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Johnson's Russia List
10 October 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Nobel prize winner sees tribute to Russian physics.
2. Interfax: RUSSIAN BLACK CAVIAR EXPORTS EXPECTED TO PLUNGE 60%.
3. Inteffax: VERDICT PASSED ON RADIO LIBERTY REPORTER WILL BE
APPEALED - DEFENSE LAWYER.
4. RFE/RL: Paul Goble, A New Threat To Religious Minorities?
5. Sharon Tennison: US Internships for Russians.
6. Wall Street Journal: Andrew Higgins, EBRD Backs Tight Conditions
For Future Lending to Russia.
7. Segodnya: PUTIN IS LATTER-DAY RICHELIEU. Yeltsin Has Set A Trap
For the Revolution He Was the Leader Of. (Interview with Pavlovsky)
8. The Times (UK): Tea with the godfather. (Giles Whittell interviews
9. The Times (UK): Crisis in Kosovo. In the first extract from his
memoirs, Boris Yeltsin tells how the Nato bombing of Serbia nearly
led to a new Cold War.]
Nobel prize winner sees tribute to Russian physics
MOSCOW, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Russia's Zhores Alferov, one of three scientists
to share the 2000 Nobel Physics prize on Tuesday, said the award was a
tribute to Russian science and he was already toasting his achievement with
``It is without doubt a symbol of international recognition of our Soviet and
Russian physics,'' Alferov, 70, said by telephone from his research institute
in Russia's second city of St Petersburg.
``We have already started to drink 'shampanskoye','' he said, referring to
the sparkling wine popular in the former Soviet Union. ``Of course I'm happy
-- I've been involved in this field for about 40 years.''
Alferov, who is a Communist deputy in the State Duma lower house of
parliament, shared one half of the nearly $1 million prize with Herbert
Kroemer of the United States for work on developing semi-conductors which
could be used for ultra-fast computers.
Alferov is the first Russian to win a Nobel prize since Mikhail Gorbachev won
the peace prize in 1990.
But he said he was more inclined to see himself as the next in line of famous
Russian physicists and saw Russia as a world leader in his branch of the
``Mikhail Gorbachev got his award for striving for peace. I am getting my
physics prize after Pyotr Leonidovich Kapitsa, who got his in 1978,'' Alferov
RUSSIAN BLACK CAVIAR EXPORTS EXPECTED TO PLUNGE 60%
MOSCOW. Oct 9 (Interfax) - Russia will be able to export no more
than 40 tonnes of black caviar this year, which is 60% less than in
The fall fishing season has ended in the Caspian and Azov sea
basins, and the results are "very depressing," the deputy head of the
State Fisheries Committee, Vladimir Izmailov, told Interfax.
A sharp rise in world prices for black caviar is "simply
inevitable," Izmailov said.
The committee's latest figures show that Russian fishermen caught
less than 400 tonnes of beluga, sturgeon and starred sturgeon in the
Volga River delta in the summer and fall seasons, 160 tonnes less than
the quota for the year. Fishermen also failed to use 100 tonne quota for
Azerbaijan under which Russia catches fish for that country under an
intergovernmental agreement between four Caspian states - Russia,
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.
VERDICT PASSED ON RADIO LIBERTY REPORTER WILL BE APPEALED - DEFENSE
MOSCOW. Oct 9 (Interfax) - Lawyer Genri Reznik has announced that
Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky's defense will appeal to the
Supreme Court of Dagestan against the verdict passed on him.
Dozens of people in Russia are unlawfully accused on the same
charges as Babitsky, Reznik said at a press conference in Moscow on
If Babitsky is acquitted, it will be possible to change the court
practice of handling cases initiated against individuals whose actions
are of no threat to public peace, Reznik said.
On October 6, a Makhachkala district court ruled that Babitsky was
guilty of using a false passport and that he pay a fine equivalent to
100 minimum wages. However, this verdict fell under the recently
It will take the Dagestani Supreme Court two or three months to
handle the case. "I do not think the chance of success is very great, as
the Supreme Court of a republic, which strongly depends on federal
subsidies, will hardly venture to take up such responsibility," Reznik
In this case, Babitsky's defense lawyers will appeal against the
court decision to the chairman of the Dagestani Constitutional Court.
"But he will not venture to reverse the decision, either," Reznik said.
Afterwards, the defense lawyers may appeal directly to the Russian
Supreme Court where "understanding may be found," Reznik said, recalling
his previous experience of defending journalists.
About six months will be needed to go through courts of all levels.
If Babitsky is not acquitted, the defense lawyers may appeal to the
International Court of Human Rights, Reznik said.
Russia: Analysis From Washington -- A New Threat To Religious Minorities?
By Paul Goble
Washington, 9 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- New Russian government efforts to
enlist the Orthodox Church in Moscow's fight against religious minorities --
who some Russian officials say threaten Russia -- could threaten religious
liberty in that country.
Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said in Volgograd on Friday that the
Russian police and religious leaders should combine forces to oppose cults
and sects which "aim to undermine statehood in Russia."
Rushailo's remarks represent the Russian government's clearest response so
far to requests from the Russian Orthodox Church for a special relationship
with the state and to the court-imposed limitations on government controls
over religious groups.
Since the collapse of Soviet power, Russian Orthodox hierarchs have sought to
enlist the government in opposing the missionary activities of various
non-indigenous religious groups, denominations which the Orthodox often
describe as "foreign."
Responding to this effort, the Russian government drafted and passed a law
that not only underscored the special relationship between the state and
Orthodoxy, but also set the stage for Russian government moves against
But last year, Russia's Constitutional Court struck down several provisions
of that law, after a group of Jehovah's Witnesses argued that the law
violated the principle of freedom of conscience as enshrined in the 1993
Rushailo's proposed alliance between state and church thus appears to be an
effort to circumvent this ruling. On the one hand, it could open the way for
the state to use the church to fight some of its battles.
And on the other, this alliance may suggest to both Orthodox and others that
at least some in the church are prepared to play the kind of intelligence and
control function that some priests and hierarchs played during Soviet times.
The timing of Rushailo's suggestion makes it particularly likely that his
remarks will be especially troubling both to followers of minority
denominations and to those concerned about religious and human rights.
Last Tuesday, the U.S. State Department publicly condemned attacks on a
Jewish school in Ryazan on September 17, and on assemblies of Jehovah's
Witnesses and Mormons in Volgograd -- the site of Rushailo's remarks -- on
The State Department called on the Russian authorities to "conduct full and
thorough investigations on an urgent basis," and said that "those responsible
should be prosecuted to the fullest extent under Russian law."
The U.S. statement provided details on all three attacks. In Ryazan, the
statement said, a group of youths had broken into a Jewish Saturday school,
shouted anti-Semitic slogans, and intimidated the local principal into
denying the Jews further use of the school.
Local officials have told the media that they are investigating the case. But
they have made no arrests, and at least one Ryazan official dismissed the
event as simple hooliganism with no broader meaning.
In Volgograd, the State Department noted, other groups of extremists burst
into the services of the two Christian denominations and beat worshipers,
directly threatening several Mormon missionaries from the United States.
In addition, the statement pointed out, officials close to President Vladimir
Putin in Moscow and regional officials whom the Kremlin actively supports
have made openly anti-Semitic remarks.
Such actions and remarks, the State Department said, "undermine efforts to
create a tolerant society under the rule of law." It added that "all Russian
citizens must be afforded the greatest possible protection of their religious
and hard-won democratic freedoms."
At least some Russians who view religious minorities as a threat may read
Rushailo's words as Moscow's response to the U.S. on this point, and thus see
his words as a kind of official blessing for attacks on religious minorities
-- even if that was not his intention.
If that should happen, then the tragic events of Ryazan and Volgograd may
very well be repeated elsewhere, a development that could threaten not only
the followers of minority religions in Russia, but the very possibility of
religious freedom in the country.
Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000
From: Sharon Tennison <email@example.com>
Subject: US Internships for Russians
Dear Johnson Readers,
In response to the recent dialogue on Russia-US training programs, I
want to offer my experience with such programs. As president of the
Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI), I have designed and overseen
US-based training programs for Russians since 1989. CCI has trained
about 2,600 Russian professionals in the US, in addition to many more
who have been trained in Russia.
CURRENT WORK: CCI's Productivity Enhancement Program (PEP), modeled
on the Marshall Plan's Technical Assistance Tours of the 1940s and
50s, brings non-English speaking Russian business owners from a wide
variety of industry sectors to the US for training. I'm proud of our
many successes. Although, on rare occasion, PEP, like any other
internship program, has had a difficult delegate or two.
PROBLEMATIC DELEGATES/DELEGATIONS: How to reduce the probabilities?
First, keeping it all under one roof. CCI has chosen to operate a
"closed loop" system in which every program function is within one
circuit-- this includes advertising and recruiting in Russia,
candidate selection, orientation, pre-travel training, US
internships, follow-on program and annual participant interviews in
Russia. Our constantly communicating loop of Russian and American
CCI staff are responsible to each other for quality control at each
intersection. The most critical factor is quality candidate
selection in Russia.
THE LANGUAGE QUESTION: Is English language ability necessary for
high quality US-based professional training? Without a doubt, it is
not. Having implemented business training for both English speakers
and non-English speakers, we at CCI have proven beyond question that
business concepts and technologies can be successfully transferred
across the language barrier. The Marshall Plan itself trained 24,000
non-English speakers in American companies. If they did it 50 years
ago, we should be able to do it even more effectively today.
Further, if one desires to get beyond training Moscow and St.
Petersburg entrepreneurs, it's essential to train the non-English
speakers. A high percentage of the serious entrepreneurs and private
company owners in the regions do not have English skills and will
never have the time to get them. Academics and intelligensia do have
English skills, but they aren't among the scrappy, risk taking, hard
working Russians who are building Russia's private sectors. The
regions are crucial to whether Russia stabilizes economically and
politically, so it's in our best interest to provide training for
those who don't have English skills. However, there is a critical
factor to working successfully with non-English speakers: having a
corps of carefully trained professional interpreters who work
repeatedly with the same sectors so they thoroughly know
industry/professional concepts and vocabulary.
I cannot make this point strongly enough. If training for
non-English speakers is not succeeding, it is because program quality
control factors are not strong enough, NOT that it can't be done.
If by chance you are interested in more details about PEP, the
following is provided:
PEP OFFICES AND SELECTION PROCESS: CCI has 7 Russian partner
offices and 35 regional satellite operations throughout Russia which
scramble daily to attract qualified applicants. Application is just
the beginning: several interviews, on-site business visits, and
reference checks are performed for each candidate before they are
referred to our San Francisco office for final approval.
Participants must be company owners or decision-makers, thus they can
turn key US information and put it to use in their businesses
immediately upon return to Russia.
PEP TRAINING PROGRAM: Qualified Russian candidates in
industry-specific delegations of 10-11 persons train in up to a dozen
companies (of their industry-sector profile) in one US region for 3
to 4 weeks. CCI provides extensive Training Modules to guide
American managers in the specific training needed by the Russians.
Delegates are required to document daily learning, contacts,
insights, and to collect materials from US companies in a specially
organized PEP Workbook. This assures that details are captured which
jet and culture lag would otherwise have erased. Delegations are
sponsored by US civic clubs, and home hosted by American families. No
cultural program is required, although some hosting communities do
provide one. CCI oversees all aspects of the program, ensuring
that PEP training is of the highest caliber possible. PEP strictly
follows the Marshall Plan principles to "prevent boondoggling" (as it
was stated it in the 40s).
PARTICIPANT COST-SHARE: Each Russian participant invests up to $2000
(25% of the costs) for the US internship (this pays for all
operations costs on the Russian side and all transportation costs).
PEP is targeted at second-stage small and medium-sized private
business owners, so this cost is neither exorbitant nor unrealistic.
They are able to invest in their futures. In the case of Russian
entrepreneurs from lower-earning industry sectors, such as crop or
dairy farming, scholarships are available. The investment and
intensity of the program guarantees that most delegates are dedicated
to serious learning once they get to the US.
RESULTS: We maintain close contact with PEP graduates. Over the
years I have witnessed CCI participants prosper in their business
lives and become real leaders in their Russian communities as result
of US models and training. During the June/July 2000 program
evaluations, which evaluated over 300 PEP 1999 graduates from more
than 18 cities throughout Russia, the following results were
78% said their businesses were implementing the ideas they got from
66% have changed their management style as a result of PEP.
49% said their US experience was transformational to them and their
85% consider themselves part of Russia's new middle class.
68% report that their businesses donate goods or services to the
60% said their businesses are seriously impacted by corruption.
8% said they still have to pay off criminal mafia.
51% said that regional and local bureaucrats are the
94% of respondents said that they were impressed by American civic
club values, and more than 63% want to be part of such a club in
To date, CCI program graduates have founded five Rotary Clubs in
regional cities, plus a successful Association of Entrepreneurs which
is becoming the model for other Russian cities. Not only does US
training change participants' mentalities, but each of these Russians
is a human ripple effect which is altering the fabric of their cities
I'd be glad to keep any reader updated on the direct evidence of the
success of US training internships (not only PEP but other programs
as well), particularly those interested in training being done
exclusively with non-English speakers. Please send your e-mail
address to firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be included.
For more information, please check our web site at http://www.ccisf.org.
Center for Citizen Initiatives
Presidio of San Francisco
P.O. Box 29912
San Francisco, CA 94129
Wall Street Journal
October 10, 2000
[for personal use only]
EBRD Backs Tight Conditions For Future Lending to Russia
By ANDREW HIGGINS (email@example.com)
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
MOSCOW -- In a detailed rethink of its Russian strategy, the European Bank
for Reconstruction and Development has endorsed a stark policy review that
sets tight conditions for future lending and warns that pervasive corruption,
opaque business practices, widespread abuse of shareholder rights and other
ills cloud Russia's long-term economic recovery.
The review, approved by the bank's board last week but not yet made public,
casts a critical eye on the impact of past lending by the EBRD. Since the
collapse of communism the bank has committed around 2.4 billion euros ($2.1
billion) in Russia, making it the country's biggest single private investor.
"A number of projects have fallen short of acceptable standards and have put
the reputation of the Bank at risk," the strategy document says.
The EBRD, which like most foreign investors took a big hit after Russia's
August 1998 financial blowout, has since led a slow return of foreign capital
to the country. It plans to invest around 700 million euros there this year,
more than three times what it committed in 1999, though still slightly less
than before the crisis.
"Russia is at a turning point in its transition process," says the strategy
review. It applauds an economic policy blueprint endorsed by President
Vladimir Putin but cautions that the "Russian reform environment has long
been volatile, characterized by rapid advances and setbacks, ambitious plans
and weak implementation."
Russia's ability to deliver on its reform pledges, says the document, will
determine whether the EBRD in future boosts annual investment to as much as 1
billion euros, or settles for a modest annual target of between 300 million
euros and 400 million euros.
Unlike most private commercial banks, the EBRD hasn't shied away from legal
action to press its claims in Russia. It has clashed in court with several
well-connected Russian companies, including an affiliate of AO Sibneft, a big
oil company, and Zoloto-Platina Bank, which is linked to banking tycoon
Alexander Smolensky. In August, the EBRD arranged the flight from Moscow of a
Russian banker who was beaten after he testified against Zoloto-Platina Bank.
"The frequency of intimidation, extortion, even physical threats in business
or legal disputes, with little reliable recourse to the judiciary and to law
enforcement, adds a dimension to investment risk that is unusual for most
other countries," the strategy review says.
EBRD President Jean Lemierre is visiting Russia this week and is due to raise
the case of the assaulted banker, now in hiding abroad, with Russia's prime
minister, Mikhail Kasyanov. Mr. Lemierre took over as EBRD president in May
from Horst Koehler, now head of the International Monetary Fund.
In public remarks Monday at a Moscow meeting of foreign investors, Mr.
Lemierre struck a relatively upbeat note. But the EBRD's internal review
paints a sober picture of the problems that beset Russia -- despite a robust
recovery, fueled in part by high oil prices, that has allowed the government
to draft its first balanced budget since the collapse of the Soviet Union and
is expected to yield economic growth of around 5% this year.
The EBRD, the review says, should make more stringent selection of borrowers
ready to share detailed information and meet other conditions. In the past,
it says, the bank "overestimated its ability to influence change for the
better in companies with low standards."
"A culture of nontransparency in fact pervades most aspects of enterprise
behaviour," the review says. The EBRD is haggling with Russia's natural gas
monopoly OAO Gazprom over the terms of a proposed $250 million (287.8 million
Scaling back ambitions to promote far-reaching reforms, the bank says "it
must be realistic in its objectives and in understanding its leverage" and
should now focus on "targeted improvements in key areas of transparency,
corporate governance and shareholder rights."
October 10, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
PUTIN IS LATTER-DAY RICHELIEU
Yeltsin Has Set A Trap For the Revolution He Was the Leader Of
How will Boris Yeltsin's memoirs (on October 7, Boris
Yeltsin presented his new book "Presidential Marathon," OOO AST
Publishers, 428 pages, 10,000 copies - Ed.) influence the
balance of forces in the country's political elite? Or will it?
These and other questions are addressed, below, in political
technologist Gleb PAVLOVSKY's interview to Segodnya's Avtandil
Question: How will Yeltsin's book influence Putin's image?
Answer: I do not think the matter of his image is of
paramount importance in this context. Yeltsin describes a
certain large-scale political project that he has been staging
in the last four years [of his presidency], that would have
been impossible without himself, and that was at the core of a
team that included Putin, in particular. Putin has gone through
this project on his way to the presidency. The project is over:
Putin is the president, and Yeltsin has retired.
Question: But Putin is building his policy on negation of
the Yeltsin epoch, while Yeltsin is largely justifying his rule.
Do you discern a controversy here?
Answer: There is no controversy, because there are no
clearly formulated outlooks. This is the first time that
Yeltsin grudgingly says it had been a democratic revolution.
Putin had inherited the revolution and has to build a state on
He and Yeltsin had different objectives, different niches,
Question: Is it possible that Yeltsin's book may split the
Answer: The elite is already splitting. It is only natural
that the old elite has found itself on an ice-flow that has
broken off and is departing. The split would have happened, no
matter who said what. The success of Yeltsin's project is in
that the state has not been split. It so happened that Yeltsin
stayed on the other side, while a part of the elite did not
find a niche for itself.
Question: Yeltsin insists he has regular meetings with
Putin and the 'power ministers'. The impression is he wants to
say that he still influences the country's politics. Your
Answer: It is only natural for a man who had been the
country's leader for ten years. Inwardly, he still feels he is
the president of yesterday. And he does stay in contact with an
appreciable part of the current elite. His opinion is clearly
that of a consultant. And he does not make much of a secret of
this. Yeltsin's standing is very unusual: he has set a trap for
the revolution he was the leader of. As a result, Yeltsin has
converted, so to speak, the revolution into statehood and
refused to be the leader of a new stable state. This is highly
unusual and is yet to be appreciated.
As I see it, he is unexpectedly candid in describing the
process. One amazing thing is that Yeltsin acknowledged the
number of instances when the process could degenerate into a
power confrontation within the political elite. That he was
walking a thin line was a great success.
Of course, Yeltsin is not quite sincere in some cases. It
is very natural for a man who writes memoirs to be a bit
The things I know about the four years are nearly all there.
Although Yeltsin sticks to the taboo, introduced way back by
Gorbachev, on the discussion of the democratic revolution's
financial side. The revolution's finances are as much of a
mystery as the party gold. I think Yeltsin has preserved the
mystery for the next generations to untangle.
Question: Can the book be viewed as a Concise Course of
the Kremlin's History, the line all successors to the first
president will have to toe?
Answer: It hardly can. One can inherit the means, but
cannot use them efficiently. When power is seized in the course
of a revolution, the same methods cannot be used to end the
revolution. Yeltsin describes technologies of projected power
that tackles the task of a bloodless ending of the revolution.
Putin is tackling the task of building a national state on a
federative basis. Yeltsin's technologies are not applicable
Question: It looks as if Yeltsin has staged a Thermidorean
coup. Is our epoch that of a Consulate?
Answer: Yeltsin has managed to do something that nobody
else could do in Russia - combine a revolution with elements of
a Thermidor. Putin is more of a Ruchelieu. Putin must build a
state that is comfortable for its citizens, one that protects
the basic values of its citizens. His is a very complex task.
It has nothing to do with either a revolution or a Thermidor.
Question: Cannot excessive concentration of state power
result in authoritarianism?
Answer: Absolutely. But in politics, it is the matter of
measure, of timeliness and of dozes. Putin is very careful
about dozes. I hope he will retain this quality. But of course,
only God and the Constitution can save us if he doesn't.
The Times (UK)
OCTOBER 09 2000
Tea with the godfather
In a rare interview, to introduce The Times’s serialisation of Boris
Yeltsin’s remarkable memoirs, the former Russian President tells Giles
Whittell that he knew the truth about the Monica Lewinsky affair long
before the world did. And he reveals how he castigated Putin over the Kursk
The old man who toppled the Soviet Union was talking about his successor,
the younger man who merely has to rebuild Russia. “He will faithfully
pursue democracy,” Boris Yeltsin said of Vladimir Putin, staring across a
pile of home-made cookies as if reading a teleprompter. “He will enact
vital economic and social reforms. He will strengthen the army, which must
be done.” He will be all things to all men, then? “No one can be,” Yeltsin
replied, but suddenly his eyes moved as if captivated by a thought. “Then
again, I managed it for ten years.”
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin in the late evening of his life moves like a
life-size model of his former self: unsteady and slow, but unsupported, at
least for walks through his enormous dacha. With every white hair still in
place and a thin layer of make-up for the television camera that records
even his semi-official appearances, you fear at first that he may have been
brought out, Brezhnev-like, for show. But he is very much alive.
His health is still failing but his mind is open for business. Given the
right stimulus it can even sparkle, and his current stimulus is a starring
role in the most important production of his career; a concerted effort by
the Yeltsin family to mould his legacy while there is still time.Yeltsin’s
biographer has likened him to Lincoln and de Gaulle for keeping Russia
intact even as he redefined it. In an interview with The Times he sought to
live up to such grand accolades and hide the ravages of drink and heart
disease. He took credit for Russia’s first peaceful transfer of power in a
century and a transformation of its society, but glossed over three years
of deepening kleptocracy at home and two horrific Chechen wars. He cast
himself as a quiet champion of democracy in Yugoslavia, endorsing Vojislav
Kostunica as a staunch guardian of the country’s newly won freedoms while
offering implicit backing for Milosevic’s decision to try to remain a
player in Belgrade.
Yet this elder statesman cannot be relied on to perform, so his meetings
are short and tightly controlled. For this interview the choreography began
far from the ex-presidential dacha, in the chill of an autumn morning in
central Moscow. A black Volga saloon would be waiting outside the Hotel
Ukraine at 10.30. When we pulled up behind it a man in a dark macintosh
appeared at the kerb. “Please follow us,” he said. He climbed into the
Volga and sped away.
Gorky 9, where Yeltsin spent much of his second term recovering from health
crises, is one of dozens of unsignposted government compounds in the
forests west of Moscow off Rublevskoye Shosse. The final turning was down a
side road marked with a no entry sign, ending in a small car park, an 8ft
wall topped with barbed wire and a battered metal gate. We were checked for
weapons, then led through the gate and up a garden path to the stolid
Soviet residence given to Yeltsin in return for ending Soviet power. In the
forecourt stood a paramedic’s car, complete with red cross and roof light.
At the doorway stood Vladimir Shevchenko, Yeltsin’s head of protocol and
once a mastermind of summit seating plans. He still runs a tight ship,
showing visitors where to sit, where to stand for the formal greeting and,
to within five seconds, when it will happen.
Putin has been known to slip in and out of meetings unnoticed; his
predecessor still causes even his closest aides to stiffen as he enters the
room. His breathy, mock-severe preamble — “two questions only, and if you
make them simple, you’ll have simple answers” — made me wonder what
“simple” means to a man who has confronted the Politburo, the tanks of the
Red Army and a decade’s worth of truculent Russian Communists. I asked
about Putin, his single most powerful bequest. Yeltsin writes in his new
book that the former spy to whom he handed power is dedicated to democracy,
but in his first nine months in the Kremlin, Putin has rolled back two of
Yeltsin’s most prized democratic achievements: a free press and
decentralised Russian State. Is this what Yeltsin wanted for his legacy?
“Those who respect Putin include me, but also Tony Blair,” he replied
deftly. “Why don’t you ask him, too? And look at the other side of the
story. Putin has given to the provinces a new state council through which
every regional leader has access to Putin on any question. Who benefits
from this? The regional leaders, but also Russia and democracy. As Putin’s
godfather, I can tell you democracy is safe in his hands.”
We want democracy in Belgrade, but we can only whisper in their ears. We
He returned to the subject later, as anxious to polish his heir’s image as
his own and willing to ignore troubling press crackdowns and evidence of
ballot-rigging in the process: “Many want to present him as a person of
totalitarian mentality, the oppressor of free speech. This is rubbish.
Putin is a greater democrat than his opponents, and there will be no
alternative to him for a long time.”
As Putin’s “godfather”, Yeltsin has offered regular advice on the unfolding
crisis in Belgrade. “We call each other once a fortnight, and he comes for
tea,” he said, gesturing to a table by a grand piano where they sit. “I
told him the Yugoslavs would choose their leader for themselves. We want
real democracy in Belgrade but the decision is for the people there. We can
only whisper in their ears. We cannot dictate.”
As the forces of freedom took to the streets, Yeltsin threw his weight
behind Kostunica. “I believe the new leadership will be able to cope with
the challenges ahead and will strongly defend the values of freedom and
democracy.” Yeltsin has condemned Milosevic as “utterly without principle”,
but he stopped well short of calling for his prosecution for war crimes.
So far Yeltsin and Putin have been of one mind on Yugoslavia, condemning
Nato’s bombing of Kosovo, and trumpeting the arguable achievements of
Russian diplomacy in the Balkans. Not so the Kursk disaster, which
escalated when Putin stayed on holiday by the Black Sea.
“I was very upset over the Kursk, andI expressed my views to him,” Yeltsin
says. “He should have reacted urgently and flown from Sochi to Moscow. He
should have gathered everyone in the military with responsibility for such
issues, and appointed a special commission. He needed to act resolutely. He
should also have contacted all the victims’ families to offer the State’s
Yeltsin’s younger daughter and closest adviser, Tatyana Dyachenko, sat near
her father on a sofa during the interview. Afterwards, anxious to forestall
publication of a tirade against Putin, she insisted her father’s only real
criticism of Putin’s handling of the Kursk affair was over his failure to
fly straight to Moscow. Everything else that Yeltsin had advised Putin had
done, she said, quite accurately. Yet her father’s anger was revealing, as
that of a master politician whose protégé lacked the experience to realise
actions can be worthless if they go unseen. “Fortunately,” Yeltsin added,
“Putin is a quick learner.”
Speaking of mistakes, I asked what Yeltsin would say to ordinary Russians
who regard his final years in power, tarnished as they were by corruption
scandals and palace intrigues, as a series of missed opportunities that
impoverished millions and left the West asking: “Who lost Russia?” His mood
changed abruptly: “I refuse to answer such a question. It is an offence.”
As for the mood of average Russians, he went on, why not ask them?
I did not humiliate Gorbachev
Russian polling firms — another part of Yeltsin’s legacy — have been doing
just that for years: when he left office his approval ratings were in
single digits; Putin, by contrast, still enjoys ratings of 60 per cent and
The moulding of the Yeltsin legacy suffers, inevitably, from a severe case
of amnesia. He takes “responsibility” for the apocalyptic stormings of
Grozny in 1994 and again this year, but not for the thousands of civilian
casualties inflicted by the Russian army. He writes that he has heard of a
scurrilous memoir by his former bodyguard, Aleksandr Korzhakov, but claims
not to have read it and leaves largely unanswered the charge that the
Kremlin under Yeltsin could be a place of drunken, unruly chaos. He denies
being dependent on the seven “oligarchs”, including Boris Berezovsky and
Vladimir Gusinsky, who bought their way into positions of staggering wealth
and power by funding his 1996 election campaign. And while he admits regret
over the 1998 rouble crash that stripped most of Russia’s fledgeling middle
class of its savings, he says: “It was their baptism of fire.”
Challenged on the details of his record, Yeltsin looked in danger of
clamming up. But his support team was too adept to let the interview end on
a sour note. Tatyana brought tea for all and a plate of warm cookies
“prepared by my mother”, Naina Yeltsin. It seemed the moment to ask about a
claim in the new book, Midnight Diaries, that Russian intelligence warned
Yeltsin as early as 1996 that US Republican party activists intended to
plant an attractive young woman in the Clinton White House to embarrass its
most senior occupant. Did he know then that this woman would be Monica
“I knew,” Yeltsin replied.
Why then did he not tell President Clinton, whom he famously referred to as
“He had enough problems already,” Yeltsin said. “But it was not only
because of that. I decided not to mention it because I didn’t fully believe
it, and because we are very sensitive to such issues in Russia. I was also
convinced that he would overcome the problem himself, which in the end he
Clinton, Chancellor Helmut Kohl of Germany and France’s President Jacques
Chirac — but not Tony Blair, whom Moscow once pointedly excluded from a
meeting of the European “troika” — are for Yeltsin reminders of a time of
frenzied political change, when the world beat a path to his door, often
bearing gifts. I had read that he received them well and was not
disappointed; I gave him a framed reproduction of a 1911 Times colour
supplement on Russia, in Russian, unearthed by the newspaper’s archivist.
Yeltsin noticed at once the Russian double-headed eagle on the front page
and, beaming, declared it a fine gift. As his left hand gripped the frame
his right reached out to be shaken, and I was reduced to the role of
The next gift was less successful. On August 24, 1991, this paper ran a
front-page picture of Yeltsin in the Duma and the headline “Yeltsin
humiliates Gorbachev”. It was the day after Gorbachev was forced on live TV
to sign the Soviet Communist Party into oblivion. The two men barely spoke
for the next eight years, but since Raisa We want democracy in Belgrade,
but we can only whisper in their ears. We cannot dictatehim,” he said. “I
just demanded that he sign the document.”
Yeltsin’s finest moments are already part of history, and his
self-justifications are full of the language of history. His handover to
Putin, though widely seen as a manipulation of democracy, was
“unprecedented in Russia in the 20th century”, he insists. “Neither the
Tsars nor the General Secretaries ever resigned voluntarily and even
Gorbachev’s departure was preceded by the collapse of the Soviet Union.”
He boasts of turning an economy built around the Soviet military-industrial
complex into one based on individual needs, of giving Russia the freedom to
choose its ideology and way of life “without which there was no way for it
to enter the 21st century”.
He is entitled to boast. All this is largely true. Yet his achievements are
eclipsed by a monumental “what if?” What if he had husbanded his health
more carefully and used his immense natural authority to build on his work
of the early 1990s in his second term, instead of jeopardising it? At the
very least, Russia could go on using him. Instead it has consigned him, at
his wish, to forests outside Moscow.
How’s life there? “Wonderful. I’m a pensioner.”
The Times (UK)
OCTOBER 10 2000
Crisis in Kosovo
In the first extract from his memoirs, Boris Yeltsin tells how the Nato
bombing of Serbia nearly led to a new Cold War
As if political events at home were not complex enough, in late March, 1999,
we were pitched into a global crisis: the war in Yugoslavia. There was a
fundamental difference between Russia and the West in their reaction to
Kosovo. The West believed that the war in Yugoslavia was a specific
retaliation against Milosevic, a fight for national minorities and human
rights. We, in contrast, argued that Kosovo had implications for the whole
world which the West had chosen to ignore.
After the bombing of Belgrade, the rules that held together the UN collapsed.
Yes, the bombing stopped the conflict in Kosovo. But the problems within the
territory were not solved. No one knew what to do next. The war reinforced
the Milosevic regime, at least in the short term. But the attack on
Yugoslavia was launched on the assumption that one country, or one group of
countries, could decide everything in the world. Instead of the mentality of
a world peacemaker, we are seeing the psychology of a world enforcer and a
I had understood all this for a long time, but the Yugoslav crisis forced me
to make rapid decisions. I was in constant telephone contact with the leaders
of the major countries involved. On March 24, on the eve of the Nato bombing,
Bill Clinton called me to discuss Kosovo. Milosevic was continuing his
offensive, he said, bringing in additional troops, killing innocent people
and burning whole villages. I was aware of this. But I knew something else:
we had to get into talks. Negotiating is better than bombing and destroying
everything in one fell swoop. By this time Prime Minister Primakov, who had
been on his way to visit Clinton in the United States, had turned his plane
around over the Atlantic. I told Clinton that Primakov's reaction was only
the first step.
Clinton kept pushing, saying that it depended on me whether we would let
Milosevic destroy everything that we had worked so hard to create in the past
six years. He said that it was too bad that Milosevic was a Serb. For the
sake of common solidarity, it would have been better if he were some other
nationality. I was amazed. Did Clinton really think that the problem was our
sympathy for Serbs? Did he not understand that this was not just a question
of some special Slavic kinship attributed to Russian-Serbian relations? We
would have reacted the same way if any other country â€” Poland, Spain or
Turkey â€” had been the target. The country or nationality was irrelevant.
I had my own arguments. Our people will think very little of America and Nato
if this bombing proceeds. I remember how hard it was to change the attitude
of ordinary people and politicians here in Russia toward the US and the West.
And now we're going to lose all that.
I appealed to Clinton: For the sake of our future relations and the future
security of Europe, I ask you to cancel this bombing. Together we could work
out tactics to frustrate Milosevic. In the grand scheme of things, we have to
try this for the sake of our relations and for peace in Europe.
I remember how I tried to emphasise every word. I tried to have an emotional
impact on the man at the other end of the line.
Clinton replied that he did not share my optimism. The President of the
United States was letting me know in no uncertain terms that negotiations
with Milosevic were pointless. This was a mistake, a very big mistake. The
bombing didn't stop Milosevic either in March or in April or in May. Only the
joint diplomatic efforts of Russia, Finland and the United States would
eventually stop him.
What was happening, in my view, was this: The Americans found it necessary to
assert North Atlantic solidarity by any means. They felt threatened by the
growing strength of European independence â€” economic, political and moral.
For these reasons, they resorted to war.
As I said on March 25, 1999, after the bombing started: This is essentially
an attempt by Nato to enter the 21st century in the uniform of the world
policeman. Russia will never agree to this.
I realised that this war could be stopped only if Russia put pressure on both
fronts, Nato and Yugoslavia. If the war lasted more than a month or two,
Russia would inevitably be drawn into the conflict. A new cold war would
Once the bombs started falling, the political stability in our country would
depend on the Balkans. Already the Communists and the nationalists were
trying to play the Balkans card in order to destroy the balance of political
forces. The cry went up, Today Yugoslavia, tomorrow Russia! Did the Nato
leaders really not understand? I had met with these leaders dozens of times!
Some called me their friend. Wasn't it obvious that each missile strike
against Yugoslavia was an indirect strike against Russia? That was what
irritated me most.
We had some alarming days in Moscow. There were demonstrations outside the US
Embassy. The police detained a group of extremists who had driven past the US
Embassy with a grenade launcher. The Duma passed resolution after resolution.
The Communists held negotiations with Milosevic on creating a
military-strategic union of our two states. Volunteers were recruited to
fight on the side of the Serbs. People took the Yugoslav tragedy to heart.
They were worried about more than the Serbs. In every Russian family there
was someone who had fought in, or was a child of, the Hitler war. Any
aggravation in Europe is an alarm signal. Nato's aggression came as a real
We had to stop this war. Meanwhile, Nato's strategists and politicians had
miscalculated. The Yugoslav people united in the face of an external enemy.
The Yugoslav Army was prepared for an invasion of ground forces, and could
put up a strong resistance on its own territory.
On April 14 I appointed Viktor Chernomyrdin as my representative in
Yugoslavia. He spent many hours with Milosevic, and with Finnish president
Martti Ahtisaari. Chernomyrdin displayed the qualities of an old political
fighter â€” patience and flexibility, always searching for intelligent
On April 22 Tony Blair called me. We had spoken three or four times since the
onset of the crisis.
But this latest exchange reflected the heightened tension, as an excerpt from
the transcript shows. I told him: I am convinced that Nato is making a big
mistake in continuing to bomb Yugoslav territories. The consequences were not
properly calculated. Instead of pressurising Milosevic, you are strengthening
his position. Instead of resolving the humanitarian problem, we are now
dealing with a real humanitarian catastrophe. Instead of a negotiation
process, which London helped quite a bit to put into motion, we are
backsliding into military confrontation. We are alarmed at reports about the
plan to conduct a ground operation in Kosovo. I will tell you frankly, this
is the path to the abyss. Tony, I urged. Find the strength to stop this
Blair repeated everything Clinton had said a month before, word for word:
Nato could not permit what Milosevic was doing to the refugees or the actions
taken with his knowledge by the Serb military police.
I asked: But what about the bombing of the columns of refugees, in which
there were both Albanians and Serbs? Was that morally justified? Blair evaded
my question. At the end, he wished me success with the talks between
Chernomyrdin and Milosevic.
On May 13, Jacques Chirac came to see me in Moscow. He reminded me that while
I was directing Russia towards the future, Milosevic was a man from the past.
Then the conversation took an unexpected turn. Chirac said that among the
Nato allies there was an American worldview and a French worldview. The US
vision was simple â€” world leadership by the United States â€” but France
not agree with that. Chirac went on to outline how the situation in Europe
had changed over the past year because of the change in governments.
Everything had begun in Spain with the election of JosĂ© LĂłpez, then Blair
appeared; then SchrĂ¶der. All of them supported the tough American line,
perhaps for domestic political reasons. But France advocated another route:
the idea of a multipolar world. Even the French battalion in Kosovo had been
given an exclusively humanitarian mission, Chirac said.
As our conversation ended, Chirac announced that I had to make up my mind
whether I was for or against Milosevic. Russia had only two paths: to remain
on the sidelines or to enter the modern world. Russia had to affirm universal
I agreed with that. But how could I, while bombs exploded over Kosovo?
Chernomyrdin had five meetings with Milosevic, some for nine hours without a
break. He said that at the most frustrating moments he would ask Milosevic
bluntly: Do you really think you can win this war? Milosevic answered no, but
that he wouldn't lose it either. No one had vanquished the Yugoslavs for 400
years. Let them just try now, he said. A ground operation will fail. He even
asked Chernomyrdin to negotiate in such a way that the ground operation would
But within about a month Milosevic's position changed. He wanted to stop the
war. But nevertheless I cannot be defeated! he said to Chernomyrdin.
Chernomyrdin pushed Milosevic toward negotiations, even though Milosevic was
advancing unacceptable conditions. For example, he demanded that the troops
of Russia, Ukraine, India and other countries, rather than Nato, be brought
A draft proposal to have Yugoslavia enter into the union of Russia and
Belarus also played a role here. Our Duma actively discussed the idea,
although it was unrealistic. Nevertheless, I allowed this notion to be used
in negotiations, to distract Milosevic.
In fact, Chernomyrdin's main purpose was to press Milosevic to conduct peace
talks with the West. He let Milosevic know that he could expect no military
support and that his political support was already exhausted.
Meanwhile, Chernomyrdin managed to get an agreement from the Americans to
transfer the political mechanism for the settlement of the crisis into the
hands of the UN. Chernomyrdin flew to the United States twice and held talks
with Clinton. The eight points which Chernomyrdin had agreed with Milosevic
ended up in the UN resolution, although in altered form. As a resolution of
the UN Security Council, the surrender ceased to be humiliating and the
agreement was ratified without a single amendment.
Milosevic behaved utterly without principle. In his relations with Russia, he
had wagered on an explosion of popular dissatisfaction with my foreign
policy. He anticipated a split in Russian society and hoped to push Russia
into a political and military confrontation with the West.
Essentially, Milosevic was forced to return to square one. He had achieved
only one goal: at the price of destruction and isolation, he had removed all
his domestic opponents and enemies from the political stage. I think he is
one of the most cynical politicians I have ever dealt with.
But the Kosovo conflict demonstrated the worst political tendencies and
double standards of modern Europe. It was claimed, for example, that human
rights were more important than the rights of a single state. But when you
violate the rights of a state, you violate the rights of its citizens,
including their right to security. Thousands of Yugoslav citizens suffered in
the war. Can you weigh the rights of the Kosovo Serbs against the rights of
the Kosovo Albanians? Yes, the Albanians suffered brutal repression under
Milosevic and were forced to flee the territory. Now the same thing is
happening with the Serbs. The difference is only that in the first instance
it was the Yugoslav Army doing the repressing and now it is the KLA. That
gives you some idea of how effective the military operation was.
One more thing: On the night of June 14, I had to decide whether to let the
Russian military land its paratroopers at the Pristina Airport in Kosovo. The
agreement stipulated that the peacekeeping forces would simultaneously take
up their assigned positions. It seemed too dangerous to send our men in
early. Furthermore, why were we demonstrating military boldness and waving
our fists after the fight was over? Still, I decided that Russia must make a
crowning gesture, even if it had no military significance. It was not a
question of diplomatic victories or defeats, but of whether we had won the
main point. Russia had not let itself be defeated in the moral sense. It had
not let itself be split. It had not been dragged into the war. This last
gesture was a sign of our moral victory in the face of the enormous Nato
military, all of Europe, and the whole world. I gave the order: GO.
© Boris Yeltsin 2000. Extracted from Midnight Diaries by Boris Yeltsin, to be
published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (ÂŁ20). Buy it from The Times Bookshop,
0870-160 8080, for ÂŁ17 including p&p or www.times-eshop.co.uk