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Johnson's Russia List
23 June 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times editorial: West Can't Think Past Sick Yeltsin.
2. AFP: Russians sceptical over Russia-US kiss-n-make up over
3. New York Times editorial: Rebuilding Relations With Russia.
4. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, Rewarding Bad Behavior?
5. Matt Taibbi: Wall Street Journal.
6. Keith Darden: Evidence of Russian Imperialism?
7. Jerry Hough: Once again Yeltsin seems to be going back to the well.
8. the eXile editorial: Invade Russia Now.
9. AP: Tycoon Calls Russia Rudderless. (Berezovsky).
10. The Russia Journal: Igor Zevelev, Unfinished quest for Russian identity.
11. Moscow Times: Valeria Korchagina, President Takes Dig At Prime Minister.
12. Itar-Tass: RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES FOREIGN-BASED RUSSIAN MEDIA.]
June 23, 1999
EDITORIAL: West Can't Think Past Sick Yeltsin
I feel I am among friends. -- Boris Yeltsin at the G-8 summit in Cologne,
The speed with which Russia and the West are repairing their frayed
relations is surprising. It seems just yesterday Yeltsin was talking of the
Balkan crisis consuming the planet in a third world war, as his generals
were muttering about selling arms to the Serbs and giving nuclear weapons
to the Belarussians.
Over the weekend in Cologne, however, Yeltsin was joshing around with NATO
heads of state. The Russians and NATO agreed on all of the details of their
joint occupation of Kosovo. As a sweetener, Yeltsin also abruptly agreed
to review the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty - a sharp break with
Russia's pre-Balkans insistence that the ABM treaty remain in place.
So one of the ill effects of NATO's Balkan intervention - badly damaged
relations with Russia - is turning out to be fading. That is good news, as
far as it goes.
On the surface at least, Russia is not getting much from Washington. At
Cologne, President Bill Clinton was careful to firmly include Russia as a
player in the Group of Seven leading industrial nations. It is a G-8 now,
Clinton reminded us - although the fact that he had to underline this
reflects more respect for Russia's nuclear missiles than for its economy.
There was also lip service for a restructuring of Soviet-era debts,
strained tolerance for Yeltsin's arm-wrestling and buffoonery, and faint
praise for his energy - most notably Clinton's comment about Yeltsin that
"his behavior was not shaky or erratic today."
Never mind that Russia was integral to negotiating an end to the Kosovo
crisis. In the Western view, the real foreign policy success for Russia was
that in Cologne, Yeltsin did not fall down or slur his words.
That hardly equals respect for Russia, much less a hearing for its policy
arguments. And that's a shame, because even when Russia is being
self-serving, it often happens to be right these days on foreign affairs.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's emphasis on the United Nations in a speech
Tuesday is a good example. Ivanov is right: NATO cannot replace the UN,
however much officials in Washington and Brussels dream of this.
And Yeltsin is right when he pushes Clinton and other NATO leaders to
rebuild the damage from the 78-day bombing campaign. That's the way to get
rid of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. A rising economic tide, not
an Iraq-style economic embargo, will sweep out Milosevic.
Perhaps when Russia has a new president, Washington will be more inclined
to consult with the Kremlin and less apt to avoid it.
Russians sceptical over Russia-US kiss-n-make up over Kosovo
MOSCOW, June 22 (AFP) - Russian and western leaders
hugged and made up over Kosovo at the weekend G8 summit, but the feel-good
factor has failed to translate to Moscow where opinion remains divided over
the apparently swift reconciliation.
NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia plunged Moscow's relations with the West
to a post-Cold War low, but President Boris Yeltsin and his US counterpart
Bill Clinton made a great show Sunday of putting the bitter split behind them.
Mutual ties had "passed the test" set by the Kosovo crisis, declared
Clinton after meeting Yeltsin in the German city of Cologne, which hosted a
summit of the world's seven leading industrial democracies and Russia.
"Without Russia, they (the West) would not have been able to break the
impasse" over Kosovo, Yeltsin said Tuesday as he continued to bask in the
afterglow of a rare diplomatic success for Moscow.
Kremlin spin doctors have portrayed the G8 summit as the crowning moment of
Russia's return to the international stage, underscored by its role in
clinching Belgrade's signature on a peace accord and its bold despatch of
200 paratroopers to take Pristina airport, upstaging NATO.
"Russia was showered with unbridled respect as a great builder of peace in
the Balkans" during the Cologne gathering, commented the respected business
daily Kommersant on Tuesday.
Western leaders declared Russia a fully-paid up member of the G8, proffered
(largely symbolic) support for forgiveness on part of Russia's 140 billion
dollar foreign debt, and flagged new-found Russian flexibility on arms
But the upbeat US noises that the Clinton-Yeltsin meeting had put bilateral
relations back on track won a fainter echo in Moscow, despite lingering
smugness here over the Pristina airport coup.
Russian analysts said Washington and the Kremlin had more prosaic reasons
for drawing a line under the Kosovo conflict than an ardent desire to
restore peace in the Balkans.
With parliamentary elections in December and presidential polls next
summer, the West has been alarmed by rising anti-western sentiment sparked
by the air campaign against Moscow's traditional ally Belgrade.
Comments last week by IMF chief Michel Camdessus appeared to signal that
the International Monetary Fund and western creditors would roll over
chunks of Russia's 17.5 billion dollars debt maturing this year, fearing a
tougher stance could play into the electoral hands of anti-West hardliners.
The West "wants to keep Moscow engaged, they know that Moscow is
unpredictable and they treat Moscow like a professional psychotherapist
behaves with a dangerous patient," observed Andrei Piontkovsky, head of
Moscow's Centre for Strategic Studies.
After weeks of gorging itself on anti-western rhetoric the Kremlin toned
down the language, realising Russia was dependent on the West if it is to
refloat its listing economy and rebuild microscopic public support.
Even its ultimately successful battle to secure a role in the Kosovo peace
force could prove a Pyrrhic victory, as Moscow will struggle to find the
funds to maintain its 3,600-strong KFOR contingent.
"This gap between enormous great power ambitions and very painful reality
creates enormous psychological crisis for Russia's so-called political
elite," and has resulted in a "chaotic, neurotic, confused and
unpredictable" policy stance, said Piontkovsky.
The Kosovo truce also robbed the disgruntled military of the NATO enemy it
needs to justify a larger share in Russia's meagre budget, and left Yeltsin
weak and vulnerable, warned Pavel Felgenhauer, defence analyst with the
"His regime right on the verge of being toppled, the situation right now is
very serious," he said.
Yeltsin's decision to cooperate over Kosovo was linked to sharpening
political divisions within Russia and rumours of extra-constitutional moves
by the president to remain in office, Felgenhauer said.
"It's good for him to show again to Washington who are the bad boys and who
are the good boys and who they should support when it comes to shots in
Moscow," he added.
New York Times
June 22, 1999
Rebuilding Relations With Russia
Americans should be encouraged by the constructive tone of President
Clinton's talks with Russia's President, Boris Yeltsin, in Germany Sunday.
Moscow seems almost as eager as Washington to move beyond the tensions
that resulted from NATO's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
But given the Russian leader's erratic policies and fragile health, there
can be no assurance of things going smoothly. Both sides, but particularly
Moscow, must follow through on Sunday's pledges on nuclear arms
reductions, Russian economic reform, new talks on defensive missiles and
curtailment of Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran. Promises have been
made before, without results.
Russia's most urgent need is Western financial support. Mr. Yeltsin
committed himself to achieve the improved tax collection and other reforms
Moscow promised the International Monetary Fund in negotiations to release
a new $4.5 billion loan installment. The United States and Europe are right
to declare that they will reschedule their own loans to Russia only if
Moscow first satisfies the I.M.F.
On arms, Mr. Yeltsin once again promised to try to get Russia's Parliament
to ratify the long-stalled 1993 nuclear weapons treaty with the United
States. Ratification would lead to sharp cuts in long-range missile forces
and thus ease acute pressures on Russia's budget. Before the Kosovo crisis
there were realistic hopes that the budgetary argument might sway enough
votes to overcome nationalist and Communist opposition. That case can be
strengthened if Washington and Moscow press ahead, as pledged, with talks
on a new treaty authorizing even deeper nuclear weapons cuts.
Mr. Yeltsin pleased Washington by agreeing to open negotiations on
modifying the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty in ways that might
accommodate future American plans for a limited missile defense against
countries like North Korea. He also renewed offers to work with the
Clinton Administration on curbing Russian nuclear technology transfers to
Iran. Over all, he seemed to recognize that Russia's own interests are
best served by cooperative relations with the United States.
Russia: Analysis From Washington--Rewarding Bad Behavior?
By Paul Goble
Washington, D.C.; 21 June 1999 (RFE/RL) - Governments routinely reward
other states which cooperate on common goals with aid, diplomatic support
and other forms of favor. Indeed, both these rewards and the expectation of
them often make significant contributions to stability.
But when some states conclude that they can extract even greater rewards by
failing to cooperate or even by seeking to frustrate the policies of those
who provide them with help, there is the risk that these states will decide
that bad behavior works and hence will engage in more of it.
And that in turn may set the stage both for even more concessions by donor
states in the short term and for more and larger conflicts between those in
a position to give and those who expect to receive over the longer haul.
The behavior of Russia, NATO, and the G-7 countries over the last week has
called attention to all these possibilities. Moscow expects to be rewarded
for its role in helping to end the Kosovo crisis, something Western
governments have indicated that they are prepared to do.
Indeed, Russian officials from President Boris Yeltsin on down pointedly
said that they expected the G-7 plus Russia summit in Cologne to be payback
time for their contributions to resolving the Kosovo crisis in a way that
eliminated the need for the use of NATO ground troops.
And Western officials -- including U.S. President Bill Clinton and German
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- have said they plan to do just that not
only as a way to express their gratitude for what Moscow did but also to
help the Russian economy and end the recent chill in East-West relations.
This is something everyone involved understands and sees as completely
natural. As Andrei Piontkovsky, one of Russia's leading political analysts,
said last week, at Cologne, Yeltsin will present "his bill for his
services, and he will be paid."
But Piontkovsky adds that Moscow has concluded that it could extract even
more assistance from the West by demonstrating in Kosovo its independence
and even its ability to act in ways the West opposes.
Such an approach, Piontkovsky acknowledges "is primitive, but this is the
logic. This march of 200 of our boys sitting helplessly at Pristina - for
Yeltsin they are a bargaining chip in future talks with friend Bill and
The strength of this logic has already been demonstrated to Russia's
satisfaction: NATO governments clearly made more concessions to Russian
positions than they might have had Moscow not sent troops to the Kosovar
capital. And the G-7 countries have backed more aid for the Russian
government despite its actions in Kosovo. The backing also comes despite
Moscow's failure to push through the economic and fiscal reforms that the
International Monetary Fund and others had said were preconditions.
Given these developments over the past two weeks, at least some in Moscow
may be inclined to apply this logic more generally in the future, just as
weakened but still powerful countries have done in the past.
Such a strategy is likely to be successful in many cases. The West has too
great an interest in not seeing Russia fail or Moscow feel isolated to deny
Russia the kind of aid it needs regardless of short-term behavior. Indeed,
Moscow can count on many in the West to keep pointing this out.
But the continued application of this policy poses some serious risks not
only for Russia but also for the international community. Moscow may be
encouraged to play the spoiler once too often and thus unintentionally
cross a line where the West will refuse to pay up.
Indeed, outrage in many NATO capitals about Moscow's decision to
unilaterally send troops to Pristina, including calls by some to cut off
all assistance to the Russian Federation, is an indication that such a
strategy has the potential to backfire.
But even more seriously, other countries -- including the increasingly
powerful China -- may decide to adopt the same approach. They may come to
expect to be rewarded not only for cooperative moves but also for bad
behavior, lest the cooperation cease and the bad behavior become still worse.
To the extent that Moscow, Beijing and other governments around the world
decide to operate on that expectation, the world is likely to become a more
dangerous place. That would be precisely the outcome that those in a
position to offer assistance have said they want to avoid.
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999
From: "Matt Taibbi" <email@example.com>
I am writing a press-review style story about the Wall Street Journal
winning this year's Pulitzer Prize award for international reporting on the
basis of its coverage of the August crisis. I would like the story to
contain comments from Russia observers who have followed the Journal's
coverage throughout the years. If anyone out there has comments about the
Pulitzer award, and whether or not the Journal should have won it, please
e-mail me with your thoughts. I'm interested in hearing comments from all
Thank you for your time,
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Keith Darden)
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999
Subject: Evidence of Russian Imperialism??
David is quite right to point out that certain academic and policy
circles are prone to view relations between Russia and the other CIS states
through the lens of "Russian imperialism." And contrary to the comments of
Chernoweth (JRL 3354), David is also perfectly justified in suggesting that
is little empirical basis for such arguments. Chernoweth states that a proper
refutation of the Central Asia Institute's position would be a recitation of
positive Russian initiatives in its relations with the CIS states. As this
take up a great deal of space, (and I have done this more formally in a recent
paper that I would be happy to make available to those interested) let me
provide a couple of recent examples:
The most significant recent instance of Russia's cooperative role in Central
Asia was an agreement signed between Primakov and Nazarbaev which doubled
Kazakhstan's oil export quota through Russian pipelines. Why is this
significant? Kazakhstan's economy has been in a state of crisis since the
devaluation. If Russia were truly harboring imperial ambitions in the
would have found a reason to cut Kazakhstan's oil export quota as a means for
"squeezing" Kazakhstan to force them to give up their independence. Instead,
Russia allotted substantially more pipeline space so that Kazakhstan would be
able to earn hard currency and export its way out of the crisis. Moreover,
increased volume given to Kazakhstan reduces the space available to Russian
exporters -- Russia thus incurs a cost for its good neighborliness.
Likewise, when Kazakhstan threw up massive trade barriers this past winter in
an (ultimately futile) effort to avoid devaluation of the Tenge, Russia did
respond in kind. Instead, Russia instituted a temporary export ban on many of
the goods for which Kazakhstan sought to limit imports. This was a
move on Russia's part. Had the Russians wanted to be difficult, they could
imposed import restrictions on Kazakh goods and promoted Russian exports.
that approximately 50 percent of Kazakhstan's trade is with Russia, such moves
would have been enough to sabotage the Tenge. In this case, Russia acted
support Kazakhstan's currency, an important feature of Kazakh sovereignty.
Such behavior is actually fairly typical in Russia's relations with
and "imperial spy-master" Yevgenii Primakov's government was by far the most
responsible and accommodating in developing Russia's relations with CIS
As for the rest of the region, one is hard pressed to find instances that
reasonably be interpreted as "Russian imperialism." Chernoweth points to
institutions as instances of Russian domination, but most of the
greater CIS integration or the strengthening of those institutions have not
from Russia, but from its CIS partners. Indeed, no one with any knowledge
these institutions actually function would say that Russia controls them.
Moreover, the Russian government has not chosen to use the levers of economic
power or influence that have arguably been available to it in its relations to
its neighbors. Most notably, Russia has been exceptionally flexible in
restructuring the debts owed by other CIS states. Had the Russian government
been so inclined, it could have driven Ukraine, Belarus, and many other states
into default long ago. An "imperial" Russia surely would have pursued this
course. There is no shortage of such examples of Russia's accommodating
in the post-Soviet period.
In light of the abundance of evidence to the contrary, upon what basis do
those who posit that Russia acts on "imperial" motives stake their claims?
Chernoweth mentions that CIS leaders themselves view Russia as an imperialist
power, citing as evidence public claims by Shevardnadze and Aliev that the
Russians are behind the attempts to assasinate them.
There are two problems with the use of these public statements as evidence.
First, it seems far more likely that the statements made by Shevardnadze and
Aliev are a form of political posturing designed to shore up their domestic
authority (and gain more financial support from the US). It must be kept
that Shevardnadze is the leader of a fractious country in which he has many
internal enemies. It is much easier for him to point to an external Russian
scapegoat than to admit publicly that the Georgian economy is in ruins, that
powerful factions within his own country want to kill him, and that his
of the country is in doubt. The same is true with respect to Aliev. As
who has spent much time in the Caucasus must have noticed, the Russians are
convenient scapegoat for the problems of the region. The reality is much more
complicated, however, and it is naive to take what these leaders say at face
Second, it must be noted that there are significant differences in how CIS
leaders view their relations with Russia and how they view the CIS, and
Shevardnadze and Aliev are hardly representative of the majority of CIS
Speaking very loosely, I would note that Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, and to some extent Moldova (primarily on economic matters) take a
positive attitude towards the CIS and have cooperative relationships with
Russia. Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and to a decreasing
extent Ukraine, have generally opposed the further development of CIS
institutions and have less cooperative relations with Russia. Thus, drawing
solely on Aliev and Shevardnadze to generate conclusions about how CIS leaders
*in general* view their relations with Russia is flawed. Their opinions
representative of the majority. (RFE/RL also makes this mistake on a regular
basis -- which is why they have been reporting for the past five years that
CIS is on the verge of collapse.)
With respect to Tajikistan and Abkhazia, the other two "imperial episodes"
cited by Chernoweth, a couple points can be made (although my expertise on
wars is limited). First of all, Tajikistan was a mess (to put it mildly)
the Russian troops were directly involved, and it is hard to see how
in the region have served Russia's interests. Even an imperialist Russia
have no interest in destabilizing Tajikistan (with the result that
become a conduit for drugs, arms, and Islam). And however poorly it may have
been implemented, the goal behind the peace-keeping operation appears to have
been to achieve stability in the region. This was not only Russia's
interpretation -- the other CIS Heads of State approved of the deployment of
In the case of Abkhazia, it is my understanding that local Russian commanders
were involved in the initial separatist drive (i.e. there was some
However, the Russian government has generally supported Tbilisi's claim to
sovereignty ever since. Many continue to state that Russia is supporting the
Abkhaz, but how can one explain the fact Russia has imposed a punishing
blockade on Abkhazia at Georgia's request? This is hardly the behavior one
expect of an ally of the separatists.
In closing, I would note that the burden of proof does not lie on David to
demonstrate that Russia is *not* playing out an imperial strategy with
the Caucasus and Central Asia -- although this can be done without too much
trouble. Rather, it is up to those who continue to work with the *assumption*
that imperial motives lie behind Russian actions to make their case
or to abandon a harmful rhetorical practice which clouds the minds of
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 1999
From: "Jerry F. Hough" <email@example.com>
Subject: Once again Yeltsin seems to be going back to the well.
Once again Yeltsin seems to be going back to the well. Every
time there has been a big negotiation with the IMF, we get the optimistic
view of the Russian economy. The same people who wrote last July that a
devaluation of the ruble would be a catastrophe are now saying now
wonderful it was in creating a tariff-like barrier to imports.
Industrial production (not GDP) is up 1%. Of course, since the value of
oil production is up way over 1 percent, one hopes that some economist
will calculate what this means about non-oil production.
But, in addition, we are back to the 1993 game where Yeltsin
pretended to support Lobov's industrial plan so that Larry Summers would
fly to Moscow in September to approve the dissolution of the Congress in
exchange for the return of Gaidar and his program. Now it is Aksenenko
floating an intelligent plan as Primakov did last September. Can not
the US and the IMF call the bluff? If the IMF wants to pretend to give
a loan to pay back an IMF loan that will not be paid off, an outsider
should not criticize the rules of the gnomes, but can we not tacitly
force the Russian hands. Can we not refuse to support the finance
officials who are supporting the IMF plan and give Russia little
option. Can the Clinton Administration really want the kind of
election in Russia that seems likely in June just before our election?
Would not a real industrial policy that actually produced growth not be far
preferable for American and Russian interests? I continually go back to
American experience of 1942 to show how much growth can be produced
over a two or three year period.
Your call for a discussion of US attitude to Russian crime seems
not be have provoked a response. The problem is that it takes a real
investigative reporter. It is a mosaic. Much of the problem comes
with INS. How and why was the man called Filipp Morrisovich Shumeilo
allowed to send his pregnant daughter to the US to have her baby here so
it could be a US citizen and then have family reunification first with
mother and father--and later, no doubt, with grandpa? Is it true that
Boris Brevnov now lives in Tennessee? The private sector is probably a
big part of it. Tatneft was audited by Price,
Waterhouse, and made the NY stock exchange. Yet the Russian press was
documenting what "barter" meant with the firm. It "bartered" oil to
refineries at below market prices and then was not paid so
it couldn't pay its workers for three months. It was a state enterprise
whose cash flow must have made everything clear if someone wanted to
know. But was Price, Waterhouse simply selling its name to get fees, or
was the US government pressuring it to try to prop up Yeltsin?
June 17-July 1, 1999
Invade Russia Now
Now that NATO has emerged victorious from its just, humane war against the
forces of evil in the Balkan peninsula, we at the eXile feel that it's time
the civilized countries of the West really got down to brass tacks and
applied themselves to their next great task: the invasion and conquest of
the Russian Federation.
History is a frugal fellow. For decades at a time--centuries even--it keeps
opportunities for the elevation of the human spirit, and for the
advancement of the ideals of justice, balled tightly in its mighty fist.
And only rarely, once in the fleetingest of blue moons, it relaxes its
fingers and lets a chance to douse the flames of tyranny drop into the lap
of good and decent folk. But allow just the slightest hesitation, and that
chance is vapor; the fist tightens again, and dark clouds of repression and
cynicism appear once more to blot out humanity's radiant spirit.
With its courageous bombing of Serbia, NATO has, through sheer force of
will, managed to pry loose a space between those great fingers. A chance is
dropping into the laps of America and her faithful allies. It is a chance
to finally present humanity with a truly heroic and benevolent gift: the
ridding of Russians from the world.
It is a move that is long overdue. For too long, Russians have been
greedily occupying space that could be put to more enlightened and
appropriate use by Americans and some Western Europeans. Put simply,
Russians are a nuisance. There are too many of them. They are stinky and
inefficient. Their hair is greasy. They do not speak English; and even when
they do, they speak it with a thick accent. They put too much sour cream on
everything. They don't smile when they serve you. They skew the results of
Olympic games by winning all the bullshit events. They're always whining
about something, and they can't get the hang of something as simple as
American-style democracy. They have television shows that feature
middle-aged people talking and talking. We tried our best to make good
Americans of them, we really did. We gave them tons of aid money, pointed
the way, and waited respectfully and patiently for them to grow out of
their fascination with that manifestly silly and, quite frankly, very
communist form of government they lived under for so long.
How much longer should we be expected to wait? Beyond the point where
benevolence becomes mere condescension? We think not. In fact, we feel sure
that by sparing Russians for as long as we have, we're really only adding
fire to the special hell of their national experience. We are prolonging
their suffering by keeping them alive. In short, we're throwing good money
after bad. By now, the vast majority of Russians must look upon their
destitute and disorganized selves and wonder just why it is we've waited so
long to put them out of their misery.
Russia's vast territory and its great reserves of natural riches are
increasingly a burden to her people. Unable to convert that wealth into
social prosperity, Russians are condemned to lives of unending humiliation.
Fortunately, of course, those lives are growing shorter and shorter all the
time, caught as Russia's citizens are between the Schylla and Charibdes of
alcoholism, poor medical care and grotesque (and, or course, avoidable)
environmental mismanagement. Nonetheless, many Russians still live well
into their fifties, and many are still moved to reproduce. These resultant
children are then sentenced to repeat the unenviable poverty-stricken lives
of their parents, never to visit Busch Gardens or operate their own
personal washing machines, seldom if ever able to afford that second
McDonald's sandwich, left ignorant for all time of the virtues of safe,
consensual, mutually respectful sex play.
Is it fair to stand idly by while innocent children are ushered on into
these so-called "lives"? Hardly. It is, in fact, inhumane. We would not
wish such a thing on our own Mexican immigrants. That is why we kill as
many as we can when they try to cross the Rio Grande, and why,
incidentally, the eXile supports a plan to populate that great river with
millions of crocodiles, poisonous vermin, Portuguese man-o-wars, hammerhead
sharks, water mocassins, and razor wire. It is a simple, straightforward,
humane plan, and we believe it will work.
This is why NATO must commence its bombing of Russia now, while it has the
momentum. Carpe Diem. The important thing is, it is now within our power to
kill the entire population of Russia without suffering a single casualty.
We can do it, we really can. After all, there's no need to worry about the
much-ballyhooed "nuclear threat": these people can't even get their cars to
start, much less fire an intercontinental ballistic missile. And their
anti-aircraft defenses are Bronze age miracles at best. Crude hand-fired
arrows would stand a better chance of bouncing off one of our
state-of-the-art fighter-bombers than a Russian-made anti-aircraft defense
system. Really, they could barely knock a NATO kite out of the sky on a
clear day. It would be target practice for our boys, and would,
incidentally, help keep them employed-- a not insignificant consideration
in these economically competitive times.
The military plan should be simple. Drop bombs from deep in space, and
slowly kill off all the Russians in Russia. Better not to use nukes: this
might upset our allies' governments tenuous coalitions with Greens parties,
and would also deny Russians the gift of a dramatic and protracted final
struggle against the inevitable-- a dignified last stand that would give
these simple, noble, and doomed people a chance to say their final
goodbyes, take a good last look at themselves, and consider their place in
history. They may not deserve to survive, but they deserve that. And we can
provide it, just as surely as we can remake their country into the happiest
and most comfortable ex-Russia that money and a little old-fashioned
know-how can buy. For their sake and ours, let's not let this of all
possibilities slip past.
Tycoon Calls Russia Rudderless
June 22, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's current government is incapable of leading the
country and there are no capable successors in sight, the country's most
politically powerful business tycoon said Tuesday.
``Today, I see no leader who could really change the appalling situation in
Russia,'' Boris Berezovsky said in a speech.
Berezovsky, one of the controversial Russian ``oligarchs'' who is believed
to exert heavy influence on President Boris Yeltsin, said he hoped a leader
would emerge in upcoming parliamentary elections.
Speaking to a conference of Russian media officials, he criticized the
current government of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, saying it ``cannot
formulate domestic or political goals'' for the country.
``Russia does not have a firm position in domestic or foreign policy, or
one that is understandable at least to the political elite,'' the Interfax
news agency quoted Berezovksy as saying.
Berezovsky, a mathematician during the Soviet era, leveraged a used car
business into one of Russia's most diverse and valuable business empires,
once valued in the billions of dollars. Although he has not publicly
disclosed his holdings, they are said to include auto manufacturing, oil
and media interests.
Berezovsky was widely reported to have been a key figure behind the firing
of former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who was replaced by Stepashin,
and is said to have been influential in several key cabinet appointments in
the new government.
The Russia Journal
June 14-20, 1999
Unfinished quest for Russian identity
Igor Zevelev, special for The Russia Journal
A new Russia has begun to define its identity from the ground up; very
little from its past can be applied to the present. The country's
intellectual history has not provided contemporary thinkers and politicians
with adequate tools for assessing how Russia's age-old quandary about her
identity fits into its new geopolitical situation. Historical and cultural
messianic traditions stand in sharp contrast to Russia's current
Nevertheless, we can isolate three major options for the future development
of a Russian identity: neoimperial, ethnic, and civic. Most western
commentators, especially from foreign policy and security communities,
usually concentrate on the perils of Russian neoimperialism. They usually
ignore the dangers of ethno-nationalism, as well as the difficulties of
building a new civic identity.
Although ethno-nationalism is not politically well organized in Russia, it
may nonetheless emerge ascendant, especially if the goal of nation-state
building is introduced into contemporary political discourse, since the
term "nation" has had a strong ethnic, not civic, connotation in Soviet and
post-Soviet academia, public opinion, and politics. No longer hidden under
an imperial veil, ethnic identity has become more salient to Russians after
the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The essence of the ethno-nationalist program is to restore a geographical
congruence between the state and the nation by building the Russian state
within Russians' and other Eastern Slavs' area of settlement.
Politically, that means the reunification of Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and
northern Kazakhstan .
If the experience of other countries is any guide, nation-building on the
rubble of an empire is usually an endeavor of ethno-nationalists. Kemalist
Turkey started its experiment with a nation-state by subjecting its
Armenian, Greek and Kurdish minorities to genocide, and expulsion.
Austrians welcomed Hitler's Anschluss after 20 years of living in a small
post-imperial state. Most recently, Serbia and Croatia became aggressively
All former Soviet republics have adopted ethno-political myths, identifying
the state as a homeland of "indigenous" people. These policies rely on the
Romantic historicist tradition, claiming that humanity can be divided
neatly into nations, and stipulating that culturally--or
ethnically--defined nations possessed sacred rights. National leaders can
downplay individual human rights and respect for minorities using this
Russians have now found themselves in a multiethnic milieu within new
borders once again, while 25 million were left outside. The "national
question" for Russians was not resolved by the collapse of the Soviet
Union. It was created: Russia within its current borders is "more a
bleeding hulk of empire: what happened to be left over when the other
republics broke away," British historian Geoffrey Hosking says.
Hope of Globalization
Eurasia's blurred political map might be more in line with the burgeoning
process of globalization than the two-centuries-old system of nation-states
emerging from bloody wars. Boundaries between nation-states are becoming
increasingly less significant as a result of the globalization of the
international community, and there is no reason for Russians and other
Eurasian peoples to repeat all the steps and mistakes made by Western
Europe. The "German question," for one, has been finally resolved within
the framework of European integration, when the borders that Germans had
fought over for a century became obsolete.
The approach of nation-state builders overlooks many grave threats to
international security that may evolve from an attempt to mechanically line
up Russia with its neighbors. In fact, inarticulated Russian nationhood is
one of the key factors explaining why the U.S.S.R. 's disintegration
occurred so peacefully, especially when compared to the debacle of another
communist federation, Yugoslavia, where most Serbs encountered no ambiguity
over their nation or national identity.
A Russia without clear-cut frontiers may be the only peaceful solution to
the "Russian question" after the breakup of the Soviet empire.
Paradoxically, inconsistent and messy relations between Moscow and ethnic
republics within the Russian Federation, and moderate and sometimes
tremendously ineffective policies toward the Russians in the "near abroad"
might be a better solution for security in Eurasia than attempts to shape a
clear-cut approach toward nation-state building and the inevitable
redrawing of borders. But the Russian government is probably pursuing such
an ambiguous policy not because of its wisdom, but because of its weakness.
The development of a civic identity hardly matches other options in the
sense of a quick mobilization potential; in fact, it might mean a weak
state for a long period. In order to build a true civic identity, it is
necessary to have or develop a common idea, history, heritage, traditions,
legitimate boundaries accepted by all citizens, and strong and effective
state institutions. Nothing in this list exists in Russia thus far.
As a multiethnic political community within the boundaries of the modern
Russian Federation, the Russian nation is new, unstable, and weak. Regular
elections, political institutions, and common economic and social problems
and policies might gradually serve as the integument for this new political
nation, further separating it from the other Soviet successor states.
However, internal divisions, first of all between ethno-territorial units
and the center, are strong and are becoming even more important. Separatist
Chechnya is an extreme example of the difficulties in building a common
civic identity in Russia. It is an evident security concern not only for
Russia, but for the rest of the world, and will be affected by the security
and power vacuum in Eurasia.
Russia is not alone in confronting immense difficulties in building a civic
identity. States in many parts of the world have been unsuccessful
nation-builders, and many governments have failed to induce their subjects
to shift their primary loyalties from informal subdivisions (ethnic,
religious groups) to formal, legalistic state structures.
Many in Eurasia and the West view the vague boundaries of the Russian
people as an unnerving and threatening phenomenon that could very well lead
to imperial restoration. A Russian nation-state, on the contrary, is seen
as a well-tested, familiar, and peaceful alternative.
Russia can eventually play the role of a legitimate leader in integrated
Eurasia, as a center of cultural, economic and political gravitation.
However, the current international environment has not been favorable for
such a result. Nation-state building on an ethnic basis seems to be the
only game in Eurasia thus far. U.S. foreign policy-makers are so
preoccupied with putative Russian imperial ambitions in Eurasia that they
fail to recognize other challenges to peace and security on the continent.
Russian and non-Russian ethno-nationalism are among the most significant
threats to security in Eurasia. Regional integration coupled with
globalization is probably the only viable alternative to imperialist,
ethno-nationalist, or isolationist programs, which are destabilizing and
threatening to Eurasian peace.
June 23, 1999
President Takes Dig At Prime Minister
By Valeria Korchagina
Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has been in office just over a month, but
already the press speculation has started about his demise - fueled in part
by a disparaging remark by President Boris Yeltsin at the Group of Eight
summit over the weekend.
Asked what he thought of his new prime minister's job performance, Yeltsin
said he was "satisfied" - but only "halfway." His remarks recalled his
assessment that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was doing a good job "for
now." Primakov was fired shortly afterward.
Kommersant newspaper on Tuesday ran a front-page account of what it
classified as Stepashin's political mistakes and misfortunes that could
lead to dismissal.
Presidential spokesman Dmitry Yakushkin was quick to dismiss the reports
Tuesday, saying Yeltsin and Stepashin "are good partners."
"They are regularly in touch, and I see no clouds or any signs of a
storm," Yakushkin was quoted as saying by Interfax. Yakushkin had also said
relations were good between Yeltsin and Primakov up until the day before
Yeltsin fired him.
Stepashin's press office declined to discuss the articles.
Yury Korgunyuk, a political analyst for the Indem research group, said
that Yeltsin's half-satisfaction with Stepashin should not be taken as a
direct threat to the prime minister - yet.
Yeltsin, though he loves to keep his subordinates off balance and
regularly fires them to reassert himself, probably isn't ready to dump
Stepashin, who has a reputation as a strict Yeltsin loyalist.
"The situation now could develop just like the one with Primakov. If
Yeltsin will realize that Stepashin is becoming so strong that it leaves
Yeltsin out of the game then, yes, he will get rid of him immediately,"
"However, I don't see any immediate threat to Stepashin," he said.
Analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, head of the Center for Strategic Studies, said
the Kommersant article might be connected to the paper's struggle for
The article identified the presidential entourage, generally understood to
including media tycoon Boris Berezovsky, as the group out to remove
Stepashin. Berezovsky has also said he wants to buy a stake in Kommersant -
a move opposed by the paper's current staff and management.
Berezovsky and businessman Roman Abramovich "are already actively
searching for Stepashin's replacement," the article said. "Even Stepashin's
closest aides are already confident that their boss will not remain in the
White House even until the middle of this fall," it went on.
The stories may be meant to paint Berezovsky in an unfavorable light by
identifying him as a schemer and a source of instability, said Piontkovsky.
"I believe that the rumors are seriously exaggerated. [Kommersant is]
definitely becoming obsessed with battle with Berezovsky. " Piontkovsky
Kommersant said Stepashin might be jettisoned once he obtains additional
loans from the International Monetary Fund later this year. The article
said the next prime minister might be Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov or First
Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko.
Ivanov refused to comment on the report when asked about it Tuesday.
"I hope there are more important issues to discuss," Ivanov told
journalists at the First World Congress of Russian-Language Press, Tuesday.
BLOB: Russia's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that criminal proceedings could
go ahead against suspended Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov, Interfax
The Supreme Court's criminal case board accepted the appeal by the Chief
Military Prosecutor's Office of a ruling by a Moscow City Court judge that
proceedings against Skuratov be dropped.
The board said the judge's ruling had not been based on adequate analysis.
Skuratov was suspended by President Boris Yeltsin after a man closely
resembling him was shown on television in a sex tape with two apparent
prostitutes. He hasn't admitted being the man in the tape.
Prosecutors have said they are looking into whether Skuratov abused his
official position by halting criminal investigations into individuals who
may have supplied the prostitutes services.
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT PRAISES FOREIGN-BASED RUSSIAN MEDIA
MOSCOW, June 22 (Itar-Tass) -- Russian President Boris Yeltsin on
Tuesday met here with a group of participants in the First World
Congress of Russian Press. Follows the text of Yeltsin's address to the
Today, we have exceptional guests in the Kremlin -- representatives of
the Russian-speaking media abroad, our compatriots, and those who
publish periodicals in Russian in their home countries. We are meeting
on a remarkable day -- the Memory Day honoring memory of the victims to
the most cruel war ever ravaging through the Russian land, and through
our planet. I am sure You are sharing our grief and sorrow. The 20th
century has dispersed millions of Russian people all over the world,
but wherever they settled, Russia remained their Motherland. They have
preserved Russian traditions and cherished the Russian cultural
heritage, imbued their children with love for their Fatherland. The
First World Congress of Russian Press proves a vivid example of our
The press has always played a special role in the life of the Russian
Diaspora. A whole layer of Russian overseas culture is connected with
it. It has been a part of motherland to those who had to have left it.
Here in Russia we take keen interest in the achievements of our
compatriots abroad, and are happy at the fact that the Russian word
abroad has not died away. I am pleased to receive in the Kremlin the
editors-in-chief of newspapers playing a remarkable role in the
development of Russian-speaking media beyond the Russian borders.
Three newspapers receive an official message of thanks from the
President of the Russian Federation. Among them is the Novoye Russkoye
Slovo (New Russian Word), an old-timer of the Russian emigration in the
U.S. The newspaper has always been in opposition to the communist
power, but not to the Russian people. It has backed the democratic
changes in Russia and kept helping its readers to better understand
what is going on in Russia. A Paris-based Russkaya Mysl (Russian
Thought) has always enjoyed prestige. Leading figures of the Russian
literature have published their works on the pages of the Russkaya
Mysl. It was banned here for a long time for its critical attitude to
the developments in the USSR. Today, thanks to the establishment of
genuine freedom of speech in Russia, the Russkaya Mysl and other
editions are widely read in Moscow and many other Russian cities. We
pay special attention to our ties with compatriots from the CIS
member-countries and the Baltic states. It is in these countries that
the Russia press is performing an important mission of helping the
Russian-speaking population to solve their problems. The Bakinsky
Rabochy newspaper has been published in Azerbaijan since 1906. The
readers appreciate the newspaper for the topical information it
carries, loyalty to the best journalist traditions and professional
qualification of its contributors. There were times, when we were
separated not only by great distance, we were separated into two
Russias. Time has shown that the division was artificial as we have
common culture and common roots. Despite the fact that we live in
different countries, Russia is the only one for us. I hope that the
World Congress of the Russian Press will help to reinforce the links
between You and Russia, to get to know each other better. I wish You
every success in all your undertakings, I wish You loyal readers,
including those in Russia.