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Johnson's Russia List


March 22, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4188  4189 4190 

Johnson's Russia List
22 March 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Communist criticises Putin's fighter jet stunt.
2. AFP: Russia's Putin inherits an impoverished nuclear power.
3. AFP: Kremlin faces uphill task in persuading Duma to ratify 

4. AP: David McHugh, Putin Courts Western Investors.
5. APN: Putin should be afraid of the inner circle. (Views of
Yeveny Yasin)

6. APN: In a month Zyuganov could have beat Putin. (Views of
Andrei Milekhin)

7. David Rowell: Lessons on reality. (re Cisek on Wedel/4187)
8. RFE/RL: Sophie Lambroschini, Putin's One Theme Is Firmness.
The Kremlin Does Not Criticize the Left, Wishing to Preserve the 

MAYAK RADIO. (March 19)

11. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Roy Medvedev, Getting to Know Putin.] 


Communist criticises Putin's fighter jet stunt

MOSCOW, March 21 (Reuters) - Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said on 
Tuesday that Acting President Vladimir Putin had put Russian national 
security at risk by flying in a fighter jet without the country's nuclear 
codes on board. 

Putin, a former KGB spy whose military tough guy image has made him the heavy 
favourite in presidential elections on Sunday, flew in the co-pilot's seat of 
a Sukhoi-27 fighter jet to and from the Chechen capital Grozny on Monday. 

The Russian secret service officer who always accompanies the president with 
the nuclear codes in his suitcase flew in a second fighter jet directly 
behind, officials said. 

The briefcase, known as ``the red button,'' is one of the most important 
symbols of power in Russia. 

``First, you have to ask, where is your nuclear suitcase -- you are in charge 
of national security,'' Zyuganov told reporters. ``Why do you expose the 
country to such a danger? I know many presidents who graduated from military 
schools and were pilots and they don't permit themselves such pranks.'' 

Putin, whose long career in the KGB did not include training as an aviator, 
defended the trip. 

``In addition to being acting president, I am also commander-in-chief. I want 
to see everything myself, to touch, to feel, it would do no harm,'' he said 
during a trip to Nizhny Novgorod. 


Russia's Putin inherits an impoverished nuclear power

MOSCOW, March 21 (AFP) - 
Russia remains a leading nuclear power but acting President Vladimir Putin, 
the frontrunner in Sunday's election, faces material shortages which threaten 
to further degrade the army's efficiency.

The Russian war machine, despite years of economic decline, has retained its 
impressive fire power and a military industry still able to compete with the 

The new Russian surface-to-air missiles, the S-300 and S-400, promise to 
"create major problems for (air strike) planners for years to come", the 
Jane's Information Group warned earlier this month.

They are capable of intercepting "stealth" targets, cruise missiles and 
short-to-medium-range ballistic missiles at distances up to 400 kilometers 
(250 miles), the group said.

In November, the Russian navy successfully test-fired two Topol-M 
intercontinental ballistic missile from a submerged submarine, one of them in 
the presence of Putin. With a range of around 11,000 kilometres (6,900 miles) 
they will form the backbone of Russia's future defence strategy.

But "as traditional armed forces are declining and funding for the military 
is increasingly limited, there remains nothing else but to rely on nuclear 
weaponary," said Russian military expert Alexandre Goltz.

The missile developments stand in stark contrast to the daily lives of those 
in barracks. A combination of misery and shortages has sometimes appeared to 
leave the 1.3-million-strong army on the point of collapse.

Soldiers are undernourished and their salaries are often paid months late. 
Thousands of officers live in temporary shelters as they wait for 
accomodation and the state still owes millions of dollars to the the arms 

During operations in Chechnya, officers complained about a lack of effective 
telecommunications equipment and high-precision weapons which would allow 
them to face Chechen snipers.

Officials from the air force admitted in January that pilots were reducing 
their normal flying time by about a quarter because of a lack of fuel.

These shortages have left the army with recruitment difficulties and problems 
in retaining existing personnel. Every year, about a third of officers under 
the age of 30 leave the navy.

A poll carried out by the Krasnaia Zvezda military newspaper said that 48 
percent of the 1,000 officers it questioned said they wanted to leave the 
armed forces.

New hope has come with Putin, who in January said he wanted a strong state 
backed by a strong military and vowed to continue developing the armed forces.

The difficulty now is where the funding for this will come from. 
International organisations who keep Russia afloat with huge loans are 
opposed to any increase in defence spending.

But depite these difficulties Putin has already tried to leave his mark -- a 
50 percent increase this year in state orders from the arms industry and a 
move to return the navy to the Mediterranean for the first time in four years.


Kremlin faces uphill task in persuading Duma to ratify START II

MOSCOW, March 21 (AFP) - 
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov urged Russian lawmakers Tuesday to ratify before 
June the START II arms reduction treaty signed with the United States, but 
faced an uphill task in reversing opinion.

Deputies in the State Duma lower house have put ratification of the 
much-delayed accord on their spring agenda, but are linking it to a dispute 
between with Washington over missile defence.

Ivanov made his plea at a closed door meeting with key members of the Duma's 
foreign affairs, defence and security committees, Alexei Arbatov, number two 
at the defence committee, told AFP.

However, many of the lawmakers present appeared unswayed, said Arbatov.

Ivanov, flanked by a bevy of senior military officials, argued that 
ratification of the accord -- signed in 1993 and approved by the US Congress 
in 1996 -- would put pressure on Washington to compromise on other arms 
control issues.

Russia is fiercely opposed to any modification of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic 
Missile Treaty which the United States is seeking to amend so as to allow it 
to build a nuclear defence shield covering the entire United States.

But Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin has nonetheless urged deputies 
to approve START II to allow progress on a START III accord which would make 
further deep cuts in nuclear arsenals.

His hopes were boosted in December by the election of a new Duma in which 
pro-Kremlin forces emerged as a powerful force in contrast to the old 
Communist- and nationalist-dominated parliament.


Putin Courts Western Investors
March 21, 2000

MOSCOW (AP) - Battered foreign investors have pricked up their ears as 
Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin talks soothingly about fixing his 
country's tarnished business climate and luring back Western investments. 

But while Western companies like what they're hearing from the man expected 
to win presidential elections on Sunday, nobody wants to open their wallets 
until they see Putin back up his words with action. 

Since the 1991 Soviet collapse, many foreign companies have tried to break 
into Russia's huge, potentially lucrative market of 146 million people. But 
instead of profits, most have found corruption, organized crime and hostile 
or incompetent bureaucracy. 

The last straw for many was the August 1998 financial crash. The economy 
stalled and the government defaulted on some of its debts, leaving foreigners 
holding $12 billion in frozen treasury bills. 

Putin has created a buzz among foreign businesses with his pro-investment 
comments. The government, he said at an investment forum recently, ``must 
overcome its weakness in everything touching on the protection of private 
property, investors and creditors.'' 

Putin has vowed to get Russia's stalled market reforms moving - promising to 
fix the tax system, protect investors' rights, and clean up corruption. It's 
a message wary Western companies have been hearing in Russia for the past 

``There are relatively high expectations, which we are trying to keep under 
control, because expectations are almost never met here,'' said Scott 
Blacklin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow. ``But 
there clearly is an agenda favoring the business community.'' 

Russia desperately needs investment for new factories and equipment. It 
should be an investor's dream - a huge country with an educated population, 
cheap labor and abundant natural resources such as oil, natural gas and 

But investors, foreign and Russian, lack essential legal protections. Much of 
the economy is still mired in Communist habits and many officials don't 
understand about market economics or are actively hostile to foreign firms. 
Some Russian businesses accept Western investments and then refuse to share 
the profits. 

Agreements often can't be enforced by a weak court system where judges can be 
bribed. Russian owners sometimes dilute the holdings of their foreign stake 
holders by issuing more shares or gutting the company's assets. 

In a typical experience, U.S. investors bought the formerly state-owned 
Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, a maker of luxury goods that 
was founded in 1744 by a daughter of Peter the Great, only to see its 1993 
privatization overturned in the courts. An appeals court later reinstated the 
foreign owners. 

Large swaths of the economy are controlled by politically connected moguls 
dubbed oligarchs, who got choice state-owned oil and mining companies for 
pennies on the dollar in dubious privatization auctions and then strip them 
of assets. 

As a result, capital flows out of Russia, rather than in, at the pace of a 
billion dollars a month, according to analysts' estimates. Russia received 
just $3.6 billion in direct foreign investment last year - roughly what went 
into the Chinese city of Shanghai. All of China took in $40 billion. 

Still, the Russia market is too big to ignore. Western companies that have 
built factories in Russia include construction-equipment maker Caterpillar, 
candy and soft drink maker Cadbury Schweppes, razor-blade and shaving 
products maker Gillette, and tobacco, food and beer giant Philip Morris. Most 
say they are in Russia for the long haul, banking on future profits to offset 
steady losses. 

Investors have given Putin a vote of confidence on Russia's fledgling stock 
market, up 48 percent since he took over. But with a total value of $36 
billion, the stock market is too small to jump start the economy, caught in a 
decade-long recession. 

Foreign companies ``have a toe in the water,'' said Blacklin of the American 
Chamber of Commerce. ``They could pull their toe back out if the promise for 
this government is not fulfilled.'' 


21 March, 2000
Putin should be afraid of the inner circle

In his interview to APN reporter, Expert Institute director Yeveny Yasin said 
what, in his opinion, Vladimir Putin should adopt and what should not from 
Boris Yeltsin`s heritage:

«Putin should stick to Yeltsin`s strict orientation to market economy and 
democracy. It must be a general line in our life. It was Yeltsin`s mission 
and should become Putin`s. One should strive for realisation of decisions 
approved; unfortunately, the situation was different in Yeltsin`s times.

What is not worth to be followed? The most important thing is to avoid 
influence of someone`s selfish interests on the state head. One should fear 
tycoons of any kind circling around President and scheming. Such Byzantine 
system had existed under Yeltsin. It should not be remained under Putin. 
Politics should become public, be made in parliament, in government but in 
President`s bedroom.»


21 March, 2000
In a month Zyuganov could have beat Putin

APN reporter quoted Andrei Milekhin, Director of the Association for Regional 
Political Research as saying at a news conference that since March 17 to 
March 19, 69% of voters were going to participate in voting.

According to the polls, conducted by Association for Regional Political 
Research, 19% have not yet decided whether they are going to vote. Among 
those who intend to vote 48.4% are going to give their vote in favour of 
Vladimir Putin.

Andrei Milekhin said that recently acting President`s rating has been 
sinking. Gennady Zyuganov`s rating has increased from 24% to 28%. As the 
second participant of the news conference – scientific director of the 
National Institute for Social and Psychological Research Nikolai Popov – 
said, by estimation, in about in a month it could be that Zyuganov`s and 
Putin`s ratings proved to be equal.


Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2000 
From: "David M Rowell" <> 
Subject: Lessons on reality

Dan Cisek angrily finds fault with Janine Wedel (JRL 4187) for her brief
reference to "Some, indeed, believe that the United States set out
to destroy their [Russian] economy".  Confusingly, he says that she
provides no
evidence to support it, but it is actually footnoted (footnote 2) and she
provides plenty of evidence.
In his response, he confuses two different realities - on the one hand, the
reality of what people actually believe, and on the other hand, the underlying
reality of what really truly may have happened, and why.
I don't propose to debate the issue of whether the US set out to deliberately
destroy the Russian economy.  And, at the same time, there is no sense in
arguing what Russian people think, because it is obvious to anyone that
interacts with Russian people at any level, whether in the US, Russia, or
elsewhere in the world (and I interact with Russians in all three spheres),
that there really truly is a growing groundswell of opinion, amongst
intelligent people that "should know better" as well as among less well
educated people, that the US is one of the prime sources of all the Russian
problems.  This has been referred to regularly in previous JRLs by a range of
different commentators, and indeed Ms Wedel gives quantitative data to support
her gentle claim.
Are these opinions ascribing blame to the US unfair and untrue?  It is not for
me to say.  But are they really truly heartfelt and tangibly apparent? 
a doubt, and in trying to deny the validity of these opinions, Mr Cisek
mistakenly attacks Ms Wedel for merely reporting on them.
Politicians, more than anyone else, should understand that perceptions
are, alas, often times more important than reality.  And for causing the
perception that the US is out to destroy Russia, our incumbent politicians
have a lot to answer for.


Russia: Putin's One Theme Is Firmness
By Sophie Lambroschini

Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin is overwhelmingly favored to win the 
presidential election on Sunday, and the main question in the campaign is 
whether he will win convincingly enough to avoid a run-off. Correspondent 
Sophie Lambroschini looks at the man who has built his reputation by being 
tough on Chechnya. 

Moscow, 21 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Vladimir Putin's platform is simple: tell 
the people what they want to hear. Depending on the context and the audience, 
Putin speaks either of his plans to increase state control over the economy 
or of his plans to implement market reforms. 

Putin began his political career working for the late Saint Petersburg mayor 
Anatoly Sobchak. A KGB officer for most of his career, he was head of the 
Federal Security Service (FSB) when Boris Yeltsin appointed him prime 
minister last August. 

Putin refuses to give out details of his plans, saying he doesn't want his 
program "picked to pieces" by criticism. To Western audiences, Putin portrays 
himself as pro-Western, for example by telling the BBC that Russia could 
eventually join NATO someday. But speaking to a Russian audience a few days 
later, Putin showed his nationalist side, asking why, if NATO does not 
welcome Russia, should Russia accept NATO enlargement?

At times, Putin plays up his intellectual side, stressing his legal 
education. Yet he also frequently uses vulgar metaphors and slang, like last 
fall when he expressed Russia's determination to put an end to terrorism.

"We will pursue the terrorists everywhere, in airports. If you will forgive 
me, if we catch them in the toilet we will rub them out in the john. The 
question is closed once and for all. And we have to do this today, quickly, 
decisively, with clenched teeth, strangle the vermin at the root."

Only on Chechnya has Putin's policy been clear and consistent. He has 
repeatedly said that Russia will pursue the Chechens to the end. Under Putin, 
the Russian army has leveled dozens of villages, displaced over 200,000 
people, and killed an unknown number of civilians, in addition to losing 
2,000 Russian soldiers. Yet the war is quite popular, and Putin's immense 
popular largely stems for the perception that he is unafraid to act firmly 
and restore honor and dignity to Russia.

But his short track record doesn't bode well for press freedom in Russia. His 
government has considerably narrowed journalists' rights to cover the war in 
Chechnya. A strictly implemented accreditation system makes it virtually 
impossible for journalists to go to the republic unless accompanied by 
special military officers on short two-day trips. And the right to quote 
statements by Chechen commanders branded as "terrorists" has also been 

The fate of RFE/RL's war correspondent Andrey Babitsky served as further 
intimidation to journalists. Arrested by Russian forces while leaving Grozny, 
Babitsky was handed over in secret to pro-Russian Chechens in a fake prisoner 
exchange. Putin later said he approved of this plan, accusing Babitsky of 
collaborating with the rebels.

So far, this forceful approach is going over well among Russians. For years, 
Russians were partly entertained and partly appalled by the antics of 
Yeltsin, who often appeared to be drunk or ill. Putin, by contrast, exudes an 
aura of control. His statements always have the same quality of soft-spoken, 
almost whispered firmness.

And as he tailors the thrust of his statements depending on who his audience 
is, he has managed to win the support of both former communist voters and 
liberal-minded ones. 


Vek, #11
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
The Kremlin Does Not Criticize the Left, Wishing to 
Preserve the Electorate 

Until now the authorities have never demonstrated their 
sympathies with the opponent-party so openly. For its part, the 
communist party displays reciprocal feelings - this is 
expressed in a more loyal economic program and political 
neutrality with regard to Vladimir Putin. According to 
communist party spokesmen, alliances with the authorities and 
other political forces will be "temporary" and "strategic." In 
the opinion of political scientist, Doctor of Economics Iosif 
Diskin, Vladimir Putin cannot campaign against the left just 
because he is planning to make use of them in the future: "In 
actual fact, he is planning to include the communist party in 
the political establishment.
According to the book published in Internet, he is out to turn 
the communists into a social-democratic party. If, with the 
help of administrative resources, a full-fledged party of power 
is formed out of Yedinstvo (Unity, or Bear) and the communist 
party is held back, we can well get a plaster cast of a 
bipartisan system, western style". 
With the take-over of Boris Yeltsin's successor, the 
picture of even though a formal confrontation between the party 
of power and the communist party has somehow unnoticeably 
smoothed out for the public. The authorities clearly gave the 
voters to understand that their attitude to the communist 
party, secret services and nuclear weapons had changed. This 
gentleman's set for the former citizens of the Soviet Union 
means only one thing - a signal for the revival of the empire." 
Even the very first sociological assessments of Unity's 
electorate showed that the party of power is mainly supported 
by the citizens holding left views. Whether the authorities 
themselves have changed their colour will become clear after 
the presidential elections. The shock caused by Bear's success 
among the former representatives of the political establishment 
holding right views was partly cushioned by the impressive 
breakthrough made by the Union of Right Forces. However, 
already the first session in the Duma showed quite clearly who 
is the master there and who is a "political pygmy."
According to the representatives of both parties, the 
coalition of Bear and the communist party was "a temporary 
strategic alliance." However, later, too, authorities refrained 
from building the presidential campaign of their candidate on 
anti-communism, as was the case in 1996. If the acting 
president looks for support among the left, a conflict is 
possible between the former and current political elites. It is 
not ruled out, though, that the mutual politeness of the 
authorities and the left is due to the deplorable example of 
conducting the negative campaign of Luzhkov and Primakov. 
"It is the first time in our history that the authorities 
conduct a positive campaign," thinks president of the "Russian 
Socio-Political Centre" Foundation Alexei Salmin. "This can be 
explained by objective reasons: Vladimir Putin controls a large 
part of the 'election field,' which borders on both the left 
and the right electorate. In the current situation, a clear-cut 
campaign would rather be harmful. Putin's electorate is Boris 
Yeltsin's electorate of 1991. At that time it consisted of two 
parts: the first was anti-communist and the second was 
attracted by the first Russian president as a charismatic 
leader. However, in 1996 anti-communism was a way to discipline 
the electorate and raise the turn-up. In the case of Putin's 
electorate, which is a motley crew, any jerky movements would 
rather lead to a decline in the acting president's popularity. 
At present, nearly the only problem facing the Putin team is 
how to raise the turn-up. 



Anchor: On Saturday Russia's Acting President Vladimir Putin
gave an interview to the Mayak Radio, to its CEO Andrei Bystritsky.
Bystritsky: What is your assessment of the present
developments in Chechnya? 
Putin: As to the military and their statements, we should
treat this calmly. The military are in a process of struggle and,
naturally, every victory scored by them, and they are scoring real
victories there, we know that, causes a certain upsurge of
emotions, positive emotions. And this is good. This is how it
should be.
At the same time, there are also things that do not generate
positive emotions in us, quite the contrary. There are tragedies
involving the death of our servicemen.
The question -- what must we do, what is the situation there,
where are we are we to go further? Definitely, this question
exists. It seemed to me that this question was clear to many of us.
If you believe that we should return to this once again, let's do
it again.
We have just seen on our TV screens, and I think you have seen
this as well, we have seen this animal that the FSB has brought to
Q: Do you mean Raduyev?
A: I mean the animal going by the name of Salman Raduyev.
There is still a lot of such animals running around there. It is
possible that they can band into packs, snarl back, attack and
inflict certain damage to us. That is true. But there will be no
more organized resistance there. And that is also true.
What should be done in the near future? Yes, since certain
changes have taken place and organized resistance has been broken,
we will withdraw the excessive part of our armed forces. And we
will put on record the fact that large-scale activities of a
military nature are nearing their completion. The military have
spoken about this as well, and this is true.
I repeat, it is also true that militants may band together
into groups, attack, commit acts of terror and so on. This means
that we will leave there that amount of armed forces that will be
needed for the fulfillment of these tasks. We will cut off the
mountain part where the militants are feeling themselves more or
less comfortable, I am putting "comfortable" in inverted commas,
they aren't feeling comfortable anywhere now, from the rest of
Chechnya, in that part of Chechnya we will be carrying out
socio-political activities, we will be carrying out measures to
restore the economy there, to bring back normal life, we will be
strengthening the law-enforcement bodies and the special services. 
As to the mountain part where the militants are still present,
we will be carrying out military and special operations there, we
will be finishing them off there.
What choice do we really have? Either we finish them off
there, or we withdraw. What is the choice? There are two variants
of behavior. The third is to enter into negotiations with the
militants, with the bandits, but that would be only a preliminary
stage of the second variant -- withdrawal. We have already
withdrawn from there once. I do not want to describe that as a
crime or to make any assessments, but that was a very big mistake,
a really big one. Perhaps, the people who were pushing us to that
decision at the time, the people who were facilitating that
decision had no idea of what the results would be...
Q: I would like to put a question on another theme. It is
connected with the elections as well. This is something that
greatly concerns society. There is an active discussion now if
there is going to be only the first round of the presidential
elections or if there is going to be a second round as well. What
do you think about this as an active participant in the process? 
A: I do not regard myself as an excessively active participant
in the process. You know, I never imagined myself taking part in
any elections...
Q: We all have to learn something anew.
A: Yes. As to one round or two rounds, of course, when one
joins some sort of a struggle one always counts on success.
Otherwise there is no sense in getting involved in this. I think it
would be best for me if I could achieve this result in the first
Mind you, the elections cost 2.4 billion rubles, of which
about 1.5 billion are allocated for the first round and 1 billion
for the second round, if it takes place. This is roughly as much as
all pensioners in Moscow region, that I visited today, are paid a
Q: So expensive?
A: Yes. This is first. There are a number of politicians who
are prompting society, prompting the population to derail the
elections as such.
Q: Are you referring to the campaign to vote against all
A: Yes. This is nothing but an attempt to derail the elections
or to make a second round necessary. Still best, they think, the
elections should be foiled. What is their aim? As a result of such
actions, the situation in the country will deteriorate, the
economic situation will be worse. 
You know, I think this is an immoral stand. As it is our
people have a difficult life. And here we seen an intent to make
this life even more difficult. I think that this stand is harmful
and has no future.
As to my personal attitude to having only one round or two of
the elections, I think that in the long run it is the result that
Q: Yet another problem. It is partly connected with the
elections and partly connected with our country's life in general.
I want to ask you about relations between the state and business.
Some time ago you remarked that you are negative in your attitude
to oligarchs, to be more precise, to what can be described as the
merging of the state and private business, the government and the
private economy. What are you planning to do about this? And what
is the possible fate of the so-called Russian oligarchs?
A: It depends on what we mean by the word "oligarch". If we
mean a representative of big business, this is one thing. We will
cooperate with them just as with representatives of medium and
small businesses, with the owners of medium and small businesses,
as with the trade unions and so on. We will work with all sections
of society.
If by oligarchs we mean the merging... if we mean
representatives of groups that are merging or are facilitating the
merging of government with capital, there will be no such oligarchs
as a class.
You see, if we do not create equal conditions for all, we will
not be able to take the country out of its present state. We are
facing a number of major tasks. I mean the fight against poverty
and against crime. These are the two main tasks. The fight against
crime includes a number of sections. One of them is the fight
against corruption. In this sense there will be no oligarchs.
Q: Sorry for interrupting you. I would like to ask about
election campaign promises. Everybody is promising everything now.
Incidentally, some are doubling promises. I heard recently the
promise of one of the presidential candidates to double pensions
and wages. What about you?
A: I have already said in the beginning that I had never
imagined myself taking part in an election campaign. You know,
mostly and mainly because all the modern election technologies are
rather unscrupulous things. They all boil down to the candidate
looking in the eyes of millions of people and making all sorts of
promises while knowing in advance that they are unfulfillable.
I cannot force myself to cross this line. I am very glad that
I have not have had to do this so far. This is largely one of the
reasons why I decided not to use campaign television films, not to
take part in debates and so on.
As to promises, of course, all sorts of promises can be made.
I believe that as chairman of the government and Acting President
I must fulfill those promises that are given in our legislation. In
this case, in the law on the budget. If it is possible to exceed
these promises, this must be done. For instance, we increased
pensions. We promised to index them by 12 percent, but
circumstances permitted us not only to fulfill this promise but to
overfulfill it. We indexed pensions by 20 percent. This is how one
must act.
Q: Thank you very much.
Anchor: This was Vladimir Putin's interview to the Mayak
Radio. When the camera was already switched off, Vladimir Putin
told Andrei Bystritsky that he does not rule it out that soon after
the presidential elections a state of emergency may be proclaimed
on the territory of Chechnya. The camera crew was already packing
its equipment, Putin was pressed for time and for this reason this
statement was not filmed. But these words were said and not in a
confidential manner.


Roy Medvedev on Putin 

Rossiyskaya Gazeta
11 March 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
Article by Roy Medvedev under the "Political Portraits" rubric: 
"Getting to Know Putin" -- first paragraph is Rossiyskaya Gazeta 

Today's essay by the well-known historian Roy 
Medvedev continues the series of political portraits presented on the 
pages of Rossiyskaya Gazeta. They include Yevgeniy Primakov, Sergey 
Kiriyenko, Grigoriy Yavlinskiy, and other well-known politicians. 
Today's article is devoted to Vladimir Putin, acting president of the 
Russian Federation and chairman of the government. 

Politics or Political Technologies? [subhead] 

Not only the history of our country in the 20th century but also the 
histories of Western democracies -- unless we count the great revolutions 
of 1789 and 1917 -- cannot show such a rapid promotion of a political 
leader which, moreover, is approved by the country, as we are observing 
today in Russia. The elevation of national leaders in all countries 
occurred as a rule as a result of a complex and lengthy political 
struggle which, in conditions of totalitarianism, could be bloody. 

At any rate it was not easy for Yeltsin to assume power. It is 
sufficient to recall not only the events of 1990 and 1991 but also those 
of 1993 and 1996. We cannot see anything like this in Russia in 
January-March 2000. The presidential election campaign is ending 
virtually without a struggle, and it is proceeding a lot more calmly than 
the State Duma election campaign. Both Zyuganov and Yavlinskiy have 
been unable to mount a serious challenge to Putin, and Yevgeniy Primakov, 
who was possibly his main rival, withdrew his candidacy back at the start 
of the campaign, not wishing to waste his time and energy in vain. At 
the same time Primakov expressed his sincere respect for Putin. This is 
understandable because both are after all advocates of a strong state, 
patriots, centrists, and people with a sense of order and duty. 
Moreover, Putin has almost not relied on any mass movements and parties 
during the last few months, and the Unity electoral association, which 
was created in the fall, is only beginning to create its own structures 
and program documents and is itself more in need of Putin's support. 

People often and not without reason compare politics with the 
theater, talking about the stage and masks, directors and rehearsals, 
roles and prompters. There have been cases in the life of the theater 
when a famous actor has suddenly fallen ill and has been unable to go on 
stage in front of an already packed auditorium. In order not to cancel 
the performance the director and his assistants have had to urgently make 
up an unknown understudy for the main role. But, to the surprise of the 
director and the audience, the understudy has played a difficult role 
even better than the main performer, and this has made him instantly 
famous. This is a common scenario for Hollywood musicals but we are 
encountering it on the political stage in Russia perhaps for the first 
time. Therefore, more convincing arguments are needed here than merely 
a reference to inspiration, talent, luck, the ability of a professional 
intelligence officer or the skill of a champion in one of the martial 
arts, although all these factors have had an influence on the appearance 
of the "Putin phenomenon." 

Putin's ill-wishers have said and written a lot during the last few 
months about "the artificial inflation of his popularity numbers" and 
about the skillful work of sundry image makers and speech writers, who 
have apparently created the image of a strong leader for us. According 
to an assertion made by the Zavtra newspaper, Vladimir Putin is "a 
political myth created by PR campaign specialists." There is no sense 
in refuting in detail this rubbish. Putin's success, as both the 
premier and acting president is not the product of any new political 
technologies, and his high rating is the consequence of his policy, state 
activities, and those political decisions which he made independently, 
assuming full responsibility for this in the process. But it is not the 
PR people who make the political decisions, and that sincerity in 
displaying his feelings which is inherent in Putin cannot be the product 
of political technologies. Yeltsin was often compared with Ilya 
Muromets [Russian folk hero], who distinguished himself both by his 
idleness and on the battlefield. But Putin was no dissident hero either 
under Brezhnev and Gorbachev or under Yeltsin. He has described himself 
more than once as a military man and official and assumed the duties of 
prime minister and later of president, in obedience to a decision made in 
the Kremlin that he perceived as an order. But back in the fall of 1999 
and particularly after 31 December the situation took shape in such a way 
that it was Putin himself who was supposed to formulate and issue orders. 
He did not shirk this responsibility and turned out to be a highly 
capable "boss" and subsequently politician. Putin began to work not 
only with documents and problems, proving to be a man of action who 
fulfills his promises and commitments. At the same time Putin's 
activities were not planned beforehand in accordance with some kind of 
clear aims. Back in September and October 1999 he had to work in 
difficult situations that arose unexpectedly, and he acted entirely 
successfully in these conditions. In the final analysis Putin is not 
the first person in the Yeltsin team to receive unexpected promotion. 
However, no political technologies helped the other candidates seeking to 
be Yeltsin's successor. 

On the Role of the Individual in History [subhead] 

Many political observers are forced to conclude that V. Putin's 
activities almost fully meet public expectations and even demands, the 
main one being the demand for order and the expectation of a strong 
leader who is capable of ensuring this order. Putin himself has 
referred several times to the demands and expectations of the Russian 
population, explaining the reasons for his decisions. "I consider 
myself to be not a messiah but an ordinary Russian guy who has the same 
feelings as any Russian citizen. Evidently people sense this and 
support me," Vladimir Putin said at the start of his career as prime 
minister. The newspaper which cited these words considers them strange 
for a high-ranking Kremlin official who was supposed to have forgotten 
about the needs and interests of ordinary people long ago. 

In this case we can recall the well-known Marxist postulates about 
the role of the individual in history that Georgiy Plekhanov expounded so 
convincingly more than 100 years ago. One of these postulates says: 
When public needs and national interests cannot be satisfied without the 
appearance of a hero, that is to say, a person capable of seeing further 
than others, desiring more than others, and doing more and better than 
others, such a person usually appears. But this does not occur 
automatically. The right person may not appear at the right time and in 
the right place. Second, the right person may not cope with those tasks 
which history and circumstances set before him. Third, he may abuse the 
trust placed in him and the power that he has acquired by beginning to 
solve some problems of his own, not national problems. Unfortunately, 
there have been quite a few such examples in the 20th century. Very 
many people have put their faith in Vladimir Putin, and we must hope that 
he will be able to justify this trust. At any rate he has already been 
able to help effectively resolve one of Russia's most difficult problems, 
that of Chechnya, although this knot has had to be severed and not 
untied: There was simply no other solution. Everything that Putin's 
opponents proposed in this regard could have only tightened even more 
firmly the entire knot of Chechen and Caucasian and, therefore, Russian 
problems. As a result, in the opinion of political expert Leonid Ionin, 
Chechnya has turned out to be a lever with which Putin has begun to turn 
all of Russia as well. 

Time Is on Whose Side? [subhead] 

The authors of many articles have written about Putin's "solitude." 
"One Hundred Days of Solitude" -- this is how Marina Volkova from 
Nezavisimaya Gazeta entitled her article on Premier Putin's first 100 
days, noting that "Vladimir Putin is the biggest human and political 
enigma among Russian premiers." It is possible that Putin was 
relatively lonely in that almost sterile Kremlin environment, in that 
"palace" collective in which he worked from 1996. At the same time he 
did not even make much of an effort to get himself noticed: It was 
easier to live and work in that way. Putin did not demonstrate his 
aspirations earlier either, in Anatoliy Sobchak's administration and 
entourage, although he had to resolve major economic problems there [St. 
Petersburg] and deal with the international ties of a huge city. 
However, generally speaking, Putin is not alone today. He is supported 
not only by a large number of patriotically-minded officials and military 
people but also by a significant part of the remaining Russian 
population, including the intelligentsia. In this case Putin has become 
as it were the focus for the crystallization of everything that would 
have been called in the past "the healthy part of society." This has 
not occurred in Russia for a long time. 

In the same newspapers and magazines that in August and September 
wrote about "the cold and empty eyes of the former KGB officer" and "the 
person without a face" we can read today about Putin's attractiveness, 
even his charm, his intelligent look, his resourcefulness, and his 
kindness. But the question concerning Putin's program and ideology 
naturally worries many people. As recently as in the summer of 1999 we 
knew almost nothing about him. However, the talk about "a blank sheet," 
"a black box," and Putin's "economic incompetence, which was heard so 
often in the fall, was unjust. If we know little about the state 
official, he cannot be reproached for this. An educated lawyer who 
completed a postgraduate course in economics, a candidate of economic 
sciences, a well trained intelligence officer and German specialist, an 
expert in judo, which is not only a sport but also a system of values and 
rules of behavior, Putin is all of these things. Vladimir Putin 
acquired his great experience and knowledge as an expert in market 
economics when he was still working in St. Petersburg, helping to attract 
major investment there. In the Presidential Staff he was responsible 
for ties with the regions and subsequently headed the Main Control 
Administration. By the time he was appointed to the post of premier he 
was far better trained than such predecessors as Ye. Gaydar and S. 
Kiriyenko and had considerably more all-round experience of working in 
market conditions than V. Chernomyrdin had by December 1992. 

V. Putin made public many of the tenets of his program back in 1999, 
for example, in his report on the implementation of the budget over nine 
months, which was Putin's own report on the first 100 days of his work. 
There were quite a few other speeches and interviews. The main tenets 
of Putin's program and his articles and letters to voters were published 
in February and March, and the majority of sensible people do not object 
to these documents. True, Obshchaya Gazeta and some other publications, 
which have actively supported G. Yavlinskiy for a long time, described 
Putin's program as "a program for simpletons." I am not going to get 
involved in this discussion. Nevertheless an economic program for 
Russia is a program for everyone and not only for those sophisticated, 
conceited intellectuals with an elitist mentality who surround 
Yavlinskiy. The concepts of "moderate liberalism," "liberal 
conservative," and also "advocate of a strong state" and "enlightened 
patriot" apply perfectly to Putin's program documents. Putin's ideology 
is not so severe that it can be defined unequivocally. He is no 
doctrinaire person like Yavlinskiy, no radical like Gaydar and Chubays, 
no reactionary like Zyuganov, and, of course, no revolutionary and 
obscurantist, of whom there are still quite a few in our political life. 
Every major world power has its own ideology, but it cannot be set forth 
in the form of such a rigid document as the Constitution. It is 
precisely Putin who has shown himself to be an effective centrist, and 
his agreements with parties and groups which consider themselves to be 
"centrist" or which speak about themselves as "right of center" or "left 
of center" are wholly possible. But it would be better to judge and 
speak about all this after the election. 

Many people are afraid of Putin's success and elevation, and a 
significant part of the press is against him, trying in every way 
possible to deflate and to disparage the "Putin phenomenon," not wanting 
the choice of Yeltsin, who gave a big boost to Putin's career, to become 
the people's choice. In the opinion of political expert Avtandil 
Tsuladze, V. Putin is not even a politician but "an energetic novice 
among second-rate officials, whose promotion became possible only because 
Yeltsin and his regime had exhausted the entire reserve of political 
'stars' in their personnel policy." Tsuladze believes that "the main 
reason for the success of this new generation of people promoted by 
Yeltsin is their assiduity, great capacity for work, iron grip, lack of 
any ideological precepts, pragmatism, and toughness." There is a 
certain element of truth in this assessment but it is not mostly true. 
You can also meet in the press ruder and even more malicious comments 
about the "Putin phenomenon." For example, Itogi magazine chief editor 
Sergey Parkhomenko wrote back in November 1999: "The wonder and triumph 
of Putin are built not only on the blood of innocent people who have 
perished in Chechnya as a result of bombing and shelling while the 
bandits calmly set up their camps in the mountains. Not only on the 
persecution of refugees who are starving in Ingush camps while companies 
and battalions of terrorists go off on leave to expensive restaurants and 
hotels in Baku, Tbilisi, and Istanbul. Putin's success is also based on 
a cold-blooded policy aimed at exploiting the gloomy shadows residing 
somewhere in the hidden corners of the public awareness of 'everyday' 
nationalism, the cruelty of the herd, and vindictiveness compounded by a 
feeling of impunity characteristic of any crowd. This carnival of 
hatred can be stopped only by planes carrying military coffins because 
the latest triumphant politician will not survive serious losses among 
the federal troops." It is strange that in this article full of lies 
and hatred S. Parkhomenko still calls the Chechen gunmen bandits. 

Some columnists warn their readers that Putin "is with us for a good 
long while." But very many politicians, influential financiers, and 
well-known journalists cannot conceal their burning desire to somehow 
stop the new leader and cannot wait for the fall and collapse of Putin 
and his "terrific popularity numbers." "People are expecting a lot 
today from the premier," Liliya Shevtsova, a political expert from the 
Carnegie Endowment, wrote on the eve of the New Year. "But the greater 
people's expectations are today the greater the disappointment in the new 
ruler will be tomorrow. The public mood is very fickle and it cannot be 
ruled out that already in the very near future instead of an 'iron 
Feliks' the people will want to have a peace-loving and kind leader 
capable of building bridges, including in Chechnya." "Time is not on 
Putin's side," columnist Ilya Milshteyn wrote back in the fall. "During 
the last few weeks his popularity has reached its peak, the voters are 
enthusiastically clapping their hands, his rivals are confused, and the 
ruble is just about standing its ground. It is well known what lies 
ahead: The war will stagnate, the people will be bewildered, the 
opposition will rally, it will be impossible to dissolve parliament 
before the presidential election, the economy will fall into an abyss, 
[Putin's] rating will decline, and his charisma will fade dramatically. 
Some more time will pass and it will be explained to the public that it 
made the wrong choice." "People are expecting a lot from Putin," 
Aleksandr Konovalov, president of the Institute for Strategic 
Assessments, noted. "But these expectations not only do not coincide 
but are mutually exclusive. But Putin will have to define his position, 
which means that the number of disappointed people and shattered 
illusions will increase. It is necessary to act now, before the 
election. So that before the election Putin may make fairly influential 
enemies for himself, and they will not fail to act." 

It is possible to continue with these forecasts. But there is no 
sense in questioning all these gloomy forecasts and expectations now 
because the Russian people themselves are to give their response 
regarding the strength or weakness of the people's support for Putin's 
policy 26 March 2000. 


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