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Johnson's Russia List
8 October 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
DJ: This Sunday's query: What do you most value about JRL?
1. New York Times: Patrick Tyler, How Yeltsin Nearly Scuttled Democracy
2. Reuters: Ron Popeski, Yeltsin shows new book,says Chechnya big burden.
3. Itar-Tass: RUSSIA'S YELTSIN DEVOTES BOOK TO THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT NEW
4. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, There, far to the north, in
Paris. Musings on Pushkinís poetry, Gaudiís spires and the distant glimmer
of a Europe idealized in the Russian imagination.
5. The Straits Times: John Helmer, WHAT DID THE KREMLIN DO IN BELGRADE --
CAVE IN, OR DIG IN?
6. Ira Straus: India-Russia-America: the quiet emergence of a new
7. Albert Weeks: Hand sign in Belgrade.
8. New York Times Book Review: Robert Kaplan, Who Lost Russia?
Two books look at what has happened since the end of the cold war.
(Stephen Cohen's FAILED CRUSADE: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist
Russia and Chrystia Freeland's SALE OF THE CENTURY: Russia's Wild Ride
>From Communism to Capitalism)
9. AFP: Building boom grips Moscow.
10. Washington Post: Jim Hoagland, Bush and Putin Also Lose.
11. AFP: Moscow could prove key Kostunica ally over Kosovo.
12. Reuters: US investors welcome rebound, still wary on Russia.]
New York Times
October 8, 2000
[for personal use only]
How Yeltsin Nearly Scuttled Democracy in Russia
By PATRICK E. TYLER
MOSCOW, Oct. 7 - In a new memoir, former President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia
says that he had all but decided in 1996 to upend the democratic process in
Russia by banning the Communist Party, dissolving Parliament and postponing
presidential elections he seemed certain at the time to lose.
With his approval rating bottomed out at 3 percent, the Russian leader says,
he came to the conclusion that he was not "able to manage the crisis within
the framework of the current Constitution" and though he knew he would "pay a
heavy price in credibility," he ordered decrees drafted that would have
effectively turned his rule into a dictatorship.
In doing so, he recounts, "I would fix one of the main problems I'd had since
the beginning of my presidential term," namely that "the Communist Party
would be finished forever in Russia." He credits his daughter, Tatyana B.
Dyachenko, and former Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly B. Chubais for convincing
him that shredding the Constitution with an illegal grab for power would
backfire. "Finally, I reversed a decision I had almost already made," he
writes, and "became ashamed before those who believed in me."
Mr. Yeltsin's memoir is likely to rekindle the debate about his contribution
to the democratic process in Russia after the Soviet breakup in 1991 that he
helped to engineer. The book includes a number of frank disclosures,
including a confession of his weakness for alcohol.
There are some significant omissions in the book. While Mr. Yeltsin discusses
his role in supporting military assaults on rebellious Chechnya in 1994 and
again in 1999, the book contains only a cursory discussion of the origins of
the conflict, in which Mr. Yeltsin fails to engage those critics who argue
that he missed chances to avert through negotiation the civil war that has
cost tens of thousands of lives and has displaced hundreds of thousands of
Mr. Yeltsin pays scant heed to the rampant corruption and crony capitalism
that marked his rule. He blames corruption on the low pay of Russian
bureaucrats managing multimillion-dollar industries, and on the ingrained
habit of "paying under the table."
As for the corruption investigation that has come closest to his family,
involving the Swiss construction company Mabatex, which is engaged in the
renovation of the Kremlin, Mr. Yeltsin says that neither he nor any member of
his family has taken kickbacks. He lists his assets at a little more than
$300,000 in cash, plus an apartment and a country house on 10 acres outside
Though Mr. Yeltsin does not describe himself as an alcoholic, he confesses in
the book to a compulsion to drink when under pressure, a compulsion he says
he overcame to a great extent after his heart attack and by-pass operation in
"Fairly early on I concluded that alcohol was the only means quickly to get
rid of stress," he says, recounting an embarrassing episode in 1994, when
during a visit to Berlin, a tipsy Yeltsin tried to conduct a military
The 400-page book, "Midnight Diaries," is being published this month by
PublicAffairs. Excerpts will appear in Newsweek magazine, and the Russian
journal Argumenty i Fakty has already published a lengthy extract.
Mr. Yeltsin writes that he determined as early as March 1999 that the best
candidate to succeed him was a little-known former K.G.B. officer, Vladimir
V. Putin, who at that time was running Russia's Federal Security Service.
Still, Mr. Yeltsin writes, he appointed Sergei V. Stepashin as a "decoy"
prime minister for three months because Mr. Yeltsin feared that the departing
prime minister, Yevgeny M. Primakov, who disliked Mr. Putin, would mount a
campaign to undermine him. If true, this maneuver is typical of the wile that
Mr. Yeltsin often displayed in staying on top of Russia's power politics.
Mr. Primakov , also a former intelligence chief, "had tremendous political
reserves," Mr. Yeltsin says, "but his rule threatened to roll back reforms,
collapse the embryonic economic freedoms, and trample the democratic
liberties that we had managed to nurture and preserve in these past few
He described Mr. Primakov as an "old Soviet type" who kept a "special file"
on journalists and other critics. "Every clipping was carefully underlined
with colored pencils," Mr. Yeltsin recounts. "I couldn't believe my eyes," he
adds, saying Mr. Primakov had "too much red in his political palette," who
could not read the newspaper without suspecting "complicated intrigues,
subtexts or threats from his political opponents."
Mr. Yeltsin says he realized that Russia needed a younger face ‚ÄĒ Mr.
48 ‚ÄĒ while playing a computer game with his grandson Borya. "I know that
youth is not a panacea," he said, for "there are 40-year-olds with
totalitarian natures," but youth was an essential criterion in choosing Mr.
Mr. Putin's star rose in Mr. Yeltsin's eyes not only because he was willing
to go on the attack in Chechnya but also because he was willing to circumvent
the law when his mentor, the former St. Petersburg mayor, Anatoly Sobchak,
was under criminal investigation in 1998. Mr. Putin considered the case
against Mr. Sobchak politically motivated.
"Using his connections in St. Petersburg, Putin made a deal with a private
airline and brought Sobchak out to Finland. From there, Sobchak made his way
to Paris," where he lived until Mr. Putin's rise made it possible for him to
return to Russia last year. He died in February.
Mr. Putin's covert operation to smuggle the ailing Mr. Sobchak out of the
country was of questionable legality and was done without Mr. Yeltsin's
knowledge or approval, but "when I learned what Putin had done, I felt a
profound sense of respect and gratitude toward him," Mr. Yeltsin says.
The first decree issued by Mr. Putin after his stunning appointment last Dec.
31 as acting president guaranteed Mr. Yeltsin immunity from prosecution after
he left office.
Yeltsin shows new book,says Chechnya big burden
By Ron Popeski
MOSCOW, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin presented
his third book on Saturday and told a television interviewer he saw the lives
lost in war in Chechnya as the biggest responsibility he had to bear.
Yeltsin flashed a big smile as unveiled the book, entitled ``Presidential
Marathon'' in Russian, at a glittering reception and warned friends,
government officials and top industrialists they would find interesting
reading but no startling surprises.
Excerpts of the book, outlining his career from re-election in 1996 until his
surprise New Year's Eve resignation, have appeared in some Russian dailies,
particularly a description of his emotions as he stepped down.
In his interview, Yeltsin said he could not shake off responsibility for the
Chechnya campaigns. He also said his decision to quit had since been
vindicated, spoke of close ties with the leaders of Germany and Japan and of
his distaste for his long-time rival, former Soviet President Mikhail
``I cannot shirk responsibility for Chechnya. I cannot shake off the guilt
for the grief of so many mothers and fathers,'' he told ORT public
But Russia, he said, had to act against Chechen separatists. Russia withdrew
from Chechnya after a 1994-96 war and launched a new offensive against the
rebels just over a year ago, when Yeltsin was still in office.
``No,'' he said when asked whether there had been any alternative.
``Nevertheless, I was the one who took the decision and therefore I am
responsible for it.''
DECISION TO QUIT WAS CORRECT
Yeltsin, who spoke slowly and looked tired during his interview, said he had
resigned to protect Russia's interests. He said he had had faith in Vladimir
Putin, his chosen successor, and that his decision had been proved right
``It was difficult to take such a situation. After all, what was I to do
next? I couldn't possibly be idle,'' he said. ``I took the step strictly in
the interests of Russia. The president had to be changed. I had to leave
office at the right time.''
The decision, he said, had been correct ``without question.''
``I knew Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) well enough to put forward his
candidature. Now I know him even better to be certain that the decision was
the proper one.''
Yeltsin did not always agree with decisions taken by Putin, but had resisted
the temptation to confront him or offer advice.
``Such thoughts do come into my head sometimes,'' he said. ``But I have never
got the urge to pick up the phone.''
In presenting the book, to be unveiled internationally at the Frankfurt book
fair later this month, Yeltsin said readers might still find some ``rather
He said the book underscored what there was to be proud of in 10 years of
post-communist development, including the entrenchment of freedoms and moves
towards the market economy.
Yeltsin told ORT he had never been come under pressure from the ``oligarchs''
-- industrialists who made quick fortunes in the aftermath of the collapse of
Soviet rule and operated in close contact with the Kremlin.
``None of the oligarchs exerted any influence,'' he said. ``Nor did anyone
dare to do so. Whoever would have done so would have got such a rebuff that
he would know better than try again.''
He said his daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, seen by critics as having undue
influence over his administration, had also never been given the chance to
``I told her never to put pressure on me in any way as it was pointless,'' he
DISTASTE FOR GORBACHEV
Yeltsin acknowledged that Gorbachev, who repeatedly clashed with him before
being forced to resign on Christmas Day 1991, had played a major role.
``However much he was criticised, he was still monumental,'' he said. ``This
should not be forgotten, even if you criticise him and don't like him. And I
don't like him.''
Yeltsin recalled his foreign contacts fondly, particularly his personal
relationship with former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and former
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
He described Kohl's censure by his own Christian Democrat Party over a
funding scandal as ``unfair'' and said he admired U.S. President Bill Clinton
despite the scandals he endured.
He said he learned of the impending uproar over Clinton's relationship with
White House intern Monica Lewinsky before it was made public but had chosen
not to warn the U.S. President.
RUSSIA'S YELTSIN DEVOTES BOOK TO THE PEOPLE WHO BUILT NEW RUSSIA
Moscow, 7th October: Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said his book,
`The Presidential Marathon', is about the people who helped build a new
Russia during the 10 years when he was in power.
"The most important achievement is that we did not deviate from democracy
and freedom, and for this we should give credit to all Russian people. I
tried to describe this in the book," he said on Saturday [7th October].
"This not a sensational book," he said, adding that "if you leaf through
it, you will not find anything hot."
Yeltsin said he feels proud that he lives in Russia "where the country can
be changed so dramatically in 10 years".
Speaking of his feelings in connection with the publication of his book,
Yeltsin said, "Both joy because I managed to write and publish it this
year" and "the author's excitement" and "pride because many people have
already shown interest in this book".
He said that the publication of the book in other countries will begin a
week after its presentation in Russia.
The presentation involved many of those with whom Yeltsin worked closely
during his presidency, including former presidential chiefs of staff
Anatoliy Chubays and Valentin Yumashev, representatives of the present
Kremlin team - first presidential deputy chief of staff Dmitriy Medvedev
and presidential deputy chief of staff Sergey Prikhodko -- and members of
the government -- Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev, Minister of Railways
Nikolay Aksyonenko, Chief of the General Staff Army General Anatoliy
Kvashnin, Mass Media Minister [Minister for Press, TV and Radio
Broadcasting and Mass Communications],Mikhail Lesin -- and other prominent
politicians, cultural figures and journalists.
All adult members of Yeltsin's family were also present. They listened to
his presentation with excitement and joyful smiles.
The Russia Journal
October 7-13, 2000
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: There, far to the north, in Paris
By Andrei Piontkovsky
Musings on Pushkinís poetry, Gaudiís spires and the distant glimmer of a
Europe idealized in the Russian imagination.
There is, in Alexander Pushkinís Don Juan, a truly amazing line. One of the
characters, Laura, it seems, begins a reply with the words: "There, far to
the north, in ParisÖ." It would often come to my mind, like one of Mozartís
melodies, in minutes of joy or sadness. And not just because it has such a
musical ring in Russian. I was always convinced that Pushkin meant in his
words more than just the place where his tragedy took place. He gave his
words their own secret meaning and an intensely heady breath of freedom.
The freedom contained in those words was to be far more of a threat in the
eyes of the gendarmes from the Third Department (the political police of
the time) than Pushkinís openly rebellious line "For You and Your throne, I
Tyrants love to be hated. It makes them feel important and gives them an
excuse to swell the ranks of their beloved secret services and special
representations. Tyrants canít bear to be ignored. In the ice-cold St.
Petersburg of Tsar Nicholas I, to write "There, far to the north, in
Paris," signified the absolute freedom of this European genius and his
escape from the walls of his imperial prison.
Like generations of Russians before and after him, including my own
generation, Pushkin was not allowed to travel abroad. Our isolation from
the West seemed so utterly complete and bleakly eternal that sometimes
Europe seemed to us a virtual reality ≠ existing only in books ≠ and that
the waves of the Atlantic Ocean broke on the shores of Belarus. Being so
cut off from this other world, we knew and loved its Martian civilization
perhaps more than the natives themselves.
Several decades passed, which saw me outlive goodness knows how many
general secretaries and presidents. And then I unexpectedly found myself on
the streets of Barcelona, where once a young English idealist and member of
the international brigades, Eric Blair, became George Orwell and went on to
deal communism a mortal blow with his great books. (Donít confuse him with
Tony Blair, who will never become Orwell.)
It always amazed me how this Englishman, who had never set foot in the
Soviet Union and had seen only how the local Spanish communists, helped by
their Soviet comrades, crushed their political opponents in Barcelona,
could reproduce and transmit in such faithful and familiar detail the
spirit and day-to-day life of our era.
But, finding myself in Barcelona, it wasnít George Orwell who interested me
this time as much as Antonio Gaudi, the man who ignored the laws of
gravity. Gaudi overturned these laws with his famous mirror models, and his
flower-buildings, turning their facades skywards to the sun.
Standing on the sun-bathed Placa de Gaudi, I also raised my face skywards
so as to take in better the Sagrada Familia Cathedral and thought:
There, far to the north, in Paris
Clouds perhaps darken the skies
Cold rain falls and the wind howls
But what concern is it of ours?
Only, why did they decide to finish building the cathedral? Left by the
Master in its unfinished state, it breathed the spirit of his time, of his
immortality, his agonies of creation and his heroic defeat. Isnít the life
of each of us, after all, like a rough text, left unfinished and torn off
halfway through a word.
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research.)
From: "John Helmer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: WHAT DID THE KREMLIN DO IN BELGRADE -- CAVE IN, OR DIG IN?
Date: Sun, 8 Oct 2000
Coming in The Straits Times, Tuesday, October 10, 2000.
WHAT DID THE KREMLIN DO IN BELGRADE -- CAVE IN, OR DIG IN?
>From John Helmer in Moscow
There is an old Russian saying that if you drink, you die. And if you don't
drink, you die. So it's better to drink.
If that was the choice facing Russian policy towards last week's events in
Belgrade, the Russian parliament was first to point out that President
Vladimir Putin's endorsement of Kostunica's election was worse than death.
Was Putin's action a sign of vacillation and weakness under foreign
pressure, as his domestic critics are now claiming? And does the Russian
action in conceding to the Yugoslav opposition, headed by Vojislav Kostunica,
mean international pressure can also succeed in bringing down
other governments close to the Kremlin, such as the Belarus government headed
by Alexander Lukashenko?
On Friday, according to Gennady Seleznev, the speaker of the State Duma, who
generally tries to stay in line with the Kremlin, there was no justification
for Putin to support Kostunica, let alone join the United States and the
NATO powers to encourage an opposition seizure of power in the streets of
Belgrade. In the streets, Seleznev said, there was nothing but a "crowd high
on alcohol and drugs."
Alexander Shabanov, a senior Communist Party deputy, told The Straits
Times on Friday "the present revolt cannot last long. The assault on the
building of the parliament is a crime. A group of warmed-up people on the
Belgrade streets is hard to reason with."
Shabanov was speaking after Putin had authorized the despatch of Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov to Belgrade on Friday. By then it was already known that
Ivanov was carrying a message from Putin to Kostunica congratulating him on
"his victory in the presidential election".
In the West, that was immediately interpreted as a signal the Kremlin had
caved in, and was abandoning esident Slobodan Milosevic to his fate. Noone
attended Ivanov's later clarification. "I did not congratulate
Mr. Kostunica as president," Ivanov said, "but congratulated him with his
success, with his victory, in the elections."
Was there any practical difference, Ivanov's critics in the Duma thundered?
By the time Ivanov had returned to Moscow, Milosevic had met Kostunica, and
the presence of the Yugoslav army chief, to confirm the transfer of power.
"The thing that happened today I cannot comment on in any other way than by
using obscene language," Alexei Mitrofanov told The Straits Times.
a former Foreign Ministry official, is a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's
small party in parliament, and a strong nationalist. He attacked Ivanov for
bowing to NATO pressure. "Once again, Russia exercises the role of the
advocate for Western countries, Germany first of all. It is the same role we
played with German reunification. What did we receive from that -- thanks,
plus two kopecks of credit."
According to Mitrofanov, "Russia needed Milosevic. The
situation was still recoverable. We still could get some guarantees. But now
Russia's acknowledgement of Kostunica means Milosevic has lost his game."
Mitrofanov was one of the first deputies among the Duma nationalists to
break with Putin.
The Communists remained convinced that Ivanov was acting
on clear Kremlin instructions; that the policy of supporting constitutional
rule in Yugoslavia meant support for Milosevic, at least until after another
round of voting; and finally, that there was no split between the Foreign
Ministry, the Kremlin Security Council which acts as Putin's personal policy
staff, or the General Staff.
Putin's invitation to Moscow for both Milosevic and Kostunica, repeated
after Putin returned to Moscow from a trip to India, seemed to the Duma
nationalists to mean the Kremlin was sticking to Milosevic.
"President Putin personally supervises foreign relations," said a spokesman
for Dmitri Rogozin, the non-communist chairman of the Duma International
Relations Committee, and a well-known nationalist. Rogozin had publicly
Russian support for Milosevic as the constitutional head of state in
Yugoslavia. "We can't comment on the Kremlin's opinion of the situation,"his
spokesman told The Straits Times. "The Kremlin's opinion can't differ from
Foreign Ministry or the Defence Ministry."
Rogozin did emphasize there was no support in parliament for a Russian
offer of exile for Milosevic. But Rogozin also believed there was no need for
the offer, so long as the Kremlin did not abandon Milosevic.
The Communists were equally adamant on this point. "The parliamentary
statement on the situation in Yugoslavia supports President Putin's position.
A coup is a coup," Shabanov told The Straits Times late Friday afternoon.
The Communists saw no reason why Milosevic should not be
able to reestablish himself; and every reason why Putin should not do nothing
to side with NATO against him.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a former member of the Duma International Relations
Committee, who runs a political consultancy that is close to the Kremlin,
The Straits Times he did not see any evidence of a split among Russian
policymakers between those favouring Milosevic, and those for Kostunica.
According to Nikonov, the Kremlin saw events in Belgrade moving in two
directions. "The first is if Milosevic is convinced by Russia, or by his
generals to leave. Or [secondly], if Milosevic keeps claiming power, the
situation may become murderous. In both cases, Milosevic will not need
political exile. In case he gives up, he will receive protection within the
country. If he keeps fighting for the presidency, then he will not ask
for political asylum."
The key issue for Putin and his staff, according to Nikovov, was "how
Milosevic estimates his chances."
That is what Putin despatched his foreign minister to Belgrade to find out.
While the west was focusing on Ivanov's meeting with Kostunica, the meeting
that followed between Ivanov and Milosevic was the decisive one.
Russian sources in Moscow believe Milosevic had made his decision to
give up the presidency, but remain in the Yugoslav parliament, before
Ivanov arrived. It is possible Milosevic had already signalled his intention,
and Ivanov was despatched to make sure.
Russian sources do not credit Russian pressure as forcing Milosevic,
because they do not believe Milosevic has trusted the Kremlin since former
President Boris Yeltsin and former Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin
abandoned him during last year's NATO bombing campaign.
Yeltsin's actions at that time launched Putin's rise to power, by
triggering a General Staff rebellion against his authority. The first
manifestation was the Russian military occupation of Pristina airport on
June 11, 1999. Yeltsin became so fearful over the next several weeks, he
decided he could not trust his then Prime Minister, Sergei Stepashin.
Putin, the head of the Federal Security Service, replaced Stepashin in
While pro-American newspapers in Moscow are now reporting there was a split
between the Security Council, favouring Milosevic's resistance, and the
Foreign Ministry, favouring NATO, the real choice in Russian policy was
already made. Milosevic made it.
Russians acknowledge that after last year's events, Milosevic had no reason
trust Russian promises. The Russian assessment was there was little they
do to assure their interest in Yugoslavia so long as Milosevic hung on to
power; little they could do if he relinqished it; and nothing they could to
persuade him in one direction or another.
Was this a policy of "foolishness and betrayal", as Mitrofanov now says?
The Kremlin will not argue the point in public. The game, Milosevic told
the Kremlin, isn't exactly over. For Russia's reasons, not NATO's, Putin
agreed. Preserving the anti-western opposition in Yugoslavia, after Milosevic
steps down, is the main Russian reason now.
From: IRASTRAUS@aol.com (Ira Straus)
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2000
Subject: The triangle takes another step toward reality
India-Russia-America: the quiet emergence of a new strategic triangle
by Ira Straus
"The threat of international terrorism could help establish a kind of
regional alliance of Moscow, Delhi and Washington." -- Vladimir Lukin, with
Russian President Putin in Delhi, India, October 2000
It is a kind of diplomatic revolution. After decades of an
America-China-Pakistan-Afghanistan axis in opposition to Russia and India, an
America-India-Russia grouping emerged in the year 2000 in opposition to
Afghanistan and to dangers from Pakistan and China. For decades, America had
supported Pakistan against India and Islamic Central Asian rebels against
Russia. The end of the Cold War deprived that posture of its rationale, but
for a time it persisted. Then, at the turn of the millennium, it suddenly
The turnabout began quietly, with an inconspicuous article on the internet
new service, Johnsonís Russia List, dated July 8, 1999. Observing that there
had been a shift in U.S. policy away from Pakistan and the Taliban and toward
the side of India and Russia, it argued that the U.S. was putting aside its
cold war clientele patterns and awakening to its true, permanent interests in
the region. On this basis, it speculated that it would be natural for a
diplomatic triangle to emerge between the U.S., Russia and India.
The article was picked up from the internet by a number of Russians and
Indians, including officials of the foreign ministry of India, who liked the
idea. Seminars were held on it at Moscow City University and at the Russian
State Humanities University in September 2000, in the week prior to Mr.
Putinís visit to India.
In the course of the year since the article first appeared, a U.S.-India
working group has been formed on terrorism and Afghanistan. A U.S.-Russia
working group on terrorism and Afghanistan has also been formed. Two legs of
the triangle were thus in place. The third leg was drawn, like a finishing
touch on a picture, in the course of Putinís visit to India last week: a
Russia-India working group was formed on terrorism and Afghanistan.
With this, the triangle can already be seen in outline. The three legs are
all in place: there are three working groups, linking each of the three
countries to the other two, and the working groups all deal the identical
subject matter of terrorism and Afghanistan.
What remains to be done is to put the three legs together. In other words,
the bilateral working groups ought to meet sometimes in a tripartite working
group. This would make the triangle a tangible reality. The working group
could proceed to meet at a higher level, leading ultimately to a summit
meeting. This would make the triangle visible to the public as well as
tangible to the policymaker.
The three countries have plenty of motivation for uniting their forces and
upgrading their cooperation. They are all democratic in orientation, even if
sometimes falling far short of democracy in practice. This contrasts to the
days of the Cold War, when they stood on opposite sides of the fence in a
global struggle for power and for the future trend of world development.
Moreover, they share the honor of being targeted by the same extremist and
terrorist movements. In particular, they share an enemy in the Taliban in
Afghanistan. Fortunately, this is not a world-class enemy. Taliban and
similar movements have been able to survive thus far thanks largely on the
hope of playing upon the differences that these three great countries have
had in the past. If the three great powers in the area coordinate their
diplomacy and unite their forces, they are sure to be able to squeeze out the
extremists and reduce them to a marginal factor in world politics.
From: "Albert L. Weeks" <AWeeks1@compuserve.com>
Subject: Hand sign
Date: Sat, 7 Oct 2000
Readers may have noticed that in photos of
Russian protesters and celebrants during the August 1991
"revolution" in Moscow, people held up their hands
to show a modified V-for-victory sign. However, they added
their thumbs, holding down their fourth and little fingers.
This three-fingered sign was also flashed
in Belgrade during the storming of the parliament and
TV buildings. It is the old Orthodox-Slavic symbol of the
Trinity and is used as a mark of celebration.
New York Times Book Review
October 8, 2000
[for personal use only]
Who Lost Russia?
Two books look at what has happened since the end of the cold war.
By ROBERT D. KAPLAN
Robert D. Kaplan, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is author of
the forthcoming ''Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle
East, and the Caucasus.''
America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia.
By Stephen F. Cohen.
304 pp. New York:
W. W. Norton & Company. $21.95.
SALE OF THE CENTURY
Russia's Wild Ride From Communism to Capitalism.
By Chrystia Freeland.
305 pp. New York:
Crown Business. $27.50.
When German officials began their efforts to integrate 17 million former East
Germans into the West following four decades of Communism, American diplomats
and economists hoped to do likewise with over 140 million Russians, spread
over seven time zones, after seven decades of Communism. The Germans will
likely succeed, but it has been a much harder task than they originally
envisioned. The Americans have failed. Seventy years of history's most
comprehensive totalitarianism, following centuries of absolutism, left an
institutional and moral void that -- compounded by the suddenness of the
Soviet collapse -- has so far proved impossible to overcome. ''So great is
Russia's economic and thus social catastrophe that we must now speak of
another unprecedented development: the literal demodernization of a
20th-century country,'' writes Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian studies
at New York University, in ''Failed Crusade.''
Even before Russia's financial collapse of August-September, 1998, in which
Western investors lost tens of billions of dollars, Russia's gross domestic
product was half of what it had been in the early 1990's: twice the decline
of the United States economy during the Great Depression. Cohen blames bad
advice from the United States for the debacle, and his terse, blistering
polemic assails the entire community of Russia experts who, he claims,
''committed malpractice throughout the 1990's.''
Cohen refers to America's Russia hands as ''missionaries'' and
''evangelists.'' Suffused with post-cold-war triumphalism, they regarded
Russia as ''a nation ready, willing and able to be transformed into some
replica of America.'' There is almost no scholar, investor, economist or
journalist associated with Russia who is not castigated (if not in the text,
then in the notes) by way of an arrogant or Pollyannaish remark that the
author has dug up. Cohen attacks people -- including Richard Pipes and
Zbigniew Brzezinski -- who understood in the 1980's, as he did not, that
Soviet Communism could not be salvaged. He fails to emphasize that the
Russians never implemented much of the advice of the very experts he attacks
for losing Russia. And his own advice -- that we should not have bombed
Serbia or expanded NATO and that we should adopt instead the ''collective
approaches'' of the United Nations, all for the sake of courting Russia --
amounts to capitulation, not engagement.
Nevertheless, Cohen writes with bracing clarity on a subject obscured by
euphemisms and double talk regarding Russia's so-called democratic renewal.
It is precisely Cohen's insight about the Soviet system's deep roots in
Russia's past -- an insight that in the 1980's helped blind him to
Communism's irredeemable failure -- that has allowed him since the early
1990's to see that capitalist shock therapy would ultimately fail. According
to Cohen, a people's historical experience supersedes economic theory. Thus,
as he explains, what worked for Poland -- a small, ethnically homogeneous
country exposed to the Enlightenment, with a rudimentary market
infrastructure even before the collapse of the Berlin Wall -- would not
necessarily work for Russia. Cohen provides a stimulating counterchronology
to challenge the official Washington view of post-cold-war Russia as a string
of qualified successes and disasters avoided, in which good democrats, led by
former President Boris Yeltsin, have battled bad neocommunists, particularly
Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister and foreign minister.
Cohen writes that in 1991, Yeltsin, without any responsible preparation,
abolished the Soviet Union, creating a bureaucratic vacuum. In 1992 and 1993,
''hyperinflation generated by economic shock therapy . . . wiped out the life
savings of most Russians.'' Also in 1993, Yeltsin used tanks to overhaul the
elected Parliament and the entire constitutional order of post-Soviet Russia.
The next year, he launched a war against Chechnya, killing tens of thousands
of civilians. In 1998, following a series of financial deals that failed to
benefit most Russians, Yeltsin's government -- after promising never to do so
-- devalued the ruble and froze bank accounts, economically decimating
average citizens once again. And in 1999, after a series of apartment house
bomb blasts that Russia's own security services may have set, Vladimir Putin,
then prime minister, and a former K.G.B. agent, launched a second war against
Chechnya, killing thousands more civilians. The war's popularity helped Putin
to succeed Yeltsin as president, in nearly monarchical fashion.
Cohen's thesis is that Yeltsin, rather than Russia's first democratic leader,
was a neoczarist bumbler who destroyed a democratization process that, in
fact, should be credited to Mikhail Gorbachev. As for Primakov, rather than
the Communist-era ogre so labeled by the American media, he was a ''centrist
by nature,'' and the only prime minister to rely on Parliament rather than on
the oligarchs. And whereas reformers such as Anatoly Chubais, the darling of
America's Russia experts, were despised throughout Russia for colluding with
the oligarchs to destroy living standards, Primakov, hated in Washington, was
popular at home for steering between radical reform and Communism, in order
to alleviate the suffering of ordinary people.
Cohen is particularly scathing toward American journalists, whom he depicts
as overly influenced by the prosperity of a small, rapacious upper class in
the major Russian cities, and who seldom ventured into the countryside to see
the terrible price of the reformers' handiwork. For example, he derides an
editorial in The New York Times for celebrating a new McDonald's in Moscow,
frequented by the nouveau riche arriving in Jeep Cherokees and Toyota Land
Cruisers, while the average monthly wage ''was about $60, and falling.''
Though, broadly speaking, his criticism of the American press is valid, there
are important exceptions, notably the travel writer Jeffrey Tayler, who wrote
extensively for The Atlantic Monthly about the most distant parts of rural
Russia in the 1990's, substantiating Cohen's own claims about the destruction
of living standards.
Cohen's argument is impressively confirmed in its essentials by Chrystia
Freeland's ''Sale of the Century.'' Freeland, a former Moscow bureau chief
for The Financial Times, has written one of the finest works of journalism on
post-Soviet Russia. In an often witty, savvy style that demonstrates a
thorough knowledge of economics and of Russian society, she has reconstructed
the inside story of how Russia was undermined by a new establishment composed
of oligarchs and reformers, each of whom needed the other. By giving away the
major companies to these tycoons, she writes, ''Russia was robbed in broad
daylight, by businessmen who broke no laws, assisted by the West's best
friends in the Kremlin -- the young reformers.''
The result was a ''capitalist politburo'' supporting ''a narrow layer of the
super-rich,'' while destitute people in the hinterlands, robbed of the value
of their life savings by the reformers' price liberalization, froze to death
in snowbanks. Freeland reports that it was Primakov who ''was determined to
weaken the oligarchs' grip . . . and his campaign against them had more
muscle'' than that of the young reformers. She notes, too, that the ''moral
sensitivity'' of the Gorbachev era -- in which the public was repelled by the
use of force in Lithuania -- gave way to indifference during the Yeltsin
years, in which the ''blood bath'' perpetrated by Russian troops in Chechnya
offended almost nobody.
However, while American triumphalism and navete contributed to Russia's
economic free fall in the 1990's, it does not follow that American officials
and economists are morally culpable. Embattled policy makers like Strobe
Talbott, the State Department's Russia czar, had only distasteful options at
their disposal. Moreover, if Russia does improve economically and morally in
the coming years, the last 10 may not seem in retrospect as awful as Cohen,
in particular, depicts them. On the other hand, a decade of chaos has
fostered, among average Russians, a longing for order that could legitimize a
new and lethal despotism under Putin. The historian Martin Malia has argued
that it is the ''heavy Soviet heritage, not the mistakes of the last decade,
real though those are, that is the major source of the present impasse.'' It
is that burdensome past that has blunted the West's influence. Indeed, Cohen
himself sounds somewhat like a missionary by ascribing so much importance to
his own society's impact on such a distant, vast and intractable country.
Building boom grips Moscow
MOSCOW, Oct 8 (AFP) -
Moscow is covered with scaffolding amid a frenzied building boom as workers
rush to erect office buildings, apartment blocks and shops in every part of
the Russian capital.
Moscow Deputy Mayor Vladimir Ressin said that Moscow was covered with
thousands of cranes and that tens of thousands of mechanical diggers and
740,000 building workers were labouring on the building sites.
Last year, 3.5 million square metres of new housing were built, and the same
amount is planned for this year, Ressin said. He added that a small number of
existing occupants had been rehoused, but that most of the new buildings --
more than two million square metres a year -- were put on the market.
In the heart of the city and the outskirts alike, all the new buildings sell
like hot cakes, say Ressin, the builders, who often are also the investors
and the real estate agents.
The average price is 650 dollars per square metre but the figure can reach
4,500 dollars in the city centre for apartments that are sold off without any
problem despite the lack of internal fixtures and fittings.
At the same time, office buildings are in high demand, especially the luxury
end of the market.
"There is a high occupancy rate, and we are heading for a shortage next year,
said Arnaud Benoit, head of Colliers HIB real estate.
In the city centre, 1.5 million square metres of offices were put on sale
this year - "not enough," said Benoit, in a capital where oil companies
Slavneft and Sibneft are taking over thousands of square metres of prime
Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov is also doing his bit to renovate the historic
centre of the capital, with construction of an underground shopping centre
under the Manezh Aquare, rebuilding of the Saviour Cathedral and renovation
of the Bolshoi theatre.
A step away from Red Square, a new business and shopping centre, the Gostini
Dvor -- a building dating from the epoch of Catherine the Great -- has been
completely renovated at a cost of 300 million dollars.
Critics of the mayor, such as Yuri Bocharov from the Academy of Architecture,
say he is trying to confuse investors.
"He is copying the gigantic projects of the totalitarian period, but is doing
nothing to solve the strategic problems of the capital's development,"
Bocharov said in a recent issue of the weekly Vlast.
October 8, 2000
[for personal use only]
Bush and Putin Also Lose
By Jim Hoagland
The overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic by the Serbian nation comes as an
uplifting October Surprise in this election year. Its effects ripple out from
the Balkans to touch Russia, China, the American presidential race and the
very practice of global power politics.
Once again a Milosevic defeat changes the world for the better. Like other
dictators, Milosevic damages his authoritarian friends and strengthens his
democratic enemies with his last desperate attempts to cling to power.
The biggest shock will be felt by China's ruling gerontocracy. Beijing was
the last major capital to support Milosevic enthusiastically with its money
and diplomacy. The ouster of a Communist boss by an enraged people cheated
out of political freedom can only increase nervousness and the temptation for
repression in China.
But the biggest immediate damage is done to Vladimir Putin. The Russian
president's stumbling efforts to save the Serb dictator in extremis have
deepened official Washington's already-strong doubts about Putin's
understanding of and commitment to democracy.
Given a chance to lead in an area of Russian influence, Putin followed
slowly, grudgingly and incompetently. The White House never will say it has
given up on Putin's government as a serious partner. But it effectively has.
This is how the Yugoslav revolution bounces into the U.S. campaign's final
full month as the unexpected foreign policy crisis that challengers fear. And
it does bounce largely to the disadvantage of George W. Bush's candidacy.
Putin's role in Yugoslavia was the subject of a brief exchange in Tuesday
night's debate. But neither Bush nor Al Gore brought out the essential point:
Despite direct prodding from President Clinton and European governments,
Putin refused to abandon Milosevic as people power raced toward critical mass
in Belgrade. There was no lack of outside pressure.
In a 35-minute telephone conversation on Sept. 30, Clinton appealed to Putin
to recognize the clear victory that Vojislav Kostunica had gained in the
Yugoslav presidential election six days earlier.
The results were indisputable, Clinton bluntly told Putin. Kostunica had the
official tallies that showed his victory. Then, a senior U.S. official says,
Clinton asked the Russian to urge Milosevic privately to step down and to
recognize Kostunica publicly.
Putin declined, left on a trip to India and stayed out of touch with Clinton.
Returning Thursday to bitter arguments within the Kremlin over Milosevic's
fate, he finally dispatched Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to Belgrade with a
letter congratulating Kostunica on his apparent victory.
Incredibly, Ivanov also tried to secure the president-elect's agreement that
Milosevic would continue to play a political role in Yugoslavia, according to
Russia's intent seems clear: As long as Milosevic is around, the West will
not be able to have a close relationship with Belgrade. Russia's residual
role in the Balkans would be built on protecting an indicted war
criminal--who has lost four wars of aggression in the past decade--and his
That is an ignoble aim. It rules Putin out as a potentially constructive
force, as Bush suggested he still was on Tuesday. Putin's performance also
girds Gore against Bush's more general attack on Russia: The vice president
can argue that failings in the relationship are the fault of a Russian leader
who is not ready for prime time.
The unraveling of Milosevic's regime in high vote-chasing season also
buttresses the more activist philosophy of international engagement Gore has
laid out in his campaign. Economic sanctions and peacekeeping
deployments--both of which Gore favors for the Balkans--played important
roles in undermining Milosevic's regime.
Dick Cheney has suggested in the campaign that economic sanctions generally
have little utility. As defense secretary, Bush's running mate supported the
refusal of Colin Powell and others to consider intervention in the Balkans
against Milosevic. The United States supposedly had no dog in that fight.
Kostunica's victory confounds both theses. It also punctures the often
repeated idea that it is pointless to work for the overthrow of tyrants like
Milosevic or Saddam Hussein because the next ruler will be just as bad.
Such historical pessimism has too frequently led to crippling passivity in
U.S. foreign policy in dealing with tyrants, from Beijing to Baghdad to
Belgrade. Whatever its effect on the candidates and this campaign,
Yugoslavia's October Surprise should serve as a beacon for Americans
illuminating their nation's role in the world.
There must be practical restraints on America's activism abroad. Vietnam and
Somalia provide clear and indisputable lessons on that point. But they are
not the whole story. Bosnia, Kosovo and now Serbia are part of the story too.
They show what can be accomplished when hope and hard work overcome pessimism
Moscow could prove key Kostunica ally over Kosovo
MOSCOW, Oct 8 (AFP) -
Despite Moscow's late conversion to his cause, newly-installed Yugoslav
President Vojislav Kostunica could find Moscow a valuable ally in Belgrade's
battle to restore its control over Kosovo.
In his inauguration address the moderate nationalist firmly staked his claim
to the rebel province, regarded as the birthplace of Orthodox Serbia's
statehood but 90 percent populated by Muslim ethnic-Albanians.
The 56-year-old lawyer pledged to "protect the sovereignty, independence and
integrity" of his country, and to ensure Kosovo fully returns to the Yugoslav
That, and his desire to keep Western-leaning Montenegro hitched to the
limping Yugoslav Federation, could complicate Kostunica's ties with the
European capitals even as he tries to end Serbia's international isolation.
Analysts warn that Western euphoria over the ousting of Slobodan Milosevic
could prove short-lived, for nationalist sentiment at home and his own
political beliefs will limit the new Belgrade leader's room for manoeuvre.
And while President Vladimir Putin's failure to quickly recognise his victory
saw an irritated Kostunica throw some barbs in Moscow's direction, the
Kremlin could redeem itself by offering unwavering support over Kosovo.
And that could throw the West on the back foot, says Andrei Piontkovsky, a
respected Moscow commentator.
"I think the Western position on Kosovo will be more vulnerable now than
before," he said. "Russia didn't realise that in its anti-Western rhetoric
and anti-Western manoeuvring that Kostunica was a more valuable partner than
Milosevic," he said.
In a letter signalling Moscow's acceptance of Kostunica as Yugoslavia's new
ruler, Putin said Friday that Moscow would "firmly and without fail speak out
for the absolute respect of the independence, sovereignty and territorial
integrity of the FRY."
NATO's presence in Kosovo was predicated on Milosevic's seemingly iron grip
on power, but Western capitals will now have to grasp the nettle of returning
the province to Belgrade and disarming Albanian secessionists.
For with the political demise of Milosevic, indicted on war crimes and crimes
against humanity by a UN-backed international tribunal over his crackdown in
Kosovo, the option of independence for the province appears to have receded.
"(Moscow) will be able to say to the West, you supported the democratic
opposition, you welcomed its coming to power. So, there's a new democratic
government in Belgrade and we should all support it," said Piontkovsky.
However, the perennial weakness of the Russian economy and the millions of
euros the European Community is prepared to throw at a compliant Serbia could
mean Russia fails to cash in on its principled defence of the borders of its
historic ally, some warn.
"Western countries have a very specific plan for a small common market for
the Balkans, in which Serbia can be included," said Sergei Markov, director
of Moscow's Institute of Political Studies.
"The Yugoslavs voted for a Yugoslavia in Europe," he said. "They want to come
out of isolation and be part of Europe again. So I'm absolutely sure
Kostunica will try to build good relations with the West."
Unable to throw money at a problem, Russia will push for compromise and seek
to use its undoubted influence in the Balkans region to keep the Yugoslav
Federation together, with Kosovo as an integral part, he added.
"It's not the strongest position, but it is a position," said Markov, "and it
gives Russia a role."
US investors welcome rebound, still wary on Russia
By Lida Poletz
BOSTON, Oct. 7 (Reuters) - U.S. investors are still wary of sinking money
into Russia, despite the country's remarkable economic rebound from financial
crisis two years ago, participants at a U.S.-Russia conference said on
Bankers and business people joined international financiers in lauding
Russia's strong economic growth, predicted to surge as much as 7 percent this
year, and the government's vows to carry out sweeping reforms.
But in the next breath, many stressed that critical reforms -- in banking,
corporate governance and the courts -- are still lacking, and that investors'
confidence in the country remains badly bruised by the 1998 financial
It will probably be years before foreign strategic investors start committing
capital to Russia in earnest, predicted Michael Calvey, managing partner at
investment company Baring Vostok Capital Partners.
"Most multinationals know they have to have a Russia strategy, but there is a
greater awareness of risks, so I still see a very small investment in dollar
terms in the next three to four years," Calvey told a panel on banking and
Investors are also mindful that much of the energy-rich country's recovery is
linked to the steep rise in international oil prices, as well as the 1998
devaluation of the rouble, which helped domestic companies compete with
importers. And the effects of these stimulative measures won't last forever.
"I have never been so optimistic about the macroeconomic situation as today,"
said Jim Nail at ATON Capital group, who has worked in Russia for 16 years.
"But it is clear the current situation is temporary. The rouble is
strengthening every day and oil prices are leveling off and will start to
BANKING, CORPORATE REFORMS NEEDED
For the moment, foreign investment is a scarce commodity in Russia --
relative to gross domestic product, investment rates in the Czech Republic,
Hungary and Poland were twice as high as in Russia last year, the
International Monetary Fund said.
On the plus side, Russia's recent tax reforms were widely welcomed. But
conference participants said the Russian government must now go on to
establish fair play in business, protect property rights, introduce
international accounting standards and address concerns about corruption.
A lack of banking reforms is another sore spot. Alexander Knaster, managing
director at Alfa-Bank, one of Russia's leading commercial banks, painted a
bleak picture of the Russian financial sector as overcrowded with underfunded
banks, and predicted many institutions will close in the near future.
Still, Knaster saw a silver lining: "The banking sector is a mess, but there
are opportunities. The key is to come up with a successful business model,
even in a terrible market environment."