|CDI Library > Johnson's
May 1, 2000
Johnson's Russia List
1 May 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
Thousands march in calm, cold Russia May Day
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, May 1 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Russians took part in May Day
marches on Monday, but with a new Kremlin leader in place and cold weather
gripping cities, protests were smaller and less virulent than previous
President-elect Vladimir Putin spent the day relaxing with his family at the
Black Sea resort of Sochi and presumably readying himself for his
inauguration next Sunday and the subsequent formation of a new government.
Russia's pensioners, many barely able to make ends meet after nine years of
turmoil, received a small boost to their pensions, now worth the equivalent
of less than $30 on average. But were also hit by increased gas and
``We were all free and happy then,'' pensioner Dina Gulicheva told Reuters
Television beneath a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in central
Moscow. ``These democrats have taken everything away from me.''
Soviet-era celebrations were organised affairs, with workers proceeding in
columns through Red Square while Communist leaders watched approvingly from
atop Lenin's mausoleum. In recent years, marches focused on demands for the
resignation of Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
Monday's festivities saw two processions pass through Moscow streets, each
drawing several thousand marchers braving cold winds to mark a ``holiday of
spring and labour.''
Trade unions, joined by popular Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and groups of women
carrying plastic flowers and balloons, demanded higher and promptly paid
wages plus measures to help domestic producers meet the demands of market
``These people have come here with simple demands -- 'where is our pay?' 'Why
is the minimum wage not being raised?','' trade union leader Mikhail Shmakov
told reporters on Moscow's main thoroughfare, Tverskaya Street.
A few kilometres (miles) away, the Communist Party and other leftists held
their own procession, but with Yeltsin's departure depriving them of their
main focus of anger, the tone was largely subdued.
Marchers carried red flags and carnations, danced in a city square to
Soviet-era songs and railed against poverty.
One Lenin lookalike carried a placard with Communist slogans. Others staged a
mime depicting the evils of capitalist society, including a gagged marcher
labelled ``freedom of speech'' and another dressed as a prostitute with the
COMMUNIST ZYUGANOV BLASTS DISARMAMENT PACT
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, defeated by Putin in March's
presidential election, used his speech to denounce parliament's ratification
of the START-2 disarmament pact.
``We were forced to sign a treaty to liquidate the last nuclear umbrella
under which we could have resurrected our state within 10 to 15 years,'' he
Viktor Anpilov of the far-left ``Working Russia'' movement acknowledged
Yeltsin's departure had altered the tone, but said: ``He is still there,
though unseen, through his policies.''
Television showed thousands of marchers in St Petersburg pledging to ``build
a positive image'' for Russia's second city, renowned as a centre of
organised crime with contract killings an almost weekly occurrence. Leading
the rally was governor Vladimir Yakovlev, running for re-election this month.
Reports from throughout Russia spoke of small rallies in other cities, mostly
by left-wing groups, without incident.
In the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, about 2,000 communist protesters
gathered in the capital Kiev outside the former Lenin museum, now an
Party leader Petro Symonenko, beaten in last year's presidential election,
decried policies he said had turned Ukraine into ``one of the world's 10
fastest dying nations.''
The Times (UK)
1 May 2000
[for personal use only]
Duma debates capital move to St Petersburg
FROM ALICE LAGNADO IN MOSCOW
THE Russian parliament this month will debate moving to the former imperial
capital of St Petersburg.
Vladimir Yakovlev, the city's Governor, and other prominent figures in St
Petersburg for years have pushed for the "crime capital of Russia" to return
to its pre-communist position as the most important Russian city and attract
more money to its economy.
Gennadi Seleznyov, the Speaker of the Duma, said at the weekend that there
may be a vote on the issue by mid-June and that the new buildings could be
ready in 36 months.
Moscow and St Petersburg maintain an intense rivalry, with Muscovites
deriding St Petersburg as nothing more than a dead "museum" and St
Petersburgers sniffing at the "big village" that is Moscow.
In St Petersburg, despite the dirt, potholes, bleak weather and frequent
contract killings, there are many who regard the city as more European, more
literary and more refined than Moscow, and more suitable as a seat of
Now the Russian Government is headed by a St Petersburg native, Vladimir
Putin, who has brought many of his cronies with him, and has inspired those
who want to move out of "provincial" Moscow. In reality, the plan is unlikely
to be realised. Mr Putin said in February that moving north would be absurd
and too costly. But the fact that the issue, which St Petersburg's Governor
has talked about for years, is finally being taken seriously in parliament is
important for other reasons.
Mr Yakovlev and Mr Putin have been bitter enemies for years. In the past, Mr
Putin has called the Governor a Judas and is known to have made rude remarks
to the Governor and even ignored him during public appearances. Mr Yakovlev's
enemies accuse him of running a corrupt city government infiltrated by the
ruling Tambov mafia.
1 May 2000
[for personal use only]
Bank scandal gets a dose of titillation
By Brian Whitmore, Globe Correspondent
MSCOW - References to the Bank of New York have been popping up in strange
places in Moscow. In the city's chatty tabloid press, for example.
Last week, the scandal-sheet Versiya reported that it knows of a videotape
showing a Bank of New York executive frolicking with Moscow prostitutes. The
paper reported that it was trying to obtain a copy of the tape to check its
validity and promised readers it would stay on top of the story.
Huh? What's that all about? Stories like this usually don't appear in the
Russian press by accident - and they usually have goals other than amusing
voyeuristic readers. When something like this pops up, it is often some sort
of veiled threat.
Granted, the Bank of New York's recent history with Russia hasn't been a
happy one. Last fall, US and British law-enforcement officials said they were
investigating allegations that as much as $7 billion in Russian cash was
illegally laundered through the bank.
When the scandal broke, the news media here were full of stories saying the
allegations were fabricated by political forces in the United States to
The Bank of New York has since fired two Russian-born executives, Lucy
Edwards and Natalya Kagalovskaya. Edwards pleaded guilty to arranging illegal
transfer of billions of dollars through the bank. Kagalovskaya, who has not
been charged, is suing the bank for damaging her reputation.
Last week, Iowa Republican James Leach, who chairs the House Banking
Committee, was in Moscow to confer with Russian legislators on how the
countries can cooperate to tighten controls on money laundering. A Russian
journalist asked Leach about the Versiya article and its allegations of
sexual debauchery. While listening to the translation, Leach's face seemed to
betray a mixture of confusion, amusement, and dread - but he recovered well.
''We don't know anything about sexual scandals in the United States,'' he
Nearly everyone in the room burst out in laughter. The Russian media, with
barely concealed delight, had reported extensively on the Monica Lewinsky
The tabloid press isn't the only place the Bank of New York has fallen under
attack here. Recently, billboards have appeared along some of Moscow's most
heavily traveled streets with the following message: ''Gentlemen from the
Bank of New York, we are warning you. Manipulating stocks in Russia is
Nobody can say who was behind the billboards, but the Bank of New York is a
major player with Russian stocks. The bank holds a virtual monopoly on
American Depositary Receipts, or ADRs, proxy stocks for Russian corporations
that are traded on Wall Street.
Under the ADR system, the Bank of New York buys shares in Russian companies
and then sells proxy stocks on the US exchange. The bank, not the foreign ADR
holder, is allowed to vote at shareholder meetings.
Some politicians here have criticized the ADR system, saying Russian
corporate executives use it to manipulate shareholder votes. In exchange for
a company's ADR business, the politicians allege, the Bank of New York agrees
to vote according to management's wishes.
The Bank of New York's ADR business is also threatened by Kagalovskaya's $270
million lawsuit. If she wins, her lawyers suspect that the Bank of New York
will not pay out. If this happens, the lawyers have hinted that they will go
after the assets the Bank of New York owns in several Russian companies
Meanwhile, Moscow can probably look forward to more tantalizing tabloid
stories, and strange billboards.
Date: Sat, 29 Apr 2000
From: Gordon N Bardos <email@example.com>
Subject: AP/Harriman Conference in New York May 5
Your are cordially invited to:
The Seventh Annual Associated Press/Harriman Institute Conference
"Russia After Yeltsin"
Friday, May 5th, 2000
Kellogg Conference Center
International Affairs Building
9:00-9:30--Registration and Coffee
9:30--9:45--Welcome and Introductory Remarks: Catherine Nepomnyashchy,
Associate Director, Harriman Institute, Amb. William Luers,
President and Chairman, United Nation Association of the US, Chairman of
the National Advisory Council of the Harriman Institute;
Thomas Kent, Deputy Managing Editor, Associated Press
9:45-11:45--Panel I: Russia's Changing Political Scene
Chair: Amb. Jack Matlock, Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton, NJ,
and former US Ambassador to the USSR
Panelists: Stephen F. Cohen, New York University
Alexander J. Motyl, Rutgers University
Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, Princeton University
12-1:45--Luncheon and Keynote Address: Thomas Graham, Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace
2-3:45: Panel II: The Future of Economic Reform: Progress or Stagnation?
Chair: Allen Sinai, President and Chief Global Economist, Primark Decision
Panelists: Rose Brady, Business Week
Padma Desai, Harriman Institute
Richard Ericson, Harriman Institute
4-5:45--Panel III: Western Media Coverage of Russia
Chair: Thomas Kent, Associated Press
Panelists: Jim Heintz, Associated Press Moscow Bureau
David Johnson, Center for Defense Information, and Editor, Johnson's
Serge Schmemann, Deputy Foreign Editor, The New York Times
The registration fee for the conference is $85. For more information or to
register, please contact Gordon N. Bardos at 212-854-8487, or by email at
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000
From: "Keith Bush" <KBush@CSIS.ORG>
Subject: the eXile at CSIS in Washington May 4
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Russia and Eurasian Program
Corporate Briefing Series
THE EXPATRIATEĂS RUSSIA
Thursday, May 4, 3:305:00 PM, at CSIS
Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames
Editors of the eXile
And now for something completely different! Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames have
the editors of the exile, a biweekly Moscow-based satirical and political
magazine, since 1997. They have also just published The exile: Sex, Drugs, and
Libel in the New Russia. At 3:30 PM on Thursday, May 4, they will be
the record at CSIS about their experiences editing a satirical magazine in
Moscow. They will also discuss the failures of the so-called ˘reform÷ movement
in the Yeltsin era, the outlook for press freedoms under the Putin regime, and
the problems with Western press coverage of Russia.
We look forward to seeing you on May 4.
PLEASE RSVP BY FAX (202)775-3132 OR TELEPHONE (202)775-3240
April 26, 2000
Argumenty i fakty
Interview with Sergei IVANOV, Secretary of the Security Council
[translation for personal use only]
Just recently Sergei Ivanov was widely known only in very narrow circles.
Being at the helm of one of structural subdivisions of the Foreign
Intelligence Service, and then as deputy director of the FSB, Lieut.Gen.
Ivanov did not suffer from excess visibility. But since he became secretary
of Security Council, that is, one of the key figures in the presidential
administration, Sergei Borisovich Ivanov immediately became accessible to
and interesting for the media.
Q: Could you provide an example of any real threat to the nation that was
liquidated by the Security Council?
A: It is preferable not to allow threats to emerge, which implies constant
adjustments in our policies. But at times, we have to resort to straight
action. Thus, last fall, with the beginning of the Chechnya war, our TV
channels vied with each other in running interviews with Basayev, Raduev,
Udugov, and other bandits. We had to make it clear, that, I'm sorry to say,
even in the most democratic Britain, members of the terrorist IRA have no
legal right to display their mugs on television screens. If anything ought
to be quoted, this is done by an announcer without showing the picture of
the "hero". One cannot allow terrorists to propagate their views. After an
intervention by Security Council, this practice ended in our country.
Q: Did you make estimates of how much longer will the Chechen war drag on?
A: It may languish for another several years. Even under Stalin's tough
policies, which included deporting Chechens to Kazakhstan over one week, and
under somewhat softer policies of his successor, the last bandit in Chechnya
was slain in the mountains in 1974.
Q: Russian military are often accused of being too rough. How justified are
A: Attempts to be soft only led to ever more blood. At present, our military
act like this: if there is a gunshot from a certain building, they open fire
without delay. And all locals had been warned of this attitude. As a result,
we already control even the most difficult mountainous areas. It is also
important to take control of all borders and related flows of supplies to
Q: But in the meantime, it looks like we are losing the information war. We
fail to demonstrate to the outer world that our actions in Chechnya are just
A: In our Soviet past, we had APN, foreign broadcasting, which enabled the
government to explain its policies to the world. Now we do not have these
capabilities. Our task is to set up something new, something like USIA in
America. But, as usual, money is the problem.
Q: By the way, do we still define America as our enemy, or do we have no
enemies any more?
A: My viewpoint is that the key threats to our security are internal ones.
Because no one has damaged us as much as we did ourselves. Economy is the
first priority, crime and disorganization of the state that has become
unmanageable are second and third. We put the economy front and center,
because if it does not improve, then there is no sense to discuss other
Q: Which intelligence services in the world you would rate as the strongest?
A: Ours, the British, and the Israeli.
British intelligence has an excellent school and traditions, they give
superb training to their agents. As for the Israeli intelligence, the most
important role is played by the ethnic factor, which no other country shares
to such an extent. If an Israeli agent asks a Jew for help, at least he can
be confident that his contact will not betray him.
Q: What about the CIA?
A: Americans have got too much money. Hence their idea that anything can be
bought and that you don't need to exert your brain. I must say that an
intelligence agent is typically slowed down by too much money and comfort.
Our native operative is accustomed to using his brain rather than money, to
keep himself in shape and to do twenty things at once.
Q: Beside Chechnya, there is yet one more threat. This is the creeping
takeover of the Far East by China.
A: China is not the only problem, although this process is going on, in the
Far East, among other places. In fact, no one knows how many illegal
immigrants we have. Clearly, there are several millions of them. Plus,
[people from] virtually all the CIS reside in our land. For this reason, we
will have to introduce visa regime, sooner or later. Because we have
millions of Ukrainians, Azeris, Georgians, who work here and send home
billions of dollars in cash that is unaccounted for. From a human point of
view, we can understand this. But this does not make our life any easier.
Meanwhile, in the "civilized" Europe one has to pay no less than $ 2,000 per
person for a half-a-year visa with work permit.
Q: Wouldn't it be better to let these Azeris stay in Russia and settle down
here? After all, these are our people, just as the Armenians, the Georgians,
and others. As long as they don't bring their families here, let them send
money over there, if they earned it honestly.
A: Indeed, we are destined to live in a multi-ethnic state. Already now we
have about 25-30% of non-citizens in Russia. And they are entitled to export
their money, but only on a legal basis. So that the police does not have to
rob them in the flea markets, they ought to pay their reasonable legal
taxes. We should have become pragmatists long time ago and display our
reasonable national egoism. When select leaders of the CIS [countries]
declare their wish to join NATO, they don't consult us, and they keep
silence while squeezing Russians out of their countries. We cannot act this
way, but we can and we must compel our neighbors to respect our legitimate
national interests. One cannot get a free ride by stealing Russia's oil and
gaz, while at the same time striving to join either Greater Romania, or
NATO, or something else... Our response is as follows: please go wherever
you like, but take responsibility for all the consequences.
<...> Q: Tell us please how did you meet Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin].
A: Although we both studied in the Leningrad University, we didn't meet each
other there, as some people think. After graduating from the language
department, I got a degree from the KGB's advanced counter-intelligence
courses in Minsk. After that, I was assigned to the Leningrad directorate,
where he was already working. We were born in the same year, so it was just
natural for us to become friends. Two years later, I was transferred to
Moscow and spent another year in the intelligence school. I never returned
to St.Pete. But we met each other now and then, when we both had to go to
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000
From: VladPchol@aol.com (Karen Johnson)
Subject: EAST EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW--FREE
Free subscriptions to the print version of the East European Constitutional
Review are available by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send your name, mailing address, and institutional
affiliation, if any.
The EECR is a quarterly that has covered law and politics in post-socialist
Europe and Eurasia since 1992. Its upcoming issue has a special feature on
Russia After Yeltsin. The previous issue looked at the "demand for law" in
Russia. (Back issues are available online at http://www.law.nyu.edu/eecr)
The EECR is published by NYU Law School and the Central European University;
its editor-in-chief is Professor Stephen Holmes.
The EECR also has a Russian-language edition published in Moscow; it is
available online at http://www.mpsf.org/cp/r_csc.html#kpvo
Articles Editor, East European Constitutional Review
New York Times
May 1, 2000
[for personal use only]
U.S.-Russian Talks Revive Old Debates on Nuclear Warnings
By WILLIAM J. BROAD
American proposals to change a key arms control agreement have revived some
of the more important, if arcane, debates over nuclear strategy that not long
ago seemed consigned to the dustbin of the cold war.
One of those strategies is called "launch on warning" and is widely viewed as
raising the risk of accidental nuclear war.
It was mentioned recently in documents that American negotiators gave Russian
officials in an effort to persuade them to amend the 1972 Antiballistic
Missile Treaty and let the United States build a limited missile defense.
The documents, presented to the Russians in January, were obtained by The New
York Times, which published parts of them last week.
Opponents of changes to the ABM treaty are now charging that the Clinton
administration is encouraging Russia to engage in a high-risk nuclear
strategy. But American officials strongly deny that charge, saying they are
simply acknowledging the reality of what Moscow might do in time of war.
The launch on warning strategy is essentially this: if a defender detected a
nuclear launch, it would send up its own missiles and warheads even before
its enemy's could hit the ground. That way, a country would not be left
defenseless by having its missiles destroyed while they were still sitting in
their submarines and silos.
Launch on warning was once seen as a way to reinforce the idea that all sides
would lose in a nuclear exchange -- and thus deter one -- as modern arms
became increasingly accurate.
The problem, most experts on strategy say, is that it also puts nuclear war
on a hair trigger. And it increases the risks of an accidental nuclear
exchange because early warning systems are notoriously faulty. In 1995, for
instance, the Russians misread the launching of an American weather rocket
from Norway as a surprise nuclear attack. If not caught by vigilant humans,
such false alerts can start an accidental exchange of nuclear missiles.
Despite such dangers, the new American documents mention launch on warning in
an approving context. They say it would help guarantee that the United States
would not strike first in a disarming attack, even if it had a missile
defense, which strategists, as well as the Russians, see as destabilizing
because in theory it can give one side a protective advantage.
A Russian policy of launch on warning would thus continue to insure that both
sides would lose in any nuclear exchange.
"It is highly unlikely," the documents said, that an enemy with a shield
would ever attack Russia because Moscow could launch its missiles on warning
of attack, "which would neutralize the effectiveness of the assault."
The documents also say Russia is keeping its nuclear forces on "constant
alert and apparently will do so" well into the future. High states of alert
are a prerequisite for a policy of launch on warning, but they too can add to
the risks of accidental war.
Critics of an missile defense system say statements like those in the
American documents, coming in the context of reassuring Russia about its
ability to penetrate any American shield, are encouraging risky strategies
and undermining nuclear stability. "The U.S. position should seek to reduce,
not embrace, Russia's readiness to launch on warning," said Bruce Blair,
president of the Center for Defense Information, a private Washington group.
John D. Steinbruner, a nuclear expert at the University of Maryland, said the
Clinton administration's tacit endorsement of Russian launch on warning was
"pretty bizarre" because "we know their warning system is full of holes."
Experts agree that Russia's network of early warning radars, satellites and
computers is decaying and increasingly prone to false alerts.
Lisbeth Gronlund, a scientist at the Security Studies Program of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the documents show that the
United States, in exchange for what she characterized as an unworkable
antimissile dream, was willing to pay an absurd price: "the continued threat
of Russian unauthorized, accidental and erroneous launches."
Instead, the critics say, Moscow should be encouraged to take its nuclear
forces off alert and to disavow launch on warning, and Washington should do
Federal officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied that the
arms negotiators were blessing dangerous practices and said the critics were
being na1ve. The references in the documents, they said, simply conceded
military realities and what Russia might do in war.
"It's not our job to say it's a bad thing," a senior official who works
intimately with the Russians on military matters said of launch on warning.
He said that Washington, eager to lessen the odds of accidental war, is
actively working with Moscow to help Russia improve its early-warning
"We're into lowering the risk" of war, the official said, "not raising it."
He added that in some cases that meant a nation would adopt arguments and
strategies that might look risky, but over time would prove beneficial.
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000
From: Albert Weeks <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
Subject: Holum and Blair dialog
The Holum/Blair dialog prompts a number of additional comments:
1. Mr. Blair deplores Russia's LOW (launch on warning) posture and
calls it infeasible. But the Russians still stick by it. As proved by
their dangerous reaction to the stray Norwegian test rocket several
years ago. Their hair-trigger posture, in fact, is simply one more
argument in favor of
some form of American anti-missile protection. So is the danger
of accidental launch, which is generally ignored in such discussions.
2. If the Russians are so opposed to anti-missile defense, why
do they continue to invest so much in their constantly-upgraded
ABM around Moscow, the world's most impressive, functional ABM??
Why is this installation praised so lavishly in a new military book
published in Moscow? For our part, we declined to deploy even one such
permitted battery. We have thus lost some technological time and ground
in the ABM field. Moreover, how much technological know-how backed up
the Krasnoyarsk NMD installation erected in violation of the ABM treaty
of '72? Based on its overall ABM testing and accumulated knowledge,
how easily could Russia expand its existent ABM into a NMD?
3. In a hypothetical argument, Mr. Blair imagines a surprise American
nuclear attack against Russia. But hypothetical arguments of a fantastic
are simply unconvincing. (Let's, say, imagine a dictator taking over the
White House in Washington!) Everyone knows, or should know, that U.S.
diplomatic and military history shows that this country has responded
to, not initiated large-scale military actions in the 20th century. Even
post-'91 Russian history texts acknowledge this truism about the U.S.
known to every schoolboy as the defencist "Pearl Harbor syndrome."
By contrast, Russian, Soviet, and to some degree post-Soviet Russian
military history shows an intertwining of both offensive and defensive
strategic postures and actions. The last phase of the Soviet period showed
a distinct Russian preference for offensive strategies (as documented by
such military thinkers as Yeltsin's former military adviser, Andrei
Kokoshin, who recenly
wrote that Soviet military strategy was deeply offencist in nature).
4. If Russia is so "unanimously" opposed to NMD, why is it that certain
military writers themselves, published in the pages of the General Staff
journal, Voyennaya Mysl' (Military Thought), propose NMD for Russia??
Evidently some Russian military men DO favor it. On what grounds? Maybe
others on both sides, Russian and American, should examine their
THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/DAILY YOMIURI
April 30, 2000
LOCAL GOVERNORS BOW TO PUTIN
Alexander Tsypko, Special To The Daily Yomiuri
(Tsypko is Director of the Political Research Center in Moscow.)
Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin inherited from Boris Yeltsin three
big problems: oligarchs, natural monopolies and the high-handedness of
Of these, Putin has succeeded first in solving the latter problem by
reestablishing centralized power and traditional Russian one-man
management. The most significant indication that he had achieved this came
with our senators' almost unanimous support of Putin's request to dismiss
Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov.
It illustrates the unprecedented force of the new executive. Perhaps for
the first time in its six years of existence, the upper house--consisting
of elected heads of the federation and heads of regional legislative
bodies--demonstrated a strong and open desire to please the president.
Obviously, our senators are much more afraid of Putin than they were of
Yeltsin. During the course of 1999, Yeltsin asked senators three times to
agree with his decision to dismiss Skuratov. And three times governors who
controlled the upper house refused to take Yeltsin's side despite all the
accompanying demands and threats.
When Putin asked them to fire Skuratov, they eagerly took the chance to
demonstrate their servility. Governors even sent hints to Putin that they
would cooperate with his wish to get rid of the prosecutor who had tried to
uncover the Kremlin's corruption.
The almost unanimous support Putin received from governors has destroyed
the myth that governors and heads of national republics enjoy political
independence from the Kremlin.
Now not only governors of Russian provinces but also presidents of Islamic
republics are rushing to give the loyalty oath to Putin. It is becoming
clear that our "regional barons" were able to walk as they pleased only
because of Yeltsin's weakness. Yeltsin allowed them to do anything they
wanted, which included nonpayment of taxes, the promulgation of local laws
and cooperation with the local mafia.
Regional feudalism as well as the concentration of power in the hands of
"the Family" were possible due to a feeble Yeltsin. At the end of summer
1999, there was an impression that Yeltsin had let all centralized power
dissipate. But as soon as an energetic and tough president appeared in the
Kremlin, everything was put in order and refractory barons became obedient.
So the present fountain-like loyalty of governors to the new president
shows that their former high-handedness had no serious political
foundation. Yeltsin just did not want to rule the country and passed a big
part of his power to the regions. But the traditional potential of Russian
centralism was strong even in the time of Yeltsin's weakness. As soon as a
real master appeared, regional barons immediately turned out to be loyal
They even started to undermine their own authority by asking Putin to
abolish direct public elections of heads of regional administration and to
return to the practice of appointing them, thereby restoring a vertical
In that "self-torture" of our governors one can see some logic and motives.
People always feel less regret for what they have got for free than for
what they have earned with hard work. Governors did nothing themselves as
politicians to get their present huge powers. It was Yeltsin and his team
who introduced a new clause into the 1993 Constitution that allowed
governors to establish a mandate for their authority through direct
Yeltsin himself, in accordance with democratic fashion, introduced the
clause stipulating that regional police heads be appointed with the
agreement of the relevant governor. Though it was clear that the de-facto
dependence of police chiefs on regional governors would harshly weaken
discipline in the country.
When governors enjoy a decisive word in the nomination of local police
heads, the Interior Ministry has no chance of conducting its own personnel
policy and maintaining the one-man management naturally suited to such a
force. The present system gives governors the opportunity to cover up the
real criminal situation in their regions and to feel safe in the face of
Now governors understand that their liberties will be eliminated anyway, so
they are hurrying to express their loyalty to the new president as well as
their interest in strong discipline.
In fact, Putin needs to deprive regional separatism of its legal basis. To
strengthen law, it is necessary that the chief local prosecutor and the
heads of the police, tax and custom departments are appointed by the
central government only. They should also be subordinate exclusively to the
center. Only in that case would a governor, and those financial structures
that back him up, be afraid of punishment if they violated the law.
To strengthen the vertical power line, Putin will also have to forbid
regional supplements to the salaries of judges, prosecutors and policemen.
As soon as provincial law custodians lose the possibility of feeding
themselves from the governor's table, they will recall their sense of duty.
The Supreme Court has already stipulated that additional payments to those
who maintain the law are illegal.
However, many experts think Putin may restore a vertical line of power
without abolishing the elections for governors and national republic
presidents. This measure has neither political nor social necessity. Public
support for an elected governor would not contradict the goal of state
discipline if the president had the right to appeal to the courts in the
case of a legal transgression and fire a governor upon a court's decision.
It is meaningful that the president's administration is now creating a
legal mechanism to allow a governors' dismissal. In Russia, fear of
dismissal makes one observe the law.
The present situation in which governors are completely obedient creates no
need for Putin to abolish the practice of elections in the regions. If he
did so, it would be a demonstration of weakness rather than power.
In fact, the direct election of governors and national presidents is one of
the pillars of our young democracy. Through such elections the public has
the chance once every four years to express its attitude toward local
authorities and to support the most popular local leaders. Direct
gubernatorial elections are a form of public opinion poll the Kremlin
cannot ignore. Although Yeltsin and his men were against the reelection of
Luzhkov for the post of Moscow mayor, they had to agree with Muscovites who
respected Luzhkov as a tough and effective manager.
Of course, in a situation of depleted central power and a lack of financial
support for local legal authorities, separatism in the regions was bound to
grow. But at the same time, the election of governors has positively
influenced our political life. The legitimacy of elected heads has helped
to strengthen the legitimacy of Russian executive power as a whole. Until
1996 that legitimacy had been weak because Yeltsin ruled the country from
December 1991 to July 1996 without being reelected to the president's post.
Free direct elections of governors have helped to unite people in Russian
regions and to strengthen a traditionally weak system of local
self-government. A legitimate governor could resist radical forms of
landslide privatization. Luzhkov could protect Moscow from Chubais'
checkbook privatization, which was ineffective in the capital both
politically and economically.
If Putin tries to abolish elections, it would be treated in Russian
provinces as a blow to rights and freedoms. In Islamic republics like
Tataria, Bashkiria or Kabardino-Balkaria that would mean an affront to the
national dignity of minorities. Psychological factors are very important.
Minor nations want to elect their leaders in the same way as elsewhere in
Now we have everything necessary to restore a vertical power line in Russia
without administrative revolutions or the use of force. Now when governors
are rushing to show their fidelity to the new president, it is easy to make
amendments to the Constitution that could limit governors' high-handedness.
That would be a way to restore centralized power constitutionally, thereby
helping to save the system of self-government and to strengthen democracy.
From: "Matthew Taibbi" <email@example.com>
Subject: eXile press review
Date: Sun, 30 Apr 2000
CHECHENZ WITH ATTITUDES ONLINE!
Listen in to the most tasteless gangsta rap recording of all time through
the miracle of the internet. Click on to the eXile website (www.exile.ru) to
hear the hit single "Straight Outta Grozny", the first release of the
eXile-produced jihad-rap band, "Chechenz With Attitudes." The
studio-produced song, in both Russian and English, is up on our site in MP3
format. If you have no life, look on the site's front page and hear MC
Shamil Basayev, Mc Khattab, and Easy Aslan Maskhadov kick it old school.
You'll never listen to the sucker MCs at the New York Times again...
Anyway, here's the press review....
Meet Dr. Obvious
By Matt Taibbi
Question: What do you get when you cross the worldĂs easiest job with the
worldĂs ugliest moustache?
Answer: Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times.
Welcome to part 1 of ˘Hurrumphing Columnists÷, the eXileĂs newest and most
ill-advised made-for-TV drama. Desperate for marketing ideas, we here at the
eXile in this issue have decided to go old-school and bring back the
mini-series. Remember The Winds of War? V? They were movies you wouldnĂt
have watched in one part, but couldnĂt miss in three. This new feature will
captivate you the same way, profiling in big bunches a group of newspaper
columnists so boring and obnoxious that we probably couldnĂt pay you to read
them without the sales gimmick.
Our first such subject, Friedman, is someone Russia watchers should know
well. As the guardian of the TimesĂs prestigious Foreign Affairs column, his
blundering, irritating columns show up in the Russia debate with more or
less regular frequency, unwanted but inevitable, like tests of the Emergency
Broadcast System. A native of Minnesota and a veteran of the TimesĂs Israel
bureau, Friedman has no special expertise as far as Russia or most other
countries are concerned. Nonetheless, like all columnists, he has more
freedom to pontificate about Russia or about anything else than the Times
reporters based in Moscow. This is a luxury Friedman shares with all
full-time columnists; like his peers, heĂs given license to broadcast his
opinions on the TimesĂs editorial page precisely because opinions, as
opposed to actual knowledge, are his expertise.
Columnists can use this freedom in a variety of ways. Dave Barry works
tirelessly to convince you of his wackiness. William F. Buckley tries to
make reactionary snobbery an art form. What makes Friedman remarkable is
that he has no schtick at all¨- his whole style is centered around a
thoroughly deadpan commitment to a literary legacy of naked, obvious
FriedmanĂs specialty is the urgent news flash filed ten years after the
story broke under everyone elseĂs bylines. Consider, for instance, these
insights from his column last week-¨ the April 18 piece on Russia,
ŠAt every level, different ministries, department heads, agencies,
governates and mayoralties have gone into partnership with private
businesses, local oligarchs or criminal elements, creating a kind of
21st-century Russian feudalism -- I'd call it "BizCzarism." Last week one
newspaper ran a graphic of deputy ministers at the Ministry of Energy, with
lines tracing which oil company each of them works for -- in tandem with
their government jobs.
ŠThe different K.G.B. clans, intelligence services and police forces have
driven the mobsters out of business -- not by putting them in jail, but by
taking over their protection rackets. Now your bank might pay the K.G.B. for
what Russians call "roof," a k a protection, and the bank next door might
pay the Interior Ministry for the same protection.Ă
This is classic Friedman¨- swooping in on a phenomenon every reporter in
Russia wrote about years ago, slapping a grotesquely maladroit catchword on
it (what kind of mind thinks up ˘BizCzarism÷ and expects anyone to remember
it?), and then quickly leaving town, apparently satisfied that heĂs placed
his stamp for good on the matter.
The fun part about following Friedman, as he passes in and out of the world
of Russian commentary, is that you never know where heĂll go from here. The
job he has allows him to be an expert on anything at anytime, a situation
which must make his world forever filled to the brim with narcissistic
temptations. The internet may frighten me because I have no hands-on
knowledge of the technology, but Friedman doesnĂt have that problem; who
needs to worry about understanding something, when you can just cut straight
to the chase and start writing about it right off the bat?
The result, inevitably, are pieces like his February 16 column ˘Lessons in
Cybercivics÷. From the headline alone you can see where this is going¨- New
York Times columnist goes from 0 to lesson-giving in no time flat. The sum
of FriedmanĂs observations in this piece basically amount to such trenchant
insights as the revelation that the internet is changing the world forever:
ŠWhen the walls between nations start to get blown away, and the world gets
increasingly wired into networks, everyone becomes potentially
super-empowered, including individuals and vandals. What makes an Amazon.com
so potentially powerful and possibly lucrative? It's the fact that in a
wired world a single bookstore can now reach into 180 different countries,
and be reached into from 180 different countries. Amazon is a
Friedman may be obvious, but heĂs no genius, either. As uninteresting and
unoriginal as he is, he still almost always manages to be a wrong-headed
reactionary on any issue he writes about. You always know what stance
Friedman is going to take on an issue, and usually you donĂt need to read
past the headline to catch his drift. After the WTO riots, for instance,
there were few sights less surprising than FriedmanĂs ˘Senseless in Seattle÷
headline blasting the protesters. (He liked that one so much, he wrote it
twice-- Senseless in Seattle II ran a few weeks later). Before the recent
IMF protests, Friedman wrote not one but two columns blasting the protests
(˘Saving the Lost World÷ and ˘Parsing the Protests÷). In the latter piece,
he pulled out his trademark wit to suggest that the protesters be renamed
"The Coalition to Keep the World's Poor People Poor." For good measure, he
gave a lift to the D.C. police by saying the demonstrators should get "the
back of your hand."
But through the miracle of the internet-¨ Cybercivics, if you will¨- U the
eXile reader can now experience the Friedman phenomenon in three dimensions.
ThatĂs because Friedman has a homepage for his new book, a dense piece of
Friedmanesque Obvious Wisdom on the globalization phenomenon. The book has
the kind of heavyhanded title that would make any Hurrumphing columnist
proud: ˘The Lexus and the Olive Tree÷. And the site that goes along with the
book offers, hilariously, audio recordings of Friedman thinking out loud. If
youĂre anywhere near a computer, get online right now and log on to
www.lexusandtheolivetree.com. You should see in the middle of the page a
real gem: FriedmanĂs ˘gas station÷ analogy. In it, Friedman says that the
whole globalization phenomenon can be broken down into four basic models,
which he says are like four types of gas stations. The first gas station is
Japanese and has great service, four attendants in white suits who wash the
windows, free air fresheners, etc., but the gas costs five dollars a gallon.
Then, proceeds Friedman, thereĂs the American gas station, in which gas
costs a dollar a gallon, but you pump it yourself. Then thereĂs the European
gas station, where gas also costs five dollars a gallon, but now thereĂs
only one worker who only works 36 hours a week and leaves the station closed
for lunch (in the audio version one can hear at this point a single faint,
halting laugh come from an elderly member of FriedmanĂs audience).
Then, lastly, Friedman cites the communist gas station, where gas costs
fifty cents, but there isnĂt any. ThatĂs his laugh line, the last one.
Communist gas-- there isn't any! This is followed by his point, which is
that the whole world now desperately wants our American kind of gas station.
And thatĂs it, thatĂs the point. If you didnĂt know any better, youĂd think
youĂd missed something. But you didn't.
Welcome to the world of commentary!
Next week: another colunist!
Gore Raps Bush on Foreign Policy
1 May 2000
By SANDRA SOBIERAJ
BOSTON (AP) - With a heightened focus on foreign policy, Vice President Al
Gore is taking aim at what he sees as a vulnerability of George W. Bush,
whose thinking on national security he charges is ``noticeably blank.''
In an address Sunday to the International Press Institute's congress of
foreign journalists, Gore cast his Republican rival for the presidency as a
puppet of ``right-wing'' ideologues such as Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and
dangerously fixated on the Cold War past.
After seven years of hands-on diplomacy at the White House, Gore believes he
outshines Texas Gov. Bush in foreign policy expertise. He recently added
elements of foreign policy, particularly Bush's opposition to a nuclear
testing ban, to his campaign stump speech and will address international
affairs again at the West Point military academy's commencement May 27.
In his Boston speech, Gore dismissed Bush as ``noticeably blank'' on 21st
century national security challenges such as terrorism, narcotics
trafficking, the global environment and international family planning, for
which Gore supports additional U.S. aid.
``One has to assume that these gaps in Governor Bush's foreign policy views
and experience will be filled by the ideologies and inveterate antipathies of
his party - the right-wing, partisan isolationism of the Republican
congressional leadership,'' Gore said.
Condoleezza Rice, Bush's top foreign policy adviser, shot back that the
speech lacked credibility, ``somewhat typical of the vice president.''
``He has this tendency to say that he's going to do one thing and in fact
he's ... done another for seven years,'' Rice said, calling the Clinton-Gore
record haphazard and incoherent.
Gore, who has pledged to make the rejected Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty the
first measure he submits to the Senate if elected, attacked Helms'
declaration last week that he will block any new arms control pacts until a
new president is inaugurated.
The administration is negotiating a START III weapons pact with Russia and
hopes to adjust the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow for a limited
U.S. missile defense system to protect against attacks from rogue nations.
``If Governor Bush were to inherit from us an arms control agreement so
clearly in the best interests of the American people, is Senator Helms the
last word?'' Gore asked.
He criticized Bush for promising to heighten the threshold for American
intervention in overseas crises and get involved only where there is a direct
``Governor Bush dangerously fixates on the Cold War past when speaking of the
use of force. He suggests that he would not intervene to relieve even the
brutal repression of ethnic cleansing and genocide,'' Gore said.
``We must reject the new isolationism that says, don't help anywhere because
we cannot help everywhere.''
Rice countered, ``If what the vice president is saying is that the post-Cold
War mission of American armed forces is to just intervene in other people's
civil wars because we might be able to help, I think that's a headline.''
Gore defended his work with the Russians, which Bush has criticized as
solicitous and negligent of increased corruption in Moscow, and said Bush
wrongly viewed Russia and China as America's enemies instead of as ``vital
Rice said Gore had mischaracterized Bush's views. ``The governor has not said
that Russia and China should be enemies; in fact, he has said that China is a
competitor and we should reach out to Russia,'' she said. ``It is very much
like the vice president to distort (Bush's) record.''
Gore lashed out at supporters of the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act,
legislation backed by Bush to establish closer military ties with Taiwan. He
said they were ``blind to its consequences: A sharp deterioration in the
security of the region.''
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