This Date's Issues: 4019 4020
Johnson's Russia List
8 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. PRESIDENT'S DECREE OF DECEMBER 31, 1999 N 1763 (Putin's immunity decree for Yeltsin and family)
2. Jamestown Foundation Monitor: WILL PUTIN AND BEREZOVSKY ENGAGE
IN "KOMPROMAT" WARS?
3. Itar-Tass: US Stand on Chechnya Counterproductive-Arbatov.
4. Itar-Tass: Start-2 Has Chances in New Duma- Arbatov.
5. The Times (UK): Russia's First Lady in waiting. Lyudmila Putin
is about to be thrust into the political spotlight, reports Alice Lagnado.
6. BBC: Russia media criticise Chechen campaign.
7. Los Angeles Times: Maura Reynolds, Russia Suspends Assault on
Chechnya's Capital. War: Move fuels speculation of strong rebel resistance to troops. Two generals are relieved of command in republic.
8. The New Republic: Masha Gessen, MOSCOW DISPATCH. Putin Himself First.
9. Worldnet: The End of the Yeltsin Era. (Discussion with Anders
Aslund, Vladimir Brovkin, and David Satter)]
PRESIDENT'S DECREE OF DECEMBER 31, 1999
TO A PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION HAVING RELINQUISHED HIS DUTIES,
AND TO HIS FAMILY MEMBERS
In order to ensure legal, social and other guarantees to a President of
Russian Federation who relinquished his duties and to members of his family,
until a corresponding federal law comes in force, I hereby decree the
1. It is resolved that the following legal, social and other guarantees are
to be provided to a President of Russian Federation who relinquishes his
duties either because of the expiration of his term in office or ahead of
time in case of his resignation or a continuous inability to perform his
duties (heretofore designated as a President of Russian Federation having
relinquished his duties), and to his family members:
a) A President of Russian Federation having relinquished his duties [PRF
HRHD - translator's abbreviation] is entitled to a lifetime monthly pension
in the amount of 75 percent of a monthly compensation of a President of
Russian Federation, independently of his age. In the case that a President
of Russian Federation having relinquished his duties is elected or appointed
to a government office of Russian Federation or of a Russian Federation unit
or to a government service, the disbursement of the aforementioned pension
is suspended for the period of his functioning in this office;
b) A PRF HRHD is provided with a lifetime government security protection in
the places of his permanent or temporary presence in the full amount as
stipulated by the Federal Law "On the State Security Protection", including
provision of special communication and transportation services. Government
security protection is also provided to his family members residing with a
PRF HRHD or accompanying him in the place of his presence;
c) A PRF HRHD and family members residing with him are entitled to the
medical services that were provided to them on the day on which the
President relinquished his duties;
d) The life and health of a PRF HRHD are subject to mandatory government
insurance at the federal budget expense, in the amount that is equal to the
yearly compensation of a President of Russian Federation;
e) A PRF HRHD is endowed with immunity. A PRF HRHD cannot be arraigned in a
criminal court or held liable for administrative violation, cannot be
detained, arrested, subjected to search, interrogation or personal
inspection. The immunity of a PRF HRHD also pertains to housing and office
premises that he occupies, means of transportation that he uses, means of
communication, documents and luggage that belong to him, as well as his
f) A PRF HRHD is to be provided with one of government mansions for his
g) A PRF HRHD is entitled to free use of halls designated for official
persons and delegations in airports and air terminals, train terminals and
stations, maritime stations and river stations;
h) A PRF HRHD is entitled to free use of government communication service
and other types of communication services available for government
institutions, bodies of local self-government and organizations on the
territory of the Russian Federation, and he is entitled to priority access
to communication services. All types of postal and telegraphic transfers
issued by a PRF HRHD, are to be transferred, registered and delivered as
i) A PRF HRHD is entitled to maintain a staff of assistants at the expense
of the federal budget. Assistants to PRF HRHD are answerable only to him for
the performance of their duties. The total monthly compensation fund for
assistants to PRF HRHD is established as follows: for the first 30 months
after the President ceased to perform his duties, in the amount equal or
less than twice the amount of the monthly compensation to the President of
the Russian Federation; for the subsequent period, equal or less than 1,5
times the amount of the monthly compensation to the President of the Russian
Federation. Within the limits of the aforementioned compensation fund, a PRF
HRHD is free to set by himself the salary rates of his assistants, as well
as the order and the size of bonus payments. For the deployment of his
assistants' staff, a PRF HRHD is provided with a separate office space,
furnished and equipped with office equipment (including personal computers,
connected both to the general network and to all available legal databases
and government information systems, copying and duplicating equipment, and
fax machine), means of communication, including government communication
j) After a death of a person who had served as President, every member of
his family is assigned monthly pension in the amount of six minimal
retirement pension, established by federal law by the day of his death. The
categories of family members entitled to this pension and the schedule of
its disbursement are to be defined pursuant to Articles 50 and 51 of the
Russian Federation Law "On Government Pensions in the Russian Federation";
k) Persons indicated in the subsection "j" of this section are entitled to
the use of government vehicle and to medical services that they had been
provided, for five years after the death of the person who had served as
President of Russian Federation.
2. It is established that along with the guarantees stipulated in this
Decree, a PRF HRHD and his family members may be provided with other
guarantees on the basis of federal laws.
3. It is established that the financing of expenses provisioned in this
Decree is to come from the funds of the federal budget. The expenses of
government institutions, bodies of local self-government and organizations
in connection with the provision of social guarantees to a PRF HRHD are to
be compensated at the expense of the federal budget pursuant to the rules
established by the Government of the Russian Federation.
4. The Government of the Russian Federation must ensure the financing of
expenses pertaining to the implementation of this Decree within the limit of
funds allocated in the federal budget for the financing of the
Administration of the President of Russian Federation.
5. This Decree comes in force on the day of its official publication.
Acting President of the Russian Federation
Jamestown Foundation Monitor
7 January 2000
WILL PUTIN AND BEREZOVSKY ENGAGE IN "KOMPROMAT" WARS?
As Vladimir Putin finished his first week as acting president, a number
of observers began talking about the next possible round in Russia's
endless political power struggle: the new head of state versus the
tycoon Boris Berezovsky. According to the conventional wisdom, Putin
was not the man Berezovsky wanted to see as Yeltsin's successor.
Putin, whose political fortunes have been closely connected with
Russia's other power broker, United Energy Systems chief Anatoly
Chubais, is thought to harbor less than warm feelings toward
Berezovsky. Chubais has been very public in praising former President
Boris Yeltsin's decision to resign and in talking up Putin, who
several years ago served under Chubais in the Kremlin administration,
while Berezovsky has been more or less silent. According to one
report, Chubais and Alfa financial-industrial group heads Pyotr Aven
and Mikhail Fridman are the new administration's favored "oligarchs,"
meaning that some of the current cabinet officials reportedly linked
to Berezovsky--such as First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko
and Fuel and Energy Minister Viktor Kaluzhny--might soon become ex-
On the other hand, Putin may not want to take on Berezovsky prior to
the March 26 election, given the tycoon's control over Russian Public
Television and other powerful media. Thus Putin may simply appoint
members of Chubais' "St. Petersburg clan" to supplement the cabinet.
One possible candidate for deputy prime minister is Aleksei Kudrin, a
long-time Chubais associate (Vremya-MN, January 5). One newspaper
speculated that Putin, who is also continuing to act as prime
minister, could choose Chubais for that post, though undoubtedly not
until after the March 26 presidential election, given Chubais'
controversial reputation with the public (Izvestia, January 5).
Chubais and Berezovsky came into open conflict in 1997 over various
Should Putin decide to cut Berezovsky down to size or take him out
altogether, it will probably be done the way most Russian palace power
struggles are carried out--with the use of "kompromat" (compromising
material). It is interesting to note that Nikolai Volkov, the
investigator from the Prosecutor General's Office who is leading the
investigation into the alleged embezzlement of funds from the state
airline Aeroflot, said yesterday that he is waiting anxiously for
Swiss prosecutors to send him new material concerning the case
(Russian agencies, January 6). The Swiss authorities are looking into
whether two Swiss firms reportedly connected to Berezovsky, Andava and
Forus, embezzled money from Aeroflot. Last November, Volkov traveled
to Switzerland to interview the heads of those companies.
It should be noted that Berezovsky, who has taken credit for coming up
with the idea of forming Unity, the pro-Putin bloc which came in
second in the December 19 State Duma elections, himself won a State
Duma seat representing the republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, which
gives him immunity from prosecution. Should charges be brought against
Berezovsky, the Duma could vote to revoke his immunity. On the other
hand, Berezovsky, who is said to have an impressive private
intelligence network, might have enough "kompromat" on enough people--
including Duma deputies and heads of state, past and present--to make
his arrest more trouble than it is worth.
US Stand on Chechnya Counterproductive-Arbatov.
WASHINGTON, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - The stand, assumed by the United States
in connection with Russia's actions in the Northern Caucasus, is
counterproductive, Alexey Arbatov, deputy to the State Duma and member of the
Yabloko parliamentary group, said on Friday, addressing the U.S. Atlantic
Council. Arbatov is visiting the United States at the invitation of that
influential public organisation.
The United States should stop public criticism of Russia and should not exert
pressure on it openly over the developments in Chechnya, Arbatov believes.
"If you wish to discuss some problems, which evoke your concern, you should
use private channels for that," he said, addressing the audience, which
included independent experts, business people, journalists, as well as
officials, including staff members of the U.S. Department of State.
Arbatov said that international financial assistance to Russia, including IMF
credits, should not be linked with the developments in the Northern Caucasus.
"The linkage of those two problems will not promote their solution," Arbatov
Start-2 Has Chances in New Duma- Arbatov.
WASHINGTON, January 8 (Itar-Tass) - The Russian-American strategic arm
reduction treaty, or Start-2, has chances to be ratified by Russia's State
Duma, or lower house of parliament, Alexei Arbatov, a member of Yabloko
faction in the State Duma, said here on Friday.
Arbatov is visting Washington at the invitation of the US Atlantic Council.
He said Start-2 "has good chances of ratiification by the new State Duma even
before the presidential elections" that have been set for March 26.
The treaty was signed by Russia and American presidents seven years ago and
approved bu the US Sentae in 1996, but the Russian parliament's opposition
blocked the treaty under various pretexts.
"Now Communists have lost monopoly in the State Duma, and the government,
which stands for ratification of this agreement, enjoys a significant support
in the parliament," Arbatov said.
If acting President Vladimir Putin introduces Start-2 to the State Duma for
ratification, the lower house is certain to approve it, Arbatov said.
He said the liberal Yabloko faction backs Start-2. lyu/ast
The Times (UK)
January 8 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's First Lady in waiting
Lyudmila Putin is about to be thrust into the political spotlight, reports
THE lightning rise of Vladimir Putin to become Russia's acting President on
New Year's Eve has thrown a spotlight on his wife, Lyudmila, who, after years
as a quiet KGB spouse, is set to become the next First Lady when presidential
elections are held in March.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, the image of the President's wife has
increasingly become a factor in election campaigns. Lyudmila Putin, a
university lecturer from Bryansk, a typical Soviet provincial city, was
thrust into the public arena at New Year when Boris Yeltsin announced his
resignation and named her husband as the new acting President.
At Orthodox Christmas, while Mr Putin attended services at a Moscow church,
his wife went on a skiing holiday with her two daughters, no doubt gearing up
for a tough job at the top of Russian politics, where she must combine the
meekness of a Russian politician's wife with the right measure of homely
style to appeal to Siberians and Muscovites alike.
On March 26, Russians will go to the polls to decide whether Mr Putin will
become President for the next four years. With ratings of up to 60 per cent,
it is widely expected that he will win in the first round of voting.
Mrs Putin's first public appearance came when she went with Naina Yeltsin to
pay her last respects to the late Raisa Gorbachev last year. If both women
knew then that President Yeltsin would resign, perhaps Naina gave Lyudmila,
in her mid-forties young enough to be her daughter, some words of advice.
She may have told her not to make the same mistake as Mrs Gorbachev, who was
hated in Russia, especially by women, for her attempt to come out of the
shadows and show a bit of sartorial elegance next to all those men in
ill-fitting Soviet suits.
By the time of President Yeltsin's re-election campaign in 1996, the image of
the wives of presidential candidates had become a real, if minor, election
Naina Yeltsin learned her lesson from Raisa Gorbachev and shunned publicity,
creating an image of herself as a matronly, obedient wife. She dressed to
match, although she had the money to make more of a splash.
Soviet leaders generally hid their wives from public view. Nikita Khrushchev
at first tried to share the limelight with his spouse, but quickly changed
his mind. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, suffered from his wife's involvement
with the mysterious, philandering Rasputin, who came to be a power behind the
Thus, when Lyudmila Putin flew with her husband to greet Russian troops in
Chechnya in the early hours of New Year's Day, she knew to keep in the
background. Pretty, slim, with a neat, blonde bob and dressed in a sheepskin
coat, polo neck and trousers, she looked like thousands of other Russian
women. She stood by her man, avoided the camera and said nothing that
television viewers could hear.
Nevertheless, even doing that was a minor coup, if one is to believe her
husband, who claimed in a television interview last week that he had not
wanted to bring her along at all.
"I do excuse myself," he said when the interviewer asked why he had brought
his wife with him to Chechnya, perhaps alluding to the dangers of flying to a
war zone. "My wife tagged along, I couldn't do anything about it. We always
celebrate New Year together. And we could not do otherwise. She said she
wanted to be with me at New Year, and that is that."
That said, Lyudmila Putin has been aware for a long time that her role is to
be almost invisible. She has had years of practice as a KGB wife in Germany,
when families concealed personal details from any "outsiders".
Instead, she learned fluent German. She understands why her husband has
refused to tell the press more than the fact he has two daughters, aged 13
The skiing trip publicised by Tass, Russia's official news agency, was a
half-hearted attempt to give the public what it wants. What is incredible is
how little Russians know about the Putins, especially Lyudmila.
Top investigative journalists from Putin's home town of St Petersburg can
only hazard guesses about her age.
"The voice of women is not heard in this country," Raisa Gorbachev once said.
Lyudmila Putin knows she will have to keep her voice down, not necessarily
because she believes in mousiness, but because it will help her husband
become the most powerful man in Russia.
8 January, 2000
Russia media criticise Chechen campaign
As Russian progress slows and casualties mount in the Chechen campaign,
various Russia media outlets have stepped up criticism of the war, and begun
to give more coverage to pro-Chechen figures and critical voices within
Sources from the Media-Most empire which backs Kremlin opponent Yuriy Luzhkov
have always been more qualified in their support for the war than the
official media, but they now appear to be openly challenging the official
line of the Russian military.
Segodnya newspaper on 5 January quoted an army captain just returned from the
fighting in the capital Grozny whose name was not given "for understandable
reasons". He said that despite official optimism the army had unofficially
accepted the impasse in Grozny.
"They let us enter the city and get bogged down," he said. "And now our
losses, which have been large anyway - the official reports are a bluff -
will mount with every passing day."
Official casualty figures were challenged by the Union of Committees of
Soldiers' Mothers, whose representative Valentina Melnikova told Ekho Moskvy
radio on 4 January that at least 1,000 men had been killed compared with the
official figure of 300, with official informatrion slow to appear.
"The lack of information is simply dreadful," she said.
"The boys are writing letters, but their letters don't arrive. This is the
same dreadful pattern as in Karabakh and in the first [Chechen] war, when
soldiers' letters were destroyed."
International law had been violated, Ms Melnikova added, with 18-20-year-old
conscripts sent to Chechnya against their will.
"Why do we say they have been drawn into this against their wishes?" she
"Unfortunately, in October, President Yeltsin deprived these lads of the
right voluntarily to participate or not to participate in combat operations
during peacetime - when a state of emergency or martial law has not been
declared. The October decree withdrew this right and ... it now depends on
commanders whether they send a soldier to a combat zone or not."
She said that up to 75,000 conscripts could be serving in Chechnya, making up
half the Russian military strength there.
Ekho Moskvy broadcast an interview with pro-Moscow Chechen leader Malik
Saydullayev on 5 January, who was highly critical of the army's communication
"The troops are advancing, no talks with anyone are initiated, and certain
actions stemming from the poor professional skills of the people in uniforms
give the [rebel] armed groups additional chances of finding new recruits," he
"If only they listened to people, talked to people and did everything
directly with the people!"
In a report on 5 January, the radio said that information from the Russian
military had been reduced to a "minimum", and proceeded to quote Chechen
leader Movladi Udugov, who now gets regular coverage on the station as he did
with regular dispatches in the previous Chechen conflict.
Other media sources previously loyal in the campaign have begun to break
The independent daily Izvestiya said on 6 January that official claims of
victory in central areas of Chechnya were false and accused the military of
The newspaper added that rebels were just beginning their counter-offensive,
and feared an operation similar to Chechen field commander Shamil Basayev's
raid on the southern Russian town of Budennovsk during the first Chechen
conflict in 1995.
"The cornered gunmen are starting to move on to counter-offensive operations
and the action in the south-western suburbs of Grozny is in all probability
only the beginning," the newspaper said.
"In the opinion of military specialists, what is most to be feared is a
repeat of an operation on the lines of the Basayev detachment's capture of
Heroes to zeros
Even Kommersant newspaper, owned by Kremlin ally Boris Berezovskiy, was
critical, warning acting President Vladimir Putin that a long war could
damage his political standing.
"The troops have got bogged down in Grozny and the republic's foothills," it
said on 5 January.
"Now, every day of the war is bringing more and more casualties. The
experience of the past Chechen campaign shows that people quickly become
tired of war, while its initiators turn from heroes into political zeros."
Los Angeles Times
8 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia Suspends Assault on Chechnya's Capital
War: Move fuels speculation of strong rebel resistance to troops. Two
generals are relieved of command in republic.
By MAURA REYNOLDS, Times Staff Writer
MOSCOW--Russia suspended its offensive against the besieged capital of
Chechnya on Friday, unexpectedly announcing a halt in air and artillery
strikes as well as a mysterious switch in the Russian military command in the
Lt. Gen. Gennady Troshev, who had been serving as commander of Russian
forces in eastern Chechnya, said the Russian military decided to call a pause
in the battle for the capital, Grozny, for two reasons: to protect civilian
lives and to avert the possible use of chemical weapons by the rebels.
He didn't say how long the suspension would last but insisted that the
military wasn't pulling back and would keep up pressure on the Chechen
fighters. "Calling a halt does not mean a complete cessation of all military
action," he said in TV footage from the regional command center. "Combat
activities will continue day and night."
At the same time he announced the bombing halt, Troshev told reporters
that he and another top commander--Maj. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, commander of
the western front--had been relieved of their commands, which had been turned
over to deputies. He was coy about the reasons, suggesting that the move was
a routine rotation.
Valentin Astafyev, chief of the military press center in the region,
said the two generals were still in their jobs but had handed over daily
command decisions to their deputies so they could gain more combat
No official explanations for either the bombing halt or the change in
command were offered in Moscow; Friday was Orthodox Christmas, a national
holiday, and government offices, including the Defense Ministry and the
official press center, were closed.
Federal forces have been pounding Grozny for months with air and
long-range artillery attacks designed to minimize Russian casualties. They
intensified the assault last month; despite upbeat TV reports, however, there
has been little indication of progress.
Western governments and human rights groups have harshly criticized the
Russians over the war, which is believed to have killed a large number of
civilians. But it wasn't clear Friday whether Moscow's decision to suspend
the offensive was influenced by the Western criticism.
Unofficial reports from the region have suggested that Russian forces
are making less headway on the battlefield than they claim and are
encountering heavy resistance. Most of the republic is now in Russian hands,
but the rebels retain control of their two strongholds: central Grozny and
the republic's southern mountains.
"It looks very much as if the war has finally reached the breaking point
and the initiative is slipping from the hands of the worn-out Russian
military into the hands of the Chechen rebels," said Pavel Felgenhauer, a
military analyst for the Sevodnya newspaper in Moscow. "Federal troops have
captured most of the towns and villages in Chechnya. They have spread their
communication lines beyond all limits. They have exhausted all their
"Now they are at a standstill. They can't move any further."
Troshev insisted that the only reason for halting the bombardment was
concern for civilians. He said soldiers were passing out leaflets aimed at
encouraging those who remain in the shattered city to flee.
He accused the rebels of forcing some civilians to remain in the city as
"human shields" and said the fighters have tried twice in recent weeks to
detonate bombs laced with toxic chemicals.
"Perhaps [these reports] are exaggerated," he said, "but all the same,
Grozny is an ecological danger zone, for civilians most of all."
Troshev's vague explanation for the change in command in Chechnya didn't
sit well with political analyst Viktor A. Kremenyuk, who noted that the two
are prominent generals who have been among acting President Vladimir V.
Putin's most ardent supporters. Kremenyuk, director of Moscow's USA-Canada
Institute, speculated that Putin might be planning to bring them to Moscow.
"Something fishy is going on down there. It is strange that the two most
popular and best-known generals should be replaced like this," Kremenyuk
said. But Roman Popkovich, head of the Defense Committee in the Duma, the
lower house of parliament, said he "saw nothing sinister here."
"The command has the right to change its leadership even without
reasons," he said in an interview on Echo of Moscow radio.
The war began after two rebel incursions into Russian territory and a
series of apartment bombings that the government blamed on Chechen militants.
Putin has been closely tied to the conduct of the war, and Russia's apparent
successes have been chalked up to his leadership.
Political analysts have said that Putin, who became acting president
when Boris N. Yeltsin resigned New Year's Eve, needs the war to continue with
steady successes and minimal casualties to ensure him an easy win in the
presidential election March 26.
But Dmitry V. Trenin, a military analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center
think tank, said he doesn't believe the army can keep the war going that long
without risking public disapproval. For one thing, he said, the Russian death
toll is far higher than many Russians suspect, averaging about 10 soldiers a
day--a rate higher than in either the first Chechen war in 1994-96, which
Moscow lost, or the Afghanistan conflict.
"While people initially liked the way Putin has been conducting the war,
they will appreciate him even more if he reaches a political solution" to the
conflict, Trenin said. "He knows what constraints he's operating in. He
cannot continue the war indefinitely. He has an election to win, and he can
only win as a man of peace."
The New Republic
January 17, 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin Himself First
By MASHA GESSEN
Give Boris Yeltsin his due: he upstaged the millennium. As December 31 passed
into history in Moscow, radio countdowns of the century's best songs were
overwhelmed by political talk shows. Rankings of the biggest news events of
the millennium were shelved as commentators savored the real news taking
place before their eyes. The focus of the traditional televised New Year's
address was not the year being welcomed but the person doing the welcoming:
Acting President Vladimir Putin.
The timing of Boris Yeltsin's resignation as Russian president was bizarre
but in character. Long known for firing prime ministers on Sundays and during
the August vacation season, Yeltsin once again struck when the nation's
journalists were away from their desks. The three weeks between Western
Christmas and the Old Russian New Year's Day (January 13) constitute Russia's
dead season; newspapers stop publishing, pundits leave town, and
electronic-media outlets operate with skeleton crews. Understaffed, news
organizations had to use reports they had banked for Yeltsin's death. As a
result, coverage was even more skewed in favor of the Kremlin than
usual--short on current analysis and long on schmaltzy evocations of
Yeltsin's great historical role and staggering political will. Privately
owned NTV, for example, dipped into its archives for a film about Yeltsin's
perestroika years--reminding viewers that in 1990 Yeltsin spent all of his
foreign-lecture income on medical equipment for Sverdlovsk, the Ural
Mountains city where he had served as party boss.
But it wasn't just media manipulation. Yeltsin's resignation speech
rehumanized him in the eyes of many Russians. Western pundits have questioned
whether Russians perceived Yeltsin's apology as sincere, but that misses the
point. Russian TV viewers saw a clearly ill, struggling man who cried on
camera. When he confessed to lying awake at night plagued by the difficulties
of his people and wiped away a tear, they wanted to comfort him. This was the
voice of an ailing patriarch, and in this country, where democratic reflexes
are rudimentary but family traditions are rich--especially at New Year's,
which is a family holiday much like Christmas in the United States--Yeltsin's
former subjects were moved to do what one would for a dying father: ensure
the best care and try to do his bidding in the little time he has left. To
dwell on Yeltsin's flaws at such a time would have struck most Russians as
gauche. And that is why Putin's decree guaranteeing Yeltsin lifetime pay and
immunity from prosecution will not hurt him in the March elections. It might
Even before Yeltsin's resignation, Putin looked like the strongest candidate
going into a campaign that was supposed to last six months. But, in a country
fighting a war and forever vulnerable to economic collapse, six months is a
long time. If the war bogs down in the Chechen mountains, public support for
it will wane, as will Putin's popularity. If the price of oil drops and takes
Russia's fragile economy down with it, Putin also stands to lose. In both
respects, cutting in half the time left before Election Day lessens the
possibility of a comeback by any of the Kremlin's opponents, all of whom
depleted their treasuries during December's parliamentary election campaign.
So Putin is a virtual shoo-in. He is also a virtual blank slate. He has been
prime minister for only four months. His entire tenure has been dominated by
the war in Chechnya and its attendant restrictions on civil liberties, which
are comparable, in Russia's post-Soviet history, only to the measures imposed
for about ten days during the bloody parliamentary crisis of October 1993.
Perhaps aware of his vulnerability on this score, Putin, in his hastily
written New Year's Eve address, promised that "freedom of speech, freedom of
conscience, freedom of the mass media, the right to private property--all
these basic principles of a civilized society will be reliably protected by
the state." And, while he may lack credibility as a civil libertarian, so do
his opponents: Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov; former Prime Minister
Yevgeny Primakov, another former intelligence chief but one with solid
apparatchik credentials and a pronounced hatred of the media; and Moscow
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, whose love of police-state tactics and blatant disregard
for the constitution are legendary. With liberal-opposition leader Grigory
Yavlinsky weaker than ever, virtually all the pro-democracy vote will, by
default, go to Putin.
So a Putin presidency is probably cause for as much (and as little)
celebration as Yeltsin's resignation itself. On the one hand, for the first
time in Russian history a living ruler has relinquished power voluntarily,
peacefully, and in full accordance with the law. Indeed, it is remarkable how
clearly the procedures for presidential resignation and succession are
codified when so many other Russian laws are incomprehensible or mutually
contradictory. It is reassuring to know that an acting Russian president's
powers and tenure are clearly and strictly circumscribed (if only the same
could be said for a non-acting Russian president). Yeltsin, contrary to many
predictions, did not try to retain power at any price, did not try to conjure
some extralegal position within the newly formed Russian-Belarussian union,
and did not plunge the country into constitutional crisis.
That's the good news. The bad news is that he didn't need to. He managed to
rig an election--by calling it at the time most beneficial for the Kremlin
and by openly appointing his successor--without even breaking the law. For
the dazzled Russian people, huddling near their millenniumeve TV screens, it
was yet further proof of Yeltsin's great historical role and staggering
Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2000
From: Bob Reilly <breilly@IBB.GOV>
Subject: worldnet tv program on Yeltsin legacy
Dear Mr. Johnson,
Several of my guests on the above mentioned program thought you might be
interested in seeing this script.
TITLE=ON THE LINE: THE END OF THE YELTSIN ERA
Anncr: On the Line - a discussion of United States policy and contemporary
issues. This week, "The End of the Yeltsin Era." Here is your host, Robert
Host: Hello and welcome to On the Line. After eight years in power, Russian
President Boris Yeltsin shocked Russians by announcing his resignation on
New Year's Eve. Prime Minister Valdimir Putin immediately became acting
president. Presidential elections are scheduled for March, leaving Mr.
Putin a strong favorite. Mr. Yeltsin's bold stroke was typical of his
tumultuous presidency. He defied a Communist coup attempt in 1991, and sent
tanks to attack a rebellious Russian parliament in 1993. In 1996, he won a
second term as president against great odds. His legacy includes the
dismantlement of Communism, but Russia's transition to democracy has been
plagued by massive corruption and a failure to follow through on needed
Joining me today to discuss the end of the Yeltsin era are three experts.
Anders Aslund is senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace and a former adviser to the Russian government.
Vladimir Brovkin is project director at the Center for the Study of
Transnational Crime and Corruption at American University. And David Satter
is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the book, Age of
Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union. Welcome to the program.
Anders Aslund, with the intimate contact you had with the Russian
government, and even an acquaintance with Boris Yeltsin, how do you size up
the last eight years?
Aslund: I would say that Boris Yeltsin will come out as one of the great
heroes of the 20th century. Without him, the dissolution of the Soviet
Union would not have been peaceful. Without him, Russia would not have
easily have become a democracy. And thanks to Boris Yeltsin, Russia is
bound to stay a market economy.
Host: Vladimir Brovkin, do you agree with that assessment?
Brovkin: I am sorry to say I do not. I think that Yeltsin will go down in
history as probably the worst Russian ruler of the 20th century, except for
Stalin. And the reason for that is that this was ten years of missed
opportunities. Russia has not become a democracy. Russian has not built a
market economy. Russian has become a criminalized network of former party
officials and parvenu Mafiosi who run the show and call it a democracy.
Host: And you lay that at Yeltsin's feet?
Brovkin: I can not say he is the author of this. But it happened while he
was president and, ultimately, he is responsible. I would not say that he
personally meant it that way. I do not think so. In 1991, and when Mr.
Aslund worked with him, they meant well. I know they meant well. They meant
to build a market economy and a democracy. But it did not come out that way.
Host: David Satter, you have long been a student of the Soviet Union and
now Russia. Could it have come out another way? And did it not because of
Boris Yeltsin's failure, or do you incline more toward Anders Aslund's
Satter:I think it could have happened differently. The problem with the
Soviet Union, and it's a mistake that many people make, is that it was
based on a system that destroyed human morality. And it destroyed respect
for the individual. The essential difference between the Soviet Union and
the West was that, in the West, the individual is an end in himself. In the
Soviet Union, the individual was simply a means toward the achievement of a
utopian political and economic system, which could not exist in fact, in
reality. Under these circumstances, the first priority had to be to restore
the dignity of the individual. And that did not happen after the fall of
the Soviet Union. There was an attempt to transform economic structures.
But the transformation of the economic structures meant very little if the
status of the individual was not protected.
Host: But a moral and spiritual problem of that magnitude, after more than
a half century of devastation, can that be addressed politically?
Satter: In a sense, it was addressed politically because, during the
perestroika period, it was a moral revolution that put an end to Communism
and put an end to the Soviet Union. People did not throw off the burden of
Communism for economic reasons. It was a genuine rebellion against
totalitarian lies and oppression. And it was that movement that lost all
power and all force in the Russia that Yeltsin created. And he deserves a
generous share of the blame for that.
Host: Anders Aslund, let us get your reaction to that.
Aslund:Sorry, you have to remember a few simple things. First, it was
[former Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev who ran the economy down totally.
It was Gorbachev who refused to go for democracy. Mikhail Gorbachev was
never democratically elected to anything. He was elected president of the
Soviet Union by an undemocratic, partly appointed, partly elected
parliament in uncontested elections. And Mikhail Gorbachev defended the
Soviet Union until the very end. I remember very well one day in December
1991 when Yeltsin came, in a splendid mood, to a meeting we had. He had
convinced the Soviet general command to go for Russia, and not for the
Soviet Union. If the Soviet general command had followed Gorbachev, who had
met with them the day before, we would have seen a Yugoslav situation.
Don't you understand what a great hero Yeltsin is? These were the real
choices. And you both know very well what an awful place the Soviet Union
was. And to think that you can transform an awful kleptocracy, where
everybody has to steal at a certain level, into a lawful democracy with the
rule of law and a fully-fledged market economy is totally unrealistic. Say
that the standard of living in Russia has fallen by thirty percent with the
collapse of Communism. Frankly, I think that is cheaper than we could have
anticipated. When there were no people with a Western education in
economics or social sciences, of course, they had to make mistakes. We must
look upon the Russian reality as it was and see what was possible. And we
also have to remember that, in the first year when Yeltsin was in power,
the West did not do a single thing to support him.
Host: Let us get a reaction to that.
Brovkin: There are many reactions. With all the faults of Gorbachev, he did
not use force. He didn't, whereas Yeltsin did. He shot at the parliament.
He shot at Chechnya. And the moral question is very important here.
Because, symbolically, in 1989 to 1990, when the tremendous opportunity of
moral revival and hope for the better future existed, you all remember that
the Russian intelligentsia and the Russian people were chanting these
words: "For your freedom and ours." And now, they are supporting the total
physical destruction of a people. And it is supposedly the reformers who
are doing this, your friends, [former deputy prime minister Anatoly]
Chubais and [acting Russian President Vladimir] Putin, and the so-called
democrats and reformers who are engaged in systematic murder. And the
Russian people are supporting it. Isn't that a symbolic transformation that
is not a democracy?
Aslund:To start with Gorbachev, he was in charge of a massacre in Tblisi
in April 1989, a massacre in Baku in 1990, instigated by Moscow, and two
minor massacres in Lithuania and Riga in January of 1991. And the course he
pursued in the military would have led to massive killing that did not take
place thanks to Yeltsin. I am not defending the war in Chechnya. I agree
that this is the major drawback. There are other drawbacks against him. One
is that he did not go for the building of democratic institutions soon
enough, so that it came to a showdown with the parliament. The alternative
would have been to dissolve the parliament earlier. And generally, heroes
are not for everyday life. Yeltsin is, in many ways, a parallel character
to Churchill, a great but in may ways flawed character.
Satter:I agree with Anders in his criticism of Gorbachev. And it was no
small massacre in Vilnius. The number of people killed was actually greater
than the number of people killed in Tblisi. But nonetheless, I cannot
accept the idea that Yeltsin is significantly better because, in a very
fundamental way, both of them are products of the Soviet nomenklatura. And
they think and act in exactly the same way. Their objectives were
different, but those objectives were defined by their personal ambitions,
not by any kind of moral goals, and certainly not by any broader
understanding of what was necessary for their country. The problem that we
had with Yeltsin when he took over is that the moral revolution, which put
an end to Communism, was betrayed.
Host: By whom?
Satter:By Yeltsin and the people around him. And Yeltsin put his faith and
wagered the future of the country on the old Communist nomenklatura, which
simply divided up the property of the former Soviet Union and drove the
country to an exceptional and unjustified level of poverty. What I have
seen in Russia, in post-Communist Russia, and this is in no way an apology
for Communist Russia, is a level of disregard for the fate of individuals
that can only be explained by the moral destruction of the individual in
Russia that has been going on since the beginning of the 20th century. When
people are starving, when people are unable to get medical care, when
children faint in school from hunger, when people are so defeated that they
do not even bother to treat themselves because they know they cannot afford
medicines, it is somehow more than criminal for members of the former
nomenklatura to steal on the scale on which they are stealing and to export
money illegally from the country.
Host: Let me ask you this, if I may, just to slightly shift the focus of
the discussion, because I think you would all agree that the Soviet Union
itself was a kleptocracy of a sort, oraganized along different ways. . .
Satter: It had its keptocratic elements, but it wasn't a kleptocracy. It
was a country based on an ideology, and that was what was the principal
animating element of the Soviet Union.
Host: Right. A number of people who still believed in that ideology
happened to have dominated the Russian parliament for the entire period of
Boris Yeltsin's presidency. And to what extent did they prevent a moral
revolution from happening?
Satter: I do not agree with that either. I think that there is an
artificial distinction drawn in the West, in my view, between the so-called
democrats and the so-called hard-line Communists, democrats supposedly
being in the executive branch, the Communists finding a place for
themselves in the legislative branch. In fact, they are all Communists. The
Communists never lost power in Russia. In terms of the Communist mentality,
it is just as present on the side of the democrats as it is on the side of
the Communists. And as far as greed is concerned, the Communists are just
as greedy and just as anxious to get their turn at the trough as the
Host: But you cannot blame Boris Yeltsin for that. That is the legacy of
the Soviet Union, is it not?
Brovkin: I would also agree with Anders that there are certain things that
governments can do. That is what he has been saying for years. That there
are certain things that you have got to do now with shock therapy, with
markets and so forth. What Yeltsin decided to do in 1994, especially in
1995-96, is to rule with the use of corruption as a mechanism of preserving
power. It was a decision. You let them steal so that they will not rebel,
so that they do not overthrow me. He let the Russian army steal as much as
it wanted as long as it presented no coup attempts against Yeltsin. And
they did, starting with Germany, the troop removal from Germany and then
the Baltics, and so forth. It is the same thing now with aluminum and oil,
and so forth. And let me tell you one more thing. The Russian people have a
hard time comprehending that somebody can own oil, just as much as Russian
peasants had a hard time believing that somebody can own the land. There is
tremendous resentment against people like [oil magnate] Abramovich and
[Boris] Berezovsky and [former prime minister Viktor] Chernomyrdin, and
[Anatoly] Chubais, the friend of Aslund, who all of a sudden became
billionaires. Out of what? It is just incomprehensible. And I think we will
see the result of that resentment. In some form, it will be felt later on
down the road.
Host: Anders Aslund, has the massive corruption fatally compromised the
transition to democracy in Russia?
Aslund: First, I do not think so. But let us go to the background here. If
I do not remember wrongly, you were both against radical reforms in the
early 1990s. At least you, Vladimir, were. And what you are saying now is
that there was not enough of this continuity. That is exactly what I was
saying then, and it was exactly what Yeltsin was pushing for. What you are
accusing Yeltsin of is that he lost to people like you, who said, you
cannot rush so fast; you have to go more slowly. If you go more slowly, you
are eaten up by the Communists, yes, the old nomenklatura, the old thieves.
The system Gorbachev left behind was the most kleptocratic system that ever
existed because it was really reformed so that the state enterprise
managers could freely steal from their enterprises. That was the rationale,
though, of course, no one said it. We know it now, afterwards. And Yeltsin
tried to do as much as he could to break it. We all think that he should
have done more. We do not really know how much was possible. But at the
time, I was pushing for a more radical break. And at least you, Voloyda,
were pushing for less of a break. That's really what we are discussing now.
And then to your question about corruption. I think that the fundamental
thing is that the monopoly of power, economic and political power, is
broken. Russia today is not really a liberal democracy, but it is a
democracy of sorts. It is a highly pluralist society. And what we are
seeing today is that we know a lot about what is going on in Russia because
the nasty people are attacking one another, and they are using all media in
order to do so. And they are also fighting over the money. And this is how
a society becomes honest, because there is too much competition between the
crooks. That was really what the end of feudalism and mercantilism in
Europe was about.
Host: We certainly have a dispute about the nature of Yeltsin's legacy. Let
us go on and see how this disagreement affects the issue of his attempt, it
appears, through his resignation, to secure the legacy by basically
choosing the next president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Is that indeed why
he resigned, or, as some suggest, that there was a palace coup, and he was
told, go now with immunity or things will get rough?
Brovkin: I can tell you what I think about the situation. I think that, in
the long term, Putin, as a symbol of unity between the family, meaning
Yeltsin's entourage, and the K-G-B people and the general staff people are
irreconcilable. It is an unnatural marriage of convenience. This alliance
will have to break.
Brovkin: Because they hate each other. The people who are behind the war in
Chechnya, all these Russian generals who hate the U.S and NATO and Kosovo
and so forth, who hated Yeltsin for giving in too much to Western pressure
- they certainly are not admirers of [Boris] Berezovsky and [Boris
Yeltsin's daughter, Tatyana] Dyachenko, and all this entourage of people.
Putin was playing the right political game of doing all the right things,
going through the hoop to please Yeltsin. And indeed he may deliver
personal security to the family, but that would be the bottom line. In the
end, he would have to chose. He is either going to be the guardian of the
family and the elite around it, or he will be with those who really back
him, and that is the army, the general staff and the K-G-B. I am calling it
the K-G-B in a sort of a semantic way. It is the F-S-B [Federal Security
Bureau] now, of course.
Host: David Satter, what do you think about that?
Satter: I agree, but only up to a point. There is one possibility that I
think Valdimir is not taking into account. Their marriage is indeed
unnatural, although we should not overlook the extent to which the F-S-B
and the military are thoroughly corrupted. In Russia today, businesses that
want protection can get protection not only from gangsters, they can get it
from the F-S-B. So in effect, the F-S-B has become a protection agency,
which can be hired out by business people to protect them from gangsters
and to deal with the gangsters. This, needless to say, has a very
corrupting influence. So, it is not wise to exaggerate the extent to which
the F-S-B, as it exists today, is the defender of traditional Russian
values or anything of the kind. But there is another factor in all this
that we really have to keep in mind that is terribly important. The people
around Yeltsin were not and are not fools. If they chose Putin to succeed
Yeltsin, and I am sure that it was a collegial decision -- the influence of
Yeltsin's entourage over a man who is now very sick and frequently
inattentive is considerable -- it is because they have confidence that he
will not betray him and them. And that may well be because he is involved
in some of their crimes.
Host: Anders Aslund, Putin is possibly going to become the new president.
He also is going to have a parliament which is far more favorable toward
prospective reforms. Do you think he will follow through on what Yeltsin
was unable to do?
Aslund:I think that Putin is much more likely to undertake systematic
reforms. He is a pragmatic person and indeed is likely to have the
parliamentary majority behind him. For the first time, the parliament is
really clearly anti-Communist. I think that Russia is moving ahead.
Host: I'm afraid that's all the time we have this week. I would like to
thank our guests -- Anders Aslund from the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace; Vladimir Brovkin from the Center for the Study of
Transnational Crime and Corruption at American University and David Satter
from the Hudson Institute -- for joining me to discuss the end of the
Yeltsin era. This is Robert Reilly for On the Line.
Anncr: You've been listening to "On the Line" - a discussion of United
States policies and contemporary issues.
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