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6 May 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: U.S., Russia in Nuclear Stalemate.
2. AP: Russian Peace Envoy Wants More Time.
3. Philadelphia Inquirer: Chris Mondics, U.S., Russian lawmakers sketch
for Balkan peace, Weldon says.
4. The Nation: Stephen F. Cohen, 'Degrading' America.
5. Moscow Times: Valeria Korchagina, Yeltsin Reminds Officials to Watch
6. Reuters: Russian PM hails progress, sceptics abound.
7. Renfrey Clarke: The Maydays of Moscow.
8. Alexander Domrin: ON THE U.S. MEDIA, U.S. "AID" TO RUSSIA AND THE FIRST
9. The Washington Post: Robert Kaiser, Letter From Russia: In Moscow,
A Brand-New Tune.]
U.S., Russia in Nuclear Stalemate
May 5, 1999
By GREG MYRE
MOSCOW (AP) -- After letting the START II arms control treaty languish for
six years, Russia's skeptical parliament twice appeared on the verge of
ratifying the U.S.-Russian agreement in recent months.
But with uncanny timing, the United States and its allies launched airstrikes
just prior to both parliamentary sessions -- first hitting Iraq in December
and then hammering Yugoslavia in March.
Outraged by the bombings, Russian lawmakers scrapped both sessions and now
appear unlikely to act until after a new parliament is elected December,
according to Russian legislators and analysts.
``In practical terms, START II is finished for now and for some period into
the future,'' said Alexander Pikayev, a military analyst with the Carnegie
Center in Moscow.
``It would be too risky (for Russian politicians) to move forward now,'' he
said of the 1993 treaty, which would limit each side to 3,000 to 3,500
strategic warheads, half the current levels.
No one is predicting a greater threat of nuclear confrontation between Russia
and the United States. But arms control has become even more complicated in
some ways, and U.S.-Russian frictions over Yugoslavia and other issues are
likely to delay breakthroughs that once seemed close at hand.
Meanwhile, Russia is growing more, not less, reliant on its nuclear arsenal.
The country's conventional forces are in deep decline and NATO's expansion
into eastern Europe has left Moscow feeling vulnerable.
The relationship is also strained over American accusations that Russia has
been leaking nuclear technology to Iran, a charge Moscow denies. In addition,
Washington wants to revise the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty to build a
limited missile defense, a move Russia strongly opposes.
Russia has further muddied the waters by giving off mixed signals.
President Boris Yeltsin stresses that Russia will not get involved militarily
in the Yugoslav conflict, and doesn't want it undermining broader
Yet the president caused a stir April 9 when he and the speaker of
parliament, Gennady Seleznyov, discussed the re-targeting of ballistic
missiles at NATO countries, according to Seleznyov. Yeltsin's office denied
initial reports that the missiles had been re-targeted, but didn't deny that
such a conversation took place.
And Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev said the country's nuclear forces
were on the ``highest level'' of combat readiness because of the NATO
``Clearly, the Russians assign a high priority to their nuclear capability,''
said Terry Taylor, assistant director of the International Institute for
Strategic Studies in London. ``It's the strongest card they have at the
global security conference table.''
Despite the heated rhetoric, the two countries are quietly pressing ahead
with existing deals, such as START I, which already have brought substantial
The United States and the Soviet Union each had more than 10,000 strategic
nuclear warheads at the start of the decade. They're now approaching 6,000,
as stipulated by START I.
With Russia hurting for money, the United States is spending hundreds of
millions of dollars each year to help Russia meet its START I obligations.
American equipment helps dismantle Russian nuclear bombers, saw apart
submarine missile launchers, and bury missile silos. American cash is
building a large complex in the Ural Mountains to safely store nuclear
materials. U.S. dollars pay for computers to track Russia's vast stores of
uranium and plutonium.
Known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, it ``has continued with
only minor bumps'' since the Kosovo conflict, said U.S. Col. Robert Boudreau,
chief of the CTR office in Moscow.
Americans involved in the program believe they still have years worth of work
ahead of them, and it has been viewed as a success at a relatively modest
cost of about $2.5 billion since its inception in 1992.
But U.S. Congress must reauthorize the program by June. Both countries want
the program extended, though they haven't resolved disputes such as whether
Russia can impose taxes and duties on the U.S. assistance.
As this example illustrates, Russia's desperate need for cash sometimes
complicates arms control. But Russia's money woes are also a virtual
guarantee that the country will get rid of thousands of nuclear weapons in
coming years, regardless of whether formal treaties are signed.
Russia can't afford to maintain its existing nuclear arsenal, and plans to
build only small numbers of new ones, mainly the mobile Topol-M.
Yeltsin has used this argument in lobbying lawmakers to ratify START II and
to open negotiations on START III, which could bring each side down to about
2,000 deployable warheads.
Communists and other hard-liners in parliament's lower house, the State Duma,
remain deeply suspicious of the United States. But they appeared to be moving
toward ratification until the two recent U.S.-led bombing raids.
``The Duma was ready to ratify START II,'' said Valdimir Lukin, a liberal
lawmaker who's been pushing for approval as head of parliament's
International Affairs Committee. ``Honestly, it's to our advantage to ratify,
but in the current situation it's impossible. There is no trust in the United
Russian Peace Envoy Wants More Time
May 5, 1999
By ANNA DOLGOV
MOSCOW (AP) -- A Russian envoy on Wednesday dismissed increasing opposition
at home to his attempt to resolve the Kosovo crisis, appealing to hard-liners
to give his formidable mission more time.
The envoy, Viktor Chernomyrdin, has become the main mediator between NATO and
Yugoslavia. But while he has sounded consistently upbeat as he shuttles
between world capitals to discuss the Kosovo crisis, his efforts have made
``It's much easier to unleash a war than to put out its fire,'' Chernomyrdin
Chernomyrdin's failure to broker a deal that would end punishing NATO
airstrikes prompted criticism Wednesday from Russian Communist leader Gennady
He accused the government of secretly warming up to NATO's raids, and of
sending out a peace envoy to keep up the pretense of opposing the attacks on
``Chernomyrdin should be seen not as a special envoy but as a special
demolisher, a special agent, a kind of political screen to conceal the fact
that the positions of Moscow and Washington on the Balkans are coming closer
together,'' Zyuganov was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
Chernomyrdin ``is traveling around the world to justify the international
crime against'' Yugoslavia, he said.
Despite the demands of hard-liners to arm the Serbs, President Boris Yeltsin
has insisted that Russia will not get involved in the conflict militarily.
Chernomyrdin, who returned to Moscow on Wednesday after talks in Washington
and New York, rejected Zyuganov's accusations, saying that Moscow was as
committed as ever to ending the airstrikes.
``Russia will not deviate from its position. The current objectives are to
halt the military action, ensure a safe return of refugees to Kosovo and
begin restoring the Yugoslav economy,'' Interfax quoted him as saying.
NATO and Yugoslavia remain at odds over what kind of international force
would be used to implement any peace agreement. The alliance insists its
raids won't stop until Yugoslavia agrees to accept a NATO-led peacekeeping
NATO launched airstrikes against Yugoslavia on March 24 after Yugoslav
President Slobodan Milosevic rejected a Western peace plan to end the
fighting in Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-majority province of 2 million
residents in Serbia, the main Yugoslav republic.
Chernomyrdin held talks with President Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan during his U.S. visit, and has also held lengthy meetings with
Milosevic during two recent trips to Belgrade.
Chernomyrdin said he intended to go to Belgrade again, but the mission was
still in the planning stage.
Meanwhile, French President Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Jose
Maria Aznar are scheduled to visit Moscow this month, mainly for talks about
Kosovo, Yeltsin's press service said Wednesday. Chirac will visit May 12-13,
while Aznar will be in Russia on May 16-19.
5 May 1999
[for personal use only]
U.S., Russian lawmakers sketch plan for Balkan peace, Weldon says
By Chris Mondics
WASHINGTON - Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) said yesterday that he had worked
out with Russian lawmakers what he described as a "blueprint" for peace in
Weldon, who led a delegation of 11 House members to Vienna, Austria, to
meet with Russian legislators, said the lawmakers from the two countries
crafted an agreement that would provide for the Yugoslav government to
withdraw troops from Kosovo and allow Albanian refugees to return to their
homes in exchange for an end to the NATO bombing and the arrival of an
armed international peacekeeping force in Kosovo.
"Both the United States and Russian sides agreed upon a basic set of
principles that provide a blueprint for resolving the current crisis," said
Weldon, of Delaware County. "We have agreed upon a framework that can help
to bring the ethnic cleansing and terrorism to an end, as well as lead to a
stop in the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia."
There was no immediate indication from the White House, the Kremlin or
Belgrade that the Weldon plan was under discussion.
"Any support from whatever quarter for NATO's conditions for ending the
conflict is welcome," said David Levy, a spokesman for the National
Security Council. "But let there be no doubt that NATO's conditions are
clear and that NATO will continue to prosecute the air campaign until there
is an unqualified acceptance by Belgrade."
Weldon contended that the willingness of key members of the Russian
parliament to endorse the idea of a pullout of Serbian troops from Kosovo
and the return of ethnic Albanian refugees suggested that the idea might
have broad-based appeal in Russia.
Weldon's group, which also included Republicans Don Sherwood of the
Scranton area and Joseph R. Pitts of Lancaster, arrived in Vienna on
Friday. Other participants included Bernard Sanders, the Vermont
independent who typically votes with the Democrats and Dennis J. Kucinich,
an Ohio Democrat.
The group arrived in Vienna on Friday and met with Vladimir Lukin, chairman
of the international relations committee of the Russian Duma, the lower
house of the Russian parliament. Group members also met with the former
speaker of the Duma, Vladimir Ryzkov, and Alexander Shabanov, a Duma member
and a senior official of the Russian Communist Party.
A week earlier, Weldon had attempted to accompany the Russian legislators
to Belgrade for a meeting with Milosevic, but he canceled the trip after
the State Department objected on the grounds that it might undermine U.S.
efforts to force the Serbs to agree to NATO demands. Much of the Vienna
meeting focused on how to repair relations between the United States and
Russia, which have been badly strained by the Kosovo conflict.
"The most important thing we could have accomplished is to begin to repair
our relations with Russia, which have been badly damaged," said Rep. Roscoe
Bartlett (R., Md.).
May 24, 1999
By Stephen F. Cohen
It is imperative to focus on the essential reason Americans must
unequivocally oppose the US-led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. There are, of
course, many reasons-the five-week campaign having utterly failed in all of
its declared purposes. But for all its other failings, the US-led bombing
must be opposed first and foremost because it is a moral outrage. By so
greatly increasing the number of Kosovar victims and by having done so
recklessly without any precautionary steps to help them, the initiators of
the air war have compounded Milosevic's evil deeds and thus made the United
States deeply complicit in them.
Still more, the bombing and missile attacks are growing into an all-out
assault on the economic and other civilian underpinnings of Yugoslav
society. NATO sorties are literally demodernizing Serbia. Two or three
decades of its economic development-the foundation of the elementary
well-being of ordinary men, women and children-have already been destroyed.
Nor is this high-tech savagery against a small country inadvertent or
without zealous US advocates. The NATO command's cruel euphemisms about
"collateral damage" are common military obfuscation. But there is also the
"liberal" bloodlust of the May 10 New Republic, which features an article
cheering the assault on civilians on the basis of Serbian "collective
guilt," and of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, on April 23, who
demands a "pulverizing" of the "Serbian nation" back to 1950 ("We can do
1389 too"), including Belgrade teenagers "still holding rock concerts" and
families "going out for Sunday merry-go-round rides." Such demands, widely
echoed elsewhere in the media and even by the White House press secretary,
in effect call upon the United States to commit what are legally defined as
The Clinton Administration bombers and their apologists must not be allowed
to represent the rest of us. They have imposed a moral barricade on the
soul of America, and to that barricade Americans must go in moral
opposition. The pulverizers' purported morality rests primarily on a
fraudulent analogy-equating Serbian treatment of Kosovar Albanians with the
Nazi extermination of Jews. The analogy wantonly debases the historical
reality and memory of the Holocaust: Milosevic's reign of terror has turned
most Kosovars into refugees fleeing toward sanctuaries; Hitler gave most
European Jews no exit and turned them into ash. And even given Milosevic's
real atrocities, what has become of the American ethical axiom, Two wrongs
don't make a right? Or the central moral lesson of this awful political
century, that ends do not justify means?
In truth, US political and military leaders now care little about the
morality (or legality) of their actions in Yugoslavia, only the
"credibility of NATO." To this we must answer: We care more about the moral
reputation of America. In large parts of the world, it too has been
pulverized, certainly "degraded" much worse than Milosevic's capabilities.
Russia, which ought to be our greatest international concern, is the most
alarming example. Not long ago, millions of its citizens, particularly
young ones upon whom the Clinton Administration based its certitudes about
a pro-American Russia, saw the United States as an exemplar of civilized
political conduct. Now most of them see us as barbarians in the sky.
We must prove they are wrong by stopping the bombing of Yugoslavia before
the necessary political settlement is even harder to achieve, before the
only peace is that of the graveyard and moral redemption is impossible.
May 6, 1999
Yeltsin Reminds Officials to Watch Their Rank
By Valeria Korchagina
President Boris Yeltsin once again reminded his subordinates that he remains
master of the house by ordering a game of musical chairs at a Kremlin meeting
Although the meeting was to map out plans celebrating the 2,000th anniversary
of Christianity, Yeltsin spent the first few minutes on the seating chart.
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, Yeltsin felt, was too far away.
"They are sitting in the wrong way," Yeltsin hissed at Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov. "Stepashin is the first deputy. Sergei Vadimovich," Yeltsin
commanded to Stepashin, "change your seat."
The reshuffle ended with Stepashin two seats away from Yeltsin, next to
Primakov. The chair on the other side of the president was occupied by
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II. Kremlin advisers Oleg Sysuyev and Andrei
Loginov ended up changing seats in response to the presidential order.
"Well, now it seems there are no more mistakes," Yeltsin grinned, after all
the officials were situated around the table.
Stepashin, considered Yeltsin's closest ally in the Cabinet, was promoted to
the post of first deputy prime minister last week.
The move was widely regarded as a move by Yeltsin to undercut Primakov, whose
influence grew during the president's recent spell of inactivity and illness.
Stepashin also kept his position as Russia's interior minister.
A more energetic Yeltsin has recently tried to restore his lost standing, and
the news media have been full of speculation he may dismiss Primakov or
several of his ministers.
Yeltsin's continued his show of displeasure with Primakov when the meeting
participants finally moved to the discussion of preparations for the
celebrations. The president abruptly interrupted Primakov's report.
"But the plan has not been coordinated with the Patriarchate," Yeltsin said
with a scowl, even before Primakov had finished going through the list.
"So, I'm saying that in the final version it will include all these points,"
As if in answer to Yeltsin, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov defended the
prime minister, who was chosen in September as a compromise between Yeltsin
and the Communist-run State Duma, the lower house of parliament.
"Primakov's government is the first coalition government of the last eight
years. ... In the case that the president does dismiss Primakov's Cabinet
after all, it will be the president's last exercise," Zyuganov was quoted as
saying by Interfax. Zyuganov did not explain what he meant by "last
exercise." Zyuganov and his Communist faction in the Duma are the driving
force behind impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin. A vote is scheduled for
Impeachment is not considered likely to pass the upper house and court
review. But it could provoke Yeltsin into firing the Cabinet, in which case
the Duma could trigger new elections by refusing to approve a successor.
ANALYSIS-Russian PM hails progress, sceptics abound
By Brian Killen
MOSCOW, May 5 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was the
latest public figure on Wednesday to say the country had defied the
doom-mongers and was over the worst of its crisis but analysts remain deeply
They said the economy was not yet out of the woods despite a batch of recent
positive news and that it could be dogged for months by deep political
"It seems to me Russia has passed the most acute phase," Primakov said.
"There might still be some zigzags, but we have managed to keep inflation
from spiralling into hyper-inflation. We have even managed to cut it
sharply," he said in an interview published on Wednesday in Komsomolskaya
Finance Minister Zadornov was equally sanguine, saying this year's fall in
gross domestic product would be two percent, which is less than most
forecasts. March inflation was 2.8 percent month-on-month, down from 4.1
percent in February.
In fact, a quick glance at the news in recent weeks, peppered with statements
about International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans, and debt
restructuring prospects, could give the impression that Russia was indeed on
the road to recovery.
But analysts say that is not so, and that many investors, badly burned last
year, remain sidelined, pending solutions to fundamental problems and a
return to political stability.
"Russia is still very much in crisis," said Philip Poole, head of emerging
Europe at ING Barings in London.
"Primakov has managed to stop that crisis escalating, to keep the lid on
pressures, political and economic, but not to address the fundamental
issues," he said.
Other analysts also saw no major shift in sentiment towards Russia despite a
jump in Russian share prices on Wednesday to levels not seen since August,
when the government effectively devalued the rouble and defaulted on its debt
"There has been a reaction clearly to external factors. The oil price has
been stronger. That's a large part of why the stock market is so strong
certainly in the last few weeks, particularly today," Poole said.
"That's something which has nothing to do with Primakov or Russian policy
clearly and it's something which could just as easily reverse," he added.
Other emerging equities markets have risen sharply this year, bolstered by
fresh liquidity, but analysts said Russia had not yet taken the necessary
measures to restore confidence and it remains in danger of defaulting again
on foreign debt.
IMF aid and debt restructuring deals depend largely on support from the
opposition-dominated State Duma lower house of parliament for legislative
steps that will prove controversial.
Natalya Orlova, economist at Alfa-bank, said political uncertainty would be a
major factor in Russia's outlook as an election to the Duma is due in
December and this could stand in the way of major economic decision-making.
An election to replace President Boris Yeltsin is also due in the middle of
"The Communists in the Duma will try to keep the situation very tough for
Yeltsin and the government," Orlova said.
She said it was difficult to predict if the Duma would do enough to satisfy
"It is clear that, for example, the request of the IMF to increase oil and
alcohol taxes is not very favourable for the Duma from an electoral point of
"On the other hand, the government will try to offer some political
compromise," she added.
"The key question is how quickly they can do this. What Russia needs is an
IMF agreement by June to start official negotiations with the London and
Paris Clubs (of creditors)."
Poole said Russia was in a transition phase towards a post-Yeltsin
"Fundamental issues that need to be addressed in terms of restructuring the
public sector, improving fiscal accounts, stopping capital flight, are on
hold until there is an administration in place which is there for the
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Renfrey Clarke)
Subject: The Maydays of Moscow
#THE MAYDAYS OF MOSCOW
#By Renfrey Clarke
#MOSCOW - Real wages in Russia, the State Audit Chamber reported
recently, were down during the first quarter of this year by 30
per cent from the levels a year earlier. In most countries, that
would guarantee a hot May Day.
#May 1 in Moscow this year saw two quite separate demonstrations.
The weather at both, politically as well as meteorologically, was
cold, windy and drizzling. Each action in its way illustrated the
failures of leadership that have helped prevent workers in
Russia, with few exceptions, from mounting a committed defence of
their interests even when under heavy attack.
#Of Moscow's two May Days the larger, drawing about 10,000
participants and organised by the Moscow Federation of Trade
Unions (MFP), started out from Byelorusskaya railway station to
the north-west of the city centre at about 9 a.m. The aura was
the traditional one of pumped-up festivity: brass bands, clusters
of coloured balloons, the pale blue banners of the MFP....
#Most conspicuous was the absence of any hint of working-class
militancy. Moscow newspapers seem to disagree over whether the
Day of International Workers' Solidarity has been renamed the Day
of Peace and Labour or the Festival of Labour and Spring. But
there was no doubt that the organisers of the MFP's march had
cast off the travails of class struggle.
#Mikhail Shmakov, chairperson of the Federation of Independent
Trade Unions of Russia (FNPR), of which the MFP is part, had
endorsed three May Day slogans: ``For a sharp increase in
wages!'' ``Pay off the [wage] debts!'' and ``International
solidarity against the aggressors in Yugoslavia!'' Only the last
of these demands, however, was particularly evident on the
placards and banners of the MFP's march.
#At this and previous MFP May Day actions, a deliberate policy of
political filtration had been applied. ``Various political
parties'' would be prevented from taking part, the daily
<I>Nezavisimaya Gazeta<D> reported FNPR Secretary Andrey Isayev
#Politics as such, however, had not been banished. To prove it,
there was the huge banner of the political bloc Otechestvo
(``Fatherland''), stretching almost the whole width of Tverskaya
Street. Behind the banner were flags and placards with the logo
of the Union of Labour.
#Otechestvo is the organisation put together by Moscow Mayor Yury
Luzhkov to speed his progress to the Russian presidency; it is
rapidly winning recruits among provincial governors and mayors as
a populist-nationalist ``party of power''. The Union of Labour,
set up under Isayev as the political face of the FNPR, has become
an integral part of Luzhkov's bloc.
#After several kilometres, the MFP's march halted outside the
offices of the city government. Combining symbolism with
expediency, the MFP now has its headquarters in the same
#The time had come for speeches: from Shmakov, from MFP head
Mikhail Nagaytsev, and ultimately from Mayor Luzhkov himself,
lashing the NATO governments for the bombing of Yugoslavia. The
addresses were brief, and the stage was quickly turned over to
shivering singers and dancers for the rest of the day's
#Working-class politics - of a sort - were nevertheless to be had
in Moscow on May 1. Around a towering, romantic statue of Lenin
on Kaluzhskaya Square, the main organisations of the Russian left
- the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, ``Working
Russia'', Viktor Anpilov's ``Stalinist Bloc for the USSR'', and
others - had set aside their differences in order to begin a
march to the city centre.
#Demonstrations by Russia's Communists are not for the faint of
heart - or, at times, for the weak of stomach. As the forces
gather, grandiose Soviet hymns bellow from loudspeakers.
Literature-sellers hawk texts with titles such as ``Jews in
Russian History'' and ``Beware - Sinister Forces''. Beneath the
red banners and Soviet flags, the protesters are usually middle-
aged or older, with gaunt faces and shabby clothing. Placards are
mostly home-made, and the messages often voice a gritty rage or
ironic wit. ``All Bosses are Bastards!'' ``Yeltsin to the
Workbench - for Six Months Without Wages!''
#This year, about 5000 left-wing demonstrators marched from
Kaluzhskaya Square to rally around the statue of Karl Marx near
the Bolshoi Theatre. Again, speakers condemned the bombing of
#The discussion of domestic politics at the rally focused largely
on efforts by Communists in the parliament to impeach President
Yeltsin. Blocked from succeeding by a maze of constitutional
provisions, the impeachment campaign is essentially a propaganda
move. But it is a curiously ill-directed one, belabouring points
that are no longer even contentious; ordinary Russians could
scarcely despise Yeltsin more than they do.
#Meanwhile, opposition activists have been distracted from the
real tasks before them: helping to develop and popularise the
strategies and organisational mechanisms needed if Russian
workers are to wage an effective fight for their jobs and
#In sum, Moscow's two May Days of 1999 were a litany of the ways
in which workers' leaders can let down those who follow them. The
heads of the FNPR and MFP, scared by the thought of leading an
independent movement of workers, have gone in search of a
powerful patron - and have found Luzhkov. But Russia's trade
union movement cannot defend workers if it is put in hock to the
Moscow mayor, the effective head of a labyrinthine - and now
increasingly insolvent - business empire.
#In his speech to the MFP's May Day rally, Luzhkov called for
wages to be doubled. But his material interests lie in
``downsizing'' wages and employment levels. Whatever promises he
makes, he will bankrupt workers before he bankrupts himself.
#Meanwhile, the leading figures in the left opposition are in
essence no more ready than Shmakov and Nagaytsev to lead Russia's
workers and poor in an independent fight.
#The Communist Party of the Russian Federation has been full of
rhetorical fury against Yeltsin, but has found its own political
pawnshop in the ``left'' government of Yeltsin's Prime Minister,
Yevgeny Primakov. The government's chief economic strategist,
First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov, is a Communist Party
#As economics columnist Irina Yasina noted during April in the
English-language <I>Moscow Times,<D> the buying power of the
average Russian pension had been allowed by Primakov and
Maslyukov to fall to unprecedentedly low levels, standing in
March at only 65 per cent of the ``subsistence minimum'' income.
#``The most radical reform government could never dream of taking
such liberties,'' Yasina observed. ``In reality, the communist
government has turned out to be tougher than the reformers with
their incessant promises.''
#Other sections of the left are not sure there is anything
progressive about stabilising Russian capitalism by forcing
pensioners to beg on the metro. But with few exceptions, even the
most radical elements of the Russian left refuse to trust in the
ability of workers to understand political questions in class
#For the country's left parties, the defence of workers'
interests has to be shoe-horned into the context of
``patriotism'' - of the overriding need to defend ``Russia'', and
by inference, the Russian capitalist state. Among the most
jarring notes at the left's May Day rally - especially when
coming from supposed followers of Marx and Lenin - was the
fervent nationalism of many of the speakers.
#At best, these contortions mystify and disorient workers. At
worst, they bring the left into unnerving proximity with openly
#Logically, the flames of revolt should now be licking about the
foundations of Russia's capitalism. But in Moscow on May Day, all
that could be detected was a faint burning smell. The reasons had
more to do with gross political dereliction than with the dismal
Date: Thu, 06 May 1999
From: Alexander Domrin <email@example.com>
Subject: ON THE U.S. MEDIA, U.S. "AID" TO RUSSIA AND THE FIRST RUSSIAN
ON THE U.S. MEDIA, U.S. "AID" TO RUSSIA AND THE FIRST RUSSIAN PARLIAMENT.
By Alexander Domrin
[Former Chief Specialist of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian
Supreme Soviet; Fulbright Fellow at Harvard; Visiting Professor
at Cornell, Iowa and Villanova; Adjunct Professor at Penn.
Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.), University of Pennsylvania Law
School. Currently Consultant of the Russian Foundation for Legal Reform
(Moscow). During the 1999-2000 academic year will be a Visiting Professor
at the University of Iowa and New York University law schools.]
Despite several insignificant errors that Jake Rudnitsky made
in his abstract, his piece in JRL # 3253 on the New York Times Coverage
of 1993 events is an honest attempt to assess the role played by
the U.S. media in backing Yeltsin's coup, the defining event in
contemporary history of Russia.
To be fair, the New York Times was not alone in demonization of
the first democratic parliament in Russia as "nationalist,
crypto-Soviet opposition" (Celestine Bohlen, "An Old Georgian Story:
Dancing with the Devil", Oct.24, 1993. E3) or "a band of Communist
apparatchiks" (William Safire, "On Dying Hard", Sept.30, 1993. A25),
and it's coverage was not so much extreme in those "damned days"
(OKAYANNIE DNI) of September-October of 1993 as the coverage of some
David Filipov's Boston Globe, for instance, in the most unambiguous
manner characterized the Russian Supreme Soviet as a "band of
Communists and fascists" ("Detours to Russian Democracy" (Editorial),
Sept.30, 1993. P.14), and even "communist fascists (!) masquerading
as parliamentarians" (Thomas Oliphant, "Another Clash with the Beast",
Oct.6, 1993. P.15).
Parliamentary opposition and resistance to Yeltsin's dictatorial
actions and to monetarist experiments of Yeltsin-Gaidar government with
the Russian economy (first of all, to the Chubais's voucher
privatization campaign) were thoughtfully interpreted in the Boston
Globe - on the day of the parliamentary elections in Russia -
as a conflict between "democracy" and "demons"
("Democracy vs. Demons in Russia" (Editorial), Dec.12, 1993. A8).
No surprise that Yeltsin accused his parliamentary opponents
of attempts to create a "bloodthirsty Communist-Fascist regime"
in Russia (see Celestine Bohlen, "Struggle in Russia; Yeltsin in
Speech, Appeals for Calm After 'Nightmare'", NYT, Oct.7, 1993. A1),
but who made free Western press to share this ridiculous point
of view and to repeat lies of Yeltsin's propaganda of arsenals
of weapons in the White House and of Khasbulatov's snipers killing
people in the center of Moscow? And why did this press give no ear
to the official results of the ballistic expertise held by the Chief
Military Procuracy, according to which - not a single person outside
the White House was killed with the weapons found in the White House?
And if this free press was so selective, inaccurate and
one-sided in its coverage of the complex struggles in Russia in
1991-93, then why should we consider truthful its coverage of current
events in Kosovo or elsewhere in the world or - in the U.S. itself?
Laura Belin explained why mass media demonized Khasbulatov,
in part, by the fact that he was an "unsympathetic character"
(JRL # 3255). Maybe. But - hardly MORE unsympathetic than Gaidar,
Chubais, Kozyrev and other most favourite, in the eyes of American
mass media and U.S. officials, Russian radical democrats.
And hardly MORE creepy than Yeltsin himself.
So the problem is not with the American press, but with the Western
ruling elite, of course. It's indisputable that Yeltsin’s coup and
subsequent bloodbath in Moscow were supported by the Clinton
Administration, U.S. Congress and the Western "international community"
in general with "understanding", if not with satisfaction or even joy.
Sadly, many scholars were as nauseatingly hypocritical in
justifying their unconditional support to the person of Yeltsin and
his crimes as the U.S. media or the American administration itself.
In the opinion of one of such scholars, if the "international community"
gives its support to a "traditionally undemocratic act", as it happened
in Russia in September 1993, than this act should be considered
"democratic" - by the very fact that it was supported by the
"international community" - albeit "unconstitutionally democratic"
(Donna R. Miller, "Unconstitutional Democracy: Ends vs. Means in
Boris Yeltsin’s Russia", 4 Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems
2 (Fall 1994), p.876. Compare to Clinton Rossiter’s formula: "Even if
a government can be constitutional without being democratic, it cannot
be democratic without being constitutional" (Clinton L. Rossiter,
Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in the Modern
Democracies (Princeton University Press, 1948), p. viii)).
The next day after Yeltsin’s issuance of his notorious
anti-constitutional Decree 1400, Representative Steny H. Hoyer admitted
that Yeltsin’s decree was "technically speaking" "illegal", but insisted
that Yeltsin "acted in the spirit of democracy by breaking the letter
of the law". However, the "primary reason for continued Western backing
for Yeltsin", in Hoyer’s words, was not even that Yetsin "acted in
the spirit of democracy", but that "Yeltsin is explicitly pro-American,
pro-Western, pro-market", whereas the Parliament is bad. Why bad?
For two reasons: first, because it "has accused the West of seeking
to undermine and weaken Russia" (that's exactly what opinion polls
indicate in Russia; the parliament only reflected the public moods),
and, second, because it "opposes Yeltsin’s privatization program"
(now recognized as the biggest fraud in post-Soviet Russia not only by
Zyuganov, but by Soros, denouncing "robber capitalism" created and
maintained for the benefit of a corrupt political oligarchy
in Russia. See his remarkable article "The Capitalist Threat" in
The Atlantic Monthly, February 1997).
According to the Congressman, "it is imperative" "for our own
interests", that Yeltsin’s government "implement necessary reforms and
keep Russia on a pro-Western track" (Yeltsin Moves to End Chaos -
Hon. Steny H. Hoyer (Extension of Remarks). - Congressional Record,
22.09.1993. P. E2219.) The question whether this "imperative" is
"for interests of Russia" was not raised. Apparently, in Hoyer's
ethnocentric view, whatever is good to America is good to Russia.
The same day Senator Pell welcomed "the swift, unequivocal show of
support that the Clinton administration has shown for President
Yeltsin’s move to consolidate democratic reform in Russia" and appealed
to the Senate to vote "for $2.5 billion in assistance to the Newly
Independent States, including Russia", in order to "to show the reformers
in the NIS that we are in their corner" (Support for Democratic Reform
in Russia. - Congressional Record, 22.09.1993. P. S12239.).
Thus, the senator unequivocally revealed that the U.S. "assistance"
was intended not for the countries of the region, but - for the
"reformers". National security interests of the U.S., the necessity
to support "our son of a bitch" predominated over the interests of
peaceful, democratic development of Russia.
Some other statements in Congress were close to interference in
internal affairs of the Russian Federation. Representative Gerald B.
Solomon, for instance, expected that the new Federal Assembly "would
ALMOST CERTAINLY (italics are mine. - A.D.) be more democratic
[in a letter to President Clinton of October 26, 1993, Solomon even said:
"FAR MORE democratic". - A.D.] and friendly to the West than the previous
parliament", "truly representative", and concluded that the December 1993
elections "have a direct bearing on our national security and should
be treated as a top foreign policy priority by the administration".
"The democrats are in desperate need of outside assistance, - Solomon
said. - We believe it is imperative for the West to provide as much
assistance as possible to democratic candidates in Russia", and called
the U.S. Congress to "divert from existing programs whatever resources
necessary to achieve the objective of ensuring" victory of "reformers"
Quoting Constantine Menges, introduced by the Congressman as
a former NSC official and "one of the intellectual authors of the hugely
successful Reagan doctrine", Rep. Solomon urged the Clinton Administration
"to understand" that its actions could make a "DECISIVE (italics are mine.
- A.D.) contribution to helping the pro-democratic political parties" in
the elections (Elections in Russia. - Hon. Gerald B.H. Solomon (Extension
of Remarks). - Congressional Record, 26.10.1993. P. E2534, E2536).
At least one expectation of Rep. Solomon and his guru Menges
actually came true: the new Russian Federal Assembly did in fact become
a "truly representative parliament", but - without most of those
"reformers" whom the Wasnington masterminds would like to see elected.
Yet, the question needs to be asked: if the "assistance" of the
United States and international financial organizations was really
intended for the "reformers", "democratic candidates", and
"pro-democratic political parties", then why Russian people and not
Yeltsin and leaders of "explicitly pro-American, pro-Western" parties,
like "Russia's Choice" and its offsping PRAVOE DELO, are to pay it back?
The obvious collapse of the economic "reforms" in Russia and
complete fiasco of Yeltsin's entire regime bring young American
scholars like Jake Rudnitsky to reevaluate what has happened in
the former USSR in the last decade and, among other things, to reveal
the real reasons behind the U.S. support to "passionate democrat" Yeltsin
and his "reformers" and of the hostility of the U.S. Government and,
therefore, of American mass media to the first Russian parliament.
It's a sign of hope. For these young scholars may correct mistakes
of their teachers.
The Washington Post
5 May 1999
[for personal use only]
Letter From Russia: In Moscow, Playing A Brand-New Tune
By Robert G. Kaiser
Robert Kaiser, an associate editor of The Post who was the paper's
correspondent in Moscow from 1971 to 1974, is spending this month in Russia.
MOSCOW The small band of Westerners who lived in Moscow a quarter-century
ago were as out of place as striptease artists in church.
We were stared at for our shoes, for our cars and for our willingness to
talk back. We were, willy-nilly, shock troops in the ideological struggle
between communism and capitalism, at least in the eyes of the KGB agents
who periodically followed us about with the determination of Eagle Scouts.
But we were also held in awe by Russians who had romantic ideas of what it
meant to be a foreigner. It was a strange life.
And now it is lost in the mists of time, like Hula-Hoops or shmoos. In
those days we used to speculate what the Soviet Union might be like if it
had freedom and money. Vassily Aksyonov, the great Russian novelist who now
lives in Fairfax County, elaborately imagined such a Russia in his 1983
book, "The Island of Crimea," which is filled with dashing capitalists
driving fast cars. All of this was dreaming, of course.
Except it wasn't. Now Moscow is Aksyonov's imagined capital of a free,
sort-of-capitalist Russia. Dashing capitalists (or at least crooks) are
everywhere, thousands of them driving fast cars--but not driving them fast,
because the traffic jams, as bad as any on Earth, turn two-mile journeys
into 45-minute expeditions. Only late at night or before 8:30 a.m. could a
spiffy Russian demonstrate the true capacities of his BMW, Jeep or Mercedes
on this city's grand boulevards.
Elsewhere, the collapse of European communism is already taken for granted.
But for this old-time resident of a different Moscow who hadn't been here
for seven years, taking the new Russia for granted was impossible. There
was far too much to take in.
This spring is a bad time for a country that has long been on intimate
terms with bad times. For a while before Aug. 17, many Russians were
allowing themselves to grin: "Free markets" were working, Russians were
getting rich, the future was bright. "We felt like foreigners," said Dasha
Yurskaya, 24, an actress at the Moscow Art Theater. "We had
everything--cafes, restaurants, stylish clothes. And then, at that moment,
it was all destroyed."
The financial tornado that struck that day shattered banks, investments,
the value of the ruble and the hopes of the nation in a brutal few days.
The boom had been a fraud, built on the naive enthusiasm of foreign
investors and the conniving of Russian bankers and businessmen. Millions of
Russians lost money in the crash; many lost all they had.
Since then a new government under Yevgeni Primakov has managed to settle
things down, but not make any real changes or improvements. The president,
Boris Yeltsin, his bloated face looking like human puffed-wheat, has long
been regarded by many Russians as a buffoon. Apparently suffering from a
combination of diseases, Yeltsin embarrasses Russians the way the Soviet
leader Leonid I. Brezhnev did in the early '80s, when he staggered through
the last phase of an unhealthy life.
Next year, if Yeltsin lives that long, a presidential election is
scheduled. Perhaps the single most heartening bit of news from Moscow is
that no one seems to doubt that these elections will occur, or that their
results will be respected. In a country with no prior experience with
democratic procedures, they seem to be sticking.
Not that you could get a bet in Moscow on what things may be like a year
from now. An old friend observed over her dinner table Saturday night that
a year ago everything looked great. "And now, generally speaking,
everything looks awful." Might next year flip back to the positive? "I
don't see how," she replied.
This same friend complained that she had no money, but then admitted that
she's flying to New York this month for a vacation. After a long diatribe
about economic conditions, she added: "But we're living! Everyone is eating."
Current conditions bring reminders of one of the Russians' most endearing
traits, their loyalty to family and friends. One Russian with a good job
(which today often means a job working for a foreign business) can support
six or eight or 10 others in an economy where rent remains essentially
free, gas costs 50 cents a gallon and bread is 15 cents a loaf.
Seeing the future isn't easy in a country that is, every day, beating a
new, jagged path for itself. Those traveling down it include skinheaded
young fascists whose ominous antics appear on the television news as well
as thousands of neatly turned out young Russians studying in what has
become the most popular academic enterprise in this country, "Bizness Skool."
A legless Afghan war veteran steers his wheelchair through chaotic traffic
on Prospekt Mira so he can beg kopecks from the drivers of big Audis and
Chryslers when they stop for a red light. Teenagers in fashionable clothes
walk around the city on Saturday nights carrying bottles of beer and
laughing loudly. (Beer is a Russian success story--lots of new breweries
producing a good product, which now sells for 40 cents a bottle.)
Moscow's churches are being gloriously restored. Gold onion-shaped domes
glitter all over the city's old neighborhoods. (Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of
Moscow, has a Mussolini-like reputation for getting things fixed up and
making trains run on time--in his case the still-efficient Moscow Metro, on
which a ride costs 3 rubles, or 12 cents.)
Monday morning, about 80 worshipers gathered at Moscow's oldest brick
church, All Saints on Kulishki, built in the late 16th century. It is just
200 yards from Staraya Ploshchad, or The Old Square, the headquarters of
the Soviet Communist Party for decades. "They've lost faith in communism,"
one Russian acquaintance said of his countrymen.
"And now they go to church," added his wife.
A generation ago, the worshipers in the Russian Orthodox churches here were
nearly all old women. In All Saints one morning this week, the congregation
included old and young, intellectuals and workers with rough hands, a man
of perhaps 30 who clearly had too much to drink the night before--and lots
of old ladies.
Everyone stood, as is normal, in the small church, facing a wall of
glorious icons in elaborate gold frames, surrounded by beautifully painted
ceilings and walls under a huge, ancient chandelier, now fitted with
electric lights instead of candles. Worshipers lit small candles and stuck
them in round brass candelabras in front of favorite icons throughout the
service, which was sung, magnificently, by a choir of just five voices. It
sounded like 20. The music--and the incense--provide the magic in the
orthodox service, and the magic is clearly working again as it did for
centuries before the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.
Music of another sort provided the magic at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall
last week. The fourth Moscow International Jazz Festival, dedicated to the
100th birthday of Duke Ellington, packed the big oval auditorium for a
concert by Russian and American artists. The concert nicely summarized the
changes in Russia over nearly 30 years.
In the fall of 1971, soon after I began a three-year tour here as The
Post's correspondent, Ellington and his orchestra toured the Soviet Union
for a month. The visit was a living definition of the word "sensation." For
Americans to understand the excitement created here 28 years ago when
Ellington strode across the stages of Moscow, Kiev, Minsk and Leningrad,
they might have to imagine Babe Ruth coming back to life for a ticker-tape
parade down the Broadway of 1999. Ellington was a great star here, but a
star from a distant planet, one most Soviet citizens never expected to
visit. Then, suddenly, he was here.
The 1971 version wasn't the best band Ellington led; many of his greatest
sidemen had already died. But it was very good, and Russian jazz fans (of
whom there were, and are, a great many) went to extraordinary lengths to
get a ticket. In Kiev (now the capital of another country, Ukraine),
members of the local police band sneaked into the hall in their police
uniforms to see the Duke.
This time, Ellington's music was played not by Cootie Williams and the
Duke, but by the big band of Oleg Lundstrem, a man of 83 who has lived the
sort of extraordinary life that only Russians in the Soviet era could
experience. Born in 1915, he grew up in the large Russian colony in Harbin,
China, because his father left Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. His
first introduction to jazz was through early recordings by Ellington and
Louis Armstrong. By the age of 20 he was leading a big band in Shanghai,
then the most sophisticated city in Asia.
When the communists took over Shanghai after World War II, Lundstrem
decided it was time to move to his native land. His timing was not good.
Stalin banned jazz, and Lundstrem went off to Kazan, capital of Tatarstan,
where local authorities let him play his music, provided he leavened it
with local favorites.
Only in the late '50s did Lundstrem get to Moscow and begin to make a real
name for himself.
He had to be helped onto the stage last week, but once he got there he led
the orchestra in a two-hour blowout. If you closed your eyes, you were back
in 1971 at Ellington's own concerts. The musicianship was splendid. The
younger soloists were superb. Lundstrem's band kept playing--twice as long
as it was supposed to, driving the organizers of the concert crazy.
The top billing went to Sandy Patton, an American graduate of Howard
University who now lives in Switzerland. Patton is a talented singer with a
big voice who riffs in the style of Ella Fitzgerald. There was a time when
such an American jazz artist would have been a sensation in Moscow. No
longer. Lundstrem's orchestra had played so long that a third of the crowd
didn't even come back after intermission. Many of those who did return
drifted out before Patton had finished her set.
This Russian crowd liked Patton, but they just didn't need her any more.