This Date's Issues: 3114•3115
Johnson's Russia List
March 28, 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
For help with my computer problems I want to thank Bob Huber
and the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research.
1. Reuters: NATO strikes feed Russia anti-Americanism.
2. The Times (UK): Anna Blundy, Russians have come to hate the
3. Oleg Petrov: Re 3114-Ekman/Anti-Americanism.
4. Bill Mandel: Re: 3113-Cohen/Transitionology, Malia Responds.
5. St. Petersburg Times editorial: Where Was Russia at the 11th Hour?
6. St. Petersburg Times: VOX POPULI. Bombing Yugoslavia: A Cause for
7. The Guardian (UK): Weakling kicks sand in face of Clinton.
Moscow is hard up but acting like a superpower, writes James Meek.
8. Reuters: New Yorker magazine says Iraq paid off Primakov.
9. Reuters: Russia liberals begin Yugoslav peace mission.
10. Jamestown Foundation Prism: Elena Dikun, THE PRIME MINISTER
HAS UNTIL THE AUTUMN.
11. The Economist: Russia's violent southern rim.
12. Kyodo: Russia to conduct subcritical nuclear tests this year.]
ANALYSIS-NATO strikes feed Russia anti-Americanism
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - A failed grenade attack on the U.S. embassy in
Moscow on Sunday highlighted a surge of anti-American sentiment in Russia that
is reminiscent of the Cold War.
Protests that began with eggs being hurled at the embassy on Wednesday night
turned dangerous on Sunday when a man in camouflage gear opened fire on the
embassy building with an automatic weapon after two grenade launchers failed
Opposition to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia has united Russia's usually
irreconcilable politicians, inspired wall-to-wall media coverage unsympathetic
to the United States, and grabbed the attention of even those Russians who
usually take no interest in politics.
The fierce reaction is partly inspired by solidarity with fellow Orthodox
Christian Slavs in Serbia. But it is at least as much to do with a resurgence
of hostility to the United States, on which the Russian anger has been
``I hope the Russian government will understand and take this unique chance to
start a war against the enemies of the Russians and of all Slav people,'' an
angry protester said outside the U.S. embassy on Sunday.
The rhetoric of Russian leaders has also been stinging. Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov, by no means a policy hawk, called the NATO air strikes ``genocide''
and President Boris Yeltsin described them as naked aggression.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, at the other end of the political
spectrum, has stepped up his party's traditional ideological battle with the
``The Americans have gone down the path of Hitlerism. The use of force has
become the main argument in their policy, and so have blackmail, bombs and
threats,'' he told the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on Saturday.
Relations with the United States have been in decline since a high point
immediately after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, but the rhetoric is more
hostile now than at any point since Soviet days.
This is partly because of a change of mood in Russian society following an
economic collapse last August which in the eyes of many Russians discredited
U.S.-inspired market reforms and liberal reformers.
Political analyst Leonod Radzikhovsky said U.S. President Bill Clinton had
miscalculated by setting out to use the bombing raids on Yugoslavia to show
who is boss in the world.
``The side effect of such a 'fashion show' is a long-awaited breakthrough in
Russia of 'new political thinking'. This 'new thinking' is something old but
unforgotten -- xenophobia, envy and hatred of America, the inferiority complex
of a former empire,'' he wrote in the Sevodnya newspaper.
The liberal Izvestia newspaper called NATO's campaign a ``royal gift'' to the
Communists, the dominant force in the Duma, before a parliamentary election
due at the end of this year.
``The party of retrogrades...now does not need any kind of new strategy at
all, as the NATO alliance has of its own accord provided proof of the slogans
of anti-American propaganda,'' Izvestia wrote.
Russian leaders have said they do not want to take actions that would lead to
confrontation with the West. Ties with the United States remain central to
foreign policy, especially as Moscow seeks loans to see it through economic
But anti-American sentiment is likely to continue when campaigning gets under
way for the parliamentary election, leaving little room for a much-needed
improvement in Moscow's increasingly strained ties with Washington.
``All politicians will have to take into account public sentiment in Russia,
which can be seen everywhere in the wake of the developments in Yugsolavia,''
Alexei Arbatov, head of the Duma's defence committee, told reporters on
He called it the most serious crisis in Russian-U.S. relations in 30 years.
The Times (UK)
March 29 1999
[for personal use only]
By Anna Blundy
'They made us agree to give up our weapons. Now, to please the Americans, our
munitions factories are making saucepans nobody wants'
Russians have come to hate the West. The feelings of reverent awe they once
had have turned to bitter resentment as, over the past decade, the American
dream has failed to materialise. For while most people know that particular
dream failed to materialise even in America, Russians believed in it for
Under Communism even enthusiastic apparatchiks did not swallow every last
crumb of Soviet propaganda. Almost everybody was aware that the West was not
quite as crime and drug-ridden as the authorities would have had them believe,
or at least if it was there were also positive elements to Western life that
someone was omitting to mention.
After all, if the streets really were as dangerous as that and the standard of
living that low, then surely thousands of Americans and Europeans would be
clamouring to defect to the Soviet Union. And they were not.
However, the mistake the Russians made was not in mistrusting their own
propaganda, but in believing ours. "Does everyone really have a swimming pool
in their garden?" people would ask you, having caught a glimpse of a bootleg
video of Dallas. "Yes, actually," you would reply, already enjoying the
fantasy life being created for you. "And we all travel all over the world all
the time on private planes and nobody ever goes to prison because we are so
rich that there is no need for crime," you would go on.
In the early 1990s Russian cinemas showed only the biggest budget American
films in which the Soviet Union usually featured as the root of all evil.
Russians laughed. Foreign businessmen flocked in, promising jobs and a bright
future. McDonald's had opened on Moscow's Pushkin Square and people queued for
hours in anticipation of the wonderful, luxurious taste of America. They got a
Big Mac. Young people clamoured to work there. "It seemed so glamorous," one
girl told a documentary film maker at the time. "They trained us and talked to
us as though it was all so serious and we were representing America. I was
really proud. But then, the work, you know. It was disgusting, really."
It is this kind of disappointment that characterises Russia's relationship
with the West. Many of the businessmen who came over here to make a fast buck
rushed home with their tails between their legs as soon as the economic crisis
struck last year. Those who stayed sacked most of their Russian staff. The
market economy has delivered nothing but misery, and the promises of freedom
and affluence for all turned out to be empty. Russians are free, but, as far
as most are concerned, the price was a very high one to pay for a gutter press
and a can of Coke.
"We were so naive," a friend told me last week. "They made us agree to give up
our weapons, to make our Army smaller. I mean, most of our munitions factories
are making saucepans just to please the Americans. Saucepans nobody wants in a
factory where the workers aren't paid." The point he was making is that, under
the Soviet Union, the West would not have been able to get away with bombing
the Serbs, and he is right. "Nato has expanded to our very borders and it
might decide to bomb us next. There would be nothing any of us could do about
it," he spat.
This wounded pride is not just that of a former superpower acknowledging that
it was founded on lies. It is that of a people deceived by the empty promises
of those who sought to bring about change - their way. A few years ago it was
hard to get away from besuited Americans shouting about how hopeless the
Russians are at management, accounting and work in general. The Russians
listened meekly and tried to adjust. Now the foreigners have gone, and their
money with them, and highly-trained Russian management staff are left jobless,
but with a finely-honed knowledge of how to smile inanely while sacking a
While official relations between Russia and America were indubitably worse
during the Cold War, the attitude of the man in the street towards his
American brother has never been more negative. A Frenchman, a German, an
American and a Russian are in a plane falling out of the sky. "Someone will
have to get out," says the pilot. The Frenchman says: "I would do anything for
France," and jumps. The German says: "I would do anything for Germany," and
jumps. The Russian says: "I would do anything for Russia," and pushes the
American out of the plane. An old joke adjusted to suit the situation, but it
is a popular one in Russia at the moment, and it says it all.
From: Opetrov@worldbank.org (Oleg Petrov)
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
My response to Peter Ekman:
I think Peter is right that common Russians are not anti-American. But they do
detest the arrogance of the US government which sometimes acts as if it
world government. Many also reject the US pop culture which is often seen
enemy of the traditional culture.
Most Russians like Americans as human beings, they adore their pragmatism,
dynamism and business efficiency. Many Russians lack precisely those qualities
which Americans have in abundance (the opposite is also true), hence the
Peter is right to make a very clear difference between attitude of Russians to
common Americans and their attitude to the American Government. One is still
quite positive, another is increasingly negative, especially after Iraq and
Still, the overall trend is that as Russians are becoming more business-like,
pragmatic and dynamic as a result of the market reforms, they are also losing
their former affection with America.
Forgotten values and culture are coming back and make the newly acquired ones
look rather pale and fake.
Also, there is a serious factor of saturation with US pop culture which is now
seen as hostile and destructive to the traditional Russian culture and values
and is being attacked from various quarters. Many people complain that US pop
culture is debilitating the younger generation, reducing the quality of human
relations and stimulates all kinds of perversions, banality and
growing Anti-American sentiment is therefore anti-US Govt and anti-US pop
culture but not anti-US people.
Russians now have a much more realistic perception of the Americans, having
watched hundreds if not thousands of US movies, followed reactions to OJS and
Monica affairs etc. They now know well both strengths and weaknesses of
Although the political honey moon is long over, there is still a great
people-to-people interactions if we want to reverse that worrisome trend. But
they have to be on an equal footing. Russia is incredibly rich in terms of its
culture, US is very rich in terms of economy. Hence, there is a significant
potential for a mutually enriching exchange and dialogue between ordinary
Americans and Russians.
If you like to listen to some good Russian music, here's a link:
Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999
From: Bill Mandel <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 3113-Cohen/Transitionology, Malia Responds
Malia writes: "the parties of the national republics
privatized their territories right out of the union." A
historian knows better than that. Four presidents, led by
Yeltsin, dissolved the union. Two of those republics,
Ukraine and Belarus, have not significantly privatized to
this day. The non-Belovezhskaia Pushcha majority of
republics suddenly found themselves handed independence,
which the Central Asians certainly had not asked for.
He writes that Poland followed the IMF prescriptions. Quite
the contrary, as Kolodko has demonstrated in several JRL
pieces and in the NY Times.
On barter, Malia chooses to ignore that it was a
consequence not of anything either Soviet or Russian but of
the monetarism insisted upon by the IMF< leaving the country
with insufficient money in circulation to do business.
With respect to Russia's present alternatives, it could,
if necessary, function autarchically as it essentially did
during most of the Soviet period. It could, as before, both
produce industrially and feed its population well with its
1970-technology factories and tractors,except for those
requiring near-term modernization to prevent U.S. pursuit of
Desert Storm and Kosovo means of deciding Russia's future.
The phrase "worthless, rusting ruins" Malia uses to
describe Soviet industry turned out fighter planes still at
least equal to American, the most capacious transport
aircraft on earth, military and civilian space products at
least on a par with ours, and consumer goods more durable if
less sophisticated and certainly less varies than ours. Even
that latter was due to the tragically mistaken belief that
preventing U.S. "aggression for peace," as Truman's Navy
Secretary Mathews so elegantly worded his advocacy, while in
office, of a nuclear war against the USSR, required matching
the U.S. missile for missile in a world in which no ABM was
Malia evades the truth, to put it gently, when he says
the remnants of the Soviet system feed the people. Those
industries don't pay wages till months late. The people are
fed by Stalin's 1930s concession to the peasants: private
plots, then extended to the urban population as well.
What Malia calls the real economy is its colonial
component, mineral raw materials, Russia's equivalent of
Bolivia's tin. It was to achieve this end that the U.S.
imposed Harvard's shock therapists with specifically
Bolivian experience on Russia.
Marxist socialism, which modernized and educated Russia
and vastly extended life expectancy, failed because its
elimination of the market ultimately caused it to choke on
its own bureaucracy, as I, for one, did not foresee. The
solution is capitalism with a human face. Primakov advocates
its nearest approximation: a Roosevelt New Deal solution,
which in fact is what all West European countries resemble.
And, as with FDR, it must be achieved pragmatically, by trial
and error and with great political and diplomatic skill.
Fortunately, Primakov resembles Roosevelt in possessing those
The seminal survey reported by Buzgalin on what Russians
want in the way of a mixed economy and social protections
must be taken to heart both by Russian leaders and the
Buzgalin's closing paragraph indicates that Lenin's New
Economic Policy read the mind of the Russian people better
than anything since. Whether it could have adequately
industrialized Russia for successful defense in whatever a
second world war would have been in the ensuing
international political circumstances is an unanswerable
St. Petersburg Times
March 26, 1999
Where Was Russia at the 11th Hour?
THE Yugoslavian sky is raining NATO bombs and Russia is showing its most anti-
Western - and specifically anti-American - face in a decade. A new Cold War?
Unlikely, but Russia's relations with the West have hit an all-time post-
Soviet low. How did it come to this?
The NATO air strikes this week came as a last resort to force Slobodan
Milosevic to accept a peace plan for Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians have been
fighting a three-year guerrilla war for independence.
>From 1974 until 1989, Kosovo enjoyed the status of an autonomous Yugoslavian
province within Serbia. But in 1989, Milosevic began his rise to power by
rallying Serbs against Kosovo's Albanians, stripping the province of its
position and eventually sending troops into Kosovo, committing untold abuses
against Albanian civilians. By 1996, the Kosovo Liberation Army began a
terrorist campaign against Serbia in an effort to win outright independence.
When talks commenced earlier this year in Rambouillet, France, the U.S.
managed to convince the Kosovo Albanians to forgo independence and settle for
autonomy. In March a peace deal was reached providing a three-year cooling-off
period and allowing 28,000 NATO-led peacekeeping troops into Kosovo to enforce
a cease-fire. The Albanians signed, the Serbs balked. Adding insult to injury,
Milosevic began new attacks against Albanians in Kosovo.
Russia's mantra throughout the crisis was that the conflict needed to be
solved through "peaceful and diplomatic means." But where was the Russian
diplomatic effort? The West convinced the Kosovo Albanians to compromise, but
the Russians barely bothered to do the same with the Serbs.
While U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke was in Belgrade negotiating almost
until the last minute, the Russian delegation left France when the Serbs
scuttled the peace deal. Moscow was silent when Milosevic launched new attacks
against Albanians - a silence that could easily be seen in Belgrade as
approval. Only when air strikes loomed did Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov
bother to call Milosevic.
Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, no stranger to tense international
negotiations, said that a more active Russian role could have averted the
disaster by convincing Milosevic to sign the peace deal. Such sentiments were
echoed by Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky. Gorbachev and Yavlinsky are both
right, but unfortunately, such voices of reason are now drowned in a sea of
At a time when Russia is lamenting its diminished role in the world, Moscow
blew a golden chance to use its influence on its allies in Belgrade to avert
the tragedy we are about to endure.
St. Petersburg Times
March 26, 1999
Bombing Yugoslavia: A Cause for Thought
NATO forces are waging an air war against Yugoslavia. Anna Badkhen talked to
people on the street to find out how they feel about it.
Nothing good will come of this because it is impossible to fulfill a peace
mission by using weapons.
It is most important for Russia not to get engaged in military actions. And
then, I hope, the conflict will not grow into World War III.
I don't think that the United States should have started the war. They should
not have used weapons. As a point of honor, I think Russia should join in ...
But as a simple resident, I am afraid of war, of course, and I am afraid that
my loved ones suffer in the war.
This is terrible because children will be dying again - because our
grandchildren will be dying in the war again. Why would we want that? It would
be terrible if Russia joins the conflict.
I was in World War II. I was a nurse and I know what war is like. And that's
why I don't want my grandchildren to go to war. I cried all night yesterday
for my grandchildren.
Russian Orthodox Priest:
I think the same way that most conscientious, decent people think: NATO's
actions are inappropriate from both a human and a Christian point of view. It
will not lead to World War III, I think, but it will ruin hope for global
Naturally, as a Russian Orthodox person, I am with the Serbs. The Serbs were
in my parish in Copenhagen, they will be in my parish in Germany, and the only
thing I can do is to pray in support of the Orthodox Serbs.
Russian boys, naturally , will go to fight to protect their brothers in faith,
and if our boys come to me, I will bless them to go.
The Guardian (UK)
28 March 1999
[for personal use only]
Weakling kicks sand in face of Clinton
Moscow is hard up but acting like a superpower, writes James Meek
The view from Moscow
In Russia, it was not clear last week which feat of aerial prowess had shocked
the country more - the mass Nato air raids on Yugoslavia, or the decision by
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, en route to Washington, to turn his plane
round in mid-air, off the coast of America, once he heard the bombing was
about to begin.
It was a brilliant tactical stroke by the man who increasingly calls the shots
in Moscow. The flight by Russian Ministers to the West seeking International
Monetary Fund loans had become a symbol of the Boris Yeltsin years - a sign of
Russian moral and economic weakness, of dependency.
With a single gesture, Primakov drew a line between those years and a new era.
His mission to Washington was as important as any made by a Russian Premier -
without a new IMF loan, the country is likely to default on its old debts,
turning it into even more of a pariah. But Primakov wanted to show the old
rules no longer applied.
Weak and poor as it was, Russia could take the West's dollars or leave them
Like much of the anti-Nato, anti-American rhetoric which has poured out of
Moscow in past days, Primakov's transatlantic U-turn was intended for domestic
consumption as much as for the West.
And at home they are listening. A frail, compromised, isolated Yeltsin can do
little but ape the Primakov line. The nationalist-Communist wedge senses that
its years of complaint about an overweening US, a corrupt Kremlin and an
embezzled economy are being acted on. And liberals dread a new Russian
Disgust at Nato's action - synonymous, in Russian eyes, with US action - was
universal, crossing party lines and generations. The mob which smashed windows
outside the US Embassy in Moscow was made up of pensioners, teenage football
fans, neo-fascists and old Communists, with respectable middle-class car
owners tooting their horns in support as they drove by.
But there is general scepticism over Russia's ability to do anything concrete
to impede Nato. The ideas floated so far have been either pointless - moving
bombers and nuclear weapons into Belarus, sending the country's only aircraft
carrier to the Mediterranean - or impractical and dangerous, like supplying
Belgrade with arms.
Few in Russia want to go to war over Serbia. Primakov himself distanced
himself from the extremists last week when he said that Russia must not
retreat into isolationism or roll back market reforms. He still hopes to get
the loan from IMF head Michel Camdessus, who is in Moscow this weekend; with
the rouble beginning to fall steeply again, time is running out. The reality
is that impoverished Russia is still locked in an embrace with the West - the
first consignment of EU food aid arrived in Smolensk on Thursday.
That does not ease the fears of Russian liberals and businessmen that
Primakov's turnaround sets the country on a new course. To them, the Nato
attack is still an illegal aggression against Orthodox Slavs troubled, just as
Russians are, by an armed Muslim minority. But they also see it as a Western
betrayal of Russia's pro-Westerners.
As Balkan tension swelled and burst over the past weeks, Primakov and his
supporters were closing in on Yeltsin.
Investigators are seizing documents closer and closer to the President's own
office. The President has lost control of the vital central election
commission, which manages (some would say, massages) the election results. He
has been accused of sexual misbehaviour. Some of the most controversial
businessmen linked to the Yeltsin family are being remorselessly pursued by
prosecutors and tax inspectors.
Much as they despise Yeltsin, Russia's encircled liberals feel threatened. In
an article headlined 'Primakov's U-turn', newspaper commentator Alexander
Budberg drew attention to the Prime Minister's vague hint last week that
'mobilisation of internal resources' could be an alternative to IMF money.
'For our government and the left-wingers supporting them, the events in Serbia
are just an excuse for them to consciously strive to carry out a large-scale
revolution,' he wrote. 'Under cover of some fluffy rhetoric they want to
return to a planned economy and authoritarian rule.'
The liberal daily Commersant came under heavy pressure from Primakov
supporters after it attacked his mid-air decision. In a front-page
justification yesterday, it said: 'We do not support Nato's strikes on
Yugoslavia. But the steps taken by the Prime Minister and, in his wake, the
President, have brought the country to the brink of a new Cold War.'
New Yorker magazine says Iraq paid off Primakov
NEW YORK, March 28 (Reuters) - The New Yorker magazine reported on Sunday that
British and U.S. intelligence officials believe Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov was paid off by Iraq to obtain strategic materials from Moscow to
build up its nuclear weapons stockpile.
Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh quoted high-level
American intelligence sources as saying Primakov received $800,000 in a wire
transfer in November 1997.
The New Yorker said a spokesman at the Russian embassy in Washington denied
all charges of corruption against Primakov.
U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, asked about the report during an
appearance on ABC's ``This Week,'' said that while he had not read the whole
article and had just seen it, ``I have no evidence to support that, no. I
don't know whether Mr Hersh has.''
In the report, Hersh quoted one unidentified source as saying, ``A payment was
``This is rock solid -- like (now-jailed Mafia boss) John Gotti ordering a
whack on the telephone. Ironclad.''
The weekly magazine, which goes on sale on Monday, said a British signals-
intelligence unit intercept produced evidence of the transfer. It quoted a
second unidentified U.S. official as saying, ``There was a wire transfer to an
account of $800,000.''
The report said that while it was not clear how Primakov was identified, the
intelligence officials say it was traceable to the Russian Prime Minister, who
is considered a possible successor to President Boris Yeltsin.
Primakov became friendly with Saddam Hussein when he was posted to the Middle
East by the Soviet Union in the 1960s. The two men reportedly grew closer
after Saddam became president of Iraq in 1979.
In February, the Sunday Telegraph newspaper of London reported that Russia had
signed an arms deal worth $160 million with Saddam Hussein to reinforce Iraq's
air defences, potentially posing a threat to U.S. and British planes enforcing
no-fly zones over Iraq.
That report said the decision to provide Iraq with military assistance was
approved by Primakov in retaliation for Operation Desert Fox, the air strikes
against Baghdad's military infrastructure by Britain and the United States
Russia opposed the military attacks, which were designed to punish Baghdad for
not cooperating with United Nations teams appointed to inspect its weapons
facilities following the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Any deal Moscow made with
Iraq would violate the U.N. arms embargo.
``Russia is hopeless now,'' Rolf Ekeus, the first head of the United Nations
Special Commission (UNSCOM) in charge of dismantling Iraq's weapons of mass
destruction, was quoted in the New Yorker as saying. ``It is clear that Russia
is making a serious effort to control events. Saddam will get a bomb, because
these materials are floating in. Every day, they are more advanced.''
The New Yorker article also said that the December bombings of Iraq included a
specific attempt to assassinate Saddam.
It said U.S. Central Intelligence Agency pressure on UNSCOM to allow the U.S.
to use UNSCOM information and presence in Baghdad for spying helped dismantle
the commission, thereby allowing Iraq to receive weapons and technology from
Russia toward building its nuclear weapons stockpile.
Russia liberals begin Yugoslav peace mission
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - Three prominent Russian liberal politicians began
a peace mission in Yugoslavia on Sunday, as other countries urged Moscow to
use its traditional ties in the region to end Belgrade's conflict with NATO.
Former prime minister Yegor Gaidar said after arriving in Belgrade that he and
former deputy prime ministers Boris Nemtsov and Boris Fyodorov would hold
talks with Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister Vuk Draskovic.
The trio held talks in Budapest earlier on Sunday with U.S. special envoy
``He told us about the American administration's position, a position which is
quite tough and with which we do not agree,'' Gaidar told NTV television by
telephone from Belgrade.
He did not say whether the three would meet Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic, whose refusal sign a political deal with separatist ethnic
Albanians on the future of Yugoslavia's Kosovo province prompted the NATO air
Russia is now becoming a focus of attention because it has good relations with
its fellow Orthodox Christian Slavs in Serbia and has shown solidarity with
Belgrade by opposing the bombing and freezing contacts with NATO.
In Paris, a highly placed government official said French President Jacques
Chirac had urged Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to go to Belgrade to
ask Milosevic to try to end the crisis.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Chirac had told
Primakov by telephone on Saturday that Moscow had a key role to play. French
Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine also urged Russia to launch a peace
Dutch Prime Minister Jozias van Aartsen said in a Dutch television interview
on Sunday that the Russian role was pivotal in the crisis. Italian Prime
Minister Massimo D'Alema said on Friday Russia had a ``constructive'' role to
Borislav Milosevic, who is Yugoslavia's ambassador to Russia and the brother
of the Yugoslav president, said Milosevic and Russian President Boris Yeltsin
were in frequent contact and a meeting between them could not be ruled out.
He said that Moscow and Belgrade had exchanged messages in the last two days
but gave no details.
Asked in a television interview whether Milosevic planned to meet Yeltsin, the
ambassador said: ``I can't say I have any concrete information but I must say
such meetings, and there have been several in the past, have been very
``The two presidents are in contact. I cannot rule out the possibility of such
a meeting,'' he said.
Yeltsin has travelled little in recent months because of illness but might see
the chance to intervene in the Yugoslav crisis as a way to reassert his
authority, although a series of Kremlin peace initiatives have failed in the
past in Yugoslavia.
Draskovic told NTV that Yugoslavia was ready to resume the Kosovo peace talks
if NATO halted air strikes but made clear Kosovo Albanians must also rain in
their separatist campaign.
``Above all the aggression must be stopped. You cannot talk under bombs. There
can be no agreement under bombs,'' Draskovic said by telephone from Belgrade.
THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION
A BI-WEEKLY ON THE POST-SOVIET STATES
3/26/99 No.6 Part 2
THE PRIME MINISTER HAS UNTIL THE AUTUMN
By Elena Dikun
Elena Dikun is a political columnist with Obshchaya gazeta.
Of the recent news emanating from Moscow's backstage corridors, the most
astounding is that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov allegedly ordered an
opinion poll to find out which politicians he would do better to form an
alliance with for the next presidential elections. Rumors began circulating
simultaneously that while Primakov publicly denies any intent to take over
the Kremlin, in private he himself quite clear: "If no one else will do it,
I suppose I could serve one term, but don't try and persuade me to go for a
second." If such rumors are true, the story is momentous; if they are not,
they are provocation on a huge scale, with the aim of unseating Primakov as
quickly as possible.
THE SEARCH FOR A SUCCESSOR
An opinion has recently been gaining ground in Russian political circles
that Yevgeny Primakov will only hold on in his position until the autumn.
The certainty that he will last no longer than that is based on something
President Boris Yeltsin said. Not so long ago, the Kremlin referred to the
prime minister as its "mainstay and only hope," but the president is
becoming less and less fond of him. "But then Boris Nikolaevich [Yeltsin]
would not care for any prime minister whose rating kept rising. He is
suspicious of strong candidates for the presidency," Prism's Kremlin
administration source said.
Regional leaders, however, are also unhappy with the prime minister: They do
not like Primakov's proposal to abolish elections for governors and to
appoint them by presidential decree, as was previously the case. At the same
time, businessmen are seriously worried by Primakov's determination to fill
prisons and correction centers with their colleagues. Incredible stories are
told about the "tough" prime minister. Recently, on receipt of an anonymous
tip-off about abuse of authority by a high-ranking official, Primakov
allegedly gave the order to "put him behind bars" without looking into the
details of the case. Basically, with the exception of the communist
opposition in the Duma, none of Russia's influential leaders would object to
Primakov's being replaced. Interested parties reason, however, that it would
be better to let him stay in office until the autumn. The "autumn prime
minister" would have a better chance of gaining the presidency: He would not
have time to irritate Yeltsin or to burden himself with responsibility for
the inevitable failures in the economy.
The only person who believes that Primakov should be removed forthwith is
Boris Berezovsky: His relations with Primakov have developed into a fight to
the death. It is said that Berezovsky tried to draw another television
magnate, Vladimir Gusinsky, into the battle, but Gusinsky could not see the
point and preferred not to get involved.
Law enforcement raids on Berezovsky's empire--ORT, Sibneft and Aeroflot--and
his dismissal as CIS secretary have seriously shaken his power base. He
retains, however, the resources to put up a fight. Central to these is the
compromising information he holds on many statesmen, which acts as a
safeguard for him. Those in the know believe nonetheless that there will be
no winners or losers in the Berezovsky-Primakov contest. "Boris Adamovich
[Berezovsky] will not bring down the government and Yevgeny Maksimovich
[Primakov] will not find a way to put Berezovsky behind bars. The most the
prime minister will be able to achieve is to send his opponent abroad for a
while," Primakov's team believes. "For a while" means until the autumn, when
the Kremlin officials will be grooming Primakov's successor. This is a
thankless task: The staff are working themselves into the ground to no
apparent avail. Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Foreign Minister Igor
Ivanov and others have figured in the list of possible candidates for prime
minister, but none have stayed very long. The absence of a sure replacement
is another reason not to rush into removing Primakov.
THE KREMLIN REMEMBERS THE DEAL
For the time being, those on the president's team are doing all they can to
keep the prime minister in his place in the hierarchy. In this respect, the
late February meeting between Yeltsin and Primakov (before the president
went into the hospital again and the prime minister went on holiday) is of
great interest. It is impossible to tell from the videotapes (which the
Kremlin's television team edited and were subsequently aired on national
television) what the two most senior figures in the country talked about at
that meeting. It was rather like a rebus. Yeltsin talked about the agreement
he had made with Primakov when Primakov was appointed prime minister, and
promised to stand by Primakov until the end of his presidency. Primakov
confirmed that he remembered the bargain, and began to criticize the press:
He was fed up with the speculation about his plans to run for president.
What was the agreement Yeltsin referred to? According to Prism sources, when
Yeltsin offered Primakov the job of prime minister he asked Primakov not to
participate in the next presidential elections and not to obstruct the
Kremlin's chosen candidate. Furthermore, Primakov was to be prepared, if
necessary, to give up his prime ministerial seat in favor of the Kremlin's
applicant. Primakov apparently accepted Yeltsin's terms without question. In
time it became clear to Yeltsin's team that the malleable Primakov was
blatantly contravening the autumn deal--in other words, was preparing to
move to the Kremlin. Yeltsin therefore decided to clear things up. Primakov
was ready for the conversation, however, and quickly took the initiative,
proposing to Yeltsin that both sides publicly confirm their commitment to
their gentlemen's agreement and rebuke the newspapers propagating the
rumors. All this was done and captured on film.
Then the scissors came into play. Having seen the full tape of the
conversation, Nikolai Bordyuzha, then head of Yeltsin's administration, and
the president's advisors, Tatyana Dyachenko and Valentin Yumashev, decided
that Primakov had gained too much from this audience. First, Yeltsin had
publicly praised the work of the Primakov government, saying that it was
doing all it could. Second, Yeltsin, who had never before been angry with
the media, had made a direct attack on them. In order not to damage the
president's reputation and not to extol the prime minister's virtues, the
Kremlin carefully edited out both the praise of the government and the
criticism of the press. The result was a meaningless message.
Primakov reacted angrily to these liberties. For three days he bombarded the
president's press office and television company bosses with telephone calls
demanding that the entire film be shown without any cuts. "No one has the
right to censor the president!" Primakov insisted, but was informed in no
uncertain terms that there was no way Yeltsin would appear on television
screens attacking journalists.
THE CHAMPION OF THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS--A SACRED IMAGE
We have learned that the Kremlin now plans to unleash an information
campaign against Primakov's government. In particular, he intends to
heighten his criticism of the cabinet for its inactivity and of the prime
minister and his team for encroaching on freedom of speech and--more
seriously--on the freedom of the people's democratic will. (The prime
minister's team is allegedly planning to abolish the presidential
elections). According to Prism's source, the assumption is that Primakov,
reacting badly to coverage in the media, will lose his nerve and start
making mistakes, which one does not expect from him, "while... working
[against Yeltsin] in cold blood, like a machine."
Meanwhile, the president's administration, using intermediaries, is trying
to establish partnerships with Primakov's potential rivals for the
presidency. In particular, the Kremlin hopes to repair its damaged relations
with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and bring him back to court. It is unclear
whether this plan will work, but its designers are convinced that flirting
in public with Luzhkov will force Primakov into open competition. This will
undoubtedly weaken Primakov's position--as the "one who violates the
treaty"--and, correspondingly, strengthen Yeltsin's influence (and his
administration's) in shaping the future power structure; this, essentially,
is the main task of the Kremlin strategists, who have long been twiddling
Primakov's detractors are also restrained by his not giving them any grounds
for serious public denunciation. The most serious thing he is accused of in
backstage tittle-tattle is the political armistice project and his dealings
with the IMF. "Yevgeny Maksimovich [Primakov] has achieved nothing with his
calls and letters to Camdessus; he has not got any money and has needlessly
demeaned himself before the IMF," said Prism's Kremlin source.
The behavior of the "power" ministers is of great concern to the
anti-Primakov camp. They have come under his influence unexpectedly quickly
and begun to obey him even without clear directives: A raised eyebrow is
enough. The one exception is FSB director Vladimir Putin, who considers that
he still has just one boss--Yeltsin. Perhaps this is why rumors have begun
to circulate that Putin is about to be replaced by Yuri Zubakov, now head of
Even his ill-wishers admit that Primakov has been prudent in selecting his
coalition cabinet. He can now rid himself of ballast without doing himself
any damage; it will look as though he is making a sacrifice, giving in to
pressure from above. According to Prism sources, the Kremlin will soon
demand a reciprocal gesture from Primakov in return for giving up
Berezovsky: They want him to dismiss both Vice Premier Gennady Kulik and
Agriculture Minister Viktor Semenov. The most difficult task will be to
wrench Yuri Maslyukov from Primakov. The former state planner acts as an
effective lightning rod for the prime minister, deflecting onto himself the
bolts from the liberal economists. But it looks as though Primakov will
eventually have to surrender him also, under pressure from the Kremlin.
Observers are amazed at how meticulously Primakov plans any step that is at
all important to him. A case in point: the story of how Primakov drove
Anatoly Chubais away from politics. Initially Primakov asked a dozen people
close to Chubais to have a friendly chat with him about it. For a month
Chubais had to listen to such "well-wishers" and ended up climbing the walls
to avoid them. When Primakov eventually made his request in person, Chubais
almost cried with relief. All the signs are that Primakov knows the rules of
these political games just as well as--perhaps even better than--his
opponents. Primakov's adversaries face a real master in this respect. Who
will come out on top is an open question.
March 27, 1999
[for personal use only]
Russia's violent southern rim
EVEN by the violent standards of the North Caucasus, the bomb that went off
on March 19th in North Ossetias capital, Vladikavkaz, created the most
gruesome mayhem. It blew up in a crowded market place in the middle of the
day, killing at least 50 people and mutilating scores more. The bombers
meant to kill as many people as they could.
The Ossets, many of whom are Christians, have historically been Moscows
most loyal allies in this rebellious, mainly Muslim, area. Vladikavkaz,
whose tsarist-era name means Power over the Caucasus, is the nearest thing
the Kremlin has to a secure garrison town in the region. When the Ossets
and their neighbours, the Ingush, fought a nasty little war over some
disputed land in 1992, the Russians made sure the Ossets came off better.
But who would have committed this latest outrage, and why The bombers
clearly wanted the blast in Vladikavkaz to be heard in Moscow. But the
prime suspects this time are not the Ingush, who are kept in check nowadays
by their pragmatic leader, Ruslan Aushev, a veteran of the Afghan war. It
is more likely that the bomb was planted by the Ingushs ethnic cousins, the
Chechnya has been de facto independent since the Russian army was booted
out three years ago. So far, the main beneficiaries of its twilight status
have been dozens of armed gangs, who blend crime, radical Islam and
political opposition to the Chechen government. They have grown richfar
richer than the Chechen authoritiesby extracting ransoms from kidnappings.
They are also busy making mayhem next-door in Dagestan, the multi-ethnic
republic to Chechnyas east. It was certainly a rogue Chechen group that was
behind another recent act that has outraged the Russians: the kidnapping
earlier this month of Gennady Shpigun, an interior-ministry general, at the
airport on the edge of Grozny, the Chechen capital.
The Russians do not know what to do about Chechnya. Most people in Moscow
reckon that Russia should back the Chechens elected but increasingly
beleaguered president, Aslan Maskhadov. But it has given him no cash or
guns, and has watched him lose control of his republic. The Chechen
warlords have now formed an opposition councilthe shura, as they style
itintent on wresting power from Mr Maskhadov. Two days after the
Vladikavkaz bomb they failed by a whisker to blow him up as he drove by in
his car. Four of his aides died.
Chechens in the shura, mostly battle-hardened field-commanders such as
Shamil Basaev, talk of creating an independent radical Islamic
confederation in the Northern Caucasus, to embrace the Chechen, Dagestani
and Ingush peoples, among others. Their model is the Mountainous Republic
that was briefly independent in the early 1920s, its constitution based on
the Muslim sharia legal code. Most people in the vicinity these days have
actually become pretty Russified and are loth to go down the Chechens
radical-Muslim road. But the more mayhem the bombers create, the murkier
the Caucasian future and the better their chance of picking up the bits.
Russia to conduct subcritical nuclear tests this year
MOSCOW, March 28 (Kyodo) -- Russia is planning to conduct multiple subcritical
nuclear tests again this year, Interfax news agency quoted a senior Nuclear
Energy Ministry official as saying Sunday.
Deputy Nuclear Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said the main purpose of the
tests is to check the safety and reliability of Russia's nuclear weapons, the
The tests will be carried out at a site on the Novaya Zemlya islands in the
But the report did not give a specific date for the tests or say how many
would be conducted.
Russia maintains such tests do not violate the Comprehensive (nuclear) Test
Ban Treaty as they do not involve nuclear explosions.
The country conducted five subcritical nuclear tests between Sept. 14 and Dec.
13 of last year. The U.S. has conducted six tests since July 1997.
A Russian government publication reported that the ministry is planning five
tests this year.
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