This Date's Issues: 4010 4011
Johnson's Russia List
5 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
Reports from Moscow indicate that Reuters correspondent
Maria Eismont is fine, resting with friends after a very heavy
1. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: A Worrying Abdication.
2. Los Angeles Times: Richard Paddock, Putin's Rise Chalked Up to Close
'Family' Ties. Russia: Given Moscow's cutthroat politics, it's believed Yeltsin's inner circle retains leverage over new president.
3. Dan Cisek: Comment on Putin.
4. PBS NewsHour: POWER SHIFT. (Discussion with Michael McFaul, Dimitri
Simes, Leon Aron, and Stephen Cohen)
5. Newsweek International: Chubais to Putin: Go after crime and corruption.
(Yevgenia Albats interviews Anatoly Chubais)
6. Esther Dyson on Squier/Intriligator discussion of information technology
7. New York Daily News: Lars-Erik Nelson, Boris' Legacy: What, We Worry?]
January 5, 2000
EDITORIAL: A Worrying Abdication
A tsar abdicates his throne; but the only thing a democratically elected
leader can abdicate is his responsibility. This is what Boris Yeltsin has
done by resigning just a few months before his term would have ended,
explicitly so as to tilt the ensuing elections to favor Vladimir Putin.
The tentatively planned March presidential vote is now doomed to be a far
less significant or inspiring experience than was Mikhail Gorbachev's
peaceful transfer of all power to Yeltsin in 1991. Everyone talks about the
Yeltsin years as the reform years. But the fact is, there is not a single
major reform that was not begun by Gorbachev and at least slightly tarnished
or rolled back under Yeltsin. And now, with this less-than-heroic departure -
immunity from prosecution tightly in hand - Yeltsin has sealed it that way.
Yeltsin's legacy will be like Yeltsin himself, particularly during his second
term: inarticulate, confused, self-absorbed, weak.
BUT IS IT DEMOCRATIC?
Not really. For starters, it is not even a true transfer of power, as was
Gorbachev's surrender to Yeltsin. Control of the Kremlin is staying within
In Yeltsin's account, he is resigning not for health reasons - which would be
understandable and forgivable, provided it were also true - but purely to
give a boost to his chosen successor, Putin. That is a frivolous explanation
indeed. It amounts to a hijacking of democracy by the Kremlin's inner circle
of advisers and hangers-on. Boris Berezovsky and Alexander Voloshin come to
mind here, as does Tatyana Dyachenko.
Somebody who also comes to mind, albeit in a different way, is the U.S.
president during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln - who once famously
warned that it was possible to deceive all of the people some of the time,
and some of the people all of the time, but not all of the people all of the
time. Lincoln saw this as a strength of democracy. But it is one
self-evidently contingent upon the people being given time to sort out the
truth - and that time is what the Kremlin is trying to steal. It is busy
fooling all of the people with its message that Putin is winning a graceful
Caucasus campaign, yet it knows this untruth cannot be pushed forever.
So people will vote for Putin in a few weeks, but their consent will not be
informed. They hope and believe that he will be a strong leader able to deal
with corruption and restore order, while at the same protecting their
Yet their knowledge of Putin is based almost entirely on pro-government
propaganda about him and about his war - propaganda that leaves out the truth
of how the war is progressing (bloodily, and badly, by most objective
accounts), and that rarely asks the obvious questions about Putin's past. Is
he beholden to the KGB? To the oligarchs? Is he tainted by any of the
corruption allegations leveled at the St. Petersburg mayor's office, where he
was the No. 2 official, or at the Kremlin property management office of
Mabetex fame? Don't expect to find out the truth from the television.
In fact, already we see a crackdown by the Russian government on access to
Chechnya by foreign or Russian observers. Surely now all media and all those
with an interest in truth and democracy, be they Russian or foreign, have a
responsibility to report thoroughly and factually on the situation in that
sad patch of the Caucasus.
A BEAUTIFUL CONSTITUTION
Yeltsin, Putin and others are stressing the constitutionality of this
transfer of power. Putin, with his trademark truculence, went so far on New
Year's Eve as to warn that he would "decisively crush" anyone who did not
obey the constitution.
But to say that what is happening is "legal" is to say nothing at all. Just
about every evil that has befallen the Russian state in the past decade has
been technically "legal" - from the hijacking of the nation's industrial
crown jewels, to the parking of the currency reserves in the Jersey Islands,
to the annexation of the national airwaves by a few unscrupulous Kremlin
intriguers. Men like Anatoly Chubais have offered lawyerly hair-splitting
over past mistakes of an "ethical" but not necessarily "legal" nature.
Yelena Bonner, the human rights activist and wife of the late Andrei
Sakharov, warns: "[Yeltsin] left Russia with a dangerous constitution that
was made just for him, and now Putin will exploit it." Bonner, as she so
often does, has gone straight to the heart of the matter. Russia's
Constitution - the one Yeltsin rammed through in the post-1993 chaos of a
parliament in flames - gives the presidency awesome powers. And there have
been calls across the political spectrum to amend it - to give the Cabinet
and parliament more independence and power. Such reforms are indeed crucial
and should be pursued.
Yet president-in-waiting Putin has made clear he opposes any constitutional
reform. "We have a very good constitution," Putin wrote in a recent statement
on his plans for Russia in the new millennium. "The section devoted to rights
and personal freedoms is considered the best constitutional act of its sort
in the world." Need we remind our readers that the Khmer Rouge and Stalin
constitutions have also been praised for their declarations of rights and
No, the concentration of so much power in the hands of the Russian executive
is exactly why the nation has been preoccupied with tracking "the oligarchy"
or "the family." When supreme power is exercised behind closed doors by a de
facto monarch, the monarch's advisers are the highest officials in the land -
and "democracy" drifts towards becoming a Soviet-style exercise in voting for
a pre-selected victor. In Yeltsin's case, the advisers over the years have
been an odd collection of old friends (like bodyguard Alexander Korzhakov and
tennis coach Shamil Tarpishchev), actual family members, government officials
of proven loyalty and the "cashiers" - businessmen-allies. Commander-in-Chief
Putin will also have "advisers" - how could he not? - and the only question
is how many will be drawn from the sitting royal family, how many from the
"St. Petersburg clan" of "reformers" and how many from the KGB.
WHO IS PUTIN?
There is a shocking amount of wishful thinking masquerading as analysis about
Vladimir Putin. We can only hope that he will indeed fight corruption while
protecting civil liberties and pursuing an appropriate mix of state-led and
free-market economic policies. Perhaps all that Russia needs is the youthful
energy of a firm young president, and another year or two of high oil prices,
to set things aright. Certainly we at The Moscow Times will be watching
hopefully and with an open mind. And even if we are disturbed at the
politics, we will be willing to applaud should the economy pick up and
ordinary people start living better - after all, that is all we have ever
Then again, Putin's record so far is dispiriting indeed. He may consider
self-described liberals such as Chubais and Sergei Kiriyenko his allies - but
then, so has Berezovsky when it has suited his needs. When Putin took over
the KGB successor agency, it was involved in an idiotic and internationally
condemned persecution of environmentalist Alexander Nikitin, and two rival
FSB factions were accusing each other of running a murder-for-hire bureau
within the Lubyanka's walls. As far as we know, Putin did nothing about those
two horrifying scandals. As prime minister, his only claim to fame has been
to seize upon a truly bad situation in Chechnya as an excuse to wage an
imperial war, one that punishes civilians in the name of protecting them.
And now the Kremlin is crowing that Putin will be the only real candidate on
the ballot, and the elections themselves a mere formality. We are saddened,
Los Angeles Times
January 4, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin's Rise Chalked Up to Close 'Family' Ties
Russia: Given Moscow's cutthroat politics, it's believed Yeltsin's inner
circle retains leverage over new president.
By RICHARD C. PADDOCK, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--Tycoon Boris A. Berezovsky likes to say that anyone can become
president of Russia--as long as that person has the backing of the wealthy
elite and the media.
The billionaire Kremlin insider is about to prove himself right.
As in previous palace intrigues, Berezovsky has emerged as a pivotal
figure in events leading to President Boris N. Yeltsin's resignation Friday
and the appointment of acting President Vladimir V. Putin, a stern,
little-known former spy who came to Moscow less than four years ago.
Berezovsky is a key member of "The Family," the inner circle of Kremlin
advisors revolving around Yeltsin's younger daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko. With
Yeltsin ill much of his second term, it's widely believed The Family ruled
Russia and engineered the rapid rise of Putin, who has been associated in
recent years with key Family members.
"Boris Berezovsky said many times--there are many witnesses; I heard it
myself--that he sincerely believes that in Russia anybody can be elected
president with adequate financial support and control of TV," said Igor Y.
Malashenko, a television executive who served as Yeltsin's media advisor in
the 1996 reelection campaign. "Anybody."
When Yeltsin abruptly named Putin in August as his sixth prime minister,
it looked like another bizarre move by the unpredictable, ailing president.
In fact, it now appears to have been the first step in a shrewd plan to turn
Putin into Russia's next president.
With Yeltsin's resignation New Year's Eve, Putin became acting president
and is in an excellent position to win the job outright in an election
tentatively set for the end of March. Just 47, he could maintain power for
years to come, with the ability to bring about great changes in the lives of
On Monday, Putin signed a decree relieving Dyachenko of her post as
advisor to the president, suggesting that Putin was distancing himself from
the Yeltsin era. But few had expected Dyachenko to remain in that capacity
anyway, and she is likely to play a behind-the-scenes role in a Putin
Some suggest that, in Russia's cutthroat world of politics, The Family
must have retained some kind of leverage over Putin.
"The Family that has always feared to let the reins of power go all of a
sudden entrusts their fate to a man whom they appear not to know at all.
Isn't that weird?" said Marina Y. Salye, a former Leningrad City Council
member who headed an investigation into alleged improprieties by Putin a
decade ago. "It is simply not their style--they have never acted so
recklessly. So they must know something that . . . allows them to trust Putin
The making of Russia's new leader began when he returned from more than
a decade as a KGB spy in East Germany and took a post in the city government
of Leningrad, now once again named St. Petersburg.
Known for his quiet, low-key style, the former KGB colonel soon rose to
first deputy mayor under Mayor Anatoly A. Sobchak, who was regarded as a
leader of Russia's so-called reform movement. Putin's influence behind the
scenes was so great that he became known as Sobchak's "gray cardinal."
"He did not like to be conspicuous, but practically nothing at the
mayor's office was done without Putin's approval," wrote Alexei A. Mukhin in
"The Federal Elite," a book about Russia's powerful figures. "Sobchak liked
to joke that he would feel safe taking Putin on a reconnaissance
mission"--one of the highest compliments one Russian can pay another.
While some cite Putin's association with Sobchak as evidence that he
will develop a liberal economic policy, his track record does not necessarily
support that view.
In mid-1990, the city commission headed by Salye concluded that Putin
had improperly issued licenses for the export of raw materials and nonferrous
materials in exchange for food shipments that never arrived. The commission
accused Putin of abuse of power and recommended that Sobchak fire him,
according to Salye and Mukhin. Sobchak took no action.
Sobchak, who fled the country in the face of unrelated corruption
charges in 1997, praised Putin's loyalty in a recent TV interview.
"I saw that his inability to betray, his loyalty, reliability and
honesty are the main traits of his character, which really make him a rare
person in our times," said Sobchak, who returned to Russia last summer after
charges against him were dropped.
Plum Post at Kremlin
In 1996, Putin moved to Moscow, where he was in a position to meet close
associates of Yeltsin, who aided his rise to power.
The Family's members include Dyachenko and Yeltsin's former chief of
staff and ghostwriter Valentin B. Yumashev, as well as financiers Berezovsky
and Roman A. Abramovich. The latter pair are among a handful of Russians who
became wealthy through Yeltsin's privatization of government assets.
Dyachenko, the only one with unlimited access to Yeltsin, was widely regarded
as the power behind the president.
Some say it was Anatoly B. Chubais, a longtime Yeltsin advisor close to
The Family, who brought Putin to the Kremlin and arranged a post for him as
deputy to Pavel P. Borodin, the head of the Kremlin's property department.
Borodin, who also has strong ties to The Family, oversees the Kremlin's
huge real estate holdings and has been at the center of a scandal involving
the Swiss company Mabetex, which won Kremlin construction contracts worth
$300 million and allegedly gave credit cards to Yeltsin and his two
Putin has not been tarnished by the Mabetex scandal, but he and Borodin
were accused by a small St. Petersburg newspaper of illegally selling
billions of dollars' worth of Russian real estate abroad. The two officials
sued for libel and won a court order putting the paper out of business,
Borodin said last year.
It was in the fall of 1996, soon after Yeltsin won reelection, that the
paths of Putin and Berezovsky most likely crossed. Both were members of
Yeltsin's administration. Soon after Putin moved to Moscow, Berezovsky was
rewarded for his campaign support with a post as the deputy secretary of
Yeltsin's Security Council.
Within the Kremlin, Putin's rise was rapid.
In March 1997, he was appointed head of the Kremlin's Audits
Directorate, a post likely to have given him great insight into the workings
of the Kremlin. Yeltsin also named him a deputy chief of staff.
In 1998, Yeltsin appointed him to head the FSB, the main successor
agency to the KGB. In an unusual move in March, Yeltsin gave him the
additional important post of Security Council secretary.
As Putin moved up, the Kremlin inner circle was holding auditions for a
presidential successor. A string of prime ministers tried, and failed, to win
Yeltsin's blessing: Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, Sergei V. Kiriyenko, Yevgeny M.
Primakov and Sergei V. Stepashin were all fired over a period of 18 months.
With Yeltsin scheduled to step down in August, the inner circle was
anxious to pass on power to a successor who would protect its interests.
When Yeltsin named Putin prime minister in August, it was clear
something was different: Yeltsin declared Putin his preferred successor, a
designation no one else had won.
By then, Russian forces had begun fighting separatist Chechen rebels who
had invaded the neighboring republic of Dagestan in an attempt to expand
Chechens Blamed for Bombing Wave
In September, a wave of bombings destroyed four apartment buildings in
Moscow and two southern Russian cities, killing 300 people. The government
was quick to blame the attacks on Chechen terrorists, and the Russian public
It has been widely speculated that the bombings were carried out by the
FSB to fuel public hatred of Chechnya and rally support for the war. The
government bulldozed the bomb sites within days, destroying any remaining
evidence, and has never proved that the attacks were staged by Chechen
In early October, Putin sent troops into the rebel republic and began
winning back territory surrendered during the first Chechen war of 1994-96.
His popularity soared, exceeding that of any politician since Yeltsin in the
Berezovsky, meanwhile, began building the Unity bloc, a loose coalition
of Kremlin allies headed by Emergency Situations Minister Sergei K. Shoigu.
After Putin endorsed the party, it scored a major upset in Dec. 19
parliamentary elections, coming from nowhere to finish just behind the
Communist Party with 23% of the vote.
Vyacheslav A. Nikonov, who worked for Primakov's rival Fatherland-All
Russia movement, said Berezovsky was inspired to take a renewed interest in
Russian politics in October when he was denied a visa to enter Switzerland,
where his business dealings are under investigation.
"It used to be, whatever happened in Russia, they could say, 'We have
our airplane ready, we have our castles, etc.,' " said Nikonov, who worked in
Yeltsin's 1996 campaign. "Now, the bank accounts may be in trouble; the
castles as well. They realized it was cheaper to buy new power."
In a December interview in the weekly Novaya Gazeta, Berezovsky took
credit for masterminding the naming of Putin as prime minister and designated
presidential successor. He also took credit for coming up with the idea to
create the Unity bloc. "I am happy that I persuaded not only my close circle
but also the society to believe that the new construction was feasible," he
In his new role, Putin's first sign of loyalty to The Family was a
decree he signed Friday granting Yeltsin immunity from prosecution.
Former Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev is among those who believe
Dyachenko pushed aside her father.
In an interview published Monday in the Italian newspaper La Stampa,
Gorbachev said he thought that Dyachenko, Berezovsky and presidential chief
of staff Alexander S. Voloshin actually forced Yeltsin out of office.
"Yeltsin did not want to resign," Gorbachev said. "He resisted it with
all his remaining strength. In fact, he was deposed. It was this trio who
masterminded 'Operation Putin.' There is no change of the regime, there will
be no fight against corruption. The interests and the privileges of the
oligarchy will be completely preserved."
"Very few people in Russia should feel enthusiastic about Putin's
accession to power," Salye, the former councilwoman, said. "They should worry
about their own future, not to mention the future of the country. Putin is a
tough person, and his toughness often borders on cruelty. He is extremely
secretive. In general, he possesses all the qualities that have made it
possible for The Family to trust him."
From: Dan Cisek <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Comment on Putin
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2000
Just a thought for all the commentators who agree that Putin is and will
remain a creature of the Family that brought him to power. Most
commentators thought the same thing about Adolf Hitler when he first gained
power electorally in 1933. He was widely agreed to be under the control of
various right-wing interests who would use to him against the communists
and then reign him in. As this example demonstrates, even though a figure
may be brought to power by a particular clique, it is more than possible
for him to leap-frog over his handlers and became an independent, and even
dominant, political force. I am not comparing Putin to Hitler in terms of
substance, but the historical parallel is appropriate. Putin may be the
Family's man at the moment, but it's quite plausible that he could turn on
them if it's to his political advantage. As President, and a popular one at
that, he has the advantage of singular executive power and all the
prerogatives granted him by the lopsided Constitution.
Putin has already dumped Tatyana Dyachenko from the Kremlin. Might a move
against Berezovsky be next? Why not? It would be extremely popular, and
what could Berezovsky possibly do against a determined Putin? For that
matter, what could any member of the Family do to prevent Putin from
roasting them alive for public consumption after he wins the presidency in
March? I think the most telling thing that is being missed or ignored by
commentators is the fact that only Yeltsin has immunity from prosecution.
No one else in the Family does. They are only as safe as the powers that be
decide to make them.
In terms of ways to control Putin, allegations of corruption would surely
not stick while the war in Chechnya remained popular. It seems to me that
the moment immediately after the election will be the time of greatest
danger for the Family. This is purely speculative, of course, but I think
it's premature to assert that there has been no real change in power in
Russia. I have a feeling Putin will surprise us all.
PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
January 3, 2000
Russian acting president Vladimir Putin promises to clean up widespread
corruption. Gwen Ifill leads a discussion of with experts.
GWEN IFILL: For more on the situation in Russia, we turn to Michael McFaul,
a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and
assistant professor of political science at Stanford University. He returned
from Moscow two weeks ago. Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center for
Peace and Freedom, and author of After the Collapse: Russia Seeks its Place
as a Great Power. Leon Aron, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute, and author of Yeltsin, a biography that will be published in
March. And Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies at New York
University, and author of Rethinking the Soviet Experience.
GWEN IFILL: Let's speak first about Vladimir Putin, about whom we know very
little. Michael McFaul, he is the first Russian president born after World
War II, in much the same way that Bill Clinton was the first American
president born after World War II. What does that tell us about him, if
Who is Vladimir Putin?
MICHAEL McFAUL: I think this tells us a lot. Boris Yeltsin was a transitional
figure between the Communist system to this new political and economic system
that we have in Russia today. Putin is not a transitional figure. He made his
career, most of it, you got to remember most of his career has been in the
post communist era - and I think says a lot about him. It says that when he
turns to economic advice, he doesn't turn to Soviet bureaucrats or KGB
apparatchiks, he turns to market reformers. It says when he looks to the
outside world, the western world, he is not caught back in superpower Soviet
American confrontation -- he is a new guy. And I think that's a very positive
thing for Russia.
GWEN IFILL: Stephen Cohen, Michael McFaul says it's a positive thing for
Russia, do you agree with that?
STEPHEN COHEN: Well, I hope Michael is right. What we know for the moment is
what we know for the moment; that Putin is a career KGB officer and that at
the moment he waging, he is the architect of a war in Chechnya which all the
international human rights organizations say commits war crimes every day.
That is what we know for a fact. All the rest is speculation.
GWEN IFILL: Dimitri Simes, what does it mean what we say he is a career KGB
officer, does that mean now what it used to mean?
DIMITRI SIMES: Yes, it means exactly what it means, because first of all he
was a career KGB officer, not just in intelligence but also in
counterintelligence in political -- I do not know what exactly he had done,
but it was at the end of the Soviet Union -- he was in Germany fighting the
end of Communism then he went to work for KGB in Russia. When he was the
director of KGB successor agency, working already for Yeltsin, I have to say
he behaved very awful. In a typical KGB tradition, he was involved in
activities which were very questionable morally and I would say legally, and
he obviously on a number of occasions put interests of his boss, Boris
Yeltsin, above the Russian institution and above the Russian democracy.
GWEN IFILL: Leon Aron, we just heard Madeleine Albright say that Putin is
riding the tiger in terms of his war with Chechnya and sailing along on that.
Is she correct? Is that a dangerous place for him to be?
War and politics
LEON ARON: There are such things in democracies as popular wars. We all know
examples - especially they start as popular wars, and then the media turns
against it and the people turn against it usually when our boys begin to be
killed in big numbers. Unlike the first war in Chechnya the Russians are
trying to keep that number low. I think that Putin understands. I think he
knows very well, for example, Yeltsin won presidency in '96 only in part
because he finished the first war in Chechnya or at least put a stop to it.
It was finished a year later. So I think we will see moves by Putin to end
that war. But he has to be careful because the war, as you have mentioned, is
very popular. It's considered by the majority of the Russians, 70, 80% as a
just war as a response to terrorism, as a response to the death of their
brothers and sisters who were killed -- peaceful citizens. So he cannot just
say the war is over. He will have to, I think, take Grozny but my feeling is
that he will open negotiations shortly after that. And I'm almost confident
that one way or the other, this war will be either over or put in a very,
very kind of slow basis by the time election comes presidentially at the end
GWEN IFILL: Stephen Cohen, what is the danger of being a single issue
president? This war is the only thing we know of him practically and what if
the economy were to take a downturn or if the war were to take a downturn?
STEPHEN COHEN: I think what we know is the timing of Yeltsin's resignation
was dictated by the concern that Putin's popularity - and after all Putin has
been appointed as a kind of Praetorian minister to protect the Kremlin from
any retribution for what has happened in the country -- that waging war is a
form of electoral politics could not be sustained for six months, when an
election was supposed to take place. So by resigning Yeltsin brought the
election forward three months. It's now 90 days to the election. It's now
manageable and you mentioned something else. There is disagreement about
this. And I'm not sure. I mean, I don't have a final opinion on this, but
there are some people in Russia, serious economists, that think that the
ruble may collapse within 90 days or certainly within six months, and that
would reduce the purchasing power of voters, and that would hurt whomever
sits in the Kremlin.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Putin -- Mr. McFaul, I'm sorry, I've just promoted you.
MICHAEL McFAUL: I don't want that job, thank you. Yes and no. I mean, yes,
Yeltsin resigned when he did to help Mr. Putin become president. I think it
is a slam dunk now that he will be elected but he will be elected because 75%
of the Russian people support what he is doing. By the way, it's not just the
war in Chechnya. If you look at opinion polls now, people feel much better
about the economy. It's gone up to 55% say they are better off now than they
were six months ago. When you ask the question have you adapted to the
reforms of the Soviet Union, traditionally for the last ten years that number
has been about 25%, under Putin it has jumped to 54%. That says that there is
something else going on here. It is not just a one-issue guy; it is a young
guy with a pulse in the Kremlin which they haven't had for a long time, and
so people are cautiously optimistic about the Putin regime.
GWEN IFILL: And he is a tough talker, right, as well.
LEON ARON: You got to be both. But I agree with Michael. You know, the
Russian economy is probably going to post the first real growth of the GDP,
at least one and a half, probably 2%, the industrial portion of it has grown
8%. You know, 12 million Russians traveled abroad. They cannot all be
oligarchs. If they are, the economy is really in good shape. You know, there
are all kinds of indicators that might cautiously be judged as showing that
the economy is clawing from under the crisis of the essentially the last ten
years. So that plus let's not forget the generational factor is extremely
important. Anybody who travels in Russia in the last few years across the
political spectrum, across the board, they want somebody who did not spend
their, his entire most of his life under the old regime.
GWEN IFILL: Dimitri Simes, today, Putin fired Boris Yeltsin's daughter, his
image maker, who had been under a cloud of suspicion having to do with
corruption. Do we know that Vladimir Putin is going to be able to tackle the
corruption issue if his mentor may have been up to his neck in it?
DIMITRI SIMES: Up to now, Putin was covering up for Yeltsin's corruptions. A
number of people, most notably the results came, Anatoly Chubais, were
claiming that put Putin was in his pocket. Up to a point it was convenient
for Putin because these people made Putin. These people funded Putin. TV
stations controlled by these people promoted Putin. But now if Putin wants to
establish himself as a genuine national figure, he has to develop his own
identity and it is a very smart move on his part to get rid of Tatanya
Duchenka. There is one minor point, however. I was told that Tatanya Duchenka
GWEN IFILL: Yeltsin's daughter.
DIMITRI SIMES: Yeltsin's daughter -- obviously knew there was no place for
her in the Putin administration because her whole role was based on her
unique relationship with her father, so there is there a little bit less to
this move than meets the eye.
GWEN IFILL: Let's turn to the Yeltsin legacy. Mr. Aron, Boris Yeltsin
presided over seven prime ministers, three ruble crises, two wars in
Chechnya, he survived two heart attacks and then shocked the world with the
millennium eve resignation. What is his legacy going to be?
LEON ARON: Well, I think as the secondary and the tertiary kind of falls off
history and as we take a longer distance, I think he will emerge as one of
the last revolutionary giants of the past century and certainly somebody of
that caliber will not be seen in a long time. He will be remembered I think
as a man who took over a great country at the time of a mortal social crisis,
imperial crisis, economic crisis in the fall of 1991. He was also - he will
also be remembered as somebody who took over a decaying, fairly corrupt
totalitarian state, decentralized it, demilitarized it, withdrew every last
Russian soldier from Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and put in place
elements, I repeat elements of democracy and real elements of markets
economy, not sufficient but real and necessary. And I think this is enough to
make a place in history for ten men.
GWEN IFILL: Steven Cohen, Boris Yeltsin's legacy?
STEPHEN COHEN: Let me be a professor. I thought you might ask the question so
I took the liberty of a note so I don't forget. I think there is going to be
three schools of thought among Russian historians about Yeltsin. The point to
remember is they cannot separate Gorbachev from Yeltsin. The two are going to
be evaluated together. The first school of thought is going to be to condemn
both Gorbachev and Yeltsin for destroying the Russian state. The argument is
going to be Russia must always have a strong state and to destroy it is to
destroy Russia. So they are both going to be condemned by historians. The
second view is more or less Leon's view, it will be the Yeltsin the bold,
Yeltsin the hero of history, Yeltsin who saw Gorbachev was too timid,
wouldn't break with the system and Yeltsin who broke with the system. He will
be Yeltsin the Great and the third school will say this - that Gorbachev was
a great reformer that his gradual, incremental approach to reforming Russia
was the right way and whatever his failures, he gave, he bequeathed to
Yeltsin in 1991 many opportunities -- all of which, most of which Yeltsin
GWEN IFILL: It sounds like the third school is your school?
STEPHEN COHEN: This school of thought will be called the Boris the squanderer
and yes, I would adhere to that school of thought.
GWEN IFILL: Michael McFaul.
MICHAEL McFAUL: The fourth school is, it is a little bit of those two views,
the problem with our discussion about Russia for the last decade, maybe for
decades before my time has always been it's either black or it's either
white. Yeltsin is either a good guy or Yeltsin is a bad guy. The real truth,
the real historians will write something different. It is a mixed bag. He
destroyed communism, that's a good thing. He destroyed the Soviet empire,
that's a good thing. He started capitalism and democracy, those are good
things. But then he also bombed the White House in October of 1993. That's a
bad thing. He also went into Chechnya twice. I consider those bad things. I
think we need to get beyond is it white or black and look at the totality of
Yeltsin and judge him for both his strengths and his weaknesses.
A presidential pardon
GWEN IFILL: What does it mean that he resigned early and got this pardon
DIMITRI SIMES: I think you are asking most of the question because how he
left his office tells a lot about his going to be remembered in history. He
is the first Russian democratically-elected president who had to arrange an
immunity as the first after his successor who had to fix presidential
elections to make sure that his chosen successor would remain in power
because otherwise he would be persecuted for his misdeeds. I agree with Leon
that Yeltsin was a very effective revolutionary. I think, however, he was a
lousy nation builder. If you left off before he attacked the [Russian] White
House in 1993, he would be remembered as a revolutionary for those terrible
things he helped to destroy, but he will be remembered for six years as a
Russian president between 1993 and 1999 for what he was building. He could
build a very unattractive state and his chosen successor we were kind of
hopeful that Yeltsin's successor would be a more vigorous and dynamic version
of great democrat and Sakharov. Instead we got a younger version of Uri
MICHAEL McFAUL: There is a giant difference between Uri Andropov and Vladimir
Putin in that Vladimir Putin will be elected in a free and fair election in
DIMITRI SIMES: I have not seen fair elections in Russia under Yeltsin.
MICHAEL McFAUL: Compared to what? Compared to Andropov and the Soviet period.
GWEN IFILL: Let me step in. Leon Aron, the United States obviously has
interests at stake here. Is it able to say what the United States will be
able to get out of this or take from this?
LEON ARON: As far as Putin as concerned?
GWEN IFILL: Yes.
LEON ARON: I think it's a mixed bag and we better get used to it. On the one
hand he is, I think he will be elected. We're forgetting that -in broad
parameters -- he is following public opinion. It is a struggling democracy,
imperfect democracy, but there are certain consensus on certain things such
as free elections and free speech. Even the Communist Party doesn't want to
renationalize the privatized property and so on and so forth. So Putin unlike
the days of the Cold War, we can't practice criminology, and say Putin will
do whatever we wants however he wants it -- there are very important
constraints that cross the entire segment, the entire Russian political
class, but following public opinion, in other words we got what we prayed
for, I think he might be tougher than Yeltsin, for example, on a number of
issues. Take the war in Chechnya. It's very popular. Putin is pursuing it
because the polls are for that war.
GWEN IFILL: Whether the US likes it or not?
LEON ARON: That's right, Yeltsin partly because of his upbringing in the
party apparatchik could do things that went against public opinion such as
when he helped in Kosovo to settle that conflict. I'm not sure that a
popularly elected president such as Putin would be as amenable.
GWEN IFILL: Thank you very much. I feel like we've just scratched the surface
but I thank you all for joining us.
January 10, 1999
[for personal use only]
Chubais to Putin: Go after crime and corruption
Like many members of Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, Anatoly Chubais has had
ups and downs—Yeltsin twice fired him from government jobs. A committed
reformer, Chubais spearheaded the government's controversial privatization
program in the early '90s, and was a key architect of Yeltsin's
come-from-behind re-election in 1996. He remains one the Russia's most
influential public figures. Now the head of the national electric utility,
United Energy Systems, Chubais spoke with NEWSWEEK contributor Yevgenia
Albats hours after Yeltsin announced his resignation. Excerpts:
ALBATS: Did you expect Yeltsin's early resignation?
CHUBAIS: The idea as such was known and discussed. However, when I weighed
the pro and cons, I thought there were more reasons to believe he would not
resign that soon.
I was not sure that Yeltsin himself was ready for such a decision.
There was always a theory that Yeltsin would never give up power. What
happened? Did he get too sick?
No. Even though it is clear that his health is not great, the roots of the
decision are different. It's important to note that once again many of us
underestimated the scale of his personality. As I have said before, he is a
unique man, one of the few capable of changing history. Yeltsin has always
paid attention to symbolic things... a new epoch demands new people, a new
Will you join the new government? Is there a role for reformers in the new
Me, I don't think so. However, it is clear that liberal politicians, those on
the right of the Russian political spectrum, inevitably will and should take
Are you convinced that [interim President Vladimir] Putin will win in March?
Now? Yes. If the elections had occurred as scheduled, in June, the situation
might be very different. I think it is clear that [Communist Party leader
Gennady] Zyuganov and the communists are history. However, there is another
threat on the left—represented by [former prime minister Yevgeny] Primakov
and [Moscow Mayor Yuri] Luzhkov. They represent the idea of nomenklatura, or
bureaucratic capitalism. The forces that back them have real and vast
interests to defend, and they won't give up easily. In fact, the main
political cleavages that Russia faces in the next four—if not eight—years are
no longer between capitalism and communism, they are between two types of
capitalism. One is liberal capitalism based on the rule of law and a strong
state that ensures and reinforces the law. The other is the bureaucratic,
crony capitalism that exists now.
Crony capitalism has flourished during Yeltsin's presidency. Will Putin move
against the vast power of Russia's oligarchs?
I think you overplay the oligarch's power. There was a danger of their
excessive influence over government back in 1997, but the 1998 financial
crisis significantly undermined their power. The main danger today is
different. First, it is criminals and their connections to elected or
appointed officials. Second, the total corruption of government institutions
from bottom to top, as well as corruption of all other branches—legislature
and the courts. The new president will have to fight those dangers as well as
many others; Putin has no choice but to be a reformer, whether some like this
word or not. He has a unique chance. He has majority [support in the] Duma.
Should he be elected president—and I have no doubt about that—he will have
wide popular support and he will have a government and presidential
administration accountable to him. I also have no doubt that the oligarchs
will be loyal to him. Overall, he will have a very favorable environment to
fulfill his ideas and plans.
What are his ideas? What is his political base? Who is he going to rely on?
He will rely on those who are capable of working effectively. The ideology of
those people will matter little. It won't be only liberals who join his
government. However, I believe that, when it comes to selecting not only
executives but also those who will be making political decisions, Putin will
choose democrats and liberals, rather than those from the left. Second, I
have no doubt that Putin will take steps to make the state much tougher than
it is now. By a strong state, I mean a consolidation of power, firm and
persistent efforts in reinforcing government decisions. However, I see the
dangers... keeping our history in mind, the danger that the executive branch
may cross the line and try to exercise its power in civic society.
What about guarantees for personal freedoms?
There are no guarantees—except that that Russia has been living under
democracy for the last 10 years. Putin and I share the same understanding of
the role of the state, including its role in the economy, about the necessity
for Russia to be an open society as opposed to the isolated one, about the
place of Russia in Europe and the world in general. We talked a lot about
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2000
From: email@example.com (Esther Dyson)
Subject: Short response to #7 Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2000, From: John
Squier <JohnS@NED.ORG> , Subject: Intriligator Article
Yes, it's true, Russia has had these great intellectual assets all along,
but not the social/legal conditions to exploit them. However, this comment,
I believe, focuses on the wrong points re the future benefits of IT to
Russia's economy. And though the infrastructure is still, to put it poliely,
lacking, there is now a cadre of experienced, honest (potential)
entrepreneurs in Russia that did not exist ten years ago.
TO put this in context: The wealth in Bill Gates's pocket is not the major
benefit that IT has brought to the US economy; it's the wealth in everyone
else's pockets. To contradict directly, Russia's high-tech economy can
indeed do a lot "to alleviate crises in agriculture and industry....." It
can help them install efficient production, distribution and management
systems. The point is not just to to employ programmers, but to employ them
so as to employ others, by building systems that farmers, managers,
trucking companies and the like can use. (You'd be amazed how high-tech
most US farmers are by now....) The Net can create markets not just for
goods, but for people and services, and secondary services can rate their
Certainly this won't be an overnight or wholesale transformation, and Mr.
Squier is right that the social/legal infrastructure is lacking. (IP laws
are still a secondary issue, I'd wager.) However, I see grounds for some
optimism. There is currently a fad starting for Websites and e-commerce in
Russia; investors are poking around ready to spend real money. On the face
of it, this is laughable. But in fact, *any* new business these days needs
to be an e-business. So why not in Russia too? If e-business is a Trojan
horse for regular business, with transparent (competitive) pricing,
responsive communications with customers including after-sales suppport,
efficient inventory management, etc. etc., then let's welcome it. The trick
is not for high-tech to replace the current economy (such as it is), but to
transform it.......and in the short run, simply to create some models to
emulate. Russia needs a new set of heroes!
Just for fun, check out depo.ru, price.ru, many others... (Avtosalon is on
holiday right now!!)
New York Daily News
2 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Boris' Legacy: What, We Worry?
By Lars-Erik Nelson
Put the worst possible face on Russian President Boris Yeltsin's sudden
resignation, and it's still not very scary. We have Yeltsin to thank for that.
The U.S. and Russia are no longer on hair-trigger nuclear alert. The
Communist Party has just been beaten again in legitimate elections. Moscow
today is no longer a magnet for the world's discontented people or the
sponsor of would-be revolutionaries.
Again, thank Yeltsin for that.
True, Yeltsin's chosen successor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is an
ex-Communist and an ex-KGB officer. Retired Gen. William Odom, former head of
the National Security Agency, calls him and his cronies "Communists in
But even Odom, one of America's coldest-eyed analysts of Russia, says Russia
today is virtually irrelevant to America's national-security concerns and
barely a threat.
Richard Perle, once the most hawkish of Cold War hawks and now a foreign
policy adviser to Texas Gov. George Bush, can hardly stifle a yawn as he
talks about Russia's nuclear arsenal.
"Russia is not an enemy — and their weapons are rusting away anyway," he
says. Odom agrees: "Their nukes are rotting in their silos."
Russia's gravest problem, in Perle's eyes, is corruption under the Yeltsin
government — and Putin may crack down on that.
"He does not represent Communist ideology," Odom says. "This is not going to
be Marxism-Leninism all over again. Russians want a strong state. They want
collectiveness. They want their own kind of democracy. Even their
human-rights activists will prefer order to human rights, if human rights
Prof. Robert Legvold of Columbia University's Harriman Institute is not
concerned about Putin's KGB past, pointing out that two other former prime
ministers, Yevgeny Primakov and Sergei Stepashin also came out of the old
Soviet security agency.
But Legvold is somewhat concerned that Putin may be more closely aligned with
the military than Yeltsin was. That would mean supporting the increasingly
unpopular war in Chechnya and taking a harder line both at arms-control talks
with the U.S. and on European security issues, such as Kosovo.
Odom and Legvold suspect that Yeltsin and Putin cooked up their surprise
transition now, rather than waiting for scheduled elections next June,
because the Chechen war, on which Putin has built his popularity, might not
look so successful in six months.
Plus, Legvold says, Putin's obvious opponents — Primakov and Moscow Mayor
Yuri Luzhkov — are on the defensive following their weak performance in last
month's parliamentary elections.
"The fact is," Odom said over the phone, "Russia ain't worth worrying about.
We are so far ahead of them in every possible way — economically,
technologically, with our global partners and friends — that the only thing
that could make a difference is the most incompetent and stupid leadership on
Yeltsin, for all his faults, set a standard for Putin to build on. He never
closed down a newspaper or a TV station. He held honest elections. He allowed
freedom of speech and of travel. He made himself welcome, almost an equal, in
the world's councils. Putin can't go back. There is nothing to go back to.
Russia's Putin shows his emotional side on TV
By Elizabeth Piper
MOSCOW, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin, shaking
off his trademark steely manner, said on Tuesday in an interview that Kremlin
leader President Boris Yeltsin had given his election hopes a boost by
stepping down early.
Putin, whose chilling demeanour was honed over 15 years as a KGB officer,
told ORT public television that his last Kremlin meeting with Yeltsin on New
Year's Eve was laden with emotion.
In what appeared to be a carefully rehearsed performance, he described how
hard it was to accept that Yeltsin was ready to become a pensioner after
ruling the world's largest country for eight years.
``It was a difficult experience for him and for all of us, he's a man
who...sat at the very top in Moscow. This decision is not an easy one to
take,'' Putin said, pausing repeatedly in his delivery.
``He was trying to hold it together courageously and when he was saying his
last words, I almost broke down. When he came out and looked around at the
windows sadly, he admitted that he was sad to leave.''
Yeltsin, 68, chose the last day of the 20th century to resign six months
early. The move propelled Putin to power as acting president ahead of an
election due in March.
Putin drew a comparison between Yeltsin's move and his father's retirement
which he described as a ``tragedy.'' He said the ailing leader had first
indicated his intention to quit about 10 days before the announcement.
``This is linked first of all to the fact that he wanted the presidential
election campaign to proceed as he wanted,'' Putin said. ``Let's be honest.
He is providing me with a forum for the presidential campaign and doing so
Putin, who took office four months after being named prime minister by
Yeltsin, has become Russia's most popular politician mainly due to his tough
stance on Moscow's military campaign in separatist Chechnya. He is heavily
favoured to win the election.
Russians have largely supported his campaign against Islamic fighters in
Chechnya and cheered his refusal to be swayed by Western accusations of
excessive use of force and high civilian casualties.
Putin opened a crack into his personal life by saying he had taken his wife
on a New Year trip to Russian-held territory in Chechnya because they had
always marked Russia's biggest holiday together.
``The trip had been planned earlier...there was nothing I could do. We always
celebrated the New Year together,'' he said, describing their champagne
toasts on board an aircraft.
Putin said Yeltsin rebuffed his pleas to take time to think over his decision
to leave office ahead of time. ``His last words were simple -- 'Take care of
Russia','' Putin said.
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