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Johnson's Russia List
25 May 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. NTV: Opinion Poll Shows Primakov Is Leading Candidate.
2. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Russia's comeback Communists.
3. AFP: Tinderbox Caucasus region provides new Russian PM with first
4. Wallace Kaufman: ARAL SEA REGION: WRONG SOLUTIONS.
5. RFE/RL: Don Hill, Russia: Next Elections Critical For Future. (Views of
6. St. Petersburg Times: Fyodor Gavrilov, Leadership Is The Fast Track To
7. Washington Post editorial: Russia's Latest Drama.
8. Nina Khrushcheva: Seminar on the Kosovo Crisis and Russia's Interests.
9. The Russia Journal: Pinochet Option no Cure for Russia's Ills.
10. The Guardian (UK): Serb experts get the cold shoulder. Their
Serbia is vast, yet the expertise of academics is ignored, says Peter
Opinion Poll Shows Primakov Is Leading Candidate
23 May 1999
[translation for personal use only]
>From the "Itogi" analytical program
This week sociologists published the first data showing the
attitude of Russian citizens to [former Prime Minister Yevgeniy]
Primakov's resignation, the presenter of the "Itogi" programme said. He
went on to announce the results of the latest Russia-wide poll conducted
by the Public Opinion Foundation: 81 percent of those polled disapprove
of Primakov's resignation as prime minister while only 8 percent approve
and the rest don't know.
Seventy-one percent of the polled said they would not take part in protests
against Primakov's resignation to which [Communist leader] Gennadiy
Zyuganov was to call the Russians. Only 20 percent would agree to take
part in such actions if these took place in their town or village.
If presidential elections took place on Sunday 23 May, Krasnoyarsk
Territory governor Aleksandr Lebed and head of Liberal Democratic Party
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy would get 6 percent of votes each. Head of the
Yabloko Party Grigoriy Yavlinskiy would gather 11 percent of votes.
Moscow Mayor Yuriy Luzhkov would receive 15 percent. Former Prime
Minister Yevgeniy Primakov would get 22 per cent of votes whilst
Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov only 17 percent.
The information was accompanied by relevant graphs. The concluding
caption said that the poll was conducted on 15-16 May in 29 regions, 56
towns and settlements.
Christian Science Monitor
May 25, 1999
Russia's comeback Communists
Foiled in its bid to oust Yeltsin, party retains public support. Next test:
election in parliament in December
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Despite its latest drubbing at the hands of President Boris Yeltsin, Russia's
perennially bumbling Communist Party appears to have bright election-year
"Most of the Communists don't really feel that they've suffered a defeat, and
they have their own good reasons to be smug," says Lilia Shevtsova, an
analyst with the Carnegie Endowment in Moscow. "In some ways they are
For many in the West, Russia's Communist Party remains a kind of bogy-man
stalking the post-Soviet political landscape, but it is actually a pale and
flickering shadow of the organization that ran the Soviet Union for 74 years.
Marxism-Leninism has given way to a hodgepodge of nationalism, welfare state
populism, and nostalgia for the good old days of Soviet social order and
"This is a party that came back having learned nothing and forgotten
nothing," says Martin Shakkum, president of the social-democratic Reform
Foundation in Moscow.
"They will probably take no account of their dreadful political blunders, and
go into the next elections blaming everyone else for the country's troubles,"
he says. "And it will work well for them."
Elections for the Duma, parliament's lower house, are slated for December.
It's hard to view the party's recent performance as anything but disastrous.
Two weeks ago, President Yeltsin fired left-leaning Prime Minister Yevgeny
Primakov, at a single stroke canceling all the gains the Communists made at
the Kremlin's expense amid last fall's financial collapse and political
The Communists, who along with their allies control 211 seats in the 450-seat
Duma, vowed revenge for the sacking of a government - post-Soviet Russia's
first - that had been appointed through consultation and compromise with
They had lobbied hard for the support of small factions and independents. But
the Communists flubbed a simple arithmetic test when they went ahead with a
long-planned vote to impeach Mr. Yeltsin on five charges of treason and other
Though the Communists loudly predicted victory on at least one of the points,
all fell far short of the constitutionally needed two-thirds majority.
A red-faced Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist leader, explained the result was
"a moral victory."
Last Wednesday the Communists meekly marched into the Duma and overwhelmingly
endorsed Yeltsin's choice for a new prime minister, former Interior Minister
Mr. Stepashin, a longtime Kremlin loyalist and career policeman, even allowed
himself a black joke at the Duma's expense: "All those who voted for me may
lower their hands and step away from the wall," he quipped.
The Communists used a weekend meeting of their party's ruling central
committee not to evaluate the collapse of their parliamentary tactics but to
warn Yeltsin against taking any "unconstitutional measures" to close down the
Duma or cancel the upcoming election.
The Communist Party will do everything necessary to "stop the lunatics and
criminals who are ready to throw the country into mass unrest," Mr. Zyuganov
But does all this spell oblivion for the tough-talking Communists as they
head into the fall election campaign? Not if recent history is any guide, say
"The Communists are very likely to increase their share of the popular vote
substantially, for reasons that have little to do with their actual
performance in the Duma," says Igor Kurayev, a political expert at the
Institute of Social and Historical Studies, an independent Moscow-based think
tank. "In fact, being mauled by the Kremlin has always helped them in the
The Communist Party, re-founded in 1993 after Russia's Constitutional Court
overturned a post-Soviet ban on it, has been humiliated in almost every
attempt to compel the Kremlin to share power. Yet with each display of
political impotence and ideological confusion, the party's strength has
After Yeltsin blasted his left-wing opponents out of the old Supreme Soviet
with tanks and troops in 1993, the Communists swept into the newly created
Duma with 12.4 percent of the popular vote. In elections two years later,
22.3 percent of Russians backed the party, despite its stumbling and
lackluster performance in parliament.
A survey conducted by Moscow University's Public Opinion Center in April -
before the impeachment fiasco - found 25 percent of Russians ready to back
the Communists in December.
Sergei Tumanov, a researcher at the center, says the Communists have a hard
core of millions of voters, mostly elderly people who associate the party
with a simpler, more secure time.
"However, the majority of Communist voters have no special allegiance. They
are protest voters who choose the party the authorities hate the most," he
Communist fortunes have improved as Russia's economic hinterland has fallen
into poverty. The decline may be accelerating, with the the government
reporting a 4 percent drop in gross domestic product for the first quarter of
1999 and Russia's Higher School for Economics warning Russians' real income
is down 30 percent from last year.
"If people could see some improvement in life maybe their view of the world,
and hence their voting patterns, would change," says Mr. Tumanov.
"But in the present dire situation they dream of a strong, paternalistic
state to help them carry their burdens. And this means the Communists will be
with us for the foreseeable future."
Tinderbox Caucasus region provides new Russian PM with first headache
MOSCOW, May 24 (AFP) - Russia's tinderbox Caucasus region has provided Sergei
Stepashin with his first major crisis, the new premier flying to the troubled
Karachayevo-Cherkessiya republic in a bid to calm mounting ethnic tensions.
Stepashin stopped off in the capital Cherkessk on his way to discuss his
cabinet list with President Boris Yeltsin in a clear sign of Moscow's concern
of renewed unrest in its turbulent southern region.
In a bid to cool flared tempers the premier said he would ask Yeltsin to name
the head of the regional parliament as acting president in the republic,
where ethnic Karachai, Cherkess, Abkhaz and Russians live side by side.
The nomination of Igor Ivanov was welcomed by the rival candidates in the
hotly disputed May 16 presidential election -- the republic's first -- which
triggered the current stand-off, general Vladimir Semenov, a Karachai, and
Stanislav Derev, a Cherkess.
A furious Derev warned of the threat of civil war unless the election results
-- which handed his rival a crushing victory -- were scrapped.
"We should think now of how to avoid bloodshed. I think there is a great
probability of that happening," Derev told the ITAR-TASS news agency Monday.
The liberal daily Vremya reported weekend clashes between Derev bodyguards
and those linked to a Semenov ally, Magomed Kaitov. The two leaders are also
rivals in the local vodka business.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the republic's three Moslem
communities, the Karachais (32 percent of the local population), the Cherkess
(10 percent) and Abkhaz (seven percent) have lived in relative harmony with
each other and their ethnic Russian (42 percent) neighbours.
Derev supports are demanding the Cherkess area's return to its pre-1929
status, when it was linked administratively to the southern Russian region of
"Today, developments in the situation depend entirely on Moscow," Rinat
Sultanov, a member of the federal parliament's nationalities committee, told
AFP. He accused Derev of fomenting hatred between two peoples who "have been
living peacefully together for a thousand years."
"The situation in Karachayevo-Cherkessiya will result in a new Chechnya if
the federal authorities drag their feet," general Alexander Lebed, who
negotiated an end to the Chechen war, said recently.
Moscow has learnt the hard way the perils of ignoring the convulsions of this
tempestuous region, which has been awash with arms since the end of the
21-month Chechen war in August 1996.
The presence of Islamic extremists, known as Wahhabites, in Chechnya and the
neighbouring republic of Dagestan, has further undermined the region's
But it is the crime gangs and wave of kidnappings that have highlighted the
impotence of the federal authorities in this notoriously complicated region.
"In the Northern Caucasus, organised crime is well established, with groups
who deal live off kidnappings," Stepashin's successor at the interior
ministry, Vladimir Rushailo, admitted at the weekend.
The premier said the region's crushing poverty was partly to blame, with
unemployment running at up to 80 percent in parts of the region.
According to the federal interior ministry, quoted by Russian television,
some 1,500 people were being held hostage in the Northern Caucasus in 1998,
compared to 272 in 1995. Most are held in Chechnya.
While foreigners continue to be seized in the region -- a New Zealand nurse
working for the International Red Cross was grabbed in Kabardino-Balkariya on
May 16 -- local figures are the most frequent victims of the snatch squads.
More than 600 Chechens, usually employed as forced labour, are currently
thought to be held in detention, the federal interior ministry said. A
Stepashin ally, General Gennady Shpigun, grabbed on March 5, is among the
Russians being held.
Moreover, acts of violence are on the increase in the Caucasus, a bomb blast
killing 53 people in a crowded market in Vladikavkaz, capital of North
Ossetia, one of the most deadly attacks in post-Soviet Russia.
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999
From: "Wallace Kaufman" <email@example.com>
Subject: ARAL SEA REGION: WRONG SOLUTIONS
Sue Lloyd-Roberts' lament for the Aral Sea [JRL3301] like hundreds of earlier
media pieces goes for the blue water and misses the most important point of
disaster which has dried up more than half of what was one of the world's
most expansive lakes.
The mayor of Aralsk tells her, "We've run out of money, people are dying and
they're going to hold a conference to discuss it." The foreign aid approach
to the Aral Sea demonstrates how thoroughly the bureaucracies have been
seduced by romantic environmentalism.
First, the Aral Sea is a local disaster, not a world shaking disaster and
should have a much lower priority for aid funding than the pollution of
Siberian rivers, nuclear wastes in the Russian arctic, drinking water
quality and indoor air pollution in third world dwellings, and overgrazing
in Central Asia, to name a few. The Aral Sea problem affects less than
500,000 people, but it has become a major focus of UN and other aid
The health problems reported have never, to my knowledge, been subjected to
a methodical epidemiological study. Every environmental disaster is assumed
to have an accompanying human health disaster. If high intakes of salt
"rots their kidneys, veins and wombs" then all of the CIS with its love of
heavily salted foods would suffer the same problem. Everyone who lives near
a wind-whipped ocean breathes heavily salted air. Living near the dried up
seabed is exceptionally unpleasant, as is most desert life. This is
especially true when water and electricity are intermittent. The region is
no more environmentally plagued, however, than thousands of other places in
the former Soviet Union, and it is more easily evacuated.
The hundreds of millions already spent could have been used much more
effectively in a relocation program. The sad lives of the people in the
region mirror the results of central planning in the Russian arctic and
parts of Siberia. Cities and towns were built where no economic
justification existed. The natural and economic carrying capacity of these
regions could never support the populations wished on them by bureaucrats
with no personal responsibility for the results. As the Soviet Union was
collapsing the planners tried to support the Aral Sea fish packing plants by
bringing in trainloads of fish from Pacific fisheries 2,000 miles away.
The aid organizations have not been much smarter. Besides the reports and
conferences they have spent tens of millions on building water lines which
field engineers assured me were doomed to quick failure from a variety of
problems: untrained local maintenance people, parts cannibalism, connections
to older lines incapable of handling higher pressures, etc.
Even worse, the political solution has included funding a new Central Asian
bureaucracy to deal with the problems. The problem was created by exactly
this kind of bureaucracy. The real solutions lie in policies that would do
1. provide aid for families who want to escape the problems by emigrating.
This would be cheaper per capita than the huge programs to build
infrastructure in a region that can't support its present population, with
or without water
2. remove all subsidies to the large farms that slurp up the waters (let
Uzbekistan's cotton be priced at real market cost)
3. fund an Aral Sea regional marketing and buying cooperative for the few
farmers who want to stay and the region's small entrepreneurs who produce
but have no economic clout
As one leader of a collective farm near Aralsk told me, "There have been 400
groups out here to look at the problem. They go away, write songs, write
poems, make movies, and hold conferences and nothing ever happens." If only
she could have put her own problems out of her mind for a while, she might
have appreciated how the continuing Aral Sea crisis has created a living for
many aid workers and Central Asian bureaucrats.
Russia: Next Elections Critical For Future
By Don Hill
Prague, 24 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- American economic journalist Rose Brady
says the next major twist in the developing story of Russia's staggering
economy depends on upcoming elections -- to the Duma in December and the
presidency in 2000.
And she's hopeful.
Brady, now editor of the European and Latin American edition of the U.S.
magazine Business Week, was the magazine's Moscow bureau chief from 1989 to
1993. She covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and the launching -- and
then faltering -- of Russia's radical economic changes. Since then, she has
visited Russia frequently as a business reporter.
She is the author of "Kapitalizm", a book on Russia's economic struggles of
the last decade, recently published by Yale University Press.
In her book, Brady writes of what she calls the "shock of economic freedom"
in Russia. It came at the end of 1991 when Soviet President Mikhail
Gorbachev resigned and the communist system fell, and in the first week of
1992 when Russia's new leadership dropped most price controls and the cost
of goods increased by multiples of eight to 20.
It was a triple revolution, she says. There was the starting of a new
democratic political system, the launching of a new capitalist economy, and
the ending of Russia's imperial status.
Brady spoke recently by telephone with RFE/RL:
"Basically, the story of the last seven years is a story of unrealistic
expectations and miscalculations, although I think that when they started
out there were some good intentions. I still believe that Russia is on a
very tumultuous, zigzag, difficult path from a socialist, centralist
economy to some version of a capitalist, market-oriented economy."
In "Kapitalizm", the author recounts how the first advocate and architect
of radical economic reform for Russia, a 35-year-old economist and
journalist named Yegor Gaidar, commanded a small group of young economists.
They sought to free prices, trade and the currency, and to permit ownership
of private property.
Gaidar was the principal author, Brady says, of Russian President Boris
Yeltsin's October 1991 speech to the parliamentary assembly. In that
speech, Yeltsin said this: "We have defended political freedom. Now we have
to give economic [freedom], to remove all barriers to the freedom of
enterprises and entrepreneurship, to give all people possibilities to work
and receive as much as they earn."
With Gaidar as his deputy prime minister in charge of economics and
finance, Yeltsin set out to turn those grand words into strong actions.
A number of blunders followed. First, Yeltsin promised that, although
things would be hard at first, Russians would experience improvements in
their lives at the end of six months. Disillusionment set in when reforms
proved far harsher and improvement took far longer than people expected.
Then Gaidar, whose own expectations were for five years of pain, failed to
anticipate the backlash of Russian industry elites. Under opposition
pressures, he delayed liberalization of energy prices. Opponents of the
reforms used the time to entrench even further. By mid-1992, Yeltsin had
diluted Gaidar's power, and the period of radical reform shock treatment
In early 1992, Brady points out, the state owned nearly everything in
Russia. Privatization was as important to economic reform as freeing
markets and prices. Yeltsin chose another young leader, Anatoly Chubais, to
lead the privatization effort. She says Chubais was determined to create an
army of Russian shareholders. But Chubais, too, ran into more powerful
resistance than he anticipated.
In order to keep privatization moving at all, Chubais compromised. He
agreed to allow factory directors and workers to acquire up to 51 percent
of their enterprises, at favorable terms.
Later, Brady recalled, Gaidar was to speak to her of this phase as a
serious, but perhaps unavoidable, misstep:
"I asked him to reflect back on what had happened in the economy and how it
was that Russia had developed this sort of oligarchical, corrupt system. He
said, 'We had two choices -- to try to destroy the elite by force or to
compromise. The first strategy risked civil war. That's why we were
prepared to compromise. So we allowed the elite to exchange their power for
The trouble was, of course, that there was no exchange at all. A small
oligarchy of financiers and industrialists acquired much of the wealth of
the Russian nation and, rather than exchanging their power, they increased
In Kapitalizm, Brady describes the phony loans, the official corruption,
shell companies, tunneling, and legal, semi-legal and downright criminal
devices that enabled the wealthy, powerful few to siphon off Russia's
wealth and, in many cases, to ship it to secret bank accounts out of the
country. But even so, the writer remains optimistic about Russia.
If she were writing Kapitalizm now, Brady said in the interview, she would
investigate more deeply how much the corruption and outright theft -- in
contrast to mere misfortune and mistakes -- contributed to the disaster
that has struck the country's economy.
Looking ahead, Brady called the coming Duma and presidential elections
critical for Russia's future.
"What turn the story takes next will, I think, depend a lot on who wins the
presidential elections next year. And to what extent the Duma election in
December produces a conclusive result. For example, if [Moscow Mayor Yuri]
Luzhkov's backers do very well in December and then Luzhkov wins next June.
That means you'll have a Duma and a president that are more or less on the
Brady said the worst case she can imagine would be election results that
created a governing coalition of communists and ultranationalists.
A best case, she said, might be the coming to power of a Grigory Yavlinsky,
reform-minded economist and head of the Yabloko Party. But even in the
barely imaginable event of a Yavlinsky electoral victory, there would be
doubt about his ability to summon the force necessary to press his ideas.
A scenario that is both optimistic and likely, she said, is the capturing
of the Duma in December by followers of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov, and then a
subsequent victory by Luzhkov in the presidential elections in the summer
Luzhkov has developed what Brady calls "state capitalism" in Moscow -- a
unique, peculiarly Russian economic system. Under Luzhkov's administration,
Moscow has prospered like nowhere else in Russia with a largely free,
market-driven economy, but one in which the government retains substantial
stakes in many of the city's important businesses and industries.
It is conceivable, she said, that Luzhkov would name Yavlinsky as his
minister of finance.
St. Petersburg Times
May 21, 1999
NOTES OF AN IDLER
Leadership Is The Fast Track To Bad Health
By Fyodor Gavrilov
Fyodor Gavrilov is the editor of Kariera-Kapital.
LAST week's top of the charts was Boris Yeltsin's latest victory over his
political foes - the impeachment motion failed. Yeltsin's happy. I'm happy,
too. Isn't it fun to step on the toes of our absurd Russian Communists, or
at least to watch other people do it?
The face of the happy winner, however, incites despair in anyone who looks
It's no secret that the president is ill. But when you look at file video
footage of Yeltsin in years past, it becomes clear just how frail he is
today - even in comparison with 1996, when everyone already figured he had
one foot in the grave. What we see before us today is only the physical
shell of the man we put our trust in ten years ago.
I've long been a careful observer of the way high political office in
Russia is capable of changing the physiognomy - often in a matter of months
- of the officeholder.
I was especially struck by the transformation that the "father of
privatization," Anatoly Chubais, underwent: After a year on the job, the
youthful and vivacious Chubais had turned into a short-winded, puffy-faced
I'm sure that those St. Petersburg Times readers who work in Russia know
how hard it is to do anything here, how hard it is to get Russians to do
what you want.
My personal experience confirms this as well. The culmination of my
administrative career was the position of head janitor at a school. I was
responsible for keeping a 50-year-old, four-story, 3,000-square-meter
building in running order. You've probably guessed that the resources at my
disposal were more than modest.
The school was and is one of the best in the city: amazing, specially
selected pupils; topflight, intellectually gifted teachers. But to this day
I'll never understand why these wonderful people had to wreck or destroy
something every day, why they left mountains of candy wrappers, cigarette
butts, papers, and graffiti on their desks, why they broke their chairs and
tore the doors from the hinges. And it was impossible for me to persuade
them to cut it out.
But I was faced with "historical" problems as well.
The main pipe connecting my school with the municipal sewage system had
been laid when Uncle Joe Stalin was still in office - but at an
insufficiently steep downward slope. Several times a month, everything that
should have gone away forever into the sewage system returned into the
school's basement with a vengeance.
The school director and I put on rubber boots and headed down to the
basement to clean out the pipe. Several hours later the guys from the
emergency repair crew showed up, always plastered to the gills, reeking of
beer and vodka. But I could have kissed them.
The point is: Serious illnesses await all those who attempt to "decide
issues" (as Russian administrative argot puts it). The exercise of power is
a draining affair throughout the world, but in Russia "deciding issues" is
And once weak, a person is never going to solve anything in this country.
In this respect, Boris Yeltsin the chronic patient is by far the worst
24 May 1999
Russia's Latest Drama
ONCE AGAIN Russian President Boris Yeltsin has confounded the experts, not
to mention this editorial page. Two weeks ago he was widely reported to be
in mortal political danger, on the verge of impeachment, outmaneuvered by
his cagey and popular prime minister. Now that prime minister, Yevgeny
Primakov, is out on the street, yesterday's man. Mr. Yeltsin, or the savvy
political operatives who maneuver in his name, has beaten back impeachment.
And his new prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, distinguished by his
longstanding loyalty to Mr. Yeltsin, has been confirmed by a suddenly
acquiescent parliament and thereby transformed into a contender in next
year's presidential election.
There's good news and bad in this drama. Russia's young political
institutions once again have shown their resilience. A political crisis has
been managed within constitutional rules. The country remains on track
toward parliamentary elections later this year and a first-ever orderly
transition of executive authority next summer.
On the other hand, it would seem unreasonable to hope that this latest
change of government will produce much improvement in Russia's dire
circumstances. Mr. Stepashin, who has spent most of his career in the
national police ministry, may be marginally more pro-reform than his
predecessor; he is certainly of a younger generation than Mr. Primakov. But
he will operate under constraints so severe that his own convictions are
almost irrelevant. The parliament remains opposed to the kind of deep
reforms needed to reverse Russia's economic decline and combat the culture
of corruption, reforms such as land privatization and new tax laws. Even if
Mr. Stepashin could promulgate such measures, he would be unlikely to try,
since they would need time to take effect; between now and the election,
they would likely cause more pain than benefit and thus be seen as
And then there's the uncertain backing of his patron, Mr. Yeltsin. The
Russian president consistently has proven himself adept in crisis, but
incompetent at and uninterested in governing between emergencies. Given his
unsteady health, there's no reason to expect different this time, and so
scant expectation for Russia to escape its downward drift between now and
the election. Just last Friday, in fact, with one more miraculous escape to
his credit, and one more political scalp on his belt, Mr. Yeltsin flew out
of Moscow. Destination: Sochi, a beach resort on the Black Sea.
Date: Mon, 24 May 1999
From: Nina Khrushcheva <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The Kosovo Crisis and Russia's Interests
Would you please be so kind to include the EastWest Institute paper in your
summary list. We hope it might be interesting to those who follow the Russian
affairs. Thank you.
Nina L. Khrushcheva
Director of Communiactions and Special Projects
700 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10003
Tel. 212-824-4104; Fax: 212-824-4149
The Kosovo Crisis and Russia’s Interests
A seminar organized by the EastWest Institute (EWI) and the
Institute for World Economy and International Politics (IMEMO)
Moscow, May 17, 1999
Speakers and Participants: Irina Kobrinskaya, Director of Moscow Centre,
Vladimir Baranovsky, Deputy Director, IMEMO, RAS
Dmitri Danilov, Head of Section, Institute of Europe, RAS
Arkadi Moshes, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Europe, RAS
Pavel Kandel, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Europe, RAS
Sergei Romanenko, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Balkan and Slavic
Dag Hartelius, Vice President for European Security, EastWest Instiute
Anatoly Adamishin, Nadezhda Arbatova, Yuri Davydov, Konstantin Eggert, Elina
Kirichenko, Alexander Konovalov, Vladimir Lebedev, Anya Schmemann, Alla
Andrei Zagorski. Also in attendance were researchers from IMEMO and
representatives of the embassies of the United Kingdom, Norway, Poland, and
? The Kosovo crisis and NATO’s military campaign have demonstrated Russia’s
weakness. By initially being too supportive of Milosevic and not exerting
pressure on him, Moscow’s ability to play a role in managing the conflict
reduced. Still, Russian participation in the search for a resolution is both
possible and necessary, as is Russian long-term presence in Southeastern
? Despite the initial harsh reaction in Russia to NATO’s military campaign and
frustration about Russian objections being ignored, recent opinion polls
that the effects on the public have been modest. A clear majority of Russians
still favor continued cooperation with the West — the US as well as Europe.
? Views among Russia’s political elite are somewhat more split. Some argue
future cooperation with NATO will not be possible. Others say that cutting
to the West would only further reduce Russia’s influence on international
decisions. There does however, seem to be broad agreement that Russia
will shift its foreign policy focus away from the US and more towards the EU
(Germany in particular). Although the picture is still far from clear, there
seems to be little support for the view that the Kosovo crisis will strengthen
nationalist policies in Russia during the election campaign.
? Against this background, it is clear that there is an emerging debate in
about how the country can find niches that better reflect its actual
real needs while at the same time assuring a central role for Moscow in
international politics and crisis management. Such niches could lead to a
the development of new UN norms for international management of ethnic
This could also help to strengthen the UN, which together with the OSCE will
to be reinforced to counter the NATO-centrism that is presently emerging. The
potential of high-level G8 coordination as a forum for foreign policy
coordination is regarded as interesting and could be further explored.
The dicussion was concentrated around three major issues:
I. Yugoslavia and Russian Policies
Pavel Kandel (Institute of Europe) stated that the international situation
to the Yugoslav crisis is now a vicious circle consisting of the humanitarian
crisis in Kosovo, NATO military actions, and the domestic political
Russia. His assesment is that the NATO campaign has led to the following
domestic effects in Russia:
? A shift in favor of nationalism and of revanchist arguments in Russia;
? Increased and broader support for the communists in the election campaign;
? A sense that there are no alternatives to a very dominant US;
? A weakened position for Russia’s democratic and cooperative forces.
Sergei Romanenko (Institute of Balkan and Slavic Studies) underlined that the
crisis was originally a domestic Yugoslav affair and a crisis for
general. He suggested four different scenarios concerning future relations
between Moscow and Belgrad:
? Nationalistic governments in both Russia and FRY; this would develop
ambitions regarding the Balkans on both sides and would likely lead to
that were worse than those that existed after 1948;
? A nationalist government in FRY and a democratic one in Russia; this would
cause Russia to cooperate more with the US and the West;
? A nationalist government in Moscow and a democratic one in Belgrade; this
push the latter towards more cooperation with the West;
? Democratic governments in both countries; this would obviously cause both
and Russia to develop closer relations with the West.
Romanenko stated that Russian mediation in the Yugoslav crisis is important
for the resolution of the conflict and for Russian-Western relations at
also concluded that Russia needs to develop a much broader domestic
foreign policy matters in order to make foreign policy less a hostage of
political domestic considerations in election campaigns.
II. Consequences for Russia in International Security
Dmitri Danilov (Institute of Europe) asserted that NATO’s air campaign was not
only a major mistake but that it would also lead to a change of the
such, where independent peace-enforcement operations could become a key
and could lead to a weakening of the UN. This change — as partly outlined in
NATO’s recently-adopted new Strategic Concept — would in turn further weaken
European balance-of-power arrangements and reinforce the division of Europe
two camps. He also noted that NATO seems to be developing into an expansionist
organization in the Western part of Europe. He pointed out that a weaker UN
OSCE also means a weaker Russia. While according to Danilov, the US
its position and seems determined to dominate Europe for the foreseeable
He also added that, intentionally by Washington, NATO actions have weakened
common European currency, the euro.
Arkadi Moshes (Institute of Europe) agreed that the crisis has indeed weakened
Russia, but he noted that for political, economic, and other reasons Moscow
not able to act any tougher. It is also notable that despite the public
demonstrations in Russia at the beginning of the air campaign, recent polls
that anti-American sentiments in Russia have not grown. (A survey in January
showed that 22% were negative about closer cooperation with the US. In April
figure showed only modest growth, to 26%). To effectively make clear its
objections to NATO’s actions, Russia should have focused more on
and on moral protests. Even though it was unlikely that Moscow could have
NATO’s course, Russia could have turned to the UN General Assembly and/or
one of the OSCE mechanisms to question the legality and morality of NATO
This would have firmly underpinned Russia’s declared willingness to stand
international law. By supporting Milosevic and not adequately addressing the
ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Russia further damaged its credibility and
Vladimir Baranovsky (IMEMO) focused on Russia’s interests in a wider
than just the Balkans by making the following points:
? There is no significant Slavic or Orthodox solidarity with Serbia in
initially-expressed public support for the Serbs had rather a “moral”
based on compassion and sympathy with the “underdog” in the Serbia vs. NATO
conflict. Many Russians have also asked themselves why the West has not taken
action in favor of the Serbs in Krajina (Croatia) or on behalf of the Kurds.
? Russia does have small but nevertheless not unimportant economic
Southeastern Europe, mainly stemming from oil and gas exports. However,
or defying the NATO-imposed oil embargo would probably cause related
pipelines to be bombed.
? Russia does have historical links to Yugoslavia, but the price of staying
close to Milosevic is very high. Russian suggestions about an alliance between
Russia, Yugoslavia, and Belarus can only be described as “hysterical.”
? Russia has not effectively or adequately expressed its true interests and
stake in the Balkans; this is both necessary and possible.
Overall, Baranovsky said, Russia has reacted in a generally alarmist and
exaggerated way to the air campaign, in particular with regard to concerns
the post-Soviet space. In regard to the European security architecture, the
Yugoslav conflict has supported Russian fears about NATO-centrism in
what extent Moscow will be able to (re-)build relations with the Alliance
open question. One of the likely consequences is that Russia will shift its
focus more toward Western Europe (EU) and less toward the US and NATO.
III. Finding Niches for Russia in the World — the Debate
In discussion, it was underlined that Russia has very few policy options
its many weaknesses. Most speakers said that Moscow had exerted too little
pressure on Milosevic and that the perceived support for Belgrade had
international liability for Russia. The need for a reorientation from
with the US to intensified cooperation with Europe/ EU (and, suggested some,
Germany in particular) was stressed by many speakers. It was suggested by many
that breaking relations with NATO was hardly in Russia’s interests as this
only reduce Moscow’s influence in Europe.
Some participants argued that Moscow should drop its Super Power ambitions
Soviet-style way of acting on the world stage. Nevertheless, others pointed
Russia could find a niche as a supporter of global equality and fairness. This
policy would better reflect Russian social values, where strongly-held
equality and widespread sympathy with the weak have played a stronger role
Western societies (at least according to Russian perceptions). As for
international law (where the UN Charter poorly reflects today’s situation and
needs) Russia could even take the initiative to develop new norms for managing
ethnic conflicts. Russia must also seek its niche in the economic field and
Russian government should use its overseas representations much more
aggressively for promotion of trade and integration.
Finally, the thesis about an American conspiracy against the EU (to weaken the
European economies and the euro) as the alleged rationale behind the military
campaign — which had been alluded to by some participants — was rejected. Most
agreed that the US has valid interests in Europe and benefits from strong
economies and effective EU policies, both for its own industry and for
sharing the burden of managing international financial crises.
The Russia Journal
May 24-30, 1999
Pinochet Option no Cure for Russia's Ills
Speaking at the Cabinet meeting last Tuesday just before the Duma was to
vote on his nomination for the post of prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, a
man who rarely speaks in public, cracked his first joke. "Those who raised
their hands in support of Stepashin," he said with a grin, "may now lower
them and step away from the wall."
Stepashin told lawmakers he was not about to create a state in the mould of
former Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. Attempting to allay
fears he was about to turn Russia into a military dictatorship, the prime
minister-elect told lawmakers with a hint of irony: "My name is Stepashin."
True, a Pinochet he may not be, but Stepashin's regime may turn into
something akin to a quasi-police state, omnipresent and omnipotent.
It is a measure of the failure of Russia's democrats that when choosing his
latest "yes-man," President Boris Yeltsin opted for a hawkish law-and-order
type with experience in the Interior, Justice and Security Ministries. The
president chose an enforcer to tackle a job that under present
circumstances requires an economist. It is an unwelcome irony that it took
a democratically elected president to appoint Stepashin, the first man in
uniform to run the country since Stalin.
Stepashin's background in law-enforcement and the special services gives
him the aura of being well informed and well connected. An air of mystery
surrounds the new prime minister. This unfortunately counts for a lot in
Russia, where seven decades of totalitarian rule have left people with an
unhealthy respect for the secret services-and ex-military or ex-police
strongmen in particular.
Indeed, present-day Russia, even by dismal Soviet standards, remains one of
the most over-policed, over-regulated countries in the world. The obsession
of Russian authorities with identity papers, registration and residency
permits, both for their own citizens and for foreigners, would-if it did
not serve the practical purpose of creating work for armies of bureaucrats,
corrupt and otherwise-border on the paranoid. In fielding hordes of armed
police in the streets, the government sends a message that it does not
trust the people; that, as has always been the attitude of Russian rulers,
the state knows best.
For although there may be less street crime in Moscow than New York or
Washington, organized crime and corruption reign supreme across the
country. The majority of public servants live on what they can squeeze from
new entrepreneurs or siphon from the state, and this bureaucrat-criminal
nexus flourishes unimpeded because of-rather than despite-the numerical
strength of police on the ground.
Still, in the course of reforms, Russia has unquestionably changed. Both
the president and parliament are elected and there is freedom of assembly
and a free-ish press. But the habit of Russian leaders responding to
difficult circumstances with heavy-handed measures seems ingrained in the
political establishment. The country's need for genuine democracy is still
painfully obvious. This environment is set to continue in the near future.
If it is to end, it will require Russia's more enthusiastic democratic
constituents to wrest control from the police state advocates, and prove
that Russia can be effectively governed while still maintaining respect for
its citizens' rights.
Prime Minister Stepashin must resist his natural inclinations and trust the
people rather than resort to the easy option of coercion.
The Guardian (UK)
May 25, 1999
[for personal use only]
Serb experts get the cold shoulder
Their knowledge of Serbia is vast, yet the expertise of academics is ignored,
says Peter Kingston
"If I had been advising the prime minister on March 23..." Celia Hawkesworth,
senior lecturer in Serbian and Croatian studies at London university's School
of Slavonic and East European Studies, pauses. The fact is that she and her
colleagues have not been asked to advise Tony Blair, or any of the other
panjandrums running the British end of the Balkan campaign.
So accustomed have she and her colleagues become to the notion that their
expertise on the peoples, their histories, languages, politics and cultures
is not required by the decision-makers that she clearly feels embarrassment
at having started the sentence.
Had the premier called her, she would have given the same advice she thinks
he would have got from any Balkan academic, viz that the bombing wouldn't
work. "I would have said that it would homogenise the country and undermine
all those people who have been opposed to Slobodan Milosevic in increasingly
large numbers. I would have told him some thing to understand the mechanism
that Milosevic has been using - of the symbolic significance of Kosovo in
Serbian history and culture which Milosevic has exploited."
The difference between this and previous conflicts is the volume of email
communication between the 30-40 academics here specialising in various
aspects of the Balkans and their contacts in Serbia. No doubt the same is
true for academics in other countries.
"I can get 10 emails a day from Serbia," says Hawkesworth.The recurrent
messages from her contacts, academics, non-government organisations, people
who had courageously spoken out against the regime in power and had said they
were making ground, are that their task has been put back years.
"Their cry of woe is that they've invested an enormous effort in trying to
function normally and oppose him and they feel betrayed by countries that
have been their models - western democracies. It's no longer possible to
appeal on behalf of democracy because this is where it leads - to being a
Academics feel frustrated to be holding all these communications from inside
Serbia without having an official outlet for them, she says. Some of the
emails are sent straight to government with rows of academics' signatures
saying: read the above. I haven't initiated any. I've just signed them."
Between the Balkans flaring up in 1991 and the Deyton Accord, a substantial
number of young people came to Britain to finish their interrupted studies in
a range of subjects or to avoid conscription. From 1992 the bulk came from
Bosnia, she says.
Among these, a few have come to the School of Slavonic Studies to study their
own culture because they want to understand what has been going on there, she
says. "It's very difficult when you are responsible for an area which is in a
state of conflict. As an academic one has to remain impartial. At the same
time, as a human being, one has views. But since the conflict started in 1991
we've had to be evenhanded, particularly when we've been getting students
from different parts of the region with different experiences."
The requirement on academics to be dispassionate, to give "on the one hand,
on the other hand" answers, she acknowledges, would irritate government
Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, her colleague, concurs. She is a German
academic whose field is Albanian studies, specifically as a social
anthropologist interested in history and political science. She has not
entirely had to stand on the sidelines. She knows that a website she set up
with details of Albanian scholars has been accessed by a range of
organisations, from the World Bank to the Foreign Office.
"But we are not brought directly into the political decision-making process
because political decision-makers always need clear strategies and we do the
opposite. We show how complicated realities are and possibly we might get too
Academics look at micro- phenomena, she says. "We try to unpeel reality like
an onion in all its complexities. Decision-makers have to take into account
more global issues, for example how is Russia going to react."
If an invitation to play a role is extended, academics can begin to feel
uncomfortable, she says. She was called a couple of days ago by a
high-ranking military officer in Brussels who wanted names of influential
families in Kosovo to talk to to ensure the development of a civil society in
Kosovo after the war.
He was assuming a quasi tribal structure which, although it might be applied
to some rural parts, does not fit urban areas where people want other models,
"As a cultural and social anthropologist, I am saying: we should think
carefully before we endorse structures which are really means of local power
struggles and inclusion and exclusion."
So, how did she resolve her dilemma? "I said I was an Albanian specialist and
gave him the name of a Kosovan specialist."