This Date's Issues: 3238•3239
Johnson's Russia List
14 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
Re the war in Yugoslavia: JRL will not--with rare exception--become
a forum for debating this issue. It will, as in the past, be a vehicle
for information and analyses not widely available elsewhere,
particularly views that relate to Russian perspectives. This means
lots more stuff critical of NATO's war than supportive. But mostly
not about Yugoslavia--I hope. Sorry. I know some feelings will be hurt.
Here's a good example, with probably too much re Yugoslavia.
1. Itar-Tass: Yeltsin-Stabilizing Factor in Russia, Lebed Says.
2. Inter Press Service: Science-Russia: Scientists Struggle to Keep
Space Station Alive.
3. RFE/RL: Edeb Doniger, Russia: Book Publishing Industry Adapts To
4. Itar-Tass: Duma Committee Chair Suggests Balkan Compromise.
5. Znet: Noam Chomsky Replies re Kosovo.
6. Congressional Record: Rep. Curt Weldon, ONGOING KOSOVO CRISIS.
7. the eXile: Matt Taibbi, Press Review. More Soviet than the Soviets.
8. Carol Leonard: Reporting on Russian's perspectives about the Kosovo
9. Itar-Tass: Chubays Favors Procurator-General's Dismissal.]
Yeltsin-Stabilizing Factor in Russia, Lebed Says.
KRASNOYARSK, April 13 (Itar-Tass) - President Boris Yeltsin is a "stabilizing
factor" for the present-day Russia, Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed told
journalists on Tuesday.
According to Lebed, the president "does not give a chance to very many
people, rather fast by character, to tear the country to pieces." Without
Yeltsin a "bullterrier race" would be started in Russia, Lebed said.
Commenting at the request of Tass on the situation with the discussion of the
impeachment procedure in the State Duma, Lebed said that its initiators "are
burning the house in which they live. They lost a feeling of political
Science-Russia: Scientists Struggle to Keep Space Station Alive
Inter Press Service
MOSCOW, (Apr. 12) IPS - As Russia today quietly celebrated the 38th
anniversary of the first manned space flight in history, there have been
calls for private donations to keep the last remaining jewel of the
once-ambitious Soviet space program in orbit.
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel in
space, and his tomb in the Kremlin wall was duly honored today.
As a measure of how far the country's space program has fallen since that
historic moment, Russian aerospace officials are making no secret of the fact
that they can no longer afford to keep Mir, the manned space station,
orbiting the Earth.
Private donors and the Chinese government are among the candidates to run or
share the space station, which is in good shape and could keep functioning
for another 8-10 years, according to Russian experts.
Mir ("peace" or "world" in Russian) is already seven years past its five-year
life expectancy. It turned 12 on Feb. 20, with three cosmonauts -- two
Russian and one French -- celebrating the occasion on board.
"It would be a tragic waste to give up the country's last space station, Mir
-- one of the greatest technical achievements of the twentieth century,"
argued Joseph Davydov, chairman of the Foundation to Support Russian Space
"Mir is now valued at some $3 billion, and it has 11 tons of state-of-the-art
scientific equipment delivering invaluable data, valued at $500 billion, most
of which could be used for eight to 10 more years," he told IPS.
"If the government does not have the money, we need to raise private
contributions to keep Mir in orbit," he said.
Mir is the longest-serving space station in the history of space exploration
and has been a valuable laboratory to research the impact of long-term
missions on the human body.
Last year, Russia decided to retire the Mir space station by June 1999, due
to the country's financial woes and a number of incidents and malfunctions
following a near-fatal collision with a supply ship in 1997.
Russia's principal partner in space exploration, the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA), welcomed the decision to deactivate Mir, which
will allow Moscow to focus its efforts on the new International Space Station
Russia is in charge of key parts of the $40 billion station, a combined
effort of the United States, Russia, the European Union, Canada and Japan.
Zarya (dawn) -- ISS' first component -- was launched last November by Russian
technicians, who are now finishing the station's living quarters. The habitat
will be launched some time between July and September, Yuri Koptev, head of
Russia's Space Agency, said today.
The first crew (two Russian cosmonauts and one U.S. astronaut) was due to go
up in May this year, but with delays in Russia, it is now expected to be in
orbit by January 2000.
But space cooperation is not free from the growing bitterness between Moscow
and Washington. "The U.S. and NASA are doing all they can to destroy Mir and
to elbow Russians off the orbit," argued veteran cosmonaut Viktor Gorbatko.
However, the Kremlin could be equally blamed -- Russia's 1999 budget
allocates a meager three billion rubles ($120 million) for space research.
In a surprise about-face, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov signed a decree
last January to keep Mir in orbit for three more years, while Russian space
officials announced that they had found a private investor, but later
conceded that negotiations had failed.
Russian newspapers have reported a Chinese connection, but space officials
partially dismissed the rumors. "There has been no deal to lease Mir space
station to China so far," said Sergei Gromov, a spokesman for Energiya, the
rocket design bureau that owns Mir.
However, "our experts have been lecturing in China and two Chinese pilots
went through full training courses at a Russian space center -- now they are
ready to use our spacecraft," he said.
With a yearly $200 to $250 million budget needed to keep Mir in space for
just a few more years, it is unlikely that many private investors will show
much interest, local analysts predicted.
This is one reason the Russian media is speculating that China could be the
mysterious investor, in an alleged attempt to mark the country's 50th
anniversary in October by an unprecedented public relations exercise -- a
manned space flight.
Meanwhile, Mir has already descended from its normal orbit, and is slowly
approaching the Earth. A controlled descent will cause the spacecraft to be
partly incinerated upon entering the atmosphere. The remains will sink into
the ocean off New Zealand.
To keep its programs alive, the Russian Space Agency has already turned to
advertising: cosmonauts flying on Mir filmed a short spot for an Israeli milk
brand recently, while Pepsi Cola shot an advertisement three years ago.
Despite technical setbacks and financial woes, the Russian space program may
find some light at the end of the tunnel.
Apart from its part in the International Station, Sea Launch --a joint
venture between Russia, Ukraine and U.S.-based Boeing Corporation -- rocketed
its first satellite last month, signaling success for its innovative launch
pad floating on the equatorial Pacific Ocean.
For all its problems, "the crisis in Russia is not going to be endless," Oleg
Baklanov, former minister in charge of the Soviet space program between 1983
and 1988, told IPS. "I do believe that Russia's space achievements in the
past could be projected into the future."
Russia: Book Publishing Industry Adapts To Change
By Eden Doniger
Prague, 13 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's venerable book publishing
industry is writing a new chapter in its long history as it adapts to the
country's ongoing financial crisis and to the frequently changing tastes of
the book-buying public.
Since the transformation toward a free-market economy began early this
decade, Russia's book publishers have had to cope with diminished financial
resources and unfettered competition, notably by companies printing
detective and romance novels, self-help books and other western-style
Before the collapse of communism, Russian publishing houses -- relying on
the popularity and significance of classic literature to their readers --
could plan print runs of about 50,000 copies of novels by such classic
Russian authors as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Aleksandr Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy, or
even works by state-approved Western authors, such as novelist William
Since 1991, however, beautifully bound editions of Dostoevsky's "The
Brothers Karamozov" have often collected dust on publishers' shelves while
booksellers on street corners earned money selling cheap American or French
romance novels or Russian "detective" novels -- thrillers that often depict
the bloody adventures of Russian gangsters.
Has this explosion of book genres and publishers been a positive change for
Russian readers and Russian literature?
Aleksandr Sokolov -- a Russian living in the U.S. -- is the director of
M.I.P. Company, a publisher of non-mainstream Russian books headquartered
in the northern state of Minnesota. One of M.I.P.'s recent projects is a
controversial new biography of Russia's beloved Pushkin.
Sokolov sees the growth of popular novels in pragmatic terms. In a recent
interview with RFE/RL, he said the "main problem in Russia is the crippled
market. Many people are starving. Who would care about literature in such a
But others say that after an initial fascination with once-banned books,
Russian readers appear to be returning to traditional fare.
Igor Zakharov -- the book columnist for the English-language Moscow Times
newspaper -- says reading the classics has become more fashionable in
Russia over the last few years. He attributes this trend to the changing
face of the reading population -- less rebellious than at the beginning of
the 1990s -- and also to a milder appetite for "taboo" western-style
literature. The novelty of such books is beginning to wear off.
Although mass literature continues to dominate the Russian publishing
industry, its authors and characters are also becoming increasingly
Russian. At first, these books were imported from the west and translated
into Russian, but soon they were being written by Russians themselves. A
leading example is Aleksandra Marinina, who has published about nine
million copies of her 18 detective novels since 1994.
And it's not only Russian writers of popular literature who are being
published. Some companies started taking financial risks a few years ago by
widely publishing new Russian writing, like the Siberian wilderness stories
of Viktor Astafiev and the avant-garde stories of Viktor Pelevin. The books
were snatched off the shelves, another signal that Russian readers may be
turning away from so-called "pulp" fiction and returning to more serious
The Russian publishing industry has also rebounded over the last few years
by spreading their operations into the provinces -- Chelyabinsk and
Voronezh, for example -- and into former Soviet republics, such as
Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine. Successful publishing houses in these
regions have created a wider distribution network and less Moscow-centric
Some publishers -- such as Vagryus in Moscow -- have been printing the work
of new writers at the same time it appears in literary journals, like
Znamya and Novy Mir. These publishers do not want to fall behind the
literary journals in the talent search. And in the mid-1990s, publishers
began to advertise books on television, recognizing the need to appeal to a
In their efforts to reconnect with and satisfy the regular Russian reader,
however, publishers may be neglecting academic and educational literature.
Professor Vladimir Zakharov -- dean of the Philological Faculty at
Petrozavodsk University in the northwestern Russian republic of Karelia --
is editor-in-chief of an academic journal dedicated to Dostoevsky. Zakharov
tells RFE/RL that most Russian universities do not have book stores,
connections with other university presses or any kind of network to
distribute serious literature within the academic community.
Zakharov says that if a professor or student does not live near large
cities like Moscow or Saint Petersburg -- or does not have access to the
Internet -- necessary materials are largely inaccessible.
Reflecting on the larger picture, Zakharov thinks Russian publishing is in
a bad state.
"The situation with publishing and the book market, especially of serious
authors, is catastrophic. I think it has never been this bad."
Zakharov said Russians have become "day-to-day" consumers and can't afford
to save money for book buying like they once could.
Looking beyond the Russian Federation's borders, the global book publishing
industry is also feeling the effects of Russia loosening control of its
Large publishing houses like Myezhdunarodnie Kniga and Nauka once
controlled the entire industry, dictating how often and in what quantities
foreign booksellers could buy Russian books. Today, these former monopolies
are overshadowed by many publishers, each specializing in different types
of books. In contrast to Soviet times, foreign booksellers can acquire most
any Russian book and do so relatively quickly.
Dean Hunt is manager of Slavic distribution for Schoenhof's Foreign Books
in the eastern U.S. state of Massachusetts. Schoenhof's has been supplying
Russian books to American readers for more than 40 years. In a recent
interview, he told RFE/RL that "the Russian publishing world is not dying
or sick. It's just finding a new footing. Based on what we've been able to
procure these past four years, you can see it's in a state of flux, but the
quality is increasing."
Hunt said the quality of printing by Russian publishers in particular has
improved. Although some books still have newspaper-print quality, Hunt said
some publishers have made great investments and are turning out books
printed on high-quality paper and with flashy book jackets, a recent
innovation in Russia. Hunt said Russian publishers "are now realizing that
covers can sell books." Hunt said he's seeing some changes for the worse,
though. He said foreign booksellers often cannot reorder copies of a
particular edition, either because the publisher has gone out of business
or because the book's print run was too small due to lack of funds or lack
of trust in the market. Hunt said foreign booksellers like himself are
forced to find another publisher printing the desired edition, causing
delays and frustration.
Hunt said, "Russia's general economic health determines the direction its
publishing can take. For example, the price of paper was skyrocketing as of
a few years ago. The price of paper determines the size of a print run. ...
The word you always hear in this business -- as my Russian supplier says --
is vyzhivanie (survival)."
Hunt says Russian publishing is a "volatile business that is growing up
Despite opposition from the Communist-dominated State Duma, the Russian
government recently decided to renew the State Support of Mass Media and
Book Publishing Law, which provides tax and customs duties exemptions to
mass media sources and publishers. The law is now due to expire on January
If the law had been terminated, many publishers who depend on printing
facilities in Germany, Finland, Austria, Italy and even Singapore say they
would have gone bankrupt due to customs charges, while those who print in
Russia would have been hurt by added taxes on paper and supplies.
The Russian media law doesn't help everyone equally. Small, academic
publishers -- such as the Dostoevsky magazine edited by Professor Zakharov
-- do not reap all the benefits of state aid that the larger publications
do. Zakharov says his journal has not received government aid for four
years and wholly depends on its subscribers to keep it alive:
"If you do not work for a university press or a big publisher, this law
doesn't help you much. ... Sooner or later things should change, but right
now this is a very hard time for serious educational publications."
Indeed, some of them have fallen through the cracks, but largely they too
have managed to maintain solid ground and persevere through their country's
This year marks the 200th birthday of Pushkin, fondly remembered as the
father of classic Russian literature, and the 100th birthday of Vladimir
Nabokov, revered as the father of contemporary Russian literature.
With the legacy of two of its most celebrated writers escorting Russian
literature into the next millennium, Russia's book publishing industry is
likely to find a way to persevere through these present hard times.
Duma Committee Chair Suggests Balkan Compromise
Moscow, Apr 12 (Itar-Tass) -- Vladimir Lukin, head
of the Duma committee for international affairs, believes that Russia may
suggest a compromise version of overcoming the Balkan crisis at the
forthcoming meeting of Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and U.S.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. He said so in an exclusive
interview with Tass on Monday [12 April]. "Americans are obviously coming
to realise that in Yugoslavia they did something absurd, and now they
should look for an acceptable way out of the situation," he stressed. In
his opinion, now "it is important for our diplomats to suggest to
Americans their own way to get out of this difficult situation, the way
that would include the end to bombing strikes and would not mean for the
U.S. the undermining of its prestige, but would provide for the U.S. a
path for retreat," Lukin said.
He believes "there are several such ways. One of them provides for the
creation in Yugoslavia of the Kosovo province, made up of two parts." A
system of guarantees, perhaps with foreign presence, but, of course, with
the consent of the Yugoslav authorities, would cover the southern part of
the province, and the non-Albanian population would be concentrated in
its northern part. "I think this way should be considered both by
Americans, by the Yugoslav authorities and by the mediators," Lukin said,
but added that it was just one of the ways to stop hostilities in
Yugoslavia. The most important thing is to stop the bombing, and with
this in view it is important for both parties concerned -- both the U.S.
and Yugoslavia -- not to disgrace themselves.
One thing is clear: "with every new bombing it is becoming more and more
difficult for Americans to get their feet off Yugoslavia without problem.
This is why a search for some compromise way is quite possible," Lukin
Noam Chomsky Replies re Kosovo
>From the ZNet Forum System
Chomsky was asked first about support among progressives for the position
that "military intervention is needed to stop Milosevic from committing
genocide, regardless of whether NATO's motivations are pure," with
comparisons about "WWII being necessary to stop Hitler, even if the U.S. did
not have truly humanitarian objectives." As well as, "Is the Yugoslavian
government genocidal" and "Will the NATO intervention have the effect of
stopping Milosevic and/or saving the people of Kosovo from extermination?"
I don't want to say anything about the people you are referring to, because I
don't know, but it seems to me reasonably clear that if we think the matter
through, the arguments you report are untenable, so untenable as to raise
some rather serious questions.
First, let's consider Milosovec's "genocide" in the period preceding the NATO
bombings. According to NATO, 2000 people had been killed, mostly by Serb
military, which by summer 1998 began to react (with retaliation against
civilians) to guerrilla (KLA) attacks on police stations and civilians, based
from and funded from abroad. And several hundred thousands of refugees were
generated. (We might ask, incidentally, how the US would respond to attacks
on police stations and civilians in New York by armed guerrillas supported
from and based in Libya). That's a humanitarian crisis, but one of a scale
that is matched or exceeded substantially all over the world right now, quite
commonly with decisive support from Clinton. The numbers happen to be almost
exactly what the State Department has just reported for Colombia in the same
year, with roughly the same distribution of atrocities (and a far greater
refugee population, since the 300,000 resulting from last year's atrocities
are added to over a million from before). And it's a fraction of the
atrocities that Clinton dedicated substantial efforts to escalating in Turkey
in the same years, in the ethnic cleansing of Kurds. And on, and on. So if
Milosovic is "genocidal," so are a lot of others -- pretty close to home.
That doesn't say he's a nice guy: he's a monstrous thug. But the term
"genocidal" is being waved as a propaganda device to mobilize the public for
Second, the US ("NATO") intervention, as predicted, radically escalated the
atrocities, maybe even approaching the level of Turkey, or of Palestine in
1948, to take another example. I wouldn't use the term "genocide" for such
operations -- that's a kind of ultra-right "revisionism," an insult to the
memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in my opinion. But it's very bad, and
it suffices to undermine the claim that "military intervention is needed to
stop Milosevic from committing genocide," on elementary logical grounds.
About "WWII being necessary to stop Hitler," that's not what happened at all.
The US/UK were rather sympathetic to Hitler (and absolutely adored
Mussolini). That went on to the late '30s, with varying defections in the
latter stages (much the same was true of Japanese fascism). When Hitler
invaded Poland, Britain and France went to war -- called "a phony war,"
because they didn't do much. When Hitler attacked them, it became a real war.
When Germany declared war on the US, after Japan had attacked mainly US
military facilities in US colonies that had been conquered (in one case, with
extraordinary violence) half a century before, the US went to war. No one
went to war "to stop Hitler."
There's always more to say: history is too complex to summarize in a few
lines. But the basic assumptions you describe are so far off the mark that
discussion is hardly even possible.
Chomsky was also asked: "To what extent could US resort to military force in
the Balkans be related to Caspian Sea oil and concerns over declining
reserves, uncertainty about Russia and its former empire, the threat to
Western interests of increasing conflict in the Balkans, the desire to
increase the Pentagon budget, or maybe other factors, since the professed
humanitarian concerns seem `dubious.'"
On the last, "dubious" is too kind. If a Mafia don who runs the local branch
of Murder Inc. shows some kindness to children, the humanitarian concerns
don't rise to the level of "dubious" -- and that's even more so if he shows
his humanitarian concerns by kicking the kid in the face. We can put that
aside, as sheer hypocrisy.
More plausible, in my view, is just what Clinton, Blair, etc., have been
saying from the start. It's necessary to ensure the "credibility of NATO."
But that phrase has to be translated from Newspeak.
The US is not concerned with the "credibility" of Italy or Holland: rather,
with the US (and its British attack dog). And what does "credibility" mean?
Here we can return to the Mafia don. If someone doesn't pay protection money,
the don has to establish "credibility," to make sure others don't get funny
ideas about disobeying orders. So what Clinton, et al., are saying is that
it's necessary to ensure that everyone has proper fear of the global
enforcer. I think it is also useful to bear in mind the Clinton strategic
document called "Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence" that's quoted in an
article of mine in Z a year ago on "Rogue States," the same one Steve Shalom
reviewed in more detail in a recent post. It advocates that the US portray
itself as "irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked,"
"part of the national persona we project to all adversaries": "It hurts to
portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed," and surely not
subordinate to treaty obligations or conditions of world order. "The fact
that some elements" of the US government "may appear to be potentially `out
of control' can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing fears and doubts
within the minds of an adversary's decision makers."
That makes sense for a rogue superpower, with a near monopoly on means of
violence. The "humanitarian cover" has been used by violent states throughout
history: we'd probably find it was true of Genghis Khan, if we had records.
It was surely true of the Crusaders who left a hideous trail of death and
destruction. In fact, about the only clear exceptions I know are in the
Biblical tales, which call for outright genocide -- the Carthaginian solution
-- with no credible motive.
In the background is the dedicated US assault against any institution of
international order: the UN, the World Court, even the WTO when it gets out
of hand. That's been going on for almost 40 years, for reasons that are
explained very clearly and would be taught in every school in the country and
headlined in every newspaper and journal, under conditions of authentic
freedom: they don't follow our orders, so they can get lost. That's why the
US, in this case, compelled its more reluctant NATO allies to reject even
"authorization" from the UN.
A very important observation leaked through the NY Times on April 8, in one
of the last paragraphs of a story on an inside page by Steven Erlanger, their
Belgrade correspondent, who has a record of reliability. Possibly the most
important bit of information about what has been happening. He writes that
"just before the bombing, when [the Serbian Parliament] rejected NATO troops
in Kosovo, it also supported the idea of a United Nations force to monitor a
political settlement there." If Erlanger's report is true, then it provides
very dramatic evidence of US intentions: like the bombing of Iraq in
December, it is another brazen attack against the institutions of world
order, since the Serbian Parliament would be right, and Washington wrong, on
the alternatives of a UN vs. a NATO force. If the report is true, then the
last shreds of legitimacy for the US/NATO operation disappear. I hadn't seen
this reported before; maybe others have. It surely merited a front-page
headline, the day before the bombings began, not a hidden phrase two weeks
later -- though that's better than nothing.
I'd be intrigued to know if others have come across similar reports.
The other factors you mention could be real, but I think they are secondary.
The US (NATO) operation is likely to exacerbate most of the problems. And
expanding the Pentagon budget is not a value in itself. The kind of expansion
that will follow this episode is largely a waste, from the point of view of
the Pentagon and the large sectors of the "private" economy that rely on it
House of Representatives
April 12, 1999
ONGOING KOSOVO CRISIS
Remarks of Rep. Curt Weldon (Republican member of Armed Services
Committee from Pennsylvania. DJ: A conservative who nevertheless
has a substantial interest and involvement in Russia.)
Mr. Speaker, as many of our colleagues know, I focus a lot of my time on
dealing with Russia. I formed and I chair the congressional initiative
between our Congress and the Russian parliament, the State Duma. I have been
to Russia a number of times. I host members of the Duma when they come to
Washington, and I interact with Duma leaders on a regular basis. In fact, of
the 450 members of the State Duma, I know over 150 members personally,
including the leaders of all the seven main factions that lead the State Duma
in their deliberations.
In fact, I was supposed to speak at Harvard University before the end of
April to the visiting class of Duma deputies that Harvard runs a training
program for each year to give them the orientation of the way our Congress
works in America so that the Russian Duma can learn from our experiences.
Last week, the Russian Duma canceled the next visit that they were planning
to make to Harvard. They canceled that visit because of the Kosovo situation.
Last week, Mr. Speaker, I talked to my friend in the Duma on the phone, after
having met with a couple of Russian leaders in person at a conference last
week in Philadelphia.
One of my friends who is a senior leader of the support of the Russian Duma
told me that in the 7 years since the reforms in Russia he had never seen the
hostile feelings toward America as he is seeing right now because of Kosovo.
In fact, he told me that almost every Duma deputy from the radical fringe of
the communist and the LDPR's Zhirinovsky faction to the moderate members of
the Duma and Yabloko faction, every member of the Duma is expressing outrage,
outrage not only at the continual bombing in Kosovo, the bombing of Serbia,
but outrage that Russia was not brought into a fuller dialogue in trying to
find a way to end this crisis.
In fact, one of my friends told me that it is a dangerous situation in Russia
right now. With President Yeltsin having illness problems and, I think,
widely acknowledged as not being in total control of what is happening in
Russia, there is more and more feeling that Russia may do things that create
serious instability between the U.S. and Russia. That would be an
If Russia were to start supplying military equipment to the Serbians or if
Russia were to even think about providing support in terms of forces to the
Serbs, we would have a very, very dangerous and volatile situation.
We need to understand, Mr. Speaker, that there are some alternatives, and at
least one that should be pursued. I understand that the President's initial
action through NATO was to have the NATO countries, through a massive air
campaign, bomb Milosevic into submission. Up until now, that has not worked.
It may work in the future. And according to our President, we are in there
for the long haul. That is going to be a terrible price we are going to pay
both in terms of destruction to innocent people and buildings, also in terms
of dollar investments on the part of the U.S.
My concern is that if we do not think through this process, we could see a
situation where Russia could enter this conflict on the other side. I have no
doubt that we would be victorious and that we would win any such battle. But,
Mr. Speaker, we do not want Kosovo to be the start of a world war or a major
conflict involving two nations with very capable nuclear weapons.
On Friday evening, Mr. Speaker, I received a telephone call from two of my
friends in Russia who are involved in the State Duma. They had faxed to me
earlier that day a memo asking if I would review a preliminary plan that they
had put together that would perhaps provide a solution to end the hostilities
in Kosovo. I read the document. I talked to the individuals on the telephone.
I assessed their feelings about the Duma rallying behind this initiative. And
then I called senior leaders in the administration to let them know that this
had occurred and that I thought it was worthy of consideration.
Over the weekend, I had additional discussions. Today I talked to Members on
both sides of the aisle, senior leaders of both parties, about their thoughts
on the ideas presented by the members of the Russian Duma for our
consideration. The individuals who called me, Mr. Speaker, asked me to give
them my response about whether or not their ideas are realistic to begin a
Mr. Speaker, I think their ideas are worthy of consideration, and I encourage
the administration to move in beginning negotiations which we could assist
with in the Congress in terms of supporting, finding a new solution to the
hostilities in Kosovo.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, the Russian side proposed to me that Russia would
guarantee to the international community that no more ethnic homicide or
ethnic cleansing would be carried on in Kosovo. The Russian side would
guarantee that to the international community.
The second initiative that was proposed by the Russian side was that Russia
would see that Milosevic agreed to the agreements reached at the contact
working group of the NATO coalition in Rambouillet. So the Russians were
proposing as their second condition that Milosevic come to the table agreeing
to the Rambouillet accords, which the President has said are critical.
The one caveat that they mentioned was that they thought that the
international peacekeeping force that would be put into Kosovo to guarantee
the security and the stability for the Kosovars to make sure that conflict
ended and to guarantee the rights of those citizens would not involve the
militaries of any of those nations that are today bombing Serbia, that those
nations that would make up the ground forces to
implement the agreement and the Rambouillet accord would come from nations
that are not today involved in direct hostilities against the Serbs.
In fact, the Russians even proposed some example countries. They suggested
perhaps that these troops could come from Poland, the Netherlands, Greece,
Albania, even Russia itself, and other European nations who have not been
involved in the bombing campaign against the Serbs.
Mr. Speaker, I think that makes absolute sense to have a multinational force
to enforce the accords that were reached in Kosovo to protect the Kosovars,
overseen by troops from countries that are not involved in the hostilities
today, who would then report to NATO as to the progress of enforcing the
agreed-upon arrangements that were negotiated under NATO's leadership.
The third recommendation that the Russians proposed to me, Mr. Speaker, was
that we establish a bilateral commission, a bilateral commission that in fact
would be assembled in an informal way to monitor the Albanian Government's
compliance, the Serbian Government's compliance with the agreed-upon
framework established by NATO so that the parliamentarians of both nations
would be involved. Not to set foreign policy, not to overrule or supersede
the authority of the one leader we have in America, and that is our
President, but to make sure from a parliamentary standpoint that all aspects
of both governments, both parties in this country and all seven factions in
Russia were, on a daily basis, monitoring the compliance to the peace accords
that had been reached, which Milosevic would have agreed to.
Mr. Speaker, I think these initiatives are worthy of discussion. I think
these initiatives are the direction that we should be going in terms of
dialoguing with Russia about the situation in Kosovo and our relationship
with Serbia. I am not saying it is the end-all or the cure-all or a perfect
solution. But this is far better to talk about than to talk about preparing
Americans to go into a ground war campaign and to look at killing more lives.
Someone at some point in time is going to have to pay to rebuild Serbia and
Kosovo. We need to understand that it should be our top priority today to
find a peaceful way out of this conflict that allows dignity and respect for
NATO, that allows dignity and respect for the process that we use, that
allows Russia to regain the dignity in their relationship in the past with
Serbia, and that shows Milosevic that neither Russia nor the U.S. nor the
allied nations will tolerate the kind of actions that he has perpetrated on
the people of Kosovo.
That is the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, that we have right now.
I have offered to my Russian friends to engage them wherever that might take
place. They have talked about coming here. If need be, we could go there. But
we need to find a way to proactively engage Russia in this solution.
I also think there is one other point that we should make, Mr. Speaker. The
American taxpayers each year put approximately $600 million to $1 billion of
U.S. tax money into the Russian economy. We do it through the cooperative
threat reduction. We do it through economic development assistance through
the Department of Commerce. We do it through the Defense Department with
joint military programs and exchanges. We do it through the Environmental
Protection Agency through environmental initiatives. We do it through a
multitude of agencies and operations of the Federal Government.
Not only do I think it is in our interest to have Russia be more involved, I
think Russia has a responsibility. America has been very helpful in securing
additional funding for the replenishment of the IMF so that Russia can
continue to work economically. America has been very aggressive in helping
Russia deal with environmental problems, nuclear stabilization. In fact, the
President just proposed this year an increase of $1.4 billion over 5 years to
further help Russia stabilize its nuclear arsenal.
It is time that we called Russia in, not just through a long distance phone
call, but in a real and substantive way, with all factions involved, from the
radical left to the radical right, in helping us solve the problem of Kosovo
in a way that reduces the risk of losing more lives, of damaging more
property, and in a way that could lead to a further escalation of conflict.
So, Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight and I challenge the administration to take up
the challenge that was given to me by my Russian friends who want to see us
find a peaceful way, a peaceful way out of what is becoming a terrible
tragedy and yet a peaceful way that recognizes that Milosevic is dead wrong
and must be dealt with in an aggressive, firm way.
There is still that possibility. We must take up that effort. And we must
stop the talking about a ground war operation, a ground campaign and
subjecting young Americans in a way that is going to cost lives and cause
serious hardship for American families.
April 8-21, 1999
More Soviet than the Soviets
by Matt Taibbi
American coverage of the NATO air attack against Yugoslavia is continuing
to prove that the United States is much better at being the Soviet Union
than the Soviet Union ever was.
Independently of each other, and without being directly coerced by the U.S.
government itself, virtually every major American television network and
print publication has allowed the White House to define the terms of all
discussion surrounding the bombing. What they have all done is allow an
essentially fraudulent conception of the entire Kosovo military operation
to serve as the foundation upon which all the critical reporting and
commentary related to the war rests, resulting in blown coverage from start
During the Vietnam war, throughout virtually the entire conflict, not a
single mainstream press outlet thought to ask out loud whether or not we
should even be in Vietnam, or whether we had any moral right to be there.
The press never thought to challenge the government's contention that it
was not the aggressor in South Vietnam, even though there was clear
evidence that the concept of a defense of the Democratic South Vietnamese
government was as much a fiction, say, as the Soviet defense of
Afghanistan. Instead, the main questions the press asked, when it decided
to question the war effort at all, were these: are our tactics working? Is
the war unwinnable? Will we fail despite having had the best intentions for
the Vietnamese people?
The same process is now underway with the coverage of Kosovo. Not a single
mainstream press outlet has bothered to ask the right questions out loud.
The only questions that have arisen in mainstream press coverage are
exactly the ones the government wants us to ask, mainly, "Is there ethnic
cleansing going on in Kosovo? If there is, what is the best way to stop it,
since we have a clear moral obligation to do so?" Or: "Is the air attack
working, and if not, should we invade with ground troops?"
Here's a typical lead from a typical Washington pool report, by Charles
Babington of the Washington Post:
"WASHINGTON - With polls showing that a narrow majority of Americans
support his handling of the Kosovo situation, President Bill Clinton is
sticking steadfastly to using air strikes alone to combat Serbian
aggression, despite reports of atrocities committed against Kosovar
Babington's lead is little more than an outright apology for Clinton's
stance on the bombing. Like virtually every other reporter covering this
business, he focuses obediently on the two pet government themes, which
are: 1) NOT whether or not military action is appropriate at all, but what
KIND of military action is appropriate. 2) NOT whether or not we have a
good enough reason to be attacking Yugoslavia, but HOW SUCCESSFUL our
attack has been in halting ethnic cleansing.
Babington also goes out of his way to juxtapose the U.S. air strikes with
the phrase "Serbian aggression", so that the reader does not identify the
United States as the aggressor--despite the fact that the U.S. meets the
definition of the aggressor in this conflict in every sense of the word. We
attacked first; we bombed a foreign country in a purely offensive manner,
without having ourselves been threatened in any way. The idea that Serbia
is the "aggressor" against NATO by virtue of its repressive ethnic
cleansing policies is bogus on its face; if we were to regard every country
that repressed or slaughtered ethnic minorities as military aggressors
against us, we'd be at war with dozens of countries right now. Rwanda,
Sierra Leone, Burundi, Bhutan...we wouldn't have time to reach them all
every day. We'd have to do it in shifts.
But Babington buys the "Serb aggressor" line, and now his readers will,
too. After hearing it often enough in coverage like his, the only question
which will ultimately interest American audiences is whether or not there
is ethnic cleansing going on, and how effective we're being in stopping it.
And once that premise has been set, no other questions will be let in.
Here's a more recent lead, from a Tuesday front-page story by Anne E.
Kornblut of the Boston Globe:
WASHINGTON - US military officials said yesterday they have gathered the
first clear proof of ethnic roundups, including pictures of Kosovar
Albanians being herded onto Yugoslav roads and marched out of the country. '
Kornblut, like most of the rest of the press corps, has taken last week's
Babington model and one-upped it. Not only does she let the government ask
the questions, but she lets it answer them. The "news" in her article is
the revelation that the Pentagon had obtained a fuzzy photograph which it
insisted showed evidence of Serb ethnic cleansing of Albanians, although
what was in the picture was by no means obvious to the lay observer. As
corroboration of the story, she turns to--you guessed it--U.S. government
spokesmen. Here's the breakdown of the sources quoted in her story, noting
how many times each source was quoted:
U.S. Government: Bill Clinton (3 times); Defense Secretary William Cohen
(Twice); "Officials" (Once); Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon (Twice); U.S.
War Crimes Investigator David Scheffer (Twice); State Department spokesman
James Rubin (Twice); NATO Air Commodore David Wilby (Once); Madeline
Albright (Once); The "UN High Commissioner on Refugees" (Once)
Serbia: Slobodan Milosevic (Once; two words in rebuttal) Of the 1,113 words
in Kornblut's story, 1,090 are devoted to information obtained from U.S.
Government sources. Only 23 are used to sum up Milosevic's response to the
ethnic cleansing charges (U.S. is "aggressor" and "criminal"), and even
those 23 are shouted down by a macho follow-up quote by Clinton, who is
allowed to get in the last word.
If such pure spoon-fed jingoism wasn't transparent enough, some news
outlets allowed themselves a few deliberate liberties with the truth in the
service of the war. Here's the CNN Website's "Timeline" entry regarding the
1997- The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), a small militant group, begins
killing Serb policemen and others who collaborate with the Serbs.
When CNN drew up this timeline, the KLA's links to heroin dealing, as well
as its Marxist-Leninist origins, had already been well-documented in the
Times of London, as well as the New York Times. Not to mention that, and
simply call them a "small militant group", is an obvious and ridiculous
attempt to whitewash the past of our local allies in Albania. It's worth
noting, incidentally, that only a handful of American newspapers even
bothered reporting the background on the KLA's communist past.
That's war reporting, American style. First, you let the government tell
you the plot. Then you let it fill in the dialogue. And then, when holes
form in its story, you fill them in. The Soviets couldn't have done it
better. In fact, they didn't. Russians under communism at least knew their
newspapers were a bunch of lies. How many Americans know the truth about
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999
From: Carol Scott Leonard <email@example.com> (
Subject: Reporting on Russian's perspectives about the Kosovo Conflict
St Antony's College
The tragic events and disappointing political negotiations between NATO and
the Serbian government and the admirable but reserved efforts of the
Russian government to help resolve the conflict have not been given the
kind of treatment I would have expected in fine and important newsletter
such as this one.
Missing from the commentaries of those opposed to NATO's strategy, an
opposition that is exclusively represented here, is consideration of the
immediate issue of ethnic cleansing and the long-term issue of Balkan
post-transition recovery and stability. Why should NATO not be concerned
with events on Western Europe's expanding border, which now reaches
potentially as far as Turkey? The well-being of any region in the sphere
of Western Europe affects the well-being of the whole. The slaughter and
rape of members of one ethnicity brings back memories of a time when the
values of an entire civilisation by suppression of one vulnerable group
were threatened and defended. and these memories evoke a natural response
on the part of NATO to defend, again, those same values, in hopes of some
small victory against that same racist impulse.
Why, in the interests of scholarship and of fundamental knowledge, and why,
in the interest of commonly shared values relevant to the fourth estate
particularly, among Western institutions, commonly shared values that take
precedence over "nationalism," can one not find at least some variation in
views posted in this list serve?
Chubays Favors Procurator-General's Dismissal
MOSCOW, April 12 (Itar-Tass) -- Anatoliy Chubays,
chairman of the board of the Unified Energy Systems of Russia, in an
interview with reporters on Monday, flatly denied rumours about his
possible entering the government. He said he had had no such proposals
from the president, noting that his personal interests and the interests
of the authorities coincide. "The authorities do not want me in the
government, and I have no wish to work there either".
Chubays believes the events regarding former executive secretary of the
Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Boris Berezovskiy, "smack of a
political campaign". He said this, commenting on the warrant for
Berezovskiy's arrest, issued by Russia's Office of the Procurator-General.
"I have long-standing contacts with Berezovskiy, but I can hardly be
regarded as a close friend of his," Chubais said. He said "Berezovskiy
has not done anything new in business of late, everything has long been
known, so the excessive activities of the Office of the
Procurator-General regarding Berezovsky have been a deliberate political
move." Chubais believes "all this shows the danger of the
Procurator-General's Office being turned from a juridical body into a
political one." Chubays believes Yuriy Skuratov should resign from the post
of procurator-general. "There are no doubts about that," he said.
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