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16 April 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Putin visits Belarus ahead of UK trip.
2. Bloomberg: Ukrainian Voters Cast Ballots on President's Powers.
3. Itar-Tass: Vice-Premier Reports Putin Results of Washington Meetings.
4. The Sunday Times (UK): Mark Franchetti, Captive Chechens held
hostage in Russian pits.
5. RFE/RL: Jolyon Naegele, Many Factors Contributed To Duma Ratification Of START-II. (Interview with Don Jensen)
6. Moscow Times: Andrei Shushin, Pop Tunes Hide START Debate
7. Baltimore Sun: Will Englund, Russia's modern architecture reflects Soviet lifestyle. Buildings were used to shape the people.
8. Stratfor.com: Russia’s Dwindling Population Ensures Rigid Foreign Policy.
9. The Russia Journal: Michael Heath, Forecasts at odds on economy. The IMF and Russia have conflicting ideas about Russia’s
10. The Independent (UK): Helen Womack, Putin rewards Blair's stance on
Putin visits Belarus ahead of UK trip
By Larisa Sayenko
MINSK, April 16 (Reuters) - Vladimir Putin arrived in Minsk on Sunday at the
start of his first foreign trip since winning Russia's March presidential
election, an East-West tour that would also take in Britain and Ukraine.
The visit to London, where Putin was due Sunday evening for talks on Monday
with Prime Minister Tony Blair and an informal meeting with Queen Elizabeth,
would be his first to the West since becoming acting president last New
After arriving in Minsk and being greeted with the traditional gift of bread
and salt, Putin headed into talks with Belarussian President Alexander
The meeting was expected to focus on the union agreement signed by the two
former Soviet neighbours. Belarus, treated as a pariah state by the West over
a poor rights record, has been more eager than Moscow to press ahead with the
The highlight of Putin's tour was to be the talks with Blair, aimed at
strengthening cooperation with the West. The war in Chechnya was also
expected to be raised but Blair has said he would only reiterate Western
concerns over the conflict.
Political analysts said before the trip that the choice of London for Putin's
first post-election foray abroad was a sign that Moscow wanted to shift its
European policy from Germany and France, seen as more critical of the
Chechnya war than Britain.
Britain is also a firm ally of the United States and Putin's departure for
London was preceded by a telephone conversation with U.S. President Bill
Clinton on Saturday.
The two men agreed to meet before a summit of the Group of Seven major
industrialised nations and Russia in Japan in July. Clinton also praised
Russia's ratification of the START-2 nuclear arms treaty on Friday.
The ratification by the State Duma lower house of parliament after years of
delay smoothed Putin's way to London although his reception had been expected
to be warm even before Friday.
RIGHTS GROUP URGES CHECHNYA WARNING
Putin and Blair seemed to enjoy a personal chemistry when the British prime
minister visited St Petersburg before the Russian election in March, the
first Western leader to meet Putin after he took over as acting Kremlin
``We should answer him (Blair) in the same vein and so my first trip to
Western Europe should be to Britain,'' Putin said on Saturday. His trip broke
a convention that as both president and prime minister he should not leave
Blair's plan to reiterate Western concerns over the war in Chechnya, which
have been accompanied by few actions to penalise Russia over the conflict,
was not enough for one rights group.
U.S.-based Human Rights Watch called on Blair in a statement to warn Putin
that Britain would take Russia to the European Court of Human Rights if
alleged massacres by Russian troops in Chechnya were not properly
Putin also was to promote his nation as an investment site to British
Balancing his advance to the West, Putin's return trip to the Ukraine, where
he would arrive on Monday, was to firmly focus on building cooperation in the
former Soviet bloc.
Ties with Ukraine have been more difficult than with Belarus as President
Leonid Kuchma has tried to forge strong links with the West rather than
remain firmly ensconced in Moscow's field of dominance as it was during the
Ukrainian Voters Cast Ballots on President's Powers
Kiev, April 16 (Bloomberg)
- Ukrainian voters cast their ballots in a nationwide referendum that
would create a second, upper house of parliament, and strengthen the
president's authority, giving him the right to dissolve the legislature.
The referendum, a campaign promise of President Leonid Kuchma, would allow
him to dissolve parliament and call new elections if no parties succeed in
forming a majority government, or if the parliament fails to approve a budget
within three months after the government submits a draft.
``Ukraine is at a new stage of its development,'' Kuchma said after casting
his ballot. ``It will be much easier to solve the complicated problems, which
should to be solved by legislature, when we have a majority (government) in
Voters also will decide whether to cancel deputies' immunity from prosecution
and whether the number of seats in the lower house should be decreased to 300
from 450. A new upper house would represent ``the interests of Ukraine's
regions,'' according to the presidential decree that set the referendum.
Preliminary results are expected early Monday.
By noon Kiev time, 35.26 percent of the country's voters had cast their
ballots. A turnout of 50 percent is needed for the vote to be valid. Polling
stations will be open until 8 p.m.
``I will vote to cancel deputies' immunity status and give the president the
right to dissolve the parliament, because that should help to speed up
reforms,'' said Oksana Antosha, 42, director of the health insurance
department at QBE-EGPB Insurance, an Australian-Ukrainian joint venture.
A simple majority of parliamentary deputies must approve the results of the
referendum during the current parliamentary session, while a two-thirds vote
is needed for final approval during the next parliamentary session, in the
The Council of Europe has criticized the referendum, saying it attempts to
circumvent the democratic process.
The parliament should begin to consider referendum results ``the next day''
after final results are released, Kuchma said, adding that he will ``secure''
implementation of referendum results even if the parliament ``will not be
able to do it.''
However, implementation of the results may take up to two years as the
parliament may have to change about 50 laws, said Mykola Pavlenko, press
secretary at Ukraine's Central Electoral Committee.
The constitutional court decided earlier this year to remove two questions
from the ballot, including non-confidence vote in the current parliament and
whether the constitution should be revised by a nationwide referendum rather
than by a two-thirds vote in the parliament, the current system.
Vice-Premier Reports Putin Results of Washington Meetings. .
MOSCOW, April 16 (Itar-Tass) - Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin met
first vice-premier and Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov at the Vnukovo-2
airport before his departure for Minsk, Itar-Tass learnt at the presidential
press service here on Sunday.
Kasyanov reported the results of his participation in the meeting of G-8
finance ministers and central bankers, which was held in Washington as well
as his bilateral talks with the leadership of the U.S. administration.
According to the press service, Kasyanov also described the results of his
meeting with top executives of leading American banks and companies.
Speaking later with reporters, Kasyanov expressed satisfaction with the
results of meetings.
Kasyanov felt "growing understanding which had been reached in Moscow during
a trip to the Russian capital by acting IMF managing director Stanley
Fischer. The main directions of the Russian economic programme were agreed
upon with the IMF leadership," Kasyanov said.
He also said that he held several bilateral meetings in Washington, including
at the U.S. Treasury, "the U.S. State Department and the U.S. president's
The vice-premier developed an impression by the result of these meetings
that: "our American colleagues regard with encouragement the development of
our relations, including the ratification of the START-2 Treaty by the State
Kasyanov also noted that in bilateral talks with his American colleagues, he
felt "general positive sentiments: the main thing now is that expectations of
our partners should come true and specific measures, recorded in the economic
programmes of the new Russian government, should be materialised".
The Sunday Times (UK)
16 April 2000
[for personal use only]
Captive Chechens held hostage in Russian pits
Mark Franchetti, Moscow
HUNDREDS of Chechen civilians are being held to ransom by Russian troops,
many of them in pits, according to eyewitnesses. Soldiers have turned
hostage-taking into an organised business, extracting up to £250 from
families for the release of their relatives.
The latest disclosures of human rights abuses in the breakaway republic
threaten to intensify controversy surrounding a meeting between Tony Blair
and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who arrives in London today on his
first foreign visit since he was confirmed in power by last month's election.
Putin, described by Blair last week as a man with whom he feels
"comfortable", promised to investigate reports of human rights violations.
To date, however, only one soldier has been arrested. He was charged with
raping and murdering a young Chechen woman. Witnesses interviewed by Human
Rights Watch, an American-based organisation, have given detailed
descriptions of massacres, executions, torture, rape and looting.
According to the witnesses, up to 12 civilians - mostly men - are detained in
each of the 9ft-deep pits in the south of the republic. Surrounded by heavily
armed guards, they are removed only for questioning and random beatings.
The captives are fed once a day on bread and water and have no sanitation. At
night cold water is often thrown over them before they are left in freezing
"We have mounting evidence of Chechen men being held in pits close to Russian
positions in the hills for the sole purpose of extracting money," said Peter
Bouckaert, a Human Rights Watch investigator who gave evidence to American
Senate hearings on atrocities in the region.
Saipudin Saadulayev, 39, a Chechen who was recently detained by Russian
forces in Grozny, the republic's bombed-out capital, was thrown into a pit
with seven other men. "I was living in a cellar when one night the Russians
came," he said. "They threw a grenade into the cellar, then they shot a
50-year-old man in the head.
"The next day we were taken to a Russian military camp near a cemetery. We
were held in a deep pit. A soldier entered the hole and began beating us and
shouting abuse. Other troops were watching and laughing.
"Then we were ordered to remove our hats and water was poured over us. I was
wet all over and the water began to freeze."
Saadulayev secured his release after agreeing to help find a missing Russian
soldier. Others were not so lucky. Some were beaten so badly that they were
unable to stand after being ransomed.
Although some men held in the pits are eventually transferred to conventional
prison camps on suspicion of being Chechen fighters, others are handed over
after their families, often almost destitute after seven months of war, pay
for them in cash. Cars, vodka crates and even arms bought from Russian
soldiers have also been accepted as payment.
The Russians, who were celebrating the capture of Apti Batalov, the Chechen
chief of staff, last week, are even reported to have demanded ransoms to
release corpses. Among them was a young Chechen shot dead in a cowshed, whose
body was bought by his father for £10.
Human Rights Watch is due to release a damning report today documenting a
massacre of civilians in the Chechen village of Alkhan-Yurt in December, when
Russian forces went on the rampage, looting and burning dozens of homes and
summarily executing at least 14 people. It accuses the military command of
trying to cover up the abuses.
In the village of Tangi-Chu, 15 miles south of Grozny, 4,000 Chechen
civilians are believed to be trapped by Russian forces. Dozens of men are
reported to have been detained, beaten in front of relatives and taken to
Diplomats said Putin, who met Blair last month in St Petersburg, chose London
for his first foreign visit because he sees Britain as a bridge between
America and Europe. Besides meeting the prime minister, he and Lyudmila, his
wife, will be entertained by the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Blair's decision to receive Putin has appalled exiled Chechens in London, who
are planning to hold a demonstration in Downing Street tomorrow. "We all know
Putin is directly responsible for thousands of civilian deaths in Chechnya,"
said Roman Khalilov, political co-ordinator of the self-styled government in
Some of Britain's allies are also unhappy. A Moscow-based western diplomat
said: "By taking Putin to tea with the Queen, Blair is undermining all our
efforts to bring Russia to account."
Additional reporting: Tom Walker
Russia: Many Factors Contributed To Duma Ratification Of START-II
By Jolyon Naegele
The lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, ratified the
START-II nuclear arms reduction treaty today by a vote of more than two to
one (288 to 131). RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele interviews Don Jensen,
a former U.S. missile inspector who is now associate director of Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty, about the significance of the ratification.
Prague, 14 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- The ratification of the START-II treaty by
Russia's lower house of parliament comes seven years after Russian and U.S.
leaders signed it and four years after the U.S. Senate ratified it.
U.S. arms control expert Don Jensen says the Russian ratification has come
now as a result of many factors, including a shift in the balance of Russian
political forces, the recent election of Vladimir Putin as president, and
pressure by the United States.
"I think the timing is due largely to four factors. First, the fact that the
new Duma took office at the beginning of this year and the new Duma is, so
far at least, far more willing to go along with what the Kremlin wants than
its predecessor. That's not to say that the prior Duma was most accurately
characterized as Communist dominated. It was really anti-president and
anti-Kremlin and this new legislature seems much more willing to go along
with President Putin. Second, I think, Putin himself wants better relations
with the West. This issue is something which is politically of little cost to
him because it's really in the best interests of Russia, first of all, and
second, sends a strong political message to the United States and NATO and
the European Union that he's not only willing to do business, but come to an
agreement on issues of mutual concern. And I think, in Putin's case, that he
hopes to get economic assistance as well, so this has to be seen in the
context of the broader range of bilateral issues. The third factor, I think,
is the strong pressure in the United States from both Republican and
Democratic candidates, that some modification in the [Anti-Ballistic Missile]
treaty is warranted and the strong implication that, whether the Russians
agree or not, the U.S. will go ahead and research and develop ABM technology
as best they can. And fourth, President Clinton clearly wants a legacy before
he leaves office, and while this is perhaps not as great a step as the U.S.
administration would broadcast, it is nonetheless a step toward a
reorientation of the strategic security arrangements and architecture after
the Cold War."
Ratification of START-II could have significance for negotiations on another
treaty, the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile, or ABM, treaty. The ABM treaty bars
most U.S. and Russian deployment of missile defenses, and the United States
has been pushing for an amendment that would allow it to deploy a limited
missile defense designed to repel a small attack by a rogue-state or
terrorist. Jensen says he expects the Duma's ratification to strengthen
Moscow's hand in discussions on the ABM.
"I think very much it will. Part of the bill in the Duma and the continuing
Russian position has been that implementation of START reductions will take
place only in the context and after an agreement on the ABM treaty and any
modifications of the treaty. As of this moment, the Russians strongly oppose
any changes in the ABM treaty. The question in the ruling circles in Moscow
is really not whether to oppose the ABM modifications the U.S. proposes, but
how best to respond in case the U.S. does take this undesirable action, which
would be deploying a limited ABM system. So I think the START ratification is
really part of the major bigger question of strategic balance, and it has to
be looked at only in conjunction with the debate over anti-ballistic missile
defenses. And there's no sign at all that there is going to be any debate,
any agreement any time soon."
Jensen rejects suggestions by some commentators that START-II constitutes a
unilateral disarmament for the U.S., since much of Russia's missile force is
alleged to have outlived its service lifetime and is supposedly due to be
"I think it's far from unilateral disarmament. Russia's missile force will be
more or less effective, to the extent that we know, well into the next
decade, 2006, 2007. If they need to, I'm certain that they can, with
relatively little expense, extend the lifetime of particularly the Topol
missile system. Russian military experts talk about re-MIRVing the Topol
missiles (adding more warheads in contravention of existing treaties) as
counter-measure to any deployed ABM system. And they talk about that as
something that can be done relatively cheaply and easily."
START-II reduces the allowable number of warheads in each side's arsenal by
half -- to between 3,000 and 3,500 warheads. But Jensen predicts that this
reduction will not have a significant impact on each side's ability to
destroy the other side.
"I think it won't have very much effect at all. The important issue is
balance and deterrence and the issue of 3,000 or 100 warheads has to be
considered in the light of targeting and how you address strategic security
issues on the other side with your force. And as long as the balance is
maintained and both sides reduce proportionately and predictably, I think
much of what we've seen in terms of bilateral strategic relations since the
beginning of the Cold War will continue."
April 15, 2000
Pop Tunes Hide START Debate From Journalists
By Andrei Shukshin
Soviet-era pop music wafted through the corridors of the State Duma on Friday
as members, closeted inside the chamber, pondered START II.
An aging diva sang of the torment of unrequited love, drowning out the
objections of Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who took the floor in a
last-ditch attempt to stop parliamentarians ratifying the landmark treaty.
The musical background was part of a veil of secrecy that surrounded the Duma
START II debate: Officials piped popular old-hits FM station Radio Retro into
the lobby and corridors to keep journalists from catching even a fleeting
word of the debate, ostensibly stuffed with state secrets.
It might also have made some members, like Zyuganov - a staunch opponent of
the treaty - nostalgic for the Cold War days: Back then, Moscow never had to
worry about financial difficulties in maintaining and expanding its nuclear
Security guards sealed rooms adjacent to the debating chamber and ushered
reporters out of a press hall, also next door, where presumably they might be
able to eavesdrop.
Two toilets deemed to be dangerously in the vicinity of the main hall were
also declared out of bounds.
Journalists were even turfed out of their permanent offices in the Duma,
parliament's lower house, because the rooms shared an insufficiently thick
wall with the chamber.
Television monitors normally showing live debates went dark.
Army generals and solemn ministers, followed later by President-elect
Vladimir Putin, filed past journalists eager to be told anything about the
But they kept quiet.
"How will the vote go?" one reporter shouted to Defense Minister Igor
"It will go the way it will go," the minister said, disappearing behind the
large door leading into the chamber.
Private NTV television poked fun at the parliamentarians, who had eagerly
accepted the proposal by Putin - who in the Soviet era was a KGB spy - to
close the debate to the public.
The atmosphere, NTV said, pandered to their egos and made them feel
"There is the spirit of secrecy and the long-forgotten taste of the wartime
romance," it said.
"Nuclear parity, inflicting irreparable damage - these terms alone mean a
16 April 2000
[for personal use only]
Russia's modern architecture reflects Soviet lifestyle
Buildings were used to shape the people
By Will Englund
Sun Foreign Staff
MOSCOW - Maria Kiernan was just trying to take a picture of a building that
seemed to her to be an interesting example of Russia's 20th-century
architectural style, when a whole lot of guys in leather trench coats poured
out of doorways all around.
They weren't too happy, and they almost took her camera. She only saved it by
whipping out diplomas and letters of introduction and an official, stamped
accreditation from Russia's Society of Architects.
The building, it turned out, belongs to the Federal Security Service, which
doesn't look kindly on foreigners who come by wielding cameras.
Kiernan, an Irish architect, was in Moscow putting together a guide to the
city's Soviet and post-Soviet building styles. And suddenly, here was an
object lesson in the modernists' credo that form follows function: The
communists embraced modernism because they saw it as a way to use the
physical environment to mold a new Soviet man. She had come to document the
triumphs of that style, and the legacy of the Soviet system, the secret
police, was tumbling out of one of those modernist buildings and threatening
to make things more than a little unpleasant for her.
Or was function following form? Does modernist architecture, taken to its
extreme, lead to a police state or did the police simply find modernism
amenable to its needs?
It's a type of architecture, after all, that has a way of making the
individual feel insignificant.
By reputation, Moscow is a forbiddingly unappealing city, though even casual
visitors will acknowledge that the capital is home to an unheralded and
unexpectedly wide range of delicately appealing houses and churches from the
19th century and earlier.
But Kiernan wants to focus on the Soviet heritage. And she argues that amid
the wastelands of prefabricated concrete-panel high-rises can be found some
true gems of the 20th century.
Andrei Meerson, one of the architects she admires, agrees, up to a point. The
point, though, is a sticky one: The way he sees it, some Soviet architecture
is noteworthy, but all of it, including his own, was completely wrong-headed.
It was trying to reshape the human character, an attempt that he sees as
emblematic of one of the worst aspects of the 20th century. "An architect,"
he says, "doesn't have the right to think he's God."
Today Meerson, 65, builds softly curvilinear apartment houses that are a kind
of Art Nouveau-meets-Post Modernism. He says he tries to meet residents'
aesthetic and emotional needs, which were ignored or even scorned by Soviet
But what of this Soviet style, born out of a belief in a shining future?
It started in the 1920s. A new society called for new kinds of buildings.
Between 1928 and 1930, Moisei Ginzburg and Ignat Milinis built the first
apartment house that was designed for communal living. Common dining and
living areas would free people from domestic concerns and foster a
collectivist spirit. It was built of brick, because that's all that could be
afforded, but the brick was covered with stucco to give the appearance of a
more forward-looking concrete. The great French architect Le Corbusier came
to Moscow and asked to see the plans. (The KGB was suspicious of his interest
and kept a file on him.)
Today the insides of the house, which stands near the U.S. Embassy, have been
reconfigured into traditional apartments, and half of it is closed because of
water damage and neglect. Nobody chooses to live in a communal apartment
"It was quite idealistic," Kiernan says. "And it didn't really work."
The Rusakov Club, with sections of an auditorium jutting from the first floor
in a way that suggests the facets of some giant crystal, went up between 1925
and 1927. It is the most memorable work of an architect named Konstantin
Melnikov, whom Kiernan believes was the finest architect of the century. The
club was a place for utility workers to gather for lectures and musical
performances, to read the newspapers or to play chess.
The Rusakov Club today is badly deteriorated. In the new Russia, utility
workers don't gather for moral uplift; they hold second jobs to try to make
It was only in the 1920s that everything seemed possible. Melnikov built a
great green swooping garage in Moscow-still standing and still green. He drew
up a plan for a huge garage to be built over the Seine in Paris.He showed the
plan in France and won a prize, but the French proved to be better at
honoring genius than at realizing it.
He designed a Palace of Labor that was to have stood off Red Square and would
have looked like a cross between a theater and an airplane hangar. Another of
his projects was a five-story club that would have resembled a camshaft
standing on end.
Joseph Stalin liked Melnikov so much at first that he allowed the architect
to build a private house for himself in the heart of Moscow. It's still
there, two intersecting upright cylinders with magnificent studio space
upstairs, and musty, decidedly pre-modern furniture downstairs. Viktor
Melnikov, the architect's son, lives there at age 86, worrying about the
rising water table and the cracked plaster and the long dispute he is having
with his sister over the house.
At the height of his prowess, Konstantin Melnikov was lionized at an Italian
architectural exhibition in Mussolini's Milan in 1933. He returned to Moscow
a hero but never won another commission. Stalin had decided he didn't want an
architecture of the future; he wanted convention. Melnikov turned to oil
painting, working alone in his studio the rest of his life.
"Imagine if that man had been allowed to create for all those years, the
stuff he could have done," Kiernan says.
Stalin wanted towers and classical ornament. Kiernan points out that there's
much to admire about some of the buildings from his time, particularly from
the years right after World War II.
Near Gagarin Square, there's the apartment house where Alexander Solzhenitsyn
laid floors as a convict-laborer. Towering over Ginzburg and Milinis'
communal apartment house is an imposing tower, designed by Mikhail Posokhin,
that now houses an expensive Western-style restaurant on the ground floor;
the bodies of the convicts who died during its construction are said to be
buried in the foundation.
After Stalin died, Posokhin tried his hand at what was known elsewhere as the
international style. He designed a great boulevard, now known as the Novy
Arbat, which ran through the center of Moscow. Flat skyscrapers, known as
"The Books" because of the way they look like open volumes standing on edge,
stand back from the south side.
Posokhin had been to Stockholm and had seen a huge concrete development
around the train station that had been ripped into that otherwise lovely
city, and he set out to copy it.
Could anyone love the boulevard? "I don't," says Kiernan. "But it wasn't a
Soviet mistake. It was a mistake we all made throughout the world."
Son adds to square
Today Posokhin's son, also named Mikhail, is a prominent Moscow architect. He
has designed a low-level office building on the same square as his father's
tower, and he is working on a plan to try to humanize his father's boulevard.
He refuses to characterize the new building next to his father's tower as a
challenge or an improvement. The chance to do the project, he says, "was the
providence of God."
The main thing, he decided, was to leave the tower as the main focus of the
square, "to make my building support it."
The tower may have a grim history; it may be something no one would build
today. But the fact is, it's there. It fits into Moscow.
"People," says Posokhin, "don't want to be jarred."
That's not what the communists thought when they set about rebuilding their
capital in the first flush of optimism. Or, rather, it didn't matter whether
people wanted to be jarred - it was going to happen.
But when the enthusiasm flagged, the communists could keep their utopian
vision alive through repression and a formidable secret police. People were
supposed to be made new, but they were simply made miserable.
Meerson saw a huge housing development he designed in the 1970s turn into a
neglected dump. He likes what he did there, from a technical point of view.
But the big idea behind it, he began to realize, was all wrong. People want
comfort, choice, convenience, beauty. They want space to store their things.
Being heaped together didn't make them comrades; it made them hostile
"This was my disenchantment," he says. "These buildings created hooliganism,
drug addiction and drunkenness."
"Moscow: A Guide to Soviet and post-Soviet Architecture" by Maria Kiernan is
published by Ellipsis in London.
April 13, 2000
Russia’s Dwindling Population Ensures Rigid Foreign Policy
The Russian State Statistics Committee’s monthly report on Russia’s
socioeconomic situation recently stated that Russia’s death rate is almost
twice as high as its birth rate. At the current rate of decline, Russia’s
population shrinks by about 2,500 every day. Over time, this decline will
make difficult the mere survivability of the Russian state. Russia will
move to reassert control over much of its former empire in an attempt to
increase the population under Moscow’s control. To successfully counter
greater threats with fewer people, Russian foreign policy must become even
If Russia’s birth and death rates stabilize at current levels, Russia’s
population in 2050 will be a mere 116 million. However, there are few signs
that birth rates will rise or that death rates will stabilize. Russia
health expert Dr. Murray Feshback of Georgetown University, co-author of
the Environmental and Health Atlas of Russia, believes that Russia’s
population will likely drop to between 80 and 100 million by 2050. Such a
population crash would require an annual population growth of -0.9 percent,
the current rate is already -0.54 percent. New factors that exacerbate
current trends certainly support Feshback’s predictions.
An Accelerating Decline: Russia Faces New Demographic Hurdles
One factor that stabilized Russia’s population to date, immigration, has
slackened. Only 379,700 people moved to Russia in 1999, mostly from other
former Soviet states, a 27 percent decrease from a year earlier. Meanwhile,
emigration from Russia – at about 214,000 – remains steady. All this adds
up to a net loss of 784,500 people in 1999 alone, according to the Russian
State Statistics Committee.
Diseases are also hitting harder. There were 123,403 new cases of
tuberculosis in Russia in 1999, bringing Russia’s overall infection rate to
76 tubercular patients per 100,000 people, according to the Russian Health
Ministry. (Forty per 100,000 constitutes an epidemic.) Complicating the
problem, under an upcoming amnesty program Russia will release 4,000
tubercular people this year from its TB-rife prison system, half of whom
carry drug resistant strains of TB. The death rate from TB is higher than
that of any other major disease.
The death rate from syphilis has increased 44-fold since the Soviet
collapse. The infection rate is now a disturbing 234 per 100,000 people.
HIV infections skyrocketed 250 percent to 31,000 in just the last year.
These diseases and others are crushing what is left of Russia’s health care
system, which in turn accelerates the demographic decline. The mortality
rate of Russian women who die in childbirth has increased to 44 per 100,000
people, 2.5 times the European average.
Other factors are only now beginning to impact Russia’s demographic crisis.
Russia’s suicide rate is now 40 per 100,000, one of the highest in the
world. The number of registered alcoholics in Russia has doubled since 1992
to reach 2.2 million. More than 110,000 of these alcoholics are aged 12-16,
according to Deputy Health Minister Olga Sharapova.
Russia simply lacks the basic health infrastructure to maintain its
population. Roughly 50 percent of Moscow’s residents live below the poverty
line, with an average monthly salary of $280 – 4.2 times the average
Russian income. Yet even in Russia’s wealthiest city, almost one-third of
Muscovites of draft age – the healthiest portion of the population – have
been deemed ineligible for the draft for health reasons, according to
Moscow’s military commissar Lt. Gen. Mikhail Sorokin.
Even the basic necessities of population growth – families – are in
decline. From January 1999 to January 2000 the number of marriages
decreased by 5 percent and the number of divorces increased by 23 percent.
About 70 percent of all pregnancies since 1994 ended in abortions. Partly
because of this high abortion rate, one in five Russian couples are now
Russia in the 21st Century: Working with Less, Looking for More
There is little evidence that the Russian government is taking this
internal threat seriously. Kremlin demographics advisor Vladimir Mukomel
asserts that “no expert worth his salt could advance such predictions.”
President-elect Vladimir Putin has made few statements on public health
issues, only making vague statements about switching health authorities
funded from local budgets to the federal budget – a budget that has no
money to spare. Reversing the trend will require a massive relocation of
resources and, above all, an increase in the birth rate. But according to
ITAR-Tass, Russia’s birth rate has been declining throughout this century.
Russia’s best-case scenario lies far below zero-population growth. The
country must adapt to having fewer people.
Unable to avert its own impending demographic decline, Russia can extend
its political and economic reach over areas of the former Soviet Union,
reinstalling a version of the Russian overclass that existed in the Soviet
era. This will be easiest in Central Asia. Here Russians constituted the
bulk of the educated and technocratic elite during the Soviet years.
Furthermore, the closest of these states, Kazakstan, is suffering
demographic decline similar to Russia’s. This new overclass will not be as
large or as powerful as that of the old Soviet version due to Russia’s
weakness vis-à-vis the Soviet Union and the simple fact that there are now
fewer Russians. But such an enlarged population will open up doors for
Russia that would be otherwise closed.
The Military Angle: When You Run Out of Hordes
Demographic collapse will intensify nearly every other problem Russia
faces, but Russia’s greatest challenge will be strategic. Already Russian
commanders are voicing concerns about difficulty in maintaining Russia’s
army. Sergey Ivanov, the secretary of the Russian Federation's Security
Council stated on March 15 that "in 18 years' time the number of people due
for military service will drop twofold [in half]," from 850,000 to 450,000.
Mass tactics have characterized Russia’s wars over the past three centuries
– Russia uses its superior manpower to the fullest. As the 21st century
progresses and the Russian population drops, this tactic will be less and
less feasible. Russia, already with one of the lowest population densities
in the world, is faced with an increasingly daunting task. Its army is a
mere shadow of what it was during the Soviet era, yet its borders are not
appreciably shorter. Furthermore, in order to protect itself from Afghan
spillover and Chechnya-style separatism, it remains militarily engaged in
much of Central Asia.
Lacking the manpower, Russia could attempt to follow the U.S. example and
make up for quantity with quality. However, Russia lacks the money to fund
the across-the-board technology explosion that would be required to
modernize the Russian military. Also, cruise missiles and the like are
useful in projecting power, they are less useful in protecting vast tracts
Russia does not have the population density to defend itself against
expanding neighbors – or to continually thwart separatist regions – so
Russia must take proactive steps. It cannot give an inch in the face of
those seeking to pick away at the edges. Russia fears an expanding NATO to
the west, thus Russia’s belligerent statements against the inclusion of the
Baltics in NATO. Russia faces growing Islamic radicalism to the south, thus
its desire to lash the Central Asian states together in an anti-terrorist
grouping. And then there is populous China to Russia’s southeast. Russia’s
desire for a political alliance barely eclipses the security fears caused
by large numbers of Chinese migrants – accounting for more than 70 percent
of the population of some sections of the Russian Far East, according to
the Indian daily newspaper The Hindu.
2000 Population 1999-2000 Population Growth Change on a Year Earlier
Russia 145.5 million -0.54 Percent -784,500
China 1300 million Approx. 2 percent +25,000,000
This sense of besiegement is keen: Forty-five percent of Russians cannot
name a country they consider friendly toward Russia, according to a poll
taken by the Agency for Regional Political Research. If Russia sits still
and does nothing, NATO will absorb Ukraine and the Baltics, China will
populate its Far East, and the Taliban-inspired chaos of Afghanistan will
creep north. It is no wonder that Russia is seeking to make an example of
Chechnya. Future internal threats will be dealt with as harshly. As to
external threats, there is a reason why Russia revised its nuclear
doctrine: to make it easier to use nuclear weapons, the ultimate guarantors
of territorial integrity.
Putin is taking steps in this direction. In Russia’s most recent budget,
Putin granted the Russian Defense Ministry a 50 percent increase in
funding, a large portion of which is earmarked for maintaining the
reliability of the Russian nuclear arsenal. This dependence will be viewed
by all of Russia’s neighbors as an aggressive, expansionist action. In
reality, it is merely an act of self-defense by a country that is dwindling
The Russia Journal
April 17-23, 2000
Forecasts at odds on economy
The IMF and Russia have conflicting ideas about Russia’s future.
By MICHAEL HEATH / The Russia Journal
Who do you believe? The IMF says Russia's growth this year will come in
under initial expectations; the Russian government says it will outshine
The answer, it seems, will continue to depend on international oil prices.
In its twice-yearly World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund
argued Russia's strong economic recovery was built on a narrow and possibly
unsustainable base and that growth would slow to 1.5 percent, down from 3.2
percent last year.
The Russian Economics Ministry, by contrast, looks set to revise its
economic growth forecast to 4.5 percent – on the back of faster than
expected growth in the first three months of this year. It had previously
been expecting growth of around 3 percent in the national economy.
"Initial forecasts for the first quarter have been beaten," Anatoly
Mikhailov, deputy head of the Economics Ministry's macroeconomic forecasts
department, told The Russia Journal. "But the figures are always
fluctuating," he added.
Mikhailov cited import substitution and oil prices as the major factors for
the recent improvement.
"Import substitution continued at a high rate in various industries, as
enterprises continued to adapt to the ruble devaluation," he said. "During
most of 1999 and all of the first quarter of 2000 oil prices remained high
on the world market, and although the price has slid, its current level is
enough to meet the budget target."
The IMF, more pessimistically, noted that Russia's exports did not rise
significantly last year in response to the devalued ruble and that the
industrial growth recorded was mainly due to import substitution.
"These improvements have been built on a narrow and not necessarily
sustainable base, including higher prices of energy exports, ongoing import
compression and – associated with this – increases in industrial production
driven mainly by import substitution," the IMF said.
The Fund said Russian economic growth would slow to 1.5 percent this year
and projected a 1.4 percent output rise in 2001. It said consumer prices
would rise 20 percent this year and 16 percent in 2001.
Wednesday’s IMF report said Russia needed to improve its tax system and
reduce pressures to use Central Bank money to finance its budget deficit.
Further reforms were needed in the banking sector, including a legal
framework to make it easier to close down troubled banks, it said.
"Much remains to be done to develop the institutional and legal
underpinnings of a market economy and hence to provide a reliable framework
for improving governance, strengthening the rule of law, reducing
corruption and attracting the long-term capital needed for deep
restructuring and sustained growth," the IMF said.
Analysts say the difference between the IMF and Russian government's
forecasts is that the IMF is taking a very conservative approach.
"I think the Economics Ministry is likely to be closer to the truth," said
MFK Renaissance analyst Roland Nash. "If oil prices remain high and the
benefits of devaluation continue, then 4.5 percent is quite realistic.
"The IMF has taken a very conservative approach, and this could be right if
oil prices were to plummet."
Ben Slay, an economist at PlanEcon, a Washington think tank, also said the
Russian government is closer to the mark. His group is forecasting 3.7-3.8
percent growth for Russia.
"If you look at the industrial output numbers for January and February and
data like retail sales, transport and so on, we are seeing very strong GDP
growth early this year," he said. "Russia is looking at 6 percent growth in
the first quarter and for the economy to only grow 1.5 percent would
require a recession later this year."
Slay said he believes the IMF is becoming irrelevant to Russia now. He said
strong oil prices are allowing Russia to pay its Eurobond, IMF and World
Bank loans, and the government is also meeting the macroeconomic targets
set by the IMF.
"But Russia is unlikely to tackle the structural reform the IMF wants, so
this forecast [of 1.5 percent] is almost like the IMF saying, 'hey guys,
you're being complacent, this can't last forever,'" he said.
Observers agree Russia needs to implement structural reform in the economy
and attract investment if it’s to transform the current upswing into a
"They need this to build on the foundations that are there now," Nash said.
One sign that the government might be headed in the right direction was the
announcement Wednesday that President-elect Vladimir Putin had named Andrei
Illarionov, a pro-market economist known for his independent views, as an
Illarionov, head of the Institute for Economic Analysis, has previously
said the Fund could help Russia better by drafting economic policy rather
than distributing new funds.
In an interview with ORT television after his appointment, Illarionov also
warned of the danger of relying too much on revenues from exporting natural
resources. "In the long-term, we will not get very far if we remain
addicted to the oil needle,'' he said.
Renaissance's Nash welcomed Illarionov's appointment, describing him as
being "as rabidly pro-market as anyone in Russia."
"If the blank slate of Putin's economic policy is to written on by
Illarionov, then this is very good news," he said.
PlanEcon's Slay said Illarionov was a good economist but that it was hard
to assess the significance of his appointment without seeing Putin's new
government. "If the same cast of characters remain, then Illarionov's
appointment will be of little significance. The critical question is who
will become prime minister," Slay said.
The Independent (UK)
16 April 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin rewards Blair's stance on Chechnya
By Helen Womack in Moscow
Choosing not to be too fastidious over Chechnya, Tony Blair has unashamedly
wooed the new Kremlin leader, Vladimir Putin. Today, the President-elect will
reward him by making London his first port of call in the West and the visit
could mark the start of a special relationship between Britain and Russia.
Mr Putin, 47, a former KGB agent, remains a largely unknown quantity and many
countries are taking a cautious, wait-and-see attitude towards him. But after
making a slow start that raised suspicions he was still under the thumb of
Russia's main oligarch, he gave a number of signs last week that could
encourage the West and vindicate Mr Blair in his political investment.
The strongest such signal was the push the President gave to arms control
when he urged the State Duma to ratify the 1993 Start-2 treaty, cutting the
long-range weapons of Russia and the US. After years of foot-dragging, the
Russian parliament, re-elected last December and now more loyal to the
Kremlin, voted on Friday to ratify the accord, which will halve the nuclear
powers' stocks of warheads by 2007.
In addition, there were other small signs of a possible new reform spring in
Russia. Rather than taking offence at the Council of Europe's decision to
suspend the Russian delegation over Chechnya, Mr Putin agreed to allow
observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe
(OSCE) back into the war-torn Caucasian region. Promising indications on the
economic front included Mr Putin's appointment of Andrei Illarionov, a
liberal reformer from the early Yeltsin years, as his personal adviser.
The Moscow Times may call the British Prime Minister "Putin's pet foreigner"
and accuse him of being "fawningly eager to taint himself" by association
with the scourge of Chechnya. But if Russia is to rise and flourish, Mr Blair
wants Britain to be ahead of other countries in engaging Moscow.
For Britain, a special relationship with Russia would be something new. In
the Yeltsin years, Britain offered its capitalist expertise through the
official "Know-How Fund," but British businessmen were less adventurous in
Russia than their counterparts from America or Germany. Even today, most
ordinary Russians see Britain as an eccentric little island, covered in the
fog of a Dickens novel or a tale of Sherlock Holmes.
Mr Putin, who worked as a spy based in Leipzig and speaks fluent German,
might have been expected to make a priority of developing Russia's relations
with Germany. But the fact that the Germans, almost as much as the vocal
French, criticised the war in Chechnya meant that the new Russian leader
preferred to turn to Britain, which was prepared to give him the benefit of
the doubt. Indeed, so sure did he feel of a tolerant hearing in Britain that
he arranged his one-day visit, starting this evening, despite the fact that
in the pre-inauguration period, the President-elect is not supposed to
When the Russian military began air and artillery strikes on Chechnya,
Britain signalled to Mr Putin that, disturbed though it might be about
excessive force and human rights abuse, it was not going to allow it to
damage prospects for long term cooperation.
The British may not like the comparison, but the Russians feel that Chechnya
is their Northern Ireland.
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