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Johnson's Russia List
29 March 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russia must reform for IMF funds-Koehler.
2. Chicago Tribune: Martha Merritt, GETTING OUT THE VOTE, RUSSIAN-STYLE. IKEA VS.
PUTIN: WHICH EXCITES THE SOVIETS?
3. AFP: Russia's "Mr Debt" poised for premiership.(Mikhail
4. Moscow Tribune: John Helmer, PUTIN IN ASIA -- BUSINESSLIKE BUT WARY.
5. Itar-Tass: Russian Wednesday Press on Situation after Presidential Polls.
6. Itar-Tass: Most of Chechen Voters Support Putin for President.
7. Reuters: Russia's top court to hear human rights test case.(Nikitin)
8. Christian Science Monitor: Judith Matloff, Russia revisits history in its school textbooks.
9. The Guardian (UK): Francis Wheen, Why Putin is the perfect Bond baddie.
10. Financial Times (UK): Charles Clover, Neighbourly doubts over
11. RFE/RL: Andrew Tully, Putin Has Opportunity To Fight Corruption.
12. The Russia Journal editorial: Good luck, Mr. Putin.
13. Itar-Tass; Russia Registered 16,000 Nuclear Safety Violations
14. Washington Times: Frank Gaffney, Hat-trick leadership?
Vladmir Putin's election may be one of the first warning signs
forshadowing the need to rebuild our military.]
INTERVIEW-Russia must reform for IMF funds-Koehler
LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - Russia's new President Vladimir Putin must
implement reforms before the International Monetary Fund will release new
funds, the IMF's Managing Director designate Horst Koehler said on Tuesday.
"I think the crucial issue is to build up confidence," Koehler told Reuters
in an interview.
"Therefore I am asking for prior action. Prior action does not have to be a
full programme to be implemented overnight," he said, adding he believed the
world and the IMF should remain engaged in Russia.
A $4.5 billion IMF loan programme to Russia has been suspended since last
year due to allegations of misuse of funds and worries that Russia is not
implementing structural reforms which will allow the money to be used
Koehler said that Putin, who won power in Russia's presidential election on
Sunday, was a man who could implement reforms, but that it could be a long
"I am on balance optimistic," Koehler said, noting that at a meeting in
December, the then Prime Minister Putin had told him that Russia needed to be
integrated with the world economy and needed foreign direct investment to
Koehler said that no one should be "scapegoated" for Russia's failure to
develop as a functioning market economy and that the country had to some
extent functioned as a laboratory for experiments by the Group of Seven
leading economies and the IMF.
Putin will at least offer a stability with which the rest of the world can
deal, Koehler said.
"We should accept Putin's idea to build up a strong state as a Russian
expression of the need for law and order," Koehler said.
"The question is how far Putin goes with his idea of a strong state," he
28 March 2000
[for personal use only]
GETTING OUT THE VOTE, RUSSIAN-STYLE
IKEA VS. PUTIN: WHICH EXCITES THE SOVIETS?
By Martha Merritt. (Martha.L.Merritt.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Martha Merritt is a professor of government and a
specialist in Russian politics at the University of Notre Dame.
MOSCOW -- Elections for the second democratically elected president in
Russian history provoked less excitement here than the grand opening of the
country's first IKEA store last week. This is in some ways a good thing:
Modern elections and successful commerce should have less in common in Russia
than President Vladimir Putin's cynical but ultimately successful campaign
First, a few important commonalities between business and politics:
Acting President Putin had to negotiate for what he wanted rather than assume
Soviet-era compliance. In the days before Sunday's elections, when polls
indicated he might not receive the votes to win in the first round, Putin was
forced to launch a charm offensive that included appearances with popular
Moscow Mayor (and his potential rival) Yury Luzhkov. Putin also had to court
other regional leaders in order to build a winning coalition.
Second, Putin's team directly reached out to the public in order to encourage
the high turnout necessary for his first-round victory. Voters were startled
Sunday by loud announcements coming from powerful speakers mounted on vans
encouraging them to do their duty and participate. Turnout was indeed
impressive, ranging from more than 60 percent in Moscow to almost 70 percent
for the country.
Where less similarity between political and commercial marketing would be
welcome in Russia came during the course of the campaign. Putin's electoral
tactics were unimpressive--he provided no platform and refused to engage his
The selling of Putin focused on physical images--the acting president posing
as a jet pilot or casually tossing aside opponents as a crack judo
artist--rather than political content. This is a better way to sell furniture
than to acquaint a democratic public with their new president.
It is more than time for Russia's government to build ties with voters that
overcome centuries of divide between state and society. Successful
post-Soviet business in Russia has focused on individuals and households
rather than an abstract--and therefore more manipulable--Russian "people."
Putin's eight-month handling of the Russo-Chechen war has instead sought to
forge a powerful emotional bond among Russians under siege, facilitating an
"us versus them" mentality. This in turn excuses presidential responsibility
for evasive reports on military losses and a virtual media blockout in
Putin also has been less than forthcoming about his government's composition
and political orientation. This has allowed him to simultaneously appear as a
pragmatic reformer in the West and a national conservative in Russia.
Putin has acted as the country's prime minister as well as president and
Monday announced that his choice for prime minister would remain a secret
until next month. While the president is no doubt enjoying a reprieve from
the often savagely critical world of Russian politics, he soon must show his
face and make the hard choices that will consolidate Russian democracy.
Coalition-building is part of both effective governance and effective
marketing. IKEA spent 12 years negotiating the launch of its products in
Moscow. Russia's politicians need to show similar fortitude and maintain
standards that will advance rather than undermine democracy. Otherwise voters
are likely to feel cheated and angry enough to reject the political
"products" they receive.
Russia's "Mr Debt" poised for premiership
MOSCOW, March 28 (AFP) -
Built like a boxer but equipped with a technocrat's brain and a flair for
number-crunching, Mikhail Kasyanov has emerged as the favourite to become
Vladimir Putin's first prime minister.
An imposing man with a voice deeper than a Siberian coalmine, the finance
minister has effectively been doing the job ever since Boris Yeltsin's snap
New Year's Eve resignation, which saw Putin leave the government White House
for the Kremlin.
And at 42, the square-jawed Kasyanov would be Russia's second-youngest prime
minister, a post which means he would receive the codes to the country's
massive nuclear arsenal should Putin die in office or resign.
A Kremlin source told the Interfax news agency Tuesday that Kasyanov was "99
percent" certain to be named as Putin's first choice for the job.
Kasyanov could win cross-party support in the State Duma lower house of
parliament, which must approve the president's nomination.
With no overt party political ties, Kasyanov reputedly enjoys close contacts
with shadowy but still ascendant oligarchs such as Boris Berezovsky and Roman
Abramovich who retain influence in the Kremlin.
In the rough and tumble of Russian politics such links could prove to be an
asset for Putin, a political nobody eight months ago when he was pulled from
the domestic intelligence agency to become prime minister.
However, those ties sit badly with Putin's avowed aim to rid the corridors of
power of the sinister influence of Russia's business barons.
Kasyanov consolidated his claim on the premiership in February when he pulled
off a landmark deal under which foreign commercial creditors wrote off more
than 10 billion dollars' worth of Soviet-era debt.
"He's an expert on Russian debt," a Western financier here noted. "He is
affable and a good communicator. He speaks good English and you feel quickly
that he's smart and ready to exploit the slightest weakness to take
But his seven years in the engine room of the Russian finance ministry have
left him with a narrow experience of government, and even the London Club
deal could be used against him, say some experts.
"Kasyanov got a big boost when he was promoted," said Juliet Sampson,
economist at Bank of America. "It was an endorsement of efforts made up to
that point. This will make him look good as he pulled off a deal.
"But it depends how closely you look. He did give in on some key points and
it may be that his detractors could argue later that he didn't get the best
deal for Russia," a 100 percent writedown, she said.
Born in a Moscow suburb, Kasyanov graduated from the Moscow Institute of
Civil Engineering and completed post-graduate studies at the Soviet-era
planning body Gosplan, where he worked for nine years.
In 1990 he entered the economics ministry where he spent three years, notably
covering foreign relations. In 1993 he switched to the finance ministry where
he latterly established himself as Russia's "Mr Debt."
Within weeks of his promotion to first deputy prime minister, which made him
de facto cabinet chief, the English-speaking Muscovite was forced to show his
mettle as an effective administrator.
With presidential elections fast approaching he ensured cash reached
pensioners, cleared civil servants' back wages and made foreign debt payments
while funding the deepening war in Chechnya.
And all the time keeping inflation under control.
"He has managed the government reasonably well during the first quarter of
this year but is still a rather narrow specialist whose only expertise is in
external debt," said Alexei Zabotkin, economist with United Financial Group.
"I don't think he is the real big picture guy to run the economy," he said.
March 28, 2000
PUTIN IN ASIA -- BUSINESSLIKE BUT WARY
President Vladimir Putin has chosen Japan as the first foreign state he will
visit after his election victory.
For a German-speaking Russian, whose entire career has been oriented towards
Central Europe, and for whom Asia is "terra incognita", the gesture could be
interpreted as a symbol of a new Russian approach to Asia.
Advisors to the president acknowledge that, after a decade of President Boris
Yeltsin's abrupt and ill-considered declarations in Tokyo, Beijing, and Delhi,
the only surprise his successor will produce is his predictability.
Putin himself warned last week not to confuse symbols with the reality
of his priorities. After flying a jet-bomber in Russia's troubled Caucasian
region, a few days ahead of Sunday's poll, Putin said "the last thing I think
of is symbols. I do what I think makes most sense. That means I will be
acting in a predictable way."
For this reason, it would be folly to interpret Putin's active interest in
Japanese martial arts as a signal of a change of Russian policy towards
On the contrary, security officials and Kremlin advisors claim, the new
national security doctrine drafted by Putin and Sergei Ivanov, his appointee
as head of the Kremlin Security Council, is less likely to make territorial
concessions to Tokyo than Yeltsin was.
Ivanov, a former intelligence officer who is not related to the current
Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, is the most influential of Putin's strategic
advisors. He is a strong candidate to replace his namesake at the Foreign
Putin has already despatched to Tokyo this year his First Deputy Prime
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, his Minister of Economy, Andrei Shapovalyants, and
his emissary to the G-7, Alexander Livshits. All three may be replaced when
Putin announces his new government after his inauguration on May 5.
The focus of the talks to date has been increased Japanese expert advice on
economic policy for Putin's new government. The Japanese and Russians have
also agreed to speed the ratification of their investment protection treaty
so that Japanese credits can flow to truck, oil refinery, and other Russian
projects. If Putin can, he also wants to encourage Japanese investment into
the Russian Far Eastern regions bordering China.
Putin is trying to convince the Japanese he will be businesslike in a
way Yeltsin was not. But he will not offer to loosen the strategic
commitment the Russian General Staff have to retaining control of the
southern Kurile islands, which Japan claims as its "northern territory".
Security advisors to Putin have told The Moscow Tribune they view East
Asia with considerable concern, and want to limit the range of potential
threats which they believe Russia faces in the region. China's nuclear arms
potential, for example, is troublesome, the advisors noted, because they
believe "China is the only nuclear power where the doctrine of deterrence and
mutually assured destruction does not operate."
That means, the advisors believe, that Russia is more vulnerable to nuclear
attack from China than any other source. This is the reason why Russian
officials hope they can cement solid economic and strategic relationships
the government in Beijing; back Beijing in any conflict that threatens to
weaken the central government's control of the country; and support Beijing
in its confrontation with the United States on regional and strategic
At the same time, Russian security officials do not deny the potential for a
Chinese threat to Russia is mitigated for as long as China's problems last
with Taiwan and the US.
Putin's other priority in Asia is Russia's alliance with India. The president
has begun the process of appointing his own men to run Russia's arms export
agency, Rosvooruzheniye, which is a key element of the relationship with both
China and India. Among Putin's personal staff, there are also intelligence
officers who worked on Afghanistan and Central Asia.
These men have long memories of the anti-Soviet role played by Pakistan's
military governments. They do not hide their view that the current Pakistan
regime is aiding the Chechen secessionists.
Russian Wednesday Press on Situation after Presidential Polls. .
MOSCOW, March 29 (Itar-Tass) - Russian newspapers commented Wednesday on
the situation in the country in the
wake of the presidential election, and political and economic problems
challenging the leadership.
According to an author writing for the ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA, "a serious
change has occurred in the whole system of power in the country, which was
long due. The country needs a powerful institution of the centralized
system of power, and Vladimir Putin personifies this tendency."
The TRUD publishes the article titled "Economy. Time to Raise from One's
Knees." It tells about what Putin inherited: the crisis-struck production
and high tensions in the social sphere. "The election results show that
dissatisfaction with 'beggarly existence' -- which dozens of million
citizens led for years -- has reached dangerous proportions in our
society," the newspaper writes. "A better standard of living and positive
changes in the social sphere are the priorities for the government," the
newspaper's political observer says.
Newspaper continue to pay much attention to the situation in Chechnya and
the North Caucasus. "Daghestan will receive aid, but only under control,"
writes the ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA. It reports that Daghestan has already
received 1.3 billion roubles from federal coffers for the restoration of
villages which were attacked by Chechen gangsters last summer. Of those, 70
million roubles were allocated to rebuild the fully destroyed buildings,
and rbls 130 million -- for restoration and rescue works. The remaining
money was intended for compensations and other objectives. The newspaper
brings a detailed report on how local authorities compiled lists of victims
where each was to have had 20,000 roubles on personal account to rebuild
the damaged home. However, many people who were left without shelter have
been cheated. Their money went to numerous relatives of officials who were
distributing the money. Daghestani prosecutors instituted criminal
proceedings against the exposed facts of embezzlement. According to deputy
prime minister Viktor Khristenko, 200 million roubles of dummy accounts
have been frozen. Due to the tough position by federal authorities the
situation has been rectified, but problems still remain.
The KOMMERSANT reports on the arrest in Chechnya of a group of slave
traders from Urus-Martan. It turned out, the newspaper writes, that they
had had direct assistance from Maskhadov's Ministry of Sharia Security.
The PARLIAMENTARY NEWSPAPER publishes an article about a trip to Chechnya
and other Russian regions by a group of lawmakers. Soldiers receive some
800 roubles per day, officers -- 950 roubles or more. The mechanism of
paying "combat" money and benefits to the wounded needs improvement, the
The NOVYE IZVESTIA reports about mounting tensions in Chechnya's
Nozhai-Yurt district where army intelligence had detected a large
concentration of militants. After the aviation and artillery strikes at the
gangs, paratroopers took up positions south of Nozhai-Yurt and are blocking
the militants' attempts to break through into Daghestan.
The IZVESTIA and KOMMERSANT discuss the problem of the expected OPEC's
decision to increase oil production quotas. According to the authors of the
published materials, higher quotas will not undermine the Russian budget
and preserve the favorable situation for Russia on the energy carriers
market. But the NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA believes that lower oil prices may
force Russia to increase money supply.
The ROSSIISKAYA GAZETA publishes an article on the Russian- Byelorussian
Union treaty, which will mark its fourth anniversary on April 2. The treaty
will make other leaders of former Soviet republics think because it is
obvious that Russia and Belarus, as the countries with developed industry
will outrun them. "The leaders of the two states understood in time the
unprofitability of orientation toward international financial structures
and the policy of separating their national economies," the author of the
The KOMSOMOLSKAYA PRAVDA publishes an interview with chairman of the State
Customs Committee Mikhail Vanin. He said the customs service gives the
country 45 million dollars a day, and that it accounts for 36 percent of
The KRASNAYA ZVEZDA publishes an article about the Gagarin Air Force
Academy which marks its 60th anniversary on Wednesday. It has 331
specialists holding university degrees, including 26 doctors of science
which shows its high scientific potential. The newspaper tells about
development plans of one of Russia's best military colleges.
Most of Chechen Voters Support Putin for President. .
GUDERMES, Chechnya, March 28 (Itar-Tass) - Vladimir Putin gained 50.6
percent of votes in Chechnya, according to the preliminary information of
the republican electoral commission. Communist Party leader Gennady
Zyuganov ranks second with 22.7 percent of votes, commission chairman
Abdul-Kerim Arsakhanov told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
The two are followed by Grigory Yavlinsky with 9.2 percent of votes, Umar
Dzhabrailov with 5.8 percent of votes and Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 2.6
percent of votes.
The turnout was 79.4 percent as compared to 74 percent in the presidential
election of 1996, Arsakhanov said.
All areas of Chechnya but the Itum-Kale and Shatoi districts had the
Russian presidential election. A reason is the hostilities on the election
day in those districts.
Russia's top court to hear human rights test case
By Adam Tanner
MOSCOW, March 28 (Reuters) - Russia's Supreme Court reviews the acquittal
of an anti-nuclear activist on Wednesday in a case placed in the spotlight
by support from President-elect Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent, for a
``dictatorship of the law.''
``The court review tomorrow will be a small indicator of what's coming in
this country,'' the activist, former navy captain Alexander Nikitin, told a
The FSB, a successor to the KGB security police, arrested Nikitin on
treason charges in 1996 for making public information about radioactive
pollution in the Arctic Sea through the Norwegian environmental group
He was held in custody for 10 months and then released to face trial. A
city court in St Petersburg dismissed the charges last December, but the
state prosecutor appealed to the Supreme Court for a review, which will be
held on Wednesday.
Putin, elected Russian president on Sunday, headed the FSB for part of the
time it was pressing its case against Nikitin.
Some human rights activists fear Putin's background in the secret services
could mean a vow he made this year to establish a ``dictatorship of the
law,'' widely taken to mean enforcing the law, might emphasise dictatorship
rather than the law.
But Nikitin said he hoped his woes were about to end.
``Yes, Putin was the head of the FSB but he did not get directly involved
in the case and he did not begin it, and I hope he will end it,'' said
Nikitin, a former navy captain.
``I'm totally calm before tomorrow's review but would very much like this
to be over because we have a lot of environmental work to do.''
LINGERING FEAR OF THE SECRET SERVICE
The judge who overturned the charges against Nikitin in December ruled that
the accusations against him were a violation of the Russian constitution as
they were based on secret Defence Ministry orders which Nikitin could not
have known about.
Although Nikitin was outwardly calm about Wednesday's review, his attorney
Yuri Shmidt said the FSB's continuing interest in the case was a cause of
``These forces are not calming down. We sense they are working behind the
scenes,'' he said.
Yevgeny Chernov, a former Soviet navy vice admiral and nuclear submarine
commander who is lobbying on Nikitin's behalf, said he was less concerned.
``I'm counting on the strength of Putin's character,'' he said.
Nikitin, whose research documented the dumping of nuclear waste from
1965-89 and Soviet nuclear submarine accidents, said he would seek
government compensation for his woes. He also said he would continue
fighting for environmental causes.
Christian Science Monitor
March 28, 2000
Russia revisits history in its school textbooks
By Judith Matloff, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
For as long as anyone can remember, Russian school books have depicted the
Tatars as bloodthirsty barbarians on horseback who crushed Russia under a
cruel 250-year yoke. The nomadic followers of Ghengis Khan and his successors
were butchers, pillagers, and little else.
But soon, that version of history may be, well, history. Some serious
rewriting is going on.
While the Russian federal government is engaged in another ruthless war in
breakaway Chechnya - and hints that it may wrest some powers back from
regional governors - it is displaying a surprising political correctness on
the education front.
New books on order
In recent months, academic assemblies have been organized and new textbooks
commissioned to alter the way Russia's 150 ethnic minorities are portrayed.
The impetus is coming from some of Russia's 20 ethnic republics and 10
semi-autonomous districts, who since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union
have pushed to change schools' Slavic centrism.
Historical reforms up to now have been restricted mainly to the local level.
Regional centers would issue their own textbooks to supplement the
Moscow-slanted national curriculum. But this seems to be changing.
"Our people have been represented as ugly enemies. This destroys us
psychologically," says Nazif Mirikhanov, the representative in Moscow of the
semi-autonomous Tatarstan Republic, located in central Russia between the
Volga River and the Ural Mountains. "This is a mistake that must be
The corrections are a long time coming, says Vladimir Batsyn, an official
handling history books at the Russian Education Ministry in Moscow.
"We really need to reflect the polyethnic nature of the country. A lot of
students don't even know there are Buddhist or Muslim nationalities in our
own history," he says. "The Tatars were especially maligned. We Russians are
backward by not depicting the situation properly. Their state was the biggest
and most developed in the land for a long time."
To press his point, Mr. Batsyn turns to the bookshelf in his office. He opens
a textbook, "The History of 19th Century Russia," to Chapter 15, which is
devoted to the peoples of Russia. "Look, a mere 10 pages. Out of a total 420.
That's all," he sniffs.
Batsyn picks up another tome, which covers Russian history between the 17th
and 19th centuries. He flips through the 400 pages with a derisive snort.
"Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Poland - that's not even Russia. Nothing.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the rethink will be the Tatars, who at 5
million comprise Russia's second-largest ethnic group after the Slavs. Their
semi-autonomous republic is the most vocally independent-minded after
Muslim Tatars argue that their warrior ancestors - peoples of Turkic origin
who invaded parts of Asia and Europe under such leaders as Genghis Khan -
considered by some historians as the greatest general of his time - set the
groundwork for the modern Russian state after their first invasion of 1223.
Theirs was not just a reign of terror, they say.
Short shrift is given to their religious tolerance of Christianity and their
complex systems of taxation, military organization, and trade. The Tatar
Empire only began to break apart in the late-15th century, falling under
Russian and Ottoman Turkish rule. It rankles many Tatars that Russian history
books celebrate as a triumph the 1552 occupation of their capital, Kazan, by
Russian Czar Ivan the Terrible.
Scholars, officials rewrite
A middle ground should be found with new textbooks that are being readied
this year by a panel of regional scholars and Education Ministry officials.
The books, for Russia's equivalent of junior high school, will remove
material offensive to Tatars from the 9th through 17th centuries.
"We are trying to teach our kids that there wasn't just war. At some points,
Tatars and Russians lived together peacefully and created the basis for the
modern Russian state," Mr. Mirikhanov says.
There should also be happier readers among the descendants of the Mongols,
who united with the Tatars under the Khans. In Russia, most of these ethnic
peoples are scattered in the areas of Buryatia, Kalmykia, Altai,
Bashkortostan, Mordovia, Chuvashia, Udmurtia, and Mari El.
The Buryatia regional government is organizing a conference in June to seek
ways to overcome negative stereotypes of Mongols that arose over the years in
history books. The meeting is being organized along with a local branch of
the Russian Academy of Sciences - the Institute of Mongolia, Tibet, and
Participants are expected to recommend that the Education Ministry include in
national reading lists a historical-cultural atlas of Buryatia that is being
written jointly by the institute and regional authorities.
"We must abandon black-and-white paints and achieve a multi-colored picture
of the world," says conference organizer Boris Bazarov, who is director of
the institute. "It's necessary to provide all of us with a feeling of comfort
in this country and to recognize our mutual past."
The Guardian (UK)
29 March 2000
[for personal use only]
Villain of the peace
Francis Wheen on: Why Putin is the perfect Bond baddie
"I have never wanted to be a James Bond," Vladimir Putin told Sir David Frost
earlier this month. Indeed not; but what about a Bond villain? Putin looks
alarmingly like Renard, the ice-cold killer played by Robert Carlyle in the
latest 007 film, The World Is Not Enough. And the resemblance isn't merely
Renard bombs the hell out of central Asia; Putin bombs the hell out of
Chechnya. Renard has a bullet lodged in his brain which prevents him from
feeling fear or any other emotion. Putin confessed in a recent interview that
he is "much too calm" under pressure: "In one character assessment, they
wrote the following as a negative character trait: 'He has a lowered sense of
danger.' . . ."
Some critics of The World Is Not Enough complained that Carlyle's character
lacked the flesh-creeping menace of earlier Bond baddies such as Dr No and
Blofeld. In this respect, at least, he differs from the scary and sinister
Putin. But the new president doesn't waste time devising what Mike Myers's Dr
Evil calls "easily escapable and overly elaborate deaths" for his enemies:
they are dispatched briskly and efficiently, without recourse to piranha
tanks. Russian reporters incurring his displeasure have been sent to
psychiatric hospitals or beaten up in "torture camps". His only serious
political rivals, Yevgeny Primakov and Yuri Luzhkov, both had their
reputations assassinated last year in a series of television programmes on
ORT, a channel controlled by the tycoon Boris Berezovsky.
The "journalist" responsible for these hatchet jobs, Sergei Dorenko, recently
invited David Remnick of the New Yorker into an editing room at ORT, where
two colleagues were preparing yet another assault on Luzhkov. "This is where
we manipulate the mass consciousness!" he announced gleefully. Remnick asked
if he would ever even mildly criticise Berezovsky on air. "Only if I resign
first and do it on another channel," Dorenko replied. "By the way, is there a
lot of criticising Ted Turner on CNN? And what attacks are there against
Rupert Murdoch on Fox?"
A fair point. Remember the noisy campaign by the Murdoch newspapers on behalf
of their boss's takeover bid for Manchester United? Or William Rees-Mogg's
grovellingly sycophantic interview with President Jiang Zemin in the Times?
Or the ditching of Chris Patten's book, East and West, by HarperCollins? When
it comes to manipulating "the mass consciousness", or tailoring journalism to
suit the proprietor's political interests, our own media moguls are
indistinguishable from the "oligarchs" of post-communist Russia.
As it happens, Berezovsky was one of the 80 guests at Murdoch's wedding in
New York last summer. His LogoVaz group and Murdoch's News Corp jointly run a
Russian radio station, Nashe Radio, and are setting up an "advertising
brokerage" to sell commercials on ORT.
Berezovsky has clearly learned a thing or two from Murdoch about how to gain
influence in high places. Having trashed Messrs Primakov and Luzhkov, he then
set about "humanising" his favoured candidate. Three reporters from
Berezovsky's newspaper, Kommersant, were commissioned to produce an instant
book, illustrated with snaps from the family album, portraying Putin as a
regular guy who loves his wife, his daughters and his pet poodle, Tosca.
Lo and behold, two weeks ago this toe-curling hagiography was serialised at
enormous length in the Times, which described it as "a fascinating initial
sketch of a man who is likely to make a major mark on east-west relations".
Despite Berezovsky's heroic propaganda efforts, there are rumours in Moscow
that President Putin intends to challenge the power of the oligarchs, and may
even withdraw ORT's broadcasting licence to prove that he isn't beholden to
his main cheerleader.
If Boris meets the same fate as Robbie Coltrane's Valentin Zukovsky in The
World Is Not Enough, will Rupert remain loyal to his chum? On past form, he's
more likely to cut out the middle-man and start toadying directly to Putin,
in the hope of becoming a Russian oligarch in his own right.
Which brings us back to James Bond. In his last-but-one adventure, Tomorrow
Never Dies, 007 teamed up with the Chinese secret service to save
civilisation from one Elliot Carver, a power-crazed, globe-conquering media
mogul - who, as every reviewer pointed out, was obviously inspired by
Murdoch. In the real world, alas, we don't expect much assistance from China
in thwarting Rupert's ambitions. Can someone give me Pierce Brosnan's phone
number, before it's too late?
Financial Times (UK)
29 November 2000
[for personal use only]
Neighbourly doubts over Putin
By Charles Clover in Kiev and agencies
The confirmation of Vladimir Putin as Russia's president - a man who has
speeded a union treaty with neighbouring Belarus and fought a bloody war in
Chechnya - has been greeted cautiously by some of Russia's neighbours which
were once part of the Soviet Union.
Official reaction from these countries to Mr Putin's election has been
overwhelmingly positive, but privately regional leaders are concerned and say
they don't know what to expect from the former secret police chief.
That Mr Putin has endorsed a political party whose campaign literature
pledges to use ethnic Russian minorities as a "lever of control" over
neighbouring states, has not increased any feelings of security in
Leonid Kuchma, president of Ukraine, said he expected Mr Putin to help
"further consolidation and the development of a strategic partnership"
between the two states. The oil-rich Caspian state of Azerbaijan wished Mr
Putin success in building a "flourishing, strong and democratic Russia which
is also in Azerbaijan's interests".
Privately it is a different story. A high ranking diplomat from a former
Soviet republic on the Baltic coast said Russian policy towards his country
had undergone a sea-change since Mr Putin came to power.
Russian policymakers confirm privately that their policy towards the former
Soviet republics has moved "towards pragmatism", in the words of one Russian
Mykola Tomenko, a Ukrainian political scientist, said he thought "the tough,
economic direction of Russia's demands would end up with political pressure
on Ukraine. The peaceful-looking Russian doctrine of economic pragmatism
could lead to a worsening of relations with our country".
In addition to economic "pragmatism", the former Soviet republics are worried
about ethnic Russian minorities in their countries.
On Tuesday Russia accused Estonia of discriminating against its minority
ethnic Russians. A foreign ministry statement quoted a report by a UN
committee as saying Estonia unfairly provided certain social benefits only
for Estonian citizens. Ethnic Russians make up about a third of the Baltic
state's 1.5m population.
Petru Lucinschi, president of tiny Moldova on the south-western edge of the
CIS, said he hoped Mr Putin, mastermind of Russia's military assault against
breakaway Chechnya, would avoid double standards and would not back
secessionists in his country's pro-Russian breakaway Dnestr region.
In Luhansk, a predominantly ethnic Russian province in Ukraine, pro-Russian
political groups have been demanding a referendum on making Russian a
mandatory language and on joining Ukraine to the Russian-Belarus Union. In
Crimea, another ethnically Russian region of Ukraine, such a referendum has
already been discussed.
Russia: Putin Has Opportunity To Fight Corruption
By Andrew F. Tully
Foreign policy analysts say Vladimir Putin, newly elected president of Russia
in his own right, now must prove himself by fighting the corruption that is
gripping his country. These experts say his background in the KGB is not
necessarily a liability for Putin, and in fact may help him deal with the
"oligarchs" who control much of Russia's wealth. RFE/RL's Andrew F. Tully
Washington, 28 March 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Several foreign policy analysts say
Russia's president-elect, Vladimir Putin, faces an important opportunity to
bring reform to his country's beleaguered economy.
They note that Putin recently pledged that Russia would feel much less of the
influence of "oligarchs" -- the few individuals who control a large portion
of the nation's wealth. These men are often accused of putting their own
well-being ahead of their nation's economic health.
The panel members -- speaking to reporters on Monday at the Nixon Center, a
Washington think-tank -- agree that Putin probably will try to limit the
oligarchs' influence on government, but they doubt that he would be able to
eliminate their influence on the economy entirely.
One analyst was Yuli Vorontsov, a former Russian ambassador to the U.S., who
joined the symposium by telephone from New York and spoke in English.
Vorontsov stressed that there are very few oligarchs in Russia -- perhaps no
more than two dozen. But he said much of their great wealth is invested in
banks and industries in the West. He estimated that between $150 billion and
$300 billion in Russian wealth is now in Western banks.
However, Vorontsov said Putin actually does not need to undertake a harsh
crackdown on them, but merely persuade them not to interfere with the
government and share their wealth with Russia.
"I feel that President Putin is going to invite the oligarchs -- and many
others who have the money -- to invest not in the Western economies but to
invest in the Russian economy."
The analysts also expressed little concern about Putin's career with the KGB.
In fact, Susan Eisenhower, a distinguished visiting fellow at the Nixon
Center, said she expects the president-elect to summon former KGB colleagues
to Moscow to help him cope with corruption.
"Let's face it, if Mr. Putin is going to take on the oligarchs, he could not
do so without one of the major pillars of power within the Russian structure
left over from Soviet days."
Paul Saunders, the director of the Nixon Center, said Putin understands the
nature of Russia's corruption problem, and he agreed that Putin's KGB
background could be an asset in fighting it. But he said he doubts Putin will
conduct a widespread crackdown on corruption because of what he called the
potential for "inconvenient results" -- implicating relatives of former
Russian President Boris Yeltsin, as well as associates of Putin himself.
Instead, Saunders said, he expects Putin will target lesser figures for
prosecution -- not the leading oligarchs themselves. He explained that these
targets would have to be powerful enough to satisfy the Russian people that
Putin is waging a credible campaign against corruption, but not so powerful
that they could retaliate against the government.
And Saunders said the targets should not only be businessmen, but also
military and law enforcement officials, judges, politicians. This way, Putin
would demonstrate that his crackdown is not too narrowly focused.
But Saunders emphasized that such a crackdown would be so massive that it
will take a long time to determine whether Putin is serious.
"In the long run, though, I think, if it's not the kind of comprehensive
effort that is outlined by the kind of indicators I've tried to suggest, it's
really likely that we'll see just one more in the long line of inefficient
Russian government attempts to stamp out corruption that we've seen in the
last 10 years."
Vorontsov, the former Russian ambassador to the U.S., said that no matter how
much Russia needs investment from the West, Putin will be alert to any signs
of what he called American "paternalism." Russia, along with China, resents
that the U.S. is the dominant power in the world since the breakup of the
Peter Rodman, the director of national security programs at the Nixon Center,
said Putin does not want Russia's current economic weakness to lead to
further U.S. dominance. He cited Russia's growing closeness to China to
counter American power, and said it is significant that the president-elect
has announced that his first trip out of Russia after the election will be to
It is also noteworthy that the first government reactions to Putin's election
on Sunday were cautious -- except in the case of China. Germany spoke of
"great expectations." U.S. President Bill Clinton, the European Union and
France -- in a separate statement as well -- congratulated Putin on his
victory but all expressed concern about reported Russian human rights abuses
But Chinese President Jiang Zemin hailed Putin's election as a major step
toward building what it called "a multipolar world and establishing a fair
and reasonable new international order."
The Russia Journal
March 28, 2000
Editorial: Good luck, Mr. Putin
In what turned out to be the nonevent of the year, Vladimir Putin was elected
as the second president of the Russian Federation. The result, widely
predicted for the past three months, has come to pass exactly as it was
What precise ideology and talents Putin brings to the job will only be
revealed with time. What he does bring, however, is a refreshing approach to
the management style. Putin seems not only aware of the country's problems,
but prepared to confront the Herculean task of attempting to resolve them.
This stands in stark contrast to the elected and nonelected men who have
ruled Russia in the last four decades – men who have been big on words and
vision and short on deeds and actions to realize them. This is particularly
true of the period following Perestroika, when Russians were continually
called upon to make sacrifices in the pursuit of democracy and freedoms that
they wanted, only to be deceived time and again by those making the request.
Instead of accountable government, the Russian people found they traded
Bolsheviks and imbeciles for incompetents and robber barons as their leaders.
At the same time, Russia has also been unable to free itself from the cycle
of violence that has plagued the country. The line of Akhmatova's poem, "This
Russian land, how it loves blood," is as true today as was when written in
Stalin's time. The country is sending its youth to fight and die in Chechnya
in order to maintain the integrity of the country's borders. The population
is again making sacrifices to cover for the incompetence of its leaders, men
who should have dealt with this issue peacefully long ago.
In general, Russia as such has not voted for Vladimir Putin, no one really
knows his plans. They have voted for a man they think they can look up to, a
man they believe they can respect, and one who will not embarrass them
internationally. The people want someone to restore the nation's wounded
pride, and to revive their spirit. A spirit that has taken a battering from
the rampant looting, corruption and crime that has taken place in this
country – as much at the hands of politicians and bureaucrats as the Mafia or
Gennady Zyuganov could not realize the people's hopes; he is as corrupt as
those he rails against. Grigory Yavlinsky could not do so either; his words
have become as tiresome as Brezhnev's speeches. Russians are not stupid. Of
the three frontrunners in the election, only Putin had the potential to
resolve, or at least begin to tackle, the crisis in the country.
The problem is that what Putin has inherited is effectively a crown of
thorns. There are so many hopes and dreams invested in him that the burden
must be almost unbearable.
The worst of this is that in order for the new president to move the country
forward, he will have to inflict more pain and ask for more sacrifices. To
not do so would see Russia being hit by another crisis in a year or two. The
only hope for Putin to revive this country is to try to build a consensus for
whatever his program is, and to maintain a dialog with the people, attempting
to explain what he is doing every step.
As he attempts to revive the country, Putin must also treat its citizens with
respect. Going down the road of dictatorship would be the easy option.
Building institutions and a consensus within society as he embarks on the
difficult road to revival would make Putin a statesman.
The hardest part for the new president is that he will need to take really
tough action on the economy. The country cannot lurch from one crisis to the
next, and if he is going to break this cycle and be remembered as the man who
restored the nation, he must bring all his willpower to bear on the cause of
Achieving all of this is an almost impossible mission, but then Putin was
assessed by the KGB as having a low regard for danger.
We wish him luck in his endeavors.
Russia Registered 16,000 Nuclear Safety Violations in 1999. .
MOSCOW, March 28 (Itar-Tass) - There have been over 16,000 violations of
safety standards in the Russian nuclear energy sector last year, Deputy Prime
Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a board meeting of the State Nuclear
Inspection on Tuesday.
"Zero risk does not exist in the nuclear energy industry. Last year, over
16,000 violations of rules in the field of nuclear energy have been revealed
and ordered to be abolished," he said.
Shoigu said work of the State Nuclear Inspection had resulted in better
documentation of nuclear safety violations over the recent years.
"At the same time, acute problems related to utilization of 140
decommissioned submarines, transportation of 535 tonnes of spent nuclear
fuel, construction of a nuclear waste storage, of installations for the
processing and storage of radioactive waste do not abolish concern of the
Russian government over the condition of nuclear safety," Shoigu said.
He cited statistics of nuclear incidents and accidents in the former Soviet
Union and post-Soviet Russia, a total of 385 in which 684 people were
Of these, 338 people developed radiation sickness and 56 died. The latest
fatality occurred in 1997 at the Federal Nuclear Center, formerly known as
Shoigu said the Russian Nuclear Power Ministry, State Nuclear Inspection and
Defense Ministry should implement joint measures to improve radiation safety.
The starting ground for this work will be the federal programme Nuclear and
Radiation Safety of Russia for 2000-2006.
He said a public watchdog group could be set up in the form of a science and
technology or methodology council to monitor the nuclear energy sector.
March 28, 2000
[for personal use only]
Vladmir Putin's election may be one of the first warning signs forshadowing
the need to rebuild our military.
By Frank Gaffney
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a
columnist for The Washington Times.
Back in the early 1990s, as Mikhail Gorbachev presided over the collapse
of the Soviet Union, many prominent Americans sought to justify their desire
to spend the "peace dividend" by declaring the absolute and irreversible end
of the Cold War.
Some more responsible U.S. legislators, notably then-Senator Sam Nunn,
Georgia Democrat, hedged their bets a bit. Even as they presided over the
rapid downsizing of the U.S. military, these leaders acknowledged there was a
possibility the Kremlin might revert to form at some point. We were
confidently and repeatedly assured, however, that before anything so untoward
occurred, there would be "years of warning" â€” by some estimates as much
This blithe formulation always begged the question: What would the early
years of such "warning" look like? It can reasonably be argued they would
feature just the sorts of behavior now taking place under the leadership of
the man elected last weekend to become the new president of Russia, career
KGB operative Vladimir Putin. Consider the following bill of particulars:
â€¢ Mr. Putin's election is an ominous sign in its own right. His
formative years were spent as a spy in Russia and East Germany actively
working against and otherwise trying to subvert Western interests. Since he
emerged from the shadows as Boris Yeltsin's last prime minister and heir
apparent, he has made a point of demonstrating his continuing loyalties to
the institutions of the old Soviet Union, most especially the "power
ministries" of the former KGB internal security and intelligence apparatuses
and what's left of the Soviet Union's military.
Unfortunately, the fact the communists polled as well as they did in
Sunday's balloting suggests that Mr. Putin will feel free, if not actually
obliged, to go beyond rhetorical support and symbolic gestures toward these
instruments of state power. Having run on a platform (if that term can be
applied to something so imprecisely defined) of restoring strong central
control, chances are Russian civil liberties are going to suffer.
â€¢ The press in Russia has already begun to experience Mr. Putin's
tightening grip. State-owned media â€” and those controlled by pro-government
oligarchs (upon whose corrupt support he seems every bit as dependent as Mr.
Yeltsin) â€” were indispensable handmaidens to the Kremlin's election
The acting president was given endless and uncritical air time, often
featured in clips emphasizing where his loyalties lie.
Those press organs that are not in Mr. Putin's pocket have also been put
on notice. The silencing of a courageous Radio Liberty correspondent whose
broadcasts from Chechnya did not conform to the party line about low
casualties and the combatant nature of those being mercilessly shelled by
Russian forces represented an unmistakable warning: A free press will be
tolerated only insofar as it suits the new ruler of the Kremlin.
â€¢ Then there is the matter of the war against the Chechens. The
ruthlessness of that conflict, the fact its pretext â€” the bombing of
Moscow housing complexes and the attendant deaths of some 300 occupants â€”
have been a KGB provocation, and the cynical exploitation of this military
campaign for domestic political consumption all signals the arrival in power
in Russia of a very dangerous man.
â€¢ This danger is particularly acute since Mr. Putin has embarked
program of rebuilding Russia's military, with special emphasis on modernizing
its nuclear forces. He is defraying the associated costs with the sale of
vast quantities of advanced weaponry to Moscow's ominous new strategic
partner, Communist China, in an alliance explicitly hostile to the United
States. Among the other beneficiaries of this fire-sale approach to Russian
technology relevant to weaponry of mass destruction are rogue states like
Iran, Syria, North Korea and Libya.
What makes Vladimir Putin especially worrisome is that he seems likely
to try to pull off the hat-trick envisioned by another, very dangerous career
KGB officer, Yuri Andropov, who briefly ruled the Soviet Union after Leonid
Brezhnev's death: Securing vital economic and political support from the
West, even as the Kremlin pursues domestic and foreign policies that are
antithetical to our values and strategic equities.
An early application of this sort of jujitsu may come if Mr. Putin
agrees to sign on to the so-called "Grand Compromise" being proposed by the
Clinton-Gore administration. This arms control agreement would trade the
evisceration of the U.S. nuclear deterrent and an affirmation of the 1972
Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty's ban on effective territorial missile defenses
for Russian permission to build a very limited anti-missile system in Alaska.
By itself, the latter will be insufficient to defend the country even from
future rogue state threats. Republicans and American voters more generally
should understand that is not its principal purpose, though. Rather such a
stratagem is primarily intended to protect Al Gore from legitimate attack in
connection with his role in leaving the United States vulnerable to ballistic
missile-backed blackmail, or worse.
Unfortunately, the Clinton-Gore administration's hapless stewardship of
international affairs over the past seven years have afforded Mr. Putin
options of which Mr. Andropov could only have dreamed. For example, if China
succeeds in penetrating the U.S. capital markets, enabling American investors
to be unwittingly tapped to underwrite odious and/or malevolent activities
via the sale of shares of government-owned or -affiliated entities like
PetroChina, Russia will be sure to follow suit in a big way.
Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering told the New York Times
yesterday that he hoped Mr. Putin's victory â€” read, the opportunities thus
afforded for Mr. Clinton to purchase a "legacy" with new, inequitable and
unverifiable bilateral arms control deals and increasingly problematic
economic relations â€” will end the argument over "who lost Russia." In fact,
the answer is already clear: Bill Clinton and Al Gore did, by blowing the
extraordinary opportunity to encourage real, systemic change in the former
Soviet Union. The really bad news is that Russia may just have been won by