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Johnson's Russia List


March 28, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4203  4204   4205

Johnson's Russia List
28 March 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Russia's new, hands-on leader.
2. Reuters: Maria Eismont, Orphanages bursting in post-Soviet Russia.
3. Reuters: Clinton congratulates Putin, stresses democracy.
4. Newsweek International: Galina Kovalskaya, Come and Rule Us. Russian focus groups on Putin. 
5. Reuters: Soros expects new Russian govt to be authoritarian.

7. The Independent (UK) editorial: MR PUTIN DOES NOT DESERVE 

8. The Times (UK) editorial: PUTIN'S PRESIDENCY. Russia now has a chance of real change.
9. Financial Times (UK): To Russia with more understanding.
The election of Vladimir Putin gives the west a chance to rebuild its relationship, says John Lloyd.

10. After the Election: Putin’s Plans for Russia.]


Christian Science Monitor
28 March 2000
Russia's new, hands-on leader
Vladimir Putin won 52 percent of the vote. He's now poised to enact his 
agenda to get Russia back on its feet. 
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor

No one ever doubted that Vladimir Putin would be Russia's next president. But 
with a convincing first-round victory under his belt in Russia's second 
post-Soviet elections, the tough-talking former KGB agent is poised to 
immediately start enacting his agenda to get Russia back on its feet. 

The problem is, he has not yet said exactly what his strategy is. 

Analysts say the Putin era may get off the ground slowly, but will likely be 
very different from the drift and ad hoc policymaking that characterized the 
nine-year Kremlin reign of Boris Yeltsin. 

Russia's Constitution vests enormous powers in the presidency, but Mr. 
Yeltsin rarely seemed interested in the nuts-and-bolts of government. "Putin 
is a young, vigorous, hands-on kind of leader," says Yury Igritsky, an 
analyst with the Institute of Social Studies in Moscow. "He can be expected 
to want to exercise all that authority he has inherited." 

Mr. Putin took about 52 percent of the popular vote in Sunday's presidential 
election, the biggest such victory since ex-President Yeltsin rode into 
president's office with 56 percent in 1991. The Communist challenger, Gennady 
Zyuganov, did unexpectedly well by taking nearly a third of the votes. 
Liberal Grigory Yavlinsky got about 6 percent, and ultranationalist Vladimir 
Zhirinovsky, in his worst showing ever, about 3 percent. 

"Russia is still an unformed democracy, and so you mustn't look at this as 
though it were a Western-style winner-take-all contest," says Irina 
Zvigelskaya, an analyst with the independent Center for Political Studies in 
Moscow. "In fact, Putin will have to tread very carefully because the voting 
shows that Russia is still a very divided society. Half the people supported 
Putin, but half were against him." 

Judging by his own pre-election pledges Putin's main tasks will be to create 
economic dynamism after nearly 10 years of depression, reduce the crushing 
poverty that afflicts one-third of Russia's population, find a political exit 
from the bloody war in Chechnya, restore central authority by curbing the 
runaway powers of local governors, crush the corrupt oligarchs who control 
much of the country's wealth-making sources, and revive Moscow's waning 
prestige on the world stage. 

One school of thought among analysts is that Putin will attempt to accomplish 
these aims through a traditional Russian revolution-from-above, by using the 
power of the state and its security apparatus to impose policies without 
regard for civil liberties or democratic process. 

In Putin's words 

The new president has provided plenty of fuel for these speculations. In his 
pre-election booklet, "In the First Person: Conversations with Vladimir 
Putin," he praises the history of the Soviet secret police, labels as a 
"traitor" his former colleague ex-KGB general Oleg Kalugin (who has never 
been charged with any crime), and muses about the need for a "dictatorship of 
law" in Russia. He has also committed deeds that leave liberals aghast. 

"Putin is the man who started the war in Chechnya, who paved his way to power 
over the bodies of thousands of Russian soldiers and Chechen civilians," says 
Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies. "Why does 
anyone think he will stop using indiscriminate force now?" 

Authoritarian steps 

Among the steps that might indicate Putin is heading down an authoritarian 
road would be fresh strictures on the already beleaguered free media, 
extra-legal moves to subordinate the elected governors of Russia's 89 regions 
to Kremlin fiat, and use of the security police rather than courts to deal 
with the country's vast gray economy. 

"There is definitely a potential threat of drifting into dictatorship with 
Putin," says Leonid Radzikhovsky, a political expert with the daily Segodnya 
newspaper. "This is partly because of his previous place of work, the KGB, 
where he was not schooled in the best democratic values. It is also because 
Russia has no developed civil society capable of resisting pressure from 
above. The temptation to move quickly, using force methods, is always present 
within our system." 

Many other analysts say Putin may be planning tough measures to deal with 
Russia's decade-old economic and social crisis, but that he knows better than 
to try to operate outside the law. The new president - a law-school graduate 
- has also said much to encourage this school of thought, insisting that he 
supports the inviolability of private property and individual liberties, 
calling for an end to government privileges for the oligarchs and advocating 
an "equal playing field" for all economic players. 

"Putin is not a symbol of revolution," says Mr. Igritsky. "The country gave 
him a mandate to restore order with a strong hand, but that does not mean 
dictatorship. He is smart, and he understands that democracy is a much more 
effective lever of power than authoritarianism." 

Even if his intentions are the best, however, Putin may be drawn to take 
harsher measures by force of circumstance. The six-month-old war in Chechnya, 
intended to be brief and decisive, shows every sign of flaring into a 
protracted guerrilla conflict that could sap Russia's economic lifeblood and 
explode the pro-Putin electoral consensus. 

If Putin tries to move against the country's entrenched oligarchs, he may 
resort to cracking down on Russia's non-state media - which is largely owned 
by a handful of economic kingpins. 

"The struggle against the regal privileges of the oligarchs will inevitably 
be messy," says Alexander Bevz, president of the Civil Society Foundation, a 
private think tank. He says that if Putin wants to force the tycoons to end 
their asset-stripping ways and begin investing to create jobs and production 
in Russia, he will have to declare war on them. "The oligarchs have their 
supporters entrenched in government and in the media, and they will not yield 

Reckoning with the West 

Improving relations with the West, another Putin agenda item, could also be 
derailed by factors beyond his control. 

"The longer the war in Chechnya goes on, the greater will be the damage to 
East-West understanding," says Mr. Igritsky. 

Putin's pledge to revive Russia's stagnant military-industrial complex 
through big increases in the defense budget, could have a similar effect. 

"I do not think Putin is a neo-imperialist, but he is quite adamant about 
restoring Russia's great-power status," says Mr. Bevz. 

The new president has promised to be cooperative on arms control and friendly 
to foreign investment, but he has signed a national security doctrine 
affirming Russia's right to first use of nuclear weapons and has amplified 
Yeltsin-era talk about strengthening Russia's strategic cooperation with 
India and China to counter US "hegemony" in world affairs. 

"In the months ahead, Putin will make choices that clearly define Russia's 
future," says Ms. Zvigelskaya. "The evidence of his intentions right now is 
mixed, and there are some serious storm warnings ahead." 


Orphanages bursting in post-Soviet Russia
By Maria Eismont

IVANOVO, Russia, March 28 (Reuters) - For more than a week, Maksim Shmorov
and his younger sister Marina silently attended lessons at school, knowing
their mother's body lay on the balcony at home after their father killed
her in a fit of rage. 

The two children, aged 14 and 11, had been told by their alcoholic and
unemployed father that if they breathed a word of the crime, they would
share her fate. 

``They would not say anything for several months,'' said Valentina
Rumyantseva, head of an orphanage in Ivanovo, 300 km (186 miles) northeast
of Moscow. 

The pair were placed in the orphanage after the body was discovered and the
father sentenced to 11 years in prison. 

``The boy would carefully plait his sister's hair, but didn't allow other
children to approach them. They've warmed up a bit since then,''
Rumyantseva said. ``But the worst thing is this is not an isolated case.'' 

Rumyantseva's charges include siblings from four families who saw their
father murder their mother and staff said the number of such cases was on
the increase. 

``Earlier we had children from what we would call troubled families,'' said
Lyubov Novozhilova, the orphanage psychologist. 

``Now it's more often than not murders at home. This reflects the deep
illness of our society. All these kids are emotionally stressed. And we
can't guarantee they will completely recover.'' 

Orphans have became a serious problem for post-Soviet Russia. Their numbers
have climbed in direct proportion with swift declines in living standards
and accompanying social turmoil. 

Social Affairs Minister Valentina Matviyenko this month put the number of
children in orphanages, or children's homes as they are called, at around
620,000. That figure, she says, is on the increase every year. 

President-elect Vladimir Putin became involved this month, decrying the
rise in numbers of ``social orphans'' -- children placed in institutions
despite having parents. Statistics show they account for 90 percent of the

``It shows a lack of attention of the state to the problems of the family,
motherhood and child care,'' he told ministers. ``This situation is, of
course, unacceptable.'' 


Some institutions have earned reputations for dreadful conditions,
allocating far less than 50 U.S. cents a day to feed their charges. 

``There were times when I thought our orphans ate better than some children
at home,'' Rumyantseva said of her orphanage, where 90 children occupy a
space intended for half that number. 

``They had even caviar sometimes. Now it's different. A few months ago, we
didn't even have any bread.'' 

She pointed to a note on the table saying ``Bread bill -- 6,821 roubles

``We were simply unable to pay this bill,'' she said. ``Thanks to our
sponsors, there are no more shortages of bread. But we do need clothes and

According to medical staff, the orphanage receives an allocation of 1,200
roubles ($40) each month to treat 90 children. But twice that is needed
merely to treat two girls with serious blood disorders. 

Alexander, 12, is dressed in a ragged blue track-suit covered in yellow
patches. He praises the orphanage staff for creating a friendly atmosphere
and does not blame them for the lack of shoes and clothes. 

``What can they do?'' he said. ``They have no money. These are difficult

``Their wages amount to pennies. I wouldn't like to work for such miserable
pay,'' added 17-year-old Yelena. She studies economics and every evening
the orphanage's teachers help with her lessons. 

Rumyantseva, herself a mother of three, receives a monthly salary
equivalent to $25 as the orphanage director. The doctor gets $20, the
cleaners and guards $6. 

``Sometimes I think I have had enough, I can't stand it any longer,''
Rumiantseva said. 

``Not just because we are so badly paid. These children have such
melancholy in their eyes. But then they call me 'mother' and I feel I can't
leave them.'' 


Clinton congratulates Putin, stresses democracy
By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON, March 27 (Reuters) - U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday
mixed congratulations to Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin with a
strong nudge, urging him in a phone call to strengthen democracy and
international ties. 

``Sunday's vote was an important milestone in the development of a
democratic Russia,'' Clinton said in a statement to congratulate Putin on
winning Sunday's vote. 

A White House official said Clinton and Putin had discussed a possible
meeting but nothing was made final. 

Clinton's praise was tempered with expressions reflecting the caution that
has characterised the U.S. view of Putin since the former KGB spy became
acting president after Boris Yeltsin's resignation on New Year's Eve 1999. 

``President-elect Putin has an opportunity to translate his electoral
mandate into concrete steps to advance economic reform, to strengthen the
rule of law, to intensify the fight against crime and corruption and to
join with us on a broad common agenda of international security including
arms control, nonproliferation and regional peace and stability,'' he said. 

Clinton said he had emphasised his concerns about Russia's war against
separatist rebels in Chechnya, although Putin, within hours of his victory,
reaffirmed his backing for Russian troops fighting to finish the conflict. 

``I stressed to president-elect Putin the importance of launching impartial
and transparent investigations of reported human rights violations and
providing prompt and full access for international organisations and the
press,'' Clinton said. 


State Department spokesman James Foley called Chechnya a ``humanitarian
black eye'' and a ``dead end for Russia'' and urged Moscow to find
negotiating partners in the region. 

``We hope that the new Russian government will find its own way towards
achieving a political solution in Chechnya. Until that happens, we have a
serious and profound disagreement.'' 

Putin was elected Sunday, with more than 52 percent of the vote, marking
only the second presidential election in post-Soviet Russia, which has also
elected three parliaments. 

``Taken together with the three Duma elections and the hundreds of regional
and local elections over the past nine years, this election shows that the
ballot box has indeed become the undisputed way for Russians to select
their leaders,'' Foley said. 

But Washington had ``an enormous amount of work'' it could do with Moscow
in arms control and economic ties, he added. 

Foley recalled that Putin had shown a willingness to discuss the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty. The United States wants to amend it to build
a new defence system to shield U.S. cities from attack by ``rogue states.'' 


After campaigning in Milwaukee, Vice President Al Gore, the presumed
Democratic nominee for U.S. president, said he was unsurprised by Putin's

Asked if he was worried by reports Putin planned to call on former KGB
agents to help him combat corruption in Russia, Gore said, ``No. I hope he

But billionaire investor George Soros said that Putin's government would
likely be ``authoritarian and nationalistic.'' 

``Putin will try to reestablish a strong state and he may well succeed,''
Soros wrote said in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books. 

``But Putin's state is unlikely to be built on the principles of an open
society; it is more likely to be based on the demoralisation, humiliation,
and frustration of the Russian people,'' said Soros, chairman of Soros Fund
Management and head of the Open Society Institute, a group that has funded
programmes to promote democratic principles and market reform the former
Soviet Union. 


Newsweek International
April 3, 2000
[for personal use only]
Come and Rule Us 
Russian focus groups on Putin 
By Galina Kovalskaya

What do Russians think about Vladimir Putin? Itogi, the Russian news
magazine published in cooperation with NEWSWEEK, commissioned the
Moscow-based polling firm Validata to assemble four focus groups of people
who planned to vote for him in the March 26 presidential election. Two of
the groups were in Moscow, and two in Vladimir, a town 200 kilometers east
of the capital. When asked what Putin is like, all the groups responded
with the characterization "Cautious." (This is the first time in my memory
that Russians have uttered the word "cautious" with approval.) The labels
that Putin's supporters confer on him are revealing: "Careful,
businesslike, disciplined, reserved, secretive, smart, tough, intelligent,
shrewd, tight-lipped... " But they had a harsher view of his appearance:
"Inconspicuous, washed-out, a cold look... "
Have people with such characteristics ever been popular in Russia? Validata
conducted a separate study to pinpoint notions of the Russian character.
The participants described Russians as open-hearted, generous, bold. But
according to the study of Putin, the new leader displays traits opposite of
that ideal. The only quality the participants commend him for is modesty.
"He doesn't show off," they say. "He doesn't take his wife everywhere."

Validata tried to draw out the participants on Putin's personality. It
asked a role-playing question: "If all of our famous politicians were
living in a communal apartment [occupied by different families], what would
Putin be doing in it?" One answer: "He would be watching everyone and
studying them." Another group speculated: "He would shut himself up in a
room and polish his shoes until they gleamed." And if everybody worked in a
factory? One of the Moscow focus groups had a consensus: "A typical head of
a first department [a KGB-controlled personnel department in the Soviet era]."

Yet Putin's voters like him that way—reserved and closed. Moscow pensioner
Zoya Vasilyevna said: "So what's wrong with our not liking a lot of Putin's
traits in [other] people? The president is a different matter." Rimma
Borisovna of Vladimir fully agreed: "Our people are sloppy and they drink.
Let the president be different from us." "Your Putin comes out resembling a
German," a questioner observed. "Hey, that's true!" came the joyful
reaction. "He did work in Germany, and probably picked up some habits there."

Why would voters suddenly need a "German"? The focus groups had an
explanation: as a contrast to Yeltsin. Now there was an authentic Russian
personality. The voters recognized themselves in him—somebody who drank,
caroused and fought. They said Yeltsin was unpredictable but
comprehensible. Putin is closed and incomprehensible—"a real intelligence
agent." Bizarre as it may sound, Russians take this as good news.

Kovalskaya is a reporter for Itogi, from which this article was adapted.


Soros expects new Russian govt to be authoritarian

NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - The newly elected Russian government headed
by ex-KGB agent Vladimir Putin likely will be ``authoritarian and
nationalistic,'' billionaire investor George Soros said in the current
issue of the New York Review of Books. 

``Putin will try to reestablish a strong state and he may well succeed,''
Soros said in an article entitled ``Who Lost Russia,'' written before Putin
won the Russian election on Sunday. 

``But Putin's state is unlikely to be built on the principles of an open
society; it is more likely to be based on the demoralisation, humiliation,
and frustration of the Russian people,'' Soros said. 

``Exact predictions are impossible, but it seems likely that the new
government will be authoritarian and nationalistic,'' added Soros, chairman
of Soros Fund Management and head of the Open Society Institute. a group
that has funded programmes to promote democratic principles and market
reform the former Soviet Union. 

Putin, 47, won Russia's presidential election on Sunday with an absolute
majority that makes a second round runoff unnecessary and gives him a clear
springboard for reforms. 

Putin's rise from obscurity -- he spent 16 years as a KGB security police
agent before President Boris Yeltsin last August picked him to be prime
minister and then as his preferred successor -- was aided by the popularity
of his tough stand on the war in Chechnya. 

He has not clearly spelled out his programme for reform in Russia, which is
wrestling with an economy that is in shambles, rampant crime and corruption. 

Soros, echoing a view held by other analysts, said Putin may owe his
victory to a small group of powerful businessmen known as oligarchs, in
particular Boris Berezovsky, one of Russia's richest men. 

Foreign investors have pinned their hopes of reform in Russia on Putin's
ability to reduce the oligarchs' influence. 

Berezovsky, whose role in Putin's rise to power is unclear, has written off
his chances, saying that Putin's commitment to reform was just a
vote-grabbing tactic. 

``As a normal politician, he acts pragmatically. Like all the others
(candidates), he said the oligarchs must be distanced from power,''
Berezovsky recently told Vedomosti newspaper. 

``That's normal, absolutely correct. But it is impossible to achieve. But
the words are right, for voters.'' 

Soros said that the prospect of a authoritarian Russia could have been
avoided if the ``West had been more firmly committed to the principles of
open society themselves.'' 

He said if the West had been more willing to provide money for Russia's
transition, ``Russia could have been firmly established on the road toward
a market economy and an open society.'' 


Source: Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow, in Russian 1318 gmt 27 Mar 00 

The latest presidential election was "almost total swindling", Communist 
leader Gennadiy Zyuganov has said in a radio interview. He said he would 
recognize the election results only after the votes have been counted by his 
party representatives at all constituencies. Zyuganov said there was no basis 
for cooperation with Vladimir Putin, if the latter was elected president, 
because Putin had no programme of action. The Communist leader however 
admitted that Russia needed a coalition government. The following are 
excerpts from Zyuganov's interview broadcast by Russian Ekho Moskvy radio on 
27th March. 

[Presenter] Aleksey Venediktov is at the microphone, and here is also my 
colleague Marina Starostina. Our studio guest is [Communist Party of the 
Russian Federation leader] Gennadiy Andreyevich Zyuganov... 

Gennadiy Andreyevich, are you satisfied with the election results and with 
the number of votes that you have received personally, as a candidate ? 

[Zyuganov] We have received very good support in an absolute majority of the 
regions - from 35 per cent to 45 per cent. As a matter of fact, there was an 
increment in the number of votes almost everywhere. The workforce of 
enterprises, labour teams, young people and business circles gave us 
particularly good support. The majority of those who go to work every day, 
who take decisions and who know the difficulties and existing problems now 
voted in our favour. 

As regards the nature of the election, it was again almost total swindling, 
beginning from the fact that [acting president's image-maker Gleb] Pavlovskiy 
had stirred a wave of false information in the Internet, so that [Russian TV 
channel presenter Nikolay] Svanidze began announcing the results of the 
election well before its completion, which was not just an act of flagrant 
violation of the law but, as a matter of fact, a challenge to society. 

We are now counting votes, doing this in parallel [with the Central Electoral 
Commission]. I would like to reconfirm that we will recognize the election 
results only after the votes have been counted on the basis of each protocol 
obtained from the constituencies. As of 1200 [Moscow time, 0800 gmt] we 
counted 24m votes, which is approximately one-third, or 998 territorial 
constituencies. The results are as follows: Zyuganov has 33.2 per cent and 
Putin has slightly more than 44 per cent of the votes... 

[Q] Can you, in principle, cooperate with the new president if the election 
is deemed valid? Is the Communist Party ready to implement its programme in 
cooperation with Putin? 

[A] We submitted our programme to society. It was supported. We presented a 
strong team - over 20 people - of whom each has established their own school 
of thought, gained experience and achieved specific results. 

As regards Putin, what has he presented? Who continues to lead their team? If 
they are [tycoon Boris] Berezovskiy and [tycoon Roman] Abramovich - they have 
taken possession of almost two-thirds of aluminium, and Putin has kept 
silent. If they are [chief of the Unified Energy System of Russia Anatoliy] 
Chubays and [German] Gref - they have already drawn up a programme - 
[director of the Expert Institute of the Russian Union of Industrialists and 
Entrepreneurs Yevgeniy] Yasin was also involved - a programme which only 
envisages the sale of natural monopolies and land, and the destruction of the 
nuclear and missile complex. There is no basis for cooperation. However, we 
understand it perfectly well that the situation in the country is critical 
and extremely dangerous, and the continuation of this policy line will 
inevitably lead to a total collapse by the summer. And then there will be an 
attempt to establish dictatorship in the country, which is incapable of 
solving any of the national economy problems... 

[Q] I would like to ask you again, Gennadiy Andreyevich: Do you say yes or no 
to the coalition government? 

[A] Yes, in principle. Yes, in principle. 

[Q] Gennadiy Zyuganov has made an important statement, in my opinion. He said 
that, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, a coalition 
government should now be set up in Russia. 

[A] But it should be backed by a specific programme for reviving the country, 
rather than destroying and plundering it... 


The Independent (UK)
28 March 2000

WESTERN LEADERS were quick yesterday to praise what Jacques Chirac called the 
"brilliant" election of Vladimir Putin as Russian president. Mr Putin's 
victory means that he is the unchallenged leader; at least we can agree on 
that. But the prospects for the Putin era remain murky. The word "Stalinism" 
is sometimes invoked with reference to Russia's new president and former spy 
chief. Unlike Stalin, Mr Putin has not created a culture of absolute fear; he 
has, however, done nothing to discourage official thuggery. 

The 52 per cent vote for Mr Putin on Sunday gave him an absolute victory over 
Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist candidate, who gained barely half as many 
votes. So far, so good. The liberal Grigory Yavlinsky trailed in third place 
with a sad but unsurprising 6 per cent. Liberals are not very popular in 
Russia these days; even the word demokrat is spat out with contempt. Many see 
the demokraty as responsible for the country's chaos; there is a widespread 
yearning for what Russians like to call the "strong hand". 

The Western enthusiasm for Mr Putin is difficult to understand. As befits a 
spy, his track record is almost invisible. He worked briefly for one of the 
country's best-known reformers, Anatoly Sobchak. But his successful career in 
the FSB (as the KGB is now known) suggests that liberalism is not always his 
prime concern. 

Only on one issue can we see just where Mr Putin stands. Very depressing it 
is, too. His conduct of the war in Chechnya - where civilians are as flies to 
wanton boys, killed for the Kremlin leaders' sport - has been a cynical 
disgrace. There is mounting evidence, too, that the lethal bombings that 
provided popular support for the assault on Chechnya may have been the work 
of agents provocateurs. 

Politics in Russia is often surprising. Mikhail Gorbachev, who was promoted 
to the Politburo by Leonid Brezhnev, introduced more radical change than he 
ever expected to. Boris Yeltsin, a Communist apparatchik, did much, despite 
his drunkenness and his quixotic despotism, to move Russia towards (a flawed 
version of) the market economy and the multiparty system. 

The jury is still out on Mr Putin, though the signs are not good. Tony Blair 
started praising Mr Putin the "moderniser" on the basis of empty words about 
reform. Enormous changes are needed so that Russia can move away from the 
robber capitalism that has become a distinguishing feature of the country in 
the past decade. Mr Putin has said that he wants to make changes to the 
government team. If he brings in reformers whose main aim is not 
self-enrichment, that would be a welcome change. If, however - just as likely 
- he brings in some old KGB cronies, the news will only get worse. 

There is, admittedly, a potential chink of light in the darkness. Mr Putin 
has talked of the need for "a dictatorship of law" - in other words, the 
creation of a civil society, which Russia so badly needs. Russians feel 
alienated from the laws that theoretically protect them; that must change. If 
Mr Putin sets Russia on the right road in this regard, then he will deserve 

To praise Mr Putin for a few fine words makes no sense at all, however. If Mr 
Putin's Russia becomes a place of tolerance, he will deserve respect; but 
killing civilians in order to win an election is a poor start. 


The Times (UK)
28 March 2000
Russia now has a chance of real change 

With more than half the Russian electorate backing his presidency, Vladimir 
Putin now has the popular support he needs to run Russia. In contrast to his 
quixotic, decrepit and flawed predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, Mr Putin is young 
and energetic enough to let him actually put in the hours at his Kremlin 
office that will be needed to implement whatever policies he decides to 
pursue. Under its new President, therefore, Russia at last has a great 
opportunity for change - and no excuses, this time, for failing to make a go 
of it. 

Russia has also become more governable than it was when the Soviet Union 
collapsed and Mr Yeltsin took over an unformed new democracy. In particular, 
the 47-year-old Mr Putin has a crucial political advantage: since 
parliamentary elections last December, the formerly intractable lower house 
has included a large pro-Putin faction, Unity, which could help to push 
through laws delayed for years by protracted quarrels between the 
ex-President and a series of hostile Communist-led parliaments. 

Mr Putin, whose chief electoral claim to fame so far has been pursuing a 
crackdown on Chechnya, has fought his tough-guy campaign without a formal 
manifesto. All that is known so far is that he wants to create a "strong 
state". The type of strong state that Russia needs to become is one in which 
the law reigns supreme: where a functioning economy relies for income not 
merely on high world prices for oil sales, as at present, but on reliable tax 
income drawn, fairly and transparently, from across the population; where 
there are clear and simple laws governing ownership of property and land, 
which Russia still lacks; and where the judiciary is allowed to function 
independently of the executive. The modern feudalism that, under Mr Yeltsin, 
allowed a handful of millionaires known as "oligarchs" to live above the law 
must end. 

To create a strong state along these lines, Mr Putin will need to chart a 
course between encouraging political centralisation and allowing economic 
autonomy. Politically, he will need to assert firmer control over Russia, 
still a mini-empire of conflicting and centrifugal interests; economically, 
by contrast, he must provide legal underpinning for business but then set it 
free to operate independently. 

Mr Putin's centralising tendencies are emerging. Some ideas floated during 
the campaign were admirable, others disconcertingly authoritarian and 
reminiscent of his past as a KGB operative in a Soviet state with little 
respect for human rights or press freedoms. One idea was to expand the 
President's term from four years to seven. A second was to rein in restive 
and often corrupt regional bosses. Moscow finds their wish for political and 
economic autonomy threatening; Mr Putin favours stopping their election, a 
practice brought in under Mr Yeltsin, and going back to the Soviet method of 
appointing them from the Kremlin. 

His economic programme, now being drafted, is unlikely to be made public 
until May. But he has won cautious approval from economic liberals favoured 
by Western politicians and - even though he says there will be no dramatic 
lurches into reform - any of them could be named to run his economic policy. 
Mr Putin might have little time for Western-style democracy, but he does want 
Russia to modernise; he is thus likely to keep workmanlike ties to the West 
so he can focus on home affairs. 

Mr Putin's willingness to co-operate with foreign governments and Nato should 
be encouraged by the West. But, given that the years of maverick rule are 
over and a firmer hand is at the Russian wheel, Western governments must also 
be firmer in insisting that Russia finally bring in the reforms - of tax, 
property and investment law - that it has promised for too long. 


Financial Times (UK)
28 March 2000
[for personal use only]
To Russia with more understanding
The election of Vladimir Putin gives the west a chance to rebuild its 
relationship, says John Lloyd

The election of Vladimir Putin presents a chance for the west to re- define 
its relationship with Russia. The country has a new president in place early 
in a new century; there is also a new European Commission, and there will 
soon be a new US president. Time, then, for a new kind of engagement with the 
country that matters more to Europeans than any other apart from the US. 

The first near-decade of the relationship has not been the disaster it is 
now, at times, painted. Russia retains democratic institutions developed in 
this period; has a dwindling constituency of communism, or of any other 
authoritarian system; and has a capitalist class that cannot be simply 
dispossessed - as in some re-run of the Bolshevik revolution. In these 
achievements, western aid and advice played a part, sometimes a large one. 

But Russia's democracy remains fragile: its capacity for brutality on its own 
territory is a still being demonstrated in Chechnya. Its capitalist class has 
in most cases grown fat on corrupting the old economy, without creating a new 
one. Both the political class and much of the population no longer sees the 
west as an enemy, but equally does not regard it as a friend. 

The main guiding principle of the last decade's relationship with Russia was 
to support Boris Yeltsin, Russia's former president, at all costs. This was 
not done without reason: he was the most pro-western leader Russia has ever 
had. But the policy was costly, and faded in effectiveness along with Mr 
Yeltsin's health. 

The new guiding principles must be clearer and less centred on individuals. 
Whether or not the economic policies recommended by the International 
Monetary Fund were right, they were routed through a small group of 
reformers. Those who opposed the reformers - including the two houses of the 
parliaments, conservative cabinet colleagues, the bureaucracy and the 
regional governments - were lumped together as either know-nothing communists 
or nationalists, both of whom had to be defeated. 

This meant the policy came at a price. By lending its moral and political 
support to the beleaguered reformers, the west acquiesced in a gross 
undermining of the parliament. With only a small group set on economic 
reforms, their political survival became paramount. Aid from the 
international financial institutions was often released, or retained, 
according to the presumed effect on their political positions. Much of the 
transatlantic dialogue between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin consisted of 
the former persuading the latter to keep this or that reformer in his post, 
with the real or implied threat of aid being withheld. 

This was bad for a fledgling democracy and bad for the IMF and the World 
Bank, the judgments of which were subordinated to political considerations. 
It was an error the full effect of which is only now emerging. The IMF's 
authority as an autonomous force in the global financial system was dealt a 
serious blow. 

The old elite-to-elite dialogue must now give way to a new, broadened 
relationship. The other forces on the Russian political scene now have to be 
engaged. These include political parties who are sceptical towards reforms, 
and also businesses, trade unions, intellectuals, professionals, students and 
non-governmental organisations. Early naivety about the transformation of 
Russia - the belief that mere release from an authoritarian system would 
render the construction of civil society an almost automatic process - has 
proved wrong. Instead, the west and Russia must recognise that civil society 
needs time to develop. Forms of society - both civil and not-so-civil - 
already exist within Russia, and formerly existed in the Soviet Union. These 
need to be understood better by the west, so they can be developed and 

Human rights will remain a contested issue between Russia and the west: it 
must be part of the broadened dialogue. The true nature of the terrorist and 
fundamentalist threat to Russia in the South Caucasus, and the knock-on 
effects of Russian disintegration, have to be understood. The west must 
continue to oppose the brutality of the Russian response in cases such as 
Chechnya on principle. 

It must do so because a country that has joined a range of international 
institutions, including the Council of Europe, cannot continue membership 
while maintaining such policies. Practitioners of realpolitik say, usually 
privately, that a choice has to be made between pushing a human rights agenda 
and having a close relationship with Russia. This is not yet clear, the less 
so since there are forces within Russia - a small but not negligible minority 
- that oppose their own government on just such grounds. 

Finally, Russia has to be treated as a grown-up state. It has interests, and 
concerns - not all of which are reactionary or neo-imperialist. Its 
objections to the national missile defence system that the US may deploy were 
well set out on these pages by Sergey Rogov, director of the Russian-American 
Institute (FT, March 20). Its fears that Nato will expand to the Baltic 
states soon should be treated seriously, especially after Kosovo. Europe and 
the US often differ on these issues; we should go beyond the stage of 
adopting a false unity in order to bludgeon Russia. Were the European Union 
to sometimes side publicly with Russia on large issues, it would assist its 
real integration into clubs of which it is now merely a formal member. 

This is not an anti-American point; on the contrary. The US has borne the 
burden of the relationship because Europeans could or would not. It has made 
mistakes, because others were not involved enough to make their own. But 
Russia is part of the European continent, and on all matters except strategic 
nuclear weapons, Europeans should play a greater part in its development. It 
is a new time, and we should live up to it. 

Re-engaging Russia John Lloyd is available from the Foreign Policy Centre, 25 
Haymarket, London SW1 Y4EN. £9.95 


After the Election: Putin’s Plans for Russia
27 March 2000


With slightly more than 50 percent of the vote, it appears that Russia’s
interim leader, Vladimir Putin, has captured the presidency outright.
Western leaders appear befuddled over just who this man is, what he wants
and what he is likely to do. Indeed, the curious notion that Putin is
pro-Western has taken hold in some sectors. This is whistling past the
graveyard. With the election now behind him, Russia’s president is likely
to grab hold of the economy by taking control of Russia’s oligarchs. And he
is equally likely to challenge the United States on its plans for a
national missile defense. Such a Russian challenge will threaten to split
America from its allies in Europe.


With the apparent outright election of Vladimir Putin to the presidency,
Russia is entering a new stage. In this stage, understanding this leader’s
intentions and the forces that constrain them will be critical. To date,
American leaders and the mainstream press have expressed two views. The
former KGB officer is a younger, more vigorous Boris Yeltsin, ultimately
committed to economic and political reforms or – as expressed in The New
York Times recently – Putin is a non-entity, a product of the bureaucracy,
with no idea of where he is going nor what he will do.

Both views are equivalent to whistling past the graveyard. The second
misreads Russian history. The first simply refuses to face the fact that
economic reforms have failed, not because of bad luck but because the
country’s institutions and culture could not support a free market. A free
market is possible only where there are property rights – possible only
when a legal system can enforce claims. Russia has been unable to implement
such a system. The idea that Putin will remain committed to reforms
requires resolute obtuseness. 

As president, Putin will grapple with two central problems. The first will
be taking control of the economy and directing what capital there is into
meaningful economic activity; this, in turn, will require the means of the
state, enlisted to co-opt opponents, if possible, and frighten them if
necessary. The second will be protecting Russian national security from the
overwhelming power and influence of the United States. To do this Putin
will most likely challenge Washington on the volatile issue of a National
Missile Defense (NMD). Such a defense would put Russia into a strategically
inferior position. To avoid it, Putin will attempt to seize upon the
strategic danger of the moment, and split Washington from its European allies.

The central problem facing Russia is the need to transform vast pools of
money into investment capital. Because Russia lacked a functional legal
system, both the internal privatization system and the foreign investment
process extracted money from the economy and placed it under the control of
a class of individuals with the political power to protect their claim.
Much of the money was directed out of Russia; much of the rest was used to
purchase and maintain a system of political protection. Investments in
media, real estate and luxury goods were central.

As a result, serious capital investments have been marginal at best.
Anything that requires years to turn a profit has been avoided. Investment
outside of the major cities is nearly non-existent. Political control and
influence at the village level makes investment there too expensive and
uncertain. As a result, Russia is experiencing a massive depression. Life
expectancy has declined and much of the countryside has been reduced to
barter. In the cities, Western currencies dominate. Russia is not facing
catastrophe; it is in catastrophe.

In a country where the market doesn’t operate to turn money into investment
capital, the logical alternative is now the state. In the Russian case, the
hypertrophied state apparatus has become decrepit – but it remains in
place. And it is more likely to function than the legal system. Admittedly,
state allocation of capital is a terrible idea. But the only thing worse
than that is the complete non-allocation of capital, which is what Russia
faces now.

However, getting the state to allocate capital poses a problem of
enforcement. Who will enforce the edicts of various ministries in the
government that will take shape? The traditional solution is to use the
state security apparatus. The apparatus has no experience in enforcing
legislated property rights, but it does have a culture attuned to enforcing
state bureaucratic edicts. More important, it is the only force in Russia
that could seriously threaten the oligarchs. It is therefore no accident
that Putin, former head of the FSB (successor to the KGB), has surrounded
himself with former KGB operatives. He is reaching into the one working
element of the Russian state to jump start not only the state, but society
as well.

Though he feigns confidence in public, it seems reasonable to assume that
Putin knows perfectly well that time is not on his side. He also
understands that the oligarchs have tremendous influence within the state
and the security apparatus. Putin must convince them that it is in their
interest to turn control of the economy back to the apparatchiks and
policemen. He has two means of doing this. First, he can convert the
oligarchs from businessmen into members of the apparatus. Most came from
the apparatus, after all. And within it they can enjoy the power and
privileges of the state elite, while keeping their cash buried in foreign
banks. Russian history is replete with examples of the elite changing sides.

Putin can also try to co-opt them faster than they can subvert his program,
but this will be difficult to do. So, he likely has a second plan: frighten
them into submission. Class hatred runs deep in Russia. The one thing that
can frighten the oligarchs is a massive outpouring of anger from the
masses, now apathetic.

The traditional communist calls tend not to move people these days. But
there is one hot button that can still mobilize Russians: nationalism.
Putin has done everything possible to revive Russian nationalism and create
an image of himself as the owner of and spokesman for the Russian national
interest. Chechnya was critical, a case study in how he would halt the
disintegration of the Russian Federation. Much of his popularity depends on
nationalism. Throughout Russian history, political leaders finessed
economic disaster by feeding the populace Russian national pride. Putin is
gifted at the game.

But he must now do more and build on the Chechen experience – and this is
where Putin will likely face his second problem, putting Russia back on
equal footing with the West. Putin must now create a sense in Russia that
he is dedicated to returning the country to its international greatness.
Putin needs to confront the West, and particularly the United States. 

He has already quietly laid the groundwork. For example, he has stated that
he would be willing to join NATO as an equal; some in the West saw this as
a gesture of conciliation when it was actually a warning. Any attempt to
extend NATO without including Russia, with a veto power equal to that of
the United States, would be resisted. It is in fact fascinating to observe
the degree to which Putin has made the West think that he is being
conciliatory. Many of his initial contacts with Western visitors and
journalists have given a variety of impressions. This may be a reflection
of the fact that in Putin’s experience he has little first-hand
understanding of the West.

The chief confrontation with the United States will clearly be over
American plans for a National Missile Defense (NMD), an anti-missile
defense that would in theory protect most of the United States from a
limited ballistic missile attack. The Clinton administration plans to make
a decision on deployment this summer, following a series of tests. The
American argument for this system is that it is not aimed at Russia but
rather at aspiring missile powers such as North Korea. Since the Cold War
is over, the argument goes, and the U.S.-Russian balance of terror is
defunct, Russia should have no objection to abrogating the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty in order to defend against “rogue nations.” 

The Russians have resisted – at times quite loudly. After all, an American
missile defense upsets the strategic equation with Russia. Russian
strategic forces are the backbone of defense for the nation. And Russia
could not possibly afford to build its own national missile defense in a
quest for relative parity. But what the Russians have really been saying is
that an American dismissal of Russian nuclear interests is another – the
final – insult. From Russia’s point of view, it is still a great nuclear

As a result, it seems that Russia under Putin is prepared to make the
nuclear balance a meaningful question again. This is a critical issue, one
Putin can use to whip up the nationalism already at his disposal. It is
also a strategically effective ploy. Putin came of age in Germany during
the 1970s and early 1980s, when the deployment of American Pershing II
missiles came to head.

Russia’s argument at the time was for a nuclear freeze – and it was
designed to split the Western allies. Indeed, it did, sparking a grassroots
movement in Europe that was nearly impossible for the Reagan administration
to overcome. The target of the Russian campaign was West Germany. A crisis
over ballistic missile defenses now would be a replay of the Pershing II
crisis. This time ground zero will be a unified Germany.

The last time, the United States got its way. But this time there are quite
possibly different outcomes at hand. Europe has nothing to gain from a
National Missile Defense that doesn’t protect the European continent and is
not desired by Europeans. The Germans do not want to see a replay of the
Cold War, in whole or in part. As important, Germany is heavily exposed
financially in Russia. Berlin would rather work with the Russians in
repairing their economy – even by authoritarian means – rather than
confront them. For their part, the Russian leadership will want very badly
to split the United States from its European allies, to prevent future
episodes of unbridled American power, like last year’s war for Kosovo.

Putin will force a confrontation with the United States for reasons other
than geopolitical ones, as well. He needs to create both a sense of
national purpose and a sense of national crisis if he is to cut a deal with
the oligarchs or – if necessary – liquidate them. The oligarchs flourish to
the extent that there is a sense of national helplessness and apathy. To
the extent that Putin can create a sense of national empowerment,
mobilization and, above all, a sense that Russia now has a leader willing
to act, Putin can confront his old friends, the oligarchs.

To avoid going the way of Yeltsin, Russia’s leader faces a fairly seamless
web of choices. He has to get the country’s economy going and to do that he
must get control of the oligarchs. To get control of the oligarchs, he must
both entice them and frighten them. To frighten them, he must create a
sense of national embattlement that strengthens Putin and puts them at
risk. To create that sense of embattlement, Putin needs an international
crisis. If missile defenses won’t do, he will find something else. For this
Putin needs a foreign enemy and the United States is the obvious choice.

Putin is, indeed, not driven by ideology. Like most Russian leaders, he
believes in power and order more than anything else. If one looks at the
current situation dispassionately and non-ideologically, as Putin is
certainly doing, there is a road map to follow. Part of the map runs
through tense times with the West. The complacency about Vladimir Putin,
therefore, is difficult to fathom. There is no mystery. He is one of the
most understandable leaders Russia has had since Yuri Andropov.


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