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Johnson's Russia List
20 June 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Clinton doubtful of Soviet-era debt forgiveness.
2. Bloomberg: Clinton Backs Russia Getting More Time to Pay Soviet-Era Debt.
3. Reuters: U.S., Russia reaffirm need to reduce arms.
4. Reuters: West and Russia make up after Kosovo fight.
5. Washington Post: Marshall Goldman, POWER PLAYS. Russia's Mixed-Up Moves
Reveal Its Dangerous Divide.
6. Marcus Warren: re milanovic #3350 (media bias).
7. Andrei Liakhov: re US crime fighting.
8. Kamaljit Sood: US Support to "De Criminalise" Russian Politics.
9. New York Times book review: An Arsenal of Germs. A former Soviet
scientist reveals a well-kept secret from the cold war. Philp Taubman reviews
BIOHAZARD by Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman.
10. Washington Post: Jim Hoagland, Loosely, a Deal With Russia.
11. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, The awful truth is emerging in
Clinton doubtful of Soviet-era debt forgiveness
COLOGNE, Germany, June 20 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton told
Russian President Boris Yeltsin he
would discuss forgiving some of Russia's Soviet-era debt with Moscow's
other creditors, but was doubtful this would be possible, the White House
said on Sunday.
"The president indicated that he would discuss with his colleagues whether
debt forgiveness would be possible, but he was doubtful that this would be
achievable," U.S. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told reporters
after Clinton and Yeltsin held their first meeting in 10 months.
Berger, noting that the United States held relatively little of Russia's
Soviet-era debt, said any such debt forgiveness was more a concern for
Russia's other creditors.
Berger told reporters that Clinton was more sanguine about the prospects of
rescheduling some of Russia's Soviet-era debt through the Paris Club once
Russia had reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Aside from the issue of debt, Clinton told Yeltsin that the West wanted to
help Russia but that this ultimately depended on Moscow's coming to terms
with the IMF.
"The president indicated that there was a strong willingness on the part of
the West to be helpful economically but that it depended on Russia reaching
a final agreement with the IMF, which the president said would be a
powerful signal to the international community that Russia...continued to
be committed to reform," Berger said.
Clinton Backs Russia Getting More Time to Pay Soviet-Era Debt
Cologne, Germany, June 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Bill
Clinton told Russian President Boris Yeltsin the U.S. will
support a move by Russia to defer repayment of some of its Soviet-
era debt if Moscow completes economic reforms sought by the
International Monetary Fund.
Clinton also said he might advocate writing off some of
Russia's debt, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told
reporters after the two leaders met at the Group of Eight summit.
Such a plan has been opposed by German Chancellor Gerhard
Schroeder and other G-8 leaders and Berger said it's unlikely
they will agree.
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin spent much of Friday
and Saturday lobbying for support on restructuring $16 billion in
Soviet-era sovereign and private debt due this year and next.
Russia owes roughly $140 billion in foreign debt, about half of
it racked up by the Soviet Union before 1991.
He got what he was looking for in the final communique
issued at the conclusion of the summit of leaders from the U.S.,
Japan, Germany, France, the U.K., Italy, Canada and Russia.
``Once the IMF agreement is in place, we encourage the Paris
Club to act expeditiously to negotiate a debt rescheduling
agreement with Russia,'' it said. The Paris Club refers to
holders of Russia's Soviet-era sovereign debt.
New York Meeting
Russian Finance minister Mikhail Kasyanov said he expects to
reach an agreement with the Paris Club by August or September on
the restructuring of Soviet-era debt due this year and next. U.S.
officials estimated this amount as $5.5 billion.
Kasyanov also said he's optimistic that the London Club of
private lenders won't declare Russia in default when the latest
grace period on repayment of debt expires on Wednesday. He said
would be in New York probably this week to meet with the lenders.
The Russian government asked the London Club of creditor
banks this month to delay for six months the $850 million
interest payment due on June 2. The government also missed a $360
million cash payment in December on this debt.
A group of U.S. institutional investors, led by New-York
based hedge fund Gramercy Advisors LLC, have said they may
challenge any agreement to delay payments.
Kasyanov also said Russia will present a plan to investors
for restructuring its dollar-denominated Ministry of Finance
Series 3 bonds in the first week of July, after it defaulted on
$1.3 billion in principal payments due May 14.
Germany will also raise the possibility of a wider debt
agreement after Russia elects a successor to Yeltsin in June next
year. ``We want to make sure that we find a long-term solution,''
said Wilfried Engelke, a senior German finance ministry official.
Before that can happen, Russia must improve its tax
collections and make other economic changes. While the IMF
pledged a $4.5 billion loan to Russia in April, the funds won't
leave IMF headquarters in Washington because it will be used to
roll over existing debt.
In addition, the IMF said it won't release the money until
the parliament approves measures to boost revenue and restructure
problem banks. Most of the measures were passed in the first of
the three required votes by the Duma, the lower house of
Prospects for a quick IMF payout dimmed last week, however,
as the Duma rejected a proposed gasoline tax, one of the IMF
requirements. The tax would have brought the government $165
million in new revenue. Russia could receive the first IMF loan
payments in July if the Duma approves enough revenue-raising
measures, Stepashin said.
Russia won't seek debt forgiveness, Finance Minister Mikhail
Stepashin told G-8 leaders on Saturday the Russian economy
has proved resilient. The ruble's 75 percent drop since August
prompted a rise in demand for domestic products as imports became
too expensive for many Russians. Industrial production rose 1.5
percent in April from the same month last year, after an annual
gain of 1.4 percent in March.
Russian consumer prices rose in May at their slowest pace
since the ruble began tumbling last August. The consumer price
index rose just 2.2 percent in May from April -- one-fifteenth
the rate in September, just after Russia gave up its defense of
the ruble, and down from April's 3 percent increase.
U.S., Russia reaffirm need to reduce arms
COLOGNE, Germany, June 20 (Reuters) - The United States and Russia
reaffirmed on Sunday their willingness to conduct new negotiations on
reducing the level of each side's nuclear warheads and other arms control
A joint U.S.-Russian statement issued after U.S. President Bill Clinton and
Russian President Boris Yeltsin met said: ``The two governments will strive
to accomplish the important task for achieving results in these
negotiations as early as possible.''
The two governments would hold discussions on possible changes in the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and a START III nuclear reduction treaty this
summer, the statement said.
The United States would like to change the ABM treaty to allow for
development of a missile defence system that would be banned the way the
treaty reads now. Russia would like to start START III talks without
putting START II in effect because it cannot afford the buildup that the
treaty would require.
The agreement was evidence of a thaw in East-West relations, which were
chilled by NATO's 11-week-long bombardment of Yugoslavia.
``The two governments express their confidence that implementation of this
joint statement will be a new significant step to enhance strategic
stability and the security of both nations,'' the statement said.
West and Russia make up after Kosovo fight
By Robert Mahoney
COLOGNE, Germany, June 20 (Reuters) - The West and Russia buried the
hatchet at a big power economic summit on Sunday after their fight over
NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia.
``We need to make up after our fight. That is the main thing,'' said
Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
A smiling Yeltsin met U.S. President Bill Clinton for one hour, their first
one-to-one encounter in 10 months.
Yelstin flew to Cologne on Sunday to join Group of Eight leaders for the
final session of their annual economic summit.
The leaders discussed stabilising world financial markets and Third World
debt relief during the three-day meeting but repairing relations with
Moscow was top of the agenda.
Proof of a thaw in relations came with the announcement that Washington and
Moscow would issue a statement about stopping the spread of missile
``There will be a very important document on disarmament,'' Yeltsin's
spokesman said. He gave no details but made clear the document referred to
the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
A relaxed Yeltsin told Clinton that the two leaders should restart regular
meetings between their deputies as soon as possible.
``We want to revive the Gore-Stepashin commission,'' Yeltsin said at the
start of the meeting. ``Let them get together as fast as they can and get
down to business.''
``Yes, Yes,'' Clinton replied.
Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who represented Russia during the first
two days of the Cologne summit, said he would fly to Washington in early
August to meet U.S. Vice-President Al Gore.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said NATO had built ``a bridge of
understanding'' with Russia at the summit, which also brought together
Canada, Japan, France, Italy and Germany.
``There was a very, very good feeling around the table about him and about
the future,'' Blair said of Yeltsin. ``We know we have been through
difficulties...but there is a genuine coming together now.''
Yeltsin, who has been in poor health, looked relaxed as he mingled with the
``He appeared physically strong.. he can't run a marathon but he is in good
form,'' said Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
The West brought Russia into the search for a peace settlement with
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who agreed to NATO terms for an end
to the fighting in Kosovo 10 days ago.
The G8 leaders called in their final statement on both Serbs and ethnic
Albanians in Kosovo to respect the ceasefire.
They said all parties to the conflict must comply with U.N. and other
agreements on Serb withdrawal and the demilitarisation of Kosovo Liberation
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, current president of the G8, said the
major economic powers would hold a summit in the Balkans to discuss
rebuilding the region.
He ruled out reconstruction aid for Serbia as long as Milosevic, indicted
as a war criminal for his treament of Kosvo's ethnic Albanians, remained in
``Reconstruction aid, re-establishment of economic structures and
reincorporation into Europe need democratisation and that is not possible
with Milosevic,'' Schroeder told a news conference.
The G8 statement, however, did not refer specifically to Milosevic.
Yeltsin, accompanied by his foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, met Schroeder
and won backing for Russia to be treated as an equal partner, not the poor
man alongside the Group of Seven rich industrial democracies.
``It's not right to call it the G7. The group is called the G8 and Russia
is a confident member of this group,'' Schroeder said.
Russia, which needs Western backing to win vital credits from the
International Monetary Fund and to reschedule its huge foreign debt, has
already made steps to mend relations with the West.
Schroeder said he was confident a solution would be found to the problem of
Russia's Soviet-era debt but Germany could not afford simply to forgive its
Russia's debt payment problems have grown since it sank into economic
crisis last August. Its total foreign debt bill is $140 billion and it
faces foreign debt payments of about $17.5 billion this year alone.
The G7 countries did, however, agree a plan to relieve about $70 billion of
debt which is dragging down some of the world's poorest countries.
20 June 1999
[for personal use only]
Russia's Mixed-Up Moves Reveal Its Dangerous Divide . . .
By Marshall I. Goldman (email@example.com)
Marshall Goldman is a professor at Wellesley College and associate director
of the Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University.
Outsiders can be forgiven their perplexity at the latest series of confusing
events in Russia. Not only is it hard for us in the West to determine who is
really in charge there, we cannot tell for certain what the men jockeying for
power seek to accomplish. Yet the Russians appear not to be tortured by all
this; remember, they are masters of chess as well as of the intrigue, bluff
and deception (pokazukha they call it) that go with it. In fact I can report
from a two-week visit that for many of my Russian friends what has been going
on is almost normalno.
Take the standoff by the 185 soldiers at the Pristina airport in Kosovo.
Russians of all persuasions are thrilled that their military officers have
managed to create such a fuss with so few chessmen on the board. The endgame
may not be clear, but Russian troops have certainly demonstrated to NATO and
the West that Moscow cannot be taken for granted. The army's reluctance to
accept authority within a NATO peacekeeping structure especially pleases the
nationalists and Slavophiles, who are furious at what they see as NATO (read
U.S.) duplicity and callousness.
As is their practice, many Russians--above all the Slavophiles--view
everything bad that has happened these last few years as the result of a
Western-led conspiracy. As they see it, the West could not win the Cold War,
but it managed to convince Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin to abandon
Russian isolation and central planning and adopt a set of political and
economic reforms. The Russians ended up crippling their economy (why was it
that in 1985, in the days of the Soviet Union, they were able to produce
260,000 tractors, but only 12,000 in 1997?) and destroying their empire
(Russia today has half the population the Soviet Union did before 1991 and
about two-thirds the territory it had under the last czar).
The West muscled Gorbachev into returning East Germany to West Germany at
what most Russians regard as a bargain price. Gorbachev declined to send in
troops, as some wanted, to hold the East European countries in the Warsaw
Pact. Instead, provided with many peaceful assurances from the West,
Gorbachev allowed the Warsaw Pact to die a peaceful death. In exchange he got
promises that the West would not incorporate the East European countries,
especially East Germany, into NATO and that NATO would be only a defensive
alliance that posed no threat to Russia.
But NATO pushed its way ever closer to Russia's borders, and Russian
frustration mounted. This was something of a shock to those who insisted that
NATO's eastward expansion would cause no undue upset. The bombing of
Yugoslavia released that pent-up anger--and, for the first time in Russia,
there is now genuine widespread anti-American sentiment. This is reflected
not only in the paint and ink splattered on the wall of the U.S. embassy
compound but also in the bitter "Death to Yankees, Hitler equals Clinton"
graffiti throughout the country.
Even the modern-day Westernizers--who seek closer integration with the United
States and its European partners--feel badly used. One of my old friends
confessed to me that he can no longer hold the United States out as a model
for his son or his students. He used to wear his Harvard Business School tie
proudly, but now refuses to have it on in front of his Russian friends.
That does not mean that Westernizers such as he aren't concerned by what
appears to be the growing assertiveness of the Russian General Staff. While
even the Westernizers were happy to see Russian troops surprise everyone with
their race to the Pristina Airport, it was embarrassing for them when Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov called in a CNN reporter to announce that the airport
operation had been a big mistake and that the troops would withdraw the next
day. How awkward it was then when he was forced to correct himself a few
hours later and announce that the troops were staying after all! Nor were
those partial to the West reassured by the Duma's abuse of Viktor
Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin's special envoy in the Kosovo conflict.
Whatever they may have thought of Chernomyrdin when he was prime minister
(many did not think much), the Westernizers applauded his role as a mediator
with Slobodan Milosevic, the Serb leader. Chernomyrdin demonstrated the key
role Russia could play in European affairs. Without his intervention, the
NATO bombing would not have ended as soon as it did. As a matter of fact,
there seemed to be no end in sight until he became involved.
But it is painful for the Westernizers to watch as Chernomyrdin is verbally
crucified by the nationalists and communists who dominate the Duma. Instead
of promoting him for the Nobel Peace Prize, the Slavophiles charge him with
not only selling out Russia's interests but those of the Serbs as well. So
fierce is the antagonism toward Chernomyrdin--including from some of the
generals who were on his negotiating team--that he clearly has jeopardized
his efforts to run for president next June.
It is hard for most of us in the West to appreciate why the Russians are so
dedicated to the Serbs. We forget how long-standing are those protective
feelings and the sense of Slavic identity. The Russians pride themselves for
having supported the Orthodox Christian Serbs in their effort to gain freedom
from the Ottoman Empire. (This sentiment was tellingly evoked in "Anna
Karenina"; after she throws herself under the train near the end of Tolstoy's
novel, her lover Vronsky leaves Russia to fight against the Turks in Serbia.)
So when I expressed my disapproval of the Serbs to a Russian friend, she
defended them fiercely and noted with anger, "You can't understand, it is a
genetic problem. You are not a Slav."
As if the anger over the bombing of Serbia and the marginalization of
Russia's diplomatic and military role were not enough, there is also deep
resentment over what my friends see as the way the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) has manhandled their country. They resent being told what laws to
pass, what tax rates to apply and when. Never mind that the proceeds of the
IMF's $4.8-billion loan of July 1998 have all but disappeared. In their eyes,
Russia is being treated as a third-rate country, something that never would
have happened in the days of the Soviet Union.
Unpleasant as their anger may be, what bothers some of us in the West even
more is the clear evidence that no one seems to be in control of the Russian
government. By allowing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the general staff
to pursue contradictory policies, Yeltsin demonstrates again that his command
While our attention in the United States has tended to focus on the split in
Russia's policy toward Yugoslavia, that kind of division is not unique to
Russia's foreign affairs. The domestic scene is affected by the same sort of
dichotomies. Shortly after Yeltsin announced that he had fired Yevgeny
Primakov as prime minister, he called the speaker of the Duma to nominate
Nikolai Aksyonenko as Primakov's replacement. An hour or so later, Yeltsin
called again to say he really meant to nominate Sergei Stepashin. Stepashin,
in turn, announced his nomination of Mikhail Zadornov as finance minister
only to find Mikhail Kasyanov seated in the finance minister's place the
What seems to count in both domestic and international issues is who
professes to act in Yeltsin's name or, as the Russians now say, on behalf of
the "family." This term encompasses Yeltsin and his wife, their daughter and
two or three staff members. Influence over the family is at the center of a
monumental struggle between one of Moscow's best-known oligarchs, Boris
Berezovsky, and a relatively unknown rival, Roman Abramovich. In an
atmosphere that evokes the machinations of Rasputin in the days of Czar
Nicholas II, Berezovsky had been targeted for arrest by Prime Minister
Primakov, but in the end Berezovsky's access to the "family," especially
Yeltsin's daughter, checkmated the rule of law and it was Primakov, not
Berezovsky, who ended up out of power.
On a larger scale, others struggle as they have since the days of the czars
over whether Russia should focus inward or involve itself more in a
cooperative way with the West. (Maybe that explains why Russia's national
symbol is the two-headed eagle, one head looking east and the other west.)
Efforts by the United States to influence the outcome by supporting the
Westernizers over the Slavophiles is as likely as not to be
counterproductive. But by all means we should avoid needless irritation of
Russian sensibilities and seek where possible to integrate Russia with the
West both economically and politically. Yugoslavia is a difficult case, but
it would be a good place to start.
From: "Marcus Warren" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: re milanovic #3350
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999
Spotting individual cases of "bias" in the media is child's play. Branko
Milanovic raises some interesting points but demonstrates one more time
the perils of extrapolating a sinister trend from individual examples. i
will be brief: 1. opposition to nato bombing a sovereign state without UN
appoval is not "the key point" for russia and the russians. it is
certainly one of a number of such points, but not "the key".
To prove this, consider the hypothesis that nato were to bomb not
yugoslavia, but any one of the following: albania, macedonia, croatia,
bosnia, romania or bulgaria. none are members of nato, in some the
majorioty religion is orthdox christianity and all are in the balkans,
setting for those vital strategic interests russia informs us about the
whole time. too incredible to take seriously? but think laterally and
imagine the possible reaction here in russia. i think we all know the
Orthodox ties dating back to the middle ages, the 1870s, the two world
wars this century, these are also "key" explanations for the myth of a
Russian-Serbian special relationship, as seen in the last few weeks. at
another level, i am sure that the fact that milosevic is the last leader
in europe (unless you count lukashenko) who has no truck with the western
values which are supposed to have won the Cold War also explains a lot of
the sympathy russians feel for yugoslavia today.
The solzhenitsyn comments may not have been reported in the us, but they
were widely quoted in british and other european newspapers. sorry, no
As for assurances that nato would not expand, if they were given, was that
not a betrayal of the aspirations of former warsaw pact countries to
integrate fully into the west? 2. ignorance. clinton may be a fool but he
is in fine company. i appreciate that this is beyond the scope of the
original posting, but the idiocy of the russian media, foreign policy
"establishment" and man on the street when it comes to the balkans is
staggering. the day after the bombing started one of the senior agrarians
(not lapshin or kharitonov) suggested that both the two world wars had
started in Serbia.
By way of postscript, and also on the subject of media and bias, am i
alone in being disappointed at the way our russian colleagues have coped
with the challenge of the last week in kosovo? there appears to be just
one media outlet with a presence out there, ntv. rail against western
media and their bias, if you like, but at least the west has the resources
and the staff to report on events of this scale (and,again, what about
those strategic interests of russia's?) on the ground. marcus warren
moscow correspondent daily telegraph
From: "Andrei Liakhov" <email@example.com>
Subject: re US crime fighting
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999
I think I can at least give an example as an answer to David's question:
When I was in Moscow very recently I had a long "Moscow kitchen"
conversation with a very old friend of mine with whom we worked on a couple
of investigations together when we both were young CID officers in early
This friend has lots of stars on his epolets nowadays and is at least a very
well informed about progress of various investigations/checks/probes into
inter alia IMF money, Aeroflot case, Mabetex case and a couple of although
less publicised but equally important as to their consequences if they ever
come to court.
According to my friend when it comes to tracing money (which is the
principal source of evidence for prosecution) the only real co-operation
comes from Swiss attorney General Mrs.Carla Ponti and only on everything
which is connected to obviously criminal activities. Mrs Ponti is not very
popular in her country for doing this (she is the only public person who has
bodyguards) and it is widely accepted that the Swiss are only doing this
because the Russian criminal world has made Switzerland their second home
and the Swiss do not like it.
Any attempts to get any information from FBI, the Federal Reserve, the IRS
and similar organisations in some other countries (Sweden for example) have
beared practically no results so far. The usual response is that the
requests made are too general, lack information which is required to process
the request or are not covered by the bi-lateral cooperation agreements. The
only cases where cooperation with the FBI is to an extent productive is drug
trafficking, racketeering (particularily in "Little Odessa") and other
traditional mob activities. The Russian law enforcement officers feel very
much that they are being used by the FBI to fight crime in the States. When
it comes to fighting crime in Russia (particularily with political
flavor....) the Americans visibly lack any interest.
From: "Kamaljit Sood" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: US Support to "De Criminalise" Russian Politics
Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999
Russia and American Self Interest
With the Kossovo situation more or less stabilised, attention is more
likely to turn to the internal developments in Russia, with the looming
elections ahead. There is a lot of intrigue going on in the internal
politics of the country. The US is an indirect player, and it has a role
to play on the "macro political" scene. This role the US must play with
the medium to longer term interest at heart.
American Self Interest must involve what is so dear to all americans: 1.
Liberty 2. Free enterprise 3. Clean democracy and pluralism Even in the
USA the above ideals are not practised in any utopian concept, but they do
provide a source of a satisfied population having enough creative energy
to develop intellectually and economically.
The US policy towards Russia can and should embody the same elements as it
is in Us's self interest. Note that these ideals are more or less
practised by US's G-7 partners. The strength of US's partners in G-7 is
also a source of strength for the US. The US dominates Latin America much
more than G-7, but its relationship and strength with G-7 is stronger and
more beneficial to it. If American policy were to gear itself in the same
vein towards Russia, America could benefit in the same manner as well.
The US policy towards Russia needs to go through an interim period. This
interim policy would necessarily involve influencing internal developments
in Russia, either directly or through international agencies such as IMF
and the World Bank. But the influence should be directed towards
establishing stronger democratic institutions in Russia. Stronger democracy
in Russia is a vital interests of the US. US should therefore take steps
in that direction. It is therefore very important that US should take
active steps in helping to stamp out criminalisation in echelons of power
in Russia. This criminalisation is being channeled throough amassing of
illegitimate wealth, aka money laudering, in the West.
The US can actively help Russia to bring to justice the money laundrers
and so help establish a more democratic Russia. A more democratice Russia
will be able to improve the living standards of its people and this will
directly benefit the business interests of the US. In this regard, the
"crusade" by David Johnson for "US support for criminal investigations" is
very important and Katherine Dolan observation:(DJL 3349#7)"A new policy
of "tough love", where we start dealing with the fact of widespread crime
and corruption is essential if the downward spiral of our relationship
with Russia is to end.
If we want "reform" to be anything other than a word to sneer it, our
actions must show that we are serious.To continue granting money without
conditions, and without strict accounting and follow-up of where it goes
is just stupid. We don't even do that at home." An active "anti
ciminalisation" approach is a vital self interest of the United States.
Kamaljit Sood WPC/Anthem Press P O Box 9779 London SW19 7QA Tel: 0171 731
8871 fax: 0171 731 7908
New York Times
June 20, 1999
[for personal use only]
An Arsenal of Germs
A former Soviet scientist reveals a well-kept secret from the cold war.
By PHILIP TAUBMAN
Philip Taubman is the assistant editorial page editor of The Times. He was
based in Moscow for the paper from 1985 to 1988.
The Chilling True Story of the Largest Covert Biological Weapons Program in
the World -- Told From the Inside by the Man Who Ran It.
By Ken Alibek with Stephen Handelman.
Illustrated. 319 pp. New York:
Random House. $24.95.
Tularemia is a highly infectious disease that produces headaches, nausea and
high fevers. It can be lethal if untreated. Tularemia is also hard to
extinguish, making it attractive to anyone trying to produce biological
That's just what Ken Alibek was doing for the Soviet Union in 1983 when he
found himself standing in a puddle of tularemia bacteria that had
accidentally spilled onto the floor of a secret weapons lab. There was enough
tularemia in the small, milky brown pool to infect everyone in the Soviet
Union. Within hours Alibek was too sick to move. Only megadoses of
tetracycline, hastily obtained from a friend, prevented the disease from
disabling if not killing him.
That is one of many harrowing moments that Alibek describes in this absorbing
account of the Soviet Union's demonic effort to make biological weapons. The
program was one of the best-kept Russian secrets of the cold war, and Alibek
was one of its central architects. He reports that at its high point in the
late 1980's, when Mikhail Gorbachev was the Soviet leader, the program
consumed close to $1 billion a year and employed more than 60,000 people at
dozens of clandestine sites. Needless to say, it was not an activity that
Gorbachev advertised as he tried to improve relations with the West.
Though the Russian effort is now believed to be largely abandoned, biological
weapons remain a threat, perhaps even a greater one today because they can be
made relatively easily and inexpensively by terrorist groups and leaders like
Alibek, born Kanatjan Alibekov, defected to the United States in 1992 and
changed his name. By then he had quit the weapons project in disgust, but for
nearly all his career as a Soviet scientist he excelled at the grim business
of cultivating biological agents and adapting them for use in missiles and
bombs. For many years he was deputy director of Biopreparat, an ostensibly
civilian agency that was actually involved in advanced research into
biological weapons. Alibek provided American officials with their first full
description of the Soviet effort when he defected.
In ''Biohazard'' he performs the same service for readers, with a strong
writing assist from Stephen Handelman, who was a Moscow correspondent for The
Toronto Star. The book works best as a richly descriptive report on the
Soviet program and Alibek's role in it. It is less successful as a portrait
of Alibek and his transition from germ warfare acolyte to apostate.
The story is sobering. With no limit to the resources it was prepared to
invest in unconventional weapons research, the Soviet Union developed an
extensive arsenal of deadly pathogens, including anthrax, smallpox, plague,
brucellosis and tularemia. Tons of these bacteria and viruses were churned
out at production centers, often in vaccine-resistant strains that could be
effectively dispersed in liquid, powder or aerosol form. Moscow even tried to
manipulate the AIDS virus so it could be used as a weapon. The disease's long
incubation period made it unsuitable.
For Alibek and his colleagues, the grotesque work was just another day at the
office. He recalls a meeting in 1988 at Soviet Army headquarters in Moscow,
where he was instructed to arm long-range missiles with deadly germs. ''I
made a few quick calculations on my note pad,'' he says. ''At least 400
kilograms of anthrax, prepared in dry form for use as an aerosol, would be
required for 10 warheads.'' Martha Stewart couldn't have put it more
The Kremlin went ahead with such work even though it had signed the 1972
Biological Weapons Convention, which banned the development, production and
stockpiling of biological agents for offensive military purposes. Just a year
after signing the accord, the Soviet Government secretly initiated an effort
to modernize its biological weapons and to invent new ones. The United
States, for its part, maintained a robust biological warfare program until
1969, when President Richard Nixon renounced the use of such weapons and
restricted research to defensive measures like immunization.
Alibek was drawn into the Soviet campaign in 1975, deflected from a
conventional career as a military physician by the allure of highly
classified research, the prospect of rapid advancement and the mistaken
belief that the Soviet Union had no choice but to keep pace with the United
States in germ warfare technology. He was a Kazakh native eager to prove
himself to his Russian superiors. With a knack for epidemiology and
laboratory research, he was soon building what he describes matter-of-factly
as ''the world's most efficient assembly line for the mass production of
Alibek has a fine eye for the cold-blooded customs of the Soviet state,
including coercion and deception. He never told his supervisors about his
frightening bout with tularemia, fearing it would cost his job. A few years
earlier, while a student at the Tomsk Medical Institute in Siberia, he had
surmised from medical records that Soviet forces had used the same disease as
a weapon against German troops outside Stalingrad in 1942. His professor, a
colonel, icily told Alibek, ''You have gone beyond your assignment,'' and
advised him never to speak of the matter again.
Though Alibek struggles to explain his enthusiasm for biological weapons
work, he seems reluctant to probe beyond surface emotions. He stops the
narrative periodically for moments of introspection like this: ''I still
shuddered occasionally when I looked at the bacteria multiplying in our
fermenters and considered that they could end the lives of millions of
people. But the secret culture of our labs had changed my outlook. My parents
would not have recognized the man I had become.'' Unhappily, these
tantalizing passages are but brief digressions, leaving one to puzzle over
just why Alibek turned against the system.
The Russian program was theoretically dismantled in recent years at the order
of President Boris N. Yeltsin, but Ken Alibek makes clear there may still be
active remnants. Given the unblinking support he and thousands of others gave
to the effort, that would not be surprising.
June 20, 1999
[for personal use only]
Loosely, a Deal With Russia
By Jim Hoagland
COLOGNE, Germany—President Clinton demonstrated determination and clarity in
leading NATO's successful effort to drive the Serb army from Kosovo. But
those leadership qualities have given way to crossed priorities and
dangerously ambiguous deal-making with Russia in the war's messy aftermath.
Such change comes as no surprise. War focuses the mind and spirit and forces
leaders to rise above their usual behavior, as Clinton did, or to sink below
it into barbarity and cowardice, as Slobodan Milosevic did. Sudden peace
distends the faculties, letting old habits rapidly take charge again.
Clinton has moved from the role of conqueror to the more familiar stance of
conciliator here at the Group of Eight annual leadership summit. He has
visibly sought to soothe a Russian military and political establishment that
surprised and briefly humiliated NATO by seizing control of Pristina airport
10 days ago and then daring NATO to do anything about it.
The president hailed the U.S.-Russian agreement reached in Helsinki Friday
night to share control of the airport and to include 3,600 Russian troops in
the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) -- even though the agreement leaves the
hardest parts of NATO-Russian cooperation cloaked in confusion and still to
And Clinton has devoted his considerable talents in political marketing to
turning this two-day gathering into an exercise in selling to Western
audiences the leadership abilities of the new Russian prime minister, Sergei
V. Stepashin, and his infirm and erratic boss, President Boris Yeltsin.
In his initial contacts with the leaders of the world's seven most affluent
industrial democracies Friday night, Stepashin dropped Russia's angry
rhetoric about NATO's bombing of Serbia. He promised Clinton, Britain's Tony
Blair and the others that there would be "no more surprises" from the
Russians like the dash to the airport, according to G-7 sources.
Stepashin's pledge reinforced the impression of some senior conference
delegates that he and Yeltsin were caught by surprise themselves by the
Russian army's move into Kosovo, and supported it only after the fact. That
impression in turn made it easier for the G-7 leaders to welcome the
ex-interior minister here as Yeltsin's apparent chosen successor, despite his
lack of experience in foreign and economic affairs.
Husbanding his failing strength, Yeltsin will arrive in Cologne on Sunday to
meet with Clinton and bless the Kosovo troop deployment deal as ending two
months of strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
But the unresolved problems of fitting the Russians into a NATO force as
protectors of the Serb minority and shrines in Kosovo promise new tensions
and flashpoints in the weeks ahead. This Russian role, spelled out by Clinton
in remarks to reporters here Friday night, risks making the Russians
surrogates for the Serbs and targets for vengeful ethnic Albanians.
Russian units protecting shrines will be stationed inside protective
envelopes of larger U.S., French and German forces, who will police the
autonomous Kosovo province that will legally remain part of Serbia. The
Russian enclaves in Kosovo bring to mind Churchill's description of the old
mysterious Soviet Union: The Russian troops in Kosovo will be a land mine
wrapped inside a time bomb in the middle of a hurricane.
And despite U.S. assertions that the Helsinki agreement guarantees a single,
unified NATO command, the Russians say they will choose to obey or disobey
orders on their own. No one in Helsinki or Cologne could explain this
apparent contradiction. Everything is to be worked out on the ground.
Ambiguity is the enemy of the allied peace-enforcement operation needed in
desolate, volatile Kosovo now. The success of the U.S.-led force in
neighboring Bosnia has been built on intimidation and the coercion of
potential trouble-makers into acceptance. Only clear, unchallenged direction
by a single military command can keep the peace-keepers from coming under
The arrangements made with the Russians in Helsinki and Clinton's strangely
diffident disowning of any intention to pursue Serb war criminals encourage
uncertainty and ambiguity about the U.S. role. They also give the Russians
plenty of room to return to a spoiling role if they do not like the way
things play out in Kosovo.
Clinton is betting that his relationship with Yeltsin and the weakness of the
Russian forces on the ground in Kosovo will ensure their acquiescence to NATO
control. It could work out that way. But it will be a losing gamble if
Clinton leaves the impression of investing more importance in diplomacy with
Russia than he does in meeting the immediate military problems of Kosovo and
the pursuit of justice for the war crimes that Milosevic's forces committed
June 20, 1999
The awful truth is emerging in Kosovo
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Someone back in Canada wanted to know if I was
sickened by the incontrovertible evidence of a massacre of Kosovar Albanians
that I chanced upon a few days ago.
It does me no good to become emotionally involved in the horrors I have
witnessed in Kosovo and elsewhere during a working lifetime spent mostly on
the road and often in the darkest corners of the planet. Reflecting too much
on what I saw in Somalia, Rwanda and Chechnya can't bring back the dead. It
can't help my psyche, either.
Better, I believe, to present the awful facts as dispassionately and as
accurately as possible. Such stories are compelling not because I witnessed
them but because they are about the most two basic elements of human
existence: life and death.
Yes, the stench of a half-burned body is revolting. The only way I could
endure the smell for even a couple of seconds the other day was to stuff
toilet paper in my nostrils. But it lingered in my clothes and on my skin for
days afterwards, no matter how much I bathed.
Yes, the sight of two headless youths by a fast-running stream was revolting
- all the more so as the victims were murdered in a spot that would otherwise
make a lovely postcard or a romantic picnic ground.
But more than anything, what I felt when I saw the body parts poking from
the dirt in four makeshift mass graves was not revulsion or sadness, it was
anger at the knowledge that what I was seeing was only a small part of an
outrageous plan generated in Belgrade to eliminate Albanians from Kosovo.
I am angry that the West did not act much, much sooner and with much, much
greater resolve to stop the lunacy in the Balkans. After the devastation of
Vukovar, how could Mostar, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Krajina and Kosovo be
tolerated by any well-meaning foreign government? Yet they were.
I am angry with NATO's political leadership for not giving its military
commanders the option of forcing the issue with Belgrade by deploying a
credible ground force to the Balkans and for not giving those commanders
orders to bomb severely from the very start to shorten the war - and the
suffering of both the Albanians and Serbians.
Angry with leaders
I am angry with those same political leaders for not acknowledging that
since most Serbians supported the general war aims of the Milosevic regime,
NATO's war was actually against all of Serbia and not just its diseased
I am angry with NATO's commanders for creating the false expectations that
smart weapons were infallible or for not providing better information from
SAS and Special Forces spies about the wanton savagery taking place on the
ground in Kosovo.
I am angry with western commentators for mistakenly believing that more
talks with Belgrade would bring peace and for righteously ridiculing NATO for
a bombing campaign that was actually cleaner than advertised.
From everything I've seen in Kosovo (Belgrade will not allow me to see the
rest of Serbia), the targets selected by the alliance were destroyed with
fantastic precision, civilian casualties were negligible and the damage to
core infrastructure - water and power - was minimal and quickly reversible.
Another bit of nonsense advanced by some commentators is that NATO was
cowardly because it used hi-tech tricks to humble tiny, backward Serbia. Yet
there was no qualitative difference between NATO's staggering military
superiority over Serbia and the warplanes, tanks and artillery that Serbia
threw against the lightly armed Kosovo Liberation Army and unarmed Kosovar
Lots of e-mail
I am also angry with some of the many Serbian readers who have bombarded me
every day for the past few months with e-mails about Kosovo. A few Serbian
correspondents made their views known to me in a fair, polite and thoughtful
way. Many others wrote vile, often incoherent screeds threatening me with
every possible misfortune.
Like so many of my colleagues, I was constantly accused of not understanding
the bloody, primitive mentality of the Albanians, of refusing to acknowledge
that everything written about the Serbs in Kosovo was a British or American
lie, that NATO and its political and military commanders were more guilty of
war crimes than Milosevic and his inner circle and, most ludicrous of all,
that NATO was interested in the Balkans because it wanted to establish bases
there so the western democracies could plunder its resources.
The awful truth emerging from Kosovo is that Serbia's behaviour toward
Albanians here was beastly in the extreme. The outrages were on a scale not
seen in either Croatia or Bosnia.
After seeing so many bodies, body parts and fresh graves, I am furious at
what Serbia almost got away with.