This Date's Issues: 4215 • 4216
Johnson's Russia List
1 April 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Russians Admire Putin but Know Little of His Plans.
2. AFP: Young Putin was unorthodox, curious: former student buddy.
3. BBC MONITORING: PAPER WARNS OF KREMLIN CRACKDOWN ON MASS MEDIA.
4. Carnegie post-election webcast.
5. Carnegie meeting report: A NEW ERA IN RUSSIAN POLITICS?
(Michael McFaul, Thomas Graham, Anatol Lieven, and Lilia Shevtsova)
6. David L. Ransel (Director, Indiana University's Russian and East
European Institute) Director's Notebook. (re history)
7. US State Department Worldnet: On the Line/THE RUSSIAN ELECTION
(Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Paul Goble, and Joshua Muravchik)
8. Washington Post: Adam Ulam Dies. Leading Authority on Soviet
9. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Mikhail Rostovskiy, The Vector of the New
President: What Will Putin's First Steps Be?]
Russians Admire Putin but Know Little of His Plans
MOSCOW, March 31 (Reuters) - Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin is
admired by his compatriots for his modesty, youth and decisiveness, but they
know little about his political views, a leading polling group said on
"Most respondents said they like Putin's modesty, quick reactions,
intelligence, toughness, firmness of purpose," Yelena Bashkirova, director of
the ROMIR group, told a news conference.
"At the same time, they describe him as a dark horse, an unknown. They knew
absolutely nothing about his programme."
Putin won this week's presidential election in the first round with about 52
percent of the vote. A former KGB agent, he rose from obscurity to become
prime minister last August and acting president in the New Year when his
predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, resigned.
Much of his popularity is based on a uncompromising stand against separatists
in Chechnya. He outlined only very broad economic and social policies during
Bashkirova said ROMIR studies showed many respondents were not even
interested in Putin's programme and proposals for the economy, but backed him
for emotional reasons.
These people, she said, were then asked to compare the acting president to an
animal or type of landscape.
"The most common answers were: a young wolf, a clever and sly fox, Lake
Baikal (the world's deepest lake in Siberia), a precipice, or a northern
scene," she said.
Bashkirova said Putin was rare in having backing from all parts of society,
regardless of age, profession or income.
He was especially attractive to women.
"Women say they would like to see him smile more often," she said. "Nearly
all of them defined Putin as a 'real man'. They say: 'We're used to
amoeba-like men, and he's not like that."'
Young Putin was unorthodox, curious: former student buddy
PARIS, March 31 (AFP) -
Vladimir Putin was an unconventional student with a remarkable curiousity for
the West, a former friend of the man who is now Russia's newly elected
president told AFP.
Jean-Claude Leck-Lochet, a Congolese now living in Blois, central France
after fleeing violence in his home country insists Putin -- who is still
largely seen as an enigma coming from Russia's hardline military
establishment -- has qualities that will surprise observers.
During 1974-1979, Lecko-Lochet shared a room at the Lomonossov law faculty in
Moscow with Putin, then a reserved young man aged 22 known by his nickname
"We met for the first time during the summer of 1974 in Kazahkstan, in a
youth labour camp where we worked on the TransSiberian railway and then we
shared a room," Lecko-Lochet said.
"At the time there was censorship, no foreign publication was available but I
brought photocopies of magazines, books and newspapers back from France, some
in French, some in English.
"Volodia read those in English and had me translate the others. He asked me a
lot of questions. Putin was an avid reader. He wanted to know everything."
He went on: "At the time in the Sovet Union, the media showed only strikes in
the West and film of homeless people. He asked me questions and I told him
there was sometimes another side to the story. 'Are you sure of what you are
saying?' he asked me after I told him of press freedom, freedom of opinion
and the lack of censorship in the West.
"Sometimes during lectures he would astonish everyone with his opinions. He
would have a much broader views of current affairs."
Lecko-Lochet said they were friendly, to the point where they were subjected
to racist harassment from other students. "'Where is your shadow, the nigger,
the savage,' but he called me 'my African'. For me he was someone very kind
and good, but reserved. He loved his neighbour.
"Without him I would have abandoned by studies and gone back to Africa."
The two young men often travelled to Leningrad to stay with Putin's parents.
"They spoke little of politics," he said.
"Volodia did not much like the people in the political bureau. He thought
they were too old. He said they should be replaced. One day he failed an
examination whose subject was a speech by Leonid Brezhnev, which he had not
read. Volodia said the speech should never have been an examination text."
Lecko-Lochet said that Putin hardly ever drank. "I never saw him with a glass
in his hand, and with his parents he watered his wine."
Lecko-Lochet lost contact with his friend for 16 years, but last year, back
in France, he sent a letter to Vladimir's mother. Putin, already prime
minister, replied with a postcard from Saint Petersburg.
"His mother telephoned me a few days ago and said she would invite me to
visit this summer.
"Don't judge him by events in Chechnya, leave him some time, he will astonish
the whole world," Lecko-Lochet said.
PAPER WARNS OF KREMLIN CRACKDOWN ON MASS MEDIA
Text of report by the Russian newspaper 'Segodnya' on 30th March headlined
"Vladislav Surkov is preparing public opinion for a crackdown on the mass
We are not talking about all the mass media but only about those that have
failed to "line up" at the command of the Kremlin officials now in office.
Information on the fate of oligarchs in Russia is being disseminated for the
second day now with a reference to an anonymous source in the Kremlin.
Kremlin Staff Deputy Chief Vladislav Surkov is that source. He has named the
most scandalous (that is, the most harmful) oligarchs for trusted
journalists. These are Boris Berezovskiy (on whose payroll Surkov himself was
some time ago when he worked for ORT [Russian Public Television]) and
The meaning of what Surkov said at a closed briefing boiled down to the idea
that those "conceited individuals" would soon be dealt with for good. Having
deliberately lumped together Berezovskiy, who runs a state-owned TV channel
on dubious terms, and Gusinskiy, Surkov has evidently launched a campaign to
shape public opinion ahead of the crackdown on the independent mass media,
primarily the mass media of the Media-Most group.
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000
From: Liz Reisch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Carnegie post-election webcast
The last in the Carnegie Endowment's series of Russian presidential
election audio webcasts is now available at
http://www.ceip.org/ruseuras. Today's post-election segment, "President
Vladimir Putin," features commentary by Lilia Shevtsova and Anatol
Lieven. Past programs -- from February 25 to March 31 -- are also
archived on the site.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Russian and Eurasian Program
Vol. 2, No. 2, March 30, 2000
A NEW ERA IN RUSSIAN POLITICS?
The future of Russia under Vladimir Putin remains highly uncertain. This
was the conclusion of Carnegie Senior Associates Michael McFaul, Thomas
Graham, Anatol Lieven, and Lilia Shevtsova. Each speaker addressed a
different aspect of the Putin regime: McFaul focused on the implications of
voting trends in Putin's election, Graham analyzed the political and
economic system forming in Russia, Lieven discussed the impact of the
Chechen conflict on Russian politics, and Shevtsova forecasted Putin's
McFaul argued that there were three small surprises in the presidential
elections of March 26. First, Putin did not do as well as expected. His
52.8 percent of the vote handily topped the 29.3 percent received by his
closest contender, Communist candidate Gennady Zyuganov. But by the
Kremlin staff's own estimates, Putin would have received 55 million votes
had the election occurred on January 15. Instead, he tallied only 37.9
million votes. McFaul hypothesized that since Putin's supporters were a
very diverse voting bloc, it was difficult for him to run a campaign that
catered to all of their interests. He thus remained intentionally vague
about his policy prescriptions. This worked for a few months, but it was
not a viable long-term strategy as his disappointing showing displayed.
Additionally, Putin's January alliance with the Communists in the Duma and
the publishing of his biography, replete with anecdotes about his KGB days,
disillusioned his liberal supporters.
The second surprise of the election was that Zyuganov outperformed all
analysts' expectations. McFaul attributed Zyuganov's unpredicted success to
the lack of competition he faced for protest voters - voters whom market
reforms harmed. Also, Zyuganov beat liberal candidate Grigory Yavlinsky in
both Moscow and St. Petersburg, bastions of pro-market and democratic
forces. However, Zyuganov fared less well in the traditional Communist
stronghold of the "red belt" region than he did in the 1996 presidential
election. McFaul suggested that this might have been because those who
have adjusted to market reforms in these regions now outnumber those who
Third, McFual remarked on the utter failure of all of the candidates other
than Putin and Zyuganov. He emphasized that the "biggest losers in this
election were liberals," who should have supported a single candidate.
Now, two political parties, Unity and the Communists, dominate the Russian
political scene. The liberals and nationalists will need to recuperate if
they are to be a factor in future elections.
Still, Putin's relatively poor showing is positive for political stability,
concluded McFaul; his advisors will not feel that they have a mandate to
call for early Parliamentary elections or extend the presidential term to
Graham focused his presentation on the question, is Russia a democracy? He
argued that Russia exhibits many characteristics of feudal Europe.
First, power and property are intertwined. In post-Soviet Russia, power has
been needed to acquire property at below-market values in the privatization
process, to attain banking permits that have facilitated the use of
government money for private gain, and to receive export and import
licenses. The interconnection of power and property has a long history in
Russia. There is a major difference, however, between the Soviet period
and the post-Soviet era in that not only does power now beget property, but
property now begets power.
Second, power in Russia is highly fragmented. "Europe had its feudal
lords, Russia has its oligarchs and regional barons, and these are the
people who control these numerous fragments of power strewn across Russia,"
Third, as in feudal Europe, power in Russia is personalized. The Duma and
the presidency are not the key institutions of power. Rather,
financial-industrial clans battle to set the political agenda. These
interest groups control positions in government, financial and industrial
capital, means of coercion, and media outlets.
Finally, like feudal Europe, the bulk of the population in Russia is
removed from power. The elite comprise 1 to 1.5 percent of the population.
A middle class - at most 20 percent of society - runs the businesses and
bureaucracies which support this elite. The rest of society has little
means of influencing these upper echelons.
Graham noted that Russia's "feudal" system may be transitory. Europe,
after all, developed from feudalism into democratic, market-oriented
nation states. But this transition took generations. The Russian system
may last for years, if not for generations, too.
Putin has inherited feudal Russia. Graham doubts that he will be able to
fulfill his goals of turning Russia into a modern state. First, argued
Graham, he lacks the necessary experience. A deputy all of his life, he is
accustomed to taking orders, not leading. He lacks the charisma of Boris
Yeltsin or Mikhail Gorbachev. Indeed, Graham shared a joke making the
rounds in Moscow that Putin is trying to build a "cult of non-personality."
Second, Putin lacks resources. Russia's entire federal budget for this
year is about 25 billion dollars, the same amount the United States plans
to spend on its intelligence community alone. Putin also lacks human
resources. He has been staffing his government with former KGB associates
from St. Petersburg. But even if these people are qualified, there are not
enough of them to run Russia's bureaucracy. Graham estimated that Putin
has 40 loyalists; the rule of thumb is that 400 committed associates are
needed to control Russia's executive branch. Thus, Putin will be forced to
include political outsiders in his government, creating a coalition
government based not on political parties but on competing special
interests. As a result, the effectiveness of the government will be
For Lieven, the first major litmus test for the Putin administration will
be the Chechen War. The interests of the embattled warlords and Moscow are
too incompatible to permit negotiations. A compromise might be reached
between Moscow and Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov, but most Chechen
warriors would not abide by such an agreement. Thus, it is likely that the
war will continue.
Lieven, therefore, explored the possible scenarios which may develop in
Chechnya. First, the war may spill over into Georgia. If the Russian
bombardment continues, Georgia will be the Chechens most viable escape
route. If the Georgian army cannot subdue the Chechen forces, the Russians
may want to intervene. Such a scenario, Lieven noted, would be highly
destabilizing for the region, especially because the United States has
warned Russia not to violate Georgia's national sovereignty.
Second, the desperate Chechens might seek to attack Russia and take
hostages, as occurred in the 1994-1996 war. These hostages could provide
them with bargaining chips for negotiation of safe passage to asylum abroad.
Third, prolonged conflict in Chechnya could stir up disturbances in
heartland Russia. The Tartars, for example, have voiced discomfort at
Russia's invasion of Chechnya. Although unlikely, Tartar nationalism could
increase if the Chechen issue is not resolved.
Under any scenario, Lieven warned that long-lasting terrorist activity is
likely to develop. If Russia crushes open resistance in Chechnya, the
Chechens will simply go underground. Russia's security forces are very
inadequate, so a terrorist campaign could do "serious damage." This would
likely result in increased Russian chauvinism and a more repressive
national security state.
Lieven noted that such a semi-authoritarian state is the norm throughout
most of the world. It falls well short of the high hopes held for Russia
at the beginning of the 1990s, but it would not be disastrous. There is,
Lieven explained, no clear line where democracy ends and authoritarianism
begins. Instead, a broad spectrum exists between the two. Even if Russia
swings to the right, it will probably still have a pragmatic foreign policy
toward the West, a private sphere, and a fairly free media. Federalism and
regional autonomy, however, would likely suffer.
Shevtsova set out to define the Putin regime. The revolutionary zeal and
flamboyancy which characterized the Yeltsin years will be gone, she argued.
A "post-Yeltsin period of realpolitik" is developing. The watchwords of
the regime will be "stability, power, order, force, and the state." These
are not, she noted, the favorite words of liberal democrats. It will be a
time of "return to the past," but this will take place in the context of
preserving pluralist society.
Putin, in Shevtsova's view, has been very open about himself. The
difficulty is in sorting out the contradictory strands of his personality.
On one hand, he wants to be friendly with Clinton, to make the Russian
state and economy work efficiently, and to increase national pride. On the
other hand, he is quite suspicious of vital elements of democracy, such as
a free press.
Moreover, Putin confronts many constraints. He must contend with the
oligarchs. He faces the high expectations of the Russian electorate.
Shevtsova noted that 64 percent of Russians still expect Putin to
accomplish their dreams. "Hope is always delayed disappointment," she
joked. Additionally, the Chechen War has increased the role of the
military in the government. Finally, a "degenerating and decaying"
bureaucracy will limit the efficacy of the Putin administration.
In addition to these difficulties, Shevtsova opined that Putin has not
decided what his goals for the country are: "He hasn't decided not only
about the rules of the game, but hasn't even decided what type of game he's
going to play."
Still, Putin will seek some immediate policy achievements. He wants tax
and customs reform but will not attempt land reform. He will also seek to
reduce capital flight. Reforming center-periphery relations is a priority
for him. He desires improved relations with the West. But in the Russian
near abroad he will increase Russian influence on the pretext of oil
interests. He does not recognize the need for constitutional reform. A
"pocket Parliament" and "pocket two-party system" will persist.
In sum, the year will be a stable one for Russia. But the question is, how
long can an economic system based on high oil prices and a political system
which Shevtsova called "an elected - or maybe even an appointed --
monarchy" survive? Within one to two years, Putin will realize that the
system is unsustainable. He may then seek to create a tough,
quasi-dictatorial system, but he will not have the resources to succeed.
Or he may recognize the need for new reform. But, questioned Shevtsova,
will it be too late?
She concluded with advice for Western policymakers. Putin, despite his
tough look, is still very malleable. Yeltsin, she noted, became a reformer
after visiting an American grocery store in the late eighties. The West
should be persistent in its attempts to remind Putin what integration into
the world economy can offer.
Summary by Jordan Gans-Morse,
Junior Fellow for the Russian and Eurasian Program
CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000
From: "David Ransel" <email@example.com>
Subject: History piece
David L. Ransel, Director
Russian and East European Institute
Bloomington, Indiana 47405
Forthcoming in Institute's newsletter
Historically, Russians have a 10-15 year window of tolerance for political
experimentation and disorder. Russia today has reached the end of such a
period, and the people are demanding a strong ruler and central state
administration that can pull the country together and relieve it of the
unrestrained liberty that has principally served the interests of thugs,
bullies, corrupt officials, and private power brokers. The pattern is
At the beginning of the seventeenth century in the reign of Boris Godunov,
the government lost support and came under attack from internal and
external enemies. The boyar administrators of Moscow tried a series of
political experiments and expedients in a vain effort to find a basis of
support for a new regime under the direction of either a boyar or a foreign
prince whose power would be limited and shared with the administrative
elites. Meanwhile the country collapsed in a chaos of marauding Russian
warlords and foreign interventionists from Sweden and Poland. After twelve
years of this, the church, the merchants of the northern towns, and rural
landholders joined forces to halt this barren liberty and installed a new
tsar with a connection by marriage to the former dynasty in hopes that this
dynastic mystique could transfer with it the authority and authoritarian
power of the former regime. Large segments of the population continued to
resist this arrangement, but the people who had assets to lose realized
that they would be safer under an authoritarian order than a regime of
Following the reign of Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century,
the senatorial elites (heirs to the positions of the boyars) again wearied
of autocratic rule and, following the lead of the Supreme Privy Council,
sought to limit tsarist power by electing a monarch (Anna Ivanovna) from a
collateral dynastic line and placing restrictions on her authority. This
decision led to political battles within the administrative and court
elites and opened the door to rule by non-Russian favorites from the Baltic
provinces: foreign intervention on a personal rather than military scale,
but ultimately odious to the leading Russian families. Approximately
fourteen years after these political machinations began, Russian forces
threw the German rulers and returned the government to a Russian princess
with traditional autocratic prerogatives.
The reform era of the 1860s, which included the emancipation of the serfs,
judicial reform, elected local government, press reform, and military
reorganization, was a major period of political experimentation that
enjoyed popular support among the educated classes. But it, too, came to a
halt within the same fifteen year span that limited other eras of
experimentation. Indeed, in the late 1870s and 1880s many of the earlier
reforms were turned back or abolished. The opportunities offered by the
reforms for popular participation in elective office, judicial process, and
the expression of public opinionthe new civil and political liberties of
the populacewere sacrificed in favor of tightened social and political
controls to ensure public order under unrestricted autocratic authority.
Another brief fling with political freedom in 1905 resulted in such
violence that terrified propertied and administrative elites put an abrupt
halt to it in 1907. The tsar succeeded in reasserting most of his
autocratic powers and was able to limit meaningful political representation
to a narrow circle of wealthy men.
In 1917, the failure of the tsarist government to prosecute the world war
effectively led to the end of dynastic rule and a new period of political
experimentation that lasted until the late 1920s, when I. V. Stalin was
able to mobilize sufficient elite and popular support to end shared
governance among the top leaders and install himself as a powerful one-man
ruler of the Soviet Union and then to unleash bloody purges and a prolonged
terror to destroy all his real or imagined competitors for power. Much like
the period of the Troubles in the early seventeenth century, the Stalin
autocracy was not welcomed by large segments of the population and required
a war against half of the population to make it stick. But autocracy
Finally, in the late 1980s a new push toward liberty began under Mikhail
Gorbachev, which included commercial freedoms, rights of popular
expression, free assembly, and open elections. Again, the experiment was
begun with great hope and broad popular support. But, as in past periods of
liberation, the new freedoms were hijacked by those in the best position to
exploit them for personal gain, leaving much of the rest of the population
in worse condition than they had been before. Not surprisingly, tolerance
for experimentation and acceptance of commercial and civic freedoms of
which only a small minority could take advantage have turned the majority
against the idea of limited government and a weak central state whose
powers were being freely used by private persons for personal gain.
When I discussed this pattern at a forum in Bloomington recently, some
members of the audience jumped to the conclusion that "Russians are, alas,
not capable of appreciating democracy." This is not the point I wished to
convey. The reasons for the failure of limited government in the past are
too complex to be elucidated in a short item like the Director's Notebook,
but they have nothing to do with Russians' inability to appreciate
democracy. Russians well understand the difference between the values of
equal representation, fairness, and equal opportunity that we associate (if
not always practice) with democracy and the kind of unrestrained exercise
of private power that limited government has brought to them in the past
and again today. The reason that "democracy" has appeared in this guise in
Russia go to the failure of the patrimonial state of early modern times
(and its corporatist successor) to foster private initiative within a
framework of law such that citizens could learn over time to trust one
another to adhere to the rules of the game. Instead of acting as a referee
among competing private interests Russian governments have historically
either swallowed up successful private operations or allowed them to use
government power on their own behalf. As a result, people could find
protection for their private interests and personal security only by
aligning themselves with the authoritarian state or with private powers
that were in a position to use the state to their own advantage. A strong
state offered some protection and predictability for the conduct of
business and personal affairs. A weak state left ordinary citizens at the
mercy of warring private powers unrestrained by any public codes or
Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000
From: Bob Reilly <breilly@IBB.GOV>
Subject:On the Line/THE RUSSIAN ELECTION
Thought you might be interested in this Worldnet TV script.
TYPE=ON THE LINE
TITLE=ON THE LINE: THE RUSSIAN ELECTION
EDITOR=OFFICE OF POLICY - 619-0037
THEME: UP, HOLD UNDER AND FADE
Anncr: On the Line - a discussion of United States policy and contemporary
issues. This week, "The Russian Election." Here is your host, Robert Reilly.
Host: Hello and welcome to On the Line.
Russians went to the polls to elect a new president. As expected,
acting-President Valdimir Putin won the election with nearly fifty-three
percent of the vote, compared to almost thirty percent for Communist
candidate Gennadi Zyuganov. Mr. Putin is now preparing a comprehensive
economic program for his inauguration in May. It remains to be seen how he
will tackle the huge problems of corruption and lawlessness, and the
continuing conflict in Chechnya.
Joining me today to discuss the results of the Russian presidential
elections are three experts. Helmut Sonnenfeldt is a guest scholar at the
Brookings Institution and former counselor of the U.S. State Department.
Paul Goble is director of Communications and Technology at Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty and a former State Department specialist on the
nationalities of the former Soviet Union. And Joshua Muravchik is a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the
book, The Imperative of American Leadership.
Welcome to the program.
Helmut Sonnenfeldt, what significance do you assign to this presidential
Sonnenfeldt: Well, they had it, although the circumstances where somewhat
shady, the way it was wired and arranged. They had it and Putin seems to
have won the majority that you stated and he is going to be president of
Russia and, with that, they are entering another phase of their transition
from what we know pretty well, namely the former Soviet Union, a
totalitarian system, to something. Yeltsin did certain things that changed
matters quite remarkably in Russia but petered out. And now will see where
Putin is going to take it, what kind of leader he will be. We have some
indications, maybe from his past, and some things he has said and written.
But I think in the end, we will have to see how he takes his leadership
position and what he does with it -- he has got enormous powers under the
Yeltsin Constitution -- and how he uses them.
Host: Paul Goble, can you give a little more definite shape to that
something toward which they are now moving?
Goble: I think that the most important thing about this election, -- other
that what Mr. Sonnenfeldt said, that it took place -- is that, immediately
after winning, president-elect Putin did something that no Russian leader
has ever done before. He acknowledged that almost half of the electorate
hadn't voted for him, that a large number of people didn't like what he
stood for, that it was going to be absolutely necessary for him to find
some way to work with those people if Russia was going to move forward.
Unfortunately, the next largest party is the Communist party. And a
coalition of Putin's Unity [party] and the Communists doesn't point in a
very reformist direction. But it may mean that there will be a new kind of
cooperation between the executive and legislative branches in Russia,
something that could lead to a move toward a more legal state, a
"rechtstadt," in which there will be real legislation to back up policy,
rather than, as now, a pastiche of decrees, arbitrary actions and so forth.
That would, under current conditions, be a step forward. It wouldn't be
democracy necessarily anytime soon, but it could be the basis for the
emergence of more vital civil society and a more effective Russian government.
Host: Do you agree with that, Joshua Muravchik?
Muravchic: I don't disagree with it, but I feel someone less upbeat
[optimistic] about this election in that it had the qualities more of a
coronation than an election. It's a very strange situation in which what
was presumably an election campaign which when Putin was asked by
reporters: What are you going to do if you are elected? He responded: I
won't tell you. And Helmut Sonnenfeldt was saying a few moments ago: "well,
now we will see what he is going to do or what he believes, and we are
looking for clues in his past." It is a lot like how we used to greet the
rise of a new general secretary of the Communist party in the Soviet Union.
Host: What about Paul Goble's point that almost half the people in Russia
voted against him? That's not a coronation in that respect.
Muravchik: No. That's right. So it's not the same thing as the old days.
But I think Paul was also saying that this is not quite an arrival at
Muravchik: Because in a democracy you have a voting procedure, which they
had in a fairly decent form, but you also have some kind of discourse that
goes on in the voting procedure in which the electorate insists on knowing
about who the candidates are and what they stand for. And that just didn't
Sonnenfeldt: Obviously, he didn't want to go beyond the generalities that
were in his tract that appeared on the Internet and other things that he
has said, because he didn't want to make unnecessary enemies and he wanted
to play the cards very close to himself and not commit himself to the
things that he might regret.
Host: But is not that typical behavior for a candidate who would say as
little as possible to get support?
Sonnenfeldt: Well it's not quite typical because he really didn't get into
programmatic things. Now it's true that there are plenty of instances where
candidates are very voluble about what they are going to do when they get
into office, and then they do the opposite. So, on that score, I'll give
him the chance to see what he comes up with in detail. It's regrettable
that there wasn't more of a disclosure of that, but I think, okay, that's
happened. I do think that given the power of decree that Yeltsin used
enormously, there is a real question of how he is going to go about
structuring whatever he's going to do: economic reform, the judicial
system, dealing with corruption, dealing with oligarchs, and in foreign and
defense policies, and so on. Whether he is going to try to get a consensus
through what exists in the way of political institutions, or whether he is
just going to announce it one fine day and everybody will salute him and
say: "Yes, Sir."
Goble: I think that it is terribly important to understand that he can try
running the country by decree. I mean that's what Yeltsin tried to do. It
probably can't be done in every case. I always opposed the December 1993
constitution because I thought it gave the president entirely too much
power. But I think that Putin is going to do some ruling by decree. I think
he's going to also try to begin to create a legal system. It's not going to
be a liberal system; it's going to be a dictatorial system. But the system
is broken down. The entity is broken down and, unless there is some
predictability, I think he has a real problem in recreating it.
Sonnenfeldt: If I can just make a quick point on that. Of course, I agree
that issuing decrees from Moscow or orders or any kind doesn't mean that
people even living in Moscow, let alone in more remote places, are going to
respond as required. That was the problem even in the Communist period when
there were all kinds of deals between [Leonid] Brezhnev and the local
potentates where they paid their dues and Brezhnev let them do whatever
they wanted at home. There is an indicator, if that's the right word, from
something that Putin had said, or at least had speculated about, and that
is whether they shouldn't appoint the regional leaders rather than have
elections for them. And thereby do away with the whole notion of the
Federation Council, the second chamber which was put in the constitution as
one way of balancing the center. But his inclination seems to be that these
people better work for him directly and he better know who they are, so
that they'll do what he says, or else he will punish them, rather than
having their own sources of political power.
Host: But that would require a change in the constitution, would it not?
But, Joshua Muravchik, it seems that there are a couple of things known
about what he wants to do because he repeatedly says, we have to have a
level playing field here in Russia for business. We have to have rule of
law or that peculiar term he uses, a dictatorship of law, so that this is a
safe place to invest, so that capital flight stops, so entrepreneurs can
get on with their business. He seems to be keenly aware of that and what is
required to create the conditions for normal business. Would you agree?
Muravchik: Well, I'm not sure. The question is: he may have a keen sense of
what, in theory, is required to create a hospitable atmosphere for
business. But that doesn't means that he has a clear idea of how to achieve
that. It's easier said than done. What I find worse are some stories, for
example, that he has some grand notion of using the former K-G-B or its
apparatus as an instrument to stamp out corruption. Well, in the old Soviet
Union, the K-G-B was very effective and very strong, but they have plenty
of corruption. It's not very good. The K-G-B or that apparatus is not a
very good instrument, I don't think, for eliminating corruption. But it can
be a very effective instrument for stamping out liberty.
Host: How do you go about addressing the enormous problems that he and
Russia are now facing with corruption, the lack of rule of law?
Sonnenfeldt: How do you go about it? I don't have the problem.
Host: You are not a candidate.
Sonnenfeldt: One thing about Putin is that he doesn't have a whole lot of
experience in that kind of thing either. He did do something in Leningrad
and Saint Petersburg with [former Mayor Anatoly] Sobchak, now dead by a
heart attack, which involved a certain amount of free enterprises and the
risks of investment, and all of that. And I think even a judicial system
locally, at least, that people were prepared to rely on. By in terms of his
experience and skills, I don't think there is much there. So he gets
himself people that he knows and, of course, he knows mostly K-G-B people
and Saint Petersburg people, and the few others. And we'll see how
brilliant these K-G-B people are in dealing with these issues.
Goble: I don't think he's going to find it easy to succeed in any of the
areas he's trying to go after. I think that he's going to find the problems
so enormous that the effort to succeed will lead to other problems. If he
tries to eliminate the elected governors, for example, he will prompt some
of the regions to think about leaving, just as the Soviet Union fell apart
when [Mikhail] Gorbachev tried to recentralize things in 1991. If he tries
to go after the oligarchs, the oligarchs can make his life miserable. If he
tries to eliminate one house of the legislature, there will be screams
about a retreat from democracy even from Western countries. There are a
whole lot of things he may try to do, impulses behind him. And I don't
think he is going to be a success. I think he's is going to fail.
Host: What about the one thing he said he needs to do most urgently, and
that, as you mentioned, he may have a Duma that is more compliant to enact
such a proposal, even though the Communists are still the largest single
body within it, and that is finally the legalization of land ownership in
Goble: He has to get fifty percent plus one votes for that, and he may not
Sonnenfeldt: I don't know whether he will get it or not. But if that's his
impulse, the more power to him. Let him try. I can't judge whether these
kinds of things that he says, either on the promising side or on the
worrisome side, are things that he's going to be able to do and really
wants to do. I think it really means we have to wait and see. And I don't
think we can influence it very much. The only other thing that I want to
say about it: I do hope he does concentrate on those issues and doesn't see
glory and the sense of pride that he wants to restore in Russia by external
adventures, because then, not only will he not succeed in making something
of Russia, this very rich country, domestically, but he will get into
something maybe not exactly resembling the Cold War but something that they
lost once before.
Host: What about his internal adventure in Chechnya, which is what vaunted
him into the public eye as a viable candidate?
Muravchik: Let's get to that in a moment. I just wanted to add another
point on the previous points we were talking about. I want to bring it back
to the initial point that I made, which is the absence of some kind of
democratic discourse during the election campaign and the absence of a
clear program of Putin coming forth and saying what it is he stands for. It
may seem like clever politics because he had a lead and he didn't want to
gamble anything. But the democratic process also is a process in which
people who run for office rally a constituency behind a certain program.
And when they get elected they can feel and point to a body of public
support for what it is they are going to do. Whatever initiatives that
Putin may take with regard to land reform or rule of law, or whatever it
may be, he can scarcely claim or feel he's got a big body of sentiment that
has registered itself behind him in implementing one program or another.
Sonnenfeldt: We know he has no mandate. He will self-define a mandate and
then see whether he can rustle up the necessary votes in the Duma or
expressions of support. I think that's one of the realities. I don't like
it, but that's what we've got to deal with.
Goble: And the fact that he's likely to have a great deal of difficulty
doing that makes the continuing conflict of Chechnya and the risks that he
will pursue other adventures all that more likely. He's losing in Chechnya
now. The Russians are taking greater casualties. That's going to continue.
There is going to be a desire to find some way to stand tall, be proud.
This is a position he has staked out -- that Russia needs to be in charge
of things. And to the extent that he finds it difficult or impossible to
assemble support for rule of law, for land reform, whatever, I think he's
going to be ever more tempted to those kinds of adventures, given his past
approach in Chechnya, and that the risks for Russia are enormous.
Sonnenfeldt: One other thing, and that is that they have been patting
themselves on the back for an economy that seems to be improving. But it's
a windfall. It has to do with oil and gas prices. And indeed, they are
making more money as a result, and they have added to their dollar holdings
and reserves. Now the question is: will they know what to do with that,
while they have it? There are statistics indicating that capital flight
continues unabated because Russians themselves don't trust the system. I
guess other Russians might trust it, but think the outside world is more
trustworthy. So at the moment, that probably helped him in the election
because people think that things are better and there is more food and
clothing in the stores.
Host: Josh Muravchik, do you have any worries such as you just heard about
the foreign policy that might come from a Putin administration?
Muravchik: Indeed, I have commented a few times now about the lack of
discussion of the issues. So, there is that and there is really no long
knowledge of who Putin is or was. What was his victory? His victory was
that he's the hero of Chechnya, and so he's likely to have it in his mind
that the way to really make out well politically is to be a war hero. I
think that when he starts trying to implement some of the other kinds of
projects that Paul was addressing and starts to have some of the difficulty
that he is bound to have, there's going to be a very strong temptation laid
out there to think, "now I'm in trouble; my popularity is going down, but I
remember back in the glorious moment when I was the conqueror of Chechnya,
then everybody loved me. So maybe I've got to rerun that scenario."
Host: If you were U-S president, what would your approach be to Mr. Putin?
Goble: Well, I think that we have to be very cautious. I think we should
avoid saying anything definitive about what this man is. We should watch
what he does; we shouldn't proclaim him a democrat. We shouldn't assume
that we can do business with him, or assume we can't.
Host: Didn't President Clinton basically get it right, saying we hope you
are moving in the direction of establishing rule of law, fighting
corruption, cooperating on proliferation?
Sonnenfeldt: I think that is okay. I think we should watch our vocabulary.
We shouldn't be talking about flourishing democracies and these various
other phrases that became common usage a while back. I'm not so sure that
President Clinton ought to be rushing over there to a meeting with him,
although that seems to be standard practice. And of course, the president
is leaving office so he may want to have that as part of his record. You
have to deal with him; he's the president. We've got some interests that
are quite important. We still, as far as I know, have the Nunn-Lugar
program that assists them in getting rid of some nuclear weapons and the
environmental problems and all that. So we can't simply say that we'll sit
and wait and do nothing. But I would be cautious and not flamboyant.
Host: I'm afraid that's all the time we have this week. I would like to
thank our guests -- Helmut Sonnenfeldt from the Brookings Institution; Paul
Goble from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; and Joshua Muravchik from the
American Enterprise Institute -- for joining me to discuss the Russian
election. This is Robert Reilly for On the Line.
Anncr: You've been listening to "On the Line" - a discussion of United
States policies and contemporary issues. This is --------.
March 31, 2000
Adam Ulam Dies
Leading Authority on Soviet Studies
Adam B. Ulam, 77, a leading authority on Russia and the former Soviet Union
and professor emeritus of history and political science at Harvard, died of
cancer March 28 in Cambridge, Mass.
Dr. Ulam was a member of the Harvard faculty for 45 years and twice served
as director of Harvard's Russian Research Center, which under his
leadership became one of the world's leading institutions for the study of
the Soviet Union.
He wrote 18 books, including a 760-page biography of Soviet leader Josef
Stalin. "The Bolsheviks," published in 1965, is considered one of the
definitive treatments of the party that seized power in Russia in 1917 and
of its leader Vladimir Lenin.
>From 1947 until he retired from the Harvard faculty in 1992, Dr. Ulam
trained thousands of students, including many who achieved high-level
positions in government, academia and the media. Those included former
attorney general and New York senator Robert F. Kennedy and former
secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Adam Bruno Ulam was born April 8, 1922, in what was then Lwow, Poland,
which is now part of Ukraine. He immigrated to the United States in 1939,
accompanied by his older brother, Stanislaw.
The two of them made it out of the country just two weeks before Germany
attacked. Stanislaw was among the most eminent mathematicians and
physicists of the 20th century, and he played a crucial role in the
development of the thermonuclear bomb. Adam, by contrast, never had any
interest in mathematics, but achieved comparable stature in the field of
Despite a 13-year age difference between the two brothers, they maintained
an exceptionally close relationship until Stanislaw's death in 1984.
Adam Ulam graduated from Brown University and received his doctorate from
Harvard in 1947. He became a U.S. citizen in 1949.
He published his first book in 1951, "The Philosophical Foundations of
English Socialism," and followed it a year later with "Titoism and the
Cominform." After that he focused exclusively on Russia and the Soviet Union.
In 1967, he published "Expansion and Coexistence," which is said to have
been one of the most influential studies of Soviet foreign policy ever
written. A sequel, "Dangerous Relations," was published in the early 1980s.
His honors included a lifetime distinguished achievement award from the
American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies in 1987 and an
honorary doctorate from Brown University in 1983.
His marriage to Mary Burgwin Ulam ended in divorce.
Survivors include two sons.
Future Problems for Putin Eyed
March 29, 2000
[translation for personal use only]
Article by Mikhail Rostovskiy: "The Vector of the New President:
What Will Putin's First Steps Be?"
It is not ruled out that in as little as a few
months, Vladimir Putin will encounter problems maintaining his image as a
"tough guy." The newly elected Kremlin boss could also come across
veiled sabotage by the political elite and the consequences of his own
inexperience in many matters. Even under the most favorable development
of events, Russia faces a period of getting used to the new president
during which mistakes and misfires are practically inevitable.
Over the last six months the Russian party of power needed Putin's
image and actions as a "firm hand." Only a tough boss could be
perceived by the voters as the country's new leader. Aside from which,
the Chechen tumor had acquired such dangerous proportions that drastic
surgical methods were simply essential to get rid of it. But now the
situation has changed. Regional princes like Shaymiyev and Rakhimov,
who in fact ensured the absence of a second round for Putin, have
absolutely no interest in putting an end to their current sovereign
freedom. While the oligarchs, who also at least did not hinder Putin,
have absolutely no interest in the corridors of power being cleansed of
their proteges or in a general establishment of order. And Vladimir
Putin cannot completely avoid reckoning with this. As Moskovskiy
Komsomolets has already written, a result of 52% does not give the new
president complete carte blanche. And as we know, debts have to be paid
Putin will also have considerable trouble when forming his new team.
After all, this task by no means amounts to appointing Kasyanov,
Kudrin, or Reyman premier or choosing between the candidacies of
Voloshin, Medvedev, or Ivanov for the new boss of the presidential staff.
Despite the fact that Putin's system of power will be much more
reminiscent of a pyramid that Yeltsin's, the president is nevertheless
obliged to draw up his system of checks and balances. He must, for
instance, ensure a balance between the Petersburg and non-Petersburg
staff, between ex-special-service officials and civilians, and between
representatives of other political groups. Finally, he must achieve a
situation whereby Putin's appointees can work uneventfully together as
members of a united team. Despite all the complexity of this problem
alone, Vladimir Vladimirovich must solve at least another two in parallel
Many top functionaries admit that the current system of executive
power that Putin has inherited from Yeltsin is completely outdated.
Under a sick Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin], for instance, the existence of
a cumbersome presidential staff that frequently duplicated the government
made complete sense. But now Putin is simply obliged to reinterpret the
roles of these two bureaus with subsequent staff cutbacks in at least one
of them. In any event, something must also be done with the numerous
ministries, most of which whimsically combine a bloated payroll with a
dearth of skilled staff and the incompetence of many top-tier officials.
And finally, the most important thing. It only makes sense to form
a team to suit specific tasks and a program. Meanwhile, very many
people are noting that when the conversation turns to specific economic
questions, Putin immediately becomes more boring and even veiled. So it
is most likely that he simply does not have any real economic program.
Some kind of document is bound to appear soon, of course. German Gref,
for example, promised on oath to bring forth something conceptual by May.
But it is by no means a given that German Oskarovich [Gref]'s document
will necessarily be adopted. We must also remember that it is one thing
to declare a certain bit of paper as your program but quite another to be
imbued with its ideas and try to really ensure its fulfillment.
So there is a very great danger, for instance, that reform of
executive power will largely amount to purely superficial changes. High
officials Kuzkin and Shlyapkin will be dismissed with a fuss and the
completely unknown Khrenkin and Grenkin [all made-up names] will be
appointed in their places. Ministry M. will be abolished with much ado
and State Committee L. will be created in its place. It is also very
probable that, not having a clear economic reform program in his head,
Putin will try to act according to the method of trial and error: Make
decisions and then try to adjust them; appoint some people into the
government and then quite quickly change them....
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