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Johnson's Russia List
12 May 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Fred Weir: Gorbachev on NATO's war against Yugoslavia.
2. Reuters: Aide Says No Russia Reshuffle Before Vote.
3. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: YABLOKO LEADER LASHES OUT AT PRIMAKOV'S
RECORD AND COMMUNIST TIES and PRECIPITOUS DROP IN CIS COUNTRIES' TRADE
4. The Independent (UK): Phil Reeves, Rumours of Primakov sacking sweep
Moscow. (DJ: Have I missed something? Can anyone show me a single editorial
or op-ed article in a Western newspaper advising AGAINST the dismissal
of Primakov? Usually the advice flows freely. And what evidence do we have
that the US government opposes dismissal? Rumour is that US officials hate
Primakov. At least US policy is consistently off-key, if indifferent to
5. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Will a cornered Yeltsin lash
6. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Mikhail Rostovskiy, The Suicide Hit Parade: No
One, It Seems, Is Irreplaceable in Our Country. (Rumors on Primakov's Possible
7. Moscow Times: Yulia Latynina, INSIDE RUSSIA: No Heroes in This Shameful
8. U.S. Institute of Peace Current Issues Briefing: U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS:
AT THE CROSSROADS May 18.
9. St. Petersburg Times: Brian Whitmore, Will Yavlinsky Make a Deal With
10. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Igor Flore, Deadly Slice of Salami. Will Swap
Conventional Weapons for Nuclear Weapons. Second-Hand Weapons Considered.
(New Stress on Nukes Seen As Misguided)
11. Moscow Times editorial: Chechnya Is As Worthy As Kosovo.
12. Matt Bivens: Chicken-Snake ethnic conflict.]
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999
From: "Fred Weir" <email@example.com>
Subject: Gorbachev on NATO's war against Yugoslavia
By Fred Weir
MOSCOW (CP) -- Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev says NATO's war
against Yugoslavia is a sign of collapsing global order, and it never would
have been allowed to happen if the USSR still existed.
``Russia has lost its former position and ability to influence events,
and therefore was unable to prevent this war from occurring in the first
place,'' Gorbachev said at a signing ceremony for a joint Russian-Canadian
research project in Moscow Tuesday.
``This war is a disgrace to all of us who tried to build a new world
order based on political methods and a strong role for the United Nations
Security Council,'' he said.
``Instead we see NATO imposing itself as supreme arbiter, using military
He said that Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic is to blame for taking
away the autonomy of the troubled region of Kosovo and persecuting its
``But the situation only became dramatic when NATO set aside the
political process and turned to bombing,'' he said. ``This in turn gave the
Yugoslav forces the green light to strike hard against the Albanians, and
turned Kosovo into a ruin.
``Nothing good has been accomplished, only destruction and chaos''.
Gorbachev, who led the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991, is credited with
ending his country's participation in the Cold War and moving to integrate
it into the world community.
He says that as the Cold War was winding down ten years ago he and
Western leaders discussed a new global security order that would be founded
on law and supervised by the Security Council.
But the USSR fell apart and the West tried to unilaterally impose its
own writ upon the world, he said.
``At the root of this is the United States' ambitions to dominate the
world. They have already failed politically and morally, and all there is
left is military power,'' he said.
``Two thirds of the world's raw power, concentrated in NATO, is
attacking one tiny country''.
Last weekend's accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade
shows the situation is spinning out of control, he said.
``NATO is hitting everywhere, not only the Chinese embassy. Their
missiles are even falling on neighbouring countries like Bulgaria,'' he
``It is pure lawlessness and I strongly condemn it''.
Aide Says No Russia Reshuffle Before Vote
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, May. 11, 1999 -- (Reuters) Russian officials dismissed reports on
Tuesday that President Boris Yeltsin was planning to sack his prime
minister as parliament took final steps to open presidential impeachment
proceedings later this week.
Media reports of impending changes in the government have intensified as
long-delayed impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin have moved closer to
"There are no decrees or draft documents on changes in the government,"
Yeltsin's deputy chief of staff Oleg Sysuyev told reporters.
Ekho Moskvy radio, citing Kremlin sources, on Tuesday reported Yeltsin was
preparing to fire Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and replace him with
little-known Railways Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko.
Meanwhile the leaders of the Communist-dominated lower house of parliament,
the Duma, confirmed that the chamber would hold its impeachment debate
from May 13 to 15.
The latest rumors on government changes were akin to the orchestra's
overture before the curtain rises. The real opera starts with protagonists
Yeltsin, Primakov and the Duma.
The president is famously jealous of power rivals, but because of repeated
illness he has let Primakov take an ever greater role in running Russian
affairs. The start of NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia on March 24 has,
however, invigorated Yeltsin, 68, who has overshadowed the prime minister
Primakov, 69, took office in September and has won praise for calming
political tensions in the country, partly by making peace with the
opposition-dominated Duma by appointing several high-level Communists. Yet
he has made little progress in healing the country's ailing economy.
The other leading player is the Communist and nationalist led Duma, which
is to consider charges that Yeltsin destroyed the Soviet Union in 1991,
started the 1994-96 war against the rebel region of Chechnya and used
force to end a rebellion by hardline deputies in Moscow in 1993.
So far only one count of five, on the Chechnya war, is supported by most
parliament groups. But analysts say there is little chance it could muster
the needed 300 votes.
If approved by the Duma, the charges would go to the Supreme Court and
Constitutional Court and then to the Federation Council, which has the
"This is all a show, without a doubt, because...the charges are clearly
politically motivated," said Mikhail Krasnov, Yeltsin's former assistant on
"Even if it passes the Duma it, of course, will not pass the upper house
because it has nothing to do with law and is a deeply political matter," he
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said he expected the Duma to vote on the
charges by Saturday. The Duma delayed a scheduled debate on impeachment a
Some analysts see the talk of sacking Primakov as a threat to quash the
impeachment -- act against me and your guy goes down.
Although the talk may well be empty gesturing, Yeltsin has made
unpredictability a trademark. He fired two prime ministers in 1998 and has
never given a detailed explanation.
Last week Yeltsin also promoted Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who
commands hundreds of thousands of troops and more than a million police, to
the post of Primakov's first deputy.
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
11 May 1999
YABLOKO LEADER LASHES OUT AT PRIMAKOV'S RECORD AND COMMUNIST TIES. Yabloko
leader Grigory Yavlinsky has again strongly criticized the government of
Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov for what he describes as its close links
with the leftist opposition in the State Duma. During a meeting yesterday of
Yabloko's central council, Yavlinsky charged that Primakov has demonstrated
his "unconditional closeness" to the Communist Party of the Russian
Federation (KPRF) faction in the Duma, referring to the fact that the
Kremlin has made it quite clear--if not explicit--that it will hold the
Primakov cabinet responsible should the Duma vote in favor of impeachment on
May 13, when the lower house is expected to take up the matter. Yavlinsky
said that Yabloko, which last year strongly backed Primakov to head the
cabinet, has on more than one occasion since then asked the premier to
reconsider his "one-sided attitude toward cooperation with the State Duma."
Yavlinsky said that this "unprincipled" closeness to the Duma's leftist
opposition was "not productive," given that 70 percent of the electorate
does not support the KPRF and its allies. Yavlinsky called on Primakov to
"more accurately" assess the political situation in the country.
Yavlinsky also attacked the Primakov cabinet's economic record, saying that
the economic situation in the country was "absolutely stagnant," similar to
the Brezhnev era, and that high-level corruption has steadily worsened.
Despite his harsh criticism, Yavlinsky said that he still supports Primakov
as prime minister and wants to find a way to work with Yeltsin, but that the
cabinet's "economic bloc" should be changed completely (Russian agencies,
May 10). This would refer above all to First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri
Maslyukov, the KPRF economist in overall charge of economic policy, and
Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik, who is in charge of agrarian policy.
According to some rumors, the Kremlin views Yavlinsky and Yabloko as
potential replacements to run the government's economic policy.
Rumors have been rife that Yeltsin is planning to fire Primakov and/or his
team very soon. On May 9, however, an "informed source" from Primakov's
"inner circle" was quoted as saying that Yeltsin is not planning any changes
in the cabinet in the near future, that "the president has certain
grievances about the work of the cabinet of ministers in relation to pulling
the country out of crisis" but that rumors of imminent firings are
"obviously premature" (Russian agencies, May 9).
A recent survey carried out by the ROMIR polling agency found that Primakov
leads among potential candidates in next year's presidential elections.
Primakov was picked by 17 percent of those surveyed, followed by KPRF leader
Gennady Zyuganov (16.5 percent), Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (11.9 percent)
and Yavlinsky (10.8 percent) (Ren TV, May 8). Primakov's continued high
rating (in relative terms), along with the fact that he may be needed to
help convince the Duma to pass tax and other laws which will meet the
International Monetary Fund's conditions that revenues be increased, may be
in his favor.
PRECIPITOUS DROP IN CIS COUNTRIES' TRADE WITH RUSSIA. Figures just released
by Russia's Economics Ministry show that the CIS countries' aggregate trade
with Russia in the first quarter of 1999 amounted to US$4.1 billion,
signifying a dramatic decline of 45.3 percent compared to the corresponding
period of 1998. The CIS share within Russia's total foreign trade fell to
20.1 percent in the first quarter of 1999, from 24.7 percent in the
corresponding period of 1998.
The CIS countries posted an aggregate deficit of US$0.9 billion, with US$1.6
billion worth of exports to Russia and US$2.5 billion worth of imports from
it during the first quarter of 1999. Energy carriers and fuels made up an
overwhelming share of 74 percent in the CIS countries' total imports from
Russia. To offset revenue losses from depressed oil prices, Russia increased
the volumes delivered to CIS countries overall by 21 percent for crude oil
and 70 percent for oil products. The share of industrial equipment and
machinery in CIS first-quarter imports from Russia declined to a meager 10.6
percent, approximately half of the corresponding figure for 1998.
CIS countries' exports to Russia continued to consist of a variegated mix of
raw materials, food products and industrial goods, contrasting with the
one-sided structure of Russian deliveries to the same countries. This year's
first quarter saw most CIS exports to Russia decline, sharply in many cases,
as Russia's insolvency added to protectionist constraints on its imports
from the CIS. At the same time, some CIS countries managed to enlarge their
niches on the Russian market for selected food products in short supply
there. The five-country CIS Customs Union has remained an irrelevancy to
date (Russian agencies, May 10).
The Independent (UK)
12 May 1999
[for personal use only]
Rumours of Primakov sacking sweep Moscow
By Phil Reeves in Moscow
NOT CONTENT with successfully restoring some of Russia's global clout by
securing a mediator's role in the Kosovo crisis, Boris Yeltsin has opened a
new battlefront - against his own Prime Minister and parliament.
Several Russian news outlets yesterday led their broadcasts with claims that
the President is about to sack his premier, Yevgeny Primakov, and replace him
with an obscure railways minister, Nikolai Aksenenko.
Speculation has been simmering in Moscow for weeks that Mr Yeltsin will throw
out Mr Primakov, triggering domestic political turmoil in the midst of severe
economic depression and an international crisis. But yesterday this gained
momentum as parliament prepared to launch long-threatened impeachment
Relations between the two men have been steadily deteriorating, and are now
hostile. The President has been affronted by his Prime Minister's attempts to
lessen the Kremlin's power and generally dislikes his ties to his
arch-enemies, the Communists.
Pro-market elements in Mr Yeltsin's inner circle regard the government of Mr
Primakov - a popular figure who is seen as a front-runner for the presidency
- as a throw-back to the moribund Brezhnev years.
A presidential spokesman said yesterday there was "no reason to discuss" Mr
Primakov's dismissal, but there were strong suspicions that the Kremlin was
the source of yesterday's rumours. Mr Yeltsin has publicly humiliated the
premier several times, and the Kremlin has made clear that Mr Primakov is
dispensable. If the Prime Minister is fired, a showdown between Mr Yeltsin
and parliament - which must approve any replacement premier - is certain.
The veiled threats to Mr Primakov may be an attempt by the Kremlin to
intimidate the State Duma, parliament's lower house, before the impeachment
hearings, which threaten to divert attentionfrom a meeting between Mr Yeltsin
and Jacques Chirac. The French President arrives in Moscow today to discuss
The Communists, the chamber's largest party, are keen to keep Mr Primakov in
place as he has secured them more power than they have previously held in the
Yeltsin years, and has treated Western market reforms with caution.
Yesterday the house leadership decided to hold three days of hearings,
beginning tomorrow, in an effort to get the impeachment proceedings off the
ground. Mr Yeltsin faces five charges, including bringing about the collapse
of the Soviet Union and launching an illegal war in Chechnya.
Although the 450-strong chamber could muster the 300 votes needed to launch
an impeachment it is extremely unlikely to threaten Mr Yeltsin's remaining 15
months in office.
Christian Science Monitor
MAY 12, 1999
PRESIDENT VS. PARLIAMENT
Will a cornered Yeltsin lash out?
Impeachment debate to begin May 13. The Russian president's reaction may
Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
History has shown that Russian President Boris Yeltsin is an impulsive man
who kicks out when cornered.
And history may repeat itself if impeachment hearings, due to begin May 13,
don't proceed to his liking.
Kremlin watchers are steeling themselves for what the unpredictable leader
will do if the lower house of parliament, or Duma, initiates the process to
remove him from office.
Speculation is rife that even if the impeachment effort fails, as is likely,
the president may fire the Cabinet of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and
thus spark a war with the Communist-controlled Duma.
Such uncertainty would send Russia into disastrous turmoil.
Mr. Primakov is widely seen as the only man who can win opposition support
for unpopular laws to secure a $4.5 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF)
credit. And he is successfully keeping hawks at bay as Russia tries to
mediate in NATO's Balkans war.
But eight years in power have shown Mr. Yeltsin responds aggressively to
humiliation, with thoughts only for his own survival.
He sacked two governments last year when he felt threatened - the second time
provoking Russia's financial collapse. He sent troops to quell a
parliamentary revolt in 1993.
Now Moscow's rumor mills are churning out speculation that he may be planning
another nasty surprise.
"The impeachment proceeding is largely symbolic. But it is serious because it
is not liked by the president," says Georgi Satarov, a former Yeltsin
political adviser who now heads a Moscow think tank, Indem.
"And when he doesn't like things there can be a serious impact - like sacking
the government or dissolving parliament. That would be extremely dangerous
for the country," he says.
Beset by recurring medical problems, stumbling and often incoherent in his
public appearances, Yeltsin has spent much of the past year in bed and
paranoid about being removed from office before his term is up in June 2000.
Facing five charges
Yeltsin is charged with five impeachment counts: using force in 1993 against
parliament; the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991; the collapse of the
Russian military; "genocide" against the population for policies leading to
poverty; and launching the disastrous 1994-96 war against separatist Chechnya.
Only the last charge may go through, analysts say. But impeachment is a long
and complicated procedure that would be unlikely to remove Yeltsin before his
term is up next year.
A long process
Even if the vote succeeds - a prospect many observers doubt - the process
would be dragged out over months during which either the Constitutional Court
or the upper house of parliament could throw out the decision.
But the Communists express confidence they will win the necessary 300 votes
in the 450-seat Duma to get the proceedings going.
Looking to elections
They are buoyed by Yeltsin's meager 2 percent support in public opinion polls
and corruption scandals that have implicated top aides. They want to
publicize his shortcomings before parliamentary elections in December.
Moreover, the impeachment process is a way to guarantee the Duma's survival.
As long as it is under way, Yeltsin cannot dissolve parliament.
Such a tactic could backfire, however. Speculation in political circles is
growing that Yeltsin will fight back by firing Primakov, the man widely seen
as responsible for restoring stability to the country when he came to power
in September at the height of financial crisis.
Primakov, unlike Yeltsin, enjoys strong popularity among the grass roots and
Communists. The prime minister has capably run the country while Yeltsin
recovered from bouts of illness.
But the NATO bombings on Yugoslavia have jolted the president into more
action - and action for Yeltsin is customarily coupled with attacks on
Warning to Primakov?
Recently, Kremlin aides have indicated that Yeltsin's fear of being upstaged
by his high-profile lieutenant may have its limits.
"Certainly, no prime minister is indispensable," the deputy Kremlin chief of
staff, Oleg Sysuyev, said ominously in a magazine interview last week.
"I think the president has a number of names of people who, when necessary,
could replace anyone, including the prime minister," he said.
Russian newspapers, in the tradition of studying Kremlin intrigue, pointed to
seating at a recent Cabinet meeting. Yeltsin ostentatiously placed Interior
Minister Sergei Stepashin - newly named as first deputy prime minister - next
to Primakov, as though to remind him how precarious everyone's positions were.
This uncertainty about the premier's fate is shared by ordinary Russians.
According to a poll by the Ekho Moskvy radio station, 64 percent of
respondents believe Primakov will leave office soon.
Even if Yeltsin doesn't sack Primakov, he may try to provoke him to resign,
say some analysts.
This would easily be done by firing the prime minister's two Communist
deputies - Agriculture Minister Gennady Kulik and First Deputy Prime Minister
Yury Maslyukov, who oversees economic policy.
Such a move would undermine Primakov, who has said in the past that he would
step down if they were removed.
This would then provoke a revolt by Communists in the Duma, who would be
unlikely to approve a replacement for Primakov and who would block any
legislature pushed by Yeltsin.
Many analysts believe that if Primakov is sacked as a preemptive strike
before the impeachment vote, parliament will surely pick up the two-thirds
vote required to start the proceedings.
But if Yeltsin does nothing radical before May 13, more deputies may be
likely to refrain from supporting impeachment.
They may fear how he will respond if they do, says Alexander Mekhanik,
Director of the Moscow-based Contemporary Politics Institute.
"There is a danger that Yeltsin would do something impulsive. That is a
bigger threat to stability than impeachment," he says. "I think some of them
Rumors on Primakov's Possible Replacements Eyed
May 8, 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Mikhail Rostovskiy: "The Suicide Hit Parade: No One, It
Seems, Is Irreplaceable in Our Country"
On the last working day of the week the White House
was more reminiscent of a house of sorrows. Virtually everyone seems now
to be used to the idea of the premier's possible imminent dismissal.
Primakov, with a countenance that was mournful but full of dignity,
greeted veteran ex-ministers. And officials, all abandoning their work,
gave way to thoughts about their own future and about potential
candidates to become the new premier.
Some of the "servants," incidentally, still cling to the hope that
Yevgeniy Primakov will be able to survive. "It is all too unpredictable,"
one such optimist told Moskovskiy Komsomolets. "No one knows what Boris
Nikolayevich's mood will be or whether he will go off to the Central
Clinical Hospital again. Moreover, psychological warfare is now being
waged designed to make the deputies falter. Perhaps that is the main
point of all this?" The rest expected that Yeltsin will attempt some
smart stunt and nominate a quite unexpected candidate for the
premiership. So the candidates' unofficial ratings are very, very
Sergey Stepashin, Yeltsin's acknowledged favorite of recent days, is in
first place here. But it is precisely the obviousness of such an
appointment which works against him. "It would be too simple" --
officials say. It is also well known that by no means all the Kremlin
bosses have confidence in Stepashin or regard him as someone who is
wholly loyal to the president. Moreover, some people in the
administration clearly want to turn the White House into a simple office
devoid of an autonomous political role. The chief of the Ministry of
Internal Affairs is absolutely unsuitable for the role of head of such an
office. All his experience has been bound up with work in the power
structures and with public policy rather than the economy. Moreover, for
all Sergey Vadimirovich's discipline, he is not cut out at all for the
role of a weak-willed puppet....
The second place on the list of favorites is occupied by someone who is
completely unknown in the country -- Railways Minister Nikolay Aksenenko.
This professional railroad man who has been resident in Moscow for just
five years remains an enigma even to the political elite. Conclusions can
be drawn only if you try to compare two facts. Professional rumormongers
persistently link Aksenenko with the presumed paymaster of the Yeltsin
family, Roman Abramovich, and Berezovskiy. And if you bear in mind that
the Ministry of Railways is an extremely private and fantastically rich
office, the conclusion is self-evident. However, the elevation of the
railroad man "to the throne" would be too extravagant a move even for
And, of course, in third place you have Chernomyrdin. "Stepanovich is
manageable," an official told Moskovskiy Komsomolets. "He is experienced
and enjoys authority in the West. I, for example, am ready to wager that
he did not discuss just Yugoslavia during his recent meeting with Albert
Gore." But the fact that Chernomyrdin certainly does not entertain any
particularly good feelings toward Tatyana Borisovna & Co. -- the
ex-premier is known for harboring grudges -- works against him. Moreover,
Viktor Stepanovich constantly tells his entourage that the last thing he
wants is a third comeback.
As for those who occupy less exalted places in the premiership ratings,
they are simply legion. No one can guarantee that, say, Luzhkov, Chubays,
Kiriyenko, Voloshin, Sysuyev, or any Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov...will not
push his way to the top. However, in fact it is not the name that is
important here. Given the current alignment of forces in the Duma, no
Kremlin favorite has virtually any chances of getting through the Duma.
This means that the new White House incumbent will inevitably occupy the
rank of acting premier. The Presidential Staff is sure that this is a
boon -- when there is no Duma we will adopt all the urgent and long
overdue measures by means of presidential edicts. And everything in the
economy will be beautiful by the elections. But is that really so?
Western analysts have long noted that for some reason any government becomes
very weak in the absence of a parliament. Nor should it be forgotten that
a change of premier in Russia usually leads to complete paralysis of the
government apparatus for at least two-three months. Finally, only very
naive people can think that an acting premier will be able to do anything
radical in the economy. No one usually takes account of a provisional
government. So the conclusion is obvious. After the dissolution of the
Primakov government our servants of the people will be solely occupied
with showdowns amongst themselves. True, they will try not to forget the
economy, but only to the precise extent necessary for the electoral
May 12, 1999
INSIDE RUSSIA: No Heroes in This Shameful Political Melee
By Yulia Latynina
Russia's political beau monde is frozen in expectation of Yevgeny Primakov's
departure from office. It seems inevitable, and even the president's
unpredictability does not save the situation given that it is President Boris
Yeltsin who is demonstrating hatred for the premier with the persistence of a
five-year-old child who doesn't like his sister.
The Primakov government, God knows, has made every possible mistake.
Primakov, for some reason called a "master of compromise," managed to create
quarrels between one and all, siccing the personally dishonorable Prosecutor
General Yury Skuratov on equally dishonorable Kremlin officials; trying, out
of personal animosity, to get rid of Boris Berezovsky; and putting Russia
close to war with the United States over Milosevic's dictatorial regime.
Rarely has there been such an openly corrupt government. Several months ago,
I asked Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik: "Why do you support the idea of
a fund for preferential agricultural credits when everyone knows that less
than 1.1 percent of these credits are repaid, while the rest is stolen?"
Kulik answered: "They steal like this everywhere." It's a whole philosophy:
They steal everywhere, so it's stupid not to be first ...
The Primakov government delights in anti-Western rhetoric, but this does not
stop it from accepting humanitarian food aid from the United States. While
this aid destroys Russian farmers, it supplies those who distribute it with
unlimited funds for electoral campaigning.
Yeltsin, it would appear, has cause to be unhappy with all of this. He could
speak of the government's catastrophic foreign policy or investigate the
rumors of large-scale bribery in the Cabinet. Instead, the president openly
refrains from greeting Primakov, while, as the cameras roll, demonstratively
ordering First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to sit closer. It is
obviously not Primakov's politics that Yeltsin views with antipathy, but the
premier himself - for having dared to threaten his position. This repeats
last year's story with Viktor Chernomyrdin, who was also forced out of office
not because of his government's economic activities, but because he dared to
discuss with U.S. Vice President Al Gore the possibility of U.S. support for
his own presidential campaign.
Primakov's resignation could be the final mistake of those once called the
democrats. Today, seven months after his accession, Russians are beginning to
hold the left responsible for what is going on in the country. It is
impossible to blame everything on your predecessors forever. The impending
new round of inflation, the unfulfilled budget, the non-payment of paltry
wages - all of this appears to the voters, on the eve of the elections, to be
the fault of the left-wing government.
If the government goes, the president will give the opposition an invaluable
gift. The economy will go tumbling head over heels as a result of the
Primakov government's poor management, but people will blame it all on the
new, pro-Yeltsin Cabinet.
Political catastrophes occur not when erroneous decisions are made, but when
any decision made portends colossal trouble. The only thing that could be
worse than Primakov's management is his ouster. It won't solve Russia's
economic problems but will, in one stroke, deepen all of the political
problems. Especially if Primakov's resignation is seen as the work of a
headstrong and cloistered sultan.
You are cordially invited to a U.S. Institute of Peace Current Issues
U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS: AT THE CROSSROADS
Tuesday, May 18, 1999, from 10:00 a.m. — 12:00 p.m.
Chair and Opening Statement:
Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress
The Honorable Arthur Hartman, APCO, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Dr. Mark Kramer, Russia Center, Harvard University
Dr. Michael McFaul, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Russia’s relations with the West have been seriously strained by:
- the Kosovo crisis
- NATO enlargement
- Iraqi policy
- IMF Funding
Experts will discuss whether the relationship can be repaired, or if more
tough times are ahead. Questions to be discussed include:
- How are these crises playing in Russian domestic politics?
- What is Russia trying to accomplish in the Balkans?
- Is it in the interest of the United States to allow Russia to be a
peace broker? What does this accomplish in other areas of U.S-Russia
Presentations will be followed by questions from the floor.
The Madison Hotel, Executive Chambers
15th and M Streets NW
(McPherson Square or Farragut North)
Please RSVP to Jodi Koviach at 202-429-3863 or e-mail
<firstname.lastname@example.org>. Media inquiries should be directed to Rachel
Tschida at 202-429-3878.
U.S. Institute of Peace
1200 17th Street NW, Suite 200
Washington D.C. 20036-3011
202-429-3878 fax 202-429-6063
St. Petersburg Times
May 11, 1999
Will Yavlinsky Make a Deal With the Devil?
By Brian Whitmore
Every few months there is speculation that Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky
is about to join the federal government. Time after time, the speculation
turns out to be unfounded.
Should this time be any different? It is no secret that President Boris
Yeltsin is unhappy with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and is preparing
his demise. Several names have been floated as possible replacements:
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, ex-prime
minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Yavlinsky. Another scenario has Yavlinsky
being tapped as deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy,
replacing the embattled Communist Yury Maslyukov.
At the same time, Yavlinsky is being courted by Luzhkov, who has
presidential ambitions of his own. A Yavlinsky-Luzhkov alliance in next
year's presidential elections would indeed be a powerful ticket.
As is his style on such matters, the Yabloko leader is playing his cards
close to his chest.
Yavlinsky visited St. Petersburg on Sunday to pay his respects to victims
of the Leningrad Blockade, laying flowers on several common graves in the
Later, he rode back into town on the press bus, holding a casual
on-the-record chat with the half-dozen or so reporters on hand. Daniil
Kotsubinsky, a political columnist for the newspaper Peterburgsky Chas Pik
- one of the city's few independent and truly hard-hitting reporters -
grilled Yavlinsky about his relations with Luzhkov.
"As somebody who has always stood for human rights, how can you justify
your close political relations with Luzhkov, who routinely violates human
rights?" asked Kotsubinsky.
Yavlinsky said it was necessary to form an anti-Communist and anti-criminal
I then asked if there was any truth to rumors that Yavlinsky was in
negotiations with the Kremlin about joining the federal government.
"Yes," he answered.
"Yes there are negotiations?" I asked.
"No," said Yavlinsky. "Yes, there are rumors."
"So are there negotiations?" I asked.
"Nothing serious," he said.
Yavlinsky's most attractive characteristic, his unwillingness to compromise
on principles by joining a federal government he sees as corrupt, is also
seen by many as a weakness - designating him to the role of the political
elite's conscience and its Cassandra, devoid of real influence.
In St. Petersburg there is a precedent for Yabloko engaging with the
authorities. Igor Artyemev served as Finance Committee Chairman in the
administration of Gov. Vladimir Yakovlev until resigning in disgust this
January. Artyemev can boast many accomplishments in his tenure, including a
more accountable budget process, the creation of a city treasury system and
healthier public finances.
But ultimately Artyemev left, alleging widespread corruption and organized
crime influence in Smolny. "We made the correct decision," said Yavlinsky.
"This administration is increasingly relying on illegal methods and is
clearly tied to shadowy structures."
Russia could certainly benefit from Yavlinsky, just as St. Petersburg
benefited from Artyemev. But, as is usually the case, gaining political
power means making a deal with one devil or another. Artyemev managed to
keep his soul when he opted out of his pact with Yakovlev. How will
Yavlinsky fare if he decides to deal with Yeltsin or Luzhkov?
New Stress on Nukes Seen As Misguided
6 May 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Commentary by Igor Flore: "Deadly Slice of Salami. Will Swap
Conventional Weapons for Nuclear Weapons. Second-Hand Weapons Considered"
-- passages between slantlines published in boldface
...At the secret session of the Security Council
the Russian Federation president made the decision to discontinue the
blockade of the administrative border with Chechnya and to respond to any
sally by Chechen separatists with a nuclear strike on Chechen territory.
That's crazy, you say? But no! Roughly speaking, this was the proposal
supported by the Security Council at its 29 April session. Henceforth it
has been decided to treat nuclear weapons as the best instrument for
ensuring the military security of the Russian Federation. We believe that
nuclear deterrence is capable of removing military danger for Russia.
Although.... Nuclear weapons can be used only in a desperate situation,
afterward the situation will become even more desperate -- after all,
nuclear retaliation could follow. /In the seventies 67 targets on the
territory of Moscow were selected for the U.S. nuclear forces. Of course,
today there are fewer targets, but even two or three nuclear explosions
would be more than enough for Moscow./
And what is to be done if the situation is not sufficiently "desperate"
to sacrifice Moscow? Let us suppose that the enemy has seized 40 square
km from Kaliningrad Oblast -- should the capital be risked right away, or
is it still too early? What about 200 kilometers? NATO studied this
subject -- they dubbed such operations "salami tactics." This is when
land is cut up into tiny pieces, and at no stage are the stakes
sufficiently high to risk the life of the whole country by bringing down
a full-scale nuclear strike on one's own head. NATO was very much afraid
that the USSR would adopt these tactics.
NATO did not find a rational solution to the "salami" impasse. It is
highly unlikely that the Kremlin sages have found one either, but one
thing is clear here: Russian nuclear forces can be used only when the
absolute limit has been reached! And before that we must defend ourselves
with our general purpose forces. If only we had any....
Unfortunately, the general purpose forces of the Russian Armed Forces are
numerically and in terms of combat readiness more like "boy soldiers"
than the modern armies of Western countries. /The Ground Forces have
seven combined units officially categorized by the Defense Ministry
leadership as "permanent readiness combined units": one motorized rifle
division apiece in the Far East, Orenburg Oblast, and near Nizhniy
Novgorod and four separate motorized rifle brigades (near St. Petersburg,
in Moscow Oblast, in Siberia, and in the North Caucasus). There are also
three airborne divisions, but they cannot be maintained at full strength
even at peacetime levels: There are not enough people in the artillery
regiments. All in all somewhere around 50,000 men./ (Belarus, of course,
is our ally, but the situation there is not much better.)
That is our Army, which is supposed to defend Russia before the
deployment of the reserve combined units, which exist today only as
"flags on maps." At least one-third of Moskovskiy Komsomolets' readers
are people who are liable to the military service obligation: So tell us,
from your own experience, what will the combat readiness of these
combined units be if they are manned with reservists who have not been
called up for refresher courses for 10 years? And how long would they
last, say, against NATO forces?...
To be honest, no one would last long against them -- neither reserve
combined units, nor deployed and fully combat-ready units. At to
peacetime levels -- at which they are in fact deployed -- they are at
100-percent strength level in terms of equipment, but at only 80 percent
in terms of personnel. This missing 20 percent includes divisional
antiaircraft gunners. To conduct full-fledged combat operations they
would have to be topped up from the reserves -- the same "untrained"
reserves! -- while under threat or while bombs were actually dropping. In
other words, our "fully combat-ready" divisions and brigades are actually
not prepared to repel air strikes against themselves; and air strikes, as
Iraq and Yugoslavia show, would be delivered in the very first minutes of
...In Soviet times it was believed that the average life span of, say, an
airborne fighting vehicle after the beginning of combat operations
against NATO would be between seven and 17 minutes, given the presence of
antiaircraft cover (moreover, in those days NATO did not yet have its
current "smart" bombs). How long would our fighting vehicles last today
-- against "smart" bombs but without antiaircraft cover?...
The Air Forces would not help with cover. Scientifically validated
flying time norms for pilots in our country are defined as 120 hours (in
the USSR it was 180), but the average flying time in reality remains
steady at the level of 20-40 hours. (In some units it is five-seven
hours.) Of course, you won't dissipate your skills entirely; but after
all, you will have to fight against pilots who fly 200 hours a year!
But even if everything was in order as regards the air defense of
troops, that would not mean that they could perform their tasks. In the
event of war, the permanent-readiness combined units need to be
transferred to the conflict region. This is best done quickly, and, as
far as possible, by air. Such plans exist and are being elaborated, but
the problem is that, according to our information, /at last Thursday's
Security Council session, in order to strengthen the Russian Federation's
nuclear forces, an exchange with Ukraine was proposed: They will give us
11 strategic bombers, and we will give them the same number of An-22
Antey and An-124 Ruslan heavy transport aircraft. That is half Russia's
existing fleet of Ruslans./ This number of planes could transport the
personnel of an entire brigade in a single flight. There will be
something to carry our missiles, but how will we transfer troops? Or is
it no longer necessary to defend the borders?...
/And what about the plan to accelerate the delivery of new Topol-M's to
the Strategic Missile Troops? The cost of delivering just one Topol is
today approximately equal to the cost of maintaining a motorized infantry
brigade and keeping it fully combat-ready for a whole year./ We could
bring another regiment of Topols onto alert status -- and thereby
renounce the deployment of two extra fully combat-ready divisions. We can
argue about the figures, but the exchange is obvious: either troops or
...The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee recently
formulated his view of the situation in Chechnya as follows: The Russian
Federation should "vacate illegally occupied territories in Russia."
Given that NATO is supporting the demands of the Kosovo separatists by
force of arms, why couldn't they support Raduyev?... And if that happens,
and we have no means of responding on the ground, will we risk Moscow by
threatening a nuclear strike against the United States for the sake of
keeping Chechnya, or will we step aside? On the scale of Russia Chechnya
is a tiny piece. Well, a slice of salami, in fact. Probably we will step
aside, and not risk everything for the sake of a little. The main thing
is that the Americans understand this too, and that means that the
nuclear umbrella would not protect us from the rain of bombs....
/By adopting the decision to direct all efforts into maintaining the
nuclear forces, which can be needed only in extremity, we are bringing
nearer the possibility of such an extremity, because Russia cannot
simultaneously increase its nuclear might and maintain conventional
forces: We do not have the funds. That means that the conventional forces
will continue to wither, Russia's possibilities of responding in any way
other than with nuclear weapons will decline, and a catastrophe in which
Russia, to save itself, will be forced to inflict a nuclear strike and
receive such a strike in return will draw nearer./
May 12, 1999
EDITORIAL: Chechnya Is As Worthy As Kosovo
It is curious how every time impeachment drifts closer for President Boris
Yeltsin, suddenly Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov is supposedly coming to
town. Invariably impeachment is put off, and the Yeltsin-Maskhadov meeting
fades from view - until next month, when the Duma again dusts off impeachment
and the Kremlin again dusts off Maskhadov.
Boris Yeltsin's Kremlin sees Chechnya in all its misery and devastation as
nothing but a chit in its political intrigues. That is not surprising since
Yeltsin's Kremlin sees everything that way. But it is no less disheartening
for being banal.
A meeting between Yeltsin and Maskhadov is long overdue. Russia should grant
Chechnya its independence and pay the Chechen people indemnities for the
post-war reconstruction of their nation. This will cost billions, but it can
be done - and on moral grounds it should take priority over paying back the
International Money Fund or the London Club.
Unlikely, of course. The Russian role in Chechnya over the past five years
has been squalid and petty - and this alone provides ample reason to look
with some cynicism at the official indignation here over NATO's war in
Yugoslavia. NATO, for all its faults, at least tries to miss the civilians;
Russia could not be bothered, and its carpet bombing of the civilian
neighborhoods of Grozny must rank with the great war crimes of the war
crime-ridden 20th century.
So much for Russia. But Chechnya also says volumes about the West.
Is Chechnya really any different from Kosovo? In both cases, the federal
government waged what quickly became an ethnicity-based war against
separatists. In one case, the West cared; in the other it didn't.
Journalists covering the war in Chechnya saw how quickly it moved from being
a campaign against the Dudayevites to a campaign against all non-Slavs. This
is why it was so easy for the Russian air force to destroy entire towns or
neighborhoods of "Chechens." That's why today Moscow police are frank about
harassing Caucasians with document checks and pseudo-legal arrests.
As tens of thousands died, among them thousands of children, Bill Clinton
turned his back. He said Chechnya was Russia's "internal affair," and the IMF
coughed up billions just in time to cover the cost of the war.
But if Clinton believes he is right in Kosovo, he must therefore believe he
was wrong in Chechnya. The U.S. government ought to support independence for
Chechnya - and ought to broker debt forgiveness for Russia for every dollar
Moscow sends to Grozny. Chechnya may be yesterday's news, but it deserves
international attention no less than Yugoslavia.
Date: Tue, 11 May 1999
From: email@example.com (Matt Bivens)
Subject: Chicken-Snake ethnic conflict
I wanted to call your attention to this very important development in
Russian politics. Interfax reports that Russians are divided on whether to
reach an agreement with the Chickens. Incredibly, it seems that Russians
feel that the Chickens have not acted harshly enough in ethnic cleansing
Real kudos must go to Interfax for staying on top of this important
Chicken-Snake ethnic conflict.
MOSCOW, May 11 (Interfax) - The vast majority of Muscovites
agree in principle that those statesmen, whose incompetence has
harmed the country, must make up for what they have done, says a
poll of 600 Moscow residents conducted by the Research Center of
the Youth Institute.
Most respondents said that Yeltsin was guilty of the Chechen
war. However, while some of them think that an agreement had to
be reached with the Chickens on any conditions, others think that
they ought to have crushed "the Chechen snakes."