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Johnson's Russia List
11 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Duma Vote May Be Annulled, Claims Oligarch.
2. Itar-Tass: About 900 Foreign Observers Accredit for Russian Elections.
3. Itar-Tass: Final Election Results to Be Known by New Year
4. Renee Stillings: Russian education.
5. Robert Bruce Ware: Re: "Candid Remarks" DJ/3672
6. Moscow Times: Jonas Bernstein, An Unremarkable Election?
7. Vladimir Raskin: Graham/US Role in Chechnya in NYT, Dec. 10.
8. Vremya MN: Yelena Boldyreva, LET OTHERS FIGHT. Russians not unanimous
on the Chechen war.
9. Financial Times (UK): VLADIMIR PUTIN: Hero, villain, soldier, spy.
Richard Lambert, John Thornhill, and Andrew Jack discover that Russia's prime
minister is willing to be conciliatory over the conflict in Chechnya.
10. Financial Times (UK): PUTIN: Full text of the interview.
By Richard Lambert and John Thornhill.]
Duma Vote May Be Annulled, Claims Oligarch
MOSCOW, Dec 10, 1999 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia's State Duma lower
house of parliament vote stands a high chance of being annulled due to vague
and inconsistent election laws, a top Kremlin insider warned Friday.
"There is an enormous potential that these elections will be declared
invalid," Boris Berezovsky told reporters.
"Without doubt someone, probably one of the losers, will contest the vote
results and have a very substantial legal basis for doing so," Berezovsky
Berezovsky, himself a Duma candidate from the impoverished southern Russian
district of Karachayevo-Cherkessiya, has been considered one of the closest
members of President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle for nearly five years.
Most Berezovsky pronouncements are considered to be a reflection of the ideas
of Kremlin strategists, who are currently facing the possibility that
pro-Yeltsin forces will perform miserably in the December 19 vote.
Berezovsky said several confusing incidents in which parties were first
banned from running and then re-instated under cloudy circumstances could
serve as a strong legal basis for contesting the vote's legality.
He also pointed to questionable income declaration statements filed by some
of the top candidates.
The Communist Party is forecast as the top performer by analysts in the vote.
About 900 Foreign Observers Accredit for Russian Elections.
MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) - About 900 foreign observers, mostly from
the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have become
accredited for the Russian parliament elections. There will be no less than
1,000 observers by December 19, Chairman of the Central Electoral Commission
Alexander Veshnyakov said at an Internet news conference on Friday.
After being accredited at the Central Electoral Commission, foreign observers
go to different places of Russia, Veshnyakov said. They have given positive
assessments of the election laws, he added.
Next week a meeting with OSCE observers is planned. In the words of
Veshnyakov, foreign observers can be invited by the President, the cabinet,
the State Duma, the Federation Council and the Central Electoral Commission.
The observers have the right to be present at any polling station and to
watch all the procedures, up to the calculation of votes. In Western Europe
foreign observers are not given such a chance.
Veshnyakov hopes that "foreign observers will make objective conclusions."
Final Election Results to Be Known by New Year -Veshnyakov.
MOSCOW, December 10 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian Central Electoral Commission is
to open its information centre in Ostankino, Moscow on December 17, its
chairman Alexander Veshnyakov said at an Internet news conference at the
Central House of Journalists on Friday.
The information centre will start its work at 10.00 in the morning on
December 19. At 21.00 in the evening, the centre will get in touch with
Kaliningrad, a Russian western enclave in Lithuania, to make sure the voting
process there is over. The vote counting will be started from the eastern
regions. The interim results will be available every hour all through the
Veshnyakov promised the preliminary election results would be announced the
next morning on December 20. The official final results will be known by the
New Year, he said.
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999
From: "Renee Stillings" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russian education
I read with great pleasure John Squier's recent response regarding the
Russian education. Our organization works closely with Russian universities to
promote them (and Russian education as a whole) on the international
all regards--not simply for short-term study abroad but for full degree and
other programs, many of which can be valuable (certainly cost-effective)
components in one's (even an American's!) educational career. While
ourselves as consultants on the Russian educational market, we have without
hesitation always felt we are representing a quality and 'product' by all
international standards. Although it is obviously primarily for domestic
'consumption' as is the case in any country, I'd have to say education is one
of Russia's most valuable and certainly most durable exports. And as you
mention that the teachers in Russia, even at the extremely low wages they must
suffer, are eager to learn new methodologies, then any possible investment in
education in Russia has a far greater and quicker return than the investments
in Russia's other major industries. Russia's educational system is already
clearly at a world standard and prepared to compete. Russia's automotive or
telecommunications industry, as examples, are not and will not be without
fantastic levels of investment.
The School of Russian and Asian Studies
Alinga Group, Inc.
PO Box 382385, Cambridge, MA 02238-2385 USA
Tel: 1-800-55-RUSSIA ; Tel/Fax: 1-617-269-2659
From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: "Candid Remarks" DJ/3672
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999
Dear Mr. Johnson: Regarding your claim for the "validity" of your six
points at the head of jrl #3672: Validity, unfortunately, is an attribute
of deductive arguments. Your argument is not deductive; it's rhetorical.
It is rhetorical to write that "The war in Chechnya was manufactured to
save the Yeltsin regime." Undeniably, and very unfortunately, the war
serves the interests of the Yeltsin regime. But the Yeltsin regime is not
its cause. Its cause is two bloody invasions of Dagestan, producing
32,000 Dagestani refugees, and threatening the wholesale destruction of
Dagestan's Andi etho-linguistic group. The cause is years of kidnapping
and torture of Dagestanis and many others. There were no Russian troops
in Chechnya until after there were Chechen militants in Dagestan killing
Dagestanis-- twice. Chechen militants were in Dagestan killing Dagestanis
for 45 days. Any state has the right and the responsibility to protect
its citizens, and I, for one, wish that Moscow had begun protecting
Dagestanis long ago. It is not clear to me that the condition of the
Russian military is such as to permit it to do so in any other way.
Another Russian defeat would mean business as usual along the Chechen
border, buying, selling and torturing Dagestanis. And, in any case, there
is no one who can negotiate authoritatively for Chechnya. What is
happening now in Chechnya is deeply, deeply tragic; tragic for the
Chechens, tragic for the Russians, and tragic for the world. But if the
choice is between what is happening now to Chechens, and what has been
happening for the last three years to Dagestanis, I'll take this. And I'm
really not interested in whose political interest it serves.
December 11, 1999
PARTY LINES: An Unremarkable Election?
By Jonas Bernstein
With Russia's parliamentary election campaign poised to enter its final week,
it's worth returning to the question of how "free and fair" the process has
been. The past week gave some fresh insights into the issue.
Russian Public Television, or ORT, discovered a new issue of critical
importance to the nation's voters. On Wednesday, the channel's nightly news
program featured a segment in which Alexei Mitrofanov, a leader of the
"ultranationalist" Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, alleged that Moscow
Mayor Yury Luzhkov had agreed to house 18,000 refugees from war-torn Chechnya
in city apartment buildings and another 20,000 or so in recreational
facilities located just outside the capital but belonging to the Moscow
government. ORT sarcastically mentioned the Moscow city government's
reputation for mistreating ethnic minorities from the Caucasus, suggesting
Luzhkov was trying to make amends. Given that Luzhkov is not only co-leader
of Fatherland-All Russia, or OVR, one of the main coalitions contesting the
State Duma election, but will also be running on Dec. 19 for re-election as
mayor, the ORT report was potentially explosive and damaging to him. And, of
course, completely unsubstantiated.
None of this is to exculpate Luzhkov, who should indeed be condemned for the
city authorities' mistreatment of minorities and for moving up the date of
the mayoral elections by executive fiat. On the other hand, ORT f a
51-percent state-owned channel that reaches into nearly all of Russia's
households f has, over the past few weeks, repeatedly broadcast the
accusation that Luzhkov was behind the murder of American businessman Paul
Tatum, charged that Luzhkov is worth $300 million to $400 million and alleged
that OVR leader Yevgeny Primakov is terminally ill. All the accusations on
this partial list, of course, are unsubstantiated. Given that ORT's signal is
virtually unique in reaching throughout the country, doesn't all this raise a
question mark over the fairness of the election? Would any real democracy
tolerate a majority-state-owned media outlet acting this way? (Ditto for
Russian State Television).
Perhaps this is nit-picking. After all, as the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace's Moscow Center notes in its recently-published Primer on
Russia's 1999 Duma Elections, "the very fact that these elections are taking
place at all is remarkable." According to the primer's authors, electoral
politics in Russia have become "sophisticated and complex and at the same
time more normal and predictable," so that "[p]erhaps the most remarkable
feature of these elections is how unremarkable the electoral process has
There are many possible ways to describe Russia's electoral process. But I
wouldn't call one littered with accusations of murder, six-figure bribes and
treason f with a porn film featuring a chief prosecutor thrown into the mix f
However, what is sad about Russia's wars f political and otherwise f is how
they deflect attention away from the country's real problems. For example,
the Russian-European Center for Economic Policy reported this week that
capital flight in the second quarter of this year reached $1.5 billion per
month, up $800 million a month over the first quarter. The Center's Peter
Westin estimates that Russians hold $40 billion to $50 billion under their
mattresses f more than all the loans Russia has received from the
International Monetary Fund put together. Why don't they invest this money in
Russia? Because of a "universal lack of trust in the state," as State Duma
budget committee head Alexander Zhukov put it. Is it likely that Russia's
wars will, in the long run, lessen that mistrust?
Meanwhile, here's what one of Russia's leading politicians offered up this
week in the way of concrete proposals to overcome the economic crisis:
"Effective use" of the military-industrial complex's high technology and
"highly professional personnel," and keeping the domestic market "relatively
closed" while leaving it open for direct foreign investment. In any case, he
added, it will take ten years to reverse Russia's economic "backwardness,"
which was exacerbated by the policy of "shock therapy."
No, these statements did not come from Yevgeny Primakov, as strongly redolent
as they are of the ex-prime minister's half-baked statism. They were uttered
by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose presidential bid has been
enthusiastically backed by Anatoly Chubais, Sergei Kiriyenko and the rest of
the erstwhile energetic young shock therapists who lead the Union of
Who says the electoral process here is unremarkable?
Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1999
From: Vladimir Raskin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Graham/US Role in Chechnya in NYT, Dec. 10
I have to disagree with Thomas Graham, whom I otherwise highly
respect, in regard to the U.S. role in Chechnya. First of all, Graham's
statement that "Russians respect strength", aside from being a simplistic
cliche, sounds very patronizing, something like "all these savages can
understand and yield to is sheer force". Russians might "respect
strength", but certainly not in the form of outside pressure.
The whole Russia's history proves this point.
Graham maintains that "Russia fears isolation from the West." I am afraid
this is no longer true. In fact, Russia has been increasingly isolated
from the West over the past years, not in the least because of NATO
expansion eastward and the recent events in Yugoslavia. As a result,
Russia has turned to her Eastern partners, such as China and India:
President Yeltsin's recent visit to China has been quite indicative in
Graham suggest that the IMF suspend all loans and link the suspension to
the war in Chechnya. I believe, the IMF mandate is strictly economic and
does not have to with politics at all, at least in theory. Graham's other
propositions like suspending the U.S. financial aid will certainly prove
counterproductive and will not serve the U.S. long-term national interests
All in all, Graham's proposition "to get tough with Russia" will yield the
results quite the contrary to what he expects. As one Russian newspaper
has recently put it, "the more the West pressures Russia the more it
pushes her into the embrace of its domestic militarists, mindless generals
and economists who champion the military orientation of Russia's economy."
Graham suggests that Russians negotiate with Chechnya. I'd like to know
who Graham would suggest as a potential partner for negotiations. By the
way, Russians have been trying to carry out negotiations with various
Chechen forces, including the muftii of Chechnya.
The war in Chechnya should stop and will stop very soon. Russians have no
interests or means to keep it up any longer. One thing is essential:
Chechnya presents a great security issue for Russia and the whole world.
Offering simplistic solutions will certainly not solve this very
complicated problem. As a scholar, Thomas Graham could have done much
better than that.
Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington
December 7, 1999
[translation for personal use only from RIA Novosti)
LET OTHERS FIGHT
Russians not unanimous on the Chechen war
By Yelena BOLDYREVA
According to the National Public Opinion Research Centre
(VTsIOM), over a half of respondents think the hostilities in
Chechnya must be carried on, which is a slide from 61% in late
November. And "this mobilisation is not as steadfast and
unanimous as it seems," VTsIOM director Yuri Levada said at a
press conference on December 6. On the other hand, election blocs
and parties speak up in support of the counter-terrorist
operation because they rely on the general mood of the voters.
Judging by the VTsIOM poll on November 26-29, four parties
will surely get into the new Duma: the KPRF (25%), Unity (18%),
the OVR (12%), and Yabloko (9%). The Union of the Right Forces
(SPS) is in "the risk zone," as Levada put it, with 5% ready to
vote for it, but this figure can change either way. The number of
Zhirinovsky supporters is still below 5%, and Our Home now holds
less than 1% of the electorate.
The people's attitude to the second Chechen war differs
dramatically from their view of the first war. VTsIOM regularly
polled the people during it, and most respondents spoke up
against that war. Yuri Levada thinks the difference between the
people's attitudes to the first and the second Chechen wars can
be explained by two factors. The first was the direct Chechen
aggression against Dagestan and the explosions of houses
attributed to Chechen terrorists. And the second is the
appearance of a new person meeting public expectations on the
This person (which was at first surprising) is Premier
Vladimir Putin, who is demonstrating the elements of the "iron
hand," which so many of our compatriots love. Over 40% of the
respondents think he can restore order in the country (only 1%
believe Yeltsin can do it), and the notion of order includes the
suppression of rebellious Chechnya.
Besides, most people regard the Chechen campaign abstractly,
thinking that it has no personal relation to them. The VTsIOM
sociologists asked: "If only volunteers were sent to the hot
spots, would you go (or send your husband, son, brother, friend)
to Chechnya, to fight bandits and terrorists there?" The answer
was predictable. As many as 63% of the respondents said a
resolute "No," and another 12% referred to bad health. In a word,
let them fight, but it won't be us.
And yet, although the bulk of the respondents support the
military solution of the problem, nearly a half think that if the
bloodshed can be stopped through negotiations, we should talk
with Chechens. And it does not matter who would suggest the idea,
Putin or Yeltsin. The idea of talks, if advanced by Yeltsin,
would be supported by 45% of the respondents, and 48% would
support it if it were voiced by Putin.
This is probably why Yuri Levada thinks that "deep fissures
can appear in the monolith of support for the war, which society
is demonstrating now."
Financial Times (UK)
11 December 1999
[for personal use only]
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Hero, villain, soldier, spy
Richard Lambert, John Thornhill, and Andrew Jack discover that Russia's
prime minister is willing to be conciliatory over the conflict in Chechnya
Vladimir Putin is, in many respects, a creature of the cold war. His voice
betrays little emotion, while his pale blue eyes and watery smile give him
the appearance of a Soviet spymaster out of central casting. A hero in
Russia and a villain abroad - it is difficult to reconcile both images
while interviewing the Russian prime minister.
Since his appointment in August, Mr Putin's entire political persona has
been shaped by the conflict in Chechnya. In Russia, his popularity has
soared. He is seen as a man of action who has had the courage to confront
terrorism. If presidential elections were held tomorrow, Mr Putin would win
Abroad, however, Mr Putin is depicted as a hatchet-faced KGB officer who
has unleashed death and destruction on the Chechen population, killing
hundreds of civilians and forcing more than 200,000 refugees to flee into
Yesterday, the leaders of the European Union, meeting in Helsinki,
condemned Russia's ultimatum to the remaining residents of Grozny, the
Chechen capital, to abandon the city before it is razed to the ground. That
deadline expires today. And while Russia may not carry through on its
threat, it has been so stung by foreign criticism that Boris Yeltsin, the
Russian president, has revived the spectre of cold war confrontation. In
Beijing this week, Mr Yeltsin growled that the west should not forget that
Russia retains a full nuclear arsenal.
But in an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Putin was determined to
project a different image to the one he has in the west. Mr Putin presented
a thoughtful and conciliatory front to the world, revealing - for the first
time - that he had already opened contacts with the Chechen leadership.
It was also notable that Mr Putin felt confident enough of his own
political standing to speak at odds with Mr Yeltsin's recent statements - a
habit that has ended the career of more than one prime minister before him.
Many Russians are already convinced that the 47-year-old prime minister
will be the country's next president following elections next June.
Until then, however, Mr Putin has a war to fight. He insists there will be
no pause in the military campaign - even if Grozny is spared the threat of
total destruction. He claims the Russian army has encountered little
resistance from Chechen fighters so far. "I would like the situation to
develop as it has been doing until this moment," he says. "Recently all the
towns and big cities in Chechnya have been occupied and taken by federal
forces without many victims and without finding great resistance on the
part of the militants."
Although the prime minister has in the past said he would never negotiate
with terrorists, yesterday he disclosed that he had already opened lines of
communication with Aslan Maskhadov, the democratically-elected Chechen
"We have been keeping ongoing contacts with Maskhadov since eight days ago
and I have had a personal meeting with one of the representatives of his
government," he said.
Other Russian ministers had also exchanged views with representatives of
the Chechen government, Mr Putin said, - so far, however, with no results.
Perhaps this is because of the strict conditions Moscow has imposed before
agreeing to discuss the constitutional position of the breakaway republic.
First, Mr Maskhadov must publicly denounce terrorism. Second, he must
secure the release of Russian and foreign hostages seized by Chechen
bandits. Third, the Chechen authorities should hand over the terrorists who
are accused of the raids into Dagestan and the bomb explosions in Moscow
and other Russian cities.
"Then we are prepared to start talking. To begin negotiations," Mr Putin said.
The Russian conditions are so tough that Mr Maskhadov would appear to have
little chance of fully complying with them - particularly as the Chechen
president denies that Chechens were involved in the bomb attacks.
Even so, Mr Putin does appear to be showing more flexibility than in the
early months of the conflict, whenMr Maskhadov was dismissed as a feeble
president and therefore as an unworthy negotiating counterpart.
Mr Putin demonstrates a similar degree of flexibility when answering
western criticisms of Russia's assault on Chechnya. Although he insists
that Chechnya is an internal affair for Russia, he says: "I believe it is
our responsibility to respect the opinion of our western partners. We
should come to some sort of conclusion, hearing what is said in the west."
But he also believes the west has misunderstood recent events in Chechnya,
confusing what is happening now with what happened during during the last
war between 1994 and 1996. The first conflict was about the Chechen
struggle for independence; this conflict is about the suppression of
"We believe that the west should not just remain an observer in this
situation," he says. "It should lend moral and political support for the
Russian struggle against terrorism."
Mr Putin believes the federal forces have met with such success in Chechnya
because the local Chechen population has been disillusioned by its
experience of de facto independence over the past three years. Pensions and
salaries have not been paid, Moslem fanatics have foisted their extreme
beliefs on local believers, and terrorists from abroad have caused trouble
by launching incursions into Dagestan.
"Ordinary people are very disappointed with the situation which is quite
different from their expectations several years ago," he says. "They all
understand very well this is not the fault of the Russian government it is
the fault of the Chechen government which has gained control over the
Mr Putin will not say whether he thinks a negotiated settlement with the
Chechen leadership is possible. But while his political star continues to
shine brightly in Moscow, the temptation must be to continue the war.
Opinion polls indicate he is the clear favourite to win the presidential
elections and succeed Mr Yeltsin next summer. But he is also something of a
reluctant politician. He confesses that he dislikes the idea of
electioneering. "My tongue is not slick enough," he says. "But if you talk
about concrete things, about reforms, and large-scale decisions for the
future of my country then I like it very much. It is ideal," he says.
In contrast to his image abroad as a ruthless nationalist, Mr Putin ranks
as something of a liberal on the domestic political spectrum, advocating a
strengthening of Russia's fragile civil society and the creation of
responsible and responsive state institutions. Mr Putin is planning to
launch an economic programme early next year as part of his bid for the
presidency that will be liberal in its orientation and propose new tax cuts.
"Society should understand very well that there are no fairy tales any
more. You cannot become rich and happy by just printing money," Mr Putin
says. He also rules out the possibility of reversing any privatisations, no
doubt delighting the oligarchs who are likely to bankroll his election
Although he may be politically inexperienced, Mr Putin is savvy enough to
refuse to answer a question about his own political idols. But it is
noticeable that while Mr Putin's vast office lacks a prominent photograph
of Mr Yeltsin it does display a striking portrait of Tsar Peter the Great.
In the early eighteenth century, Russia's greatest Tsar created an
effective civil service, modernised the country, and built a new capital in
St Peterburg (where Mr Putin was born) as a window on the west. But, when
the occasion demanded, Peter the Great demonstrated he could be bellicose
and brutal too.
Financial Times (UK)
11 December 1999
[for personal use only]
PUTIN: Full text of the interview
By Richard Lambert and John Thornhill
Interview of Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister.
Q. Recognising the self-determination of nations has been an important
principle of international relations for decades. Why should Chechnya
remain part of the Russian Federation when its people want to be independent?
Putin: Indeed, the right of nations to self-determination is an important
principle of international relations. But a no less important principle of
these relations is the right of states to territorial integrity and unity.
It cannot be said that the former principle is superior to the latter.
There is not a single state in world history that would live by the "open
door" principle: If you don't like being a part of this state, you are free
to leave. Rather on the contrary. All states, when they face separatism,
choose the preservation of unity and integrity. This is how your country
acted when it encountered the Ulster problem.
And this stand of the international community is understandable. Even the
most civilised divorce is a difficult trial for the state, society and the
people. But the implementation of the self-determination principle most
often takes the form of an ethnic-political conflict, sometimes sanguinary.
Now for Chechnya. Its citizens never had the chance to freely,
democratically express their will on secession from the Russian state;
neither in the early 1990s, when power was forcefully taken in the
republic, accompanied by the dissolution of the legitimate parliament and
other bodies of state power; or in the past few years, when Chechnya was in
the power of bandits and terrorists. The people were simply put on their
knees, plunged into chaos and poverty.
The absence of law and power relying on it, the violence and arbitrariness
of the so-called field commanders, a ruined economy, the pillaged and
wrecked factories, closed schools, hospitals and shops, houses without
electricity and heat, people without pensions and wages - this is what the
republic was before the beginning of the counter-terrorist operation. The
people of Chechnya were not offered any other independence.
And the world is aware of this. The international community has not
recognised the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria as a legitimate
independent state. You will not find such state on the political maps, or
its officially recognised representatives in any capital of the world or
By the way, the people of Chechnya expressed, in their own manner, their
attitude to the idea of seceding from Russia. The population of the
republic nearly halved in the 1990s. Not just Russians, but also Chechens
left it. And they did not leave Russia, but settled in its other regions.
After the beginning of the counter-terrorist operation, the overwhelming
majority of forced migrants found shelter in the adjacent territories of
the Russian Federation.
Chechnya has been, and still is, a part of the Russian Federation. Its
people were citizens of the Russian Federation, just like everyone else. It
was the duty of the government to liquidate the threat to the unity and
integrity of the country and to the safety of its population, which came
from the bandits and terrorists who snatched power in Chechnya. We took
requisite measures, which were both necessary and adequate to the obtaining
Q. What is your endgame in Chechnya? What constitutional position will
Chechnya have within the Russian Federation?
Putin: The endgame of Russia's policy in Chechnya is to normalise the life
of the people, and restore law and order based on the Constitution of the
Naturally enough, all questions pertaining to these tasks will be tackled
by way of political settlement. We have taken the first steps in this
direction, by holding talks with representatives of healthy political
forces and assisting in the creation of local bodies of power, with the
broad participation of republican residents.
It is clear that a transition period will be needed for the complete
normalisation of the situation in Chechnya, during which the status of the
republic in the Russian Federation will be determined. The federal
authorities intend to grant Chechnya such autonomy which would, on the one
hand, ensure a balance of Russia's state interests and the interests of
Chechnya, and on the other hand, would correspond to the Constitution of
the Russian Federation and federal laws governing federal relations.
By the way, the Russian Constitution and laws offer broad possibilities for
choosing the forms of federal relations. We have accumulated a wealth of
practical experience in this sphere.
Q. Will the Russian army pursue Chechen separatist fighters if they flee
into Georgia? What assurances can you give that Russia will not interfere
with the territorial integrity of Georgia?
Putin: Russia will never cross the border of a sovereign state, not even if
a part of the bandits escape into Georgia. We respect international laws,
and are undeviatingly guided by them in our foreign policy. Not to mention
the fact that we highly value the neighbourly relations which developed
between Russia and Georgia. All problems that arose in bilateral relations
from time to time were resolved, and will be resolved, by exclusively
I am convinced that the Georgian authorities do not want terrorists on
their territory either. They know very well that this would endanger the
stability and security of their country. Naturally enough, if the bandits
manage to infiltrate into Georgia, we will demand the arrest and
extradition of those who committed crimes on the territory of Russia.
Although we know about a different attitude to the problem of combating
terrorism, when missile strikes were delivered at the territory of third
Q. Some observers have suggested that relations between Russia and the West
are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War. Do you believe
this to be true? What can be done to improve relations?
Putin: Indeed, there have been certain irregularities in our relations of
late. They are concerned mainly with the Chechen crisis. And yet, I
personally would not dramatise this or speak about a major retreat,
well-nigh, to the Cold War era. This is not so, thank God, and the
situation will hardly deteriorate that much. At least, Russia most
sincerely does not want to this to happen. President Boris Yeltsin and the
Russian Government will do their best to prevent this.
The basic, long-term, strategic goals and interests of our country can be
attained only on the condition of our deep and constructive incorporation
into the world community, on the condition of the development of partner
relations with the West.
I think that the real causes of this cooling of relations should be sought
in the West. I mean the stand of certain political quarters and statesmen
with regard to Russia. The developments in Chechnya became a kind of a
litmus paper, which revealed their intention to pressurise Russia, to tell
it how it should behave while tackling internal problems. I put forth our
stand on Chechnya more than once. But I'll do it once more. In Chechnya the
Russian authorities are fulfilling the task of neutralising the terrorist
and bandit groups, which rely on the assistance of international terrorist
organisations. The federal forces are waging an operation against organised
armed formations, consisting of thousands of mercenaries, including those
who came from abroad. In fact, we are repelling an aggression against
Russia. Our military actions are fully adequate to the threat.
At the same time, being a member of the United Nations, the Organisation
for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and other
international organisations, Russia is strictly complying with its
obligations concerning the provisions of international humanitarian law. We
are doing everything necessary to minimise losses among servicemen and
Two regions, the Gudermes and the Achkhoi-Martan, were released by the
federal troops without virtually a single shot. The same happened in Argun.
This became possible thanks to the fact that the local population forced
the bandits to leave the territory of these regions and town. The people
want peace and normalisation of life in the republic.
We are firmly set to complete the operation of the liberation of Grozny
without losses among peaceful civilians. On the other hand, it is
impossible to rule out damage to civilians. As proved by the NATO operation
in Yugoslavia. We are fulfilling our task in much more difficult
conditions, because the bandits frequently use peaceful civilians as the
live shield. By the way, there are foreign nationals among their hostages.
In a word, Russia does not want to be isolated from the international
community or its relations with the West to deteriorate. But we will never
agree to pay for this with a limited sovereignty of Russia and infringement
on our national interests. The West should respect the inviolability of
Russia's right to independently tackle its internal problems. Our country
firmly stands on the way of democratic reforms and the development of
market relations. It would be logical if the civilised world supported,
rather than hindered, this process.
Q. You had little involvement in political life before your appointment as
prime minister. What makes you want to become president?
Putin: Quite possibly, my political luggage is somewhat lighter than that
of other Russian politicians. However, I don't consider myself to be an
inexperienced or rookie politician. I have learned a lot, while working
with administrative divisions of St. Petersburg, a city with a population
of 5m, and while serving as a civil officer in Moscow. Besides, I've gained
some absolutely invaluable experience during my last few months as Russia's
I'd like to admit that I had some doubts to the effect of whether I'd
manage to cope with my new job at a time when the President of Russia
announced that he was recommending me for the post of prime minister, and
that he considered me to be his successor. My doubts could be explained by
the fact that a prime minister has to assume extremely great
responsibility, also tackling some really formidable problems. As you may
already know, most Russian citizens now have a positive opinion of the
Government's performance and that of its prime minister, supporting our
activities all the same.
It would still be premature to talk about elections because the election
campaign will begin in accordance with specific deadlines being stipulated
by the law. Meanwhile I have to do a lot of serious work inside the
Government. We must not miss the current chance to consolidate all those
positive changes, which had taken place in Russia's economy over the last
12 months. We also have to tackle quite a few economic problems.
Q. What are your guiding principles on economic policy? Do you believe the
IMF-approved "Washington Consensus", advocating macro-economic
stabilisation and structural reform is appropriate for Russia?
Putin: The Russian Federation's Government, as well as the Bank of Russia,
have issued a joint statement dealing with the main principles of our 1999
economic policy. Most likely, we'll be guiding ourselves by such principles
over the entire 2000 period, too.
We now aim to ensure sustainable economic growth and to raise popular
living standards. In fact, this is seen as our main goal. As far as
mid-term prospects are concerned, we'll be steering toward an effective
market-oriented economic system.
The presence of a limited, albeit dynamic, public sector, the attainment of
macro-economic stability, domestic and external financial stability,
investment incentives and those aiming to expand the real economy, eg.
Russia's industrial sector, first and foremost, constitute the appropriate
pre-conditions for accomplishing this objective. First of all, we link the
practical implementation of this line with a sufficiently austere
monetary-crediting and tax policy, more substantial federal-budget
revenues, as well as streamlined expenses, which are not connected with
foreign-debt servicing payments.
We attach great importance to continued large-scale structural reforms. Our
strategy in the given field comprises the following aspects: - enhancing
the competitiveness and transparency of infrastructure monopolies and
perfecting their forms and records; - expediting the private sector's
development, particularly through improved corporate management and the
creation of favourable conditions making it possible to set up new
enterprises; streamlining the budgetary policy; overhauling the financial
I'd like to note that we have managed to attain sustained positive changes
in Russia's economic and social development over the entire 1999 period.
The financial standing of the real economy's enterprises has improved. Low
inflation levels are still being registered here. We have completely
attained our budget-revenue targets; quite possibly, this has happened for
the first time during the entire reform period. More substantial investment
is now being channelled into our basic capital. Russia hasn't seen anything
like this for a very long time. Besides, Russia has chalked up an
unprecedentedly massive foreign-trade surplus this year; in fact, no such
surplus had been registered throughout the entire 1990s.
Right now, we are working on a long-term concept, which deals with Russia's
socio-economic development until the year 2010. Apart from the continued
implementation of the aforesaid measures, the government will do its best
in order to realise some other measures aiming to attract additional
foreign investment and to strengthen Russia's positions on international
markets and inside the foreign-trade sector. We link the solution of these
tasks with the liberalisation of our policy along these directions.
As far as the Washington Consensus is concerned, we share their purpose and
main content. At the same time, it is our opinion that its concrete
application to the Russian situation will be productive, in case it heeds
our country's specific features and realities. This problem can be resolved
easily enough. We've learned to understand each other better during the
years of Russia's interaction with the IMF, cherishing the results that
have been attained by us. I am not inclined to perceive temporary
difficulties as some sort of a trend. Our co-operation has been and remains
Q. BP Amoco has threatened to pull out of Russia because of the country's
poor corporate governance regime. What can you do to reassure such
companies that Russia genuinely wants foreign investment?
Putin: BP Amoco is a big-league investor, which has contributed about $1bn
into the Russian economy. We cherish such investors; and we'll do our best,
so that they could calmly and confidently do business in Russia, We toe the
same line with respect to all other foreign companies and investors abiding
by Russian laws, regardless of the scale of their business operations.
By all looks, you imply one particular conflict, which is connected with
the Chernogor-Neft Company, while asking this question. We are now studying
that conflict rather attentively. The situation will have to be rectified,
in case we expose any violations during that company's recent purchase by
the Tyumen Oil Company. Quite possibly, this dispute will be settled in court.
The government of Russia will try hard to settle this conflict in a
civilised manner. We understand that Russian legislation still has some
blank spots. The elimination of such blank spots will be seen as a
top-priority task by the government and the next State Duma. We'll do our
utmost in order to strengthen and expand market institutions, the market's
basic institution, property, first and foremost. It would be well nigh
impossible to ensure economic development, industrial growth and all-out
investment, unless we come up with an effective system for protecting
owners' rights. I understand this only too well.
Q. The Bank of New York affair drew world attention to the problems of
money laundering in Russia. Following your meeting with G8 law-enforcement
officials, what concrete measures can Russia take to tackle crime more
Putin: All countries with a transitional economy are faced with such
problems as rampant organised crime, as well as the underworld's attempts
to infiltrate all spheres of life, the economic machinery and state-power
bodies (albeit to a varying extent). Meanwhile the underworld is still
trying to assert itself as a real force inside industrial states.
The Russian leadership and its law-enforcement agencies had never
confronted many problems in the field of crime prior to the beginning of
market reforms. Consequently, we have come up against an impressive range
of economic-security problems, which have been known to the West for quite
a while, over a short time period. The Russian law-enforcement system was
unprepared for such developments, with this factor also playing a negative
role here. This country still lacks an adequate legal base in some fields,
as well as well-trained personnel.
Therefore we regard a recent conference of G-8 ministers and experts that
was held in Moscow, and which examined the crackdown on trans-national
crime, to be very important and useful for us. We can see clearly that
terrorism, illicit drug-trafficking, illegal arms trade and computer
hackers can't be thwarted by any state borders whatsoever. This problem now
bedevils many countries of the world. Russia is interested in expanding
international co-operation, which would be expected to solve this problem.
I'm talking about co-operation in the data exchange field, in the field of
legal assistance and the thwarting of international crime rings' activities.
And now a few words about concrete deeds. We have begun to fight the
international terrorism nest in Chechnya, intending to wage this struggle
till the very end. We've also done a lot in order to end that illegal
capital flight outside Russia. In fact, "capital-export" volumes have
dwindled considerably over the last few months. Russia intends to join the
Council of Europe's anti-corruption convention. This is seen as a very
painful problem by Russia, which attaches top priority to its solution. We
are now actively mastering various methods of fighting electronic crime.
Representatives of Russia's law-enforcement agencies are now more actively
co-operating with their foreign counterparts, as they move to solve white
collar crimes and various felonies.
Q. What is the most significant achievement of Boris Yeltsin's presidency?
What do you hope to achieve if you become his successor?
Putin: It is always difficult to be the first. And to be the first head of
such a large and complex state as the Russian Federation is two times more
The main thing is that in such a complex period of the formation of a
principally new social system in actual fact, the integrity and stability
of the Russian Federation has been preserved. A basis for Russia's
integration into the world community has been laid. The fundamentals of
market relations have been created in the country. Although not without
failures, the basic institutions of democracy sealed in the Constitution of
the Russian Federation do work. All this was done without a civil war or
mass repressions. No-one can dispute or cross out this merit of the first
President of the Russian Federation.
If citizens of Russia place their confidence in me and elect me the
president of the country, I will continue the reforms, which have been
started. The continuity of the main directions of policy, the continuity of
power and its actions are the principles I shall base my policy on and
I see the main risk for the country in the construction of an effective
system of economic management to take into account both the world
experience and the Russian specifics. Russia must again become a strong and
respected state in the world, a state where its citizens feel protected by
law, a state which ensures a worthy level of life for its citizens, a state
which observes the norms of international law and actively participates in
the life of the world community. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasise
once more, that it is too early to talk about the president elections in
Q. Would you be prepared to see any former part of the USSR join Nato?
Putin: We are concerned over the process of NATO expansion. This
organisation has been and remains a military and political bloc with all
the set of threats that any formation of this type involves. The alliance's
movement closer to the borders of Russia forces us to take adequate
measures to raise the level of the country's security. This diverts forces
and means that are necessary now for our state in purely peaceful purposes.
Q. The US wants to amend the ABM treaty. What are your views?
Putin: The Russian leadership is very much concerned over the US attempts
to break unilaterally the balance achieved in the military sphere and thus
put under the threat of disruption the fulfilment of the earlier-reached
accords on the reduction of all types of armaments. Both the President of
Russia and I told the US president about this concern more than once.
The desire of the USA to get strategic advantages over other countries may
lead to the uncontrolled arms race in all the world. The implementation of
the missile defence programme pushes not only Russia but also other states,
especially those of them which have a lesser nuclear potential than Russia
and the USA, to make their armaments more sophisticated. Anyway, all
actions in this highly sensitive sphere must be co-ordinated.
Q. Would you like to see Russia, Ukraine and Belarus come together in a
federation or similar arrangement?
Putin: Russia and Belarus have been moving for the past few years to a
closer and many-sided integration. We were able to see earlier than others
the negative consequences of self-isolation and separation of the former
union republics. And we made the necessary conclusions from this.
A stage-by-stage creation of equal conditions for the activity of economic
entities has been ensured between the states. Where it is advantageous,
co-operation ties between enterprises have been restored. Russia has
achieved a steady growth of commodity turnover with Belarus against the
background of the reduction of Russia's foreign trade with other CIS
countries. Now this republic shares with the USA the 2nd-3rd places among
Russia's foreign partners. Belarus is far ahead of the other CIS countries
in terms of co-operation with the constituent entities of the Russian
Federation. A treaty on equal rights of citizens of both countries has been
prepared and ratified. Also, the Russian-Belarussian agreement on military
co-operation and the agreement on the joint provision of regional security
in the military sphere have come into force.
This movement towards each other made it possible to begin the unification
of the two states. Moreover, it was not done by the wilful decision of the
leaders of the two countries. The draft treaty on the creation of the union
was submitted for public discussion in the autumn of this year. Over a
million and a half people participated in this. The absolute majority -
over 80 per cent - supported the idea of creating a union state.
I am confident that the treaty on the creation of the union state, after it
was signed by the heads of Russia and Belarus, will soon be ratified by the
parliaments of both countries. Such in the desire of the peoples, and the
politicians are obliged to fulfil it.
However, we are realists and understand that the eight years of our living
disunited have also had their effect. For a closer integration it will be
necessary to do much to unify our legislation, harmonise our financial,
economic and social policy, unite power and transport systems and do other
things. Correspondingly, the form of statehood may also change with time.
As for Ukraine, the issue of that republic's joining the union state is not
in the practical plane so far. But there is nothing impossible in politics.
Please, note that the integration processes dominate the world. An example
of this is contemporary Europe with its single currency, transparent
Q. Do you think that the Russian constitution needs to be revised, either
to curb the power of the president or to restrict the power of the regional
Putin: It is not only unnecessary but harmful to re-write the constitution.
This does not mean, however, that some provisions of the fundamental law
may not be reviewed. If the need of such changes is dictated by the
existing situation, the course of the development of the state and society,
it is necessary to do this. But this should be done cautiously and
thoughtfully so as not to destroy the fragile stability in the country.
For the past years much has changed in the Russian Federation. I believe
that the Russian Federation should continue to be a republic with a strong
presidential power. However, separate provisions on the distribution of
powers between the branches of authority in the country may be reviewed
with the introduction of corresponding changes in the constitution. This
issue is raised in society very actively. That is why it must not be ruled
out that after the presidential elections it will be included in the agenda
of the country's political life as one of the top priority issues. But this
will hardly occur earlier.