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Johnson's Russia List
25 April 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. BBC: Russia to ignore Nato embargo.
2. The Guardian (UK): Karen Hewitt, What Russia sees. There is anger,
contempt and incredulity about Nato among these educated people.
3. The Independent on Sunday (UK): Russia comes begging again.
Phil Reeves explains why the West has little alternative but to lend more
to a corrupt state that has already squandered billions.
4. David Filipov: David Hoffman and 1993 -- why him, and why now?
(DJ: Prize for Hoffman was for his 1998 series on Russian nuclear forces.)
5. Jerry Hough: Re 3255-Belin/Press Coverage.
6. Roxinne Savoretti: Moscow/Kosovo/Refugees.
7. Nicholas Olenev: Re: 3251-8/New competitive model.
8. Moscow Times editorial: NATO Sets New Rules For Europe.
9. Interfax: Russian Ministries Estimate Illegal Transfers To West.
10. St. Petersburg Times: Fyodor Gavrilov, Oligarchs Had Some Decent
11. The Irish Times: Kazan's Tatars oppose union of Slavs. Members of
Russia's Islamic community fiercely oppose their country's stance on
NATO's action, writes Seamus Martin.
12. Jamestown Foundation Prism: Tatyana Matsuk, WAR OR PEACE? THE REASONS
FOR AND POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-WESTERN FEELING IN RUSSIA.
13. The New Republic: Stacy Sullivan, MILOSEVIC'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS.
Maybe we do have a quarrel with the Serbian people. (DJ: Read this article--
only a brief excerpt here--if you want to understand the emerging logic
of NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia.)]
Russia to ignore Nato embargo
General Clark is drawing up plans for the "visit and search" patrols
Russia looks set on a collision course with Nato after saying it will
ignore calls by the alliance for an oil embargo against Yugoslavia.
The alliance is drawing up plans to "visit and search" ships to try to
prevent oil, arms and other vital supplies reaching the Serbian armed
forces via ports in Montenegro.
US President Bill Clinton defended the sea searches, saying it was
unreasonable to ask pilots to risk their lives attacking oil depots when
Serbia could get fuel from ships.
But Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that his country would ignore
Nato's calls to prevent oil getting through and would continue supplying
President Slobodan Milosevic's government with fuel.
"We cannot do anything to worsen the suffering of the people in Yugoslavia,
and we will continue delivering oil in keeping with our international
commitments," Mr Ivanov said.
Russian special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin, who returned from Belgrade with
a fresh peace offer on Thursday, backed up Mr Ivanov.
"The blockade (idea) is bad. The strikes are bad. When people die, it's bad."
BBC Moscow Correspondent Robert Parsons says if the alliance decides to
impose a sea blockade, it will have to decide whether to board Russian
ships - risking sucking Russia into the conflict.
The Guardian (UK)
24 April 1999
[for personal use only]
What Russia sees
There is anger, contempt and incredulity about Nato among these educated
By Karen Hewitt
Karen Hewitt, of the Oxford University Institute for Slavonic Studies, is
an honorary professor at Perm University
For a month I have been teaching Russian students, in cities like Perm and
Nizhny Novgorod which used to be major centres of the former Soviet
'industrial-military complex'. Here, Russian teachers and professionals,
decent local politicians and legal idealists who have been defending what
they genuinely thought to be Western values, are overwhelmed with anger,
contempt and incredulity at Nato policies.
'How do you help refugees by creating thousands more of them? What is the
point of bombing cities and peaceful civilians?'
I say that Nato's strategy is muddled and confused but full of good
intentions. They are unimpressed. America is a super-power which is always
ready to bomb other countries, they tell me. Do I not believe that there is a
broader strategy behind the bombings?
Sitting around the kitchen tables, I found their thinking more and more
alarming - but not easy to refute. In classes I would ask the students what
they knew about the situation.They insisted that they did not support
Milosevic; they were against ethnic cleansing and the cruel treatment of all
Yugoslavians including Kosovo Albanians. They knew about quarrels among the
Kosovan leaders and groups, and about the drug-smuggling which finances many
of their arms and activities.
On the other hand, they were vague about the wars in Croatia and Bosnia and
they showed some anti-Muslim prejudice. ('Why destabilise Europe in order to
support Muslims who are supported by Turkey which suppresses Kurds? What is
Serious Russian TV news provides lengthy reports from Brussels and
question-and-answer sessions with correspondents throughout the Balkans.
Naturally the news is biased; there are no long sympathetic interviews with
Nato policy-makers and generals; the spokesmen from the weary lines of
refugees declare that they are fleeing first from bombing and secondly from
Milosevic's Serbs; villainous-looking Albanians announce that they are
longing to march into Serbia alongside Nato forces.
Viewers also see the crowds of middle-aged men and women linking hands in
peaceful protest as they stand on the Danube bridges. Or workers sleeping in
factories to try to protect them from being bombed. Or the bloody mess of
bombed refugees with Nato voices coolly reporting that this was probably
another Serbian ruse.
While not defending the bombing, I tried to give these students a brief
history of the break-up of Yugoslavia from the British point of view, our
confusion and guilt about not doing anything much during earlier atrocities,
the lessons - the wrong lessons - learnt about the swift Serbian withdrawal
after the brief bombing raids in Bosnia, the belief that sometimes countries
ought to intervene to protect victims.
'All countries have their internal problems but Nato doesn't bomb them. Why
didn't Nato bomb Northern Ireland?' (Angry laughter].
I explained to them, as so often we have to explain to Americans, that the
IRA is not the Army of the Republic of Ireland and that the British
government is not forcing itself upon an unwilling majority . They listened
with interest: 'All right, so it is more complicated in Ireland. But it is
always more complicated in internal affairs. Kosovo is not simply about
massacres of Albanians. What about the Serbs who have long historical claims
to the territory?'
So I ask them for their own explanations of Nato policy, and suddenly they
are not only angry, they are young and frightened. They explain it thus.
America is obsessed with proving how powerful it is. Europe, of which Russia
is now a part, is becoming politically and economically too powerful for US
comfort. So it must destabilise Europe in its most sensitive parts - in the
'Hang on,' I say, 'Most of the Nato countries are European: why should they
be wanting to destabilise Europe?'
'Because they are poodles of America, they want to cling to the strongest
power - and also sell their arms. But as the Danube is destroyed for trading,
and the economic possibilities of all these European countries are destroyed,
they will realise that this is a war against Europe. And against Russia.'
'Why can't you see it? They didn't bomb us when we attacked Chechnya - though
the situation is exactly the same as the Serbs attacking the Albanians. Maybe
they didn't bomb us because we have nuclear arms. But they realise they can
bomb other Slav countries, in order to force us Russians to enter the war.
That's why they use Nato and not the UN, and why they refuse Russian attempts
to have diplomacy. And then, in destroying the European economy and attacking
the Slav countries, they will have started the third world war. Don't you
think this will happen?'
This was their response to an otherwise incomprehensible war which seemed to
violate all moral and strategic sense. Somewhere there must be an
over-arching explanation, a politically - if not morally - intelligible US
policy. An American dream of ultimate grandeur.
Embarrassed, I suggested that most probably the Nato powers had given hardly
a thought to Russia except in terms of diplomatic bargaining games. I said we
had no concept of Slav loyalties. I tried to explain the cock-up theory of
events. But I was talking to people with a solid education in world history,
and ineradicable knowledge of what Hitler's anti-Slav dreams had meant for
Russia. If I thought their reaction was close to paranoia, they thought mine
was naively parochial and unhistorical.
Back in Moscow I met Russians familiar with the West who had been in Britain
when the war started. They too were incredulous at what they had seen. 'We
used to be told democracy means freedom of information. Your government
suppresses information. How can you be so ignorant - and not care that you
are so ignorant? You never discuss the view from Russia and Eastern European
countries which have a different history. Yugoslavia is part of that history,
and your politicians only listen to America. Are our students really so
I wonder. The fears of a third world war obsessing those angry, white-faced
students, as they huddled against the bitter Russian spring and redefined the
American-led future, now suddenly seem a lot less preposterous than they did
four weeks ago.
The Independent on Sunday (UK)
25 April 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Russia comes begging again
Phil Reeves explains why the West has little alternative but to lend more
to a corrupt state that has already squandered billions
RUSSIA'S fall from history's high table could hardly be more cruelly
illustrated. There are few places its officials would less like to be this
weekend than Washington, where the old enemies from Nato are holding their
50th birthday bash with a round of mutual backslapping. Yet a delegation of
senior Russian officials will today touch down in the US capital, climb
into limousines and slide quietly downtown, caps in hand.
Their destination is the International Monetary Fund and World Bank's
spring meeting. Their aim - finally to nail down a new loan agreement in
the hope this will stave off the threat of further economic collapse.
Moscow is already the fund's biggest debtor by far. It owes $18bn (12.5bn),
money thrown at the country to secure its transition from Communism to
democratic capitalism, and avoid total breakdown. The money has gone, yet
free market reforms and the economy are in refrigeration. Again, Moscow
turns to the West, hand outstretched, encouraged by the thought that its
chances are improved by its commitment to stay out of the Balkans war.
The delegates, led by first deputy prime minister Yuri Maslyukov (a
dinosaur, in IMF eyes) are not exactly alluring suitors, as the fund has
made clear in weeks of tough negotiations. Among many sins, Russia has an
ineffective tax collection system, a profoundly corrupt bureaucracy, a
shaky understanding of money, a bad habit of settling its accounts by
barter, and a capital flight crisis in which several billion dollars wing
their way abroad every month. To that should be added the central bank
throwing credits at its crippled and crooked banking system. The figures
look grim: this year the IMF expects inflation in Russia to come in at just
more than 100 per cent, while GDP shrivels by a further 7 per cent.
Looming large are the memories of the fate of last year's IMF $22bn (15bn)
rescue package, which failed to save Russia from an economic meltdown, but
instead got sucked into a vortex on the debt market which stifled credit
and investment, before the market crashed. After Russia defaulted last
August the rouble fell to a quarter of its 1997 value against the dollar.
Now more problems are brewing: without a deal, Moscow says it will be
unable to honour foreign debts of $17bn (11.4bn) due this year.
Despite all this - and divisions within the IMF - the Russians are likely
to get their money. Obviously, the IMF wants its loans back, but some of
Moscow's debts due this year are to the fund itself and the World Bank. By
borrowing again, Russia should be able to make payments, ultimately
reducing overall debt.
Broader geopolitical issues are also in play, including the lingering fear
that a stagnant, truculent Russia will slide into isolation and
international delinquency. Though the West does not like Yevgeny Primakov,
the Prime Minister, or the free market sceptics at his side, they have
proved unexpectedly thrifty, and successfully stabilised the country after
last August despite predictions of chaos. Ultimately, he is someone the
West can work with.
"Moscow needs the deal to avoid the nightmare of another default," said Al
Breach, a Moscow-based economic analyst. "The IMF needs it because it
doesn't want egg on its face by seeing its biggest involvement go utterly
wrong, and the West needs it because it doesn't want Russia to blow up."
Michel Camdessus, the IMF's managing director, said on Wednesday that he
expected "good news" for the Russians. Much hinges on tomorrow's meeting of
G7 financial ministers. But bets are on a one-year deal for about $3bn
Yet a nagging issue remains. Could this be the same Russia whose Central
Bank recently admitted channelling abroad hard currency reserves -
including IMF loans - through an obscure offshore company called Financial
Management Co in the Channel Islands?
The Fimaco story broke in February when the chief prosecutor, Yuri
Skuratov, claimed billions of hard currency reserves went through the
company in five years. Mr Skuratov has now found himself in the cross-hairs
of Boris Yeltsin himself - ostensibly because he was caught with
prostitutes, but more probably because his department is digging into
Kremlin bribe-taking and corruption in the Central Bank. The President
wants him to be fired.
Nine days ago, the Russian parliament called on Mr Skuratov to investigate
the Central Bank's use of Fimaco, accusing bank officials of using the
company to siphon off millions of dollars through insider trading.
Fimaco was an obscure shell company set up in Jersey in November 1990.
Although ownership was unclear, there is no doubt it was an instrument of
Eurobank, a Paris-based company controlled by the Soviet State Bank, then
by its Russian successor, the Central Bank.
As the West wonders whether to dole out more - Britain is among the IMF's
top five contributors - many questions remain unanswered. What happened to
the profits from the billions that Russia sent abroad which were said to
have been used to play the country's debt market? Why were they not spent
on the benighted population of Russia itself? These considerations have
been put on the back burner in the past few weeks, overshadowed by the
Kosovo crisis, and the recognition that Russia's ruffled feathers must be
But not everyone has forgotten. Like, for instance, Gerd Meissner, a senior
diplomat at the German embassy in Moscow. "Personally, I fully support the
view that no IMF money should be released before Russia makes clear how it
managed its reserves," he told the Moscow Times. He has a point.
AS SOON as Nato's military bureaucrats sweep out of Washington this
weekend, their counterparts from the world of international finance will
take the stage, writes Andrew Marshall in Washington. The International
Monetary Fund and the World Bank hold their spring meetings this week in
the US capital, with tensions considerably dissipated since their previous
gathering last autumn, but stormy prospects lying ahead.
The high-minded ideas for global restructuring of the international
financial architecture which were briefly floated last year have now been
considerably diminished, and the next few days are likely to see little
more than moderate tinkering. A small-scale plan to create a new pocket for
developing countries to dip into when their economies come under attack is
still not finalised, six months after it was first suggested by President
When finance ministers from the Group of Seven (the US, Germany, Japan,
France, Italy, Canada and Britain) meet tomorrow, there will be the usual
spat as the US demands economic expansion from its partners. The Fund and
the Bank will also have to confront weaknesses in their plans to help the
poorest nations. The Heavily Indebted Poor Countries scheme has been widely
criticised, but the IMF says that it is everybody else's fault but theirs.
"The programme in many respects has been quite successful," said Tony
Boote, in charge of the scheme. "However, there has been a very effective
campaign ... which has raised expectations in this area, and against raised
expectations we have failed to deliver, in a sense."
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Filipov)
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999
Subject: David Hoffman and 1993 -- why him, and why now?
The Post may or may not have, as you say, "provided...misleading, one-sided
coverage of the 1993 events" at the White House, but it was certainly not
David Hoffman's doing. Hoffman arrived here in 1996. I would humbly argue
that he has usually been on the mark in his assessment of events since he's
been here, so I don't understand why we have to disparage him by
association in this forum.
As for Rudnitsky's paper on the White House, I'm overcome with curiousity
as to whether he was there. I remember meeting Rumyantsev (by the way, Oleg
is a great guy, and wrote good constitution, but "noted Soviet dissident"
-- can someone confirm that for me?) in the White House before Luzhkov
turned off the electricity. He had a Dire Straits video album on. He was
strung out and pale. We talked about his reasons for staying, which
included a number of the things Rudnitsky mentions - rule of law, the
illegitimacy of Yeltsin's moves to close parliament, the need for some
people who believe in democracy to stay in the White House to keep it from
being "the show of extremists," as Rumyantsev put it (as "Brothers in Arms"
grinded in the background.)
The next time I went back to talk some more was Oct. 3. Rumyantsev's office
was dark. Some armed men with swastika arm-bands stopped me. I asked them
where Rumyantsev was. One said "that zhid? who gives a f&**#" to the
general merriment of the others. That night, when the Supreme Soviet
supporters had broken out of Yeltsin's blockade and routed the Dzerzhinsky
division, was the closest to victory the parliament came. I recall the
candelight session where they were amending that constitution to include
the most amazing things. I recall Khasbulatov's spokesman Konstantin
Zlobin, flush with victory, grinning at me (I worked for the Moscow Times
at the time), tapping me on the shoulder and saying "tomorrow we are going
to close you down."
Was he just joking? Sure, why not. Would I have gone in with tanks to stop
him? Dunno. It looks like a bad move in retrospect, given the lawlessness
that followed (vote-fixing, chechnya, oligarchy). But for all the obvious
damage done to Russian democracy by Yeltsin's endgame with the Supreme
Soviet, I can't help wondering what kind of place it would have been if
the guys in swastikas had won.
The Boston Globe
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999
From: "Jerry F. Hough" <email@example.com>
Subject: 3255-Belin/Press Coverage
I have not reread the New York Times coverage of 1993 in some
time, other than the articles about Clinton Administration. These
articles are first-class documentation of the position of the
Administration and its 100-percent support of the Yeltsin against the
Congress. The Larry Summers trip in September, well-covered, needs
It seems to me that the problem with Laura Belin's comment is
that there is a variety of press in Russia. It would be possible to use
in whole or in part the press connected with the opposition, but that is
never done. I have been reading the voluminous material published by
Leonid Abalkin, director of the Institute of Economics. That is never
quoted and he is never interviewed. When is Sergei Glazyev interviewed
or any of the economists on the other side? In fact, the Western press is
using sources in the reform camp more than the press. I have reread Hoffman's
work in the Post in 1995,1996, and 1997. It really looks very poor in
retrospect--the Chubais and especially Nemtsov spin, and I suspect much of it
came from the horse's mouths. But the problem, I suspect, is not Cold War
as such, but the real tendency of the press dealing with Russia to follow the
Administration line, whatever it is.
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999
From: Roxinne Savoretti <firstname.lastname@example.org>
An opinion from Moscow: Russia's first effort as peacemaker failed.It should
take a step back: get Milosevic/NATO to agree to a one-day ceasefire during
which aid agencies could air drop food and medicine inside Kosovo. It would
be a small gesture diplomatically, aid the suffering and rescue Russia some
face. Or is the command/control so degraded that word would not get to the
Serb forces to hold fire?
From: "Nicholas N. Olenev" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: 3251-8/New competitive model
Date: Sat, 24 Apr 1999 16:50:35 +0200
The phrase "it is necessary to enter the growth trajectory by 2000-2001
with an average rate of growth of not less than 4-6% per year" from
Maslyukov's program followed by wrong note "[Renegade Capital wishes to
point out that according to out calculations, sixty divided by ten is equal
to six. Thus, it appears that Mr. Maslyukov range of 4-6% per year lowballs
his own call for a 60% increase in GDP over a ten-year period.]". The author
of this note didn't remember the compound increase rate. Indeed, for example
for 4.82% (4% < 4.82% < 6%) the calculation will stay as follow: 1.6012 =
Nicholas N. Olenev, Research Fellow, CEEERC,
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org OR email@example.com
TEL: (48-22) 822-74-04 FAX: (48-22) 822-74-05
Snail mail: CEEERC, ul. Banacha 2B, 02-097 Warszawa, Poland
April 24, 1999
EDITORIAL: NATO Sets New Rules For Europe
At 50, NATO is suffering a serious midlife crisis. The war in Kosovo is only
the most recent manifestation of an organization that has outlived its
youthful reason for existence and has yet to articulate a new one.
The bilateral Cold War confrontation with Russia that led to the creation of
NATO in 1949 is now a thing of the past. Russia is no longer a serious
military threat to the Western democracies.
In fact, the continued existence of NATO and its recent expansion to include
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have probably done a lot to delay
Russia's integration into the rest of Europe.
While the West has tried to sell NATO expansion in vague terms as a "new
security architecture" for Europe, Russia can only see it as a new form of
anti-Soviet paranoia. The Poles, Hungarians and Czechs clearly wanted to join
NATO as a counterbalance to a resurgent Russia.
Russia has responded with understandable skepticism, refusing to participate
in any of the NATO-sponsored programs designed to reach out to the rest of
Europe. Russia has always known that despite all the talk of a new world
order, it will never be invited to join the NATO club.
The other truly dangerous aspect of NATO's continued dominance and expansion
is that it has occurred to the exclusion of other diplomatic initiatives, in
which Russia felt it could participate as an equal partner, such as the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the United Nations.
But the Kosovo crisis marks a new stage in NATO's transformation that is even
more troubling from Russia's point of view. Previously, NATO was a defensive
alliance, but it now appears to have taken upon itself a much greater role,
as the enforcer of certain fundamental standards of human rights in Europe.
These values may be good ones, but NATO has given itself a mandate to impose
democracy on all the countries of Europe, turning itself into an alternative
regional version of the United Nations - one that has the biggest fighting
force in the world to enforce its decisions.
This is an extraordinary example of mission creep from the anti-Soviet
alliance of 50 years ago. And yet NATO's leaders have not publicly stated
exactly what the new policy is.
How far does NATO's new zone of influence extend? Belarus? Russia?
Amid the festival of self-congratulation at NATO's 50th birthday bash,
European and U.S. leaders should pause to think where NATO ends and the
international community begins.
Russian Ministries Estimate Illegal Transfers To West
Moscow, 22 Apr (Interfax) -- In the estimate of
experts from the Russian interior and economics ministries, between $50
billion and $250 billion has been illegally transferred from Russia to
Western banks over the past five years. Offshore zones, particularly in
Cyprus, have become "money- laundering centers" for criminal Russian
capital, representatives of the Russian Interior Ministry told Interfax
Germany, where more than 600 firms have been established since the Soviet
Union's breakup, is one of the main centers for Russian criminal
groupings, they said. With reference to information received from German
colleagues, Interior Ministry sources said that besides Berlin, where 350
commercial firms have been set up, criminal groupings from Russia,
Ukraine, Georgia, and other CIS countries are actively "exploring" the
Rhine region in western Germany, where Russian cartels alone own 50
realty and foreign-trade firms.
"The weekly turnover of illegal Russian capital in the Rhine region alone
is estimated by German colleagues at $100 million to $150 million. Some
of such firms are run by German citizens who do not even know what the
actual function of these companies is," the sources said. Normally, the
criminal Russian capital is first moved to offshore companies in Cyprus
and then to Germany. Following a complicated "laundering" process,
"clean" money is invested in legal businesses. The capital legalized in
Germany finally enters accounts in respectable Swiss, American, or
St. Petersburg Times
April 23, 1999
NOTES OF AN IDLER
Oligarchs Had Some Decent Qualities Too
By Fyodor Gavrilov
Fyodor Gavrilov is the editor of Kariera-Kapital.
THREE years ago this spring, the heads of Russia's seven largest banks
requested an audience in the Kremlin. Three months remained before the
first round of the presidential elections. Yeltsin's rating in the polls
was close to zero, and Zyuganov and his Communists could already taste
victory. The seven bankers offered our liberal president their support in
exchange for "most favored business" status. The pragmatic - or cynical,
depending on how you look at it - Yeltsin accepted their offer and, after
an election campaign unprecedented in its scale, defeated Zyuganov. The
seven bankers were dubbed "oligarchs."
Today almost every one of the seven oligarchs has relinquished his place
atop the Olympus of Russian politics and finance. Some, like Inkombank
Chairman Vladimir Vinogradov, have been forgotten, while others, like Most
Bank Chairman Vladimir Gusinsky, have diversified their portfolios.
Alexander Smolensky, head of the colossal SBS-Agro Bank, is hiding from the
long arm of Russian law in Austria. Boris Berezovsky, the most creative of
them, has just returned to Moscow from a junket in Paris. He quickly
checked into the Central Clinical Hospital, which in recent months has
begun playing the role reserved in ancient times for temples - safe in the
knowledge that even the most menacing persecutor wouldn't dare to follow.
You might say that the "magnificent seven" are no longer oligarchs. The
country is alarmed, of course: it's as if several important bricks had been
removed from the shaky foundation of Russian society. Some are rejoicing
over the bankers' misfortune, while others mourn their bygone greatness. We
already know a lot of bad things about them, so I'm going to concentrate on
their good points.
When we look back at the brief "age of the oligarchs" we can't help but
acknowledge they played an enormous role in social history. They created a
new type of elite in Russia. They were university-educated people. They
spoke their native tongue with more success than their nomenklatura
predecessors. The young men and women employed by the oligarchs were the
vanguard of a new phenomenon - the Russian middle class.
The oligarchs are part and parcel of late 20th-century Russian democracy.
Their stars didn't shine right away: their road to riches was paved with
years of hard and often dirty work. Alexander Smolensky began as a builder
of wooden outhouses in suburban Moscow; Boris Berezovsky sold cars and
devised financial pyramid schemes. They didn't have the funds of the CPSS
at their disposal - at least at first; they had no ties with the Young
Communists League. Here's something else to ponder: It was the oligarchs
who pioneered corporate charity in Russia. And they invested huge amounts
of money in the mass media, making journalism a prestigious profession.
Ambition was what drove these men. It took them to the top - perhaps it
destroyed them as well.
The oligarchs left their mark on Russian society. There is no cause for
sorrow, though. What is happening now is no more than a changing of the
guards. It's no accident that Russia has seen several generations of
oligarchs since perestroika. The Russian people needs someone to act as a
mediator between it and the authorities - the two parties have perpetually
suffered from a breakdown in communication. In this sense, oligarchs are PR
men rather than despots or captains of industry.
The Irish Times
April 24, 1999
Kazan's Tatars oppose union of Slavs
Members of Russia's Islamic community fiercely oppose their country's stance
on NATO's action, writes Seamus Martin
RUSSIA: Zaki Zainullin is a fierce-looking Tatar. He speaks fiercely, too.
Volunteer groups are being raised to fight alongside the Kosovan Albanians,
he says. The Tatar Public Centre in Kazan, of which he is chairman, is not
involved in this, he stresses, but others are more radical.
"Lists are being prepared. As soon as we hear Russia is sending its own
volunteers then we will send ours. The Chechens will send also."
Kazan, the capital of the Tatar Khans, fell to the Russians in 1552. Its
ancient fortress has been turned into a typical Russian Kremlin, smaller than
Moscow's, but with golden-domed Orthodox churches as well as administrative
The crosses on those golden domes are a daily reminder to the Tatar
population that they are under Russian rule. Each cross, towards the bottom
of its stem, bears a crescent moon lying on its back as a symbol of the
defeat of Islam.
Today, a huge mosque, unfinished due to current economic circumstances,
stands in the Kremlin's grounds to remind the Russians that Kazan is now
capital of Tatarstan, a semi-independent state within the Russian Federation
with a subtle Tatar politician, Mintimer Shaimiev, as its president.
Zaki Zainullin and his colleagues spoke at their centre's headquarters on
Karl Marx Street. He would like to see Russia's rule brought to an end and
above all is determined that the proposed union of Russia, Belarus and Serbia
will never become a reality.
"This Slavic union will be the death verdict for the Ugro-Finnic peoples here
and for the Muslims. With the pan-Slavic union Russia is trying to waken a
volcano. But the colonial period is over and I am not sure the West
"We have lived under the Russians for 450 years. Our language is almost
destroyed, they have made Islam their servant, our Mufti is a Russian
servant, they have destroyed our traditions, they have contaminated our land.
"Since 1944 we have given three billion tonnes of oil to the Russians and we
didn't get a single kopeck. If they had brought us culture it would not have
been so bad. But all they taught us was how to drink vodka, speak mat (a
complicated system of foul language) and do no work.
"Their main specialty is war and grasping other people's property. We are a
colonial people. We know them. We take this tripleunion proposal very
seriously indeed. It cannot be allowed to become a reality."
While western leaders dither on the issue of ground forces, Zaki Zainullin
and his colleagues have no doubts whatsoever.
"Ground forces must be used to ensure that the Albanians have the opportunity
to return to their homeland," he says.
His predecessor as chairman of the centre, Gayal Murtazy, a lawyer and former
Red Army officer, has no doubts either.
"Our position on Yugoslavia is clear. We believe that the Albanian people are
being subjected to genocide. NATO is not involved in aggression, as the
Russian mass media says.
"Instead, it is trying to liquidate weapons which are aimed at the
destruction of non-Slavic people. We have called on Shaimiyev to shelter
Albanian refugees who are fleeing from the genocide and the Serb aggression
which attempts to destroy Albanian Muslims," he added.
Mr Murtazy also opposes the Slavic union: "We must denounce not only Russian
chauvinism but the pan-Slavic chauvinism which has its basis in Russian
chauvinism. They want the rule of Slavs over non-Slavs to be set up to
organise genocide and state terror."
Ramai Yuldashev, head of the Tatar youth movement, strives to make a
comparison with Ireland. "I send my regards to the heroic Irish people and
express my solidarity with the struggle of the Irish people for unity and
freedom. We are learning from your experience," he says. There is not a hint
of paradox in his voice as he condemns the actions of the British army in
Ireland but supports them in Yugoslavia.
"The Tatar youth organisation will be sending volunteers and starting action
in support of the Albanian people's struggle for their rights. We protest
against the ethnic genocide by Serbia and welcome NATO and its action against
Serbia. Milosevic must be brought before the International Tribunal in The
Hague to answer for his atrocities. The Albanians must be allowed to settle
their own destiny," Mr Yuldashev says.
There are more moderate voices but these, too, condemn Russian policy.
"We understand the reasons and the motives of NATO in Yugoslavia," says
Raphael Khakimov, political adviser to President Shaimiev, who opposes the
sending of volunteers. "National minorities must be protected against the use
of force. It is very hard to understand Milosevic's behaviour and to some
extent Russia may have pushed him into the current situation.
"Two years ago when the current foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, visited
Belgrade as a deputy foreign minister, he spoke of "support" for the Serbs.
He may have been thinking about "moral support" but that is not the way the
Serbs saw it. They understood him to be talking about military assistance.
Russia is, therefore, considerably to blame for pushing Milosevic into this
position," Mr Khakimov said.
In the quiet of the city's main mosque, Gousman Hazrat Iskhakov, the
Libyan-educated Mufti of Tatarstan, offers tea and sweets as he speaks of
Yugoslavia. He, too, is totally opposed to the Slavic union.
"The Prophet said that when the snake is asleep do not wake it up. If the
snake is awakened the Lord will punish the one that wakes it. If they want a
union of Slavic states it will lead to a union of Islamic states and to
confrontation. We are used to being peaceful here so the serpent must not be
awakened. I call on political leaders not to make this mistake.
"We must also be against this stupid war," he said. "It was started by
politicians and will be difficult to stop. Satan is at work. The Lord will
forgive them if they forgive each other and negotiate.
"It is painful to hear of a conflict that can be turned into a world war
through ethnic cleansing and genocide against the ethnic Albanians. It is
painful to hear of events that could lead to a confrontation between Orthodox
and Islam in the Russian Federation," he added.
THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION
A BI-WEEKLY ON THE POST-SOVIET STATES
4/23/99 No.8 Part 2
WAR OR PEACE? THE REASONS FOR AND POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF ANTI-WESTERN
FEELING IN RUSSIA
By Tatyana Matsuk
Tatyana Matsuk is senior researcher at the Institute for Employment Studies,
Russian Academy of Sciences.
"Every strike on Yugoslavia is a blow to the prospects of maintaining
democracy in Russia," said former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar.
Despite my staunch opposition to Gaidar, on this occasion, sadly, I agree
with him. The world is on the brink of a new cold war--if not worse--and the
only way out of the situation is to call a halt to NATO's military action in
Yugoslavia, and the sooner the better. However, articles in the Western
media demonstrate that the West fails to understand why the alliance's use
of force against President Milosevic has triggered a huge outburst of
anti-Western feeling in Russia, and why once again "we are seeing different
pictures on our television screens." Milosevic is certainly not an
attractive character; the problem of the Kosovo Albanians required an
immediate solution; and the Russian government was making every effort to
promote the talks which were supposed to provide that solution. So why was
there such a powerful and uniformly negative reaction to the military
action, which could not have come as a surprise to anyone?
To a great extent, the answer to this question lies beyond the Kosovo
conflict, which seems to me to be simply the pretext--the detonator which
triggered the explosion. Slavic and Orthodox solidarity have their role to
play, of course, but it is not a major one. The reasons go deeper: They are
to be found within Russia and in the way Russia's relations with the West
have been developing over the last few years.
The fall of the Iron Curtain fundamentally changed the situation in the
world, but both sides were ill-prepared for these changes. The old myths
were dispelled, but instead of trying to understand each other, to accept
each other as we were and to find a new way of coexisting as best we could,
we once again began to construct a "virtual reality." For a long time most
Russians were almost in shock at what they had discovered about their
country, in which they had always taken such pride. Against the background
of this growing inferiority complex, the West began to appear to many as a
heaven-on-earth, populated by angels. At that time--the late 1980s and early
1990s--after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, people
believed that the world was beginning to live by different rules: The
military blocks would be disbanded, the arms markets would be regulated in
accordance with joint agreements, a single international security system
would be created and there would be a ban on the use of force to settle
international conflicts. After August 1991 a "romantic era" began in Russia,
when it seemed that the country would manage to complete the transition to a
civil democratic society with a developed market economy quickly, and with
as little loss as possible, and that the West would help us in every respect.
But the subsequent years brought bitter disappointments. Some of this
disillusion was legitimate: People began traveling abroad, and many
foreigners began to appear in Russia, among whom there were a number of
dishonest people; the rose tinted spectacles began to slip. This would not
have been anything to worry about were it not for the main disappointment:
the failed reforms, which Russians also associate with the
West--unfortunately not without reason. The West naturally wanted to turn
Russia into a safe, business-friendly country as quickly as possible. Not a
great deal was known in the West about the real Russia, but there seemed to
be universal recipes which would work anywhere. They began to implement
these without sensing that we are in fact very different, because we lived
and continue to live under different conditions. Even the residents of East
and West Berlin still read different newspapers and take offense when one
side tries to tell the other how they should live. The difference in
mentality between Russians and, say, English-speaking peoples can even be
seen in a comparative analysis of the languages. In English, active forms
usually take precedence over passive ones; the actions of a person are
judged, not the person himself. In Russian the reverse is true. For
Russians, strong emotions are preferred to cold rationalization,
collectivism to individualism; there is no Protestant ethic here, no
tendency always to follow the letter of the law. This is not necessarily
such a bad thing as it may seem at first sight. It is simply the result of
adapting to different living conditions, particularly geographical and
historical ones. Real market reforms in Russia were hampered by the old
Soviet nomenklatura, and those Russian professionals who wanted to live and
work in the new way hoped that the West would sort out what was going on and
help them to deal with the situation (and with the rising crime rate, which
was being fed by the ever growing number of those on the margins of society).
But the West did not want to sort anything out--or perhaps simply was not
able to. They mainly listened to people who looked respectable and made nice
speeches in good English, and it was these people they gave the money to.
The result was that all ended in corruption and economic collapse. The
shattered illusions and hopes led to a rejection of the Western way of life
and Western thought. (Similarly, when the argument was raging in 19th
century Russia between Westernizers and Slavophiles, the ranks of the former
were mainly filled by people who knew little of the realities of life
abroad, and the latter were made up of those who were disillusioned by those
realities.) The more hopes and illusions there were to start with, the
stronger the reaction--and the hopes and illusions were many. Up to the last
minute, Russians believed that NATO would not be able to use force in Europe
without incurring UN sanctions. The bombing of Yugoslavia and the preceding
scandal surrounding the failed impeachment of President Clinton (which
Russians consider to be connected events) represent, in Russia's eyes, the
moral decline of the West. The Russian media claim that the true background
to the action "to avert a humanitarian disaster in Kosovo" is ignoble and,
moreover, governed mainly by the interests of the United States. These being:
1. Following the Cold War and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the question
arose as to whether the North Atlantic block was needed at all. NATO is in
need of funding which could be given for a new doctrine which is no longer
purely defensive. This doctrine is now being "test-driven."
2. Kosovo is on the crossroads of certain short transport routes where there
is also a lot of copper, nickel and other cheap minerals which even the
United States would find it profitable to develop.
3. The American economy has been growing for too long now and the stock
market is overheating; a constant inflow of capital and a strong dollar are
required. The conflict in Europe makes it less attractive for investors in
comparison with the United States and curbs the growth of the euro.
4. A new presidential campaign is not far off in the United States. After
the sex scandal, an election victory would be very helpful for the Democrats.
The above explanations seem highly plausible to the Russians. People here
remember how the West turned a blind eye to Mikhail Gorbachev's actions in
Baku, Tbilisi and Vilnius, and to Yeltsin's restoring "constitutional order"
in Chechnya, where the casualties numbered hundreds of thousands. The double
standards of morals and behavior, the egoism and hypocrisy which many people
have come up against in their dealings with Westerners appear particularly
cynical in this case, given that we are dealing here with human lives. The
propaganda lie--quickly spotted by many Russians who know a thing or two
about military technology--also grates. The inferiority complex is beginning
to give way to a moral superiority complex. If we add to this the feeling of
outrage that the 15 percent of the earth's population from NATO countries
did not take into account the opinion of the other 85 percent, then we have
a very dangerous precedent which could eventually lead the impoverished
population of Russia to justify lawlessness of its own.
Furthermore, the Kosovo crisis--just like the unsuccessful Russian
reforms--suggests to Russians that Western and particularly American
analysts are intellectually bankrupt. Even those in Russia who openly attack
Milosevic understand that he cannot be taken by brute force alone. On the
contrary--the more force is used, the worse the result will be. For the
Serbs, Kosovo is a historical shrine, associated with their struggle for
independence. As a small nation, they are particularly sensitive to that
sort of thing and will probably allow themselves to be annihilated rather
than succumb to force. Milosevic's position in his own country--like that of
Saddam Hussein in Iraq--is only bolstered by every new aerial attack from
NATO. And if NATO were to undertake a ground invasion--remembering the
Yugoslav resistance fighters in the Second World War--the Americans would
have another Vietnam on their hands.
In Russia, the election campaign has in essence already started. Communists,
patriots and nationalists of all shades now have a huge range of arguments
in their favor. They can (and will) say to the electorate: "You were told
that under the communist system you lived badly and were lied to. But under
the democratic system you live no better and you are still lied to. With
democracy you have double standards, lying self-indulgent politicians and
American bombs over your heads if you don't behave how the West wants. But
we say that we have to be strong if we want to free and defend ourselves and
our children from aggression. Russians are more intelligent and more honest,
which is why they are poor. We must restore justice. We need a state with a
"strong hand" and a powerful economy capable of mobilizing everything to
repulse the enemy. Then we will be feared again--which means we will be
Do the democrats have anything weighty with which to counter these words?
More IMF credits? But the country is already up to its eyes in debt. The
Russian people are afraid of war and do not yet want a return to isolation
and opposition. But they are getting poorer and poorer. There are already
nine million unemployed in the country; for many of these even a war in
Yugoslavia is a way out. We have our "hawks" here, in the military included.
Speeches are already being made calling for Russia's withdrawal from the
treaty banning first use of nuclear weapons, and saying that if it is in
danger Russia may use them for its own defense. Nationalist feeling is
running high, and the specter not so much of Stalinism but of Germany in
1933 is becoming more and more detectable. If the United States and other
members of NATO want to avoid plunging the world into disaster, then they
should find in themselves the moral courage to admit their mistake and amend
the situation honorably before it is too late. Otherwise they will bear
responsibility for everything that happens--in Russia too.
The New Republic
MAY 10, 1999 ISSUE
MILOSEVIC'S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
Maybe we do have a quarrel with the Serbian people.
by Stacy Sullivan
The conventional thinking among many Western intellectuals and politicians
is, as President Clinton has put it, that we have no quarrel with the
Serbian people. It is their leader, Slobodan Milosevic, and his henchmen
who manipulated them into waging so many brutal wars. This is the thinking
behind Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's two broadcasts to Serbs in
their own language, which she learned during a brief childhood stay in the
Yugoslav capital. And, if it is true, then it suggests a strategy aimed at
breaking Milosevic's will or, at most, toppling him from power. To use the
parlance of military strategists, the "center of gravity" in the war with
Yugoslavia consists of the government and its armed forces.
But what if it isn't true? What if the Serbs who wear targets on their
t-shirts and gather in morbid celebration for daily rock concerts or
marathon races actually support ethnic cleansing--actively or passively? In
that case, we do have a quarrel with the Serbian people. In that case, the
"center of gravity" in Yugoslavia is something far more difficult to
destroy than an army or a regime. It is the very mentality of a nation....
The very notion of collective guilt is uncomfortable. The whole concept of
an international war crimes tribunal is appropriately based on the
assumption that individuals, not whole societies, are to be held
accountable when atrocities such as those we hav e witnessed in the Balkans
this decade occur. And yet what is striking about the ethnic cleansing by
today's Serbs is the same thing that struck Daniel Jonah Goldhagen as he
reviewed the conduct of ordinary Germans toward the Jews during the
Holocaust. It 's not only the utter lack of sustained or substantial
protest against it; it's also the gratuitous sadism--the "volunteerism,
enthusiasm, and cruelty in performing their assigned and self-appointed
tasks" (to use Goldhagen's phrase)--that the Serbs, like the Germans
during World War II, have exhibited. Albanians tell of being forced to
chant "this is Serbia" as they were driven from their Kosovo homes, or to
hold up three fingers in the Serbian salute. Kosovar Albanians have been
systematically searched for jewelry and money; their homes, looted. Such
things went on in Bosnia, too....