June 19, 2000
This Date's Issues: 4375 ē 4376
Johnson's Russia List
19 June 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
Another alert that I will be in Moscow June 24-July 3.
1. The Observer (UK): 'Victorious' Russians wait in fear for next
Three months ago, Vladimir Putin's army boasted of
its capture of the Chechen capital. But Amelia Gentleman in Grozny
finds the conquerors' morale shattered.
2. The Times (UK): Chechen rebels pick off elite troops. Alice
Lagnado visits an edgy Russian base in Khatuni, southern Chechnya.
3. Financial Times (UK): Putin faces Gusinsky furore.
4. AP: Stalin Victims Memorial Dedicated. (Ukraine)
5. The Independent (UK): Patrick Cockburn, There's nothing sweet
about Georgia now.
6. Ira Straus: US-Russia-India triangle - under construction, without architect.
7. Newsweek: Bill Powell and Yevgenia Albats, The Putin Crackdown.
In a troubling sign that the police-state days of the Soviet Union
might be coming back, the Kremlin moves in on the free press.
Behind Putin's power play, and what may lie ahead.
8. Reuters: Ukraine Hosts Big NATO Exercise, Russia Missing.
9. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, A glimmer of hope in
10. Robert Bruce Ware: Re: Stratfor.com: Russia Stirs up Religious
Animosity in Chechnya, JRL #4374.
11. Gary Kern: Russia Will Never Pay Its Debts.]
The Observer (UK)
18 June 2000
[for personal use only]
'Victorious' Russians wait in fear for next suicide bomber
Three months ago, Vladimir Putin's army boasted of its capture of the Chechen
capital. But Amelia Gentleman in Grozny finds the conquerors' morale shattered
An uneasy atmosphere of heightened nervous tension has spread among Russian
officers patrolling the shattered streets of Grozny after Chechen rebels
launched a series of devastating revenge attacks last week on army
checkpoints in the capital.
Weakened by the nine-month Russian assault, Chechen guerrillas have switched
their tactics - abandoning large-scale resistance in favour of dispatching
lone suicide bombers to destroy Russian posts, or mounting small lightning
raids on enemy positions.
One by one, dozens of Russian soldiers have been killed in an unrelenting
sequence of ambushes. Shrewdly calculated to cause maximum distress by their
random nature, the attacks have had the desired effect: the morale of Russian
troops in the capital has been debilitated.
Last Sunday Sergei K, 25, a commando officer from Siberia, saw two of his
closest colleagues blown up when a Chechen suicide bomber detonated
explosives in the boot of his car at a checkpoint on the capital's outskirts.
It was 5.30pm, just half an hour before the night curfew was due to begin,
when the white Lada stopped a few metres from the roadblock. The driver
stepped out, presented his documents and opened the boot to show soldiers
what was inside. The bomb was triggered as the car boot opened; all three men
Security measures in the capital were intensified, with new bands of military
police sent to guard the city roads. An order prohibiting the delivery of
fresh water to the city was issued - despite the complete absence of drinking
water within the capital - because generals were concerned that explosives
could be hidden in the trucks. But despite these strict precautions, last
Wednesday and again on Thursday more soldiers were killed in similar Chechen
Even the most hardened members of the elite security forces sent to police
Grozny now admit to feeling unnerved. 'The work we're doing is terrifying;
I'd be a fool to pretend otherwise. Guarding these checkpoints has become the
most dangerous job in Chechnya,' Sergei said, standing behind a makeshift new
barricade in the city centre built from cement sacks and barbed wire. 'I know
what happened to Yura Kovalyev could happen to me. One minute he was telling
me about his small son who was about to have his second birthday, the next
minute I watched him being blown up. I ran over to try to give him first aid,
but it was too late. We had to collect up the bodies instead.'
It is more than three months since the Russian army triumphantly declared
that they had seized Grozny from the separatist rebels, but they have yet to
take decisive control of the ruined trophy city. Every night its inhabitants
are woken up by sniper shots rattling through the silence, as Chechen
fighters target Russian posts under cover of darkness. Every morning officers
gather to calculate how many more of their men have been killed or injured
during the night.
As many as 500 rebels are thought to remain in the capital, making their way
brazenly from one side of the city to the other - concealed from sight amid
the ruins - their sole task to launch attacks on the Russian soldiers trying
to cling on to the city. Small groups of Chechen fighters, who know the
terrain intimately, hide in the bombed-out shells of Grozny's apartment
blocks. This is a scenario painfully familiar to veterans of the 1994-96
Chechen war, when a Russian victory over Grozny was later reversed by rebel
fighters who seized back the city.
'Soldiers in the city are on full alert. Every car coming into the city is
scrutinised thoroughly. But it's impossible to know where to expect the next
attack, which is why the situation is so tense,' Mikhail Sulomatin, a
military police officer, said.
The chaos in Grozny reflects a wider picture of disarray, as rebels adopt
similar terrorising tactics on military bases throughout the state. Police
Captain Alexander Zuyev witnessed another guerrilla attack last Monday in the
Argun region, as his troops drove over a home-made Chechen land mine. One
soldier died at once, another had his leg blown off and died a few hours
later in the military hospital, four more were badly injured.
'After the explosion, fighters started firing on us from the woods nearby.
Now that the leaves are out and everything is green, it's much easier for
them to hide in the undergrowth, so they can get away with this kind of
attack,' he said. 'Over the past week the situation across Chechnya has
become much more dangerous for us. The Chechens have hit on a clever way of
frightening our men.'
Russia's problems in the region extend far beyond these escalating rebel
attacks. With all of Chechnya - except for a remote stretch in the mountains
- nominally under Russian control, Kremlin officials are searching
desperately for a way to establish a more permanent hold over the area.
Politicians attempted again last week to impose a pro-Moscow leadership on
the Chechen nation. On Monday, Akhmed Kadyrov, a local Muslim leader, was
named as the new head of Vladimir Putin's administration in Chechnya, but his
appointment was greeted with quiet suspicion in the region.
Russia has struggled for a long time to find an appropriate loyal figure to
head Chechnya after the war. The last Moscow-appointed Chechen leader, Bislan
Ganta-mirov (released from a Moscow prison, where he was serving a corruption
sentence, to fulfil the role) did not last long. He was dismissed last month,
accused of collaborating with the rebels.
Alongside this hunt for a peacetime leader, a much-publicised reconstruction
programme continues, attempting to restore stability after the chaos of two
brutally destructive wars. Russian officials are fond of releasing updated
figures on the numbers of schools and hospitals which have been reopened in
parts of the country previously devastated by the conflict and the
administrative chaos that preceded it.
But the impact of these announcements was undermined last week when Nikolai
Koshman - the Russian-appointed official who was until recently in charge of
restoring civilian normality to Chechnya - announced in a bitter newspaper
interview that government funds for reconstruction had already dried up,
crippling the programme to rebuild the nation. This short-sighted economising
would lead to greater bloodshed, he warned, because the unemployed,
impoverished Chechens would willingly take up arms and flee to the rebel
bases in the mountains.
And life for those Chechens uprooted by the war has become no easier, despite
the lull in the intensity of the Russian attack. In a refugee camp in
Znamenskoye, northern Chechnya, 10-year-old Yakha Yasoko is still waiting for
a new leg eight months after her left leg was amputated because the wounds
she received when her home in Grozny blew up around her had turned
Visiting doctors have provided her with a pair of children's crutches, but
promises to build her a prosthesis have never materialised. 'There isn't
enough money here to feed the children properly, let alone to pay for
something like a false leg,' her father, Takhir Yasoko, said.
The family continues to live in three campbeds in one corner of a tent,
surrounded by other refugees, none of them able to return home, because their
houses have been destroyed.
'We thought for a while that we would return to Grozny. But there's nothing
left of our house there, and no one can help us buy materials to rebuild it.
We have no choice but to stay here,' Yasoko said.
The Times (UK)
19 June 2000
[for personal use only]
Chechen rebels pick off elite troops
Alice Lagnado visits an edgy Russian base in Khatuni, southern Chechnya
AN EXPERIENCED member of Russia's elite airborne paratroops was driving in
the heavily wooded mountains of southern Chechnya when he was distracted by a
sound, as if his lorry had punctured a tin can.
Within minutes, Major Stanislav Melitovsky, 40, was fighting for his life.
His driver, Stepan Simyonov, 20, had been shot dead by Chechen rebels hiding
in the undergrowth. He grabbed the steering wheel and fired back, one soldier
against any number of armed rebels. He managed to radio for help and
helicopters were dispatched. The ambushers fled. The shaken major got the
lorry back to base, having lost yet another comrade.
The army base, next to the village of Khatuni in the foothills 15 miles
southeast of Grozny, is the most dangerous place for a Russian soldier in
Chechnya except, perhaps, Grozny itself, the capital. The base is surrounded
by mountains bordering Dagestan, Georgia and Russia. Small groups of rebels
are constantly trying to flee to Georgia or to Dagestan for rest and
recuperation, and at night they shoot at the base. Helicopter pilots fly low
into the base to avoid Stinger missiles.
Moscow has dispatched its elite force, the airborne paratroops famed for
their toughness and experience. But the thousand or so men in the 51st
Brigade are constantly on edge, despite the sunshine that bathes the base and
a tranquil appearance. "Don't think that everything is calm here," Vladimir
Dashko, deputy commander of the brigade, said.
In the 51st's view, the internecine guerrilla war is being organised by
international mercenaries who are unrepresentative of the Chechen people.
They claim that local Chechens want them to stay as long as possible and that
the war has inflicted fewer civilian casualties than in Kosovo. They compare
the conflict in Chechnya to the strife in Northern Ireland.
The 51st is determined to finish what has been described as an unwinnable
war. Unlike the scruffy conscripts serving in other parts of Chechnya, these
men believe that they should, and will, win the war, perhaps within a year.
Russia's failure to stamp its control on Chechnya after eight months of war
is daily apparent in Grozny, where police are on high-security alert after a
week of suicide bombs, nightly gun battles and killings.
On Friday three pro-Moscow Chechens were killed; one was a senior cleric and
the others were policemen, who were beheaded. Last week three bombs went off
and there were two the week before in "kamikaze-style" attacks by suicide
bombers. The latest car bomb went off the day before we arrived in Chechnya,
killing four paramilitary police and injuring eight.
After the killings General Ivan Babichev, a Russian commander respected by
both sides for his restraint in the first Chechen war, admitted: "We are not
in a position at the moment to overcome this explosion of banditry." At the
weekend the Kremlin suggested that the region may be sliding into civil war
rather than an anti-Russian guerrilla conflict.
On my last visit to Grozny, we travelled in a minibus. This time, four
journalists were driven in two tanks and accompanied by 18 commandos, who
allowed us stops of a few minutes at each place.
Mikhail Solomatin, an Interior Ministry officer who escorted us, said: "We
are checking cars and passports more thoroughly. We have enough police to
control the situation, but they are on high alert." He told us that if a
crowd gathered around us he would have to disperse it because there could be
Grozny has not changed in two months. The old women rebuilding the railway
station have not yet received any pay from Moscow. The rest of the city
remains a proclamation of the might of the Russian Army. But razing an entire
city has not brought the generals any closer to finding the Chechen warlord
Shamil Basayev or stopping rebels from blowing up Russian police.
Financial Times (UK)
19 June 2000
[for personal use only]
Putin faces Gusinsky furore
By John Thornhill in Moscow and Stefan Wagstyl in London
President Vladimir Putin returned to Moscow at the weekend, following a
six-day tour of Europe, to confront the political tumult caused by the arrest
of Vladimir Gusinsky, the media magnate.
The targeting of Mr Gusinsky, founder of Media Most, Russia's biggest
independent media group, has provoked alarm in Russian business circles and
drawn sharp criticism from abroad.
But Russian prosecutors, who released Mr Gusinsky from the infamous Butyrka
prison on Friday after three days, are continuing to pursue criminal charges
against the entrepreneur for embezzling state property.
Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, yesterday called for
the creation of an "anti-fascist front" to resist the rise of
authoritarianism. He said the decision to arrest Mr Gusinsky was designed to
crush the information base of an independent civil society.
"This is not connected with the establishment of order nor with the struggle
with the oligarchs. It is a settling of accounts between different groups,
one of which has triumphed and now wants to exact revenge on its opponents,"
Political observers have suggested that Alexander Voloshin, the powerful head
of the presidential administration who is closely linked with some of
Russia's most powerful oligarchs, was behind the attack on Media Most.
Last week, Mr Putin described Mr Gusinsky's arrest as "excessive", but
criticised businessmen who had profited from exploiting state property and
then attacked the state.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who heads the Rosprom financial-industrial group, was
certain Mr Putin must have known about the arrest in advance.
"I am worried other business people might be arrested. If one takes our
legislation into consideration it is possible to find a violation of the law
in any company," he said.
Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the United Nations Development
Programme, who met senior ministers in Moscow last week, said Mr Putin's
reaction to the Gusinsky affair would reveal much about the nature of the new
"Russia cannot have an ŗ la carte modernisation of its political economy. It
has to move forward on all fronts, strengthening and deepening democracy," he
Mr Khodorkovsky said there were three possible outcomes: either the
government would impose its authority; or people would challenge the
authorities - with unpredictable consequences; or the authorities would
realise that a democratic society was impossible without an opposition.
Stalin Victims Memorial Dedicated
June 18, 2000
By SERGEI SHARGORODSKY
KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) - Amid crosses and flickering candles, the Polish and
Ukrainian prime ministers on Saturday dedicated a memorial to the thousands
killed by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's secret police 60 years ago.
``No words can describe this tragedy,'' Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Busek
said at ceremonies at the Pyatikhatki Park cemetery, outside the Ukrainian
city of Kharkhiv.
The cemetery is the resting place of some 7,000 Polish army officers and
civilians executed in 1940 on orders from Stalin. After the Soviet Union
occupied part of Poland, Stalin wanted to remove possible threats to Soviet
control by killing academics, doctors, scientists, lawyers and others in
positions of authority.
Thousands of Ukrainians, Russians and others executed under Stalin are also
buried at the cemetery. Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union before it became
independent in 1991.
Hundreds of mostly elderly Poles came to Saturday's ceremonies. They wandered
amid tall Eastern Orthodox and Catholic crosses where the victims are buried
in mass graves.
Many on Saturday knelt and wept, as they placed flowers, candles and small
white-and-red Polish flags on metal plaques engraved with the names of the
Historian Nina Lapchynska, who combed secret police archives in search of
victims' names, said many of the Soviet dead remained unidentified. By
contrast, many of the Poles had documents and other personal items on them
when their remains were found in the early 1990s.
After the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939 under a pact with Nazi Germany,
some 26,000 captured Polish officers were killed by the Soviet secret police.
Some of the victims were taken to the Pyatikhatki forest clearing, while
others were shot and buried in the Katyn forest near Smolensk, Russia.
The common graves in Katyn were discovered by the Nazis during World War II,
and ever since have overshadowed the troubled Polish-Russian relationship.
Only in 1990 did the Kremlin admit responsibility, but last year antagonized
Poland by denying the 1939 invasion had been an act of aggression.
Relations between Poland and Ukraine have been more cordial, and the two
countries agreed in 1998 to set up the Kharkhiv memorial. But there seemed to
be little peace for the mourners who came Saturday.
Volodymyr Nastenko, an elderly Ukrainian, recalled waking up one night in
1938 and watching secret police agents take his father away. ``I never saw my
father again,'' Nastenko said. ``He was slain in October, 1938.''
The Independent (UK)
17 June 2000
[for personal use only]
There's nothing sweet about Georgia now
By Patrick Cockburn in Tblisi
I have always liked Tbilisi, capital of Georgia. Its boulevards and
19th-century houses make it look like a chunk of central Paris set down amid
the ravines and cliffs of the south Caucasus mountains.
I also think of it fondly because of an incident the first time I visited,
when it was part of the Soviet Union, in the company of a parliamentary
delegation led by William Whitelaw and Denis Healey, then deputy leaders
respectively of the Conservative and Labour parties.
Both liked their drink and Mikhail Gorbachev had clamped down on the sale of
alcohol throughout the Soviet Union. The delegation had endured receptions
and meetings in Moscow and Leningrad fortified only by mineral water and
On the plane to Tbilisi, the last stop on the tour, Whitelaw said testily:
"Once, after the Normandy landings, I had to go three days without a serious
drink because I was pinned down by German machine-gun fire ... But from that
day, until this visit, I have done myself pretty well."
At first Tbilisi seemed to offer no succour. Georgia is famous for its red
wine but there was none in sight. Our itinerary was intimidating: the first
time item said the delegation would to be taken to "the city walls of
These are impressive but there was no great enthusiasm. But when we arrived
we found "The City Walls of Tbilisi" was a restaurant and the Georgians had
arranged a wine tasting. The mood of our parched little group rapidly revived
as we sampled the different vintages, amid repeated pledges to
Outwardly Tbilisi today, now capital of independentGeorgia has changed
little. Good red wine is still available as so is the chacha moonshine.
It takes a few hours to realise Georgia is in ruins. In Soviet times it was
the envy of the rest of the country, famed for its wine, fruit and gangsters,
all of which flourished in the warm climate.
A Georgian colonel, who retired when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, said:
"It used to be difficult for me in the army. Everybody used to think I must
be a millionaire, since I came from Georgia."
The gangsters are doing nicely but almost all the big factories have closed.
The heart of Tbilisi's economic life is the bazroba, an enormous bazaar where
stalls sell everything from onions to appliances. A friend said: "The hawkers
buy a pen for 10 cents and sell it for 11 cents. It is just enough to
In a courtyard we found Maguli Svanidze, a middle- aged woman sorting
peppers. A year ago she came from Shemokhmedi village, 200 miles from the
capital. She said: "We were not even making enough money there to buy bread.
Most of the men go to Russia to try to sell fruit ... I used to have a job in
a collective farm but I lost it. In our village we grow tea but the
businessmen take it away and we don't know where it is sold." Mrs Svanidze
was trying to make enough to keep her daughter Eka at university. She said:
"She was studying economy and law but this year I could not pay, so she had
to drop out."
Mrs Svanidze and her friends were edgy being questioned by a foreign
journalist but showed alarm when I asked her what she thought of Eduard
Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister who has ruled Georgia since
1993. She did not answer but one of her friends muttered: "Let him die."
When our driver picked us up later he said: "After you left they all started
asking each other if they would get into trouble for mentioning Shevardnadze.
But they said to each other: 'The old Communist leaders used to take for
themselves but gave us enough to live on. The new ones take everything and
don't even leave us enough to eat'."
Later I asked my friend the colonel why, if so many Georgians felt hostile to
Mr Shevardnadze, they had just re-elected him. He said: "It is the same
reason the Russians voted for [Vladimir] Putin ... It is not that they like
him but they fear something worse."
From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com (Ira Straus)
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000
Subject: US-Russia-India triangle - under construction, without architect
"Russia, U.S. Converge On Warnings to Taliban" - this was the title of a
Washington Post article (June 4, 2000) that summarized the emerging new
reality in South-Central Asia. The article concluded with the hint that the
U.S. might finally turn to India as its regional partner, since Musharref of
Pakistan, under pressure from the military and Islamists, has been
backtracking from commitments to the U.S. vis-a-vis Taliban.
The hopes placed a few months ago by the U.S. in Musharref look like the last
gasp of the old cold war configuration - U.S. + Pakistan + China vs. Russia +
India. U.S. + Russia + India looks like the new configuration.
The construction of a U.S.-Russia-India triangle is thus proceeding, after a
fashion. Unavoidably, it seems. Also entirely unconsciously. By fits and
It might be expected to proceed better if there were a conscious intention or
an awareness of where we are heading.
The Post article opened and closed thus: "Russia and the United States, which
spent billions fighting for control of Afghanistan during the Cold War, have
suddenly found common ground in urging its strict Islamic government to stop
spreading religious extremism and violence in South and Central Asia.... [In
Pakistan, however, the backtracking away from anti-Taliban efforts] 'is a
telling change,' said Hussain [a Pakistani a professor of strategic studies],
suggesting that military and Islamic forces in Pakistan may have pushed
Musharraf to back off on the Taliban--and that this in turn could push
Washington to find new regional collaborators. [i.e., India] "
Next logical steps --
1. Set up a US-Russia-India working group on regional problems (Taliban,
Pakistan Islamist forces and movements in Central Asia. Also on complex
problems in Caucasus, and on Iran - both rapprochement with it and dealing
with problems we still have with it).
2. Set up a US-Russia-India working group on global problems and vision.
(This might include anti-terrorism, anti-extremism; support for and spread of
moderate, stable and democratic government; developing a shared new
conception of the global nuclear order accepting India as one of the great
and responsible powers whose nuclear status is understandable vis-a-vis
China; reinforcement of efforts against any further proliferation; developing
a new moderate conception of multipolarity among democratic powers which is
compatible with the inevitable elements of "unipolarity" or Western
leadership in the contemporary world.)
3. Hold a US-Russia-India summit, to give visibility to results achieved in
the working groups and to give an impetus to the working groups to move on.
The most practical aspect of the summit would be on regional questions.
However, such a summit might want to put its primary public focus on a global
declaration, to avoid offending other regional actors who could not be
included at the meeting.
U.S. Coordinator, Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO
June 26, 2000
[for personal use only]
The Putin Crackdown
In a troubling sign that the police-state days of the Soviet Union might be
coming back, the Kremlin moves in on the free press. Behind Putin's power
play, and what may lie ahead.
By Bill Powell and Yevgenia Albats
June 18-- In the days, not so long ago, when optimism about the new
Russia abounded, Vladimir Gusinsky would be compared to William Randolph
IF AMERICA AT THE TURN of the century had its robber barons and
flamboyant, politically powerful press lords, then why shouldn't the new
Russia? And if those men christened the "oligarchs" after their money
re-elected Boris Yeltsin in 1996 made fortunes in ways that were not quite
the stuff of a Horatio Alger story, well, that would get softened in the
historical rounding. Russia was steaming toward democracy and capitalism.
That is what mattered.
Among those who got rich after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the
press lord Gusinsky was among the most public and powerful. A theatrical
producer in the Soviet era, he built the only formidable independent media
empire in post-Soviet Russia: a slick television network, an aggressive,
news-oriented radio station, a daily paper and a weekly news magazine
(published in cooperation with NEWSWEEK). He has also been the most prominent
member of Russia's Jewish community, heading the national Jewish Congress and
bankrolling the construction of new synagogues. To many in the West, at
least, Gusinsky was a vivid symbol of what was going right in post-Soviet
Russia: free enterprise, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Last week, sitting in Moscow's most squalid prison, Gusinsky became a
symbol of a different sort: Russia's accelerating lurch, under former career
KGB officer Vladimir Putin, back toward its police-state past. On June 13,
having just returned from his vacation home on the Spanish Riviera, Gusinsky
was arrested on murky charges of embezzling $10 million in state funds from a
St. Petersburg television company. He was then left to sit in Butyrka jail
for nearly four days before he was formally charged. In an exclusive
interview with NEWSWEEK upon his release late Friday, Gusinsky denied the
allegation and insisted that a bitter political fight--one that raised
questions about just who is in charge in the Kremlin--lay behind his arrest.
"I was in there because the authorities happen to dislike me."
June 13 may be the day the era of wishful thinking about post-Yeltsin
Russia ended. Since Putin replaced Yeltsin as president last New Year's Eve,
the West has tried to convince itself that the former spymaster was a worthy
heir: someone who would combine a fair but firm law-and-order toughness with
a commitment to economic reform. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called
him "one of the leading reformers," because post-KGB he served in the St.
Petersburg government as Russia's democratic revolution unfolded. Britain's
Tony Blair went to a chummy night at the opera with Putin the week before
Russia's election in March. Later, evoking Margaret Thatcher's words about
Mikhail Gorbachev, Blair called Putin a man with whom "we could do business."
The optimism had a forced, we-hope-we're-right quality to it, and for
good reason. As Sandy Berger, Bill Clinton‚' national-security adviser, put
it the day Yeltsin resigned, the central question that hung over Putin was
simple: "Is he a democrat, or not?" As his time in office has worn on--first
as prime minister to an AWOL Yeltsin, then as acting president--the doubts
have only grown. On Putin's watch, a Russian journalist covering Chechnya for
U.S.-funded Radio Liberty was arrested for doing his job: interviewing and
traveling with Chechen troops. Putin accused him of siding with "the
bandits." Then, four days after Putin was inaugurated in May, police raided
one of the offices of Media-Most, Gusinsky's holding company. It was plainly
an act of intimidation, but Putin claimed he didn't know the raid was coming.
That was dubious. Gusinsky had made the mistake of aligning himself
politically last year with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's new party--e that
for a while looked as if it might dominate post-Yeltsin politics. The former
president, his family and cronies were deeply suspicious of Luzhkov, and they
viewed Gusinsky' tilt in his direction as a betrayal. Putin was then
infuriated by the aggressive coverage of the Chechen war on Media-Most'
television network, particularly since, like most other oligarchs, Gusinsky
had fared well by supporting Yeltsin. (He received, for example, lucrative
daytime-broadcasting rights for his television station.)
Gusinsky' arrest demonstrates just how serious the political vendetta
is. Along with the brutal war in Chechnya, it will now help define Putin. One
day later, 18 of Russia' nervous oligarchs wrote an open letter to the
president, saying, "esterday we thought we lived in a democracy; today we
have doubts." Putin tried to dodge the criticism while on a diplomatic trip
to Europe. He again played the ignorance card, saying the arrest was an
"unpleasant bit of news."" Later he said he couldn't reach his new prosecutor
general on the phone back in Russia to find out what was going on. That led
several callers to chat shows on Gusinsky's radio station to say they'd
donate that ubiquitous symbol of the new Russia--the cellular phone--to both
Was it remotely plausible that the stunning arrest was carried out
without the ex-KGB officer's knowledge? The Kremlin is now riven by two
competing power blocs: one composed of ex-KGB officers close to Putin, and
one representing the so-called Family, the kin and cronies of ex-president
Yeltsin. It is led by Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who now sits in
Parliament, and Kremlin chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin. These two sides
distrust each other, but they do share one thing in common: a loathing for
Gusinsky. If one side or the other managed to orchestrate the arrest without
Putin's knowledge, then the new president would be even more of a puppet than
his worst critics ever imagined.
More than likely, that didn't happen. "I believe he knew," Gusinsky
told NEWSWEEK, and Kremlin sources say that he's probably right. One says the
"Gusinsky problem" has been discussed at the highest levels of
government--specifically by Putin and Nikolai Patrushev, his FSB head (the
is the KGB's successor agency), and Sergei Ivanov, another ex-KGB officer who
now heads Russia's Security Council. It is plausible, these sources say, that
Putin may not have given a direct order to arrest Gusinsky; but no doubt it
was clear to all, they say, that he wouldn't object if something was done.
Late Friday, with criticism building, Gusinsky was released on the
condition that he not leave the country. If his arrest was a sign that
Putin's former KGB mates are winning the battle for Kremlin influence, it is
not good news for Russia's other tycoons. As Berezovsky himself conceded last
week, the way business has been done in Russia means none of them, Gusinsky
included, could survive a serious government effort to find something to
charge them with. The question now is whether the arrest of Moscow's
pre-eminent media owner is Putin's attempt to rid himself of one particularly
potent critic or whether a new era of Russian show trials has just begun.
With Owen Matthews in Moscow
Sunday June 18 3:45 AM ET
Ukraine Hosts Big NATO Exercise, Russia Missing
By Pavel Polityuk
KIEV (Reuters) - Ukraine begins unprecedented 10-day naval exercises with
NATO and several former communist nations on Monday but Russia, still deeply
suspicious of the Western defense alliance, plans to stay away.
Over 50 warships from 10 NATO countries, including the United States, Germany
and Britain, will join the maneuvers near the Black Sea port of Odessa in
``The Cooperative Partner-2000 naval exercise is the largest such event since
Ukraine's independence and is extremely important for mutual understanding,''
Ukrainian navy spokesman Mykola Savchenko told Reuters by telephone from
Savchenko said around 5,500 Ukrainian servicemen, including 900 marines,
would take part in the action, imitating landing, rescue and peacekeeping
NATO troops at the exercises will be accompanied by units from Ukraine and
several other ex-communist states cooperating with the alliance within its
Partnership for Peace program.
But amid the official excitement and hectic preparations for the event, the
much-discussed exercises will be somewhat soured by Russia's absence.
Savchenko said Russia had ignored invitations to take part in the exercises.
``We do not understand why Moscow has given no answer. This is just a
peacekeeping exercise without any political context,'' he said.
A spokesman for Russia's Black Sea Fleet, deployed in Ukraine's Crimean
peninsula, said Russia would not attend the exercises even as an observer.
``This decision has been taken in Moscow,'' Sergei Kukhanev told Reuters by
telephone from the fleet's main base of Sevastopol.
Russia Resents Kiev-Nato Ties
Russia, Ukraine's former imperial master, resents Kiev's warm ties with NATO
and regular military exercises in the Black Sea region, where Moscow's might
and influence have waned dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union
Ukraine, a sprawling ex-Soviet nation of 50 million, has no plans to join
NATO, but alongside pledges of ``strategic partnership'' with Russia it has
developed cordial relations with the alliance, seeking gradual integration
into European structures.
Moscow, which fiercely opposes NATO's eastward expansion, froze its relations
with the alliance last year due to its air strikes on Yugoslavia during the
Earlier this year, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated he
would like to improve Moscow's ties with NATO.
The Russia Journal
June 17-23, 2000
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: A glimmer of hope in Korea
By ANDREI PIONTKOVSKY
Columnist Andrei Piontkovsky compares Germany with Korea as he looks at
The 20th century was a tragic one for the Korean people ≠ Japanese
occupation, a bloody civil war, the partition of the country, military
dictatorships in the South and a communist regime in the North. Perhaps
only the Russian people suffered just as harsh a fate during the last
century. And that explains why we Russians are so happy to see that this
cruel 20th century has closed on a hopeful note for the Korean people.
The meeting between the presidents of the two Koreas ≠ Kim Dae-jung and Kim
Jong Il ≠ is a historic event. Letís hope, above all, that it will have
immediate humanitarian results for the thousands of families who have been
divided for several generations now. Not only could these people not visit
each other, they couldnít even get information on the fate of their
But Iím sure that this is just the first step toward fulfilling the dream
of the Korean people to reunite their country ≠ an aim officially
proclaimed by both Korean governments. Reunification is inevitable; the
bankrupt ideological prejudices of the outgoing century canít stop the
people coming back together in the century that is upon us. We donít know
exactly when this will happen; history chooses its own, often unexpected
moments for changing course.
I remember how when Mikhail Gorbachevís perestroika got under way and I
began traveling abroad for the first time, one of my first trips was to
Munich in October 1989, to attend an international conference on European
security. The atmosphere at the conference was frank and open, and we
discussed many thorny issues. But the reunification of Germany, which
simply wasnít on the practical agenda at the time, was not one of them.
Only on one occasion, at the conference bar, after downing a quantity of
beer, one of the German participants turned to me with a question which
expressed a timid glimmer of hope. "What about you, professor," he asked.
"Do you think we could see a reunified Germany by the end of the century?"
"Certainly, why not?" I replied, much to the satisfaction of my listener.
Two weeks later, the Berlin Wall came down, and a year on again, Germany
was one country.
But since weíre on Germany, we have to remember not just how quickly and
smoothly the reunification went ahead, but also how slow and difficult it
was, once the initial euphoria died down, for the two parts of this
previously divided people to get used to living together. A decade has
passed since the barriers dividing Germany fell, but the psychological
barriers between "Ossies" and "Wessies" divide Germans to this day.
In the case of Korea, this problem, if left without attention, will be even
more acute. The civilization gap that has grown between the two Koreas over
50 years of division is far wider than that which existed between the two
Not just Korea, but the whole world is watching for results from this
meeting between the two presidents. Fate willed that the Korean peninsula
was to become one of the acupuncture points of global politics.
The United States, seeking to defend itself from a hypothetical North
Korean nuclear attack, plans to build a National Missile Defense System.
Deployment of such a system would violate the ABM treaty concluded between
the United States and the Soviet Union in 1972. It would also get China
very worried, as it would pose more of a threat to Chinaís nuclear
deterrent potential than to that of Russia.
Koreaís two Kims could perhaps stop the international security system from
slipping toward chaos and unpredictability.
In any case, I believe in the future of Korea. In 1997-98, when South Korea
and Russia were both rattled by financial crisis, Russian oligarchs rushed
to get their tens of billions of dollars out of the country, while in
Korea, people lined up to hand over their jewelry and valuables and help
their country overcome the crisis. When I saw those lines, I understood
that this is a people that will overcome the greatest of challenges.
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research.)
From: "Robert Bruce Ware" <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Stratfor.com: Russia Stirs up Religious Animosity in Chechnya,
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000
There is much to appreciate in the Stratfor analysis "Russia Stirs up
Religious Animosity in Chechnya." The piece identifies Moscow's evident
strategy, in the appointment of Kadyrov as an effort to co-opt traditional
Chechen Muslims and to separate them from Wahhabite radicals. It also
correctly identifies the risks inherent in this strategy: 1) that
Kadyrov's appointment will drive independence-minded traditionalists
toward Wahhabism; and 2) that this will reinforce or exacerbate religious
cleavages in Chechnya's traditionally fragmented society. Finally, the
piece is refreshing in that it does not simply blame Russia for everything
that has happened, and in that assigns some of this responsibility to
elements within Chechnya.
Nevertheless, the short Stratfor analysis falls victim to several
misleading simplifications. First, it overlooks the lack of alternatives
to Kadyrov's leadership. Gantimirov, for example, would have been no less
divisive and lacks Kadyrov's moral and religious qualifications. Kadyrov
derives his moral qualifications, in part, through his opposition to
Moscow in the first war, when there was greater moral weight on the
Chechen side and considerably less on the Russian side. The difference is
the events that occurred in the region as a consequence of lawlessness in
Chechnya between August 1996 and August 1999, events that Maskhadov, at
best, was unable to control. Maskhadov's failure to exercise authority,
to overcome the divisions of Chechen society, and to control its radical
elements make him a poor choice for further leadership.
Because of this lack of alternatives to Kadyrov, it cannot be inferred
from his appointment that Moscow intends to further divide Chechen
society. Still, since Moscow historically has attempted to divide some of
the peoples of the Caucasus there is no reason to infer that this is not
the intent today. Moreover, since Moscow also has failed, historically,
to understand the peoples of the Caucasus, there is no reason to assume
that it now understands that order and peace will not endure in Chechnya
until the traditional fragmentation of its society has been transcended in
an authoritative and indigenous political structure. Second, the Stratfor
piece is simplistic in its identification of "only three actors in the
Chechen ... the Russian forces, the pro-independent Muslim Chechens and
the Wahhabi militants, who stem from an extremely fundamental form of
Sunni Islam native to Saudi Arabia."
Not only are the divisions within Chechen society far more numerous, but
they are also far less clear than this statement appears to recognize.
For example, while many Dagestani, Chechen and foreign Wahhabis were
involved in the invasions of Dagestan, there were also many traditionalist
Chechens fighting under Basayev. Moreover, while Wahhabism is an
ideological import to the North Caucasus, and while some Wahhabi fighters
come from elsewhere in the Islamic world, Wahhabism spread rapidly in the
Muslim communities of Dagestan and Chechnya throughout the 1990's for
reasons indigenous to the region. First, impoverished residents of rural
villages find in it clarity and ideological simplicity, which cuts through
the cumbersome, and often costly, pseudo-traditions of North Caucasian
Islam. Wahhabism lends dignity to the harsh austerity of their lives and
provides spiritual sanction for their desperate hatred of the new class of
wealthy and corrupt leaders.
Through its puritanism Wahhabism provides an organizational power for the
preservation of civic conventions and traditional morality against
degenerative influences of the media, mass culture, individualism and
liberalism. Wahhabite rejection of political authority lends people an
opportunity to free themselves from the bureaucratic constraints and
political corruption of state officials. Secondly, a new generation of
religious youths, educated internationally in some of the best Islamic
universities lost respect for the traditional clergy, who tend to be
elderly and, in many cases, half-educated. Finally, Wahhabism was a refuge
for members of the intelligentsia who abandoned their connection to
traditional Islam in Soviet schools and universities, and who subsequently
found themselves without ideological footing. Wahhabism is a response to
real problems. Some of these problems have to do with economic and
political transition. Some have to do with current pressures of
globalization. Some have to do with the history of Islam in North
Caucasus; some with the history of imperialism in the North Caucasus; and
some have to do with the historical impact of still other globalizing
trends upon this historically and defiantly fragmented region. Moscow and
Kadyrov would do well to understand and to address these problems.
Like the Russians, and like many traditionalists in Chechnya, the Wahhabis
bear their share of the blame for the catastrophe that has occurred. But
it is no more helpful to blame the Wahhabis without an effort to
understand their position, than it is to blame the Russians (or anyone
else) without an effort to understand theirs. Enduring peace in this
troubled region depends upon something that has been lacking on all sides:
A genuine effort to dispense with simplicities, which however reassuring
and convenient are also tragically misleading, and to understand the deep
complexities of these societies.
Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000
From: Gary Kern <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Russia Will Never Pay Its Debts
RUSSIA WILL NEVER PAY ITS DEBTS
Congressman Benjamin Gilman's impassioned appeal, "It's Time Russia Paid
Its Debts," reprinted from the WASHINGTON POST in JRL #4372 (6/17/00),
raises an interesting question: Has Russia ever paid its debts?
Economics is not a subject I have ever pretended to understand, and the
economic side of Russian history is not one I have ever wished to
pursue, but from my desultory study of other areas of Russian history I
get the distinct impression that since the fall of the Tsar, Russia has
been an economic rogue state, has never paid its way among other nations
and has survived by theft, aid and defaulted loans.
For example, just recently I was looking over some materials on the
great gold heist of 1936, when Soviet Russia lightened Spain of its $700
million gold reserve. The tons of bullion were removed ostensibly for
safekeeping during the Spanish Civil War, but after General Franco took
over and demanded the money back, Soviet Russia claimed that it had
spent it all for the Loyalists, and even demanded $50 million from
Franco on a loan they had not paid! Also, looking over some other
research, I note that Soviet Russia lifted a $34 million gold reserve
from Romania in WWI and never gave it back. I recall an article in LIFE
magazine, back in the fifties, I believe, about a similar heist in
Italy. Perhaps someone on the list can retrieve it or correct me.
How many state banks did Soviet Russia rob?
In WWII, of course, the USA extended Lend-Lease to the USSR. After the
war, President Truman reported the total value to be $11 billion.
During the Reagan-Gorbachev summits of the 1980's there was some talk
about repayment, but it was smothered by later events. If post-Soviet
Russia had to make an accounting for the Soviet period, adding up all of
the loans and grabs, applying interest and converting to current values,
it would probably be in hock for a hundred years. So all of this debt
will be washed away.
During the Soviet period there was a nice little racket: rubles were
exchanged internationally @ $1.10 each, whereas inside the empire one
dollar would fetch at least 10 rubles on the black market. There were
various tricks in currency exchange with foreigners coming into the
country and leaving, or even with Soviet personnel permitted to leave
the country and return. And today the traveller to Moscow runs a gamut
of airport shake-downs--late fees, improper visas, etc. There's a
racket of forcing visitors to stay at overpriced hotels. No one will
ever recover these losses.
And then there are the outright criminal actions, beginning with the
printing of Tsarist roubles after the October coup and exchanging them
abroad for diamonds or other currency, or using them to finance
espionage operations. There's at least one state counterfeiting scheme
I have read about, but no doubt more. There's the looting of the patent
office in Washington during the war, the reprinting of copyright
materials in Russia up to the present, the rip-off of product designs
and inventions. There's the wholesale theft of Western science and
technology, continuing today, saving Russia billions of dollars in
research and development, such as detailed by the Mitrokhin archive in
THE SWORD AND THE SHIELD. But these criminal actions fall within the
purview of espionage, so no one expects a repayment.
Russia engaged in the outright pillaging of Germany after the war, the
economic exploitation of the Soviet bloc countries once they were set
up, the ravaging of the Soviet republics' environments up to the fall. I
have seen articles about reparations; perhaps someone can tell me if
they have been made. Then there was the economic exploitation of the
muscles and bones of the Soviet people, the depletion of their health by
poor food, the devaluing of their savings by state banks, and on and on.
At least former political prisoners get a small pension.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the
Commonwealth of Independent States, Congress in August 1992 authorized
$12 billion in aid to the CIS, and aid has been flowing ever since.
IMF, World Bank, George Soros--I can't keep track. Presumably the
experts can, but the Clinton Administration, as Rep. Gilman complains,
has just extended a fifth default on loans without considering Russia's
outlays of money to run wars and espionage. Does anyone really expect
Russia to pay back these loans with real money?
In short, as I stand on the sidelines, I wonder: Has anyone ever added
up Russia's record of economic performance from October 1917 to the
present from a holistic point of view? And if anyone has, and the
record is terrible, isn't it time for new thinking? Sometimes a
bystander can see a situation clearly; sometimes his ignorant remarks
prompt a clear response. In that spirit, as an ignoramus, I offer my
opinion: Russia will never pay its debts, so deal with it.
Web page for CDI Russia Weekly:
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library