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Johnson's Russia List
17 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: World Bank Chief Hopeful about Russia's Primakov.
2. Itar-Tass: Primakov Says His Government Will Seek PEOPLE'S Trust.
3. Itar-Tass: Russia WON'T Revise Defence Ministry Budget, Vice Premier.
4. Itar-Tass: Russia Role in New Century to Be Assured.
5. Financial Times: John Thornhill and Charles Clover, Primakov under
6. Fred Weir on Russian reactions to war on Yugoslavia.
7. Journal of Commerce: John Helmer, THE FRIEND'S FORTUNE -- WHAT THE
WORLD BANK IS DOING FOR RUSSIA.
8. Scott Parrish: RE: Russian Brigade to Serbia?
9. The Economist: Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s martial artist.
10. Moscow Times: Catherine Belton, Parliament Demands Probe of
11. AP: Russia Leaders Warn of World War.
12. UPI: Russian poll shows US out of favor.
13. Boston Globe: David Filipov, Moscow backs Yugoslav bid to join
14. The Nation: George Konrad, Nationalism Unleashed.]
World Bank Chief Hopeful about Russia's Primakov
STOCKHOLM, April 16 (Reuters) - World Bank President James Wolfensohn said on
Friday the biggest hope for Russia was Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
"The best chance we have now is Primakov. He is anxious to have as
transparent a situation now as possible. He has a pretty good grasp of it,"
Wolfensohn told Swedish businessmen, after arriving from Russia.
"I have a lot of confidence in Primakov's intentions and hopes."
Russia had been plagued by corruption since the time of the tsars, but now it
was a huge issue on the political agenda and there was a significant national
desire to deal with the problem, Wolfensohn said.
A spokesman for Primakov said the prime minister had missed a meeting with
Wolfensohn because of a bad back. Wolfensohn said he had spoken to Primakov
but gave no details.
Wolfensohn said he was positive about Russia in the long term.
"If I were making a risk calculation, if I were in the oil business, I'd be
very interested in Russia. I'd be hedging my risk but not writing off the
former Soviet Union," he said.
"You want to be there in the future. But it will be a rough ride," he said.
Wolfensohn on Thursday promised Russia a substantial lending programme
amounting to about $2.3 billion from the World Bank and $1 billion in related
credits from Japan which hinged on Russia reaching an agreement with the IMF.
The IMF, which generally takes a tougher line than its sister organisation
when it comes to laying down loan conditions, has a mission working in Moscow
on policies which could save Russia from a looming sovereign debt default.
Primakov Says His Government Will Seek PEOPLE'S Trust.
MOSCOW, April 16 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has
said the goals of his government are the people's trust in authorities, a
greater level of social protection of the population, and the competitive
"In accordance with the Message of the Russian President to the Federal
Assembly, the government of the country was directed to fulfill a strategic
task to create a competitive and socially- oriented economy," Primakov told a
session of the government on Friday.
"The government must do everything to restore the trust in authorities and
ensure social protection of the population," he said.
The premier underlined the need of struggle with the criminal element in the
economy. "Interaction of the executive and judicial governments and
law-enforcement agencies should be enhanced. We need to uncover those gaps in
the law which facilitate criminalisation of the economy."
Primakov called for "increased pressure on those who by-pass the tax law." He
reminded that "positive shifts which can be seen already in the industry and
agriculture will definitely increase the tax base."
Also, Primakov said with indignation that none of decisions of a March
conference on agriculture had been fulfilled.
"If all decisions which were taken by the conference are not fulfilled in due
time, we will take on a government reshuffle," he said.
He urged greater controls over the execution of the government's decisions
and named Yuri Zubakov, who heads the government's staff, a person in charge.
Russia WON'T Revise Defence Ministry Budget, Vice Premier.
MOSCOW, April 16 (Itar-Tass) - A Russian vice premier said on Friday there is
no need to revise the budget of the Defence Ministry in connection with the
The first vice premier, Yuri Maslyukov was speaking with reporters after a
Considering President Boris Yeltsin's impeachment, the State Duma is "going
too far." "This is the road to nowhere. This will not lead to anything other
than confrontation," Maslyukov said.
Russia Role in New Century to Be Assured.
MOSCOW, April 16 (Itar-Tass) - Delivering a report at the Russian cabinet
meeting on Friday, First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov said that
solving tasks set in the Russian president's address to parliament is of
vital importance for the country's development and will determine Russia's
place in the world in the 21st century.
He said the tasks to ensure the growth of Russian citizens prosperity and
enhance efficiency of production, set out in the address, "form a whole and
should be decided in a comprehensive way".
Dwelling on problems of Russia's foreign trade, Maslyukov said it is
necessary to create conditions for Russian goods manufacturers securing
certain markets for their goods in other countries. He also said there is a
need for "a reasonable compromise between protection of domestic goods
manufacturers and the incentive for them to manufacture competitive
He deplored the fact that Russia still uses insufficiently such instruments
for protecting the domestic market as anti- dumping and compensation duties
and requirements to standards of imported goods.
Maslyukov said Russia's export should not consist of raw materials only but
should be oriented at modernising Russia's economy and giving priority to the
export of machinery.
"Economic measures will be empty words unless bolstered up by vigorous social
policy," Maslyukov said. He stressed the need for a new policy in pay so as
to give an impetus for a more effective work on the scale on the whole
Maslyukov also noted the need for social support being given to those who
really need it and made assurances that the government will continue the
effort to stabilise the pension system.
17 April 1999
[for personal use only]
Primakov under pressure
By John Thornhill and Charles Clover in Moscow
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia's prime minister, is coming under attack from across
the political spectrum, raising doubts about whether the fragile balance of
power he has established over the past seven months can hold.
After being laid low in recent days by a bad back, Mr Primakov tried to
reassert his authority yesterday by threatening to sack members of his
government who failed to implement effective policies.
But Mr Primakov himself appears to be losing the trust of President Boris
Yeltsin and parliament. Even the leftwing parties, which have provided the
bedrock of Mr Primakov's support in the Duma, the lower house of parliament,
have begun attacking the government for its weak response to Nato's air
strikes against Yugoslavia.
Sergei Baburin, the Duma's left-wing vice-speaker, said his attitude towards
the government had changed because it had done nothing to provide military
support to Belgrade.
"I do not exclude that as a result of this a petition will be launched in the
State Duma demanding the resignation of the government," he said in an
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the Yabloko party, which first proposed Mr
Primakov as aprime ministerial candidate last September, said the political
resources of the current government had almost been exhausted and criticised
the lack of economic reforms.
"He [Primakov] is probably not a communist and not a democrat but a Soviet
bureaucrat of the highest standard," he said in an interview with the
Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper. "He is a political child of compromise of
which Yeltsin was the father and the Communists were the mother."
Mr Yeltsin still appears to be relying on Mr Primakov to help deflect a
par-liamentary move to impeach him.
But after bouncing back into the political fray this week, Mr Yeltsin has
been slyly cutting his prime minister down to size - fuelling speculation
that Mr Primakov may quit.
The president's decision this week to appoint Victor Chernomyrdin, the former
prime minister, as his special envoy to Yugoslavia was seen as a calculated
snub to Mr Primakov, who had previously taken the lead in talks with Belgrade.
The Russian president also appears to have rediscovered his populist touch,
boding ill for Mr Primakov's future. Mr Yeltsin stole top billing on the
television news on Thursday night when he decorated Alla Pugacheva, Russia's
most celebrated pop icon, with a prestigious award and a giant bunch of pink
"I fell in love with you when you defied those who wanted to block you or put
obstacles in your way. I also had to fight, and that is what we have in
common," Mr Yeltsin said, before draining his glass of champagne.
From: "Fred Weir" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999
By Fred Weir
MOSCOW - Even at the height of the Cold War the rhetoric coming out of
Moscow was seldom cranked this high. "I told NATO, don't push us toward
military action," growled
President Boris Yeltsin last week, voicing Russian fears the conflict in
Yugoslavia will escalate into a ground campaign. "Otherwise there will be a
European war for sure, and possibly a world war". NATO received this threat
with surprising sang froid, considering it came from a man who always
carries a little red suitcase containing the launch codes for 5,000 nuclear
missiles. "We're going to continue with the mission exactly as planned,
regardless of political and diplomatic atmospherics," retorted the NATO
commander, General Wesley Clark.
There is a widespread opinion in the West that Russia no longer
matters, and it's time to just get on with the job of policing the world.
The Kremlin contributes mightily to this view by intermingling its harsh
condemnations of NATO's war against Yugoslavia with abject pleas for more
Western financial aid to stave off Russia's total economic collapse. When
last observed in action, the once mighty former Red Army was defeated and
sent packing by a force of lightly-armed separatist guerrillas in Russia's
southern province of Chechnya. "It's obvious to even the most casual
observer that Russia today is in no position to wage war on anyone," says
Andranik Migranyan, an analyst with the liberal Reform Foundation in Moscow.
"All the heated declarations just emphasize our helplessness".
But ignoring Russia's fears and concerns today could produce disastrous
consequences in years to come. The NATO attack on a sovereign European
state, a traditional friend of Russia,
has focused the accumulated frustration many Russians feel over a decade of
economic disappointment and social collapse, and directed it unambiguously
against the West. A poll conducted last December by the independent Public
Opinion Fund found that 57 per cent of Russians had a positive attitude
toward American and only 28 per cent felt negative. Repeated in early April,
after the bombing of Yugoslavia began, 72 per cent described themselves as
hostile to the U.S. More than two-thirds said they now consider NATO "a
direct threat to Russian security".
The first signs that shifting public mood may be permanently reshaping
Russia's landscape is the tendency of politicians from Yeltsin down to salt
their speeches with ever harsher anti-Western rhetoric. The
ultra-nationalist party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, recently waning as a
has staged a noisy comeback: street level recruiting centres set up by
Zhirinovsky have signed up 80,000 Russian volunteers ready to fight against
NATO in Yugoslavia. (To date only a tiny
handful of Russian volunteers have actually arrived in Belgrade). With
parliamentary elections looming in December and a new presidential contest
barely a year away, the trend does not bode
well. "The war in Yugoslavia is like a gift to the Communist and nationalist
opposition in Russia," says Vadim Medvedev, a political expert with the
Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank
run by the former Soviet leader. "They are in a position to say 'we told you
NATO was an aggressive organization and we were right'. Everything from the
West is now suspect. And it's
hard not to agree that the West itself has caused this".
Russian diplomats charge that NATO violated international law by
sidestepping the United Nations Security Council in the rush to war. More
seriously, they warn that Russia will now have
to revise all its strategic calculations - with unpredictable consequences.
"At the end of the Cold War the Soviet Union disbanded its military
alliance, but NATO kept on growing," says Georgi Shakhnazarov, who was a
Kremlin adviser under Gorbachev. "Western leaders told us time and again
that Russia has nothing to fear from NATO expansion into eastern Europe
because NATO is strictly a defensive alliance. It is now
completely obvious that was untrue".
It may be too soon to say Russia is shifting its military
posture into revived Cold War mode, but worrisome signs abound. The
opposition-led parliament has indefinitely shelved plans to ratify START-2,
the keystone achievement of nuclear arms control in this decade. The Russian
navy has sent a spy ship to the Adriatic Sea to "monitor" the Balkan
conflict and plans to dispatch a flotilla of nine more warships shortly.
Reports that Russia might re-target its nuclear missiles on Western cities
or "forward deploy" atomic weapons in the neighbouring ex-Soviet republic of
Belarus have so far proven false. But the Russian government did decide in
early April to boost defence efforts and authorize the armed forces to
revise military doctrine to meet the new threat from the West. "The plans to
strengthen our armed forces are explained by the new strategic concept of
NATO, under which the alliance plans to use its forces in any part of the
world without the consent of the U.N. Security Council," Russian
Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev said. "The actions NATO is taking in
Yugoslavia deepen our worries".
One way to forestall the danger of permanently alienating Russia
would be to give it a more prominent role in forging a solution to the
Balkans conflict. Many Russian experts even seem to believe this is
necessary and inevitable. "Russia is the natural mediator in this war,
because we are trusted by both sides," says Vitaly Naumkin, an analyst at
the Centre for Strategic Studies in
Moscow. "The NATO side must realize sooner or later that they cannot
accomplish their goals with force, and they will turn to us". Or, maybe
those storm clouds on the horizon will just keep
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999
From: email@example.com (John Helmer)
BY JOHN HELMER
JOURNAL OF COMMERCE, to come
THE FRIEND'S FORTUNE -- WHAT THE WORLD BANK IS DOING FOR RUSSIA
Moscow. When the President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, recently
called in former prime minister Victor Chernomyrdin, he must have been
thinking of the Russian proverb -- a fortune is not always a friend,
but a friend is always a fortune.
That at least is what Mr. Wolfensohn claims, through a spokesman, was
the reason he put Mr. Chernomyrdin on the public schedule of his
meetings during a brief, tightly scheduled 24-hour visit to Moscow last
week. "They are old and personal friends," the spokesman claimed. "It's a
tradition of the World Bank to meet with former heads of government with which
So what did Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Chernomyrdin have to say in the midst
of the banker's tough day? According to Mr. Wolfensohn's spokesman,
it was "a personal conversation. We don't comment on personal
Then why was a claque of the Russian media, including television cameras
and radio microphones invited to record Mr. Chernomyrdin's departure?
According to Mr. Wolfensohn's spokesman, the World Bank didn't invite the
media: "they can find out what Wolfensohn's schedule was." It seems the good
friends met privately for personal reasons, but someone put the kaffeeklatch
on the public schedule, and in broad daylight. "We don't know who," said
the banker's spokesman.
So personal and so friendly are the relations between the banker and
the ex-prime minister that the Moscow meeting was the second they have had
already this year. When Mr. Chernomyrdin was in Washington a few weeks ago,
he also dropped in on Mr. Wolfensohn. And how to explain the frequency?
"If they are friends, it's up to them to decide how frequently they
meet, and what they say," explained the World Bank aide.
Mr. Wolfensohn and Mr. Chernomyrdin are both very rich men, so they know
what the Russian peasant means when he says that a lot of money doesn't
always produce happiness. In the past twelve months, Mr. Chernomyrdin has
known the humiliation of being sacked by President Boris Yeltsin from the
prime ministry; of being defeated on his renomination to the post by the
Russian parliament; of being attacked for corruption by the media; and
of being derided in the opinion polls by Russian voters.
So it's understandable Mr. Chernomyrdin would want to summon the cameras
to demonstrate that, with his more fortunate friends, he can still grab time
in their schedule; that he is still in the know when powerful banks are
willing to lend money to Russia, or not.
As Mr. Chernomyrdin told the Russian media, before the World Bank and the
Russian government issued their joint communique, Mr. Wolfensohn is ready
to recommend a fresh loan of $2.3 billion over the next two years. But
Mr. Chernomyrdin didn't have an explanation, or even a complaint, that this
is less than it seems. After Russian repayments to the World Bank this year
of up to $900 million, the World Bank isn't planning to lend much more to
Russia than the amount Russia is obligated to repay. And even that offer
is conditional on the Russians agreeing on terms with the International
Monetary Fund, whose offer is actually less than Moscow must repay the
Fund this year.
What the ex-prime minister and the banker agreed on is a scheme of debt
repayment, according to which the Russian economy -- in the longest
contraction known in modern Europe -- will have to export more capital
in the form of international debt repayment than it will receive in
investment or economic stimulus. The vast majority of those debts were
contracted by Mr. Chernomyrdin.
That's probably what the peasant meant by a fortune that isn't
as friendly as it looks. And if Mr. Chernomyrdin said as much to his pal,
that hasn't been recorded.
But why would Mr. Wolfensohn devote so much of his time to conferring
a public endorsement on a friend whose discredit among Russians stems from
the debt and corruption record he racked up? It seems the World Bank
head was being a good deal more generous to Mr. Chernomyrdin than he was to
the Russian government. If so, that's a political move which the World Bank
chief claims was not intended.
Mr. Wolfensohn, his spokesman says, doesn't interfere in the politics of
countries his institution lends money to. He doesn't intervene in
the political fortunes of his friends.
To express what they really mean, Mr. Wolfensohn, like other western
financiers and politicians, uses code-words in dealing with Russia these
days. If he and they say they are committed to reform, that really means
they want to see men like Mr. Chernomyrdin back in power, because
reform is what Mr. Chernomyrdin says he stands for. If Mr. Wolfensohn
and other Washington officials say they are committed to eliminating
corruption in Russia, that means they want to see Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov continue. That's because Mr. Primakov says the policies Mr.
Chernomyrdin and others pursued have looted the country of its assets,
and must be cleaned up, before real reform can take root.
Mr. Wolfensohn used the reform codeword.
And if the political meaning of that was muffled, the timing of Mr.
Wolfensohn's friendly chat was unmistakeable. It came just hours after
President Yeltsin, expressing his own readiness to remove Mr. Primakov at any
time now, named Mr. Chernomyrdin as his personal emissary to Belgrade and
To Russian politicians and the media, it was clear that Mr. Yeltsin was
setting Mr. Chernomyrdin up as his candidate to replace Prime Minister
Primakov. All he had to do, the Kremlin leader implied, was to show he could
do two things for Russia -- ward off the NATO attack under way in Serbia,
and fill the empty Treasury's coffers. Do those, Mr. Yeltsin has hinted, and
Mr. Chernomyrdin can have the prime ministry back.
Mr. Chernomyrdin will be in Washington any day now on that mission; and Mr.
Wolfensohn has already paved his way with something more valuable than the
World Bank's gold, something more fortunate than friendship. Mr. Wolfensohn
has recommended the Clinton Administration follow the World Bank in
seeking the overthrow of the prime minister of Russia, and his replacement by
Mr. Chernomyrdin the reformer.
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1999
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Scott Parrish)
Subject: RE: Russian Brigade to Serbia?
Although I very much hope it never comes to this, there is one option that the
Russian government would have with respect to deploying troops in Serbia that
the discussion so far seems to have overlooked. (Unless I have missed another
Russia would not need to airlift troops across Hungary or any other states to
get a small combat force into Serbia. There is already a Russian brigade in
Bosnia deployed as part of SFOR. According to some of my colleagues here who
served with SFOR themselves, the Russian brigade is deployed in the Serbian
of Bosnia, and is not very far from the border of Serbia itself. It would
almost certainly be easier to have this brigade simply drive across the border
into Serbia than to mount an air or ground transport operation from Russia.
Having said that, I agree with the others discussing this topic that any
Russia to deploy troops in Serbia is only a remote theoretical possiblity at
this point, and would represent a major shift in Russian policy toward the
Kosovo conflict. On the other hand, if NATO should begin serious preparations
for a ground campaign, I am not sure we should count too much on Russian
restraint. It is easy to say now that such a deployment would be "irrational"
and that Primakov and Yeltsin would be too pragmatic to consider it. We
guard against underestimating the potential effects of misperception,
miscalculation, and especially, domestic political pressure on Russian
Although highly speculative, discussion of this issue is useful, as Hough
pointed out, precisely because it demonstrates that Russia is not as bereft of
options as some would have us believe. The cost of NATO continuing on its
present course or even escalating the conflict may turn out to be much higher
than conventional widsom now suggests.
In this regard, it seems to me that NATO and the United States should make a
more sober assessment of the trade-off between reaching an "optimal
Kosovo and achieving a number of very important goals in their relationship
Russia in areas such as nuclear arms control and cooperation for
nonproliferation. It is becoming increasingly clear that these objectives
incompatible. If that assessment is indeed correct, we had better start
seriously about which one we care more about, rather than continuing to sweep
the trade-off under the rug because we are uncomfortable with it and prefer to
Like many of my colleagues here, I find myself asking whether the game is
the candle. This may be the result of my own biases (spend too much time
watching Russia and you will consistently overestimate its importance), but
not convinced of that.
Scott Parrish, Ph.D
Senior Research Associate
Center For Nonproliferation Studies
Monterey Institute of International Studies
425 Van Buren Street
Monterey, CA 93940
April 17, 1999
[for personal use only]
Yevgeny Primakov, Russia’s martial artist
IN JUDO, as in international politics, a weak but clever contender can
occasionally send a bigger one sprawling. Russia’s portly prime minister,
Yevgeny Primakov, is no athlete. But he has been displaying Olympic talents
in wrong-footing the world’s most powerful countries.
Since becoming prime minister in September, his most impressive holding grip
has been on the forces of finance that have threatened to sweep away what
remains of Russia’s dismal economy. Mr Primakov has just about managed, in
principle at least, to prise yet another dollop of cash out of western fists,
amid all the usual vacuous promises of prudence and probity. Some of the
money will go just to pay off old debts, chiefly to the IMF, but, once that
has been done, another few billion dollars in new loans should flow straight
into the Russian government’s rattlingly empty coffers.
That has nothing to do with such ostensibly important issues as collection of
taxes (still pathetic) or reform of Russia’s ailing banks (non-existent).
Lending money to Russia is more a matter of nerves. The West, especially
America, seems to have decided, in the end, that letting Russia become a
global financial pariah is just too risky.
Now the same sort of Russian tactics may be coming into play over Kosovo.
Just as Russia is using the threat of further financial collapse to press for
more cash from the West, so it is urging the West to back down in the Balkans
or risk a much bigger military confrontation.
In the early stages of NATO’s Kosovo campaign, worries about Russia’s
reaction seemed overblown. Russia said plainly that it would not be drawn in.
Now, with the war looking messier and set to go on for longer, and with
Russians of all stripes outraged by what they see as the West’s double
standards, some kind of Russian involvement is looking more likely. Mr
Primakov—if he so chooses, and if President Boris Yeltsin is unable to stop
him—has four obvious ways of helping Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic. Each one
presents the West with the unhappy choice of either raising the military
stakes or of seeking peace, most probably by accepting a deal brokered by,
yes, Russia. The longer the West seems scared of confronting Russia, the more
likely that Mr Primakov will eventually tie another knot in his black belt.
Mr Primakov has long experience, after all, in smelling out opponents’
In so fraught an atmosphere, mere gestures can have powerful effects.
Bringing Yugoslavia into some new Slavic Union together with Russia and
Belarus, the first of Mr Primakov’s options, could well jangle NATO nerves:
bombing a Balkan dictatorship is one thing; attacking a country formally
linked to the world’s second nuclear power quite another. Encouraging Russian
volunteers to go to Yugoslavia, as human shields or as soldiers, would be
another way of upping the ante.
And if NATO does decide to call Russia’s bluff and continue the war, Mr
Primakov still has other tricks in his repertoire. One is to share
intelligence. A Russian spy ship, equipped to eavesdrop NATO communications,
is already in the Adriatic. Satellites, as well as human spies, may be handy
too. All these things should help Mr Milosevic bargain, as well as fight,
But Mr Primakov’s last and most alarming move would be to send weapons.
Russia is already complaining loudly about supposed western breaches of the
arms embargo, in the form of military aid to the ethnic-Albanian guerrillas
of Kosovo. A Russian convoy of humanitarian goods this week rolled into
Belgrade, after furious complaints of overzealous inspection by Hungarian
customs. What would the West do if a Russian aircraft carrying anti-aircraft
missiles took off for Belgrade, or if a Russian cargo ship headed for
Yugoslavia’s remaining Adriatic port?
And Russia still has a fearsome if rusting nuclear arsenal. The Speaker of
the Duma, the lower house of parliament, has announced (incorrectly, it
seems) that Russia’s nuclear missiles are once more aimed at NATO countries.
Though the chances of a nuclear confrontation along the lines of the Cuban
crisis of 1962 are tiny, they are not nil. Few western politicians would want
to explain to their voters why winning a Balkan war is worth even the
faintest risk of a nuclear one.
In any case, the finger on the nuclear button is not Mr Primakov’s but Mr
Yeltsin’s. And just as the prime minister’s black-belt diplomacy looks to be
coming into its own abroad, the traditional spring fever in Russian politics
could yet floor him at home. Mr Yeltsin rudely described his prime minister
last week as “useful—for now”.
Some serious Kremlin-watchers predict that Mr Primakov will be chucked out of
the ring within days. “He’s an inept prime minister who doesn’t understand
economics,” says Boris Fedorov, a clear-headed bruiser who has twice tried
his hand as finance minister. “And he is surrounded by a bunch of Communists
who are stealing like crazy.” War-mongering, as well as corruption and
economic stagnation, is certainly not what Russia’s first democratically
elected president hoped would mark his final year in office.
Still, Mr Primakov is a master at staying on his feet. He has broken a big
taboo by throwing corruption charges at people in Mr Yeltsin’s inner circle,
even as he has helped the president fend off impeachment charges still
looming in parliament. Even if the famously erratic president did suddenly
sack him, an alarming stalemate—of the kind Mr Primakov’s appointment in
September ended—would probably ensue.
All the more reason for Mr Primakov to be enjoying the war over Kosovo. It
burnishes his image at home as Russia’s champion against NATO’s arrogant
cowboys, while weakening the pro-westerners still in Russian politics.
Indeed, it could still all end in humiliation for NATO and triumph for
Russian diplomacy. So far, every move of Russia’s wily little judo expert
looks uncannily well rehearsed.
April 17, 1999
Parliament Demands Probe of FIMACO
By Catherine Belton
The State Duma on Friday called on the Prosecutor General's Office to open a
criminal case into the Central Bank's use of FIMACO, an obscure offshore
company, to invest its reserves.
The Duma, parliament's lower house, passed a resolution accusing Central Bank
officials of using FIMACO to siphon off millions of dollars in profits
through insider trading on the Russian treasury bill market.
This allegedly deprived the federal budget of the 50 percent cut of Central
Bank profits that it is entitled by Russian law. "The Central Bank bought
$855 million worth of GKOs [treasury bills] in 1996. This was not written
into the books," Duma Deputy Nikolai Gonchar said in a telephone interview.
Gonchar said the Central Bank made $39 million in profits in 1996 that were
not reported in the bank's audit.
If a criminal case was launched against bank officials, documentation now
with the Prosecutor General's Office that proves the existence of the hidden
profits could be released, he said. Access could also be gained to the
financial reports of Jersey-based FIMACO.
FIMACO was used to invest billions of dollars in Central Bank hard currency
reserves from 1993 to 1997. Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov blew the whistle
on the existence of FIMACO just one day before he resigned in January. The
resignation was rejected by parliament's upper chamber, the Federation
Council. With Skuratov now suspended, no formal FIMACO probe has been opened.
Central Bank officials have said the International Monetary Fund knew of
FIMACO's existence. They said the bank used the company to invest reserves to
prevent Russia's foreign creditors from seizing assets after the default of
the Soviet Union on its debts in 1991.
Russia Leaders Warn of World War
April 17, 1999
By NICK WADHAMS
MOSCOW (AP) -- A leading Russian politician warned today that the United
States and NATO could spark another Vietnam and possibly World War III if
they send ground troops to Yugoslavia.
``In the event that NATO and America start a ground operation in Yugoslavia,
they will face a second Vietnam,'' Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said. ``I do not
want to forecast what is going to start then. I cannot rule out a third world
Luzhkov said that if NATO ground troops are sent to Yugoslavia, Russia should
consider breaking a United Nations-imposed arms embargo and supply military
and technical assistance to the Yugoslav army.
Although Luzhkov has no direct say in the government's actions, he is one of
Russia's most popular politicians and is a likely candidate in next year's
The United States has called up over 30,000 reservists and will add more
planes to its forces participating in the NATO campaign, but officials have
said that using ground troops to drive Serb forces out of Kosovo is not under
President Boris Yeltsin also warned NATO recently not to push Russia ``to
military action, since that will certainly lead to a European war or even a
world war.'' But he has said repeatedly that Russia will not become involved
in the military conflict.
Meanwhile, Russia's newly appointed envoy on finding a solution to the
Yugoslav crisis, Viktor Chernomyrdin, met with Foreign Ministry officials
today in an effort to come up with a solution to the Kosovo dispute.
Russia is eager to find a political solution to the conflict between NATO and
Yugoslavia, but it apparently lacks sufficient power or influence with either
side to achieve a breakthrough at this stage.
Also Saturday, a convoy carrying 25 metric tons of humanitarian aid left St.
Petersburg en route to Moscow and, eventually, Yugoslavia. Russian
authorities did not say who would receive the aid, which consisted of food
and medicine. It was the second aid convoy Russia has sent to Yugoslavia.
Russian poll shows US out of favor
MOSCOW, April 16 (UPI) - A new Russian poll indicates a sharp change
in public opinion, with a severe drop in Russians' approval of the
United States because of the continuing NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia.
The poll of 1,500 people, released today by the respected Foundation
of Public Opinion, shows 72 percent dislike the United States, up
sharply from 28 percent in a similar poll conducted before the
airstrikes began, while only 14 percent approve of the United States,
down from 57 percent in the previous survey.
Moscow and other major Russian cities have seen almost daily
demonstrations against NATO and the U.S., although emotions have cooled
since the first days of the bombardment over two weeks ago, when the U.
S. Embassy was pelted with eggs, ink and beer bottles by a huge crowd
chanting "Yankee go home."
Similar polls show most Russians support Serb-led Yugoslavia in the
Kosovo crisis, and an overwhelming majority believe NATO is the
aggressor, despite recent extensive reports of the flight of refugees
This week's incidents involving the bombardment of a train in Serbia
and a convoy of refugees in Kosovo received wide coverage in the Russian
media, and seem to have hardened anti-NATO and anti-Western feelings. --
April 17, 1999
[for personal use only]
CRISIS IN KOSOVO
Moscow backs Yugoslav bid to join 'Slavic Union'
By David Filipov
MOSCOW - Seeking to pressure the West into halting airstrikes against
Yugoslavia, Russia's lower house of parliament yesterday overwhelmingly
backed Belgrade's bid to join a ''Slavic Union'' that includes the former
Soviet republics Russia and Belarus.
The State Duma voted 293-56 to ask the Kremlin to approve Yugoslavia's
request to join the loose alliance, which legislators said would allow Russia
and its arsenal of over 6,000 nuclear weapons to act as a deterrent against
further attacks by NATO against Serb forces.
''We think that this is the main thing that can stop the war in the
Balkans,'' Communist legislator Alexander Shabanov told the Duma before the
vote. ''The fear that Russia can get drawn into the war is the main thing
that can stop the Western politicians.''
But the vote received a cautious reaction in Russia, where most people see
NATO's attacks as unjustified aggression against Yugoslavia, but where few
want Russia to get involved in the war.
''The worst thing Russia can do today is to respond to insanity with
insanity,'' the liberal minority bloc Yabloko, which opposed the Duma
resolution, said in a statement. The party said an alliance with Yugoslavia
''opens the possibility for military confrontation between the leading
Yugoslavia, eager for Russian military aid, last week suggested joining the
loose Russia-Belarus alliance, which includes mutual security guarantees.
Last week, President Boris N. Yeltsin said he looked favorably on a union of
the three countries, all of which are mainly Slavic and Orthodox Christian.
But a senior Yeltsin aide, Oleg Sysuyev, said Thursday that the Kremlin was
not considering an alliance with Yugoslavia while the war is on.
Most Russians condemn the airstrikes, especially after NATO admitted a pilot
accidentally bombed a column of ethnic Albanian refugees in Kosovo. Public
opinion here is so clearly against the West's role that no Russian politician
can afford to avoid harsh criticism of NATO in public, especially with
general elections slated for December. The one legislator who tries to defend
NATO, Duma member Konstantin Borovoi, was denied the floor yesterday in a
vote by his colleagues.
But Yeltsin's government has avoided doing anything that could cause a break
in relations with the West. Until now, Yeltsin has avoided using Russia's
nuclear weapons as a threat against the West, the one argument NATO would
have to listen to.
''Russia can play a deterrent role only if it will use its nuclear weapons
for this role,'' said defense analyst Alexander Pikayev of the Carnegie
Moscow Center. ''Whether Russia will do that is a big question that no one
can answer. Yeltsin's government probably does not want to. But if you bring
a warring country into your alliance, you have nowhere to go but to consider
Yeltsin last week said for the first time that Russia could be pushed into a
war by the West, but he followed that by naming Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, a
foreign policy moderate, his chief envoy for Yugoslavia negotiations.
The trouble with Yeltsin's position is that NATO has dismissed Russia's
rumblings and continued the bombings. The frustration at being ignored, and
nostalgia for Moscow's Cold War-era might, were abundantly reflected in
yesterday's Duma decision.
''This initiative cannot be brushed aside by the West,'' said Gennady
Seleznyov, the Communist speaker of the Duma who visited Yugoslav President
Slobodan Milosevic last week. ''Military actions against one of these
governments will be seen as an act agains the other governments.''
The head of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, who traveled to
Belgrade yesterday, called the idea of a Slavic union ''a truly peaceful
But Ukraine, another Slavic state with a strong Orthodox Christian following,
protested the move toward an alliance between Russia, Yugoslavia and Belarus
as a threat to European stability.
Many of Russia's 18 million Muslims also appear to disapprove. Reports from
some of Russia's 21 mainly Muslim regions say that volunteers are signing up
to help the Kosovar Albanians fight the Serbs, mirroring a parallel volunteer
movement among Russians who want to fight with the Serbs.
But while the debate over the Slavic alliance raises thorny questions, it
does allow Russia to show its displeasure over the war while continuing to
avoid taking more concrete and dangerous actions. These might include
beginning the supply of weapons or sending more warships to the Adriatic to
join the spy ship Liman which is already shadowing NATO ships. Already,
Turkey has received a request from Russia to let nine warships from its Black
Sea Fleet through the Bosporus into the Mediterranean.
''The Duma's decision is not the most dangerous Russia could make and to a
certain degree reflects the restraint of the Duma's leftist majority and the
government as a whole,'' Pikayev said.
May 3, 1999
By George Konrad
George Konrad is Hungary's pre-eminent essayist and novelist. His novel The
Stone Dial will be published by Harcourt Brace in the spring of 2000. For
more information go to www.thenation.com.
We Hungarians entered NATO on March 12. Less than two weeks later, as NATO
members, we provided free air lanes for military planes to Yugoslavia, and
now we must identify ourselves with a war against a neighboring country. To
make my position clear: I was in favor of Hungary joining NATO, and I'm glad
NATO will protect us against external enemies, though as far as I know, no
one intended to attack my country.
Two years ago, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against Milosevic in
Belgrade's Republic Square, demanding lawful, pluralist democracy. I was
invited to speak to the students and was surrounded by intelligent,
enthusiastic faces and clever slogans on billboards. Today, in this same
square, perhaps the same people are demonstrating against NATO aggression.
The West's actions in Yugoslavia reflect not merely the arrogance of power
but a fundamental misunderstanding of the Balkans. European union is
certainly the child of enlightenment, but experience indicates that an
anti-integrative, or even disintegrative, romanticism must appear in
opposition to such a tendency.
If we look to the Balkans, we see this romanticism in operation as the
ideology of the homogeneous nation-state. Following the liberation of Eastern
Europe from Soviet domination in 1989, armed struggle on the basis of
nationality or ethnicity did not take place in the zone between Poland and
Bulgaria, at least partly because the democratic movements chose to follow
the path of nonviolent self-liberation.
In Yugoslavia, the member states considered themselves homogeneous nations,
though clearly they were not. This process resulted in the violent severing
of many real bonds, but Western public opinion held that far off in the
Balkans the establishment of new borders (and the torments that resulted from
them) was a station in the development of democracy. Clearly, the partition
of Belgium in consequence of the Flemish-Walloon conflict would be something
to avoid, yet the West was glad to see Yugoslavia cut into parts.
The West considered the former Yugoslavia an artificial creation, despite
twenty-one nationalities having lived there together over many years without
ethnic civil war and despite Yugoslavia having been able to protect its
sovereignty against the Soviet Union without outside help, as it had resisted
Hitler's Germany. The West forgot about the 1 million war dead, the
executions on both sides and the memories of that as a cultural legacy. It
forgot that the collapse of a federal state with its restraining framework
would make ethnicity the chief principle of orientation for individuals. On
land where the population is mixed, however, the principle turns neighbors
who have lived together in peace into enemies.
As separatism was legitimized, recognized, even guaranteed by the
international community, newly independent member republics began working
with all their strength on the ethnic homogenization of their own national
consciousnesses, forging it through blood relations and strengthening it with
religion. At the same time, they began to feel that members of other
ethnicities were foreign bodies in the new nation. "Ethnic cleansing"
originated from this furor of self-homogenization.
The West recognizes, protects and maintains by force of arms a Bosnia made up
of three republics, three nationalities: an entity no less artificial than
Yugoslavia was. The West recognized ethnic nationalism and helped it to
victory, opening the door to the violent expulsions. By giving top priority
to national self-determination and rejecting on principle the federation
inherited from the Communist era, the West made individual human rights and
lawful, democratic autonomy for cultural minorities subservient to
The decisions have had extremely hard consequences. In the absence of
negotiated agreements on separation, armed violence decides issues. If we
look at the number killed, the strongest Yugoslav nation, the Serbian, has
been the most violent, followed by the others in exact proportion to their
demographic numbers. On this basis, the presidents of Yugoslavia, Croatia and
Bosnia can all be considered war criminals.
The West preferred to see one kind of violence as more evil than another and
to blame its own mistake--an ill-considered policy through the nineties--on
Milosevic, now the chief villain. A negative mythology was created not only
for him but for the entire Serbian people and, more recently, all of
When Milosevic's power was on the rise, he terminated the autonomy of the
most developed region within the Serbian Republic, Vojvodina, and the least
developed, majority-Albanian Kosovo. Both actions were grave violations of
democracy. In Vojvodina, people are trying to use political instruments to
restore political autonomy. In Kosovo, after peaceful resistance achieved
much success but did not resolve the problem, the radical wing of Albanian
nationalism turned to guerrilla warfare and designated complete secession as
the goal. Western politicians legitimized the Albanian underground guerrilla
Montenegro, which turned away from Milosevic, is now being bombed back toward
him. The offended Yugoslav nation is being rallied around the nationalist
chief. Western politicians believe they act against him, but they act for
him: The West has walked into the trap. He will suffer nothing, and, as a
democratically elected leader, his position will be strengthened. It seems
NATO leaders understand the psychology of bombers but not the bombed. Their
leaders see only other leaders--not the dead and wounded.