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Johnson's Russia List
24 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian Reformer Warns Against NATO Ground Force.
2. AP: Georgian Pres. Endorses NATO Strikes.
3. Itar-Tass: Six in 10 Russians Satisfied with Primakov Gvt Poll.
4. Novye Izvestiya: Otto Latsis, It Smells of August in April.
5. Moscow Times: State Beats Targeted Q1 Deficit.
6. Itar-Tass: Duma Passes New Law to Protect Foreign Investors.
7. Reuters: A NATO Yugoslav Oil Ban Could Be Showdown with Russia.
8. AP: Barry Schweid, Strains With Russia Deeply Rooted.
9. Laura Belin: re: western press coverage.
10. Ted Kirkpatrick: 1993 events/3253.
11. RFE/RL: Julie Corwin, Russia: Kosovo Conflict May Hurt Cohesion Of
12. Komsomolskaya Pravda: Details of Federation Council's Skuratov Debate.
13. Sovetskaya Rossiya: Sergey Vasiltsov and Sergey Obukhov, "Useful--Not
Useful." (Attitudes To Political Leaders Assessed)]
Russian Reformer Warns Against NATO Ground Force
LONDON (Reuters) - A NATO ground force invasion of Kosovo could irreversibly
damage Western relations with Russia and spark a global catastrophe, a
prominent Russian pro-reform politician said Friday.
Instead, NATO should take up Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's peace
offer of an international presence in Kosovo, former First Deputy Russian
Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais told Reuters.
"If NATO goes from air force to ground force it will be a world catastrophe,"
Chubais said. "(Russia) has never felt such anti-Western, anti-European
Chubais, a former architect of Russia's post-communist reforms, said that
Milosevic's offer for international troops in Kosovo was feasible, and should
be accepted, but warned that it could not be a NATO-run operation.
"If Russia is able to use troops in Serbia, then yes, but it is impossible
under a NATO umbrella," Chubais said. "It is possible under a U.N. umbrella."
Milosevic told Russian peace envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin on Thursday he would
accept an international presence in Kosovo comprising United Nations and
NATO allies have emitted mixed signals over the peace feeler from Belgrade,
saying they needed more details.
Chubais predicted it would take one to three years for Russia's relations
with the West to return to normal because of the NATO air strikes alone.
"If ground troops are involved, the harm (to relations) will be
irreversible," he said, adding that any ground troops would have to battle
the Serbian people as well as Milosevic's forces.
"If ground troops invade Serbia, you will have guerrilla war. (NATO) will
fight not with the military but with the people of the country," he said.
Chubais is out in the political cold in Russia due to his pro-market stance.
He was sacked from the government in November 1997, but has recently joined
with other prominent pro-reform politicians to establish a new center-right
He said that NATO air strikes were responsible for the massive refugee flows
"The whole world looks at NATO like a guy who considers himself number one in
the city. (It is) destroying the principle of the balance of power," Chubais
Georgian Pres. Endorses NATO Strikes
April 23, 1999
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Georgia President Eduard Shevardnadze, a former Soviet
foreign minister, enthusiastically endorsed the NATO bombing campaign in
Yugoslavia and said today that without it, ``we would have encountered a
catastrophe with 10 times the casualties.''
Shevardnadze, speaking at a dinner given by the Nixon Center, called for
unconditional withdrawal of all Serb armed units from the province of Kosovo,
disarmament of the secessionist Kosovo Liberation Army and the stationing of
international peacekeeping forces there.
``There is no other way but to use force,'' Shevardnadze said. ``This is the
only way to stop the ethnic cleansing and extreme separatism.''
Shevardnadze was foreign minister in the last days of the Soviet Union and
developed good relations with the United States, promoting the control of
nuclear weapons and urging Moscow to move toward a democratic system.
He quit his Soviet post, charging that the Soviet Union was headed toward
dictatorship, and his remarks here, while attending the NATO summit meeting,
again put him in sharp disagreement with Russia. A Georgian, he shaped a new
career as a leader of the former Soviet republic.
Six in 10 Russians Satisfied with Primakov Gvt Poll.
MOSCOW, April 23 (Itar-Tass) - The Yevgeny Primakov government enjoys the
support of six in 10 Russians, a poll conducted on April 16 to 19 shown.
This is highest rating of government performance in 1999 because the
percentage of positive assessments has risen by 10 points since the previous
poll carried out on March 19 to 22.
The poll, conducted by the Agency for Regional Political Research (ARPI),
found 62 per cent disliking the idea of a government resignation, while a
February poll showed only 40-per cent opposing such a development.
A resignation would make the political and economic situation worsen, 51 per
Asked whether they are paid in time, 33 per cent said they received pay
without delay, compared to 20 per cent in February, and 25 per cent said they
were paid one to three moths overdue, against 31 percent in February.
The ARPI in a non-commercial organisation set up by a group of independent
sociologists. It holds polls among 1,500 people in more than 80 cities,
towns, and villages throughout the country.
Russia Today press summaries
N O V Y E I Z V E S T I Y A
24 April 1999
It Smells of August in April
Otto Latsis wrote that it is impossible to tell yet what President Boris
Yeltsin's next moves will follow, following his failure in the Federation
Council on the issue of the dismissal Prosecutor-General Yury Skuratov.
Skuratov was in a compromising position -- by both the video cassette that
showed him in the company of two prostitutes, and also by allegations that
this was paid for by a banker who was a suspect in a criminal case. And he
was even more compromised by his conduct at the time of litigation over his
dismissal, Latsis wrote.
According to Latsis, the fact that senators voted in favor of Skuratov
retaining his post proves that they were not interested in the
prosecutor-general personally. Nor were they motivated by the fight against
corruption, in which Skuratov has shown only moderate achievements.
Latsis concluded that the senators voted primarily against the president and
against his administration. The situation is similar to that before August
1991, when Mikhail Gorbachev was losing his power as president of the USSR.
The same power vacuum has now appeared around Yeltsin.
April 24, 1999
State Beats Targeted Q1 Deficit
Russia's budget deficit, a key figure in negotiations with the International
Monetary Fund, was some 40 percent less than planned for the first quarter,
the Finance Ministry said Friday.
The deficit was 20.6 billion rubles ($837 million), or 60 percent of budget
target, the ministry said in a statement, quoting preliminary figures.
First quarter revenues were 89.2 billion rubles, or 97.9 percent of target,
while outlays were 109.8 billion rubles, or 87.6 percent of target, it said.
Revenues, which were all cash this year, were 11.0 percent of gross domestic
product against 10.8 percent in the first quarter of last year, while
expenditures fell from year-ago levels to 13.6 percent of GDP.
The Tax Ministry collected 54.4 billion rubles against a target of 59 billion
and was 6.7 percent of GDP, down from 7 percent in the first quarter of 1998.
The State Customs Committee collected 31.3 billion rubles, versus a target of
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has pledged to the IMF to achieve a primary
deficit surplus, calculated before debt servicing expenditures, of 2 percent
of GDP. The ministry did not release that figure.
It said all current federal wages were being paid and all federal wage
arrears had been paid.
Russia hopes to get a major new credit from the IMF, to which it owes $4.8
billion this year.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov said talks are wrapping up with
the IMF, but the agreement is unlikely to cover three years.
"I cannot name any sum, because it will depend on the monetary-fiscal
program, which is still being agreed," Zadornov said.
"The sum will be exactly enough to cover the gap which is generated," he
said. "It is unlikely to be a three-year program, but that is also a question
Duma Passes New Law to Protect Foreign Investors.
MOSCOW, 23 April (Itar-Tass) - The State Duma, lower house of parliament, on
Friday passed the Law "On Foreign Ivestments" taking into account
recommendations from President Boris Yeltsin.
Under the new law, a foreign ivestor in Russia is granted full and
unconditional protection of his rights and interests secured by federal laws
and international treaties of the Russian Federation.
The law protects a foreign investor or a commercial organisation with foreign
investments against property confiscation, including nationalisation and
requisition, except for the cases envisaged by federal legislation and
Foreign investors are entitled to compensation for property and other losses
that might be incurred by nationalisation.
Analysis-A NATO Yugoslav Oil Ban Could Be Showdown with Russia
MOSCOW, April 23 (Reuters) - If NATO follows the example of the European
Union and imposes a ban on deliveries of oil and oil products to Yugoslavia
it could bring its relations with Russia the brink, analysts said on Friday.
"Russia has to decide if it wants (Yugoslav President Solobodan) Milosevic to
carry on fighting. That's the $64,000 question," Ruslan Nickolov, oil analyst
at Nomura Securities in London said.
"If Russia decides to supply Yugoslavia with oil products -- and it looks
like President Yeltsin would not face much opposition in the Duma -- then it
would be in direct confrontation with NATO."
"NATO would be extremely foolish to enforce a ban as it would lead to direct
confrontation with Russian civilian vessels. Then Russia may send naval
vessels to support them," he said. "From there it's not far to the worst case
The European Union on Friday adopted a ban on its member states supplying
crude oil or oil products to Yugoslavia.
NATO has discussed imposing a similar ban, although it would have no legal
basis to stop seaborne deliveries since all vessels enjoy free rights of
navigation on the open sea.
Commercially, there is little sense in Russia supplying crude or products to
Yugoslavia, but Nickolov said it may do so as a gesture of support.
Oil exports from Russia, the third largest oil producer in the world, consist
mainly of crude oil, which is virtually useless in Yugoslavia as NATO has
destroyed its refineries, and fuel oil, for which there is comparatively
Instead, Yugoslavia's greatest need is for refined products such as gasoline
and diesel, for use as transport fuels.
Nickolov said a NATO embargo would make it impossible for Russia to deliver
oil by land, as it would have to transit countries which are either NATO
members, such as Hungary, or countries which have aspirations tojoin NATO or
Stephen O'Sullivan, head of research at United Financial Group in Moscow,
said if any potential oil embargo was extended to include gas, this would
have an impact on Russia.
"Russia sells 2.4 billion cubic metres a year of gas to Serbia by pipeline,"
he said. "The Hungarians control the pipeline. Presumably if NATO imposed an
embargo, Hungary would cut it off."
But he added that the volume involved, less than two percent of Russian gas
exports to destinations outside the former Soviet Union, was so small that it
would make little difference to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.
Strains With Russia Deeply Rooted
April 23, 1999
By BARRY SCHWEID
WASHINGTON (AP) -- ``A new cold war?'' asked The Economist, the respected
British newsmagazine. The catchy headline probably overstates the case, yet
the Western rift with Russia is very real.
Rooted in NATO's expansion, the air strikes on Bosnia and, before that, the
war with Iraq, the divide with Moscow is growing deeper as the allies pummel
the Serbs in Yugoslavia, Russia's Orthodox cousins.
Russia is boycotting the NATO summit and Russian diplomats are doing their
best to portray Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as a Balkans leader
with whom the allies can do business.
NATO leaders acknowledged Russia's ``important role'' in solving the Kosovo
conflict but said diplomacy to date does not meet the test.
On the eve of the summit, Viktor Chernomyrdin, the former prime minister who
is Russia's mediator on Kosovo, said Milosevic was willing to accept a U.N.
``international presence'' to solve the conflict.
But NATO stood firm Friday, rejecting the Moscow-orchestrated overture and
insisting that Milosevic withdraw his troops from the embattled province.
As relations with Russia grow chillier, some analysts see a danger of a new
anti-Western coalition taking form with Moscow at its center.
Dimitri Simes, president of the private Nixon Center, calls the rift with
Russia ``the most serious event since the end of the Cold War, with
far-reaching consequences for the U.S.-Russian relationship, for the
international environment, for American foreign policy interests.''
Spurgeon Keeny, president of the Arms Control Association, is concerned that
the rift could doom ratification of the already-troubled 1993 START II treaty
that promised sharp reductions in U.S. and Russian long-range nuclear
``Unless there is an early resolution to the Kosovo crisis involving the
Russians and the United Nations in a central role there is a serious danger
that we will not only not make progress but lose much that has already been
accomplished in arms control,'' Keeny said.
There has been some saber-rattling in Russia in recent weeks -- notably a
suggestion that Boris Yeltsin might once again target Russian missiles at
NATO nations, quickly withdrawn. But in a nod to reality, Yeltsin was quoted
as saying, ``We cannot break off relations with leading world powers.''
Helmut Sonnenfeldt, of the Brookings Institution, said the gulf is based on
``over-expectations'' that Russia and its leaders could cast aside their
Soviet experiences and make a rapid transition to democracy and a free market
Even before the transition, the Russians, pursuing their own economic
interests in the Persian Gulf, were at cross purposes with the United States
over Iraq's incursion into oil-rich Kuwait.
Now-Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who had forged close ties with radical
Arab governments, counseled delay in attacking Iraq with the argument that
diplomacy needed more time to work its magic. His mission to Baghdad failed,
and the U.S.-led coalition in 1991 drove Iraq out of Kuwait.
The Russians then carried their campaign for diplomatic overtures to the long
ethnic war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, objecting to the allied bombing raids of
the Serbs in 1995 that led to the Dayton peace accords.
NATO's expansion eastward, incorporating Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic, all former Soviet allies, threw the Russians into a fury.
Many prominent American analysts and retired diplomats objected as well,
saying NATO was undercutting Yeltsin and others in Moscow whose ties to the
West were under attack from ardent nationalists and Communists.
Administration policy-makers are not inclined to minimize the disagreements,
nor Russia's feeling of isolation.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has stressed the pursuit of ``shared
goals'' with Russia. Moscow still looks to the United States for economic
support. And even after Primakov dramatically canceled talks in Washington
last month, he directed Russian negotiators to work on cooperative deals. One
result was a quiet agreement, complete with champagne and toasts, to salvage
a uranium pact that provides Russia with $12 billion over 20 years.
At the same time, Russia has sent an intelligence-gathering ship to the
Adriatic, suspended its links to NATO, and, led by Yeltsin, fired off volleys
of harsh rhetoric against the United States and the allies.
Russia's future appears inextricably linked to the West. Moscow Mayor Yuri
Luzhkov, a leading candidate to succeed Yeltsin, said NATO is provoking
Russia but conceded: ``The new democratic Russia will not reinstate the Iron
EDITOR'S NOTE: Barry Schweid has covered diplomacy for The Associated Press
through the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999
From: Laura Belin <email@example.com>
Subject: re: western press coverage
[Note from DJ: I will be transmitting the full text of Laura's
paper in a day or two]
Jake Rudnitsky argues that poor New York Times coverage of Eastern Europe
and the NIS reflects "a two-dimensional perspective, stemming from the
Cold War, in which all conflicts must be portrayed as a clear-cut struggle
between good and evil." (JRL 3253)
I agree with Rudnitsky's characterization of the coverage of October 1993,
and it may be that some of the columnists he mentions were affected by
their old Cold War perspective. But I do not believe that a Cold War
mentality was a strong influence on western press coverage of Russia in
1993. A much more important factor, in my view, was the Russian
media coverage of those same events.
Foreign journalists do not work in a vacuum. They are forced to rely on
local media to some extent, and the biases in the local sources often find
their way to foreign readers.
I enclose part of a paper I wrote for the September 1998 conference of the
American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies. Although the
paper does not mention October 1993, it discusses coverage of Korzhakov's
dismissal in June 1996, and I think similar factors affected how both
events were reported. In 1993, many Russian journalists supported Yeltsin
and demonized Khasbulatov. Foreign correspondents found it easy to depict
the conflict that way, in part because Khasbulatov, like Korzhakov, was an
unsympathetic character (to most--I know you admire him, David!).
From: TAKFP@aol.com (Ted Kirkpatrick)
Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1999
Subject: 1993 events/3253
I must reply to Jake Rudnitsky's article on the events of October 1993. I do
not pretend to know all the political intrigues of those times, but I was in
Moscow the weekend of the attacks on Ostankino and the White House and would
like to put what was going on into some perspective. I arrived in Moscow
that Saturday (the evening before the attack on Ostankino) and being a
Russian speaker was able to tune in to Moscow radio and TV for coverage of
what was occurring. It was fascinating to listen to such figures as the
Moscow Patriarch (who called anyone spilling other Russian blood anathema to
the church) and the Prime Minister appealing to the masses to avoid further
violence (there being riots in Moscow that afternoon). Of note, Yeltsin was
nowhere to be seen or heard. After spending Sunday at what was formerly
VDNKh (Exhibition of Economic Achievements) and missing the storming of
Ostankino by about 4 hours, it was fascinating again to watch Moscow TV and
the attempts of the broadcasters trying to figure out what was going on. I
remember seeing the trucks crashing through the front doors and hearing the
fear in the voices of the announcers. People were calling in to make
conflicting claims of which Army units were supporting whom. I also
distrinctly remember seeing General Makashov (he of recent anti-Semitic fame
and not mentioned in Rudnitsky's article) calling upon the masses to rise up
against the government and seize power as if it were October 1917. It was
obvious to me then, and it remains my conviction now, that in storming the
White House Yeltsin was doing nothing less than defending the government
against an armed insurrection led by Khasbulatov, Rutskoi and Makashov.
Police had been killed, an armed attack made on the media, and calls made for
armed revolt. What else could Yeltsin (or any other government) have done??
I must also add that while driving around Moscow during this time it was
obvious that aside from the areas immediately around the White House and
Ostankino, life continued as usual, with most people's comments being that
all of this was just a bunch of "politics". The political interpretation I
will leave to Jake, but I think we need to remember what was actually
occurring in Moscow before being too critical of the Western press or Yeltsin.
Russia: Kosovo Conflict May Hurt Cohesion Of Federation
By Julie Corwin
Prague, 23 April 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Initially, at least, NATO air strikes on
Yugoslavia appeared to unify Russia's political elite. They pushed both the
scandal involving Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov and speculation about
Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov's dismissal off the front pages of the
Russian press. In addition, the rhetoric of groups along the political
spectrum suddenly became remarkably similar as they all condemned NATO and
But just a few weeks later there were signs that the fragile political peace
was fraying and that the Balkan conflict has been absorbed into a variety of
domestic political battles. These include the effort of political parties and
their candidates to raise their profile in the regions before Duma elections,
and the effort to forge a pan-Slavic union. So far, the results of this
absorption suggest that the Yugoslav conflict may negatively affect the
cohesion of the Russian Federation.
Already, proponents of expanding the Union of Belarus and Russia to include
Yugoslavia have raised concerns among the leadership of Russia's Muslim
population. Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov declared that he has no
interest in joining any union with Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic whom
he holds personally responsible for the tragedy in the Balkans. President of
Ingushetia Ruslan Aushev suggested that if Yugoslavia was going to join the
union, then the issue of upgrading the status of his republic and that of
Tatarstan should be examined.
Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev himself raised objections to the
recruitment of volunteers in his republic to fight in the conflict on the
side of the Kosovar Albanians. He noted that since Russia is a multiethnic
state, there should be no question of sending any volunteers since they could
wind up on different sides.
But perhaps sensing an opportunity to generate publicity for their parties
and movements in the regions, members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR),
Spiritual Heritage, and the Popular Patriotic Front among others have
reportedly amassed long lists of volunteers throughout Russia ready to fight
in Yugoslavia. By the first week of April, LDPR claimed it had 70,000
volunteers signed up across Russia.
In addition to the possibility that volunteers from Russia could wind up
shooting at each other, there is also the possibility that refugees from
opposing sides of the war could confront each other on Russian territory.
While a long list of regions have expressed their willingness to shelter Serb
"victims of NATO air strikes," the Adygei Republic recently offered to take
in a second batch of Kosovar residents of Adygei origin.
In the meantime, Russian President Boris Yeltsin continues to encourage the
foreign policy aspirations of regional leaders, telling them early this week
that "everything must originate in the regions, including proposals on
The result of such encouragement may be a splintering of the nation's single
foreign policy into competing sub-components, the beginning of which we may
now be witnessing.
Details of Federation Council's Skuratov Debate
22 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Report by Aleksandr Yevtushenko: "And There Is in That Republic a
Prosecutor, and He.... At Yesterday's Session of the Federation Council
Yuriy Skuratov's Fate Was Decided"
Speaker Stroyev gave the floor in the debate on
Skuratov first to Aleksandr Voloshin, head of the Presidential Staff.
Either not having any opinion of his own, or not wishing to divulge it,
Voloshin tried to get away with reading out the president's letter to the
senators. Unlike the recent one, it contained no hints about the
prosecutor's immoral behavior. It said that the solution of the problem
with the prosecutor is long overdue. And the uncertainty is hindering the
collaboration of the power structures in the battle against crime. In
short, I propose that Skuratov be relieved of his position.
At that Voloshin wanted to leave the rostrum. But the retort from one
senator: "Such an important official, and he wants to leave without
answering questions" -- met with support in the hall.
"What does 'an unhealthy situation' mean?"
"How is Skuratov hindering the collaboration of the power structures?"
"Why should we change our position of supporting the general prosecutor
without any documents to hand?"
"I cannot give you these documents. They are highly secret. But they
have been sent to the Federation Council," Voloshin explained opaquely.
He offered to continue the session behind closed doors, which proposal
was supported by a majority of senators.
"I voted against a closed session. And I will vote against Skuratov in
the post of general prosecutor. The country does not need a prosecutor
under whom the jails are crammed with petty thieves, while the
contractors of sensational killings and thieves from the highest
political circles are at liberty," thundered A. Rutskoy, whose closest
associates have already been sent to the cells by officers of the local
But Moscow Mayor Luzhkov voted for closing the session to the press.
"We must receive additional information and discuss everything calmly,"
he explained. "There are various aspects here: the moral aspect, the
legality of the authorities vis-a-vis the general prosecutor, and the
question of Skuratov's ability to continue his work on investigating
corruption in the highest echelons of power."
At about 1300 hours the "first swallow" appeared from the closed hall
-- Gennadiy Raykov, member of the State Duma Security Committee. He at
once "blabbed" that Skuratov had maintained that it was impossible to
continue to work in the existing conditions and asked the Federation
Council to approve his resignation. And also to set up a closed
commission from the upper house to examine the cases he had been
investigating. According to Raykov, Skuratov also named certain big names
from the supporting cast in these cases, but the deputy did not disclose
which names these were specifically.
Perhaps the most frank in conversation with journalists was Aman Tuleyev:
"The Presidential Staff basically has nothing new against Skuratov. Or it
is unable to reveal it. Obviously, it is necessary to set up a special
commission. And let it be told what is under investigation and what is
In Tuleyev's view, at the high point of the session the senators were
split 50-50 in their voting intentions. Skuratov himself, asked
repeatedly whether he would continue to work in the event of his being
supported by the Federation Council, firmly replied: "No." But he at once
justified this by the nonworking atmosphere created around him. Could you
work, he said, if your office had been sealed, if they were intimidating
you and blackmailing you, and so forth. And he asked to resign solely in
order to quell the political passions.
As for the well-known videotape, according to Tuleyev, senators asked
Skuratov about this too: "Did this happen or did it not?" Skuratov denied
it. But be that as it may, the general prosecutor's resignation request
caused many in the Federation Council to execute a 180-degree turn....
Attitudes To Political Leaders Assessed
15 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Sergey Vasiltsov, doctor of historical sciences, and
Sergey Obukhov, candidate of economic sciences, Center for Study of
Political Culture of Russia: "Useful--Not Useful"
Well, who made the President depart from his prepared text at
the meeting with the heads of the republics on Good Friday? The
scandalously disdainful phrase that slipped out of the dark corners
of Yeltsin's soul--"as of the present stage Primakov is useful...we
will see how things go from here"--predetermined a change in the
relations between the President and Prime Minister. Up to this
point it has already appeared to some people in the White House that
the principle "today he is useful but tomorrow--he will be out on
his ass"--is a well-developed mechanism for cooperation between the
President and his colleagues, advisers, and subordinates that does
not extend to the current head of the government. But nature had
its way with Boris Nikolayevich...
The public outburst of presidential disdain for Primakov
apparently could not be stopped by any rational considerations. For
example, it is an indisputable fact that sociological data show that
more than 90 percent of the population do not accept Yeltsin in the
post of president and two-thirds support the idea of removing him
from this position. With this level of support, rulers are not able
to manage in any democratic, civilized country. Within two or three
months they always resign. But Russia is a unique country in this
respect. People have been ruling us for several years now with this
kind of rating.
I will not discuss the dark impulses of the President's nature
or the understanding that after the catastrophe of 17 August the
only person keeping Yeltsin's position stable is Primakov, who as
head of the government has the greatest support from the population
he has had during all of the nineties. Thanks to Primakov (and only
him), the population is still tolerating the current inhabitant of
As an experienced person and one who is aware of his role in
the state, Yevgeniy Maksimovich responded to the attack immediately.
I cannot keep my position, especially "when they establish a time
frame for my work: Today I am useful but tomorrow we shall see."
And this worthy response did indeed cause a sensation. For up to
this point none of Yeltsin's prime ministers would have dared to do
that. Gaydar and Chernomyrdin and Kiriyenko, who enjoyed no
significant support in the society, silently put up with all the
President's tomfoolery as lackeys tolerate mockery from a
Understandably, after such a public exchange of fire, all
hints and denials of the possible resignation of the government took
on a life of their own. There is a real basis for the assumption
about the high probability of the departure of the cabinet. It is
becoming clear that Yeltsin does not intend to tolerate Primakov at
the head of the government for the stipulated period of time--until
the end of the President's term in office.
Premiers and Competitors
In general, one of the characteristic features of the current
Kremlin authority is that it rapidly grows weary of any social
stabilization, even the most superficial. Having squandered a
decisive part of their social base and people's sympathies, they
have long been capable of existing just by balancing on the "foam"
of mass emotions that are stirred up around some sensational event,
squabbles with one or another noteworthy personage in the upper
echelons, or scandal. For these authorities, a calm life in the
country is painful and dangerous. And so two or three outbreaks of
instability a year long ago became a "rule of good form" in Kremlin
affairs, a means of reviving the regime.
It has long been known that the Kremlin is feverishly
searching for a replacement for Primakov. Once in a while on the
pages of the mass media there are information leaks about possible
candidates. And although the deadlines for the resignation of the
cabinet set by Berezovskiy have passed, the firing at personal
targets (now Primakov, now Maslyukov) continues. The exaggeration
of the significance of various politicians who have been put out to
pasture is also continuing as though they were being considered for
the post of prime minister.
Of course, considering the experience of the "whipping boy"
Sergey Kiriyenko, it is quite easy to believe (as some mass media
have conveyed) that even the specialist in emergency affairs, Sergey
Stepashin, might be promoted to the rank of prime minister. But the
most effective, of course, was the challenge to the sick B. Yeltsin,
languishing in the role of a person with nothing to do, that was
presented by Grigoriy Yavlinskiy and mysteriously turned over to the
mass media. And also the trips abroad and "colorful" commentary of
Viktor Chernomyrdin, who is clearly trying to play the role of a
"shadow" premier, are far better received in high foreign offices
than the official leader of the Russian government.
Nobody would argue that the competitors do not have a chance.
If only because under domestic conditions, even the highest
government post in Russia is in no way linked to respect in the
society for the person who occupies it. Everything is decided by
the presidential will, or, more frequently--his caprice.
But anyway... Although public opinion does not rule our
world, it is still able to extremely weaken the position of one
politician or another (crudely put, if his "rating" is weak--anyone
can do what they want with him), or support him in defending his
program. And so, in particular, the President with his 2-3 percent
sympathy rating among the people already finds it difficult to
maneuver people who have a great deal more prestige in the country:
that same Primakov with his 15-16 percent of supporters in the
And so, without over estimating the effect of public opinion
at all, let us see which positions in the society are held by the
current main participants in the next near-government
As far as Chernomyrdin goes, everything here is more or less
understandable. The country essentially said farewell to him after
Viktor Stepanovich's two defeats in 1998: first in connection with
his "castling move" on Sergey Kiriyenko, and then because of his
loss to opposition forces in the battle for the post of head of
government, which brought Prime Minister Yevgeniy Primakov into the
position. For a politician whose personal rating never rose above
4-6 percent of the mass sympathies, two such career "slaps in the
face" in one year are quite a bit. The destruction of his image
A poll conducted by our Center for Study of Political Culture
in Russia undertaken a year ago right after the resignation of the
Chernomyrdin government showed that the segment sympathizing with
him among the people amounted to at most 12-16 percent. Only one
Russian in 30 called this step on Yeltsin's part "impulsive, random,
Polls of our Center for Study of Political Culture of Russia
[TsIPKR] taken a year ago, immediately after the resignation of the
Chernomyrdin government, showed that the segment of people
sympathizing with him was at most 12-16 percent. Only one Russian
in 30 called this step of Yeltsin's "impulsive, random, and
At most one out of 50 at that time believed that "Chernomyrdin
and Kulikov intended finally to take serious action against the
corrupt people in the government and the presidential apparatus."
One in 12 thought that the prime minister had suffered for his
policy, which did not depend on the President's "zigzags." Finally,
only one-tenth of the population thought that the power spheres,
having ousted such a significant figure, would finally purge
themselves of the last Russian members of the government.
At the same time, for most of the population Chernomyrdin's
connection with the ruling elite still remained indisputable. "The
regime will again recover from the blow of the Chernomyrdin
government"--that is how almost one-third of the citizens evaluated
what had happened. "They can replace him with a new person who is
supposedly unblemished and then ravage the country as they always
have." Almost the same proportion of the population regarded the
retired premier as an elementary toy in the hands of the
presidential clan whose transfers helped the authorities both to
undermine social protest actions and cover the Communists' "trump
card" in the form a vote of no confidence in the government.
Encountering this kind of "dialectic" of popular views, Viktor
Chernomyrdin can count on nothing. Neither during the course of the
August-September crisis of 1998 nor today, when Viktor Stepanovich
selflessly denounces from your television screens first Maslyukov
and then the entire government policy. Such a tactic is not likely
to restore even the small amount of popularity he once had. His
presidential rating, according to the latest polls in 1999, reaches
only 2-3 percent, and the prestige of the NDR [Our Home Is Russia]
of which he is the leader has become stuck at the 50-percent
Against this background the position of Grigoriy Yavlinskiy
and his party looks incomparably better. In any case, one-third of
Russians (an all-Russian poll of the TsIPKR of January 1999 on the
basis of a "panel" selection of 1,500 respondents from 76 regions)
admit that the position held by Yabloko--"while remaining in
opposition to everything, and rapidly gathering points for the
future"--is successful and effective. It is another matter whether
or not it will lead the country to anything good...
For Grigoriy Alekseyevich still has not managed to become
anything like the main and last hope for Russia. The future
transformation of his organization into the "leading political party
of the country" that unites all "real democrats and supporters of
reforms" is believed by at most 6-7 percent of the citizens (see
Chart. How Do You See G.A. Yavlinskiy's Future?
(several versions of answers were allowed)
Opinion (in percentages)
1. Yabloko will be the country's leading political party,
uniting around itself all real democrats and supporters of reforms--
2. It will gain the 12 important portfolios it seeks in the
government and begin to implement its reform program successfully--
3. Yabloko and its leader Yavlinskiy will continue to
criticize Yeltsin, the government, and the Communists, remaining in
opposition to all and rapidly "gathering points" for the future--
4. Nothing will come of them. They have been a narrow party
with no influence, representing part of the intelligentsia, and that
is what they will remain--44.5 percent
5. Yabloko will be discredited in the eyes of the public as a
result of the investigation of the foreign sources for financing
this party that has been started. It will begin to rapidly lose
6. Other opinion--4.5 percent.[end chart]
And almost half the Russians hold the view that nothing will
come of Yavlinskiy and his colleagues--"it was narrow, party without
influence,...and that is what it will remain." Moreover, another
about 11 percent of the voters, looking to the future, predict
disgrace and failure for them because of information about the
existence "of foreign sources of financing for their party."
And on the whole only about 2 percent of the citizens are
ready and able to agree with Yavlinskiy's predictions that after
obtaining a dozen or so key government portfolios, Yabloko will
finally implement its program of reforms--and that is all. And the
perception of Yavlinskiy himself among the people leaves something
to be desired.
The materials from the polls--in general a surprising thing--
show that his image today is being fragmented into approximately 100
different assessments that break down into characteristics that
denigrate him and positive assessments in a ratio of 2:1, with a
predominance of the negative. The most flattering things said about
him are that he is "intelligent," "literate," and "wise," and they
garner from 6 to 18 percent of the supporters each. The most
unpleasant ones that point out his "slyness," his "demagogy," his
"dishonesty," and his "vanity" together account for up to one-fourth
of the assessments.
And it sometimes happens that both kinds of views of
Yavlinskiy are interwoven in the most paradoxical way: "wise--
intelligent--not a leader" or "knowledgeable--afraid to get his
hands dirty." It turns out like this: "Agility is one thing, but
the ability to actually do something is altogether
In general the basis for the claims to office not only of the
members of Our Home Is Russia but also of Yabloko do not seem
But that is about the competitors. How do the premiers look,
in any case--the head of the cabinet himself, Ye. Primakov, and his
first deputy Maslyukov?
Yes, today the main fire of "disclosures" is coming down on
the first deputy premier. It is quite capable (in principle) of
tearing whomever it wishes to away from the management levers. But
the return from these attacks is somewhat delayed.
Indeed, his image in the mass awareness does look greatly "de-
heroized." The following assessment dominates: "He would probably
be a fairly good manager in peaceful times...but today, with this
decline, he cannot cope." Here 23.6 percent of the Russians agree.
In the meantime purely negative characteristics (Maslyukov is an
ordinary careerist, a person of the past, a trivial apparatchik of
the Soviet age) finds resonance in a much smaller proportion of the
people. And there are very few, one out of 30, who are prepared to
agree with discussions to the effect that "Maslyukov will not fix
the economy but will carry out the directives of his CPRF [Communist
Party of the Russian Federation]."
At the same time only a somewhat smaller proportion of
Russians look at the deputy premier with unabashed hope. For
instance, about 23 percent of the citizens think: "Possibly he is
not very prepared for operating under market conditions, but a
person with his experience is still useful to the government at such
a difficult time." And although few would agree to speak of him as
a "key figure in Primakov's cabinet," up to 4 percent, still one out
of eight Russians, believes in his desire and ability "to turn the
economy in the direction of production."
But on the whole the positions of the deputy premier in the
public mentality are arranged in a proportion of 4:3 with an
inclination toward criticism. Which, let us note, is much better
than the position of his major opponent--Grigoriy Yavlinskiy.
And, finally, Primakov. As information from the polls tells
us, practically nobody would dare to say in Russia today that he
"does not know" the head of the government--it would be a rare case.
And at the same time he is far from charismatic, and only one out of
10 of our contemporaries see him as "Russia's last hope." An
equally small number think that he is nobody, but Primakov was able
to rectify the consequences of 17 August at least to a certain
degree (see table).
Table. How do you view the acts and fate of Prime Minister
He is Russia's main and perhaps last hope of emerging from the
crisis in a normal, legal way--10.0 percent.
Primakov deserves a great deal of credit for the fact that
after the collapse of 17 August the government was able to stabilize
the situation in the country at least to a certain degree--10.9
Of course he is a good organizer and a flexible, knowledgeable
person, but everything in our country is so neglected, confused, and
corrupted that it is very difficult to hope for Primakov's success--
He is probably not a bad politician, especially in
international affairs, but he is a poor economist, and that is the
main thing--13.6 percent.
He did not manage immediately to do what he wanted to--to form
a truly new and effective government team, and therefore his cause
is doomed to failure--2.7 percent.
It is nice to see in one of the country's high posts an
intelligent, educated, polite, and wise person--one wants very much
to believe in him (but God only knows what will happen with
Instead of wheeler-dealers like Chernomyrdin and Kiriyenko, a
bureaucrat-apparatchik came to power--such "renewal" of power will
do nothing. We have gone from bad to worse--5.4 percent.
He is one of that group of "democrats" but he is a little
smarter (he has been able to sit it out in the shadows); he will
implement the old program, but not so crudely, and he will destroy
Russia using a "soft gloves"--2.7 percent.
It cannot be ruled out that for a while he will be able to
reinforce the power of the "democrats," but he will not manage to
save Russia; after a certain amount of stabilization the country's
disintegration will proceed even more rapidly--4.5 percent.
Primakov is an old, albeit cautious, agent of influence of the
United States in our country; he will do (perhaps more cleverly)
what is advantageous to the West and not to Russia--0.9
Today he is gaining the confidence of the opposition and the
people, depicting a statesman, but tomorrow, when the regime comes
into its own, gains strength, and "changes its colors"--he will deal
a decisive blow to patriotic forces--1.0 percent.
He sincerely wants to save the country, but that is impossible
(in any case while operating within the framework of the current
Other--3.6 percent.[end table]
Rather, the perception of the premier is now determined by
something else--the reflection of the tragic sacrifice that befell
his image. "Of course, he is a good organizer, a flexible,
knowledgeable person, but everything in our country is so neglected,
confused, and corrupted that it is very difficult to hope for
Primakov's success," say 33.7 percent of the Russians. But they
want very much to believe in such an "intelligent, educated, polite,
and wise person."
Any degrading characteristics of him so far do not stick at
all. That he is one of that group of "democrats," they say, "a
cautious agent of influence," and that he intends to "deal a
decisive blow to patriotic forces"--these things were voiced by 1-3
percent of the citizens and that is all...
And on the whole a very complicated and even paradoxical set
of evaluations shows through. If the proportion of benevolent and
hostile views of Primakov is 4:1 in favor of the former, the ratio
of hope and mistrust of him is almost 1:1, thus registering the
triumph of that same old political pessimism.
Still, none of the main competitors vying for the premier and
deputy premier posts can compare in the popular perception with the
position of the premier and deputy premier today. It is possible
that there could be another shakeup of the power elite, introducing
discord and confusion in people's minds, which is a way of saving
the regime. But this can never stabilize the country. There will
be just another social explosion that could finally destroy the last
remnants of the authority of those who once took the path of
"perestroyka and reforms," which all fell down into ruins, dirt, and