This Date's Issues: 3626 ē3627
Johnson's Russia List
16 November 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Is It Treason To Question War Aims?
2. Segodnya: Putin As A Cover For The Family. THEY HAVENíT YET DECIDED IN
THE KREMLIN WHETHER THEY WANT.
3. Reuters: Russia braces for more criticism over Chechnya.
4. Reuters: U.S. says Russia should still get IMF loan.
5. Stanislav Menshikov: A few comments on TURMOIL IN THE CAUCASUS.
6. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Few choices for Moscow's homeless
7. Financial Times (UK): UKRAINE: Kuchma wins election the Yeltsin way.
Controlling the media and placating monopolists give victory to Ukraine's
president. Stefan Wagstyl and Charles Clover report.
8. The Guardian (UK): Caspian oil plan stirs political cauldron.
9. Obshchaya Gazeta: Yavlinskiy on Chechen Conflict.
10. Baltimore Sun: Will Englund, Russians hear false echoes of Kosovo
Chechnya offensive is wrongly compared to NATO's campaign.]
November 16, 1999
EDITORIAL: Is It Treason To Question War Aims?
"The Russian army is reviving in Chechnya, faith in the army is growing, and
a politician who does not think so cannot be regarded as a Russian
politician. In this case, there is only one definition - a traitor. And
[Grigory] Yavlinsky's attempts to justify himself, to say that he was
misinterpreted, do not change matters."
The above quote was not from the LDPR's Vladimir Zhirinovsky and not from
Russian National Unity leader Alexander Barkashov.
No, it was from Russia's best-known "liberal": Anatoly Chubais.
Yavlinsky's criticism of the war in Chechnya could not have been more careful
or loyal. He has expressed "complete support" for the government's war
effort, and for the stated aims of stamping out terrorism, and has applauded
Russian military successes.
Within that context, he framed his call last week for negotiations with
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov. Yavlinsky argued that the military has
restored Russian influence in the Caucasus, and can in confidence hand the
process to political negotiators.
Yavlinsky also called for an immediate 30-day bombing moratorium, to move
ordinary people out of the war zone. This is Yavlinsky's recognition -
somewhat limp and belated compared to that of, say, Yelena Bonner - that
civilians have been getting killed or uprooted at a rate that has alarmed
governments around the world.
Yavlinsky also puts forward the chilling suggestion that after those 30 days,
if Maskhadov has not met Yabloko's harsh negotiating conditions, the military
can do as it pleases in Chechnya - apparently on the understanding that
anyone left is by definition a combatant, as all "real" civilians will have
fled during the cease fire.
This is the truly ugly aspect of Yavlinsky's plan. Many of those in Chechnya
are trapped there by circumstance - they are elderly, or ill, or mentally
disabled, or simply stuck in poverty. If Yavlinsky's argument provides a
carte blanche for razing the republic, their fate will be on his head.
Yet even so, is Yavlinsky a traitor? Yavlinsky agrees with the war aims 100
percent, he praises the successes - and then he argues now is the time for
new tactics - and for this, according to Chubais, we can no longer even
consider Yavlinsky "a Russian politician," because he "does not think ... the
Russian army is reviving in Chechnya."
Chubais is more than welcome to scorn Yavlinsky's peace plan. But instead of
challenging Yavlinsky's proposal, he is challenging his right to make a
proposal at all. Chubais may call himself a liberal - but in labeling
Yavlinsky an enemy of the people he is behaving more like a Stalinist.
Russia Today press summaries
15 November 1999
Putin As A Cover For The Family
THEY HAVENíT YET DECIDED IN THE KREMLIN WHETHER THEY WANT TO
On Friday, Vladimir Putin told the journalists he wants to become president
of Russia. And heíll possibly do it. But, in the Kremlin, they have not
decided if Putin is really their candidate. It can be Putin or Shoigu or
someone else. So far, in the eyes of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, with all
his rating and ambitions, is playing the role of scarecrow for the
Primakov-Luzhkov bloc. The prime minister also works as the cover for the
"Family" - they let him conduct the war, quarrel with the West (which people
like), and play the role of "power" in the minds of citizens, who are scared
The reason for the Kremlinís indecisiveness about his candidacy is that, in
reality, Putin cannot do anything other than conduct war. Besides, the
Kremlin will hardly trust him with the economy. Thus, the Family has secured
"other variants" of succession of power. One is that Putin may be dismissed
with a peaceful settlement of the Chechen campaign, and the Kremlin will
simultaneously start to promote Shoigu as "the hero in Chechnya". Or they may
leave Putin in office, but Boris Yeltsin will demonstrate that he does not
trust him completely and distance himself from Putinís politics.
Then television will pour compromising materials on the prime minister and
will demonstrate the awful details of the war in Chechnya every day. Putin's
rating will fall immediately if this tactic is adopted by the Kremlin.
Russia braces for more criticism over Chechnya
By Patrick Lannin
MOSCOW, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Russia prepared on Tuesday to fend off more
criticism of its campaign against Moslem rebels in Chechnya, an offensive
President Boris Yeltsin has vowed to defend at this week's European security
summit in Istanbul.
Yeltsin's spokesman rejected the idea that further financial aid from the
West might be threatened by a row over the seven-week offensive, which shows
no sign of slowing.
Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin as saying on Monday that Western
countries "have no right to blame Russia for destroying bandits and
terrorists on its territory."
"We will not stop (the offensive) as long as there is even one terrorist
there," he said ahead of a November 18-19 summit of the Organisation for
Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE), due to take place in Istanbul.
Russia is expected to face pressure at the summit to go easy in the campaign,
which has already claimed civilian lives and forced more than 200,000
Chechens to flee their homes, many to the neighbouring province of
Russia says it is pursuing international terrorists in the guise of Moslem
rebels who have twice invaded a neighbouring region and whom it accuses of
bomb blasts in Russian towns.
The rebels and Chechnya deny causing the blasts.
Moscow's defence of its campaign has not prevented further expressions of
concern from the West, with the European Union condemning Russia's
"indiscriminate" use of force and telling Moscow to observe international
"The EU condemned all disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force in
Chechnya which has given rise to severe hardship for the civilian
population," EU foreign ministers said in a statement after talks in
The current chairman of the OSCE, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek,
said on Monday he would like to see a timetable for Russia to pull its forces
out of Chechnya or risk jeopardising plans to sign an updated Conventional
Forces in Europe arms control treaty.
A new CFE treaty is one of the documents on the table for agreement at the
summit. Russia has already broken the current treaty by its troop build up in
the North Caucasus.
HEAD OF U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY TO VISIT
The diplomatic tension has not stopped the campaign from proceeding.
People in several villages and towns were forced to cower in cellars and
basements in the face of relentless artillery attacks and air raids. Chechens
fleeing the bombing said the south of the region had been flattened by the
Ilyas Akhmadov, named foreign minister by Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov,
said on a private visit to the Czech Republic that 4,000 civilians and 1,600
Chechen troops had been killed. Moscow has said reports of civilian deaths
The refugee situation was due to come under further scrutiny during a visit
to the region by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata.
She was to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday and then later head to the conflict
zone. It was not clear if she would visit Chechnya itself or Ingushetia.
Yeltsin's spokesman, Dmitry Yakushkin, rejected suggestions the West might
link easing back on Chechnya to giving Russia financial aid in the form of
International Monetary Fund loans.
"This question (Chechnya) is in no way connected with financial aid, with
credits," he told NTV television.
U.S. says Russia should still get IMF loan
By Steve Holland
ANKARA, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The United States said on Monday that while it had
great concern over Russia's crackdown in Chechnya, it did not believe the
conflict should affect International Monetary Fund assistance for Moscow.
White House National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, in Turkey with U.S.
President Bill Clinton on an eastern Mediterranean tour, said Clinton would
tell either Russian President Boris Yeltsin or Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
at a European security summit later this week in Istanbul that Russia's
current course in Chechnya "is not a wise one."
But Berger said "it would not make sense" for the United States to retaliate
against Russia by blocking assistance for containing and storing Russian
nuclear materials and reducing its nuclear weapons.
"Nor would it make sense for us to affect the IMF money, assuming the
economic and transparency criteria are met, because that goes to the very
stability of Russia," he told reporters.
The IMF said on Saturday it had resolved most of its differences with Russia
over release of the second $640 million tranche of a $4.5 billion loan.
Russia said on Monday it hoped to receive the long-awaited $640 million
It has been held up by concerns over the transparency of Russia's finance and
international money-laundering investigations.
Berger said it was unclear whether Yeltsin would indeed attend a 54-nation
summit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in Istanbul
later this week.
Clinton is expected to meet Yeltsin if he attends.
Yeltsin, in Moscow, vowed on Monday that Russia would defend its military
campaign in rebel Chechnya against growing Western criticism at the summit.
Interfax news agency quoted Yeltsin as saying that Western countries "have no
right to blame Russia for destroying bandits and terrorists on its
He spoke as his forces kept up a relentless air and artillery bombardment of
Chechen villages in their drive against Chechnya's Islamic militants, whom
Moscow blames for a series of bomb blasts in Russian towns and cities and
also accuses of seeking to destabilise the whole North Caucasus region.
The conflict is believed to have killed hundreds, if not thousands, of
civilians and created 200,000 refugees.
Clinton, in a speech to Turkey's parliament, said: "We must help Russia to
complete its momentous democratic revolution."
"We must be clear with Russia that its fight against terrorism is right, but
that the use of indiscriminate force against civilians is wrong, likely to
exacerbate the very tensions Russia wants to resolve," he said.
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999
From: email@example.com (Stanislav Menshikov)
Subject: A few comments on TURMOIL IN THE CAUCASUS on the Voice of
America (JRL- 3618), and Albert Weeks (JRL- 3622)
I was surprised by some of the remarks made in the discussion on the VOA,
particularly Paul Henze and Paul Goble.
Henze claimed that "most Caucasians really don't want to be under Russian
domination". That is simply not true as far as the North Caucasus is
concerned. Chechnya is the exception rather than the rule. Daghestan sought
protection by the Russian military from the recent invasion out of Chechnya.
The same is true of North Ossetia in its problems with Ingushi extremists
and of the Karachaeyevites in there controversy with the Cherkesses. In the
complex inter-ethnic problems that are traditional for that region, Russia's
role has been that of a stabiliser. Most of these nations are simply too
small and too weak economically to aspire for separation from Russia and
stand on their own feet. None of them, except Chechnya, have so far claimed
As to Chechnya, it became practically independent after the 1994-1996 war.
However, it did not use its independence either for economic development or
for building up a civilised democratic society. Most of the aid provided
from the Russian budget was stolen by the criminal groups in charge. The
democratically elected parliament was dissolved and president Maskhadov
became a hostage of the so called "field commanders", i.e. leaders of the
armed terrorist groups. After they invaded Daghestan, it became clear that
no peace could be possible unless these groups were destroyed.
I, for one, deplore civilian casualties in the current war. Russian generals
are not particularly careful when they wage war (neither are the US
generals, as Kosovo has shown). A political solution is possible if there
was a real strong civilian government in charge in Cechnya, but there is
none do far.
Henze also claims that in the current conflict "Chechnya alone is not the
issue. The issue is the whole Caucasus." Why? "Well, it frightens everybody
in the Caucasus." But is there any hard evidence that Russia is about to
invade Georgia or Azerbaijan? Not so far. And not unless one believes Mr.
Brzhezinsky (see his piece in the Wall Street Journal as quoted in
JRL-3617), but his hysterics should not be taken seriously. If the Russian
army is so weak that cannot lick the Chechen bandits why is "everbody" so
scared of it? It is not difficult to see who in the West might profit by
spreading that new "Russians are coming" scare.
As Paul Goble puts it (in agreement with Henze), the "Russia's policy in
Chechnya is a part of broader Russian policy across the entire Caucasus
designed to freeze out other people and therefore allow Russian influence to
come back." Who are these "other people" that the Russians want to "freeze
out"? Obviously, they are those who want to control the flow of Caspian oil
to the West through the Caucasus. As one discussants on the VOA put it,
"That's a major accomplishment for Western policy and it's a major challenge
in its way to Russian policy, which would like to maintain full control of
the flow of oil out of the Caspian".
So the rub of the matter is that two sides - Russia and the West (but
basically the US and UK) - are in mutual confrontation over oil with a view
to "freeze" each other out of the region. What is so new about it? Fighting
for control of oil by major world powers has been the reason for expansion
and wars throughout the last 100 years. If it is right for the West to do
so, why is it wrong for Russia? Why be hypocritical about it? The West
wanted Russia to become a market (i.e. capitalist) country. Now that it has
joined the club, it is acting accordingly. It is in the nature of capitalist
countries to compete for spheres of interest.
So when the participants in this discussion claim that "the United States
are not involved" in the Chechen war they are misrepresenting facts.
Fact one: the US are interested in having the oil pipeline from Baku to
Turkey built as soon as possible. The war in Chechnya is a major argument in
favour of building that particular pipeline rather tha relying on the one
that goes through North Caucasus. Therefore Washington will probably do
nothing serious to stop that war short of castigating Russia and helping
scare Georgia and Azerbaijan.
Fact two: where are Stingers and other modern arms coming from into
Chechnya? Some say they come from Afghanistan. But didn't they first come to
that country via Pakistan through a special operation initiated by the CIA?
A recent BBC TV program admitted as much loud and clear a couple of weeks
ago quoting and showing in person the proud US participants of that
operation. Ten years from now others will saying the same thing on other TV
programs about Chechnya - unless Russia manages to put an end to that
intervention and sabotage on its territory.
Fact three. Would President Clinton be coming in person this week to
Istanbul if US interest in Caspian oil was not behind the Chechen war?
Henze also believes that Russia has to be "punished". "Chechnya, I think,
compel(s) us to think about serious measures to punish Russia for what she
is doing and to try to discourage Russia from continuing." He wants
"sanctions of various kinds and suspension of I-M-F arrangements, suspension
of unilateral aid on the part of, not only the United States, but major
European countries, many of which would be willing to do so".
But let's consider what happens in this case. Sanctions will force Russia to
quit relying on foreign financing and investment in helping its economy
recover. It will have to strengthen government intervention and depend on
domestic sources of investment which could easily mobilised by putting a lid
on capital flight. This would be against conditions imposed by the IMF
(which is against controls on capital flows), but by imposing sanctions the
Fund would be loosing its levers of control over Russian policies. The
easiest way for a Russian government to promote economic recovery at this
juncture would be to raise military expenditure and increase government
investment into the armaments industry. The end result would be a much
stronger and anti-western oriented Russia than it is now.
Is that in the national interests of the US? I really think Mr. Henze is
giving Washington the wrong advice.
Finally, let me comment on what Albert Weeks has to say in JRL-3622 about
"the deeply ingrained Russian penchant (likewise tradition) going back
centuries of blithely resorting to arms to solve questions of
self-determination relating to Russia's borders or to non-Russian
populations at the fringes. How many examples of this intolerant Russian
behavior over the past 85 years and years before under the tsars, up to and
including latterday incursions into the Caucasus, Afghanistan, riverine
territory on the Sino-Soviet border, the Baltics, Japanese Islands, etc.,
need to be reproduced for observers finally to perceive this as a
deeply-running Russian tradition?" He also talks about a "long-established
Russian, "hyphenated" phenomenon of politico-military thinking and
collaboration that has colored violent-prone Russian history for hundreds
of years. And which, sadly, is likely to continue to do so for many years to
Of course, there were many cases in Russian history when the integration of
other nations into the Russian empire proceeded quite peacefully. For
instance, Georgia and Armenia asked for Moscow protection long before the
Russian Tsars agreed to defend them from the Ottoman Empire and Persia. And
it is also true that much of that integration was done by force. However,
let us find one colonial power (including the US) that not resorted to the
same methods? Taking away Texas from Mexico, invading the Philipines, Puerto
Rico and Hawaii clearing the American territory from the Indians are not
the best examples of behaviour that the US can be proud of. Unfortunately,
no great power has a clean historical record. Nor is their current record
absolutely clean. Why then single out Russia? To me, it smacks of
Russophobia bordering on racism.
Christian Science Monitor
16 November 1999
Few choices for Moscow's homeless children
Human rights advocates call on officials to adopt a new approach to child
welfare: private groups
By Fred Weir
Fourteen-year-old Oksana Smirnova is a recent recruit to Russia's growing
army of abandoned children. Experts say the numbers of these kids, trapped
between a precarious street existence and official institutions that are
sometimes worse, have swollen to crisis proportions.
Oksana and her sister Sasha, 11, have found temporary refuge at Island of
Hope, one of the handful of private shelters for homeless children in Moscow.
Sitting in its sparse playroom amid a few stuffed animals and an old
Soviet-era TV, Oksana recounts her tale: The girls are from Tselenograd, in
the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Last year, their mother sold their
small apartment and headed for Moscow. But along the way they were robbed and
ended up living for weeks in a Moscow railway station.
One day police scooped up the two girls and took them to an isolyator, a
medium-security holding tank for undocumented children. "It was a terrible
place," says Oksana. "We were 30 sleeping in one room." Their mother
eventually got them out and brought them to Island of Hope. "Our mother
visits us here sometimes, but she has no chances to take us back," she says.
Moscow's Soviet-era propiska laws make it extremely difficult for outsiders
to register for residence or work in the Russian capital. More than a million
refugees and migrants are estimated to be living illegally here, under
constant threat of deportation by police.
"Refugees from former Soviet countries are one major reason for the explosion
of homeless children in recent years," says Revolt Pimenov, coordinator of
the Island of Hope shelter. "There are other reasons as well. But in all
cases, the negligence and indifference of the Russian government is an
Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, family violence, alcoholism,
poverty, and child abandonment have risen sharply. Official statistics
indicate more than 100,000 children have been abandoned for each of the past
"Moscow is a magnet. They come here from all over," says Galina Starkova,
head of the juvenile delinquency section of the city's main police force. She
defends the practice of taking street kids to the isolyator, from which they
are claimed by parents, forwarded to orphanages, or deported to their home
Moscow has only nine active foster families, fewer than even in Soviet times,
because state bureaucracies that oversee the orphanage system are unwilling
to give up control and funding, says Svetlana Bocherova, deputy chair of
Goodwill Without Borders, a children's-rights group. Russia has 2,000 state
orphanages, which currently house about 200,000 children.
"If we could sort out the bureaucratic mess we could start to solve the
problems," Ms. Bocherova says. "After all these years there are still no laws
or regulations to permit private orphanages or children's shelters to exist,"
she adds. "Every attempt to do something is stifled by bureaucrats."
A case in point is Island of Hope. The Christian Democratic Party, a group
that promotes broad Christian principles in the political sphere, founded it
as a soup kitchen and children's center four years ago. Moscow authorities
have repeatedly tried to shut the shelter down, arguing that it is
unregistered and that staff are not licensed to work with children.
"Our existence is taken as an affront to the system," says Mr. Pimenov.
"Bureaucrats believe, as a matter of principle, that all street children are
the responsibility of the state alone.... The fact that we are doing
something that is desperately needed is not taken into account."
Financial Times (UK)
16 November 1999
[for personal use only]
UKRAINE: Kuchma wins election the Yeltsin way
Controlling the media and placating monopolists give victory to Ukraine's
president. Stefan Wagstyl and Charles Clover report
Even the strongest supporters of Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma, who won a
second five-year term with a resounding margin in Sunday's election, were
surprised at the scale of his victory.
With the help of money, power, a compliant media and considerable political
skill, Mr Kuchma secured 56 per cent of the vote in Sunday's presidential
poll, compared with 38 per cent for his challenger, Petro Simonenko, the head
of Ukraine's Communist party.
Following closely a script written by Russia's President Boris Yeltsin in his
1996 election victory, Mr Kuchma successfully neutralised his toughest
opponents and distracted attention from Ukraine's dire economy.
Like Mr Yeltsin, Mr Kuchma started his campaign with a popularity rating
below 10 per cent due to recession, poverty and anger about rampant
corruption. And like Mr Yeltsin, the 61-year-old former factory director won
by manoeuvring the contest into a final run-off against his most vulnerable
opponent - the Communist party.
Just as Mr Yeltsin co-opted Gen Aleksander Lebed by giving him a top security
post in 1996, so Mr Kuchma did the same with his centrist rival, Yevhen
Marchuk. And just as the Russian president's campaign coincided with an
infamous state property giveaway to friendly banks, so in recent months
dozens of Ukrainian state-owned enterprises have ended up in the hands of Mr
Kuchma's supporters. The September transfer of control of the Nikopol
Ferroalloy plant to a bank controlled by Victor Pinchuk, boyfriend of Mr
Kuchma's daughter, is only one example.
As the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which monitored
the polls, has said, there was also: "comprehensive interference" in the
campaign from the state apparatus - including pressure on the media.
The result, however, stands unchallenged. While international observers
harshly criticised the campaign and noted widespread irregularities at the
polls, they did not challenge the validity of the result.
Mr Kuchma declared the result a victory for democracy over the threat of a
return to Communism.
The president pledged to capitalise on his victory with political and
economic reform. But analysts warned that he had made such promises many
times before and the nature and scale of his victory did note bode well for
Ukraine's political and economic progress.
"The regime will feel more confident. The circle of semi-mafia-like
entrepreneurs and nomenklatura officials [around the president] has been
strengthened," said Volodymyr Malinkovitch, an independent analyst and former
Kuchma adviser. "A civil society cannot develop."
The most immediate question is Mr Kuchma's relations with the left-dominated
parliament, with which he has been in constant conflict. Many MPs fear he
could try to take advantage of the election verdict by following through his
long-standing threat to dissolve parliament or dilute its authority. Mr
Tomenko said: "If he can't create a presidential majority in parliament, he
will dissolve it. His control over the media will be turned against
The partial privatisation of the economy since independence in 1991 has left
power in the hands of a narrow band of oligarchs close to Mr Kuchma, and
their position depends on keeping Ukraine's markets closed to newcomers. Few
economists see how liberalisation can proceed in these conditions.
Worse, if output continues falling, competition among the oligarchs for
sources of wealth could grow more intense. As Mr Malinkovitch said: "They
will fight to the death like spiders in a bottle." Mr Tomenko added that
after a campaign-time truce among the oligarchs renewed "war" could now break
But, however intense the domestic business battles, Mr Kuchma cannot ignore
the international financial community. Ukraine already has forced creditors
to reschedule debt, most recently this summer. Next year $3bn of debt falls
due, including $1bn in the first quarter, equivalent to the country's total
foreign exchange reserves. The International Monetary Fund has made clear
that big new loans depend on a credible reform plan.
Mr Kuchma made great play in the campaign of his pro-western credentials,
contrasting them with what he claimed was the pro-Russia orientation of the
Communist party. Andriy Fialko, deputy director of the foreign policy
directorate in Mr Kuchma's office, said Ukraine sought friendly relations
with Russia as well as "integration with the EU".
However, Mr Kuchma's campaign tactics have aroused criticism from the west,
including the OSCE. The president's administration recently put out feelers
to the EU to secure an invitation for Mr Kuchma to attend next month's EU
Summit in Helsinki as a prospective member. They were rebuffed.
Western diplomats say closer relations depend, among other things, on closer
Ukrainian adherence to democratic norms and that the conduct of last Sunday's
election has not helped Ukraine's case.
The Guardian (UK)
16 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Caspian oil plan stirs political cauldron
Chris Morris in Ankara and Ian Traynor in Moscow
After months of frenetic diplomatic activity and political pressure, Turkish
and American officials say they are confident that agreements on building new
pipelines to take oil and gas from the Caspian basin to Turkey and markets in
the west will be signed next week during the European security summit in
The US has invested enormous diplomatic energy trying to close the deal. The
main oil pipeline would run from the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, through
Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. If successful, it
would repel fierce competition from an alternative Russian proposal and would
end the prospect of a pipeline passing through Washington's sworn enemy Iran.
"This is much more than just an oil pipeline", said John Wolf, President Bill
Clinton's special adviser on Caspian energy issues. "It's ... a contribution
to the strategic vision of new Eurasian cooperation, and an important part of
the economic and political prospects of the region".
Russia sees the US-inspired oil and gas deals on its southern flank as an
attempt to exploit Moscow's relative weakness in the 1990s, and the wrangling
over the oil and gas routes helps explain some of the strong anti-western
rhetoric emanating from Russian officials in recent days.
Central to the Russian-Chechen conflict throughout the 1990s has been the
contest to control the Caspian oil deposits. The embattled city of Grozny,
the Chechen capital, occupies a strategic access point.
Historically the second most important oil city in the region after Baku,
Grozny's oil refineries have been a key target in the past seven weeks of
Russian air strikes, not least because the Chechen warlords are believed to
derive much of their funding from illicit oil dealing.
The key Russian-controlled Caspian oil pipeline passes through Grozny and
Chechnya from Baku to the Russian port of Novorossiysk, and Moscow plans to
build a new pipeline through Dagestan to the east, bypassing Chechnya.
Last week the Russian defence minister, Igor Sergeyev, accused Washington of
trying to usurp Moscow's traditional influence in the region in the hope of
depriving it of control of the Caucasus and the Caspian basin.
Vladimir Putin, Russia's hawkish prime minister, will argue this week in
Istanbul that Russia has too much at stake in Chechnya, and that yielding to
the guerrillas there would mean forfeiting control of the wider region.
But the Americans want delivery of the huge reserves of oil and gas that can
be found on both sides of the Caspian to remain in the "safe hands" of their
loyal Nato ally, Turkey.
One of Russia's concerns in Chechnya is that leaving the northern Caucasus in
the hands of radical Islamists would effectively cut off the Russian
heartland from Caspian oil fields. Moscow is still putting pressure on
Azerbaijan to reject the Baku-Ceyhan route in favour of a new Russian
pipeline, yet to be built, which would skirt the troublesome Chechen
Alongside the Baku-Ceyhan proposal is a plan for a complementary gas pipeline
to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan in central Asia to Turkey, the fastest
growing energy market in the region. Turkish demand for natural gas is
projected to quintuple by 2010.
Turkish and American officials hope a Caspian gas agreement will be signed in
Istanbul next week as well.
Once again though, Russia is upset by strong American support for the
trans-Caspian gas scheme, in which the American firm Bechtel is heavily
The previous Turkish government had provisionally agreed to a deal known as
the Blue Stream to import Russian natural gas in an extensive new pipeline
running along the bottom of the Black Sea. But the mammoth project's
technical viability has been called into question by experts, much to the
disdain of Russia, which sees efforts to persuade Turkey otherwise as yet
more evidence of western meddling.
All in all, it is an explosive mix: a series of vast economic projects worth
many billions of pounds, with far-reaching geopolitical consequences for one
of the world's most unstable regions.
If Russia is made to feel that it has been overlooked or even humiliated in
all this diplomatic traffic, the peoples of the Caucasus may have to prepare
for even more difficult times ahead.
Yavlinskiy on Chechen Conflict
11 November 1999
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Grigoriy Yavlinskiy: "To Fight Until the Last Chechen Is
Dead: If This Is Not Russia's Objective, Then It Is Up To the
Politicians"; first four paragraphs are Obshchaya Gazeta introduction
It is entirely evident that once again we have a war in Chechnya.
What officials are calling it is of no significance. They called what
took place there in 1994-1996 an operation, not a war. Well, how does
the current operation differ from that one?
The only difference is the informational image being presented, the
colors they are using to depict the war and how this depiction is
perceived by the public. The current "operation" looks far
more attractive. The generals today are nicer and more talented, the
Chechens--more insidious. Our intentions are more honest and victory is
nearer. But could this perhaps be just an optical illusion? A
If today's war is more righteous than the one of several years ago,
why then did it originate under the same premise, the premise of deceit?
After all, Moscow's announced plans did not include an assault crossing
of the Terek, or a blockade of Groznyy, or "territorial clearing
operations." Prime Minister Putin assured us that the military
would be engaged in building a "cordon sanitaire," that there
would be no military ground force operation. Then too, what if this war
is nothing but an effort to exact revenge for our past defeat? Does
Russia need that?
It is not acceptable today to pose such questions. This is not
believed to be the proper time. The Obshchaya Gazeta editorial staff has
a different point of view: While there is still a chance of avoiding a
repeat of the past, we need a serious discussion of what a new war will
afford Russia and Chechnya, a discussion of whether or not a victory will
justify the casualties inflicted. We begin such discussion with an
article written by Grigoriy Yavlinskiy and invite the reader to join in
the debate. Grigoriy Yavlinskiy: Six Terms for Maskhadov
There is no situation more complex for Russia today than that of
Chechnya. Primarily because we are talking about a deadly threat to
hundreds of thousands of truly unfortunate people guilty of
nothing--women, elderly people, and children, ordinary citizens of Russia
who are Chechen by nationality who simply desire to live and work in
their own land.
This is also the case because large-scale groupings of paramilitary,
criminalized forces have in fact been formed in Chechnya. These groups
are aggressive and well-armed, and they are most likely receiving support
from abroad. Moreover, they provide a new "service" for the
world market--the prospect of war against anyone you choose, upon
requisition, for money. Consider Chechnya, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan. The
danger for Russia is real and promises to threaten us for years to come.
Insofar as the first and second circumstance here mentioned are
unified in time and space, the complexity of the problem is incredible.
The events in Dagestan have shifted all these processes to a critical,
open phase. The fact that the Russian Army intervened here and is
executing its assigned mission is entirely justified. Our forces have
deployed to the northern shores of the Terek and there occupy positions
necessary to control the situation. The most important aspect is that
for the first time in five years, the Army has actually been able to
ensure conditions for the process of formation of a true border, to
introduce security for the administrative borders of Stavropol Kray,
Ingushetia, and Dagestan.
It is Russia's main objective to guarantee the safety and security of
Russian citizens. Therefore, in occupying these deployment positions,
crushing the aggressor in Dagestan, and obtaining the support of the
local populace, the Army has established excellent conditions for our
political figures, enabling them to carry out the political process in
Chechnya, including the conduct of negotiations from a position of strength.
According to all the rules, the initiative should shift right now to
the country's political leadership. But... neither the Kremlin nor the
White House seem to have any political leadership. After waiting a
while, the generals proceeded farther and issued a warning that they not
be impeded from "pursuing matters through to the end."
In assuming such a position, there is no question but that the
generals are using their own, military logic. And in their own way, the
military way, they are right.
But politics is something entirely different. US President Truman did
not vacillate when he dismissed the legendary General MacArthur, after
the latter proposed during the Korean War that China be bombed "in
order to ensure success and the establishment of conditions for a final
victory." American generals who tried long and hard to persuade
their president to bomb Cuba during crisis in the Caribbean were also
removed from their positions. Quite recently General Schwarzkopf was
discharged from the Armed Forces, having insisted following Operation
Desert Storm on the need for an offensive ground force operation against
Baghdad. Generals always propose such measures. And they are proper--it
is their logic. But politics, let me say once again, is an entirely
I have no doubt but that the Army leadership is motivated first and
foremost by patriotic feelings. But the goal the generals term
"final victory in Chechnya" is completely illusory, and for
this reason it is pernicious to the country.
Their goal will not bring to Russia a consolidation of the state and
the army, but rather a moral and geopolitical catastrophe. It may be the
final irreparable Russian calamity of the 20th century.
Through the policy of total bombing and mockery of refugees, we are
increasing the number of people who take up arms in order to wage combat
against us. Is it not clear, following the war of 1994-1996, that when
all is said and done this will raise the issue of genocide of one of the
Russian Federation's ethnic groups? Russia will not be able to endure
this, will not be able to handle it, and will therefore suffer its final
defeat. We must stop advancing along this suicidal path.
War and the destiny of Russia are matters too serious to be
subordinated to purely military logic, especially when mixed up with the
recent personal dishonor and a desire to effect revenge. The military
command cannot set political objectives or make political decisions.
This has never been the case in the history of Russia. But today it
seems to have become a reality--and this is the worst outcome of the
decade of Yeltsin's authority.
This is not some kind of conspiracy or military coup, however. It is
worse than that. It is the result of the complete discreditation of an
authority of "kleptocrats" united around the president's team.
It is the result of the disdain of the Army and society towards this
authority and the pain they feel for the situation the country finds itself
When the military talk about betrayal in the highest echelons of
authority, when they say that the Army is being plundered both literally
and in the political sense, they are right. This affects not only the
military in Russia, of course, but virtually everyone. Yet it is our
soldiers and officers who are the first to pay for it with their lives.
The release from prison of Beslan Gantamirov and the formation of some
"new Chechen authority" under his leadership demonstrate quite
clearly that the Russian Government has no rational plan of action for
Chechnya. There simply is none. Now we know why the government is
always clouding the issue, muddling the facts, lying, introducing
censorship, organizing propaganda campaigns, and generally handling the
situation not by way of execution of state policy, but rather through the
conduct of a special services operation that mocks public opinion. Any
political figure who tries to express a convincing point of view has no
trustworthy information at his disposal, neither from Chechnya nor from
When we consider the Gantamirov episode, we need not expect anything
sensible on the part of our government. I am afraid that this government
is awaiting another major collapse. Just as was the case during the
Pavel Grachev days, therefore, we ourselves must propose, insist on, and
"push through" a plan for both a military and political
solution with respect to Chechnya.
We should first of all begin with the introduction of a state of
emergency in territories contiguous with the Chechen Republic, including
portions of Stavropol Kray. We have to determine zones of combat
operations and promulgate the orders of the Supreme High Command and
resolutions of the country's organs of state power according to which
military operations in the North Caucasus are being carried out.
We must put an end to the massive bombing of Chechen territory and
suspend the offensive ground force operation. We must conduct
negotiations with Aslan Maskhadov, as the legally elected president of
Chechnya, and present him six terms:
--the release of all people taken hostage, and an end to new
kidnappings and the slave trade;
--the establishment of minimal foundations for a civil law-governed state;
--delivery to Russian authorities of terrorists on the international
wanted list, or the deportation from Chechnya of individuals accused of
terrorism; --the disarmament of all nonstate armed formations in Chechen
territory; --the elimination of all paramilitary, repressive organs;
--disavowal of the practice of receiving persons accused of
international terrorism in Chechen territory.
In the event Maskhadov rejects the prospect of negotiations under the
above-outlined conditions, we should allocate 30 days to enable refugees
to leave Chechnya. Then federal forces will accomplish all the
above-enumerated tasks on their own.
The federal government must take all necessary measures to provide for
the safety, security, and material and medical support of refugees. It
must facilitate the unimpeded provision to them of assistance afforded by
international humanitarian organizations.
All of this is required to enable us to save people's lives and avoid
placing ourselves in an irreversible situation. Six months ago Russia
rescued NATO from such an impasse in Yugoslavia. Why can it not do the
same for itself?
15 November 1999
[for personal use only]
Russians hear false echoes of Kosovo
Chechnya offensive is wrongly compared to NATO's campaign
By Will Englund
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW -- With hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees pouring out of
Chechnya, some spending days trapped at the border, villages being smashed
behind them and an aerial bombardment surging relentlessly on, Russia's war
in the Caucasus is looking more and more like Kosovo.
Less than five months after NATO air power forced an end to the conflict in
Yugoslavia, it seems the story is being repeated. Familiar images of misery
and desperation arrive from the war. Families crowd into the homes of
generous strangers or find what shelter they can in tents by the roadside.
They bring with them tales of death and terror.
But the parallel doesn't hold.
In Chechnya, wrote Sergei Kovalyov, one of the few Russian critics of the
war, "we are trying to use NATO's methods to achieve Milosevic's ends."
The Russian military portrays its airstrikes as carefully selected attacks on
legitimate targets and has welcomed comparisons to the West's bombardment of
Yugoslavia. When Russian planes began the assault on Chechnya in September
while ground forces hung back -- and when Russian generals offered
missile-mounted video images of some of the strikes -- analysts here declared
that Moscow had learned the lessons of NATO's Kosovo campaign.
Some critics thought the analogy was something of a stretch. The Russian
attacks were more indiscriminate than NATO's, and pursuing a campaign to
soften up the enemy before sending in the infantry is hardly a revolutionary
But the comparison breaks down in a much more fundamental way: In Chechnya,
there was no one to play the role of the Serbs. The Russians aren't
intervening to stop the uprooting of an entire ethnic group. Instead,
intentionally or not, their intervention has caused just that.
Kosovar Albanians fled Serbian tormentors. Thousands were rounded up and
deported. Chechens are fleeing Russian bombs.
For two weeks, the West has grown increasingly critical of Russia's assault
on Chechnya, a breakaway republic that won virtual independence after the war
of 1994-1996. The State Department said Russian forces, by taking
insufficient care to avoid civilian casualties, were not in compliance with
the Geneva Conventions. European leaders have pressed for talks to settle the
This has prompted a vehement reaction in the Russian government and most of
the Russian news media. The war is an internal matter, the argument goes, and
the West has no right to criticize Moscow after what it did to Yugoslavia.
News accounts in the Western media that bring attention to the plight of the
refugees, Russian newspapers declare, are distorted and aimed at
Sergei Shoigu, the minister of emergency situations, proclaimed Tuesday that
there can be no humanitarian crisis with the refugees in the Caucasus because
Russia is a great country and can take care of its own.
Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister, hinted last week at the depth of
feeling behind that reaction. Moscow has become alert to the possibility that
it will be maneuvered into seeming like another Belgrade. The Russians,
trying to compare themselves to NATO, discover that NATO is comparing them to
On Friday, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev more or less welcomed the
comparison. He warned that the United States wants to "weaken Russia" and
"establish full control over the North Caucasus."
He said that the world had entered a new period of instability because of
NATO's disregard of international law in the Balkans, and declared that the
"armed aggression of the United States and NATO against Yugoslavia" was a
challenge to Russia.
The news media, too, have been looking back more frequently at the Kosovo
conflict, and in large measure recasting it in a Russian context -- with an
imaginative interpretation of the facts. An article in the newspaper
Komsomolskaya Pravda talked about the "Kosovo bandits" -- meaning the Kosovo
Liberation Army -- in the way that most people in Moscow refer to the
The article, like others that have appeared recently, went on to argue that
NATO never considered stopping its campaign in Kosovo despite the
humanitarian catastrophe, nor did it worry about the 500,000 Kosovars who
were forced to flee NATO bombs. Why, the newspaper asked, should the Russians
act any differently in Chechnya?
That is a fundamental distortion of what happened in Kosovo. The humanitarian
catastrophe was caused by Serbian police and paramilitaries, and the
Albanians who fled -- closer to a million than 500,000 -- were fleeing Serbs,
This type of rewriting of history is part of what Valentin M. Gefter,
executive director of the Institute of Human Rights in Moscow, described as
an attempt by Russia to justify its actions in Chechnya by relying on the
precedent of Kosovo. But to do that, it must refashion the truth about what
"I believe it is all happening because of the Kosovo events," Gefter said.
"But the moral imperatives that drove the U.S. and NATO to solve the crisis
in Kosovo were completely opposite to what our authorities are pursuing.
Kosovo was a humanitarian intervention on the basis of liberal principles.
"Whatever is happening here is in the interest of only the government itself,
under the pretext of fighting Islamic extremism and restoring constitutional
Russia is not NATO -- but it is not Serbia, either.
Three years ago, Moscow essentially agreed to let Chechnya go, but was faced
in August with what amounted to an invasion when fighters led by Chechen
warlord Shamil Basayev seized several villages in Dagestan. Where Slobodan
Milosevic has spent a decade whipping up ethnic hatreds in Yugoslavia as
perhaps his primary means of retaining power, Russian attitudes toward the
Chechens have until recently been fearful and disdainful, but not frenzied.
Russian artillery and planes are demolishing Chechen villages, and civilian
casualties could be high -- but paramilitary marauders have not been going
from house to house, looting and burning, shooting men and raping women.
But some military analysts here quietly fear that the army is being
brutalized nonetheless by its Chechen adventure, just as Serbian forces were
by a decade of conflict in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. And they believe that
the long-term consequences of that brutalization for Russian society can only
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