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Johnson's Russia List
23 January 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russian TV says sidelined for reporting losses.
2. Reuters: Putin says deal with Communists not strategic.
3. New York Times editorial: Mr. Putin's Risky Courtship.
4. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Feuding Chechen warlords
turn war on themselves.
5. The Electronic Telegraph (UK): Marcus Warren, Chechen foes unite
6. www.yabloko.ru RFE/RL Russian Service: Interview with Grigory
7. Radio Ekho Moskvy: THE YABLOKO CAUCUS IS READY TO PARTICIPATE IN
THE DUMA PLENARY SESSIONS UNDER CONDITIONS OF DMITRY ROGOZIN'S DISMISSAL FROM THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE.
8. AP: Filmmaker Joins Russian Race. (Stanislav Govorukhin)
9. Washington Post: Mark Kramer, Putin Is Only Part Of the Russian
10. New York Times: Jane Perlez, U.S. Official Dims His View of
Russia's Future. (Strobe Talbott)
11. Los Angeles Times: Brenda Shaffer, Measured U.S. Support Remains
Key to Caucasus.
12. www.chubais.ru: Anatoly Borisovich Chubais Answers to Your Questions.]
Russian TV says sidelined for reporting losses
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Russia's main commercial television station said
on Sunday it had been kicked out of the military's journalists' pool for
showing an interview with a Russian officer describing significant losses.
In a live report from Dagestan, east of Chechnya, NTV correspondent Yuri
Lipatov said military spokesmen had accused him of spreading lies and said
they would no longer provide the network with information or take its crews
to Russian positions.
NTV, the only one of Russia's three main television networks not linked
directly to the state, had broadcast an interview with a Russian army officer
who described an attack on a Russian column earlier this month in which many
soldiers were killed.
Russia has not acknowledged large losses in Chechnya and its official daily
death tallies are invariably in single digits.
Some Russian newspapers have begun openly challenging the army's rosy reports
as inaccurate, but the three main television networks, which rely on the
military for access to film, had previously kept close to the official line.
Television is the main source of news for the overwhelming majority of
For days NTV has been warning its viewers that the casualty numbers it gives
are ``only the official figures,'' implying they may not be complete but not
challenging them directly.
``CENSORSHIP'' RAISES QUESTIONS ABOUT WAR'S COVERAGE
In his strongly-worded live report, Lipatov said the military's move amounted
to ``censorship'' and raised questions about the truthfulness of the picture
of the fighting available to the entire country.
``One would not like to think that this is how all information gets to Moscow
and viewers of all the television stations are informed,'' he said.
``If you can hide one incident in which a column was struck and tens were
killed and others missing in action, than you can hide a similar incident
with a second column as well.
``This is an unpleasant precedent and in principle it already raises
questions about much of the information we receive from Chechnya. I hope this
incident can be brought to a close and we can continue to work, but many
MAJOR ROLE IN LAST CHECHNYA WAR
NTV played a major role shaping public opinion during the 1994-96 Chechnya
war, with groundbreaking reports from behind Chechen lines that debunked much
optimistic official propaganda. Russian forces eventually withdrew in defeat.
But during this Chechen war NTV's reporters have remained on the Russian side
of the front, in part because of security concerns after one of the station's
correspondents was kidnapped by Chechen guerrillas.
NTV's reports have tended to mirror those of the state-run stations although
it has occasionally focused more on the plight of refugees and civilians than
other Russian news outlets.
The military campaign remains highly popular in Russia and forms the basis of
acting President Vladimir Putin's support, making him the runaway favourite
in a presidential election due on March 26. A change in the public perception
of the war could dent his chances in the poll.
Putin appointed a former Kremlin spin doctor, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, as his
new top aide for overseeing information from Chechnya on Thursday.
Yastrzhembsky made clear the government would take a tough line on media
``The media should take into account the challenges the nation is facing
now,'' he told Kommersant-Daily newspaper on Friday. ``When the nation
mobilises its forces to solve some task, that imposes obligations on everyone
including the media.''
Putin says deal with Communists not strategic
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin said on
Saturday that a deal this week dividing control of parliament between the
Communists and his supporters was not a strategic alliance.
``To talk about some kind of strategic collusion, there is no basis or
reasons for that,'' he said in a brief excerpt from an interview with RTR
state television. RTR said it would air the complete interview on Sunday.
The statement was Putin's first direct answer to liberals and centrists who
have boycotted parliament and demanded he explain a pact his party made with
the Communists that denied parliamentary committee posts to many of Russia's
Putin said that despite the deal he opposed elements of Communist economic
policy, including the Communists' stance on renationalisation of privatised
Three of Russia's main liberal and centrist political parties have boycotted
parliament since the newly formed pro-Putin Unity party and the Communists
agreed this week to divide nearly all committee chairmanships between
Communist Gennady Seleznyov became parliament speaker as part of the deal,
which three former prime ministers denounced in strong language.
The parliament walkout has threatened to create the first mainstream
opposition the hugely popular Putin, who is still overwhelmingly favoured to
win a presidential vote on March 26.
Liberals, including those in the Union of Right-wing Forces (SPS) who were
among Putin's strongest supporters in the past, have called on the acting
president to explain the deal with the Communists. But Putin has remained
largely silent on the issue.
Earlier on Saturday, one of the leaders of the liberal SPS, former Deputy
Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, said the party was re-examining its support for
Putin and wanted an explanation.
``Putin must finally declare his position if he wants to assume the role of
father of the nation,'' Nemtsov said on Ekho Moskvy radio.
``Either (the deal with the Communists) is a strategic decision, in which
case we are going down the path of Belarus, or it is a tactical move and a
mistake,'' Nemtsov said. The ex-Soviet Republic of Belarus is seen by
Russia's liberals as an example of authoritarianism.
``Either way, it must be explained, articulated...Silence here is too
eloquent and diminishes Putin too much,'' Nemtsov said.
He said SPS would continue its parliamentary boycott until it made up its
mind about Putin. ``Will we continue to support Putin or go into the
opposition? We must make this clear.''
New York Times
January 23, 2000
Mr. Putin's Risky Courtship
By striking a parliamentary deal with his presumed arch foes, the Communists,
Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, has deepened the mystery over what
he believes and how he intends to lead Russia. The alliance seems to reflect
cynical opportunism on both sides rather than ideological affinity. But Mr.
Putin would have done better to join forces with centrist groups committed to
political democracy and market-oriented reforms.
In parliamentary elections last month, Mr. Putin's Unity party came close to
ousting the Communists as the largest single voting bloc. His closest allies
then seemed to be a variety of small centrist groups broadly favorable to
reform. If Unity had formed a coalition built around these groups, as
expected, it would have marginalized the power of the Communists and ended
their ability to block needed economic measures like tax rationalization,
bank restructuring and stronger bankruptcy laws. A reform alliance might also
have permitted ratification of the 1993 nuclear arms reduction treaty with
the United States, which has been blocked by Communist opposition.
Such a coalition would not necessarily have been easy. The majority it
produced would have been thin and vulnerable to defections. It might have
awarded the parliamentary speaker's chair to one of Mr. Putin's few remaining
formidable political rivals, like Yevgeny Primakov, or another former prime
minister, Sergei Stepashin. But for all its potential problems, a centrist
alliance would have better served Russia's long-term interests. Mr. Putin has
given an unfortunate boost to the Communists' waning power.
While the Communists are more numerous, more disciplined and perhaps even
more docile than the fractious centrists, they are not a force for reform.
Their role could become even more reactionary if Mr. Putin decided to move in
an authoritarian direction. In that case the Communists might prove all too
willing to back additional powers for police and intelligence agencies and
new restrictions on individual and press freedoms.
Meanwhile, reform and centrist parties, unexpectedly frozen out of power,
have boycotted the parliament's initial sessions. Several may now field
candidates to challenge Mr. Putin in the March 26 presidential elections, a
Those elections, if nothing else, will further clarify Russia's political
course. There remains a real but remote possibility that someone will win an
upset victory over Mr. Putin. That would make the current alliance between
the Kremlin and the Communists largely irrelevant. If, as widely predicted,
Mr. Putin emerges with a strong electoral mandate and a four-year term of his
own, he will then have to decide whether he wants to maintain this alliance,
and if so, how he means to use it.
The Sunday Times (UK)
January 23 2000
[for personal use only]
Feuding Chechen warlords turn war on themselves
Mark Franchetti Moscow
THE leading guerrilla commander in Chechnya has been shot and wounded by a
rival warlord in a bizarre clash that could split the rebels, according to
sources in the breakaway republic.
They said Shamil Basayev, a national hero to most Chechens and Russia's
public enemy number one, was shot twice in the stomach earlier this month by
Magomed Khambiyev, Chechnya's defence minister and a fierce field commander
in charge of defending the centre of Grozny, the devastated Chechen capital.
Basayev, 34, whom the Kremlin accuses of orchestrating a series of apartment
bomb blasts in Moscow and other Russian cities that claimed 300 lives last
summer, is said to be recovering from his wounds.
The two men are reported to have had a heated argument in Vedeno, which the
Russian defence ministry said its forces captured yesterday.
The largest village in Chechnya's southern mountains and the birthplace of
Basayev, Vedeno was until recently a refuge for both warlords, until
Khambiyev apparently accused Basayev of provoking the Russian army into its
current onslaught by leading Chechen fighters into neighbouring Dagestan last
The inevitable counterattack drew the Russians across Dagestan and into
Chechnya for the first time since the end of a previous conflict in 1994-96.
Malik Saidullayev, a prominent pro-Moscow Chechen, and Shamil Beno, the
former Chechen foreign minister, have both described how a furious Basayev
reacted by shooting Khambiyev in the leg. He retaliated with a handgun,
hitting Basayev in the stomach at least twice.
The reported shooting is the first indication that Basayev's once
unquestioned authority is being undermined by divisions between Chechen
Aslan Maskhadov, the embattled Chechen president and field commander, is said
to have been furious about the clash. On television last week Basayev denied
that the incident had happened; the camera, however, showed only his face.
Chechen field commanders are fiercely independent except when Russian fire
unites them. Backed by personal armies, their loyalties are clannish.
"They are not disciplined - they are divided," said Alan Kachmazov, a
Chechnya expert with the Russian daily Izvestia. "There are many unsettled
scores and there is bound to be more fighting between warlords."
The speculation over Basayev coincided with Grozny's heaviest pounding since
the war began in September. Frustrated by the rebels' formidable defences,
the Russians have stepped up air and heavy artillery attacks, carrying out as
many as 180 sorties in 24 hours.
Yesterday the Russians claimed to have taken the central Minutka Square.
General Gennadi Troshev, the Russian deputy chief commander, was rumoured to
have offered the rebels a safe corridor out on condition they lay down their
arms. Warlords commanding the 3,000 veteran fighters left in the city were
said to have refused.
The Russian military has at last admitted the rebels have probably captured
and wounded Major-General Mikhail Malofeyev, who went missing in Grozny last
Malofeyev's unit is believed to have been lured deep into the inner Zavodskoi
area and was then outflanked by fighters dashing through a maze of Soviet-era
The rebels are said to have relaunched a local cement factory, using it to
create a reinforced subterranean labyrinth connecting Soviet-era bunkers that
now serve as rebel headquarters.
"You have to give them their due," admitted Major-General Vadim Timchenko.
"They have excellently prepared the city for defence. They have turned it
into a multi-layered fortress."
The tactics are beginning to break Russian morale. "I'm losing it," said
Zhenia, a 29-year-old sniper from the Siberian city of Kuzbass. "I was told I
would serve in Chechnya for three months. I have been here for five and have
no idea when I'll go back.
"My health is shot. I'm losing my eyesight. I have hallucinations when I look
through the sight of my rifle, so I rub an onion into my eyes to cleanse them
"I'll tell you how this war will end for me. I'll either get killed or I'll
The Electronic Telegraph (UK)
23 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechen foes unite against Russians
By Marcus Warren in Moscow
DEADLY rivals in peacetime, Chechnya's field commanders last week paraded
their talent for teamwork in war to thwart the common enemy and resist
Russia's advance into Grozny.
Chechen propaganda describes the rebels' footsoldiers as "mujahideen" but the
guerrillas defending their capital are no rabble and their commanders,
however exotic they look to the rest of the world, far more than freebooting
Just as in the 1994-6 war, Chechen forces appear to be well-organised,
motivated and, in their own rough and ready way, disciplined. To outsiders
they appear more professional than the conventional army they are fighting.
The Russian military have dismissed them as "terrorists and bandits" for
months but as they encountered murderous resistance from the guerrillas in
the ruins of Grozny, one general grudgingly conceded: "You have to hand it to
Sitting in his command post soon after the start of their last attempt to
seize the capital a month ago, a Russian colonel boasted: "A regiment of
donkey trains cannot defeat modern motorised infantry, even in a city like
this." Mules weighed down with ammunition supplied the guerrillas during
their surprise incursion into neighbouring Dagestan through the mountains
last August - yet more evidence of the rebels' skill for overcoming adversity.
The Chechen fighters were improvising again last week in what is left of
Grozny, launching raids through the sewers behind Russian lines, a new tactic
to complement their use of heavily fortified firing points and cars for
hit-and-run mortar attacks.
Chechnya's president, Aslan Maskhadov, knows the city well. As chief of
staff, he organised its defence from the last onslaught before ordering a
withdrawal five years ago and then retook it right under the Russians' nose
in August 1996. This time the operation on the ground appears to be commanded
by warlords such as Ruslan Gelayev and Vakha Arsanov but Maskhadov still
exercises control over the war effort as a whole.
A former Soviet artillery colonel and, by local standards, a moderate,
Maskhadov was increasingly isolated and enfeebled by the warlords' feuding
over the spoils of Chechnya's criminal economy. "Maskhadov has finally become
a marionette in the hands of the bandits," Russia's acting president,
Vladimir Putin, taunted last weekend. "Where is he?"
The question was, presumably, rhetorical as, while Maskhadov's exact
whereabouts are a secret, he is generally believed to be hiding in the
mountains with the men who were recently his rivals but now receive his
orders. Like Maskhadov, notorious figures such as Shamil Basayev and the
Saudi known simply as Khatab, are on the run. Russian television last week
showed film of what were allegedly their two abandoned mansions in Basayev's
home village, Vedeno.
Their fugitive status - many of the warlords are on Interpol's wanted list as
terrorists as well - has not prevented them slipping across Russian lines at
will to co-ordinate the struggle. Basayev, infamous since his bloody raid on
a maternity hospital in south Russia five years ago, has kept up a cynical
commentary on the fighting from his hideaways in the mountains and plains.
The Russians' new T-90 tank was a powerful machine, he was quoted as saying
with admiration last week. It took as many as 10 hits from a grenade launcher
to destroy the vehicle, he then added with characteristic chutzpah.
Reports that he had been injured in a shoot-out with another Chechen
commander during a row over Basayev's invasions of Dagestan last summer were
denied and Basayev emerged to confirm the capture of a Russian general in
Khatab, who modestly calls himself Basayev's lieutenant, has kept a low
profile in the war. As the main conduit between Chechnya and radical Islam
abroad, his presence is often a major embarrassment to his hosts. A fighter
in what he regards as a holy war raging across the globe, Khatab first
crossed the Russian army in Afghanistan and the expertise he gained there in
staging mountain ambushes held him in good stead in the last war.
Many foreigners fighting with the Chechens, described by the Russians as
"mercenaries" though their motivation seems to be ideological as much as
financial, do so under Khatab. Their agenda appears to be quite different
from that of their hosts. Nevertheless, the most tension in the war so far
has been between fighters and civilians, the latter demanding that the
guerrillas leave their villages and spare them more Russian bombardment.
Some Chechen warlords have also thrown in their lot with Moscow, often, they
claim, because they are fed up with the Islamic extremists who have settled
in the republic. "If Wahabbis in Saudi Arabia want to kill people, why don't
they attack US bases down the road, instead of coming here?" Dzhibrail
Yamadayev, one such commander, asked last week.
RFE/RL, Russian Service
January 22, 2000
Interview with Grigory Yavlinsky (excerpts)
[Translation for personal use only]
Question: This week, Vladimir Putin warned his citizens again of the
terrorist threat and of the possibility that the explosions of three months
ago may be repeated. Also this week, an unexploded bomb was found in a
building in Rostov. What does this mean?
Answer: This means that, as before, whatever the origins of the explosives
and of the current events in Chechnya, they are being deliberately used as a
background for the ongoing electoral campaign. This means that everything
related to explosions and to the war <...> are the building blocks for the
present authorities, for the administration and its electoral campaign.
After listening to the witnesses of the explosion, it is difficult to
imagine how could they take part in any elections at all. <...> These
explosions and the war itself have led, so to say, to an explosion in
Russians' consciousness. It has become so deformed that it cannot produce
any sensible results either in the elections or in politics generally. The
people are not to be blamed. The methods that were used have turned the
elements of the incipient political consciousness in Russia upside down.
Someone made the choice to use this strategy - either to exploit the events
or to create them - in order to derange people's minds. When you know your
close relatives are in a house that can explode at any moment, you cannot be
in full control of your mind. It is an interesting coincidence that the
victory in the elections went to the Emergencies Ministry [headed by Sergei
Shoigu, the Unity leader]. What does this mean? This means that the kind of
regime that emerged in Russia over the past 10 years cannot sustain itself
without emergency situations, which therefore ought to be reproduced. <...>
As soon as something is not OK, as soon as there is a conflict in the Duma
or something else, [the authorities] step forth and say: "Comrades, there
might be explosions soon, so take this into account." And then you can't
keep anything in your head anymore, you can't think about injustice, about
inflation, about the number of casualties in Chechnya <...> You have to move
all this to the backburner.
Q: How do you evaluate Putin's behavior in the light of the Duma split?
A: First of all, for me the methods used are most important. These methods
are quite revealing. The methods are simple: all problems should be resolved
by force. By sheer force. In Chechnya, in the Duma, everywhere. No matter
where they draw this force. Can Communists be used for this purpose? OK,
fine. What about Zhirinovsky? No problem. The only thing that is needed is
the big stick. What for? This is not the question. The siege of Grozny is
senseless, and just as senseless is the Duma operation to destroy the three
minority factions, one of which [Union of Right-Wing Forces] is supposed to
be [Kremlin's] ally, it was created for this purpose. Is there a political
formula for all this? This is the formula that is best known in our country.
I don't know what Western analysts think about it, I think that, sorry to
say that, they understand very little. The emerging system is called
"democratic centralism" [the formula used by Lenin in 1921], which means the
absolute subjugation of the minority by the brutal force of the majority.
This is the CPSU principle, which ultimately led to the breakdown of the
country and the liquidation of the CPSU itself.
<...> Was there a possibility to resolve the issue of consolidation of power
in a different way? It was very simple. Don't ally with the communists, ally
with Russia's Regions, who just craved for such an alliance, they begged for
an alliance. Ally with the Union of the Right-Wing Forces, which just had no
other claims whatsoever. <...> As someone who participated in all the
negotiations, I can say: the price of an alliance with Primakov was just 1-2
committees, plus a decent procedure of elections of the speaker, that is a
secret balloting with alternative candidacies. Yabloko raised only one
question: don't give the Foreign Affairs Committee to nationalists, give it
to Vladimir Lukin, plus a decent procedure of election of the speaker. <...>
The response was: we will knock you down, we will mug you, we will do
whatever we want, and we put the weirdest forces on top of the key
Question about financial scandal over party financing in France and Germany,
especially with regard to Helmut Kohl.
Yavlinsky's answer: This causes my deep regret for two reasons. First, I
know Kohl personally, I met him a number of times. <...> Second, because
Germany is a country that transformed itself from a Nazi state to a really
democratic nation. <...> I don't take upin myself to judge, but I would like
to say that these scandals explain a lot about Russian affairs. They explain
why the so-called West reacted so calmly to what our reformers where doing
over 1992-99. This is why the West was so calm about corruption in Russia,
about Ponzi schemes, about the debt crisis that was looming since 1993.
Therefore, when I told Helmut Kohl about the way our reforms were going, I
didn't see any response in his eyes. Now I understand that this stratum of
politicians, this liberal-conservative trend represented by Kohl accepted
all this - not only for Russia, but also for themselves. I want to say that
a truly stable political system requires having an honest liberal together
with a smart socialist. But no one managed to achieve this so far, and we
have big problems with both.
January 23, 2000
Radio Ekho Moskvy
[translation for personal use only]
THE YABLOKO CAUCUS IS READY TO PARTICIPATE IN THE DUMA PLENARY SESSIONS
UNDER CONDITIONS OF DMITRY ROGOZIN'S DISMISSAL FROM THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF THE
FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
On January 24, the conflict in the State Duma that led to a split among the
factions was discussed between Acting President Vladimit Putin and Sergey
Stepashin, a member of the Yabloko association. As became known to Radio
Ekho Moskvy, Yabloko has taken the most hard line in the conflict between
the majority and the minority in the lower house of the parliament. Yabloko
links the possibility of its comeback to the plenary sessions of the Duma
with the resignation of Dmitry Rogozin who has been appointed chair of the
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee. The other two factions - Fatherland-All
Russia and the Union of Right-Wing Forces - formulate their demands less
rigidly. In these conditions, as remarked by the Ekho Moskvy sources in the
parliament, the Yabloko faction may end up alone. As for Sergei Stepashin,
who has repeatedly registered his support for Putin and emphasized not being
a Yabloko member, according to our sources, he "may face the prospect of
parting company" with this deputy group. Sergei Stepashin himself declines
to comment, of which Ekho Moskvy was informed by his press secretary.
Filmmaker Joins Russian Race
January 22, 2000
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - A hard-line filmmaker who has led an anti-pornography campaign
and called for restoring the Soviet anthem joined Russia's presidential race
Saturday, saying Russia is suffering ``a crisis of immorality.''
Stanislav Govorukhin, a minor political player, announced his candidacy on
Russia's NTV television.
Acting President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win the March 26
election. Other candidates are Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who came in
second in 1996 elections, reformist lawmaker Grigory Yavlinsky,
ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and pro-reform Samara Governor
Candidates must gather 500,000 signatures to register for the vote.
Also Saturday, Putin discussed an opposition boycott of parliament with
lawmaker Sergei Stepashin, a former premier with Yavlinsky's Yabloko party.
Yabloko is among three parties that have been boycotting parliament since its
opening session Tuesday to protest a deal between the two largest parties,
the Communists and the pro-Kremlin party Unity, to install Communist Gennady
Seleznyov as speaker.
The roughly 100 boycotting lawmakers say the deal shuts out all other
parties, and reformists have criticized the Kremlin for striking an alliance
with its Communist foes.
Stepashin urged a compromise, saying: ``One must not give way to one's
political pride,'' according to the Interfax news agency. Stepashin said
``difficult negotiations'' were under way including Putin and all the parties
Meetings were scheduled for Sunday between Seleznyov and the heads of the
three boycotting parties - Yabloko, the centrist Fatherland-All Russia and
the reformist Union of Right Forces.
Despite their show of unity last week, there are numerous differences among
the boycotting parties and they are unlikely to form a lasting alliance.
23 January 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin Is Only Part Of the Russian Picture
By Mark Kramer
Mark Kramer is director of the Harvard Project on Cold War Studies and a
senior associate of Harvard's Davis Center for Russian Studies.
It's often tempting to explain foreign countries by referring to their
leaders: to see Vaclav Havel as the author of Czech democracy, or Slobodan
Milosevic as the sole reason for Serbian aggression. Nowhere do we resort
more readily to such oversimplified analysis than in our observations of
Russia: Boris Yeltsin was often equated with the economic collapse of his
country, just as it is now tempting to view the new acting president,
Vladimir Putin, as the immediate cause of Russia's troubling new security
Indeed, when Russia's revised "Concept on National Security" was published
just over a week ago, several Western commentators saw this "bold initiative"
as a prime example of Putin's efforts to "define a more assertive course for
Russia after years of drift under Yeltsin." One writer claimed that Putin was
"staking out a name for himself as someone ready to defend Russian interests."
Such speculation is misguided and dangerous. The new document, with its more
aggressive language and militaristic posture, is not solely a Putin creation.
It was first drafted last spring and was refined while Yeltsin was still in
charge. Its adoption has less to do with the shift from Yeltsin to Putin than
with four significant changes in Russia's security concerns over the past two
years: the Kosovo crisis, proposals for the further expansion of NATO,
disagreements about nuclear arms control, and the onset of Russia's vicious
war against Chechnya.
Of course, Putin himself, with his 16 years of loyal service to the Soviet
KGB, should give us grounds for concern, but a disproportionate emphasis on
his leadership role risks deflecting attention from the broader events that
shaped the new document--and from a better understanding of Russia's evolving
There is no true American equivalent of these national security documents.
The Russian declarations are not binding and can be rewritten, but in the
past they have offered useful insights into the thinking of Russian military
and political elites. Putin was secretary of the Security Council when
drafting of the new national security doctrine began last spring, but he was
hardly the only one involved. It was the collective product of high-ranking
national security officials. With the exception of a few minor changes
adopted after a review by the Russian legislature and bureaucracy, the
doctrine that just took effect is identical to the draft that was approved in
October by the Russian Security Council headed by Yeltsin.
There is no question that the document marks a major departure from the
previous Concept on National Security, which had been in effect since
December 1997. Instead of referring to a "partnership" with the West, the new
doctrine condemns alleged American efforts to dominate other countries
through the use of force, and it dwells at length on the "increased level and
scope of military threats" to Russia, as well as the "grave threats" posed by
organized crime, separatism and terrorism. It also provides somewhat looser
conditions for the possible use of Russian nuclear weapons, warning that a
nuclear attack by Russia might be forthcoming to "repel armed aggression if
all other means of resolving a crisis have failed."
As Russia has made abundantly clear to U.S. officials, Kosovo marked a
turning point in U.S.-Russian relations. Whether rightly or wrongly, Russian
officials believed that the Clinton administration ignored Moscow's concerns
as the crisis developed. Russian leaders still describe NATO's actions in
Kosovo as "aggression" (although the Russians have never officially condemned
the well-documented atrocities committed by Serb paramilitary forces). The
strong showing of Western air power in Yugoslavia came as a jolt to Russian
military commanders, who realized how far their own forces had fallen behind.
The perceived slights, combined with the displays of Western air prowess,
prompted a major reassessment in Moscow of the country's strategy--and
provided the catalyst for redrafting the doctrine. The Russian government's
harsh response to the crisis, replete with spurious charges of "war crimes"
committed by NATO, inevitably affected the drafting of the doctrine,
including the statement that NATO's operation, if adopted more generally,
would be "fraught with threats to the destabilization of the whole strategic
situation in the world."
The early drafting also coincided with NATO's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Proposals to expand the alliance still further were viewed with alarm in
Moscow, where Russian leaders have been vehemently opposed to the admission
of the three Baltic states--Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania--which U.S.
officials claimed last year was "inevitable."
Before the Kosovo crisis, Russian leaders had grudgingly accepted NATO's
assurances that the expanding alliance (which absorbed three new
members--Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic--in 1999) would be used only
in self-defense. Seen from Moscow, NATO's more assertive approach last year
in the former Yugoslavia--which went ahead without the approval of the U.N.
Security Council, in which Russia has a veto--reneged on those earlier
assurances. Military officers and some political leaders in Russia have since
claimed that if NATO expands further, it would "create a base to intervene in
In addition to opposing NATO expansion, Russia has been at odds with the
United States over strategic arms control. The Clinton administration has
sought Russia's consent for amendments to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile
(ABM) Treaty to permit the deployment of a limited system in the United
States to defend against possible strikes by rogue states armed with nuclear
weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. Russian military officers, fearing
that such a system could be expanded and thereby erode the deterrent value of
Russia's nuclear missiles, have been adamantly opposed to a modification of
the ABM treaty. Some Russian political leaders have occasionally hinted that
they might allow modest revisions of the treaty in return for concessions on
Russia's nuclear missile deployments. Putin's proclaimed desire to have the
Russian parliament endorse the pending strategic arms control treaty, START
II, suggests that he may eventually seek some sort of bargain on the ABM
issue. At the moment, however, the disagreement between the two sides about
the treaty remains acute--as the new doctrine, with its more liberal language
about the use of nuclear weapons, reveals.
The fourth major development shaping the new national security document is
Russia's latest war against Chechnya, which commenced at the end of last
summer. Comments by military officers reported in the Russian media suggest
that the army began preparing last spring to reassert control over
Chechnya--a republic that had been largely independent since a truce was
signed in 1996. The incursions by Chechen guerrillas into neighboring
Dagestan in August 1999, combined with the unsolved bombings of apartment
buildings in Moscow in September, which were blamed (without any convincing
evidence) on Chechen terrorists, gave an opportunity for the Russian army to
embark on a full-scale campaign in Chechnya.
U.S. criticism of Russia's actions in Chechnya has been very mild, but
Western European governments' complaints about Russia's indiscriminate
bombardment of civilian areas in Chechnya have been far stronger. These
protests have been angrily brushed aside by Russian political and military
leaders who insist that the conflict is an "internal affair." In referring to
"threats to the existence of the Russian Federation as a sovereign state,"
the new doctrine reflects this combination of internal separatism and
external diplomatic pressures.
The significance of Kosovo, NATO expansion, strategic arms control and
Chechnya was already evident in October, when the draft of the new doctrine
was adopted. Its tone and content were a direct reflection of the threats
perceived--at least for the time being--by Russian political and military
elites, rather than being tied to Yeltsin's resignation on Dec. 31.
The more confrontational outlook reflected in the new document is certainly
cause for anxiety in the West. More important than the document itself, which
may well remain a largely bureaucratic piece of paperwork, is an
understanding of the factors that precipitated its drafting. We should not
allow our focus on leadership politics and personalities to detract from a
sound understanding of the forces driving Russia's new security policy.
New York Times
January 23, 2000
[for personal use only]
U.S. Official Dims His View of Russia's Future
By JANE PERLEZ
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 -- The Clinton administration's top policy maker on
Russia, in his annual assessment of where that country is headed, has
presented a more wary review this time, even hinting at the possible return
of some Soviet habits.
The policy official, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, said in a
speech at Oxford University in England on Friday that the war in Chechnya and
the transfer of power to Acting President Vladimir V. Putin raised the
question of how the resurgence of Russian nationalism would assert itself.
One consistent theme about Mr. Putin, among many inconsistencies, Mr. Talbott
said, is his desire "to see Russia regain its strength, its sense of national
pride and purpose."
"In and of itself, that goal is not only understandable, its achievement is
indispensable," Mr. Talbott said. "It all depends on how Russia defines
strength, how it defines security. Will it do so in today's terms, or
yesterday's -- in terms that are proving successful elsewhere, or in terms
that have already proved disastrous for Russia under Soviet rule?"
Mr. Talbott then raised another issue: "Will Russia recognize that in an age
of global -- and regional -- interdependence, the porousness of borders is a
necessity out of which a viable state must make a virtue? Or will it fall
back into the habit of treating this and other facts of life as a
vulnerability to be neutralized or -- that most Soviet of all verbs -- to be
He also pondered, but did not give a conclusion on, whether Russia would
understand that in Chechnya, "indiscriminate aerial attacks, forced movement
of populations and civilian roundups" are the work of a "weak and desperate
state, not a strong and clearheaded one.''
The speech was more skeptical than an address the deputy secretary gave at
Stanford University in 1997. Then, he said that Russia "may have turned the
tide -- it may be on the brink of a breakthrough." It was also more downbeat
than a second speech he gave at Stanford in 1998, titled The Case for
Strategic Patience in a Time of Troubles.
But while Mr. Talbott, who has been criticized in some quarters as a
Russophile, chose a sterner tone than in the past, his speech was far less
critical of Moscow than an essay in the current issue of The New York Review
of Books by Sergei Kovalev, a Russian human rights campaigner who is a member
of the Russian Parliament.
Mr. Kovalev predicted that Mr. Putin would build "an authoritarian-police
regime that will preserve the formal characteristics of democracy, and will
most likely try to carry out reforms leading to a market economy."
"Life will not be sweet for Russia's fledgling civil society," he said.
Mr. Talbott only elliptically dealt with Mr. Putin's embrace of the
Communists in the Parliament this week, which resulted in a walkout of
"We can speculate together -- and that's all we can do at this point -- on
exactly what he's up to in his recent parliamentary maneuvers," Mr. Talbott
Addressing Russia's war against rebels in Chechnya, Mr. Talbott said the
military campaign is a "gruesome reminder of how hard it is for Russia to
break free of its own past." He blamed the reformist government in Moscow in
1992 and 1993 and the governments after the 1994-96 Chechnya war for leaving
Chechnya to its own devices, thus fueling the appetite for total independence
in the republic.
Los Angeles Times
January 23, 2000
[for personal use only]
Measured U.S. Support Remains Key to Caucasus
By BRENDA SHAFFER
Brenda Shaffer Is an International Security Fellow in the Belfer Center for
Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government,
WASHINGTON--Recently, events in the Caucasus have filled the newspapers:
the assassination of top officials in Armenia; Moscow's military campaign
against the Chechens; signals from both Armenia and Azerbaijan of readiness
for serious negotiations on the Karabakh conflict; and the signing, under
U.S. auspices, of a key agreement to build a Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline. These
developments demand a serious attempt at resolution of the varied conflicts
that plague the Caucasus, particularly the Karabakh dispute between
Azerbaijan and Armenia, the bloody struggle between Chechnya and Moscow and
the Abkhaz contention in Georgia.
While Washington should staunchly support the independence of Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia, the new states in the Caucasus, it should be careful
not to make any commitments it is not willing to fully back. Repeatedly,
groups around the globe have relied on U.S proclamations of support for their
independence or autonomy, and stood up against U.S. rivals in their region,
only to end in a worsened security situation. One of the most tragic examples
was when Hungary confronted the Soviet Union in 1956--and the expected U.S.
aid never materialized. The United States has too often encouraged groups to
take a stand and then failed to deliver, setting them up to be crushed by
regional powers, as when the Kurds in Iraq stood up to Saddam Hussein.
The leaders of many of the states of the Caucasus place great faith in
Washington's declarations about its commitment to their sovereignty and to
the region's overall independence. They also view such programs as the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization's Partnership for Peace as a serious Western
commitment to the region. In fact, after returning from the celebration of
NATO's 50th anniversary, even such seasoned statesmen as Georgia's Eduard A.
Shevardnadze and Azerbaijan's Heydar A. Aliyev were inspired to stand up to
Moscow, because of what they consider a U.S. commitment. These countries'
confrontations with Russia, however, have often backfired. Moscow has
aggressively acted against the leaders in the Caucasus, often using local
forces to undermine regimes and threaten them. When U.S. policy is advanced
in such a half-hearted manner, not only does it fail to attain its goals, it
can actually contribute to destabilization of the region.
In fact, the best way for the West to strengthen the independence of the
states in the south Caucasus is to assist in the resolution of the conflicts
that afflict the region. This would limit new states' vulnerability to
dictates from neighboring powers and thus enhance U.S. ability to advance its
goals in the region. Washington should keep in mind that external forces have
long played a major role in the south Caucasus. While local factors have
provided the basis for the conflicts, external actors--especially
Russia--have played a major role in the escalation of these conflicts into
Russia relates to the south Caucasus with its own version of the Monroe
Doctrine for it sees this area as affecting its vital strategic interests.
While by no means endorsing Moscow's behavior or validating Moscow's view of
the region, the U.S. must recognize how Moscow views its own interests and
understand that Russia will take significant steps in the Caucasus.
For any peace arrangement to succeed in the new states of the south
Caucasus, Russia must perceive that the deal minimally satisfies its
interests and that it has a stake in preserving the agreement. If not, Moscow
can and will work to undermine the plan. Thus, no Pax-Americana peace should
be pursued in the south Caucasus, but rather one supported by Moscow and,
preferably, by Turkey as well.
Given these principles, what can be done to help resolve the conflicts
in the region? One is the establishment of a Caucasian regional-security
zone, encompassing the states of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and the
regions of Karabakh, Abkhazia and possibly Chechnya. Within this coalition,
all the units would have equal status. In addition, the latter three would
agree, as a condition for receiving this status, that they would not seek
political recognition of independence beyond this Caucasian grouping.
The Caucasian zone would be free of all foreign forces, and the members
would not join any foreign security alliances: no Russian bases in Armenia
and Georgia, no NATO. Assurance that this area will not become a location for
Western military forces may create a Russian interest in preserving this
agreement. Moreover, including Chechnya could give Moscow a face-saving way
out of its costly war with the Chechens without setting a precedent for other
potentially defiant regions in Russia.
The time is ripe for a comprehensive settlement of the conflicts in the
Caucasus: President Aliyev in Baku is 77 and wants a settlement of the
Karabakh issue; Russia needs a clean way to disengage from Chechnya while
allowing it to protect its interests in the Caucasus; Washington has upped
the profile of its commitment to the building of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline;
many in Armenia realize that stability and prosperity are not possible
without resolving the Karabakh conflict, and, if transport links with Turkey
are not opened soon, Armenia may be bypassed by connections built through
Georgia. This window of opportunity will not stay open forever, and actors in
the Caucasus should take advantage of the presence of a U.S. administration
that is interested and involved in the region. *
Anatoly Borisovich Chubais
Answers to Your Questions
Bloc 5 (December 6, 1999)
[translation for personal use only]
- Dear Anatoly Borisovich: The loans-for-shares auctions were one of the
most controversial episodes of privatization. Your opponents claim that
government property was often bought by private owners using government
funds. In particular, they used funds from government agencies' accounts in
commercial banks. As a result, the oligarchs who obtained huge amounts of
property in such a strange way, were becoming dependent upon the Kremlin and
were forced to finance Boris Yeltsin's electoral campaign in 1996. Allegedly
this was the main purpose of the loans-for-shares auctions. In addition, the
Ministry of State Property knew in advance that the enterprises being sold
(or, more precisely, given as collateral for loans) will not return to the
state. What would be your comment to such allegations?
- Let us be frank: in the 1996 electoral campaign, the question to resolve
was whether Russia will or will not be a democracy. Russia was threatened by
the prospect of not just a traditional Soviet Brezhnev-type socialism, but
an overtly nationalist regime, threatening the integrity of the country. The
state needed financial resources, but using the printing press was not an
option. The only solution was: property. Under a real threat of victory by
leftist nationalist forces there could be no foreign demand for our assets.
Therefore, money was to be sought from domestic capital owners, which, in
its turn, lowered the price of the assets. Let us be frank: there was a
political calculation. The business ought to have understood that only the
preservation of the democratic regime ensures compliance with the basic
legislation and the agreements [on loans for shares] that were reached at
the end of 1995.
Now, as regards the use of budgetary funds or other violations of the law:
let me remind that virtually every item in the auctions was an object of
tough fight among large commercial groups, and, correspondingly, there were
losers in each case. Almost no one of them accepted their defeat and they
continued the fight by other means, including the arbitration court. Let me
remind of a fact that is not very well known: all legal proceedings,
including appeals and cassation requests, confirmed the legality of the
results of the auctions.
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