This Date's Issues:•
3701 • 3702
Johnson's Russia List
22 December 1999
[Note from David Johnson:
1. AP: Russia Tries To Send Back Refugees.
2. Newsday: Marshall Goldman, Yeltsin's Successor Is Pulling the Reins.
3. Moscow Times: Sarah Karush, Putin Predicts Friendly Duma.
4. Trud: CENTRIPETAL DUMA.
5. BBC MONITORING: RUSSIAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST NAMES PM'S MAJOR RIVAL IN
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS. (Radio Russia interview with Sergey Markov,
director of the Institute of Political Studies)
6. Pavel Baev: WILL RUSSIA GO FOR A MILITARY VICTORY IN
7. Interfax: YELTSIN READY TO SIGN DRAFT LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS.
8. BBC MONITORING: PRO-CHECHEN WEB SITE PUBLISHES RUSSIA'S PLAN TO DESTROY
9. Reuters: U.S. Ex-Im Bank does not approve oil loan to Russia.]
Russia Tries To Send Back Refugees
By ANDREW KRAMER
December 21, 1999
SLEPTSOVSKAYA, Russia (AP) - Determined to force Chechen refugees back home,
Russian soldiers hooked an engine to railroad cars filled with Chechens and
towed them toward the war-shattered republic.
Frightened children chased the trains screaming for their parents, fearing
they would be left behind. About three miles away, adult refugees blocked the
tracks with their bodies to stop the forced relocation.
The operation was a new development in Russia's efforts to try to return some
of the 250,000 people who have fled the tumultuous republic since fighting
began three months ago.
The attempt to move the third-class sleeper cars in the republic of
Ingushetia, where about 7,000 refugees were living, began Friday morning with
the wagons jostling into motion unexpectedly.
Children studying in a tent school nearby were separated from their parents.
``The children ran from the tent, yelling,'' said Rosa Gaitaiva, with her
arms draped around the neck of her 7-year-old daughter, Imam, who was in the
school but managed to jump on the moving train.
The refugees, most of whom are Muslims observing the fasting month of
Ramadan, also were separated from a kitchen where they were preparing dinner
to eat after sundown.
``The rhythm (of the fast) was broken,'' said a worn-out Zaindi Batishev, 66,
stubble covering his sagging cheeks.
The train stopped about three miles away for a few hours, and when officials
tried to move it again the refugees stood on the tracks in front of the
Russian soldiers fired two bursts from assault rifles above the people's
heads, said 25-year-old Ibragim Mensiyev. The track was cleared, but the
train did not immediately leave.
Officials had not told all the train dwellers that the cars, sitting on a
railway siding in a field, would be moved, refugees said. Some said they were
told the train would move only to allow other locomotives to pass.
The Emergency Situations Ministry towed about 36 wagons to Chechnya on
Saturday afternoon, but only a few refugees accepted the ride, observers from
Human Rights Watch said. The other cars were returned to their original spot
Refugees on the train said they don't want to return to Chechnya because they
fear fighting in the forests around their towns and because many houses have
been destroyed as the Russian army rolled over their homeland.
Many also feared Russian soldiers who, they claim, beat and sometimes kill
civilians and have looted the abandoned towns and villages.
``Even if we return, we have no where to go,'' Batishev said, standing on the
garbage-strewn tracks by the remaining wagons. As he spoke, a pair of Russian
fighter jets streaked overhead toward Chechnya.
The aid operation for Chechen refugees has been haphazard and poorly
organized, short on tents and food and long on bureaucratic hassles. American
and European leaders have criticized the overcrowded camps and offered help,
but Russia insists it can handle the situation.
Khamzad Bekov of the Emergency Situations Ministry insisted that about 60,000
people who fled from areas now controlled by the Russian military - including
those who had been living in the train cars - are not true refugees.
``We won't support them. They are no longer refugees and should return
home,'' Bekov said, surrounded by bodyguards as he stood in a crowd of
Some in the crowd yelled that their homes were destroyed, and that Russian
soldiers had looted food stores.
Bekov replied that they will be provided with tents and can sleep in
abandoned schools and other buildings in Chechnya, then hurried away.
In another sign of Russian pressure on Chechen refugees, people in the
Sputnik camp near the border had been shown a letter signed by five Russian
generals explaining which regions in the war-torn republic they claim are
safe. Camp officials said people from these regions will no longer be
entitled to food rations.
``They want (the refugees) out of sight,'' said Rachel Denber, a deputy
director of Human Rights Watch who works in camps on the border. ``The move
did not have the interests of the people in mind.''
21 December 1999
[for personal use only]
Yeltsin's Successor Is Pulling the Reins
By Marshall I. Goldman (email@example.com)
Marshall I. Goldman, a professor of Russian
economics at Wellesley College, is associate direector of the Davis
Center for Russian Studies at Harvard.
IT COULD HAVE been much worse. Four years ago the Communist Party of
the Russian Federation and its allies won a striking victory in the vote
for the Duma, the lower house of Russia's parliament. This showing
allowed them to bottle up and counter Russian President Boris Yeltsin's
periodic attempts at reform, including revising the tax policy and
introducing incentives for foreign investors.
More than that, the head of the Communist Party, Gennady Zyuganov,
looked like he might well win the presidential election in June, 1996,
because Yeltsin's standing in the polls was originally less than 10percent.
The result in Sunday's election is very different. Now, it is most
unlikely that the CPRF and Zyuganov will play much of a role, either in
the Duma or in the presidential race. That is not because the Communist
Party is any less popular than it was four years ago. On the contrary,
based on projections, the party actually won a slightly larger
percentage of votes (24 percent) than it did four years ago (23
percent). The difference this time is that the like-minded parties that
allowed the Communist Party to muster a majority coalition opposed to
Yeltsin failed to win the 5 percent minimum of the vote they needed this
time to qualify as parties in the Duma.
This switch in votes is largely due to the enormous appeal of Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin, an unsmiling, dour bureaucrat. Until August of
this year, Putin's main experience nationally was serving as the more or
less invisible head of the FSB, the present-day KGB.
Then, he responded to a series of what were claimed to be bombings
by Chechen terrorists (many Muscovites are convinced they were not the
work of Chechens, but a provocation by the FSB and others in the Yeltsin
entourage) and an invasion by Chechen guerillas of adjoining Dagestan
(also, some say, provoked by instructions from Yeltsin's supporters).
Putin launched a series of forceful attacks that pushed back the Che-
chens to the very door of Grozny, their capital.
Overnight, Putin became the man on a white horse whom the Russians
have been searching for over the last 10 years or so. Under his
auspices, the Russian army has shown that it cannot be pushed around as
it was in the earlier 1994-96 Chechen war. As Putin forcefully put it,
"We will pursue the Chechens if need be to their outhouses." Taking
advantage of this popularity, Putin in turn bestowed his blessing on the
Unity (Yedinstvo) Party, created only a few weeks ago by Yeltsin's
staff. Unity or The Bear Party, as it is nicknamed, won almost as many
votes as the CPRF. That is all the more remarkable given the fact that it
absolutely no platform, no organization and, except for its leader,
Sergei Shoigu, almost no candidates who are nationally recognized. Most
are regional leaders who are not regarded as models of good government.
The No. 2 man in the party is an Olympic-class wrestler a la Jessie
Ventura. But amorphous or not, when Putin said Unity was his party (he
himself did not run in this Duma election), that was enough.
Even more of a surprise, Putin also endorsed the strangely named
Unity of Right Wing Forces. This group consists primarily of economic
reformers, some of whom are actually honest. This was a last-minute
gesture by Putin and probably explained by his long-term association
with one of the more controversial and tainted leaders of the party,
Anatoly Chubais. Chubais notwithstanding, the most promising byproduct
of this endorsement is that Putin has also indicated support for the
Union's economic platform, one that most of us in the West wouldsupport.
But as is always the case in Russia, whatever good news there may be
is tempered by some bad. At least two of the so-called oligarchs, Boris
Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, bought themselves seats in the Duma.
This might seem more like a plot from Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS
Pinafore," but in Russia a seat in the Duma brings with it immunity from
prosecution -and Berezovsky needs it.
Equally disturbing, this election demonstrates what control of TV
can do. Under Berezovsky's control, the main TV network brutalized the
leaders of the Fatherland Party, Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzh- kov, and
former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.
It turns out that Luzhkov, in particular, has a lot to answer for,
but making accusations on TV is not the way to do it. The TV assault
brought down Fatherland's standing in the polls from 30 percent to 12
percent all in a matter of weeks, and virtually all those votes
redounded to the benefit of Putin and the Unity Party.
That Russian voters can be so easily swayed suggests that
democracy's roots are still rather fragile. It also indicates that
Putin, who now has become Yeltsin's most likely successor, has more or
less carte blanche to do as he pleases. His support for the economic
reformers is hopeful; his actions in Chechnya are not. What remains to
be seen is which way he will take that white horse.
December 22, 1999
Putin Predicts Friendly Duma
By Sarah Karush
With his confident and relaxed smile, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared
to acknowledge on Tuesday what observers have been saying since early Monday
morning f that he is the real winner of the State Duma elections.
Putin met with the leaders of the six parties that will be represented in the
next Duma f one that is first and foremost likely to be friendly to him.
"I would like to express hope that we will work together with the new Duma
the way we worked with the previous Duma over the past months. And I think we
worked effectively," Putin told the party leaders.
With more than 90 percent of Sunday's votes counted, the pro-government Unity
bloc had 23.88 percent, while the Communists were less than 1 percentage
point ahead with 24.55 percent. Fatherland-All Russia received 11.98 percent,
while the Union of Right Forces came in at 8.63 percent. Maverick Vladimir
Zhirinovsky's bloc, which has 6.18 percent, was ahead of the liberal Yabloko
party with 5.94 percent.
The elections were widely seen as a starting gun for next summer's
presidential race. Putin is currently the front-runner, and the election
results appeared to confirm his popularity f already so high that none of the
leading candidates dared criticize him during the campaign.
The former spymaster is likely to get considerable support from the new Duma,
where three parties f Unity, the Union of Right Forces and the Zhirinovsky
Bloc f will represent a powerful pro-government force. Unity, which is
expected to have 120 to 130 seats in the 450-member lower house, is seen as
little more than an extension of Putin and the Kremlin administration.
Unity leader and Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu proudly
announced that the party had no ideology.
"Thank goodness we have come through that wonderful period when people's
ideological and political
convictions meant everything," Reuters quoted him as saying after the meeting
with Putin. "Today we believe the main accent should be on professionalism,
morals and, above all, patriotism."
Shoigu told reporters he would decide by the end of the week whether to take
his seat in the Duma or to continue working in the ministry. If he turns down
the Duma seat, the party's Duma faction would presumably be headed by the No.
2 on the party slate, former Olympic wrestling champion Alexander Karelin.
The precise breakdown of forces in the Duma is not clear at this point.
Deputies who ran as independents can join the various factions, while some
election blocs may break up or form new alliances. Many observers, for
example, are predicting that the powerful governors who form All Russia will
break from Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov's Fatherland and join the Duma's
The first big decision facing the new Duma is to elect a speaker. Communist
leader Gennady Zuganov declared Tuesday that his party would insist on its
own candidate. "We believe that the largest faction has the right to put
forward its own candidate for the post of speaker," he said.
NTV television quoted Zyuganov as saying he had already held consultations
with Shoigu and with Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgeny Primakov.
Although the vote count is nearly completed, the exact number of seats each
bloc will receive has yet to be determined. After the count, the Central
Election Committee will have to distribute the "lost" seats corresponding to
the 18.84 percent of the vote that went to parties that failed to break the
5-percent barrier required for automatic representation.
The percentage of the vote that went to also-ran parties was much lower than
it was in the 1995 election, when the "lost" vote was almost 50 percent.
The exact method of distribution as outlined in the election law is
complicated, but the seats will be divided up more or less proportionately
among the six winning parties.
CEC chairman Alexander Veshnyakov said Monday that the new deputies would
receive their ID cards on Dec. 29 or 30, implying that the seats would be
divided up by then. The first session of the new Duma will take place on Jan.
18, exactly 30 days after the vote, as required by law.
Oksana Yablokova contributed to this report.
21 December 1999
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
Olga SOLOMONOVA, Nikolai DOROFEYEV, Yuri LEPSKY
What's the most attractive feature of Russia's new political
face? For the first time in several years, it has harmonic and
regular features, with no inclinations to either the Left or the
To use political lingo, the Duma has a clear Centre
represented by the pragmatic, constructive forces of
Fatherland-All Russia and Unity and the level-headed independents
who may join the Centre from both Left and Right.
The main preliminary result of the December 19 elections is
that the next, 3rd Duma will be free from the Communists'
Doomed to Succeed
Even before clocks struck midnight on December 19, the
Central Election Commission announced that the mayoral elections
in Moscow were crowned with Yuri Luzhkov's landslide victory:
over 70% of Muscovites have voted for the current mayor.
The figure may seem sensational, yet the success was easy to
predict: the dynamic, goal-oriented Luzhkov has no real match in
His authority is so high that it was capable of decisively
influencing Muscovites' vote in support of Fatherland-All Russia.
The bloc is known to have got over 40% of the votes in Moscow,
which placed it in the lead of the Moscow election race.
Of the other predictable leaders, the Communist Party has
lived up to the pollsters' predictions. Judging by all, the
Communists have largely retained their electorate. The reason is
easy to understand, practically all political watchers agree. The
Communist vote is the 'protest' vote: the realistic living
standards have not changed much in the past five years and are
still very low.
Just like at the previous elections, this circumstance has
formed a stable negatively-minded electorate who voted for
Zyuganov and his party. Many analysts discern one more reason: in
this year's election campaign, the Communists have managed to
keep clear of the avalanche of dirt the type Fatherland-All
Russia has had to withstand. While the Kremlin and the
Fatherland-All Russia bloc were squabbling, the Communist party
quietly engaged in consistent interaction with its voters in the
Look Who's Coming
What is the reason behind Unity's sensational success? It
was built but recently, it has no definite political profile, no
clear economic programme and no experienced political leaders.
Yet Unity is finishing effectively nose-to-nose with the
Communists in the race. Analysts we have talked to have suggested
several explanations of the bloc's success.
One is that Yedinstvo, or Unity, also known by its Russian
acronym of Medved, or Bear, is directly associated with current
PM Vladimir Putin who is now at the zenith of popularity. The
reasons why Putin's rating has soared to an unprecedented high
are worthy of special mention. They are the ones which have
boosted Bear into orbit: tough stance on Chechen terrorists,
tackling Chechnya's problems from the angle of Russia's national
interests in the North Caucasus, growing realistic influence of
the military, etc.
Putin's pragmatic, tough line is fully shared by Unity,
something which the Russian voter cannot fail to notice. But
after his bloc has triumphed in the elections, the premier will
have to shape a clearly recognisable political face for Unity and
devise its (and his) wholesome economic programme as well as
identify priorities of the social, internal and external
policies. Unless he does, Unity would not be able to ally with
anybody in the next Duma.
Vladimir Ryzhkov, leader of the Our Home Is Russia faction
in the 2nd Duma, provides one more explanation for Unity's
success: unprecedented and unprecedentedly overt backing of the
bloc on the part of the government, financial backing included.
Ryzhkov also notes that Bear's leadership in the current
race bespeaks the growing influence of governors and
administration heads in the Russian regions. Unity is known to
have been formed around the regional principle and supported by
Watchers offer Putin's popularity for an explanation why the
Union of Right Forces has attained an unprecedented success in
the race. The fourth placing of those who only yesterday were
seen by the Russian voter as authors of 'shock therapy', last
year's default, and privatisation for vouchers is indeed a
Some people of the press have hurried to describe the
Union's fourth place in the current elections as the "second
coming of the Liberals to power." But the Union's leader, ex-PM
Sergei Kiriyenko believes that his bloc has been successful
because they have learned the past mistakes and miscalculations
and have been so convincing in their economic programme that they
have won Putin's support. Be as it may, the Union has been quick
to appreciate the premier's wonderful popularity and lean against
Another explanation for the winning spurt of the fans of
Kiriyenko and 'shadow-figure' Anatoly Chubais is that over the
past five years, a class of civilised owners has realistically
formed in Russia's society which has helped the Right to clear
the 5% eligibility barrier.
It is thus far hard to say whether this is true. More
probably than not, the Union of Right Forces has really stepped
over the high threshold while riding the wave of Putin's
popularity, having stolen quite a few votes from the traditional
Yabloko electorate and thus left Grigory Yavlinsky in a pinch.
Yabloko has barely managed to slip through the closing Duma
doors at the last possible moment. It looks as if its high
ambitions, unending political whims, the little-constructive
criticism and unwillingness to agree to compromise solutions for
the sake of the cause have tired even the staunch fans of
Yavlinsky. It seems some of them have opted for the Union of
Right Forces whose election campaign has been aggressive, driving
and much better financed than Yabloko's.
Of all newcomers to the Duma, the fate of Fatherland-All
Russia was initially the most dramatic. It was only at noon on
Monday that it became known that although Primakov et al have not
got the great number of votes which many predicted, they did make
it to the Duma--third after Unity and the Communist Party. In
view of the unprecedented harassment that the movement had been
subjected to by the state-owned TV channels and a number of print
media, the result is "adequate enough."
With allowance for the potential success of some of the
bloc's candidates running in one-mandate constituencies, one can
confidently predict that the faction of Fatherland-All Russia in
the 3rd Duma will be rather influential and respected.
Time alone can tell whether this result will satisfy
Primakov, who has already announced his presidential ambitions,
or he will have to become closer allies with the Left than he
would want to.
RUSSIAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST NAMES PM'S MAJOR RIVAL IN PRESIDENTIAL
Source: Radio Russia, Moscow, in Russian 1200 gmt 20 Dec 99
A political scientist, the director of the Institute of Political Studies,
Sergey Markov, has told Radio Russia's "Persona Grata" programme that the
Kremlin has enjoyed a resounding victory in the elections with the success of
the Unity party. He predicts that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may win the
presidential elections in the first round, if he is not regarded by the
"Kremlin clique" as too popular, in which case, Markov says, he may be
replaced by Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu . The following are excerpts
from the interview broadcast by Radio Russia on 20th December. Subheadings
have been inserted editorially.
Kremlin wins astounding victory
["Persona Grata" programme presenter] ... Today [20th December], hot on the
trail, we shall go into the political flights with our old acquaintance, the
director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov... Let us have
an answer to the following question. What is the main thing, what is the
fundamental conclusion that you draw when you look at the preliminary results
of the parliamentary elections.
[Markov] The main thing undoubtedly is the astounding victory of the Kremlin.
Just take a look. What goals did the Kremlin set itself. The first was to
deal a crushing defeat on Fatherland-All Russia [FAR], and in this sense to
undermine [FAR head and former Prime Minister] Yevgeniy Primakov's chances as
a future candidate for the post of Russian president. This has been achieved
in a brilliant manner. FAR talked about 15-20 [per cent of the votes] and may
be they themselves wanted 25-30 [per cent], but it turned out that they did
not even get 15 [per cent]. They wanted to fight for the first place, but
consequently fought for the third place with the Union of Right Forces which
they never even noticed before, which they scorned.
But the Kremlin wanted the Communists to come out in first place, because it
is very good if the Kremlin's candidate in the presidential elections has to
challenge the chairman of the Communists, but the Communists were the first
to achieve this. They [the Kremlin] want Unity to be their very own
pro-government faction, a very narrow one made up of their own people who are
absolutely committed to them. They have achieved astounding success in this
sense. They have almost taken first place. They wanted [Liberal Democratic
Party leader Vladimir] Zhirinovskiy to be in the [State] Duma [lower house of
Russian parliament] who absolutely always talks about financial matters.
Anyway, they all vote as they are told to by the Kremlin. And they have
managed to achieve that. They wanted the Union of Right Forces to get into
the Duma, another pro-government liberal faction. They managed to do that...
The pro-Kremlin grouping gained an absolute victory. So, the main victor, of
course, is the Kremlin. As a result, there is no way that we can expect a
vote of no-confidence in January, and quite recently we were all thinking
about what would happen at the end of January, how will things turn out, what
situation will the president find himself in, if there is a vote of
no-confidence. There will not be any no-confidence [vote], What is more, the
Kremlin will have an opportunity in general to create a pro-Kremlin,
pro-government majority, a mild government majority in the Duma...
[Q] If, let's say we take the Union of Right Forces, its register is such
that the entire country has a reaction to it.
[A] You know, I think that 80 or 90 per cent of the population really do hate
[Union of Right Forces leaders Anatoliy] Chubays. But 8 per cent like him.
You understand, these are people who think that the worst of everything bad
that we have experienced comes from the Soviet Union, and the fact that
Chubays and [Yegor] Gaydar pulled the country out of the Soviet Union by the
scruff of the neck is regarded as a very great achievement, a huge
achievement, by these voters. And they did this at a time when [Yabloko
leader] Grigoriy Yavlinskiy stood on the side lines in his white clothing and
said, "Phew, what dirty work!" because they did this they have a deserved
place on the register that.
Besides that, do not forget that over the last half year, these liberals have
managed to overcome their own personal ambitions, enormous personal
ambitions, and join together into the single Union of Right Forces. Their
voters have thanked them for that...
The fate of Putin's cabinet
[Q] What do you think the fate of [Prime Minister] Vladimir Putin's Cabinet
of Ministers will be in view of what has been said?
[A] You know, I think that, if the trend does not change, we can predict
sufficiently seriously that Vladimir Putin's main rival in the presidential
elections, [head of Fatherland -All Russia and former Prime Minister]
Yevgeniy Primakov has disappeared. And I would say that Putin is moving in
all ways towards a triumphal victory in the first round of the presidential
elections. If nothing changes, then this is just what it will happen.
Naturally, there is a threat to him. The main threat is the Kremlin clique
which might not be so happy at the present time that he is far too popular,
because they want to have their very own president. They want to have control
over the president, a president who will owe them something. A president who
is so popular among the people can do what he likes. They are afraid that he
may simply turn his back on them, discard them like baggage that he is fed up
with. Therefore, the main problem for Putin is the games going on inside the
Kremlin. To put it more simply, they may replace him with [Emergencies
Minister Sergey] Shoygu. This is the problem. If they replace him like that,
then Shoygu will think up some kind of new heroic feat, not Chechnya, for
instance, but a crackdown on criminals. This is the main threat.
There are also some destabilizing factors, which may become superimposed on
one another: a drastic drop in oil prices, firstly; the fact that
international and Western organizations refuse to hold talks on deferring
debt payments, they will threaten to confiscate Russian property abroad. And,
at the same time, if mass terrorist acts start, lets say, committed by
Chechen terrorists in large towns. Evidently, now when they are forced to
stay in the mountains and have almost been destroyed, some of them will try
to take revenge in big towns. That may drastically destabilize the situation.
Moreover, it is impossible to predict how this will happen. If Putin wins,
may be he will take control of everything. And perhaps he will lose.
[Q] Well, this is all speculation with regard to Sergey Shoygu. Putin and
Primakov - what in you view is the difference between these two well known
figures in present-day Russian politics.
[A] The main difference of course is that Putin is young and he belongs to
the future. And Primakov is old and belongs to the past. [indistinct
interruption by presenter] Yes, but besides this, they both have different
ways of working. Primakov offers some kind of conspiracy among the elite, so
that various elite groups, oligarchs, governors, agree among themselves,
share things up among themselves, so to speak, and each of them is in control
of their own patch. Putin proposes a diametrically opposite model. He says
that he will, on the contrary, crack down on all those oligarchs and
governors. "I will put them in order. Support me, give me the real support of
the people." And we shall see that the people will not choose the conspiracy
of the elite, will not vote in favour of plutocracy, but in favour of a tough
leader, an autocrat, who is capable of drawing support from the people, to
struggle against the wealthy, against the governors, against those who have
[Q] How likely is it, taking into account their background, that Putin and
Primakov might come to an agreement and go into big politics together.
[A] Impossible. At the present time, Putin is so popular, and Primakov is so
tied up with his different obligations to Fatherland - All Russia, that an
alliance between Putin and Primakov can only exist in one form. If Primakov
does away with his intentions of standing for president, because, he says, we
have a good leader, I support him, Putin should be the future president.
[Q] So, you think that a variant like that is possible.
[A] I think that that is quite likely to happen...
From: Pavel Baev <Pavel@prio.no>
Subject: WILL RUSSIA GO FOR A MILITARY VICTORY IN CHECNYA?
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999
I held a presentation at the Swedish Defence Research Establishment (FOA)
last week. Hope you can place the updated (as of today) text on your list.
Pavel Baev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
WILL RUSSIA GO FOR A MILITARY VICTORY IN CHECNYA?
Pavel Baev (email@example.com)
Many observers are surprised by the simple fact that the Russian flag had
not been raised over the familiar ruins of the presidential palace in Grozny
on the eve of the parliamentary elections. That probably indicates the first
little gap between the military operation and political campaigning, which
generally worked in a perfect synch. But since this Monday politics in
Moscow has set a new time-scale, while the military around Grozny still have
to keep the pace of the battle. This makes it essential to take a closer
look at the conduct and style of the Second Chechen War on its many levels.
Starting, as the military science prescribes, on the tactical level, we
immediately see the difference with late 1994. Back then, the Russian Army
hardly had any clue about what sort of war it was fighting and how it should
perform. Now it has a clear idea and implements it quite consistently. Some
Western experts have concluded that the Russian are following the NATO model
from Kosovo, but in fact it is quite difficult to find much similarity
between the two operations: NATO used massive airpower with high-precision
strikes in order to avoid a ground campaign, while Russia uses limited
airpower (with very little precision to speak of) in support of the ground
campaign, relying primarily on massive and indiscriminate use of artillery.
There is nothing new about this Russian tactics, but in the First Chechen
War it was just not possible to apply it due to political reservations. This
'firewall' tactics works reasonably well in the lowland Chechnya and
provides for destruction and capture of all major urban centers, its further
applicability, however, is questionable.
On the operational level, which traditionally is the strong side of the
Russian military thinking, there are several visible improvements in the
conduct of the current campaign. First of all, the interaction between
different units of the Army, between its branches and the Air Force, and,
particularly, between the military and the Interior Troops. Of the
100.000-strong federal grouping, the 'real' military hardly make more than a
half, but, unlike the previous time, they are able to take the lead and
organize combat cooperation. It remains to be seen whether this cooperation
would survive the forthcoming small and sudden attacks from the rear.
On the strategic level, which deals with organization and build-up of the
Armed Forces for fighting wars of this type, the picture is somewhat
surprising. Logically, the experience of this war (as well as the previous
one) should be utilized for reforming the mobile and combat-capable
components of the army; its lessons should be translated into new strategic
guidelines. However, nothing resembling this learning process is visible in
the General Staff. The new Military Doctrine barely mentions local conflicts
and 'peace' operations of various types; there is no effort in creating any
Mobile Forces (perhaps, this notion is still too closely associated with
Pavel Grachev, the 'best Defence Minister of all times', in Yeltsin's words)
or at least in strengthening the Airborne Troops, who took the main burden
of the first stage of this war in Daghestan.
On the level of propaganda battles, the military are praised for doing a
much better job than four years ago. Again, some specialists are quick to
point out the influence of NATO's spectacular public relations achievements
in Kosovo. But on a closer look, Russian military propaganda has hardly
advanced very much beyond the boring reports and some incredible lies (like
the famous '48 snipers' around Pervomayskoe) of the First Chechen War. The
real difference is that this time the media is eager to reproduce and
recycle these lies, and that the society is ready to swallow them - and ask
On the doctrinal level, which deals with the most fundamental
military-political issues, we can find two significant features. The first
one is further strengthening of the political profile of nuclear weapons.
This 'nuclearization' of Russia's foreign policy has taken a sharp turn in
1999; if earlier Yeltsin tried to impress his NATO 'partners' with
spectacular reductions and de-targeting, now he feels the need to threaten
them with the 'whole arsenal of nuclear weapons'. Moscow with few doubts
tries to instrumentalize its nuclear potential for countering Western
pressure; Yeltsin's extravaganza is only a part of it and, perhaps, Putin's
harsh comments on Chechnya while observing a missile test is a more credible
threat. The First Chechen War saw one nuclear alert (caused by a Norwegian
meteorological missile launch), now we might see something more dramatic.
The second significant feature is the deep split between the Ministry of
Defence and the General Staff. Tensions between these two powerful
bureaucracies are quite traditional, but now the split is also functional:
the MoD gives priority to the nuclear weapons and programmes, while the
Genshtab is handling the war. This brings to the forefront the painful issue
of distribution of resources, since the government cannot increase the
supply that much. Defence Minister Sergeev will push hard his beloved ICBM
Topol project, while the Chief of the General Staff Kvashnin demands that
every military rouble should go to Chechnya. At the moment, General Kvashnin
appears to be the winner, and General Sergeev may well be on his way out.
But the political demand for a nuclear 'show' continues to be high, so the
strategic forces most probably would be able to keep their share of
resources. But the General Staff might start losing its political influence
very soon if the war is not victorious, and Kvashnin makes a perfect
And that takes us to one fairly obvious point: the Second Chechen War in its
current military setting is not winnable. Capturing all the major cities,
conducting brutal zachistka (combing) of the villages and setting blockposts
on every crossroads are all familiar settings of the first war, so the
outcome is very much predetermined. The newly-burned armour on the Minutka
square in Grozny shows that the lessons from the defeat do not account for
very much, and all the improvements in tactics and in organization of the
operation do not make a victory more achievable. But another defeat is
unacceptable not only for the General Staff but for the whole Russian
society. What was started as a smart political game to boost Putin's
popularity has grown into a matter of national pride and revival, has become
an existential issue for Russia. Squaring the circle of unwinnable war and
unacceptable defeat requires some radical political decision-making.
One way to go might be to open serious negotiations with the Chechen
President Maskhadov, perhaps enjoying the position of strength. Now that
Prime Minister Putin has such a solid support in the Duma, he may feel
secure enough to attempt a compromise solution, unpopular as it might be,
first of all with the 'top brass'. But such a strategy of negotiated
settlement could give him a way around the situation when the time is
working against his presidential campaign (as it does now, at least in
Primakov's count). A few personal statements about Maskhadov as well as the
attempts to play up Bislan Gantemirov as an alternative Chechen leader are
certainly not very helpful for this strategy, but the really big problem
about it is the public opinion. The significant (even if slightly
diminishing) majority of Russian voters still wants to see a clear victory
in Chechnya - and Putin is well aware of that.
The circle of unacceptable defeat (or, even a deadlock) and unachievable
victory might be squared from the military side. The victory is not possible
in the present military format - but that does not mean that it is entirely
impossible. Chechnya is not Vietnam, where millions were able to hide in the
jungle, it is not Afghanistan, with its endless mountains. It is a
relatively small piece of land (half the size of the Moscow oblast) with
some mountains in the south and the between-the-wars population of about
half a million, of which more than the half have already fled. Tsar Nikolai
II did won that war, and Stalin crushed the Chechens in just a couple of
weeks. It is just a question of being consistently brutal and sufficiently
deadly. And the victory might be achieved in a matter of months without
paying a high price in Russian lives. To see how, we need to go again
through the spectrum of the war.
On the tactical level, the two highly efficient methods not yet used are
'carpet' bombing and massive mining. So far, the use of Air Force is limited
to some 50 sorties on a good day (not that many of those in winter), with
the frontal Su-25 being the main workhorse. If the long-range all-weather
Tu-22M are employed for systematic bombing of the mountain areas, that might
deny the rebels any 'safe areas'. And the multi-layer mining of the mountain
valleys and their openings into the plains might make the combat manoeuvring
of the partisan units quite complicated. Conveniently, Russia is not a
signatory to the Land Mines Convention, despite some loose promises from
On the operational level, the key idea is to turn the stretch of land
between the River Terek and the mountains into a 'burned land'. All the main
urban centres in Chechnya are located in that area, so they have to be
thoroughly destroyed. If this 'buffer zone' becomes strictly a 'no-go'
territory, it would not matter that much if the rebels still control the
mountains (under the 'carpet' bombing) since they would not be able to
attack and retreat. Certainly, large-scale relocation of population and even
some expulsion would be necessary, but the methods are familiar and, in
fact, a half of this work is already done. The northern Chechnya could then
be kept relatively stable by a force of some 20.000 and ruled of local
On the theatre level, this victory would not provide for a stabilization of
the North Caucasus and would require a permanent presence of significant
combat-capable force. Dagestan, with its ethnic diversity and totally
corrupt leadership, would remain prone to internal conflict; Ingushetia,
overcrowded with refugees and sympathetic to the Chechens, would become a
guerrilla base; North Ossetia, emboldened by the status of Russia's key
ally, might demand merger with South Ossetia; Kabardino-Balkaria is already
now ready to fall apart; Abkhazia, with its conflict-oriented leadership, is
just around the corner. All that would make necessary a long-term deployment
of a military grouping of some 250.000 - certainly in violation of the
newly-revised CFE Treaty.
On the highest level of military-political interaction, this victory would
mean that the victorious 'Chechen' Army remains a powerful political actor
in Moscow. Democracy, which was not at all advanced by the parliamentary
elections, might be curtailed even further. The relations with the West,
which could not leave the war crimes committed in Chechnya unnoticed, would
deteriorate to open hostility. At the same time, the Russian economy, even
if efficiently controlled from the centre and supported by high oil prices
(the best possible option), would not be able to generate resources
sufficient for a Soviet-style military machine. It probably would be able to
sustain the strategic nuclear forces and the military grouping in the North
Caucasus - and nothing else. More specifically, it means retreat from
Tajikistan, defenceless border with China, and no Navy (except for several
Will Russia go for this victory and accept these consequences? The results
of the parliamentary elections generally point to the affirmative answers.
The pressure of the presidential race definitely pushes Prime Minister Putin
in the same direction. The Army shows determination to achieve its victory
and forget about reforms. The hopes for the negative answers are pinned to
the common sense, liberal values and consciousness - the commodities which
are in a very short supply in the post-reform Russia.
Pavel Baev (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Senior Researcher, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO)
YELTSIN READY TO SIGN DRAFT LAW ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
MOSCOW. Dec 21 (Interfax) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin is
ready to sign the draft law on presidential elections in order to ensure
that elections be held in strict accordance with the constitution and
with the federal election laws, Chairman of the Central Election
Commission Alexander Veshnaykov announced following his meeting with
Yeltsin on Tuesday.
Veshnyakov said that the presidential elections will be held as
stipulated in the constitution and the federal laws.
He also announced that on the whole Yeltsin is satisifed with the
results of the parliamentary elections. The president highly appraised
the work of the Central Election Commission and of the district and
territorial commissions, he said.
Veshnyakov himself gave a more modest assessment of the work done.
"I don't think the elections have been held without a hitch, so we must
prepare for the presidential elections in such a way as to avoid the
current flaws," he said.
He said that the Central Elections Commission had carefully
analyzed the opinions and conclusions of the 1,200 foreign observers who
monitored the elections. The observers said that "legitimate and
democratic elections" had been held in Russia, said Veshnyakov.
The observers criticized the mass media, however, said Veshnyakov,
adding that the same problem exists in many other countries, as well.
Veshnyakov said that control over the financing of the election
campaign must be increased during preparations for the presidential
elections. "My conclusions is that more attention should be given to
this aspect," he said.
PRO-CHECHEN WEB SITE PUBLISHES RUSSIA'S PLAN TO DESTROY MOUNTAINOUS CHECHNYA
Source: Kavkaz-Tsentr web site, in Russian 0530 gmt 21 Dec 99
Kavkaz-Tsentr web site published the text of a document on 21st December
purporting to be a report on a recent Russian Security Council meeting
prepared by Security Council Secretary Sergey Ivanov for Duma Speaker
Gennadiy Seleznev. Along with Russia's relations with other CIS states, the
main item on the agenda was the war in Chechnya. According to the report, the
mountainous districts of Chechnya have traditionally harboured "terrorists
and bandits", who are supplied via the border with Georgia. Communications
between Chechnya and Georgia should be cut off, the Security Council decided,
and the mountainous districts should be detroyed, to create "conditions which
are absolutely unsuitable for human habitation in future". The population
from these districts should be resettled in northern Chechnya or other
regions of Russia, the report said. The following are excerpts from the
report by Kavkaz-Tsentr
19th December: Our news agency has obtained a document which clearly
testifies to the actual intentions of the Kremlin gang regarding Chechnya and
the whole of the Caucasus.
The Security Council of the Russian Federation
[Passage omitted: address and telephone numbers]
To the chairman of the State Duma [lower chamber of the Russian parliament],
Dear Gennadiy Nikolayevich!
I am sending a report on the sitting of the Security Council of the Russian
Federation on 15th December 1999 (Amendment on two pages, one copy) [For
Russian news agency report on this sitting, see ITAR-TASS news agency,
Moscow, in English 2025 gmt 15 Dec 99 "Security Council debates Russia's
policy towards CIS states"]
With best regards, the secretary of the Security Council of the Russian
Federation, Sergey Ivanov
On the instructions of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin held a regular sitting of the members of the Security
Council of the Russian Federation on 15th December in the Kremlin. The issue
"On the main tasks of the policy of the Russian Federation in its relations
with CIS countries in the current period" was put on the agenda.
[Passage omitted: members of the Security Council discussed the issue]
The second issue on the agenda was "Progress in fulfillment of the
anti-terrorist operation in the Chechen Republic". The main reports were
delivered by Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev and the director of the
Russian Federal Border Service, Konstantin Totskiy.
The members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation discussed the
situation on fulfilling the second stage of the anti-terrorist operation for
destroying the bandit groups on the territory of the Chechen Republic and
worked out an operational concept for implementing its third and final stage.
The sitting pointed out that the settlements of mountainous Ichkeria
[Chechnya] are traditionally a moral and material base for supporting Chechen
terrorists and bandits. Unlike Chechens living in lower Chechnya, the
population of these districts has always had a very pronounced anti-Soviet
and anti-Russian separatist orientation and has always rendered assistance to
various criminals. Difficulty of access in the mountainous landscape is
conducive to the concealment of terrorists and bandits, and the open 80-km
section of the border with Georgia allows them to be fed with foreign
mercenaries, money and arms. It was emphasized that these circumstances will
prevent the planned full and effective destruction of the bandit groups.
The participants in the sitting shared the opinion that the mountainous
villages of the Chechens, which make up less than 20 per cent of all the
settlements of the Chechen Republic, have no economic worth or any other
value either for this subject of the federation nor for Russia as a whole and
should be completely destroyed in the Bamut-Zandak-Itumkale section.
Furthermore, conditions which are absolutely unsuitable for human habitation
in future should be created here and the rest of population from this part of
Chechnya should be resettled in its northern
trans-Terek [river] districts or assimilated in Russia's other regions.
Resettled citizens will be rendered assistance in finding accommodation and
For this purpose, it is decided to blockade the Chechen section of the
Russian-Georgian border with the necessary landing unit and implement a
reliable cut-off of all communications with Georgia. At the same time, it is
planned to implement actions for fierce precision bombing and missile and
artillery strikes on bandits' and terrorists' fortifications, which will
force the remaining civilians to leave the mountainous districts via the
given humanitarian corridors to the zones which the federal troops are in
control of. All the natural facilities (including religious and cultural
ones) of the mountainous region, and the ancient patrimonial towers, will be
considered to be facilities for concealment of bandit groups and are to be
subjected to total destruction. After finishing the military operation all
the buildings and other materials should be taken from this part of the
republic. It is in Russia's interest to make this region lifeless and to
destroy the basis for cultivating new bandits and terrorists forever.
The results of the sitting will be reported to Yeltsin.
U.S. Ex-Im Bank does not approve oil loan to Russia
WASHINGTON, Dec 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. Export-Import Bank bowed on Tuesday
to Clinton administration pressure and decided not to approve $500 million in
loan guarantees for Russia's oil sector, a Bank spokeswoman told Reuters.
The Ex-Im Bank took a formal decision after Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright sent a letter saying the loan to Russia's Tyumen Oil would not be in
the U.S. national interest. There had been mounting criticism of the Russian
military campaign in Chechnya and concern about protection of U.S. companies
in Russia. ``We're going to act in accordance with the Secretary's
determination,'' the spokeswoman said.
She added that the State Department will send over a letter
later on Tuesday officially invoking a special U.S. law that
allows Albright to block Ex-Im loans that would not ``clearly
and importantly advance United States policy in such areas as
international terrorism, nuclear proliferation, environmental
protection and human rights.''
The loan was intended for Tyumen to develop a Siberian oil
field and upgrade its refinery.
White House spokesman Joe Lockhart downplayed speculation
that the United States was acting to express its concern about
Chechnya, saying U.S. concerns were over the company and its
The financial package not approved by the Bank included a
$292 million loan for U.S. oil service giant Halliburton Co. to
develop the Tyumen oil field and a separate $198 million credit
for ABB Ltd. unit ABB Lummus Global, to upgrade the refinery.
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