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Johnson's Russia List
19 September 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Itar-Tass: Ivanov Describes Issues He Will Address at UN Session.
2. Reuters: Lebed says does not expect Yeltsin to resign.
3. Washington Post editorial: The Russian 'Menace'
4. Toronto Sun: Matthew Fisher, Russia descends into madness.
5. Boston Globe: Jeffrey Sachs, Eastern Europe reforms: Why the outcomes
differed so sharply.
6. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Muslim warns of Moscow war.
7. Los Angeles Times: Paula Newberg, Spreading Chaos in Central Asia.
8. Washington Post: David Hoffman, Why It's Wrong To Right Off Russia Now.]
Ivanov Describes Issues He Will Address at UN Session.
NEW YORK, September 19 (Itar-Tass) - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
arrived in New York to participate in the 54th session of the U.N. General
Assembly opening here. His speech at the session is scheduled for Tuesday.
The Russian minister also plans meetings with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi
Annan, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as well as with foreign
ministers of other countries.
During an interview with Russian reporters at the Kennedy airport, the
minister dealt with several issues to which he will give special attention
during his stay in New York. One of them is the problem of international
terrorism which, according to Ivanov, "is assuming special topicality and not
only in connection with events in Russia".
"We agreed in the framework of the G-8 and in the framework of the U.N.
Security Council that we shall specially examine this problem and measures
which the international community should concertedly take now to step up
struggle against international terrorism," the minister emphasised.
Ivanov noted that he would give special attention to this issue in his speech
at the General Assembly session. According to the minister, his bilateral
meetings will also deal with "a possibility to boost cooperation through
secret services of Russia and other states".
"I'd like to underline that such readiness is now displayed by states, having
sufficient means to participate in such struggle," Ivanov continued.
Bilateral contacts and other meetings will naturally discuss corruption,
connected with the scandal on allegations about Russian money laundering
through the Bank of New York.
"Our position is clear-cut and open," Ivanov added. "We do not duck
cooperation. On the contrary, we are interested in cooperation. Our
representative delegation has just visited the U.S. Other contacts are
He regards it as natural that "the press should give appropriate signals and
expose facts". "Secret services should take up this matter further," the
"It is possible to draw any conclusions only by the results of appropriate
investigations and as a result of confirmed or unconfirmed facts. However, it
is wrong on the basis of individual reports to cast aspersions on the entire
country, Russian business, the more so, to aggravate bilateral relations," he
Commenting at the request of Itar-Tass on the agenda of Russian-American
relations, the minister specially pointed to "the need for cooperation in
struggle against corruption and other wrong-doing".
"We can tackle problems only jointly," he noted, adding that money laundering
was allegedly made through American banks. "This means that it is not a
purely Russian problem," the minister said. "This is our common problem."
In Ivanov's opinion, the dialogue between Russia and the United States is
stepping up, especially after the summit of the two countries' leader in
"This is especially important after a period of some cooling in bilateral
relations in connection with the events at first in the Gulf and then on the
Balkans," he stated. "We believe that this dialogue is in the interests of
our two countries."
Lebed says does not expect Yeltsin to resign
BERLIN, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Former paratroop general Alexander Lebed, a
possible contender to succeed Russian President Boris Yeltsin, said on Sunday
he did not expect the ailing Kremlin leader to resign.
``You can't expect his resignation. Someone like Yeltsin won't resign,''
Lebed, who is governor of Siberia's vast Krasnoyarsk region, told the German
Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Lebed vowed on September 9 to run for the Russian presidency in mid-2000,
saying Russia needed a general to run the country.
He compared himself to Charles de Gaulle, who extricated France from the
Algerian war and restored political stability by creating the Fifth Republic
with a strong presidency.
Rumours have circulated in Moscow this week that Yeltsin is in failing health
and might name Lebed as his preferred successor instead of Prime Minister
But Lebed insisted he would not accept office under Yeltsin.
``I don't need the hastily given mandate of a president who is already on the
way out. I won't take any charity handouts,'' Lebed said.
BOMBINGS SPREAD CONFUSION
Apart from concerns about Yeltsin's health, Russia has been thrown into a
state of confusion by a series of bloody bombings in Moscow and other cities
that have killed nearly 300 people.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks on civilian apartment
blocks, but officials have blamed them on Chechen warlords fighting Russian
rule in the turbulent North Caucasus region.
Lebed has experience of dealing with the Chechens. He won considerable
prestige in August 1996 when as Yeltsin's peace envoy he brokered a deal
ending Russia's two-year war against Chechen separatists.
``We have war in the Caucasus now and it will last for a long time yet,''
He accused Yeltsin himself of bringing about the war by changing the terms of
the truce that Lebed signed in 1996. Yeltsin signed a peace accord in May
1997 with Aslan Maskhadov, former rebel chief of staff, which left Chechnya's
final status unresolved.
In a separate interview with the German news magazine Spiegel, Lebed warned
that there was now a real danger of Russia falling apart and descending into
If individual regions in Russia got their hands on nuclear weapons it would
be ``terrible for the whole world,'' he was quoted as saying.
``Will our home become a home for bandits? Or will we become a country which
tries to become healthy and which people enjoy having contact with,'' Lebed
``Chronic mistrust, fear and bitterness'' ruled Russia after eight years of
apparent democracy, he said.
The Washington Post
19 September 1999
The Russian 'Menace'
REPUBLICANS IN Congress have announced several inquiries into Clinton
administration policy toward Russia. These could be useful, for many
legitimate questions arise from the vexed state of U.S.-Russian relations and
the disappointing performance of Russia's post-Soviet economy. Among these
are whether too much aid was given, or too little; whether stricter
conditions could have been set on such grants, and whether they would have
mattered; whether U.S. policy put too much faith in Boris Yeltsin, and
whether U.S. policy makers naively underestimated the difficulty of Russia's
Unfortunately, last week's launching of the inquiries did not inspire much
confidence. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, for example, had already drawn
his conclusion: "The Clinton administration's Russian policy is the greatest
foreign policy failure since Vietnam." This is a sweeping view, and not just
when you consider some of the other possible nominees: the failure to deter
Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and his acquisition of weapons of mass
destruction, the spread of nuclear arms to India and Pakistan, the standing
aside while a million Rwandans were slaughtered, and so on.
Mr. Armey's judgment seems to assume that Russia is doomed, and that the
United States is primarily responsible; the former is premature at least, and
the latter too respectful of U.S. influence. A sense of historical proportion
seemed similarly absent when Rep. James Leach, chairman of the Banking
Committee, wrote in a New York Times article on "The New Russian Menace" that
constraining corruption "may well prove more difficult" than defeating
"We're likely to continue to face a Russian security threat for another
generation," says Mr. Armey. But what kind of threat? Unlike the Soviet
Union, Russia is not militarily threatening U.S. allies or seriously
challenging U.S. power anywhere in the world. Unlike China, which all summer
has been brazenly menacing democratic Taiwan, Russia poses no danger to any
neighbor. On the contrary, it is having great difficulty keeping its own
To the extent Russia is a threat today, in other words, the source is the
nation's weakness, not its strength. There is no longer much fear that Russia
will send hundreds of nuclear-tipped ICBMs hurtling toward North America in a
deliberate first-strike attack; but there is real concern about an accidental
launch due to computer malfunction, or of a nuclear warhead smuggled out due
to poverty and lax controls. Russian corruption is a threat like Mexican
corruption or Indonesian corruption, all of which work against the democracy
and prosperity that the United States hopes will spread. But given the
minuscule size of the Russian economy, its corruption can hardly threaten the
American way of life. The corruption of the Chinese economy, which is far
more intertwined with America's, would seem to pose a greater danger. But it
is receiving considerably less attention right now.
Russia's most recent calamity is a series of apartment-building bombings that
have claimed nearly 300 lives. Remembering Oklahoma City and the World Trade
Center, Americans know that every society is vulnerable to terrorism. But
such heartland bombings may be even more terrifying for Russians, because
they have -- with good reason -- such little faith in their law enforcement
agencies. Moreover, the inevitable push for Draconian response threatens
civil liberties that have shallower roots in Russian soil.
The natural response to all these dangers would be to help alleviate Russia's
weakness. That no one, including certainly the Clinton administration, has a
foolproof strategy for doing so is painfully clear, and congressional advice
would be welcome on how from the outside to promote stability and prosperity.
But imposing sanctions and cutting off ties will produce the opposite result,
and inflating the menace beyond reality will impede clear-headed decision
September 19, 1999
Russia descends into madness
By MATTHEW FISHER (74511.357@CompuServe.com)
Sun's Columnist at Large
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Six bombs have ripped open apartment buildings in Russia
in the past two weeks.
More than 250 people have died in Moscow alone. The capital's 10 million
residents are understandably terrified. They wonder who might be next to end
up in earthquake-like rubble.
The capital's Caucasians and Central Asians have been quickly and
conveniently fingered as the likely culprits, not that it ever takes much for
Russian authorities to treat them badly.
Since Soviet times it has always been open season on the dark-skinned men
from warmer climes such as Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Azerbaijan,
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan who have come to the capital in large numbers to
sell fruit and vegetables or to work and play in the city's flourishing
Two summers ago, on Navy Day, I saw a gang of drunken sailors kick a young
Azeri man in the head and groin with such fury near the front gates of
Moscow's Gorki Park that he almost died. Perhaps 10 policemen witnessed the
beating, which took place in warm evening sunshine before a large crowd of
But the cops were so unmoved by the ruckus that it took them several minutes
to saunter over to the scene of the crime.
When the policemen finally reached the sailors and their victim, an elderly
Russian woman was taunting the unfortunate Azeri. She shrieked to the police
that the motionless young man had insulted the navy and had deserved the
beating he'd been given. As she spoke, dozens of other onlookers said not one
word in the man's defence. Rather, a few of them cheered the sailors and
praised them as patriots.
Given the naked hostility toward this battered southerner in Moscow in 1997,
it's not hard to imagine Muscovites' hostility to southerners now that
Russia's political leadership and senior security officials have blamed them
for the reign of terror in the capital and elsewhere.
Although Russia's feeble courts have repeatedly ruled that the practice
violates the constitution, Moscow's mayor-who-would-be-president, Yuri
Luzhkov, has long demanded anyone living in the city must have a residency
permit. Those without one face imprisonment, fines and deportation.
As a result of this draconian law, it's possible to see Luzhkov's men in
blue shaking people down almost anywhere at any time in Moscow, but
especially inside and near the Metro and in train stations. The bombings have
undoubtedly provided another pretext for the authorities to take their money
and abuse anyone who doesn't look like a Slav.
It is, of course, possible, even likely, that someone from Chechnya or a
mountainous redoubt like it is responsible for the wave of bombings in
The Russian army and air force can't win in the Caucasus, but its fighter
jets, helicopter gunships and long-range artillery have caused a whole lot of
suffering. Almost the only relatively easy way to get revenge and sap what
little is left of Russia's confidence is to stab at the heart of the country.
A furious Boris Yeltsin has vowed his government will hunt down the
apartment bombers. But Yeltsin made the same angry, empty promise when bombs
exploded in the Metro during the last presidential election campaign. Those
bombers were never caught, let alone convicted, nor have been scores of other
bombers who have murdered mobsters and bankers (the terms are often
interchangeable) in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
It's just as likely the latest bombers are ethnic Russians and not
Caucasians. If they are Russians it's probable their savage handiwork is a
little unconventional early electioneering on behalf of Yeltsin or Luzhkov or
another of the candidates in next June's presidential elections.
A third possibility is the bombings are part of an impenetrable turf war
between some gangsters or bankers or the result of some shenanigans by the
security forces to divert attention from the latest allegations of massive
corruption in the Kremlin.
Whoever is responsible for the bombings and whatever their motives, the
explosions are another ominous sign that Russia has become utterly lawless
and may already be beyond redemption. It is Boris Yeltsin and Yuri Luzhkov
who have presided over this descent into madness.
The odds are good that either the president or the mayor will lead Russia
into the next millennium. Russia's agony will not end any time soon.
19 September 1999
[for personal use only]
Eastern Europe reforms: Why the outcomes differed so sharply
By Jeffrey D. Sachs
Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Center for International Development at
Harvard University. He has advised many governments on the transition from
communism, including Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Poland, Russia, and
It has been 10 years since the annus mirabilis of 1989, when the Berlin Wall
came down and millions of people throughout Eastern Europe celebrated their
freedom from communist rule. It has been eight years since throngs defended
Boris Yeltsin atop a tank outside the Russian Parliament to win Russia's
freedom from authoritarian rule.
There have been great triumphs in the intervening years, such as Poland's
stunning economic growth and vibrant democracy, but bitter disappointments as
well: spiraling economic decline in much of the former Soviet Union, war in
the Balkans and the Caucasus, rampant Russian corruption, and now terrorism
A decade later, important questions are being asked: Could things have gone
better, and how? Was the economic reform strategy flawed, perhaps by pushing
capitalism too hard and too fast, as critics of my own views have repeatedly
charged? Did the Clinton administration turn a blind eye to Russian
corruption? Was foreign aid too much - the proverbial money down a rat hole -
or too little, or perhaps poorly timed and improperly allocated?
It is good that we ask these questions: few events in the world will affect
us more than the success or failure of democracy and economic reform in
Russia and its neighbors.
A recent report of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP),
''Transition 1999: Human Development Report for Europe and the CIS,'' puts
much of the responsibility on the economic reform strategy: too much too fast
in introducing capitalism, when gradual and sequential steps were needed. The
results, says the report, were economic collapse coupled with social
disaster, such as rising mortality and sharp declines in life expectancy,
especially of middle-aged men caught in the economic turmoil.
I read the report with great interest. On the one hand, I might well have
been flattered, since it points out that Poland and Slovenia, two governments
that I intensively advised, have recouped their lost output and appear to
have laid the foundations for a prosperous future. Similarly, the Czech
Republic, Hungary, and the Baltic states, have made noticeable progress
toward creating dynamic and efficient economies.
On the other hand, the report raises sharp questions about the strategy and
outcomes of reforms in Russia, where I served as economic adviser during
1992-93, and other parts of the former Soviet Union.
As useful as the UNDP report is in drawing our attention to the deep social
and health crisis gripping Russia and many of its neighbors, it is deeply
flawed in its economic and historical analysis. It charges that overly rapid
economic reforms are to blame for the region's crisis, while failing to note
that it is precisely the countries that made the fastest transition to
capitalism - Poland, Slovenia, Estonia, Hungary at the very top of the list -
that are the greatest successes.
The real issue about the region is quite different, and much more fascinating
than the UNDP Report realizes. Why is it that economic, social, and political
outcomes have differed so sharply among the post-communist countries, even
though they all professed the same aims of democratic and market reforms, and
even - rhetorically at least - the same general strategy?
Countries closest to Western Europe have largely succeeded in economic change
and democratic consolidation. These countries have also enjoyed continued
increases in life expectancy, nutrition, and other social indicators. The
Balkans, farther away and divided from Western Europe by a mountain range and
by history (including centuries of Ottoman rule), have faced much more
turmoil. The Baltic States - close to Europe and the last to be gobbled up by
the Soviet empire in 1939 - have made the fastest reform and recovery among
the former Soviet republics. Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia have been
caught in by far the deepest and still spiraling crisis. Evidently, geography
at least as much as economic strategy has shaped the first decade after
How does geography keep such a powerful hold even in our supposedly
globalized economy? Some links are powerfully direct. When Germany's
Volkswagen wants to tap into the low wages of Eastern Europe, it sets up
factories or new suppliers next door - in Poland or the Czech Republic -
rather than thousands of miles away in Russia or Central Asia. Small traders
cross between Poland and Germany by the millions, helping to create Poland's
dynamic small-enterprise sector. They cross the same way from Estonia to
Finland, one hour by ferry, or from Vienna, Austria, to Bratislava, Slovakia,
a 40-minute ride. This shuttling, to be sure, is much reduced for Romania or
Bulgaria, not to mention Russia or Tajikistan.
Proximity to Western Europe induces better policies as well. Yes, both Poland
and Russia declared rapid and broad-based economic reforms, but only Poland
carried them out (it was Russia's failure to reform, as well as the West's
failure to help, that prompted me to resign as Russia's adviser in January
Poland's burgeoning private sector, bolstered by its proximity to Germany,
helped to keep the Polish government focused on key reforms. Foreign
investors weighed in as well. And the great prizes for Poland - membership in
NATO and the European Union - prompted a seriousness, speed, and transparency
of reform. These inducements have been much weaker or nonexistent the farther
east one goes.
Unwisely, NATO and the EU kept the Balkan states out of contention for early
membership, claiming that they were not ready. This became a self-fulfilling
prophecy, since it reduced the economic and political incentives for
difficult reform measures in those countries.
Proximity also was linked to Western assistance in reform. Poland received
important help, such as a cancellation of half its foreign debts, and a
crucial $1 billion stabilization fund for its currency on Jan. 1, 1990, the
first day of its reform program.
Russia received no such help. Indeed the first contact between the Bush
administration and the Russian Government in late 1991 was to admonish the
Russians to continue paying their foreign debts, at all costs!
Poland, next door to Western Europe, and with millions of Polish-Americans in
the United States, was close to our minds, hearts, and even to our politics.
Russia was much further away, still viewed by many Americans as the enemy to
watch with wariness, not the victim of history in need of an urgent helping
This last point may sound odd in view of the popular perception that we've
given billions of dollars to Russia, much of it returned to our banks as
capital flight! It's true that we urged the International Monetary Fund to
lend Russia billions of dollars, but these have been loans at market interest
rates, not grants or debt cancellation as in the case of Poland. And in any
event, the IMF help arrived in Russia in large amounts only after 1994, after
most of the reformers had been pushed from office.
One could speculate on a long list of other geography-linked factors: the
length of time under socialism (longest in Russia, shortest in Central Europe
and the Balkans); the legacies of Ottoman and czarist rule; the religious
divides between Western Christianity, Orthodox Christianity, and Islam; the
past experience with multi-party rule (nonexistent in Russia and other parts
of the Russian empire). Such factors may condition events, though they are
rarely deterministic, as many historical reversals have shown.
For some combination of these reasons, a new political and economic divide
has replaced the Iron Curtain. The westernmost states - from the Baltics to
Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia - are
now lined up for EU membership and protection in the Western security
alliance. The Balkans remain in limbo, with countries such as Bulgaria and
Romania desperate for admission to the Western club, and Serbia condemning
all to turmoil. To the east, alas, we have large areas of continued chaos and
decline: corruption, health crisis, border conflicts, and violence.
Geography has conditioned events, but surely is not deterministic. Even now,
a handful of countries in the East are seeing a nascent recovery, however
fragile. Armenia, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have achieved some notable economic
recovery since 1996, after vertiginous declines in the early years. But
Russia and Ukraine have seen no such turnaround, and their crises, arguably,
are continuing to deepen.
If, with some luck, there will be honest and competent political leadership
in Russia and Ukraine in the years ahead (following their upcoming
presidential elections), the West may have one final chance to help. These
countries need help in introducing new technologies, in business
reorganization, in forging strategic partnerships between Western and Russian
enterprises, and the Russian government needs deep and real relief on its
debts, not another IMF loan package.
The West is hardly immune to the continuing instability in the East: We could
easily be dragged into corruption, violence, or worse. Time alone will not
solve the problems, nor will further IMF missions. Bringing the Eastern
transition economies, especially Russia, into the world political and
economic order in a stable and beneficial way will be one of the great
challenges facing America and Europe in the years ahead.
Both Presidents Bush and Clinton largely ducked the challenge, fearing that
the American people would not pick up the tab. The American people should
insist that the next president finally get to work on this task.
The Sunday Times (UK)
19 September 1999
[for personal use only]
Muslim warns of Moscow war
Mark Franchetti Moscow
WITH a bloody wave of terrorist bombings adding immeasurably to President
Boris Yeltsin's political woes, a Muslim rebel leader has for the first time
confirmed a link between one of the explosions in Moscow and Islamic
separatists fighting the Russian army in Dagestan.
Shamil Basayev, a veteran of the separatist war in Chechnya, has said
comrades in arms from neighbouring Dagestan planted the first bomb that
exploded in a shopping mall behind Red Square on August 31, killing one
person and injuring 40.
Since then nearly 300 people have died in four other bombings that have
provoked fear and panic in the capital and plunged the country into the most
menacing turmoil it has faced in the chaotic decade since communism's demise.
On Friday, Moscow police named a Chechen, Achimes Gochiyayev, 29, as the head
of the group responsible for the bombings. He is said to have rented space in
the two blocks of flats bombed.
To victims of the carnage it may no longer matter who was to blame. "I cannot
describe the horror of it," said a Russian rescue worker fighting back tears
at the scene of a blast on Monday in which 116 people, including several
children, were killed in their sleep.
To Kremlin leaders struggling for survival in the run-up to elections,
however, the arrest of suspects has become as much of a political imperative
as winning the war in Dagestan, where a rebel army led by Chechen guerrillas
is fighting the Russian army.
"These explosions will go on," Basayev is quoted as saying in Prague's Lidove
Noviny, "because [Dagestani] people who had their relatives, mothers and
children killed for nothing will kill out of revenge."
His chilling warning coincided with reports from Dagestan that 1,500 rebels
were massing for another attack on Russian forces this weekend, contradicting
Moscow's much-trumpeted assurances that the "terrorists" were all but
defeated. Yesterday the Russian air force pounded rebel positions inside
Chechnya. An unconfirmed report said Russian motorised units had crossed into
the breakaway republic, the first such incursion into Chechnya since 1996.
The crisis, which threatens to embroil Russia's generals in a campaign as
punishing as the ill-fated one in Chechnya in 1995, has revived widespread
doubts about Yeltsin's fitness to govern, prompting rumours that he may soon
resign - or offer a job to Alexander Lebed, the hulking former paratrooper
turned politician whose mediation in the previous conflict is widely credited
with having ended the bloodshed there.
With parliamentary elections scheduled for December and the presidential
election in June, Yuri Luzhkov, the ambitious mayor of Moscow, and Vladimir
Putin, the latest in a long line of Russian prime ministers as Moscow has
reeled from one crisis to another, have staked their political futures on
solving the crisis. Yet in a city renowned for its love of conspiracy
theories, they have struggled to reassure the public. Most Russians believe
that the terror campaign is linked to Russia's long-running problems in the
Caucasus region, the people of which are routinely blamed for the crime and
chaos in Moscow. The three prime suspects named by Russian police are all of
With Basayev's guerrillas - some of them linked to former Afghan rebels who
humiliated the Soviet Red Army into retreating from Kabul - seeking to merge
the Russian republics of Dagestan and neighbouring Chechnya into an
independent Islamic state, Russian security forces had warned that rebels
might bring their war to Moscow. Yet when the bombing began, it was wildly
rumoured that Russian security forces might somehow be to blame. According to
one unlikely theory, a power-crazed Yeltsin was eager for any pretext to
impose a state of emergency and cancel elections.
Basayev, a bearded Chechen warlord who is co-ordinating rebel operations in
Dagestan, may have put such speculation to rest. He has long been a thorn in
the side of the Kremlin, inspiring terror among the Russian troops routed in
Chechnya. He famously humiliated Moscow by taking 1,200 hostages in southern
Russia at the height of the Chechen war. Now he is fighting in Dagestan.
Alongside him is Khattab, an Arab militant famed for a devastating mountain
ambush he executed against a Russian military convoy in Chechnya in 1996. He
takes no prisoners: more than 100 soldiers were killed, and video tapes of
the attack were later sold in the markets of Grozny, the Chechen capital.
Known as the "Black Arab", Khattab is widely suspected of having links with
Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi dissident financier blamed for last year's
bombings of American embassies in Africa. Russian intelligence sources
suspect the hand of Bin Laden in the Dagestani rebel campaign and believe he
may have helped to fund secret terrorist training camps in Chechnya.
Khattab has denied responsibility for the blasts. But Basayev seemed eager to
implicate his Dagestani associates, saying the bombings were carried out in
revenge for Russian air raids on Dagestani villages. "What is the
difference," he said, "between someone letting a bomb go off in the centre of
Moscow and injuring 10 to 20 children and the Russians dropping bombs from
their aircraft over the Dagestani village of Karamachi and killing 10 to 20
The blasts have provoked deep insecurity among urban Russians. Some residents
are sleeping in their cars for fear of being blown up in their beds. In
apartment blocks, civil defence groups take turns to patrol stairwells and
entrances round the clock. Graffiti urging citizens to "kill the blacks" -
the Russian term for olive-skinned people from the Caucasus - have appeared
in metro stations. Anatoli Tyazholov, the governor of the Moscow region
surrounding the capital, has called for people from the Caucasus lacking
proper registration papers to be rounded up in camps.
None of it is any consolation to the victims - or the survivors. Semion
Konyukhov's tragedy was the fate that spared him: he says he should have been
killed at 5.30am on Monday, when the eight-storey building in which he lived
was ripped apart by a powerful explosion. But in a gesture that will haunt
him forever, he had swapped flats with Olga, his newly married daughter, to
give her more room for her baby. She, her husband and Liza, the child, were
killed, while Konyukhov survived.
Such was the power of the blast, believed to have been caused by about 200kg
of plastic explosives stored in a first- floor flat, Liza's little body was
found 200 metres away from the building, lying in a children's sandpit where
Konyukhov used to play with her every afternoon. Her parents were crushed in
Such carnage has become disturbingly common for Moscow's residents: if
Basayev's comments are a true indication of rebel intentions, the nightmare
seems set to continue.
Los Angeles Times
19 September 1999
[for personal use only]
Spreading Chaos in Central Asia
By PAULA R. NEWBERG
Paula R. Newberg, Who Lived and Worked for Several Years in Central and South
Asia, Is the Author "Politics at the Heart: the Architecture of International
Assistance to Afghanistan."
WASHINGTON--One failed state is a tragedy, but a region rife with
intolerance is an invitation to unending instability.
In striking testament to the disorders of post-Cold War diplomacy, the
states of Central Asia now confront stark choices between democratic
pluralism and authoritarian centralism. Terrorist incidents this past year
have placed basic issues in sharp relief, underlining the fragile
relationships among the states of the region and their separate, precarious
paths toward sovereignty and stability. The future of universal political
participation, the place of Islam in the state and the role of small
countries in this vast region--all challenge the tolerance of states and the
ingenuity of civil society as these nations step delicately around deeply
divisive issues on the road toward democracy.
One month ago, where the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and
Uzbekistan meet, armed guerrillas raided several villages in Kyrgyzstan and
took hostages. Kidnapping and hostage-taking turned into cross-border
bombings and population displacements, transforming a peaceful corner of
Central Asia into the newest casualty of post-Soviet politics. The place this
occurred, in the shadow of the Pamir mountains, where state boundaries bisect
old tribal and ethnic communities, symbolizes the permeable perimeters of
contemporary Central Asia.
Composed primarily of disaffected Uzbeks belonging to Islamist parties
outlawed by Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, the guerrillas reportedly
included Tajiks and a small contingent of Afghans and Arabs. In short order,
the Kyrgyz military stepped in to surround the guerrillas, the police
undertook surveillance and arrests of ethnic Uzbek citizens of Kyrgyzstan,
and the government called on Russia for support.
The short-term aim of the guerrilla action was to secure safe passage to
Uzbekistan, presumably to foment a popular uprising, and the release of
Islamist leaders held by the Uzbekistan government. In the past year, which
witnessed an attempt on Karimov's life that he attributed to Islamist
militants, Tashkent has imposed order by limiting civil-rights protections.
The virus of creeping authoritarianism has spread throughout the region:
Most governments have modified democratic rhetoric to favor actions to dampen
popular discord and reinforce central power. If the death knell has not yet
rung for dissent, opposition politics have taken new forms. One is the rising
reach of Islamist groups whose very existence seems an affront to the
region's stridently secular leaders.
In a cavalcade of mutual blaming, the Uzbek government accused
Tajikistan of supporting the guerrillas; the Tajiks cast aspersions on
Uzbekistan for destabilizing the region; and Kyrgyz President Askar A. Akayev
held Osama bin Laden and neighboring Afghanistan's Taliban movement
accountable for sacrificing secular democracy on the altar of a prospective
Islamist Central Asia. The small Kyrgyz and Tajik states co-exist uneasily
with their far-larger Uzbek neighbor, but their attempts to use Russia as a
counterweight have complicated regional relations. Kyrgyz authorities fear
that Uzbekistan may move into their southern region, ostensibly to protect
ethnic Uzbeks, but really to control a border area already penetrated by drug
The specter of the failed Afghan state, where many Central Asians fought
in the Soviet army, looms large. Many of today's guerrillas fought in
Afghanistan and Tajikistan after leaving repressive Uzbekistan in the 1990s.
All the states in the region--ranging from Taliban-supporting Pakistan to
Taliban-opposing Iran and Central Asia--fear uncontrollable transnational
groups and the lethal mix of drugs and armaments that often fuel antistate
Ultimately, it is the state that is at risk in Central Asia, as it is in
the Caucasus, the Balkans and many parts of Africa, where plural populations
encounter the state as either an unfulfilled promise or an obstruction to
political and economic progress. The reluctantly independent states of
Central Asia, which lived in relative prosperity under subsidized Soviet
rule, have embraced sovereignty in vastly different ways. Uzbekistan,
Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, large and resource rich, have traded on their
future profits with a mix of nationalism and authoritarianism that
alternately lures and provokes investors and trading partners. Tajikistan
stubbornly survives its own civil war and, with regular exchanges of refugees
and militants, Afghanistan's, too. Pluralist Kyrgyzstan, unwitting host to
discord and rebel actions, has embraced every Western tutorial on economic
liberalization with the sad knowledge that its investment potential is
inadequate for its needs and ambitions.
The result is the lure of political and economic advantages--available
for some, but still eluding the grasp of many. Opportunities exist, absent
the distributive equity to which civil society was accustomed, and the
promise of political participation has faded as governments seek to control
resources and power. Optimists look for silver linings in the long term,
hoping foreign trade and investment may bring wealth to the many and
political voice to all. Pessimists, mired in short-term debt and even shorter
patience, fear the longer term may come too late: Governments and states will
disappear into the chasm between idealism and realism.
Under these circumstances, caricature has replaced open debate. The
Uzbekistan government, condemning opposition as Muslim extremism, offers
little room for dissent; Islamist groups, excluded from political discourse,
target the state as the ultimate enemy. Both are right, and wrong. Central
Asia's states are creatures of an international political economy in which
they are tangential. Without political pluralism, their continuing peripheral
status will exacerbate domestic tensions, fostering a familiar spiral of
discontent. But insurgency, with or without the veil of religion, threatens
the state and citizens who still want it to endure, forcing countries like
Kyrgyzstan, relatively open and open-minded, to negotiate around guerrillas
rather than risk validating their means and ends.
Islam is not the problem in Central Asia, but economic, social and
political dislocations may make it seem like a solution. The problem is not
religion in politics, so feared by the former communists who now rule every
state in the region, but a dangerous brew of terrorism and ideological
intransigence that so easily infects politics in the name of populism. The
shadow of Afghanistan is a close and potent reminder of what it means for
political society to implode.
Central Asia's leaders have the unenviable task of crafting a balance
among forces over which they do not have equal control. Just what form their
states will finally take is still an open question. But relinquishing
democracy to ensure stability will be a sure sign that progress will not be
September 19, 1999
[for personal use only]
Why It's Wrong To Right Off Russia Now
By David Hoffman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
David Hoffman is Moscow bureau chief of The Washington Post.
MOSCOW—In the colossal Soviet military machine, Viktor Vyshinsky worked in
fluid dynamics at a secret aviation institute, testing missiles and
warplanes. But when the Soviet Union came to an end, he felt trapped, he
recalled, "like a miner deep in the shaft." He climbed to the surface to try
to make sense of capitalism and the new Russia. Vyshinksy, a scientist, set
up a pollution control system for a local government. He didn't get paid.
Then he tried a commercial project for timber drying. No luck. After that
came his attempt to predict floods. "Nothing actually worked out from that
period," he told me. But Vyshinsky did not give up--not long ago, he was
working on a mathematical model to predict turbulence created by airplanes at
Vyshinsky's doggedness holds a lesson for those who are suddenly worried that
the great Russian transition to market capitalism and democracy has somehow
failed. It hasn't. Russians are picking themselves up off the floor every
day, plunging back again and again into the unknown, despite the wrenching
disappointments that they and the world have witnessed here in the last few
The experiment--and it is just that, a grand and unprecedented experiment--is
in trouble, that's clear. From the outset, it has been burdened by the legacy
of Russian authoritarianism, by greed and avarice, by utter incompetence in
national leadership, and by the unimaginable problems of changing the
mind-set of a whole people, breaking free of generations of passivity and
paternalism, and doing it quickly.
Now comes a spate of headlines in the United States and Europe about
allegations of money laundering, alleged bribery involving high-level Kremlin
officials and the flight of Russia's precious capital. But it is strange to
hear the alarmist tone in the West about the Russian "kleptocracy" and
"gangster state," and to listen to the debate about who "lost" Russia. It is
strange because Russia's woes have been staring us in the face for nearly a
decade. In fact, the deeper these woes become, the greater the need for the
world's most successful experiment in market capitalism and democracy to show
the way. What really baffles me is the notion that the United States should
disengage from Russia because things have not, in a few short years, turned
out to be our idea of Main Street.
Russia is not going to be Main Street for a long time. But the United States
has a huge obligation--and national interest--to see that the Russian
experiment advances and to find ways to repair the damage it has already
suffered. It may surprise prospering Americans, but the truth is that the
Cold War is not yet really won. Our longed-for dividend of a less dangerous
world will not be secure if Russia goes off the tracks.
Russia today is a failing state--its military is a wreck, its recent wave of
terrorism has created panic and uncertainty, its tax collection is a
disaster, and it is not turning itself into a market democracy very well.
Moreover, Russia is suffering a debilitating and degenerative disease. What
little capital it has to become a capitalist country is being spirited
abroad. For a decade, capital has been fleeing at an alarming rate. The
suspicions of money laundering and possible huge money flows through the Bank
of New York are not the first, or the last, of this river of riches that has
However, the past 15 years--since the dawn of perestroika--have taught an
important lesson: Transition takes time and patience, far more than anyone
thought when the Berlin Wall fell. The late economist Ed Hewett noted wisely
that sometimes a misstep is part of a larger movement forward. For example,
last year's devaluation of the ruble and default on Russia's domestic debt
were not disasters. Policymakers made big mistakes, but, in retrospect, the
crash itself was more of a correction than a cataclysm.
It's just plain wrong to write off Russia as a hopeless failure. Have we run
out of energy and patience for the job of a lifetime, making sure the values
that we fought for in the Cold War are truly and firmly planted here? It's
time to wake up and think about getting Russia right. In fact, it's easy to
forget how far Russia has already come. Not too long ago, a foreign
visitor--even a package from a foreigner--aroused fear and suspicion, and
people spoke openly only in their kitchens. Today Russia is a cacophony of
political voices, and both literature and art are relatively free. And
despite the stress of recent years, the Russian transition never degenerated
into mass violence.
The criticism that Russia has become a "gangster state" is terribly
one-dimensional. The transition has many fronts, and it has been an inchoate
mess on all of them. The last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, greatly
advanced political freedom but stumbled repeatedly in lame attempts to tinker
with the socialist economy. Russian President Boris Yeltsin at first bravely
broke the grip of the old state, but then checked out of the business of
building something new in its place. The fundamental problems of constructing
a civil society and rule-of-law state have been carelessly ignored and may
well have to wait for another generation.
What is amazing to me every day is not the lack of capitalism in Russia but
the utter madness and zealousness of it. Russians are rushing headlong into a
new world for which they have few rules. Instead of a sodden mass longing to
go back to socialism, the country is a bewildering, scary and warped buy-sell
kind of place. The "market" creates perverse incentives--scrap metal thieves,
for example, raid warplanes and power stations in search of electronic boards
with precious metals they can steal, melt down and sell. The Russians call it
dikiy or wild capitalism--wild as in the untamed jungle.
Americans should hardly be throwing up their hands in shock and surprise at
the ascent of robber-baron capitalism in Russia. We know it well. We had it
once, too. In the industrial expansion that followed the Civil War, there was
a hunger for new capital, and that gave rise to tycoons such as J. Pierpont
Morgan. He became a powerful turn-of-the-century middleman between capital,
both foreign and domestic, and America's expanding industry. Eventually, the
magnates' immense power dissipated as our markets grew more mature. The wild
capitalism gave rise to a more civilized kind. But this fundamental shift
Russia has been trying to build market capitalism for only eight years. In
one sense, Russia faces the same problem that once confronted the United
States--a hunger for capital. There is no way the rotting factories of the
Soviet Union can be retooled and restructured without new capital. But there
are differences: The American robber barons, for all their greed, built
something and left enormous amounts of philanthropy. Russia lacks the rule of
law that has been one of America's enduring national strengths. And, when the
new Russian state was born, the lion's share of property--the massive stock
of factories, mines and refineries--was not the result of individual
initiative, but rather came from the old state. The immensely important job
of finding owners for that property who will rebuild it, manage it and
reinvest profits is still at the core of Russia's troubles.
In the latest controversy, much of the harshest criticism has been directed
at Russia's robber barons, known here as the oligarchs, a group of financiers
and magnates who dominate the weakening state. These men did not just
parachute into Russia. They were a product of their turbulent times.
Unfortunately, the incentive of those times was to make "easy money," to reap
fantastic profits quickly because of the imbalances created during the
transition. There is a temptation to see these early businessmen as
pioneering capitalists blazing trails out of the Soviet system, but the
oligarchs played an important role: They elbowed out the Communist Party
elite and factory managers who resisted change. The oligarchs were also
addicted to easy money. Economist Anders Aslund has pointed out that in early
1990 the Moscow free-market price of a package of Marlboro cigarettes was 30
rubles--the same price as a ton of crude oil. Those who could hustle the
crude and sell it overseas at world prices reaped a windfall.
I have counted seven phases of accessing "easy money" since 1991, and it is
the final phase that ought to get special attention. In 1997 and 1998,
Western banks lent hundreds of millions of dollars to Russia's oligarchs and
their empires, often without carefully checking the borrowers. One Russian
banker told me recently that he really didn't need the $250 million he
borrowed on global markets two years ago.
>From the time they were young men, the new tycoons learned that their money
was only safe abroad. They feared their own crazy, unreformed tax system,
political instability, extortion and theft by their rivals. Over the years,
capital was pumped out the door at a rate of $1 billion a month. For a
country already lacking capital, the leaks were debilitating. The only real
way to stop them was to create conditions inside Russia to attract capital,
but its leaders had absolutely no willpower to make that happen. What's more,
the Central Bank itself took part in capital flight, sending Russia's foreign
currency reserves to an offshore tax haven.
The window of opportunity is closing in Russia: Millions of people have lost
faith in the Western goals of market democracy, even as they struggle
frantically to survive in it. There are three important ways for the United
States to remain engaged. First is the business of democracy. Russians have
stayed the course on elections. Now they need to build civil society, the
glue that connects the rulers to the ruled. We know something about civil
society--and we've done far too little to share that knowledge. Second,
there's still an enormous amount of work on arms control and
nonproliferation. The last, and most difficult, is the Russian economy, which
is not yet completely out of control. Whether the problem is bandit
capitalism or just chaos capitalism, much remains to be done to fix the
system of corporate governance, to clean up a disastrous tax code, to help
Russia break out of stagnation in agriculture and to deal with defense
conversion. Most of it will have to be done by Russians themselves.
But we need to remind ourselves just how much Russia has changed. As a
teenager in the early 1970s, I demonstrated for Soviet Jews' freedom in
Washington's Farragut Square. In the '80s, I reported on President Reagan and
his demands for systemic change in the Soviet Union. Now I sit in Moscow,
thinking that in many ways Russians have accomplished much of what we asked.
Have we run out of the imagination and energy to help them finish the job?