonium has ceased and 10 reactors have been shut down. By the year
2000 production of munitions will cease at Arzamas-16 and Penza-19 and it
is planned to complete dismantling them. The reactors currently operating
(for example, one in Krasnoyarsk-26 and two in Tomsk-7) are working not
just for defence but also for commercial purposes, supplying the town
with heat. It is planned that in future they will operate only for
Lev Ryabev noted that various directions were envisaged for the
development of conversion in the nuclear sphere. Thus, in Arzamas-16 a
public computer centre will be set up which will work on programmes in
various spheres. The project for setting up the computer centre is being
implemented within the framework of the Russian-American "Closed towns"
programme which is estimated at 3 million dollars.
In Krasnoyarsk-26 it is planned to develop the production of silicon
for which there is world-wide demand. In Chelyabinsk-70 it is proposed to
develop an enterprise for wrapping and packaging medicines. Lev Ryabev
stressed that all the projects are aimed, in the first instance, at
providing jobs for people who were previously employed in the weapons
complex and at preserving the scientific-technical and production potential.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Grigory Essbuketov)
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999
Subject: Re: 3106-Glinski and Reddaway/What Went Wrong in Russia? The
Ravages of "Market Bolshevism"
I'd like to bring to your attention that plenty of ideas similar to Glinski
and Reddaway's, especially those related to the moral crisis underlying the
collapse of the Soviet Union, were earlier developed by Timothy McDaniel of
University Calfornia at San Diego. In his book The Agony of The Russian
Idea published several years ago by Princeton Univ Press, McDaniel argued
that breakdown of the Soviet Union and, later, processes of Russia's
collapse have the moral crisis in their origins.
What is interesting about The Agony... is that the author develops his
argument on the moral crisis through sociological interpretation of Russian
(and Soviet) history -- such an approach prevents him from without falling
into a trap of moralizing.
As I see it, Glinski and Reddawa's argument is an intelligent speculation
on Russia's plight -- rather moralizing than social analyitical endeavor.
You can hear and read similar moralizing arguments in Russia by the dozen.
Still, I think it's a good thing that their book is being published.
SAD (Soberer Analysis Developments), Moscow, Russia
From: CMacvayia@aol.com (Cali Ruchala)
Date: Sat, 27 Mar 1999
Subject: Re: 3113-Filipov/Russia and Serbia
Having been subscribed to JRL for over a year now, I was eagerly
looking forward to your reports for more detailed Russian reaction
on Kosovo. Unfortunately, all I have seen thus far is "exposes" of
how the Communist nomenklatura co-opted the free market reform
of 1991 (no, really?!) and all kinds of the usual talking head jargon
trivializing what seems to me a very serious crossing of the Rubicon.
David Filipov's Boston Globe column, however, takes the cake:
>Lokotsky is one of hundreds of young Russians who, encouraged by communist
>and nationalist Russian politicians, have volunteered to fight against NATO
>on the side of the Serbs. To hear these recruits tell it, the American-led
>alliance's airstrikes pose a clear and present threat to Russia.
I have it on first-hand information that this is *not* exclusively
"nationalist and Communist Russian politicians". A good friend of mine,
now here in the States, has received feelers from two different fellow
veterans from the Afghan War about suiting up. Those who state, "Russia
is too messed up to lend a hand to Serbia" are missing the boat.
I have seen how militias mobilize, firsthand. I have seen how governments
lend "unofficial" support to men such as Vojislav Seselj, Zeljko
Raznatovic-Arkan, Ceka Dapcevic, and others. From my observations,
only a few essential components need to exist:
a. Tacit support of one element of government
b. Certain elements of criminal underclass, or those ambitious to expand
c. Cheap/free guns
d. Bored youth
e. Experienced yet disaffected military men (discharged OR active duty)
f. A fearful populace.
Who will deny that these components, which all existed in Croatia and
Serbia in the early 1990s, do not exist in Russia? Who will deny the
ability for rogue elements of the political spectrum in Russia to obtain
arms, when the "dushman" Chechens were able to obtain them right off
an active Russian Army? I fear that our American correspondents in
Russia are spending far too much time in the Central Bank hallways and
not enough in the cafes around Moscow. I was there not quite a week
ago; my friend (a liberal intellectual, should anyone wonder) Florin
remarked after seeing a Mercedes with special plates blow by us that
anti-Americanism was "a stone seeking a single spark". Russian support
by the current government will *not* come from decrees from the
Kremlin, just as Iran's violation of the Yugoslav arms embargo was
not published by the Washington Post.
Misha is, at the moment, deliberating on the offers. Like other ex-
Airborne commandos, he's underpaid, underemployed, and desperately
seeking a mass-movement to latch onto. I do not think he is that
New York Times
28 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Vladimir Petrov, 83, Who Wrote of His Time as a Soviet Prisoner
By CARMEL McCOUBREY
Vladimir Petrov, who survived six years in a Soviet prison camp and later
became a professor of international affairs at George Washington University,
died on March 17 in his home in Kensington, Md., a suburb of Washington. He
The cause of his death was brain cancer, his family said.
Petrov recounted his experiences in the camp and in World War II in two
memoirs, "Soviet Gold" (1949) and "My Retreat From Russia" (1950), which were
praised as brisk adventure stories as well as important sources of information
about the Soviet labor camps.
Born in 1915 in what is now Krasnodar, Russia, he was a 19-year-old
engineering student in Leningrad when he was arrested and accused of
espionage, which he dismissed in his books as having been concocted by a woman
in the secret police whose advances he had spurned.
He was sent to a labor camp in the Kolyma River gold basin in Siberia.
There were 500,000 inmates, and one year, he said, as many as 70,000 died.
He was released in 1941, just before the Nazi invasion, and finagled his way
back to Krasnodar. Petrov's antipathy for the Soviet system led him to join a
German-sponsored movement to recruit a Russian force for a last-ditch stand
against the advancing Communists. And as the Nazis retreated, so did he.
He made his way to Austria, where he was imprisoned briefly in a Nazi camp.
He escaped after a week, writing that after his experiences in Soviet
incarceration, "it was as easy as breaking out of kindergarten." Then he fled
to American-occupied Italy.
In 1947 he moved to the United States, and spent much of the next two
decades teaching Slavic languages at Yale. In 1965 he received a doctorate in
political science from Yale and joined the Institute for Sino-Soviet Affairs
at George Washington University. He retired in 1985.
Petrov's marriage to Mirtala Kardinalowska ended in divorce. He is survived
by his wife, Jean; a son from his first marriage, George, of Minneapolis; five
daughters from his second marriage -- Susanna Petrov of Boston, Lili Robins of
Stafford, Va., Anne Petrov of Paris, Jane Petrov-Aronsohn of Washington and
Carol Petrov of Kensington; and three sons from his second marriage --
Vladimir of Los Angeles, Alexander of Rockville, Md., and Andrew, of
Kensington, and six grandchildren.
U.S. News and World Report
April 5, 1999
[for personal use only]
Weighed down by debt
On Kosovo, Russia talked loudly and carried a small stick
BY MORTIMER B. ZUCKERMAN / EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
NATO's air war on Serbia is justified. It is also risky. But imagine how
the world would be trembling today if Russia felt able to transmute its
rhetorical support for its historic ally into military action. Prime
Minister Primakov turns around in midair on his way to Washington.
President Yeltsin speaks of "extreme measures," and a mob assaults the U.S.
Embassy, but Russia effectively stays out, refraining even from servicing
its military equipment in Serbia.
Russia is, of course, weighed down by its enormous international debt and
the restructuring Primakov was hoping to accomplish in Washington. So
Moscow's economic crisis is good news, yes? No. The country is near
collapse, and the consequences would far outweigh its inability to cause
problems for NATO in the Balkans. The prospect of Russia sinking into
criminal anarchy or a Communist dictatorship is horrifying. Imagine Russia,
with thousands of nuclear weapons, taken over by people who will do
anything for moneyfrom Iraq, Iran, or Libya, say, or any gang of terrorists.
That collapse is frighteningly close. The state is bankrupt. The ruble buys
less every day. Russia's institutionsmilitary, legal, educational, and
healthare atrophying. The discredited reforms of the '90s have sapped
political will. The Russian people have seen their GDP and standard of
living erode by over 55 percent, compared with the 32 percent that
Americans endured during the Great Depression.
Financial pariah. So far the Russians have shown amazing resilience. They
are no strangers to suffering: Eighteen million people in the former Soviet
Union died during World War II and even more in the genocidal purges of
state communism. Hope sustained them, but these days it is in short supply.
Russia, with total national budget revenues of $22 billion, owes $17.5
billion this year alone. If that debt is not restructured, Russia will
become an international financial pariah, unable to finance its deficits.
It will have to print money. That will fuel an inflation that may well rip
apart its flimsy social fabric.
The problem can't be solved by simply pumping in more dollars, since hard
currency seems to flow out as quickly as it arrives. Capital that should go
for investment is leaving the country at $2 billion a month. Most of the
$4.8 billion transfusion last summer quickly found its way to Swiss bank
accounts and Riviera real estate controlled by corrupt oligarchs and
politicians. The commercial banks siphoned off their assets while
abandoning their liabilities to their creditors and depositors. Even the
central bank's management of money is suspect.
To attract domestic investments, the Russians have to root out corruption,
give legal force to contracts, and fashion a sound banking system. To make
the state work, they have to develop an effective system of tax collection
and produce realistic budgets. Current estimates, for example, assume a
surplus of 2 percent of GDPbut that rests on calculating federal revenues
at 12 percent of GDP when they are running closer to 9 percent. Even at
that, tax collections from major companies that are paid in cash are less
than 10 percent, with the rest paid in offsets or barter in which the
companies overstate the value of their goods.
Primakov treats the decision-making process as political rather than
economic and assumes the IMF will bend its rules to accommodate Russia. The
negotiations for him are like a political poker game rather than a joint
effort to rescue his economy. His implicit message is blackmail, relying on
our recognition that the collapse of Russia would bring nuclear risks and
the spread of crime and pollution.
This creates a real dilemma for the Clinton administration. On one hand, it
is wary of Primakov, the former head of Russia's spy agency and a supporter
of Iran and Iraq. On the other, it fears that parliamentary elections next
December could cause a power shift, with the communists taking control of
both the Duma and the government.
The big question for the political year 2000 in the United States may be
one with an ominous echo: "Who lost Russia?"
From: "Peter D. Ekman" <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
[For personal use only]
It's been a bad week for those of us who believe that Russians have a
fairly positive attitude toward the west and westerners. The NATO bombing
of Yugoslavia has set off bottle-throwing demonstrations at western
embassies - particularly the American embassy - and many ordinary Russians
are outraged at the bombings.
Western reporting of the Russian reaction seems to have been accurate.
Fred Weir's piece in JRL 3112 was quite good. The quote "Russians are far
more anti-American today than they have ever been," is probably correct if
it means "since 1963", but might be misleading as anti-American sentiment,
given the situation, is still fairly low. For all the sound and fury of
recent days, I feel that the most important part of Weir's article was what
was essentially missing - hatred by ordinary Russians against ordinary
Americans and westerners.
If you remember a week ago (before the bombing started), I objected to a
piece by Reddaway and Glinsky (JRL 3102) that said there was a rising tide
of "anti-western sentiment among ordinary Russians." I asked JRL readers
to send me concrete examples - if any existed. The next day I got 3
serious replies - I also got one strange piece of hate mail from an
American, and one general response after the bombing started. I'll
summarize the 3 serious replies to show where Russian "anti-western
sentiment" was before the bombings and then say where I think the situation
As I was finishing this note, I got a response from Reddaway. He says his
assertion of a rising tide was based on surveys. In that case, I'd like
to see what the surveys say. The wording of the question is quite
important - if 10% of Russians think that America is the Great Satan, this
is quite different than if 10% of Russians don't like President Clinton.
Precision is important here. Vague assertions of anti-Americanism lend
themselves to hate mongering (this clearly wasn't Reddaway and Glinsky's
purpose). I've certainly had enough of hate mongering and cold war rhetoric.
I don't want to denigrate the authors of the 3 serious responses in any
way - but I think that if their responses were the most serious examples
that JRL readers could come up with, then there was really very little
anti-western sentiment in Russia. Perhaps these responses should be
compared with the anti-black (including anti-African, anti-Asian, and
anti-Caucasian) acts that can be seen in Moscow every week, or to the
anti-Jewish and anti-Balt attitudes that are common among ordinary Russians.
The first letter stated that many Russians have a condescending attitude
toward American culture (I've seen this myself, and the 3rd letter has
several similar observations). Its author had a shouting match in a Moscow
train station after he complained about being overcharged because he was a
foreigner. And - no matter how hard he tries - he believes that he'll
always be treated as a foreigner in Russia. Undoubtedly true observations,
but I don't think that this type of thing is what is meant when journalists
write about anti-Americanism.
The second letter was more frightening. A mother with 3 young children
related 2 incidents. While walking in Neskuchny Sad, she and her children
were scared by teenagers shouting "f---ing Americans." On a bus, a strange
old man sat behind them and sang a loud, strange, and presumably
nationalistic song - perhaps because the family was speaking English.
These incidents sounded quite serious on a personal level - but I view this
type of thing as more a "big city" problem than an anti-American one. I've
had similar things happen to me in Moscow, as well as in Chicago and
Washington, D.C. Fortunately I never had young children with me.
The third response was perhaps even more serious since there were about 12
incidents related, though no single incident seemed as serious as the above
response. Most of the incidents were nasty conversations with Russians
saying things about American lack of culture, stupidity, hypocrisy, etc.,
but with a couple of threats of violence thrown in. I'd suggest that the
author send in a shortened version of his letter to JRL - it was
fascinating reading - but I had trouble relating it to my own experiences
Two quotes from this letter: "I respond to your query with some
reluctance, largely because I believe that the issue of 'anti-Western
sentiment' receives rather undue attention."
"Are Moscow and Petersburg representative? Not really. What are they
thinking out in the provinces? Most educated Russians, let alone
foreigners, don't know.
"Itogi last year published a survey which indicated that between 1991
and 1997, the percentage of Russians who view Americans negatively jumped
from %2 to %11. This strikes me as accurate, both in tendency
and absolute percentage."
From the 3 letters that I got before the bombing, I conclude that there
was some anti-American feeling among ordinary Russians, but that the amount
of this feeling was surprisingly small considering that Russia and America
"fought" a cold war for 40 years. It also was surprisingly small
considering what has happened to the Russian and American economies over
the last decade.
So what has happened since the bombings began? I don't claim to be an
expert on this - I've been quite busy this last week - but I see a one-time
jump in anti-American feeling among ordinary Russians directed at the
American government - not at individual Americans. This attitude is mostly
based on feelings for their "brother Slavs," but also disgust at NATO's
end-run around the UN and fear of American domination in the world. These
relatively rational reasons are compounded by feelings of helplessness
which have very little to do with America.
This anti-American sentiment MAY dissipate within a month or two after the
bombing stops. Complicating factors include the results of and the length
of the bombing, and perhaps the results of the IMF negotiations.
In any case I don't see "a rising tide of anti-Americanism" - whatever
that phrase means - and I don't see any point in journalists making vague
assertions that in themselves may damage relations between Russians and
Americans. So far, the news stories that I've seen after the bombings on
ordinary Russian's reactions have been straightforward and factual, and I'd
like to thank all journalists who take this approach.
If anyone wants to send me concrete examples of anti-Americanism (other
than the type of thing that appears in the newspapers), please send them to
The Sunday Times (UK)
March 28, 1999
[for personal use only]
By Mark Franchetti
Confessions of a KGB stargazer
The secret weapon employed by the former KGB to protect Boris Yeltsin, the
ailing Russian president, from potential assassins and embarrassing gaffes has
been revealed at last: astrology.
Georgi Rogozin, a retired KGB general who served for four years in the
presidential security service, has admitted using the stars to predict
potential dangers when planning Yeltsin's trips around the country.
A master of ancient Chinese astrology, Rogozin claims it was an essential tool
in the KGB's quest to flush out double agents and traitors.
A team of 12, headed by Rugozin, also drew up birth charts for officials being
considered to represent Russia on government commissions dealing with arms
sales and the diamond trade.
"To understand people, you need to know their background, their psychology and
their astrological make-up," said Rogozin, who left the Kremlin in 1996 to
work as a consultant for Elbim Bank, a commercial bank. "We were not working
in a bakery, after all. It was the KGB, where knowing people's inner selves is
Rogozin, who worked under Alexander Korzhakov, Yeltsin's former best friend
and personal bodyguard, drew up a 17-page astrological study of the president
to help his guards understand the psychology of their boss. It portrayed
Yeltsin, born in 1931 - the year of the horse - as eccentric, temperamental,
decisive and driven by impulse and instinct rather than logic.
"He also misses his mother's kindness, is easy to offend and strongly needs
protection," Rogozin wrote. "He is very sensitive to criticism, gets upset if
he is not invited somewhere or not shown enough attention. He has few friends,
is manipulative and does not like to be wrong."
Embarrassed officials at the Kremlin last week refused to comment on Rogozin's
claims - but were adamant that Yeltsin no longer used astrologers.
No Soviet city used to be complete without its monument to the unknown
soldier, honouring the millions of men who fell in the second world war. But
the Black Sea resort of Sochi has come up with an unusual twist: a monument to
the unknown holidaymaker. Built by Pyotr Khrisanov, a local sculptor, it will
depict a large man wearing shorts, a T-shirt, flip-flops and sunglasses
Beavis and Boris
What has come over Russia's intelligentsia? Feted as the conscience of the
nation during the communist oppression, the country's cultural elite has
discovered a taste for Beavis and Butthead, American cartoon characters
renowned for their stupidity, love of rock music and vulgar slang.
Since they were first shown on Russian television, the pair have become the
darlings of intellectuals; Vyacheslav Kuritsyn, a respected cultural critic,
has even written sophisticated literary papers analysing their monosyllabic
At a literary evening, Sergei Moreino, a poet and translator, used the cartoon
cretins as the benchmark for cinematographic greatness. "There is something
attractive about them," said Vadim Kurilov, a teacher. "I couldn't go to bed
without watching them."
A defence ministry photograph purporting to show Russian troops in the former
Yugoslavia was not reassuring. Published before last week's airstrikes, it
showed a Russian officer armed with a Kalashnikov standing over a man posing
as a dead United Nations soldier. The caption read: "Russian soldiers training
for a possible peacekeeping mission to Kosovo".
Spare a thought for Yegor Gaidar, the former prime minister who introduced
market reforms to Russia in the early 1990s. Campaigning outside Moscow
recently, Gaidar planned a fundraising dinner for his party, Russia's Choice.
He found a venue, wrote a speech about the country's road to capitalism and
sent aides out to sell tickets at a mere $20 per head.
But Gaidar failed to appreciate that his policies have made him one of the
most unpopular men in Russia. No tickets were sold and the dinner was
The city of Nizhni Novgorod, 150 miles east of Moscow, is planning a festival
to honour an unusual musical instrument: the spoons. A committee of 22
enthusiasts has been set up to oversee the celebrations, which will include a
film about the implement and a concert of spoon music.
At least one local is certain to give the festival a miss: a man who went to
the doctor complaining of acute stomach pains and was found to have swallowed
three teaspoons and a dessert spoon during a vodka binge.
The Independent (UK)
March 28, 1999
Yeltsin's eye is off the ball - despite the specs
By Phil Reeves in Moscow
BORIS Yeltsin, veteran Houdini of politics and incorrigible showman, has a new
disguise. He unveiled it last week, to surprise and scattered titters from
Kremlin watchers. It is a large pair of glasses.
He wore them as he returned, yet again, from weeks on the sidelines, this time
enforced by a bleeding ulcer. So rarely has he been at work that the mere fact
of him going to his Kremlin office made headlines. Begoggled, he set about
trying to stamp his authority anew.
But the landscape that the President viewed through his monster specs can have
given him very little pleasure, quite apart from the Kosovo crisis. Much of
his role has been usurped; there are even suggestions of a move to squeeze him
out of office altogether, forcing early elections.
This was enshrined in an embarrassing episode which cut to the very heart of
his power base and which, were it to have occurred in the US, would have taken
on Watergate proportions.
On Tuesday Russia's chief prosecutor, Yuri Skuratov, launched an unprecedented
raid on offices within the Kremlin itself, in which piles of documents were
seized. It was part of a joint investigation, conducted with the Swiss federal
prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, into alleged illegalities by members of the
president's inner circle.
At issue are a series of lucrative construction deals won by a Swiss firm,
Mabetex (which denies any wrong-doing), including contracts to spruce up the
Kremlin and other government buildings. Russia has for years been unable to
pay its workers and pensioners, but hundreds of millions of dollars have been
lavished on making life even more comfortable in the corridors of power.
Ten days ago, the Kremlin struck back. Apparently with the approval of
presidential aides, a clip from a secretly filmed videotape appeared on state-
run television, allegedly showing the prosecutor-general cavorting naked with
two prostitutes. The tape found its way to the Federation Council, the upper
house of parliament, just before it was to determine whether to accept his
resignation, offered under Kremlin duress, or to accept his plea to stay.
Unimpressed by these smutty scenes - now on sale on the streets of Moscow -
the Federation Council came out in overwhelming support of keeping him on. So
Mr Skuratov was allowed to press on with the Mabetex probe.
In a democratic country with a free media, such a scandal could be expected to
topple a government. But corruption and kompromat fly around so freely in
Russia, and Moscow's institutions of power are so unaccountable, that this was
never a likelihood.
It was, however, a serious blow to the President, proof that he cannot now
even muster the political muscle to fire the country's top prosecutor, an
office over which he is accustomed to wielding control.
Some in Moscow's political circles believe the prosecutor's raids,
orchestrated by Mr Yeltsin's enemies, were part of an effort to winkle the
President out of office altogether. More probably, it was intended to keep him
in his place - to force him to accept that power now longer rests in his
hands, but in those of the Prime Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, and the
The reality, though, is that the Boris Yeltsin era is already over. It came to
an end last August after the devaluation of the rouble, the default on short-
term foreign debt and the fall of the government of 36-year-old Sergei
Unpopular and chronically ill, Yeltsin lost a battle with the State Duma to
restore his old prime minister, the disliked Viktor Chernomyrdin. He had to
settle for a second choice, Mr Primakov, who soon began stealthily
establishing his authority, positioning himself strategically well away from
the unloved occupant of the Kremlin.
Mr Primakov's role is now critical. Suspicions abound that the shrewd premier
played a part in the Skuratov affair, to the detriment of Mr Yeltsin. He has
wide popular support, both with the public and an often unruly parliament. He
has muddled through the winter, establishing a modicum of stability despite
fears of starvation and unrest. No one else on the political landscape enjoys
such consensus. True, he has fudged on the economy, but he has also taken a
tough public stance against the oligarchs and corruption. He won more points
last week for turning his jet around en route to Washington, once it became
clear that Nato bombing was inevitable.
Mr Primakov repeatedly insists he is not remotely interested in running for
president in next year's elections. But the 69-year-old Prime Minister is a
wily old bird, whose years in the foreign intelligence services have made him
a master of disguise - unlike the bespectacled Siberian in the Kremlin.
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