Center for Defense Information
Research Topics
CDI Library
What's New
CDI Library > Johnson's Russia List

Johnson's Russia List


September 03, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4489

Johnson's Russia List
3 September 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. AFP: Putin seeks to put strong Russian stamp on UN millennium bash.
2. Washington Post: George Will, Back in the U.S.S.R.
3. Elizabeth Pond: English-language journal Transatlantic Internationale Politik.
4. Moscow Times: Christopher Pala, WILL THE KURSK SINK THE AKULA?
5. New York Times: Steven Lee Myers, Russian Resistance Key in Decision to Delay Missile Shield.
6. Vladimir Shlapentokh: Putin Sacrifices Democracy for Unity and Order: Short and Long Term Perspectives.]


Putin seeks to put strong Russian stamp on UN millennium bash

MOSCOW, Sept 3 (AFP) - 
Russian President Vladimir Putin leaves behind a sequence of disasters 
overshadowing his rule at home to make a UN debut Wednesday in which he hopes 
to cast himself as a world leader whom the West must take into account.

And Putin's three-day stay at the UN Millennium Summit in New York is certain 
to be made sweeter by US President Bill Clinton's decision to delay launching 
a nationwide nuclear defense shield that Russia warns could start a new 
nuclear arms race.

The UN's biggest-ever soiree offers Putin a timely chance to convince 
Russians still smarting from his seemingly nonchalant handling of the Kursk 
nuclear submarine disaster that he is a leader who commands international 

Putin's first major international appearance at July's G8 summit in Japan was 
hailed by nearly every head of state he met -- in part because his can-do 
image contrasted so sharply with the often-bumbling performances put in by 
his predecessor Boris Yeltsin.

Yet that summit also taught Putin how the glamorous world stage could 
suddenly turn into a minefield.

His trump card in Japan was a promise from North Korea's reclusive leader Kim 
Jong Il, secured only days earlier, that the Stalinist state would scrap its 
missile program if conditions were right.

Yet Putin was soon scraping egg off his face when Kim told South Korean media 
executives that he made those remarks in a "casual, laughing manner" and had 
not expected the Russian leader to take the offer seriously.

Hoping to avoid any mistakes, sources say Putin is unlikely during his two 
public speeches Wednesday and Friday to spring any of the surprises that were 
Yeltsin's attention-grabbing trademark at such world meets.

Officials say Russia will be talking tough on everything from the dominant 
role NATO has assumed in solving world conflicts to US testing of a national 
nuclear missile defense system.

"Of course we plan to actively use this forum to push Russia's point of view 
about the urgent need to drop these stereotyped ideas about presenting only 
one forceful way of running things," a senior Kremlin source said in a 
thinly-veiled dig at Washington.

Indeed much of the diplomatic talk in Moscow prior to Putin's trip has been 
focused on how Russia -- without making enemies -- must convince the world 
that US international hegemony must end.

"Russia plans to defend its national interests consistently and, where need 
be, firmly," added Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

"Such an approach has nothing to do with confrontation, and of course does 
not clash with our line that Russia ... must be integrated into the world 

Indeed Russia's economic malaise but also bitter distaste for an expanded 
role taken on by NATO have forced diplomats here to turn to the United 
Nations -- as it once unsuccessfully did to the Organization for Security and 
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"The United Nations is the only truly universal organization in the world," 
observed Russia's UN permanent ambassador Sergei Lavrov.

"There is no other multi-faceted structure that even comes close, or that 
could take over the work from the UN."

Moscow's shift toward the United Nations became most apparent after NATO 
launched air strikes against historic Russian ally Yugoslavia last summer and 
Soviet-era friend Iraq in December 1998.

The Kremlin was furious that the strikes had been launched without a 
resolution from the UN Security Council, on which Russia has a permanent seat 
and where it would have undoubtedly exercised its veto.

That move still rankles with Moscow to this day.

"The very forces which initiated the attacks against Baghdad and Belgrade 
were forced to concede that in the end the conflicts had to be resolved 
within the framework of the UN Security Council," Lavrov said.


Washington Post
September 3, 2000
[for personal use only]
Back in the U.S.S.R.
By George F. Will

As the tragedy of the Russian submarine Kursk unfolded, Vladimir Putin's 
government responded with mendacity, lying about many things and suggesting 
that some other nation's submarine had collided with the Kursk. Which is to 
say, the government behaved like what it is, a cabal run by a 
third-generation apparatchik. Putin, whose grandfather was in Lenin's and 
then Stalin's personal security details, and whose father was a Communist 
Party functionary, was a KGB careerist before converting--if you think as the 
Clinton-Gore administration evidently does--to democracy. 

The nature of Putin's government is pertinent to America's presidential 
choice. Al Gore, much more than George W. Bush, adheres to the anachronistic 
idea that Russia must be treated as a great power--witness Gore's quest for 
Russia's permission for the United States to defend itself against ballistic 
missiles, and his passion to preserve the 28-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile 
Treaty. Gore should read in the National Interest quarterly Zbigniew 
Brzezinski's essay "Living With Russia," which argues that "there is no solid 
foundation" for Russia's claim to global status.

Russia's domestic conditions are "bordering on social catastrophe"--ruined 
agriculture, collapsing infrastructure and steady deindustrialization of the 
imploding economy. In 1999 direct foreign investment in China was $43 
billion, in Poland $8 billion, in Russia $2 billion to $3 billion. Sixty 
percent of recent births are not fully healthy; 20 percent of first-graders 
are diagnosed with some mental retardation. Since 1990 male life expectancy 
has declined five years, to around 60.

Russia's demographic crisis--its population dropped from 151 million to 146 
million in the 1990s--exacerbates its geographic crisis. To the east are 1.2 
billion Chinese with an economy that is four times larger than Russia's and 
is lengthening its lead. To the west are 375 million Europeans with a surging 
economy 10 times the size of Russia's. To the south are nine Muslim states 
with combined populations of about 295 million Muslims (not counting Turkey's 
65 million) seething about Russian brutality against Chechnya. By 2025 the 
population of the nine may be 450 million (plus Turkey's 85 million).

Nevertheless, Brzezinski's basis for "longer-term optimism"--very longer 
term--is that Russia's dilemmas are so dire that it has no realistic choice 
but to join a "Vancouver to Vladivostok" West. But for the foreseeable 
future, Russia's government justifies pessimism.

Unlike in the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe, there are, 
Brzezinski says, no former dissidents in Russia's government. It consists, 
"with no exception," of the sort of people--"former apparatchiki, 
criminalized oligarchs, and the KGB and military leadership"--who could be 
governing the Soviet Union if it still existed. Unlike Germany and Japan 
after losing a war, Russia after losing the Cold War was not occupied and 
reformed. And even though Putin's office has a portrait of westernizing Peter 
the Great, Russia's "renunciation of the Soviet past has been 
perfunctory"--the corpse of Lenin, founder of the gulag, is still honored in 
central Moscow.

Brzezinski contrasts Russia's stagnation today with Turkey's rapid 
modernization after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The slow 
decline of that inefficiently repressive empire allowed the development of a 
cadre of intellectuals and military officers--the Young Turks--eager to 
westernize. Turkey quickly adopted the Swiss civil code, the Italian penal 
code and the German commercial code. Russia's progress, says Brzezinski, will 
be delayed until "Russia's past imperial and global status will have become a 
distant memory rather than an entitlement."

Putin's talk of a Russia "which commands respect" as "a great, powerful and 
mighty state" is delusional. Alexander Lebed, a former general and current 
politician (who, granted, has an ax to grind), claims there are fewer than 
10,000 combat-ready troops. Last year the Associated Press reported that fuel 
is so scare that pilots average 25 hours flying a year, compared with the 
Western air forces' minimum of about 200 hours. The Los Angeles Times reports 
that Putin says the submarine fleet may be cut to 10 and that last summer 
"the Baltic Fleet owed so much money to the Kaliningrad bread factory that 
the plant refused to supply any more bread." An indicative indignity occurred 
in 1995 when a submarine was stripped of its missiles and used to transport 
potatoes to Siberia.

The submarine Kursk was named for the city that had been supplying it with 
food and other supplies. That city's name also is attached to the great 1943 
battle--history's largest tank battle--that guaranteed the survival, for a 
while, of the Soviet regime. The Putin government's response to the Kursk 
submarine's tragedy demonstrates how long and arduous is the crawl up from 


From: (Elizabeth Pond)
Date: Sat, 2 Sep 2000 05:01:44 EDT
Subject: English-language journal Transatlantic Internationale Politik

The fall issue of the new English-language journal "Transatlantic 
Internationale Politik," due out this week, focuses on Russia. Among other 
things, it makes available to a non-German-speaking audience German 
scholarship on Russia. "Internationale Politik" is the German equivalent of 
"Foreign Affairs;" "Transatlantic Internationale Politik," or TIP, is its 
English edition.

Perhaps the most innovative article is an essay by Alexander Zergunin, 
professor at Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University, on the "foreign 
relations" of various Russian regions, including lobbying for Russian federal 
legislation in relations with foreign countries, co-opting local branches of 
the power structures, soliciting preferential Western investment, getting 
Polish, Lithuanian, or Japanese humanitarian aid during bad winters 
(Kaliningrad and Sakhalin), and coordinating economic development (the 
Russian Far East with China's Dongbei Province).

Other articles include a tour d'horizon written especially for Internationale 
Politik by Foreign Minister Ivanov; an anguished plea to Europe to hold 
Russia to humanitarian standards in Chechnya, but not to isolate Moscow, by 
activist Sergei Kovalev; a description of the initial expectations for 
German-Russian economic relations under Putin, written by Klaus Mangold, 
chairman of the Eastern Committee of German Business; an acerbic dissection 
by Professor Otto Luchterhandt of Hamburg University's Institute for East 
European Law of just what Putin means when he talks about "dictatorship of 
the law" and a "strong state;" University of Munich's Margareta Mommsen on 
the sphinx in the Kremlin; Walter Schilling, former German military attache 
in Moscow, on current disputes in the Russian military; W. R. Smyser, former 
US DCM in Germany, on the temptations of a special Russian-German 
relationship, with a rebuttal by Heinrich Vogel, head of the Cologne Eastern 
Studies Institute; and RFE/RL's Elizabeth Fuller on the Caucasus between 
Moscow and Islam.

The fall issue of TIP can be ordered by credit card either from Aluta 
Company, 5108 Wally Drive, El Paso, TX 79924-9906 or from Societäts-Verlag, 
Zeitschriftenvertrieb, Frankenallee 71-81, 60327 Frankfurt, Fax: ++49 69 7501 
4502, <> A single edition costs $ 9.95 or 9.95 euros.

Thanks for posting this,
Elizabeth Pond
Editor, Transatlantic Internationale Politik


Moscow Times
September 1, 2000
By Christopher Pala (

The sinking of Russian submarine Kursk comes at an awkward time for what
is surely the boldest swords-to-ploughshares project in history: the
transformation of three Russian nuclear-powered submarines into cargo
carriers that would haul thousands of tons of nickel under the ice off
Russia's Arctic coast.
Some call the project crazy, others say it's feasible. In any case, the
Russian Navy is behind it.
"Of course we're very concerned about the causes of the Kursk disaster,"
says Anatoli Komrakov, spokesman for RAO Norilsk Nickel, the Russian mining
and smelter conglomerate behind the plan. "But we believe we have an
excellent submarine and whatever sank the Kursk (on August 12, with the
loss of its crew of 118), we don't think it was a design flaw, so we are
definitely not freezing our project."
The submarine in question is a "boomer," a stealthy behemoth carrying
long-range ballistic missiles -- as opposed to a boomer-hunting attack
submarine or a cruise missile launcher like the Kursk. The boomer is
arguably the most lethal weapon ever built, and the biggest of them all -
Norilsk Nickel's object of desire - is the one the Russians call Akula
(shark) and NATO calls Typhoon. 
Designed with unique ice-breaking capabilities, it carries 20 SS-N-20
missiles, each with ten warheads, for a total of 200 independently targeted
nuclear bombs seven times more powerful than the one that hit Hiroshima.
It's no wonder that it inspired the best-selling book "The Hunt for Red
Three Akulas are more or less operational and the other three were
headed for destruction under a U.S.-funded, $250 million program to help
the impoverished Russian navy pay for the costly dismantling.
The Akula caught the eye of the management of Norilsk Nickel, the
world's biggest producer of nickel, an essential ingredient of steel. Built
in the 1930s with prison labor at the cost of thousands of lives, the
sprawling Norilsk "kombinat" today is one of Russia's most profitable
enterprises, with 1999 sales of $2.944 billion and profits of $1.278
billion. Its 103,000 employees produce 22 percent of the world's nickel,
along with 60 percent of its palladium and 40 percent of its platinum, plus
copper and cobalt.
But getting these valuable metals - nickel topped $10,000 a ton last
year - to their markets is no easy task. The ore is loaded onto ships in
Dudinka, a bleak port on the vast Yenisei river, for the 350 miles north to
the Kara Sea, where they turn west for the 1,100-mile voyage to Murmansk,
Arctic Russia's main ice-free port. River and sea are covered with thick
ice for nine months of the year, so the cargo ships must follow one of
Russia's nuclear-powered icebreakers for most of the trip.
There are now six icebreakers in operation; all are owned by the state
but operated by Murmansk Sea Line, a subsidiary of oil company RAO LUKoil.
The fleet is overextended and under-maintained and one icebreaker is due to
be retired in a few years, says Norilsk Nickel spokesman Komrakov. 
Norilsk Nickel managers worry that at that time, LUKoil may give
preference to oil over metal in its allocation of icebreaker time,
especially since LUKoil is developing its Arctic fields and rapidly
expanding its fleet of tankers. And building a new nuclear icebreaker would
cost at least $150 million.
So last year, according to Komrakov, the company commissioned St.
Petersburg's Rubin Design Bureau, designer of the Akula (and, incidentally,
of the Kursk) to study the feasibility of turning Akulas, minus missile-
and torpedo-launchers, into cargo ships. 
In the meantime, Norilsk Nickel General Director Alexander Khloponin
headed for the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk, near Arkhangelsk, where
the Akulas were built in the 1980s and where the first one was being
dismantled. He had no trouble convincing the navy brass to delay the
cutting up of the next one scheduled for the blow-torch while the study was
underway: they love his plan, just as they hate losing the gem of their
strategic submarine fleet.
Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov, commander of Russia's Navy, recently told a
television interviewer that the project "is the best way to use surplus
The designers delivered their verdict in February: for $80 million, an
Akula can be made to carry 12,000 tons of cargo safely and reliably. 
First, it would plow through the surface ice while descending the
shallow Yenisei River. Then it would slide below the ice and, at a speed of
25 knots, three times faster than an ice breaker-led convoy, head for
Murmansk, where its load would be trans-shipped to surface vessels. The
entire operation would take place in or near Russian waters.
With three all-weather Akulas plying the Dudinka-Murmansk route, Norilsk
Nickel wouldn't need to depend on LUKoil's icebreakers any more.
Norilsk Nickel chairman Yuri Kotlyar has been downright enthusiastic. "I
think this project is absolutely realistic," he told a wire service last
February. "I am certain we will have our first sea trials next year."
Meanwhile, a second study is being done to more precisely evaluate the cost
of modifying the company's docks and of operating the subs. Results are due
in January, says Norilsk Nickel's Komrakov.
He says his company favors creating a joint venture with the navy. The
submarine crews would work as civilians - and presumably be paid more than
the paltry $50 a month they now receive.
But others are not so sure the project is viable.
"It's a crazy idea - it's far too dangerous," says researcher Thomas
Nilsen of Norway's Bellona Foundation, which monitors environmental threats
posed by Russia's Northern Fleet. "Navigating the Kara Sea is very tricky
because it's so shallow."
U.S. submarine expert and author Norman Polmar differs. "It's a great
idea: these are marvelous ships that include tremendous feats of
engineering," he said. "I know the designers at Rubin (Design Bureau) well,
and if they say they it can be done, I believe them." 
"But I doubt it would be economical," he adds, "because these things are
horribly expensive to run."
"It's economically unrealistic," agrees analyst Mikhail Selesnev of
Moscow's United Financial Group. "They should use their healthy cash flow
to build ice-breakers."
Still, suggests defense analyst Robert Norris of the Natural Resources
Defense Council in Washington, D.C., "We should support commercial
Ambassador Thomas Graham, a former head of the Arms Control Agency who
lives in Washington, says U.S.-Russian treaties involve only the
destruction of launchers. "The owning nation can dispose of the ship as it
wishes," so U.S. permission would not be required.
One thing is sure. Whatever fantasies Norilsk Nickel executives may have
once had of someday having Akulas deliver to clients in Rotterdam and
farther afield, they have been fatally torpedoed by the sinking of the Kursk.
"No European country is going to want a Russian nuclear submarine in its
waters now, that's for sure," says Princeton University submarine
researcher Joshua Handler."


New York Times
September 3, 2000
[for personal use only]
Russian Resistance Key in Decision to Delay Missile Shield
This article was reported by Steven Lee Myers, Eric Schmitt and Marc Lacey, 
and was written by Mr. Myers. 

On Tuesday afternoon, visibly tired after an 11-hour flight from Cairo and 
still focused on the Middle East, President Clinton met at the White House 
with two of his closest advisers to hear Secretary of Defense William S. 
Cohen appeal one last time for making the bold decision to build a national 
missile defense. 

Mr. Cohen, speaking forthrightly and matter-of-factly, conceded that 
technological hurdles remained, and that the Pentagon's schedule for 
completing a system by 2005 had become no more than a hope. "Still," a senior 
defense official said, "he felt we should proceed with construction," to give 
Mr. Clinton's successor a head start. 

Mr. Clinton left the meeting without declaring his intentions, but by then 
the outcome was a formality, administration officials now say. The foundation 
for the decision he announced Friday in a hastily arranged speech at 
Georgetown University had in fact been laid months before, several senior 
administration and Pentagon officials said. 

Mr. Clinton's decision not to authorize even initial construction of a 
national missile shield had been shaped by events as far back as January, 
these officials said, when the Russians first made it clear they would not 
negotiate changes in the Antiballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. 

The administration's calculated plan for making a decision about a limited 
missile shield in the election year 2000 -- drafted in part as political 
defense of Vice President Al Gore in his campaign for the presidency -- had 
begun to unravel even before it got very far. And it did so because of events 
that were largely out of the administration's control. 

The startling diplomatic opening of Kim Jong Il of North Korea, culminating 
in a summit meeting with his South Korean counterpart in June, gave support 
to critics of the missile system that the threat of a rogue attack had been 
overstated. And the spectacular failure of the Pentagon's test of its 
high-speed missile interceptor in July left insurmountable doubts about the 

Most important, however, the administration could not predict domestic 
politics in Russia. The administration's plan rested on negotiating a deal 
with Moscow to allow construction of a limited missile shield without 
scrapping the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. 

That treaty, signed by the United States and the Soviet Union, and viewed by 
some as the cornerstone of cold-war arms control, sought to prevent nuclear 
war by forcing Washington and Moscow to remain equally vulnerable to the 
other's attack. 

But any chance of a deal disintegrated along with the political fortunes of 
the man on whom this strategy depended, Boris N. Yeltsin, who was viewed by 
American negotiators as more pliable than his successor, Vladimir V. Putin. 

"I believe that when Boris Yeltsin was president, there was a decent chance 
of getting the deal we wanted in the course of this year," a senior 
administration official said. "When Putin came in, that changed. Putin is, 
among other things, the un-Boris." 

With each of these events, support for building a missile defense withered. 
Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was so unenthusiastic she virtually 
dropped out of the debate, leaving the issue to her deputy, Strobe Talbott, 
administration officials said. Opposition had so hardened at the White House 
and State Department that officials at the National Security Council were 
said to have expressed quiet relief when the test failed in July. 

"It was a joke over here that they were burning incense at the N.S.C. before 
the test, hoping it would fail," a senior Pentagon official said. 

In the end it was Mr. Cohen, the sole Republican in the president's cabinet, 
who continued to advocate sticking to the timetable the administration had 
drafted -- long after all of Mr. Clinton's other senior advisers had 
concluded that to do so would be a technological leap of faith and a 
diplomatic disaster. 

Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had almost no role in the debate or the 
decision, showed little enthusiasm, Pentagon officials said, believing that 
protecting against shorter-range missiles capable of hitting American troops 
overseas was the more pressing concern. They were especially worried, these 
officials said, that an expensive missile defense would drain dollars from 
conventional forces. 

Several administration officials said that Mr. Cohen's hold-out position 
created the most striking schism among Mr. Clinton's foreign policy advisers, 
who pride themselves on public unity and keeping disagreements to themselves. 

The "ABC team" -- the administration's alphabetical shorthand for Ms. 
Albright, Samuel R. Berger, the national security adviser, and Mr. Cohen -- 
had previously never failed to reach consensus on a significant issue before 
submitting it to Mr. Clinton. 

The only other time one official could recall Mr. Cohen being overruled was 
when he argued against imposing sanctions on Myanmar in 1996. 

"This has been one of the more divisive issues in the defense establishment, 
in the arms control community and in the administration," said a senior 
official who was immersed in the debates. 

In the hours after Mr. Clinton made his announcement on Friday, Mr. Cohen did 
not appear in public to explain his views. He simply released a curt 
statement that, at least indirectly, made his zeal for pursuing missile 
defense clear. 

"I have noted on many occasions that several emerging threats warrant the 
deployment of an effective missile defense program as soon as technologically 
feasible," he said. 

>From the beginning, President Clinton's actions signaled that he was an 
unenthusiastic supporter of a national missile defense. In 1993 he scaled 
back what remnants were left of the research that Ronald Reagan had begun on 
a Star Wars defense against the threat of ballistic missiles. 

By 1998, however, the debate over limited missile defenses intensified. A 
committee heavily weighted with Republicans and led by Donald H. Rumsfeld, 
who served as secretary of defense under President Gerald R. Ford, reported 
that the threat of ballistic missiles from countries like North Korea, Iran 
or Iraq was no longer a distant one. 

A month later, as if to prove the point, North Korea fired a Taepodong 
missile, capped by a satellite, over Japan. The test was a failure, but the 
debris landed in the Pacific Ocean not far from Alaska. 

It was clear early on that Mr. Cohen was going to be the administration's 
most ardent supporter of building a limited defensive shield to counter the 
emerging threat. 

In January 1999, when the administration announced that it would spend $6.7 
billion to develop and test a system, Mr. Cohen bluntly warned that the 
United States was prepared to unilaterally withdraw from the Antiballistic 
Missile Treaty if the Russians did not agree to amend it. 

Officials at the State Department and the White House quickly disavowed his 
warning, but planning went ahead. And the Pentagon devised a schedule for 
testing a missile interceptor that, guided by sophisticated radar stations on 
the ground and satellites in space, would crash into incoming ballistic 
missiles before they reached American soil. 

In fact, Mr. Clinton's timetable on missile defense reflected a desire in 
part to protect Vice President Gore from Republican attacks that a Democratic 
White House was weak on defense, officials conceded. Republicans had hammered 
Mr. Clinton for not backing a missile shield, so he took a middle course that 
would proceed with tests while trying to preserve arms control agreements. 

By last fall, the administration agreed that Mr. Clinton would make a 
decision on whether to deploy the system this summer -- at the height of the 
presidential campaign -- based on four criteria: the system's cost, its 
technological feasibility, the missile threat and the impact on national 
security, particularly on arms control. 

The last criteria was key, because President Clinton agreed with senior State 
Department officials and arms control advocates that the ABM Treaty was a 
cornerstone of arms control. Its prohibitions against a national missile 
defense allowed the United States and Russia to reduce offensive nuclear 
weapons without losing their strategic deterrence. 

Mr. Clinton made it clear that he would approve a system only if the 
administration could reach agreement with the Russians to amend the treaty, 
officials said. But any hope of that was dashed on New Year's Eve when 
President Yeltsin, who had shown considerable flexibility in dealings with 
the administration, announced that he was stepping down and named Mr. Putin 
as his successor. 

With the Americans proposing to build a missile defense that many Russians 
saw as a threat to their last claim to superpower status, Mr. Putin drew the 
line. "He was going to make sure the Russian people understood he wasn't 
going to roll over for stuff," one administration official said. 

By last January, Mr. Putin's tougher stance was already clear. The State 
Department's chief arms control negotiator, John D. Holum, presented the 
Russians with a proposal for amending the treaty, while assuring them the 
system was so limited that Russia's nuclear arsenal could easily overwhelm it 
-- thus, in the logic of arms control, preserving strategic stability. 

The Russians brushed aside the proposal, refusing to call the talks 
"negotiations," referring to them merely as "discussions." Mr. Holum, Mr. 
Talbott and other officials continued "discussions" with the Russians through 
the spring. 

The Russians never flatly ruled out the possibility of negotiating amendments 
-- "Putin never said nyet," the senior official recalled -- but after he was 
elected president in March, he began a campaign against the American 
proposals, driving a wedge between the United States and its NATO allies. 

By the time Mr. Clinton met with Mr. Putin in Moscow in June, American 
officials said they had made considerable progress toward enhancing strategic 
cooperation and security, but the two leaders barely discussed missile 

There was never any question that Mr. Clinton would actually move ahead 
unilaterally, as Mr. Cohen had suggested in 1999. "He didn't want to be the 
president that killed the ABM Treaty," one official said. 

Instead, the White House asked the administration's lawyers to see if there 
was a way that initial work on a defensive shield could begin -- starting 
with a sophisticated radar at Shemya Island in Alaska -- without technically 
violating the treaty. 

The lawyers came up with three opinions, but even those proved divisive. On 
July 25, Mr. Cohen appeared before the Senate and said the lawyers had 
reached a consensus that workers could pour concrete and lay the rails that 
would support the radar itself. Such an interpretation would allow work to 
continue until 2002, before the United States would have to notify the 
Russians of its intent to withdraw from the treaty. 

Mr. Cohen was simply voicing his support for the most liberal interpretation. 
There was no consensus, and senior officials at the State Department and the 
National Security Council complained that Mr. Cohen's position was overly 
aggressive and certain to inflame tensions with Russia and the allies. 

All the while, the Pentagon and Mr. Cohen pushed ahead with a testing 
schedule that even some in the military considered overly compressed and 
risky. But the Pentagon's efforts, too, suffered setbacks. 

After having a successful test in October 1999, proving that it was possible 
"to hit a bullet with a bullet," as Mr. Clinton said on Friday, another test 
in January failed. That put even more pressure on the test this past July 7, 
since the administration had said it would have to have two successful 
intercepts before it could approve the program. 

On the night of the July 7, the interceptor lifted off a launch pad in 
Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands and streaked toward a dummy missile 
fired from California. But the interceptor's booster rocket failed to 

"After that test failed, it pretty much confirmed that the deployment would 
be kicked back," a senior defense official said. "We lost the momentum." 

Even so, Mr. Cohen and a small circle of aides pressed ahead. They noted that 
while the test had failed, other parts of the system, including the 
ground-based radar, had worked. 

By late July, however, Mr. Cohen was alone in making the case that the system 
was at least technologically feasible. At the White House and the State 
Department, officials had concluded that the system was nowhere near ready, 
and meetings to discuss the issue became increasingly tense. 

"We saw the glass as half full," a senior Pentagon official said, "and they 
kept saying it was half empty." 

Mr. Cohen first delivered his recommendation to the president more than a 
week ago, before Mr. Clinton's trip to Nigeria, Tanzania and Egypt. 

Administration officials said he had argued that contractors should begin 
work on the radar station in Shemya, Alaska, leaving open the possibility of 
completing a system at the earliest possible date should the next president 
-- either Mr. Gore or George W. Bush -- choose to do so. 

At no time, officials said, did Mr. Cohen betray his loyalty to the 
Democratic president, whose aides value at least the appearance of 
interagency harmony. 

"I think Bill Cohen has been a total mensch about this at every stage," one 
senior official said, with the grace of a victor toward a vanquished foe. 

By the time Mr. Cohen met at the White House on Tuesday with Mr. Clinton, Mr. 
Berger and the president's chief of staff, John Podesta, the president's mind 
was made up. 

In the weeks before announcing his decision, Mr. Clinton had been reading a 
book by the historian Frances FitzGerald, "Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, 
Star Wars and the End of the Cold War," visitors to the Oval Office said. The 
book provides a sharp critique of the Reagan administration's advocacy of a 
Star Wars defense, chronicling the wrenching internal debates that went on in 
the 1980's among the State Department, the Pentagon and the National Security 

Mr. Clinton told several aides that his administration's debate over one of 
the most significant issues in foreign affairs and defense policy of the time 
seemed orderly by contrast. 


Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 10:21:28 -0400
From: Vladimir Shlapentokh <>
Subject: Putin Sacrifices Democracy for Unity and Order

Putin Sacrifices Democracy for Unity and Order: Short and Long Term
By Vladimir Shlapentokh

>From his benefactor Boris Yeltsin, President Vladimir Putin inherited a
country fraught with feudal divisiveness and a general disregard for law.
The governors of the Russian regions behaved much like the feudal lords of
the past, who thought of themselves as equals to the king or emperor. The
regional barons immersed themselves in corruption, refused to pay taxes to
Moscow, behaved as sovereign states in their relations with foreign
countries, obstructed free commerce between the regions, and tried to
control federal law enforcement agencies on their territories. The Russian
Federal Council, which was staffed by regional bosses, looked like something
out of the Middle Ages. As the historian Vasilii Kliuchevsky noted, the
Boyar Council in Russia during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
consisted of "an assembly of power holders," who challenged the central
authorities in defense of their personal interests.

The Russian oligarchs were another major factor which precipitated Russia's
move toward a feudalistic and lawless society. Oligarchic clans violated
laws on a regular basis. Having generated their fortunes through mostly
illegal means, they corrupted the bureaucracy from top to bottom,
particularly federal law enforcement agencies. The clans positioned people
in the Kremlin and even made decisions about the fate of the president.
During the meeting of the oligarchs on July 28, Putin had grounds for
identifying them as a major cause of the lawlessness in Russian society. To
emphasize the degree of corruption, he said that even "if we attach a police
officer to every customs agent, it would do nothing, because all policemen
are corrupt."

Together, governors and oligarchs generated disorder in the country and
strengthened the ties between criminals and the bureaucracy. No citizen,
particularly businesspeople, was free from the fear of criminals. In July
2000 alone, several prominent individuals were murdered, including the
director of a large machine building plant in Ekaterinburg, the state
attorney of the Khanty Mansiisk region, the director of the independent
radio station in Smolensk, the president of the famous Moscow Academy of
Theater, and the commander of the police school in Machachkala. No one in
Russia expects that the contract killers will be brought to justice. All
investigations of such crimes in the past had failed.

The new president responded affirmatively to the country's plea for the
reestablishment of law and order and the restoration of the country's world
status. Surveys clearly showed that the majority of Russians (no less than
two thirds) supported all of Putin's initiatives to curtail the power of
local barons and tycoons.

In his fight against neo feudalism and disorder in society, Putin must also
define his attitude toward democracy. While he was certainly not the first
leader in history who wanted to reassert the central power in the country,
the circumstances in which he began this mission were unique indeed. He
continually faced contention from Russia's democratic institutions which
emerged in 1989. In the last months, the conflict between the
re-centralization of the country and the development of democracy became the
crux of a major drama. The oligarchs, and particularly the governors, used
democratic phraseology to camouflage their illegal and semi-legal
activities. The governors advocated democracy only insofar as it increased
their autonomy. They rudely violated human rights and democratic principles
in their regions, making a parody of democracy with rigged elections and
manipulated "free" media. Many centuries ago, feudal lords, cities and
churches in Germany, France and Russia also exploited the phraseology of
democracy in order to gain privileges and disobey the central administration.

Not only the political and economic elite, but millions of Russian citizens
saw the new arrival of freedoms as the green light for asocial and criminal
behavior. Analysts predicted that the advent of capitalism would reinforce
labor ethics in the country. According to most Russians as well as several
sociological studies, the opposite trend occurred. After being asked about
what it takes to be wealthy in Russia, only 5 percent responded "talent and
hard work"; 44 percent pointed to "financial speculation"; 20 percent said
"laundering the mafia's money." The demoralization of the population added
to the long list of Putin's problems.

There was one case in history which resembled the developments in
contemporary Russia, that case being America at the end of the eighteenth
century during its revolution. The founders of the new nation faced the
tasks of creating a united state and preserving the democratic order which
had been established in the British colony. In both the Russian and
American cases, the size of the countries played a major role in the process
of combining strong unity and democratic freedoms. The framers of the
United States Constitution were divided into the Federalists guided by
Alexander Hamilton and the Anti Federalists led by Thomas Jefferson. The
blend of their goals included the provision of a strong federal government,
autonomous states and individual freedoms for the people. The Federalists
argued against Confederation and insisted that the Constitution would allow
for both a powerful federal government and individual rights and freedoms.
A strong federal state ("a large republic" in James Madison's terminology)
was necessary for protecting the country from foreign threats and the
egotistical interests of individual groups and states. The Anti Federalists
doubted Hamilton's optimism about the ability of the Constitution to
establish a strong federal government and prevent the new nation from
becoming a corrupt and despotic English monarchy. As we all know, the
Federalists' arguments were vindicated by history.

Putin faced the same historical task as the founders of America: to create
a united Russia with a law abiding and democratic society. Though the goals
were the same, the contexts in which the goals were to be implemented were
quite different. Prior to the American revolution, democratic principles
had been embedded in the political culture. The American people strongly
supported democracy, and cherished their political freedoms. In contrast,
Russia's experience with democracy has been brief and largely unsuccessful.
In April 2000, the Moscow polling firm ROMIR asked the Russian people a
question which closely resembled some of the central inquires raised by the
Federalist Papers: "To what degree are democracy and order compatible?"
Only 25 percent of the population believed that it was possible to have both
democracy and order. One month later, 90 percent of the Russians reported
their dissatisfaction with the lack of respect for human rights in society;
they ascribed this condition not to the weakness of democracy, but to the
lack of order in the country. If asked to choose, the Russians would rather
have strong order than democracy. Furthermore, they believed that the only
way to achieve order was through a consolidation of political control in the
Kremlin. According to a recent survey conducted by the All Russian Center
of Public Opinion Studies, two thirds of the Russians said "yes" to the
question, "Is it good for Russia if Putin concentrates unlimited power in
his hands?"

Unlike the Federalists, Putin does not have a major opponent. In fact,
there is no authoritative defender of democracy in Russia. Clearly, the
corrupt and despised businessman Boris Berezovsky cannot claim to be such a
defender, even if he tries to create a pro democratic party. The Russian
intelligentsia (the traditional opponent to the central authorities) also
refused to take up this role. Instead, much of the intelligentsia declared
their allegiance to the new master of the Kremlin.

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, it is impossible for a leader to
openly declare hostility toward democracy. For this reason, Putin regularly
talks about his respect for democracy, even though his political actions
belie his words at each turn. In his capacity as prime minister during the
parliamentary elections in December 1999 and the presidential election in
March 2000, Putin violated the law which prohibited officials from
influencing elections. Today, he unceremoniously directs the State Duma in
all its important tasks, from the election of its leaders to the vote on
various laws. Nikolai Fedorov, the president of the Chuvash Republic, said
that Putin took the role of an "emperor whose words are laws by definition."
The Russian newspaper Izvestia spoke about "suborning, blackmail and murder
threats" as the major instruments of persuasion used by the presidential
administration. Although Putin publically claims that Russia should have a
strong opposition to the government, his various actions show his real
intentions to muffle oppositional voices. Putin and his mouthpiece Gleb
Pavlovsky called the media's reaction to the Kursk submarine disaster "fully

By sacrificing democracy, will Putin achieve his goals? Can he make Russia
into a law-abiding society, create conditions conducive to economic
progress, drastically increase the military budget and return the country's
superpower status?

>From the short term perspective, Putin will achieve some success in
re-centralizing the country and expanding the state's power while breaking
the resistance of his major foes. In fact, he has already made significant
progress in this direction. In July, the governors capitulated to the
Kremlin. Reluctantly, they voted for their own ousting from the Federal
Council, in other words, for their own political death as national
politicians. They endorsed, with thinly veiled anger, a bill which reduced
their share of the national tax from 50 to 30 percent, making them fully
dependent on the Kremlin.

The oligarchs also showed their readiness to obey Putin's orders. With the
Kremlin looming, they became "craven rabbits," as Boris Berezovsky said. So
far, however, Putin has maintained a rather moderate stance. The oligarchs
have not been taken to task for their illegal enrichment of the past, though
it is widely believed that this policy will soon change. Putin's reserved
position can be attributed first of all to the persisting influence of the
Yeltsin "family" which is afraid of any serious investigation of corruption
and which possesses some unknown means to control the president. Another
factor may be Putin's concern that an attack against the tycoons could
disrupt the economy. The oligarchs control roughly two thirds of the
nation's production. With its limited financial resources, the state is too
weak to undertake a new economic revolution and return to centralized
management. However, without breaking the status quo in the economy, the
Kremlin started planting its people at the forefront of all major companies.

Putin started an offensive against the media. In the near future, the
Kremlin will probably control both leading TV channels (NTV and ORT), which
are currently headed by oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky and Boris Berezovsky.

Putin has the support of the FSB and the army. These institutions see him
as a strong defender of their interests and an advocate of the nationalist
ideology, even though some officers believe that his policy toward his
domestic enemies is too mild. Putin is also protected by his legitimacy as
an elected president. No other politician in the country can even remotely
compete with his popularity. Though some Russians are beginning to lose
faith in the new leader, he is supported by the absolute majority of the
population. The unsuccessful Chechen war, which decimates dozens of young
Russian soldiers and officers each week, does not threaten Putin's prestige.
The Russians support the president's fight against separatism. Even the
sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine and the public outcry against the
Kremlin which followed did not have a major impact on Putin's rating.

The new president can boast that his regime has already stabilized life in
Russia and helped bolster the economy. Due in part to higher oil prices, in
the first half of 2000, the annual GNP rate increased by 8 percent. Putin's
presence in the Kremlin has also enhanced the mood in the country. Between
June 1999 and June 2000, the number of Russians who deemed the situation in
the country as "catastrophic" declined by more than two times (from 39
percent to 18 percent); the number of those who considered themselves more
or less materially well off increased by 60 percent (from 20 to 32 percent).
What is more, the province is now more compliant with Moscow and the country
feels more unified than under Yeltsin.

Most of Putin's success, however, may be short lived. Progress has come
primarily as a result of the initial strengthening of the state. Putin has
not improved the country's respect for law. There is no evidence to suppose
that law enforcement agencies even remotely changed their style of work.
With information leaked from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Russian
newspaper Novaia Gazeta recently published a report about the direct
collusion of the state attorney's office with criminal structures in Rostov.
The Kremlin did not react to the report. By all accounts, Putin's chances
of instating order in the country are not very good.

A powerful state is vital for Russia, but Putin's refusal to rely on
democratic institutions will likely bring negative long term consequences.
Russia desperately needs a new system of independent courts. The same was
true in the nineteenth century when the liberal tsar Alexander the Second
tried to implement the judicial reform, a task he considered no less
important than the liberation of serfs. To the great sorrow of Russian
liberals, the tsar's reform mostly failed. Today, the Russian courts are in
the same state of disrepair as in the late nineteenth century when Leo
Tolstoy described the tsarist courts as corrupt and merciless in his famous
novel Resurrection.

As the prominent Russian lawyer Nikolai Gagarin recently noted in Obshchaia
Gazeta, Russian judges are "in the pockets" of officials. Judges fear both
corrupt bureaucrats and the criminals themselves. In a climate of universal
immorality, judges are easily lured into corruption. They receive meager
salaries and often scrounge for money in civil and criminal cases. No more
than one fifth of the Russians trust law enforcement agencies. An
independent judicial system and scrupulous law enforcement agencies are
crucial for the fight against corruption, the development of true market
competition, and healthy democratic institutions. During the few months of
Putin's rule, respect for law declined because Putin's actions against
oligarchs and governors seemed arbitrary. His pretensions about the
independence of the attorney's office and his promise to introduce "the
dictatorship of law" aroused only laughs in the country.

In June and July, several inconsistent events occurred during the
investigation of media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky. His offices were searched,
he was jailed for three days, released from prison, banned from leaving
Moscow, his property was frozen, and then suddenly he was acquitted, but
only after a private meeting with the Kremlin where he seemingly agreed to
many concessions. No one in the country doubted that each twist in the
story was imposed by the Kremlin. The developments surrounding the forced
resignation of Nikolai Volkov, a lead investigator in the attorney general's
office, sent another signal that Russia is not moving "toward the
dictatorship of law," as Putin proclaimed, but in the opposite direction.
As noted by Nezavisimaia Gazeta, the attorney general's office "always
successfully guesses the Kremlin's wishes." Cringing before the Kremlin,
this office does not actively investigate the cases of corruption linked to
"the family," the current members of the government, or the oligarchs
protected by this administration.

The country is also in dire need of a parliament which can check the
executive power and investigate the activities of top officials. Members of
the current ruling elite are only interested in staying on good terms with
the president. In late July, several Russian newspapers (among them, the
well-respected Novaia Gazeta) reported on the past corrupt activities of
prime minister Mikhail Kasianov. According to Swiss investigators, as a
deputy minister of finance in the summer of 1998, Kasianov deflected 4.8
billion dollars in IMF credits to foreign banks with suspicious motives.
The media linked Kasianov's activities to the financial catastrophe of
August 17, 1998. The State Duma did not react to the accusations against
Kasianov. It is also highly unlikely that the current Duma will create a
fully independent committee to investigate the Kursk tragedy. The power of
the parliament was weak under Yeltsin, and will only grow weaker under the
new Russian president.

With his rejection of the division of power, Putin will find it difficult
to maintain effective control over the province in the years to come. The
president's continued manipulation of the governors and his evident plans to
control their elections are inconsistent with the spirit of democracy. As
most Russians know, the presidential administration is in the process of
planting its own candidates (all them KGB or army generals) in the imminent
gubernatorial elections in Ulianovsk, Kaliningrad and Kursk. These
developments will ultimately be counterproductive for the unity of the
Russian Federation. The expansion of Putin's system of administrative
checks will make local and federal corruption more sophisticated, while
reducing the responsibility of the local authorities for economic growth.
Local officials must become accountable to their constituency and fall under
the control of an independent judiciary. Without these two elements it will
be difficult to prevent local barons from engaging in illegal activities.

To sustain economic growth in Russia, foreign and domestic investments are
in great demand. However, with the continuation of crime and corruption, an
infusion of investments is not likely. Without rapid economic growth, the
restoration of Russia's military might (one of Putin's major goals) is sheer
utopia. Flirtation with rogue states such as North Korea, Libya, and Iraq,
an important part of Putin's foreign activity, will hardly change Russia's
place in the world.

The consequences of Putin's adulation of the state and contempt for
democracy will be felt by the Russians in the next couple years, especially
if the Kremlin continues its drive to restore its superpower status.
Without real economic progress and order in society, Putin faces three
options: move to desperate repressive measures, push for a new perestroika
with a focus on genuine democracy, or accept the status quo. A return to
totalitarianism is unlikely. There are several objective restraints that
would prevent the reestablishment of a repressive regime like Stalin's
Russia. Though the people are tired of corruption and want to put an end to
the country's national humiliation, they are far from accepting mass terror
as a formula for recovery. What is more, the regime lacks a powerful
political party with a critical number of ascetic people who would devote
themselves to "the cause" and perform repressive actions. Even rabid
nationalists and Stalin's admirers from the two leading oppositional
periodicals, Zavtra and Sovietskaia Rossia, do not believe that a
"mobilization strategy" could be successful.

We cannot exclude the chance that Putin, in spite of his KGB mentality,
will make a new turn toward democracy. The new president may soon learn
that it is difficult in the current international climate to build a strong,
prosperous and united state without developing democracy.

However, the third option, the acceptance of the status quo, is probably
the most likely scenario. President Putin himself described this scenario
when he came to power. He warned that if the existing trends continue the
country may be unable to preserve its integrity as a united state, that the
technological gap between Russia and the West will grow, and that, barring
an economic miracle, in the next decades the size of the economy will be
insignificant compared to the leading countries of the world.

The Kursk submarine disaster, and the fire in the Ostankino television
tower, which killed three people and blacked out most Russian television
stations, were not only human tragedies, but clear demonstrations of
Russia's technological incapability and military incompetence. As Putin
himself said, both accidents were directly related to Russia's weak economy
and lack of order in society. Most likely, Russia will remain the "sick
man" of the world, whose nuclear and chemical weapons pose a great threat to
the international community.

Acknowledgment: The author wishes to thank Joshua Woods for his editorial
contribution to this article.


Web page for CDI Russia Weekly:
Archive for JRL (under construction):

Return to CDI's Home Page  I  Return to CDI's Library