This Date's Issues: 4468 4469
Johnson's Russia List
22 August 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Tsar Putin's Khodynka Field?
2. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Sub aftermath igniting
Russians. The ability of foreign teams to achieve what the military couldn't
adds to public ire.
3. gazeta.ru: Putin Finally Exposed.
4. Dale Herspring: RE: 4465-Kipp/Glasnost.
5. RFE/RL: Julie Corwin, PUTIN TO FACE AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT.
6. CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER PUBLICATIONS.
7. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Marina KALASHNIKOVA, RELIANCE ON
POWER MINISTERS CAN BACKFIRE.
8. New York Times: William Odom, A Disaster Puts Putin In
9. Izvestia: DEFENCE SPENDING ON THE RISE.
10. Reuters: Cohen Questions Training in Russian Sub Accident.
11. Reuters: Russian environmentalist fears radiation from
12. Reuters: Russia must not have NATO enlargement veto-Bush.]
August 22, 2000
EDITORIAL: Tsar Putin's Khodynka Field?
In the eight-year history of The Moscow Times, there has been nothing
comparable to the tragedy of the Kursk submarine for provoking letters
readers. The letters are about equally mixed between foreigners and Russians,
between outrage and sorrow. But few have a kind word for Vladimir Putin,
is seen to have contributed to the tragedy by not seeking international
until four days after the accident and tactlessly remained in the vacation
resort of Sochi throughout.
It took the Norwegians just 48 hours to get into the sub (which really
all that deep in the water: a little over 100 meters). They have determined
that it is flooded and there are no survivors. But it is not clear how
the sub has been flooded f supposedly as late as Wednesday someone inside
tapping out SOS in Morse code. So here is a question for parliament,
engineers and military prosecutors to ponder: If the Norwegian deep-sea
divers had been called in immediately, and had entered the submarine by
Tuesday, could anyone have been saved? (In other words: Did official
reluctance to accept international help kill anybody?)
The Kursk clearly has the potential to be for Putin what the Khodynka
was for Tsar Nicholas II. On Nicholas' coronation day in 1896, thousands
invited to celebrate at Khodynka Field outside Moscow with free beer and
gifts. The crowd got out of control and panicky, and the resulting stampede
left 1,400 people trampled to death or suffocated. Nicholas and Alexandra
wanted to cancel the coronation ball, but at the advice of advisers they
not; and even though the imperial couple toured the field later and did
to help and comfort the families of the dead, Khodynka came to symbolize
arrogant tsar, who danced at balls while the people died.
Unlike the freakish incident at Khodynka, however, an accident like that
suffered on the Kursk was entirely predictable. As Novaya Gazeta noted
week, the price tag of the Kursk submarine was $1 billion; the salary
captain f $250 a month. Much the same horrifying ratios exist in the nation's
creaky nuclear power plants, law enforcement structures and so on. And
equally horrifying is the lack of investment in capital and infrastructure.
One bold response to the Kursk tragedy, then, would be a dramatic increase
spending on selected budhzetniki f people who work for and draw salary
the state f and on public infrastructure. Pay a submarine captain 30 times
what he earns now; find the money to make being a teacher worthwhile again;
find the money to build an entirely modern military machine (even if it
to be dramatically smaller than it is now).
Russia considers itself poor, but much of this is simply a question of
spending priorities f of no longer tolerating a corrupt Central Bank,
corrupt banking system, a useless genocidal war in the Caucasus, a tax
tailor-made to please Big Oil and so much other wasteful ugliness. Shifting
those priorities would mean challenging powerful interests. But Putin,
really is a patriot, now has at least 118 new good reasons to try.
Christian Science Monitor
22 August 2000
Sub aftermath igniting Russians
The ability of foreign teams to achieve what the military couldn't adds
By Fred Weir, Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Among military and government officials, all the old defensive habits
back. But the tragedy of the submarine Kursk has exposed a new Russian
political culture, one where public opinion - nudged by an increasingly
independent media - is emerging as a potent political force. Moreover,
culture is gaining so much momentum that it is likely here to stay.
The burning question on the streets of Moscow now, for example, is why
Norwegian divers were able to pry open a hatch of the sunken submarine
day, when Russia couldn't do it in a week.
Until last week, the story out of Russia depicted a vigorous, telegenic
President Vladimir Putin adroitly manipulating his public image and
successfully muting media criticism. But that began to change with
bewildering speed after the Kursk, a giant nuclear attack submarine with
sailors on board, sank in the Barents Sea 10 days ago. All of the crew
The huge public backlash, prodded by reports on the Internet and radio,
forced the government to change its position. For the first time ever,
Northern Fleet held a "live" press conference. The government relented
accepted help from the West. And Mr. Putin finally cut short his vacation
returned to Moscow.
"Crisis is, by definition, an abnormal situation that brings out hidden
qualities in people," says Jean Toschenko, chief editor of the Journal
Sociological Research, a publication of the Russian Academy of Sciences
in Moscow. "The authorities initially neglected public opinion as a factor,
which is what they have always done. But within days, they suddenly found
themselves sharply at odds with an aroused public that was no longer willing
to readily believe what they were told," Mr. Toschenko adds.
In Soviet times, all information was controlled from above and the media's
role was solely to convey the official viewpoint to the people, says
Toschenko. Though some Soviet citizens may have had access to alternative
information through the social grapevine or by listening to foreign
shortwave-radio broadcasts, there was no feedback mechanism by which informed
public opinion could influence the country's political leaders.
That seemed to change after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the
became at least partly independent. "Actually there has been little change,
due to the financial dependence, corruption, and habitual subservience
Russian press," says Alexei Simonov, director of the Glasnost Foundation,
private media watchdog group in Moscow. "But under conditions of cataclysm,
suddenly the people are no longer passive. They demand information, and
journalists remember their role is to provide it."
Public demands action
As the crisis began, the old habits of Russian officialdom were on full
parade. "It's as if we were back in 1986, when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor
exploded," says Mr. Simonov. "They delayed reporting the news for days,
they told piles of lies. They blamed the weather, foreign submarines,
everything but themselves for the bungled rescue operation. For five days
they refused to accept any foreign assistance at all."
But this time something was different. A groundswell of public anger at
Navy's refusal to accept foreign aid in the race to reach the trapped
was breaking through all barriers by mid-week.
Some first appeared from directions that are totally new for Russia, such
the Internet and snap telephone opinion polls.
"I cannot comprehend our government's refusal to accept help from outside,"
wrote a woman named Yevgenia on a much-frequented Russian Web site last
one of hundreds of similar comments. "Who cares about the military secrets,
when the lives of people are at stake?"
A telephone poll conducted by the independent Ekho Moskvi radio station
Tuesday night found that 85 percent of respondents thought it was wrong
turn down foreign help. On Wednesday, the Russian government reversed
and invited British and Norwegian rescue teams to the disaster site.
By week's end the mainstream media, which had begun by tamely relaying
official statements, was loudly reflecting public dissatisfaction with
Navy's handling of the rescue operation.
And the authorities were starting to listen.
Igor Zhivilyuk is a military expert with Polyarnaya Pravda, a leading
in Murmansk, the Russian city closest to the disaster zone. Mr. Zhivilyuk
heads the paper's team of journalists working on the Kursk situation today,
but recalls that he covered the Barents Sea sinking of another Soviet
submarine, the Komsomolets, 11 years ago.
"In 1989, we were not allowed to write a single word about the catastrophe
that was not passed through censors," he says. "Several days after the
we published a bare announcement, with no details, and considered that
advanced journalism at the time."
When the Kursk went down, officials of the Russian Northern Fleet reacted
exactly the same way, he says. "But then things changed. I'm pleased to
you that last Friday the Northern Fleet held its first press conference
history. The admirals didn't look happy to do it, but it's clear that
were forced. Somehow the voices of the families, of concerned Russians,
through to them. It may be only temporary, but it's a big victory."
The Northern Fleet also was compelled to accept a single television crew
from the state-owned RTR network - to broadcast live reports on the unfolding
rescue effort from the deck of the Peter the Great, the fleet's flagship.
"That's another historic first," says Zhivilyuk.
The media has taken up the public case on another issue related to the
disaster: President Putin's failure to break off his vacation at a
subtropical Black Sea resort to handle the crisis.
"People at first didn't blame the president," says Toschenko.
"But they began to wonder why Putin wasn't showing the same anxiety and
concern as all other Russians. They wondered why he wasn't coming on TV
inform about the situation. And for the first time, their anger started
reflected in the press."
By yesterday, some newspapers were going beyond all previous limits to
the president. "If the Kursk had sunk in the Black Sea, where would Putin
have spent his vacation?" ran a headline in Moskovsky Komsomolets, Moscow's
most popular daily.
"Now people are even talking about impeaching Putin," says Vladimir Petukhov,
an analyst with the Institute of Social and National Problems, an independent
Moscow think tank. "Although we have no scientific opinion surveys yet,
sure the Kursk affair has destroyed Putin's ratings. I'm not sure this
shift is good or healthy for society, but it is undeniably a reaction
Is the new dynamic here to stay? "I believe things have changed in the
of our society over the past 10 years, and these changes asserted themselves
in this painful situation," says Zhivilyuk. "The authorities know they
longer have the option of remaining silent. And although they don't quite
tell the truth, we actually have a dialogue with them. We must build on
and try to make it permanent."
Putin Finally Exposed
August 21, 2000
“They had to die. They knew the true reason why the sub sank therefore
would not be given a second chance,” said a passerby in a Moscow asked
comment on the Kursk disaster by a reporter from one of Russia’s leading
Most of the crew are (we still cannot bring ourselves to talk of them
the past tense) very young, and their right to live was guaranteed by
Federal Constitution. In accordance with the letter of Russian law the
of the state, the president, is a guarantor of the Federal Constitution.
And as the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian forces, he is ultimately
responsible for ensuring the safety of Russia’s military personnel.
And this time he cannot blame the deaths on rebellious Chechens.
Evidently he was more concerned about the sub than its crew. Upon receiving
news of the tragedy, he firstly inquired about the condition of the sub,
then if it was possible to raise it. Only his third question was about
But the people wanted this president, did not they? Or was it simply a
dirty PR trick played on 52% of population? He preferred to wait and let
the sailors die the most horrible death imaginable.
The Russian investigators are favouring the version that the first of
two explosions, recorded by the US military and seismic monitoring centres
in Norway, Scotland and Alaska , was caused by a World War II mine.
On Saturday the head of the General Staff of the Northern Fleet
vice-Admiral Motsak admitted that the navy were aware of six World War
mines remaining in the Barents Sea. If they had known, then how come they
had made no efforts to clear them and sanctioned military exercise in
One thing that is 100% sure is that the Russians people’s faith in their
president has been ruined beyond repair. …The tragedy has exposed the
president for what he really is; a puppet figure, a subservient bureaucrat
lacking initiative who is wholly dependent upon his Kremlin advisors.
His inexcusably late reaction to the disaster comes down to two factors:
His Kremlin ‘advisors’, principally the head of the Presidential
administration Alexandr Voloshin and Kremlin spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky,
those largely responsible for selling Putin to the people, are obviously
apprehensive of the military; they are well aware of the contempt many
the military chiefs have for the political ‘reformers’ whom they largely
hold responsible for the dilapidated state of the nation’s armed forces.
Thus they declined from advising the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian
armed forces on what they perceived as a military issue.
For their part, the military’s top brass is still stooped in Soviet
traditions of secrecy….That secrecy is more important than life itself.
The extent of their cover-up has been widely reported and all the devious
details hardly need repeating. If Putin’s initial urge was, as he said
was, to fly to Severomorsk, why didn’t he? He either believed the naval
commanders’ assurances that they were in control of the situation and
genuinely believed that the Russian rescue effort was capable of doing
everything possible, or else he was an accomplice in the attempts to keep
any foreign eyes away from one of Russia’s latest pieces of military
Advice from the Kremlin was not forthcoming thus Putin was left stranded
between these two camps, helpless and lacking the courage to act
independently. His attempt last Wednesday to justify his inaction was
nothing short of pathetic. He said he did not want to “disturb” the
specialists…and added “We should not exercise the old Russian pastime
looking for the guilty.” This from the man who in his election campaign
promised to “take responsibility for everything.”
It is unlikely that anybody will sue the Russian navy for criminal
negligence leading to manslaughter. Maybe, someone will be sacked; someone
will be sentenced by a military court … and, as is so common in this
country, will buy his freedom by paying a huge bribe.
In civilized countries, high-ranking officials resign even if something
they cannot help happens… So what about you Mr.Sergeyev? And will Putin
show the courage to admit his mistake and accept his portion of the blame?
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000
From: <email@example.com> (Dale Herspring)
Subject: RE: 4465-Kipp/Glasnost
Jake Kipp on the Kursk
Jake kipp is right again. We have an incredible spin on what happened
regard to the Kursk, at time when attention should be on the sailors and
And having spent the last week or so around American submariners, they
doing exactly what Jake suggested. Let me explain. I am now in Hawaii
finishing up a 31 career (both reserve and regular)with the US Navy. I
staying at the Submarine Base BOQ in Pearl Harbor. Last Sunday I attended
Mass at the Catholic Chapel. At the beginning of the service, the chaplain
stopped the service to announce that it was being offered for the sailors
families of those on the Kursk. I have spoken with a number of officers
sailors about the tragedy, and I can honestly say that I have seldom seen
so hard hit by something that happened to the "other side." All of them
recognize that it could have happened to them. There will be a time for
looking into what happened, why it happened, if foreign help would have
of service, etc. For the present, however, I agree with Jake -- let us
our attention on those who died and those who are left to mourn them.
Date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000
Subject: PUTIN TO FACE AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT
From: Julie Corwin <CorwinJ@rferl.org>
PUTIN TO FACE AUTUMN OF DISCONTENT
by Julie A. Corwin
As efforts to rescue the crew of the "Kursk" submarine
are pronounced futile, a likely casualty of the underwater
disaster is not only Russian President Vladimir Putin's long-
term popular support but also his administration's
legislative agenda. When legislators return to Moscow for the
11 September opening of the State Duma, they will probably
return to an altered political landscape--one in which
Putin's authority has been weakened and a lack of cooperation
with the Kremlin may no longer be perceived as
Even before the "Kursk" disaster, Putin and his
administration faced a daunting challenge in trying to push
through a number of important bills during the Duma's fall
session. Working with the Kremlin, State Duma Chairman
Gennadii Seleznev had put together an ambitious legislative
agenda packed with landmark legislation, some of which has
drifted between revision and rejection since the middle of
his predecessor Boris Yeltsin's tenure. Most prominent among
this new legislation is the Land Code. Other items on the
Duma's agenda may prove no less controversial, such as the
laws on the constitutional assembly, political parties,
states of emergency, money-laundering, the pension system,
the draft 2001 budget, the Customs Code, and the Labor Code.
Both during his election campaign and his first few
months as president, Putin declared his desire to secure
passage of some kind of bill establishing private property
rights. Even at the height of his popularity, Putin would
have had his work cut out for him. This month, Communist and
Agrarian leaders appealed to Putin to support their version
of the Land Code, which would severely restrict private land
sales. Meanwhile, the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS) has
prepared its version of the bill that would impose only one
condition on land sales: that agricultural land be used for
Even if the Kremlin manages to forge some kind of
compromise between the opposing positions in the Duma, the
bill must still be passed by the Federation Council. Members
of that chamber have been in no mood to accommodate the
Kremlin since it stripped them of their powers and privileges
through passage of the bill reforming the Federation Council.
An even more important motivation than revenge is some
governors' long-held suspicion of private land sales. Many
governors from agricultural areas share the fears of their
Communist and Agrarian colleagues in the Duma. They worry
that countryside will witness its own version of Chubais-
style privatization as land is bought up for kopeks, leaving
the country's farmers even more impoverished.
The draft 2001 budget will also be strongly contested--
if not in the Duma, then certainly in the Federation Council,
whose members will seek to check the government's attempt to
hold onto a larger chunk of tax revenues. Granted, federal
budgets in Russia tend to be more of a guide to action--an
outline of the government's intentions--rather than a
blueprint for dispensing and collecting monies. Nevetheless,
regional leaders have always taken the budget process
seriously, and this year--more than ever--it is in those
leaders' interest to prevent the trend toward
recentralization of financial flows from gaining more
The law on the constititional assembly is another bill
likely to be fought over. Administration officials and Duma
deputies reportedly fundamentally disagree over the
composition of the proposed assembly. According to "Novye
izvestiya," one draft currently circulating stipulates 400
delegates should be sent to the assembly, including the
president, Federation Council members, 100 Duma deputies, 100
lawyers and legal experts, as well as judges from the
Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and Supreme Arbitration
courts. The Kremlin, for its part, would prefer a much
smaller group of one-third to one quarter that size.
Of course, controversial bills were also considered
during the Duma's last session in the spring, and the Putin
administration managed to score some impressive victories,
gaining passage not only of all three of Putin's bills
reforming the Russian Federation but also of a controversial
tax reform package. However, passage of the administrative
reforms was in the deputies' interest, since the legislation
reduced the national political profile of the country's
governors, thereby increasing the importance of members of
the lower house. Passage of the second part of the Tax Code
through both legislative branches, on the other hand, was a
clean win for the Kremlin. Although that legislation was
designed to ease the tax burden of both companies and
individuals alike, it was also expected to impact negatively
on the interests of several groups close to Russian
legislators, trade unions, oil companies, tobacco and alcohol
producers, and regional governments. In the end, not only did
the bill pass but some Duma deputies managed to include the
legislation features that the government was afraid to ask
But that was July, when the country was experiencing
rare political unity--at least among many Moscow-based
politicians. Come September, that unity may be frayed as
Putin's fellow politicians, sensing his new weakness, try to
challenge his authority. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov has already
called Putin's conduct in the "Kursk" affair "immoral," and
others are questioning his failure to manage the crisis and
the military more effectively. Also, some legislators may
simply decide that they no longer have sufficient incentive
to forge a compromise on the Land Code, when so many special
interests are threatened. A popular leader might have been
able to explain to voters that some kind of legislation
establishing property rights is essential to move the
country's economy forward. The argument remains valid, but
the question now is will anyone listen.
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2000
From: Natalia Udalova Zwart <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER PUBLICATIONS
August 21, 2000 RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN PROGRAM
CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER PUBLICATIONS
The Russian and Eurasian Affairs Program is pleased to announce that
limited quantities of Carnegie Moscow Center publications are now available
in the United States. Hard copies of titles listed below can be ordered
free of charge through the Washington, D.C. office. All publications are
in Russian, unless otherwise specified. To order, please contact Ann
Stecker at (202)939-2282(phone), (202)483-3389(fax) or by e-mail at
"email@example.com" or visit: http://www.ceip.org/russia
Multi-Dimensional Borders of Central Asia, Aleksei Malashenko and Martha
Brill Olcott, eds., April 2000, 97 pp.
Inequality and Mortality in Russia, Vladimir Shkolnikov. Evgeny Andreev,
and Tatyana Maleva, eds., February 2000, 107 pp.
What Do Russia's Regions Want? Aleksei Malashenko, ed., October 1999,
Russian Regions in 1998: An Annual Supplement to Russia's Political
Almanac, Michael McFaul and Nikolai Petrov, eds., September 1999, 267
Russian Society: the Establishment of Democratic Values? Michael McFaul
Andrey Ryabov, eds., September 1999, 239 pp.
Boris Yeltsin and His Regime, Lilia Shevtsova, September 1999, 535 pp.
This Omnipotent and Impotent Government: The Evolution of the Political
System in Post-Communist Russia, Igor Klyamkin and Lilia Shevtsova, August
1999, 59 pp. (in English)
Alexander Lebed in the Krasnoyarsk Region, Nikolai Petrov, May 1999, 207
Russia's China Problem, Dmitri Trenin, May 1999, 64 pp. (in English)
Intolerance in Russia: Old and New Phobias, Aleksei Malashenko and Galina
Vitkovskaya, eds., May 1999, 196 pp.
The Political Almanac of Russia 1997, Michael McFaul and Nikolai Petrov,
eds. November 1998.
Volume 1: Elections and Political Developments, 642 pp.
Volume 2: Social and Political Portraits of the Regions, 1096 pp. (in
Limited Partnership: Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia (Report
the Study Group on Russia-China Relations), prepared by Sherman W. Garnett,
October 1998, 47 pp.
Contemporary Ethno-Political Processes and the Migration Situation in
Central Asia, Galina Vitkovskaya, ed., July 1998, 240 pp.
Political Russia, Lilia Shevtsova, ed., June 1998, 384 pp.
Russia: Ten Important Political Questions, Lilia Shevtsova, ed, May 1997,
Pro et Contra
Volume 4, Number 2. Spring 1999. Russia After Ten Years of Transformation
Volume 4, Number 3. Summer 1999. The Three Centuries of Russian Reforms
Volume 4, Number 4. Fall 1999. Problems of Globalization
Volume5, Number 1. Winter 2000. Russia: Center and Periphery
For full texts of these and other publications, visit: http://pubs.carnegie.ru
For more information on the Carnegie Moscow Center, visit:
http://www.carnegie.ru For more information on the Russian & Eurasian
other programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in
Washington, D.C., visit: http://www.ceip.org
August 18, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
RELIANCE ON POWER MINISTERS CAN BACKFIRE
By Marina KALASHNIKOVA
The consequences of the tragedy in the Barents Sea can
seriously affect even the far-removed areas of state and
administrative reform in Russia. The sunken submarine raised
serious questions concerning the philosophy of the reforms. The
top men now are not the governors or party leaders, but heads
of the power structures.
The president is working consistently to create a
superstructure over governors, which is expected to slash at
their power accumulated in the past ten years. Federal district
representatives are gradually taking over the governors' powers.
They have all requisite instruments for success, meaning the
special services. And their goal is to create the conditions
and mechanisms for strengthening the position of the defence
industries, seriously affected by the Yeltsin reforms.
The district representatives have only the general goal
and hence are by and large groping their way. Each of them has
a package of specific problems in their districts. But their
main principle, which they reaffirmed to this newspaper's
correspondent, is the same: save and earn, neutralising the
governors and oligarchs in the process.
The authorities decided to reinforce the efforts to turn
regional economies into district ones with district governments
headed by the plenipotentiary representatives. Judging by
everything, the decision was made several weeks ago. The
district representatives did not make a secret of their
intention to head such structures in their districts and to
formulate their economic programmes by autumn.
There was one hitch, however. It is rumoured that the
government did not want to hand over its powers to the
representatives, but the Kremlin demanded that they comply with
its decision. As a result, Premier Mikhail Kasyanov signed a
resolution, which promises the plenipotentiary representatives
"to coordinate the location of territorial agencies of
ministries and departments with the plan of location of the
offices of the plenipotentiary representatives," and to
coordinate the personnel of these structures with them. In
fact, the structures created by this model will be nothing
other than district governments.
The initial difficulties were overcome thanks to a clear
goal, which proved basically correct. But the tragedy with the
Kursk sub, as well as continued tensions in Chechnya and the
explosion in downtown Moscow created major holes in the crucial
element of the rising power structure and the ideology that is
serving this process. The large and powerful group of power
heads failed to ensure an effective solution to the basic
problems facing the country. Instead, this group itself is
becoming a source of acute problems. This raises a logical
question about the stability of the "umbrella" of the federal
districts, with the help of which the president tried to
alleviate, if not remove, the problem of confrontation with
other real centres of political and economic power in the
The main thing now is the conclusion to be made by
Vladimir Putin and his closest associated from the recent
failures and tragedies. They might make inordinate tactical
moves to slash the growing social tensions in the country and
to change the initial policy of raising high the power
ministries. On the other hand, they might decide to carry on
the initial policy to the end. In this case each new major
incident would provoke difficult to predict and control
changes, up to and including serious power crises.
New York Times
August 20, 2000
[for personal use only]
A Disaster Puts Putin In A Bind
By William E. Odom
William E. Odom, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and adjunct
professor of political science at Yale, is author of ``The Collapse of
Soviet Military.'' A retired Army general, he was director of the National
Security Agency from 1985 to 1988.
WASHINGTON -- The Russian submarine disaster in the Barents Sea has been
more than a human tragedy. It has also been a test of the true character
President Vladimir Putin and his senior military. Judging just by their
arrogant public handling of the crisis in its first days, he and his
commanders have again confirmed the worst.
As the news first unfolded, the commanders issued conflicting accounts
the sinking of the Kursk submarine, and for days Mr. Putin issued no
statement at all. Although we still don't know the details of what caused
the disaster, we do know enough about the context to speculate about the
The rundown state of the Russian military is no surprise. For years there
have been revelations about suicides in the military ranks, cruel abuses
first-year conscripts and corruption in the senior officer corps. The
Committee of Russian Soldiers' Mothers bravely collects and publishes
information in the face of the military's hostility. At the same time,
generals and admirals complain that Russian youths are insufficiently
patriotic and that the defense budget is too low. As officers skim off
money for personal gain, unit training and weapons maintenance as well
procurement of new arms are woefully neglected. Not only are most of the
ships in poor repair, but many sailors and junior officers have rarely
maybe never been at sea.
Why then did the admirals risk launching a large, complex naval exercise
the Barents Sea?
The answer may lie in the Russian navy's competition with the land-based
nuclear strategic forces for scarce resources. The power struggle began
a result of Boris Yeltsin's half-hearted effort to reform the military.
Under Mr. Yeltsin, it was a two-sided fight between the strategic nuclear
forces and the conventional ground forces over who controls all the
services and over budget priorities. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev had
advantage under Mr. Yeltsin. He created an independent command for the
land-based nuclear rockets, bought new long-range ballistic missiles and
cut the conventional forces.
More recently, the chief of the general staff, Anatoli Kvashnin, a
commander in the first war in Chechnya, seemed to be making a comeback
the conventional forces.
Under Mr. Putin, however, the struggle has become three-sided. Inspired
his rhetoric about being a world-class naval power, the admirals insist
that their missile-equipped submarines, rather than the land-based rocket
forces, should be Russia's main nuclear deterrent.
In late July, the quarrel between Marshal Sergeyev and General Kvashnin
became conspicuously public. Mr. Putin let them abuse each other in the
media for several days before a security council meeting on Aug. 11 when
reportedly imposed a compromise between the nuclear rocket forces and
Then word leaked out that he had given the navy an edge over the land-based
rockets, which would be reduced and eventually folded into the air forces.
The large exercise in the Barents Sea is likely related to the infighting.
Ready or not, the commanders of submarines and ships may have been
determined to demonstrate their capabilities to reassure Mr. Putin.
This interservice strife is largely of Mr. Putin's making. Last November
began talking about the navy's role in reviving Russia as a great power,
and in recent remarks to naval personnel in Kaliningrad, he repeated that
Mr. Putin has also sought to reassure the ground forces, beginning in
spring of 1999 with his support of its plans for an invasion of Chechnya.
As the war boosted his popularity in the presidential race, he promised
more money to the ground forces.
Although the costs of the war in Chechnya greatly exceeded expectations,
the president continued his rhetoric about Russia's great-power status.
Encouraging the expectations of both the admirals and the ground-forces
generals, he also signed the new national security doctrine that appeared
to give priority to the strategic rocket forces.
Little wonder the generals and admirals have been ebullient about Mr.
Putin. They were unable to avoid the huge cuts in the Gorbachev and Yeltsin
eras, and for nearly 15 years, they have hoped that eventually the military
would again take first place in devouring the state budget.
The question is whether Mr. Putin can provide money as well as the moral
support. Russia's regional governors are already warning him that he cannot
use their tax money for that purpose. Alternatively, he might purge scores
of senior officers, as opposed to a token few, and make the military live
within the state's means. This seems unlikely. How is he to assert control
over the regions, collect more taxes, and break the influence of the
oligarchs without military support?
Moreover, his popularity is now at stake.
Although most Russians want him to reduce crime and cut corruption,
soldiers' mothers, fathers and wives do not share his affection for the
military and secret police. The tragedy of the Kursk and Mr. Putin's brazen
reaction to it are bound to reinforce their dislike of the military and
also hurt his highly favorable public opinion ratings.
Whatever the technical causes of the sinking of the Kursk, the event
confronts Mr. Putin with a political crisis.
His allies in the military clearly helped him come to power, and this
leaves the Russian president with some very difficult choices.
August 21, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
DEFENCE SPENDING ON THE RISE
The draft 2001 federal budget provides for a major rise in
the defence spending. Taken together with the expenses of other
power departments, it will account for over one-third of the
By Lyubov KIZILOVA
The outlines of the new federal budget are becoming
Regrettably, the promised increase in "human investments" is
not impressive. The defence spending will be raised the most.
Taken together with spending on other power departments and
Chechnya, this creates a picture of a highly militarised
Sergei Alexashenko, former deputy chairman of the Central
Bank and now head of the Development Centre, said about the
budget's parameters that "nothing will be changed in the
expense policy of the state - as in the past, it will not be
spearheaded at the interests of the people." Although the armed
forces will get the greatest part of the budget allocations,
"they will still not ensure the security of the people," the
According to him, the security of the people is "the last
priority of our military." As for spending on Chechnya,
everything depends on its structure.
He noted as positive the dramatic increase of spending on
industries, which can amount to growing investments. On the
other hand, he criticised the decision of the government to
allocate 1 billion roubles on the creation of the statutory
capital of the Rosselkhozbank agricultural bank. Alexashenko
believes that the creation of the bank would amount only to
As for the statement of Vice-Premier Alexei Kudrin to the
effect that state loans would be no longer provided for
economic purposes, the expert thinks that no such loans were
issued this year either.
It proceeds from Kudrin's statement that spending on
agriculture will go down from 0.23% to 0.2% of the GDP next
It is clear that the government's goal is to change the view of
the agro-industrial complex as the budget's black hole.
IZVESTIA'S REFERENCE FILE
A total of 206.324 billion roubles (2.66% of the GDP) are
to be spent on defences (this year's figure is 154.383 billion
roubles, or 2.39%). In particular, 3.9 billion roubles are to
be granted for the reform of the army.
Spending on other power structures will amount to 129.62
billion roubles (1.67% of the GDP), with this year's figure
being 88.275 billion roubles, or 1.37% of the GDP.
Social allocations in 2001 will add up to 107.28 billion
roubles (1.38% of the GDP), a rise from 84.846 billion roubles,
or 1.32% of the GDP, this year.
Spending on industries will rise from 23.955 billion
roubles to 42.442 billion roubles.
Cohen Questions Training in Russian Sub Accident
Auguset 21, 2000
By Annie Schwartz
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The Russian submarine accident that took 118 lives
underscored the need for rigorous training, something that may be deficient
in the Russian military, Defense Secretary William Cohen said on Monday.
``Russia is not an enemy of our's. To have 118 people perish in such a
fashion reminds all of us of the dangers military people face,'' he told
Reuters following an appearance at a convention of the Veterans of Foreign
``They don't have the rigor in their training regimes like we do,'' he
``We should be even more dedicated to our training in light of this
Cohen said it was not possible to determine what caused the submarine
because ``there is too much ambiguity about what took place. We still
know what precipitated it.'' He said he could, however, state categorically
that there were no American ships involved.
Russia's Northern Fleet earlier in the day confirmed that all 118 aboard
nuclear submarine Kursk were dead after Norwegian divers opened the wrecked
vessel and found it flooded.
It sank nine days ago in the Barents Sea in 354 feet (108 meters) of water.
Russian officials have said the most likely cause of the accident was
explosion, either from inside the vessel or as the result of a collision.
blast wrecked the front of the sub and sent it to the sea bed at high
The impact led to a detonation of the Kursk's torpedoes, triggering a
Russian authorities have been criticized inside the country and
internationally for their reluctance to accept outside help in the first
of the accident, and for their misleading early reports.
Cohen also responded to a comment made by Republican presidential nominee
George W. Bush who told the same meeting earlier that he would inherit
military on the decline if elected.
``I think you'll see a military on the ascendancy, not the decline,''
said. ``They're the most highly educated people, we've ever had in the
military and there will be substantial increases in their numbers in the
Russian environmentalist fears radiation from sub
By Sue Pleming
WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Former Russian navy captain and
environmentalist Alexander Nikitin said on Monday he feared radioactive
leakage from the sunken Kursk nuclear submarine within a month, but that
fallout would not be as serious as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Nikitin, an anti-nuclear activist who retired from the Russian Navy in
told a news conference the submarine's two nuclear reactors had likely
down automatically when the accident occurred in the Barents Sea but that
risk of radiation still existed.
"According to our calculations and information from the region there have
been no radioactive emissions or leaks yet," said Nikitin, who spoke on
sidelines of the American Chemical Society's annual conference, which
due to address on Monday.
"But in my opinion the submarine will have to be salvaged and taken out
the seabed because if nothing is done then there will be the emission
radioactive elements in the future," he said through an interpreter.
Russian officials said on Monday that none of the 118 crew on the Kursk
survived an accident nine days ago. Officials said repeatedly there was
danger of radiation from the submarine.
Nikitin, who was accused but later acquitted by the Russians of revealing
state secrets while working for the Norwegian environmental group Bellona,
said even after the two reactors shut down, they would still emit heat
RADIOACTIVE RELEASE DEPENDS ON SEVERAL FACTORS
How quickly radioactive elements would be released depended on several
factors, including the speed of corrosion, which often intensifies in
salty waters, he said.
"We could see results of this in about a month," he said when asked when
radioactive matter could leak from the vessel.
Nikitin, who angered Russian authorities in the past by his reports about
radioactive pollution in the Arctic Sea, predicted fallout from the submarine
would be local, polluting waters and fish in the Barents Sea region only.
He said it would not have the same impact as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster
Ukraine, the world's worst nuclear disaster, which spewed a cloud of
radioactive dust across much of Western Europe and affected millions of
"I think it will be a local incident. I don't think it will be like another
Chernobyl and the two cannot really be compared," he said.
He insisted the submarine would have to be removed to prevent radioactive
emissions and that this would become more difficult as stormy winter weather
Providing his own theory for the accident, Nikitin said it could have
caused by human error and through an explosion of new, less expensive
torpedoes when the vessel collided with the seabed.
Citing an article in the Russian military newspaper "Red Star", Nikitin
a cheaper type of torpedo was being used on Northern Fleet submarines
than the usual version.
He said the submarine was traveling in dangerous, shallow waters when
the seabed and then gradually drifted to a lower level.
"According to our calculations, to have a collision with the seabed would
take about 60 seconds of human error of the person in charge of the
submarine. After this happened the water would come into the first
compartment and then spread throughout the submarine," he said.
People in the aft compartment of the submarine had probably survived for
about two or three days after the explosion, he said, charging that Russian
authorities had been too slow to react to the crisis.
Russia must not have NATO enlargement veto-Bush
August 21, 2000
VILNIUS (Reuters) - U.S. Republican presidential nominee George W. Bush
the Lithuanian-American community in a letter that NATO expansion should
continue and that Russia should not be allowed to halt the process.
``I believe that the enlargement of NATO to include other nations with
democratic values, pluralist political systems and free market economies
should continue,'' Bush said in the letter dated Aug. 11.
Bush's letter said it was in response to one written by the head of the
Lithuanian-American Community, Regina Narusis. Reuters obtained its copy
the letter from the office of Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus.
``I also believe that the development of a democratic and stable Russia
the interest of all of Europe, and we do not see Russia as an enemy. But
Russia must never be given veto over enlargement,'' the letter added.
Lithuania and neighboring Baltic states Latvia and Estonia were deeply
disappointed by a NATO decision to exclude them from its expansion, which
brought in former Warsaw Pact members Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
The three view NATO membership as the best way of guaranteeing the
independence they won from Moscow in 1991, after 50 years of Soviet and
Bush did not mention the Baltic states specifically in his letter. However,
he said that central and east European countries had been ``some of America's
strongest friends and allies'' noting their participation in peacekeeping
efforts in Bosnia and Kosovo and a strong NATO was key to maintaining
``I believe that the security of the United States is inseparable from
security of Europe, and that a strong NATO is the foundation of peace,''
``It is in America's interest that the new European democracies become
integrated into the economic, political and security institutions of the
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