This Date's Issues: 4615
Johnson's Russia List
2 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Interfax: RUSSIA'S PRISON POPULATION TOTALS 910,000.
2. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Putin Should Study Up on His
3. Reuters: Republicans fail in bid for State Dept subpoena.
4. THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION PRISM: Elena Dikun, A WRITER OUTWEIGHS
A PRIME MINISTER IN CHUBAIS' SCALES. (Solzhenitsyn)
5. Doug Henwood: toilet training.
6. Massachusetts Man Detained in Russia.
7. James Voorhees: Forget Russia?
8. Paul Fallon: Forget Russia?
9. Harvard fellowship competition announcement.
10. Newsweek International: Andrew Nagorski, A Callous View of Human
Life. Russian outrage over the Kursk disaster may signal a demand for a new value
11. AP: Russian Waterways Contaminated.
12. Dow Jones: GAO Report Finds Aid To Russia Had Only Mixed
13. Moscow Times: Pavel Felgenhauer, Afghan Conflict Revisited.
14. NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE: Arlene Getz, The Record: Russian Relations. How smart were Gore’s deals with
RUSSIA'S PRISON POPULATION TOTALS 910,000
MOSCOW. Nov 1 (Interfax) - A total of 910,690 people are being held
in Russia's penitentiary institutions, Valery Yepanishnikov, head of the
legal division of the Justice Ministry's Main Penitentiary Board, said
at the opening of a Man and Prison exhibition in Moscow on Wednesday.
The amnesty in the second half of the year freed over 168,000
people, Yepanishnikov said.
The situation in the Russian penitentiary system is disastrous,
Valery Borshchyov, chairman of the Public Human Rights Chamber, said at
the ceremony. Nearly 5 million people enter and leave the prison system
annually, he said. Over 100,000 inmates have tuberculosis in an open
form and over 10,000 die annually, he noted. "A new killing disease,
drug resistant tuberculosis" is creeping from penitentiaries, he said.
November 2, 2000
EDITORIAL: Putin Should Study Up on His Jefferson
The Russian political system being what it is, President Vladimir Putin can
pretty much do what he pleases with regard to the media. If he chooses, as it
seems that he has, to dramatically increase central state control in the
interests of national security, then there is little that anyone can do to
However, when he attempts to defend his policies by citing U.S. President
Thomas Jefferson, as he did in a recent interview with French journalists, we
must strenuously object. In response to a question about whether his concept
of a "dictatorship of law" is compatible with the concept of press freedom,
Putin quoted Jefferson as saying "where freedom of the press is absolute,
there is no freedom for anyone." He then used this view to justify his
crackdown on the oligarchs and their media interests.
Putin did add that "without the press there can be no normal development of
democratic society." He didn't seem to realize, though, that it would have
sounded far more Jeffersonian if he had said, "without a free press þ ."
Putin's handlers must have searched hard to come up with this citation.
However, instead of sifting through Jefferson's vast oeuvre in search of
justifications for whatever policy the Kremlin is pushing, Putin would
benefit from an improved appreciation of Jefferson's real attitude toward the
independent press and its role in a democracy.
He should study Jefferson's opposition to the Sedition Act, which was adopted
in 1798 and made it illegal to criticize the president or the government.
Jefferson was vice president at the time and was able to oppose the law only
by speaking out strongly against it. However, when he became president in
1800, he allowed the law to expire. Moreover, he pardoned all the journalists
who had been prosecuted under the law and even compelled Congress to return
the fines that had been levied.
Jefferson justified these actions in a letter that truly deserves to be
quoted by Putin: "I discharged every person under punishment or prosecution
under the Sedition Law, because I considered, and now consider, that law to
be a nullity, as absolute and palpable as if Congress had ordered us to fall
down and worship a golden image."
Putin should also familiarize himself with Jefferson's most oft-cited comment
on the press: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a
government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should
not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
Russia needs a free press a lot more than another golden image.
Republicans fail in bid for State Dept subpoena
By Carol Giacomo
WASHINGTON, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Senate Republicans Wednesday failed to muster
enough support to issue a subpoena aimed at forcing the State Department to
hand over key documents relating to Vice President Al Gore's 1995 pact with
Moscow on Russian conventional arms sales to Iran.
"The subpoena will not be served. They couldn't get 10 signatures," a Senate
source told Reuters.
Organisers needed the signatures of a majority of the 19-member,
Republican-dominated Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the subpoena to
Democrats saw the subpoena as an attempt to embarrass Gore in the days before
a cliffhanger election in which he is running for the presidency against
Republican George W. Bush.
Committee Republicans had threatened to subpoena the documents if they were
not produced by a Monday deadline.
On Tuesday, the panel rejected a State Department offer to show the documents
only to Congressional leaders and said it was weighing whether to go ahead
and issue the subpoenas.
On Wednesday, the Republicans circulated the subpoena, which would have given
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright until Nov 8 to produce the documents.
But the panel's Democrats and at least one Republican failed to sign on.
Chris Matthews, a spokesman for Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Or., said the committee
decided to hold an open meeting on the subpoena issue on Nov. 14, when
Congress reconvenes after a break to campaign ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
He said some senators wanted an open discussion on the issue but were too
busy to hold a committee meeting this week.
Gore signed the 1995 deal with Russia after lengthy negotiations between U.S.
and Russian experts.
Proponents argue that the accord was a compromise that resulted in an
important commitment by Moscow to halt conventional arms sales to Iran by the
end of 1999.
As a trade-off, however, it exempted Russia from U.S. sanctions for the
conventional arms sales.
Republican critics focus on the fact that the agreement allowed Moscow to
fulfil, until the end of 1999, contracts that had been signed with Iran prior
to the U.S.-Russia deal.
These opponents contend the deal violated U.S. non-proliferation rules and
was kept secret, although administration officials briefed Congress and the
news media wrote stories about the general outlines of the deal.
U.S. officials acknowledge Russia is still fulfilling those old weapons
contracts. But they argue that the 1995 accord prevented new conventional
sales from being negotiated. The administration does not see evidence of new
contracts for conventional arms sales to Iran, a U.S. official said.
Gore has denied there was anything secret about it and his campaign has
accused Republicans of trying to make political mileage out of the issue
ahead of Tuesday's election.
THE JAMESTOWN FOUNDATION PRISM
A MONTHLY ON THE POST-SOVIET STATES
OCTOBER 2000 Volume VI, Issue 10 Part 2
A WRITER OUTWEIGHS A PRIME MINISTER IN CHUBAIS' SCALES
By Elena Dikun
Elena Dikun is a political columnist for Obshchaya gazeta.
The biggest mystery of late autumn was the twisting and turning of Anatoly
Chubais. The boss of Unified Energy Systems (UES) suddenly announced to the
Moscow establishment that he was leaving for Switzerland on October 9. To
do some studying, he said. For a month Chubais planned to grace the halls
of academia at a prestigious Geneva school for top managers. By his own
admission he had been dreaming of doing this for the last ten years. But
then, just as suddenly, he had second thoughts and stayed at home.
Russia's worldly-wise politicians did not believe Chubais from the start.
They felt that it could not have been a desire for knowledge that compelled
him to leave the country for a month. He was probably in someone's way
here. There was plenty of speculation, but little of it was convincing.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. The tax police had been
threatening him with seven years' imprisonment for nonpayment of taxes, but
had backed off with nothing. Fingers were pointed unjustly at the
president's chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin, who is generally thought to
have designs on Chubais' job when the time comes for him to leave the
Kremlin. Chubais' close aides delight in telling journalists that their
superior has been getting on just fine with Voloshin of late. One of our
sources said proudly: "Voloshin has had dozens of opportunities to make
Chubais' life difficult, but he has not taken any of them up."
There has even been an improvement in his relations with the court oligarch
Roman Abramovich, who had ruffled Chubais' feathers by snatching the
aluminum market from under his nose. Chubais had had his eye on that too.
Chubais' people say that: "Abramovich is gradually backing off. Gone are
the days when Roman would tell Voloshin what to do, Voloshin would tell
Kasyanov, and Kasyanov would do it. If we're lucky, Roman Abramovich will
soon realize his dream of becoming governor of Chukotka, and leave Moscow."
However, these deliberate leaks by Chubais' team only served to fuel the
suspicion that he sensed some sort of danger, which is why he was planning
a "temporary emigration." To all appearances, the danger at that point
emanated from Prime Minister Kasyanov. The fact was that an internal
investigation by the White House showed that the man who had commissioned
this summer's massive anti-Kasyanov campaign in the foreign and Russian
media was none other than Anatoly Chubais. The inference was that he wanted
to see own man--Vice Premier Aleksei Kudrin--as prime minister. Chubais had
taken an immediate dislike to Kasyanov, and by autumn relations between
them had become quite hostile.
The Kremlin also pointed the finger at Chubais. Information at our disposal
suggests that the president was convinced that ill-wishers in Moscow had
commissioned Western publicity specialists to write "set essays" in the
foreign media, after which they recycled this foreign output in the Russian
press. A senior administration official had a very simple explanation for
the fact that the compromising material on the prime minister had emanated
from Italy and Switzerland--these countries have the lowest rates for
placing such pieces. But our source admitted: "But we're not going to have
a public inquiry. Anatoly Borisovich [Chubais] is a member of the
president's team. Someone might think he had been given the go-ahead from
above!" According to this version of events, Chubais took the prudent
decision to bide his time abroad until the wrath of the prime minister--who
is rapidly consolidating his position--had cooled. But at the last minute,
with his suitcases already packed, he suddenly decided to go nowhere. What
new danger tipped the balance?
We have discovered that this time the danger emanated from the "boss"
himself--Vladimir Putin. Chubais was alarmed that the head of state was
becoming increasingly taken with the ideas of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It
transpires that the visit the president paid to the reclusive writer in
Troitsa-Lykovo in September was by no means their first contact--previous
meetings had simply not been publicized. The role of fixer, arranging the
dialog between the head of state and the philosopher, was first assumed by
Yevgeny Primakov, who had access to the author and who also enjoyed the
president's favor. Then the Kremlin's chief spin-doctor Gleb Pavlovsky got
involved. In his opinion, a widely publicized meeting with the dissident
writer would be "a sign of the normality of our leaders."
However, Chubais' team has serious concerns that Solzhenitsyn may become
Putin's spiritual mentor, and instill "untimely" ideas in his head. If
Solzhenitsyn's views on the results of the Russian reforms are indeed in
tune with Putin's, and if the president is not averse to adopting the
recommendations of the venerable writer, then the privatizers can have
little confidence in their political prospects. For Solzhenitsyn believes
that the privatization process was a swindle, and that the place for
swindlers is in jail.
It is said that Chubais tried to discuss this with the president, warning
him that if he paid too much heed to the hermitic writer the repercussions
could be very grave for Russia. But he met with little understanding. As
the president is keen to strengthen authoritarian rule, it is vital for him
to count among his allies a writer whose moral authority justifies and
blesses his actions. The liberals fear that an alliance between Putin,
Solzhenitsyn and the security services could become the dominant political
force. If that is the case, then Kasyanov, Voloshin, Chubais,
Abramovich--between whom there is little love lost--will have no option but
to join forces and offer an organized opposition to the president, who in
their opinion is drifting in a dangerous direction. It is quite
understandable that at such a critical moment Chubais decided it was
impossible for him to leave the country for an extended period.
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000
From: Doug Henwood <email@example.com>
I have an unusual query for your list. I remember seeing once a photo
of a bunch of Soviet kids being toilet trained en masse, in a nursery
school or something like that. It seemed that this supremely private
ritual in the West had been collectivized in the East. Is this right,
or is my memory playing tricks on me?
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (James Critchlow)
Subject: Massachusetts Man Detained in Russia
Following are excerpts from an article published yesterday in the New
buryport (Mass.) Daily News under the headline "Port Native Forbidden to
NEWBURYPORT--A Newburyport man who spent five years promoting >democracy in
Siberia is not being allowed to return home because Russian >authorities
have seized his visa, citing tax problems.
Al Decie, who graduated from Newburypot HIgh School and earned a
master's degree in Russian studies from Georgetown University, has not been
imprisoned, but has not been allowed to leave Russia since July.
He had planned to leave Russia at that time and come home to
Newburyport, where his father lives.
"I am very much in fear of my son's safety," said his father, Albert
Decie II, who has appealed to federal authorities and national media for help.
An aide to U.S. Rep. John Tierney would not discuss the status of
Decie's case, but sasid, "We continue to work filigently on his son's behalf.
Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe's staff is also helping the family.
Decie, who turns 32 next week, worked for ECHO (Educational Choices
Heighten Opportunity), a Yarmouth, Maine group that aimed to promote
democratic principles and community building projects in Siberia.
His father said that Decie, who speaks fluent Russian, singlehanded
started a center where Siberians could learn how to create and grow the
organizations to promote democratic involvement.
"I am accustomed to being questioned and even harassed by local
authorities as the success of (the community building project), Americans
and democracy itself are obviously not popular with everyone," Decie wrote
in a letter to U.S. authorities.
"Though I haven't heard of such an extreme case against an
expat(riate), such harassment of foreigners working long-term in Russia on
civil society issues is not uncommon," Decie wrote the group Human Rights
Watch last week.
The father shared copies of his son's letters with the Daily News
yesterday. Aftern declining an interview several weeks ago, the elder Decie
now hopes publicity will spur U.S.. officials to act more urgently.
And he know this will be a delicate task. He believes the longer
his son stays in Russia, the more uncertain his plight becomes.
Yet he fears too much negative publicity might push Russian
authorities into a corner and prompt them to drum up false chareges against
his son and imprison him.
"That may sound absurd," the father said, "but it happens all the
time. That's why we tried to get him out of Siberia and into Moscow," where
authorities are thought to be less hard-nosed.
Neither Decie nor his father believe the Russian authorities are
interested strictly in the tax dispute. A 1992 treaty with the U.S. should
exempt technical advisors like Decie from Russian taxes, but the treaty was
never ratified by the Russian legislature, and Russian tax agents are not
honoring recent verbal negotiations to validate the 1992 agreement.
The younger Decie told Human Rights Watch that he has been "the
target of harassment" by Siberian authorities since 1996. His finances were
audited several times, his telephone may have been tapped, state-controlled
media wrote critical stories about his work, his apartment was burglarized
and personal financial papers were stolen, he says....
The father said he has run up hundreds of dollars in telephone bills
trying to help his son, who has been forced to liquidate much of his savings
trying to live in Moscow since July without work.
The younger Decie was prepared to start a new job with another
international agency, IREX, on Sept. 1, but he was forced to turn down the
position because he could not leave Russia.
The whole experience has left the elder Decie shaken and somewhat
disillusioned with the system. He is proud of his son's hard work, and he's
certain that his son has helped average Russian people build a better life.
And yet, it all seems to command too high a price.
"Personally," his father says, "I hope he never goes back again."
From: James Voorhees <email@example.com>
Subject: Forget Russia?
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000
Thinking about this brought to mind the collpase of two earlier empires--the
British and the Austro-Hungarian. The collapse of the Soviet empire shares
qualities with both. Britain remained a power of some consequence after its
empire vanished; so does Russia now. The collapse of the multinational Dual
Monarchy left a legacy of turmoil that remains more than 80 years later (I
recommend the novel "A Sailor of Austria" for insight into this).
After its empire fell, Britain and the United States continued their special
relationship that, it could be argued, helped Britain make the painful
adjustment to middle-power status (which took more than 20 years, at least
until Harold Wilson ended the poresence East of Suez in 1967). There was no
such relationship with Austria or Hungary.
Russia, now, is a lesser power like Britain with a legacy like
Austria-Hungary's. Its relationship with the United States remains
important, but certainly has a basis different from the predominantly
cooperative one that Britain has had.
Because of that legacy (among other things), Russia must remain on
Washington's radar. Our experience with a fading Britain suggests that we
may--emphasis here--be able to do some good as Russia continues to adjust
the changes it is undergoing. Yet, I suggest, Russia's blip has shrunk, and
will ever be smaller than it was before, just as Britain's is.
Part of the truth about Washington's forgetfulness about Russia lies
precisely in the size of that blip. It won't go away--it can't go away,
though some may want it to--but Washington, like Moscow, must adjust to the
From: Paul Fallon <PFallon@425offices.com>
Subject: Forget Russia?
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000
Dear David: I do not believe "forget Russia" has much credibility as an
alternative strategy for US foreign relations with Russia for two reasons.
First of all the USA is too arrogant. We have a vision of society that we
want to share with the world and there is no taking "no" for an answer.
Winning the cold war erased any doubts about the manifest destiny of our new
world order. We are determined to mold Russia into a replica of ourselves
no matter what the cost. Second, there is too much potential wealth in
Russia. Politics in this country is driven by business and business will
not let politicians disengage from such fertile territory. AT&T, Microsoft,
Phillip Morris, Enron, Citigroup and Pfizer to name a few, will not let us
disengage. They do not make huge campaign donations for nothing. Russia is
a market that they will demand be tamed. The only way we ill ignore Russia
is if they went in a socialist direction. We would either run away or try
to assist Putin or some other puppet dictator to squash such foolish
notions. One thing we definitely do not cotton to is anyone setting a bad
example for the domestic sheep, er, population here in the good old USA.
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2000
From: Donna Griesenbeck <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Harvard fellowship competition announcement
The Davis Center for Russian Studies at Harvard University invites
applications to its 2001-2002 fellowship program, for post-doctoral
research in the humanities and social sciences on Russia and the Soviet
successor states. Awards of up to $31,000 will be made to scholars who have
received the Ph.D. within the past five years. Awards for more senior
scholars may be made and will vary according to need. Approximately five
awards will be made. Awards are usually for the academic year, but
shorter-term appointments can be arranged as well. A limited number of
non-stipendiary affiliations with the Davis Center are also available.
Application Checklist and Procedure
• Application form (available on the Web at
du/~daviscrs/research.html ). To request an application form by mail,
please call (617) 495-4038, e-mail email@example.com, or write to the
Fellowship Program at the address below.
• Project description (no longer than 5 pages)
• Brief curriculum vitae, including academic background (institution(s),
field(s) of study, degree(s), and years); employment history; and major
• Three letters of reference* evaluating your work and proposal. *Note:
Letters of reference should be sealed, signed across the back of the
envelope, and sent to you directly.
Send the unopened references, along with 17 copies of your application form
and all supporting materials, to:
Davis Center for Russian Studies
1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Double-sided copies will be appreciated.
Application deadline is December 15, 2000. All materials including letters
of recommendation must be received at the Davis Center by the deadline.
Decisions will be announced by mid-March 2001.
Any questions about the progam should be addressed to Jean Johnson at (617)
Donna Griesenbeck Officer for Student Programs and Publications Davis
Center for Russian Studies 1737 Cambridge Street Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-1194 Fax: 617-495-8319 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
November 6, 2000
A Callous View of Human Life
Russian outrage over the Kursk disaster may signal a demand for a new value
By Andrew Nagorski
Five years ago, I accompanied several former Soviet political prisoners
as they revisited a part of the infamous Gulag—the labor camps near Perm in
the Urals, where they had spent many excruciating years. Near Perm-35, one
of the most notorious camps that was still operational, our bus stopped at
a makeshift cemetery.
IT WAS A SORRY sight. Crude wooden markers had tumbled into tall
weeds, and those that were standing bore only a number, not a name—the
ultimate sign of how a prisoner became anonymous, invisible. The survivors
stood there silently, each realizing that one of those markers could have
been his. They, too, could have disappeared without a trace, or at most
recalled by a numbered post.
It’s a measure of how much Russia has changed that the entire country
is reliving the tragedy of the Kursk because a note was found on the body
of Lt. Capt. Dmitry Kolesnikov. Thanks to the media that haven’t yet
buckled under government pressure, the submariners haven’t slipped silently
into the deep—as they would have in an earlier era. Their faces, and those
of their grieving loved ones, fill TV screens and the front pages. But
Russia has always been marked by callousness on a stupefying scale when it
comes to the loss of human life, and President Vladimir Putin’s response to
the disaster was very much in that tradition. His initial refusal to call
for outside help, coupled with his apparent lack of concern for the
families until he was shamed into meeting them, was all of a piece. The new
Russia may be a place where most lives are lost by accident rather than
design, but the ethos of human expendability remains deeply ingrained,
particularly in the KGB-schooled leadership.
The origins of these attitudes aren’t hard to trace. Under the tsars,
life for many subjects was nasty, brutish and short, but repression was
amateurish compared with what followed. By conservative estimates, Stalin’s
victims numbered at least 20 million, 12 million of whom died in the Gulag.
As the Soviet Union began to implode, there were hopeful signs—attempts to
rescue those who perished from their anonymity. Starting with glasnost in
the late 1980s, an outpouring of new memoirs, revelations and articles
offered a fuller view of the horrors than ever before. In 1991 three young
people were killed trying to block the Army from helping communist
hardliners mount their aborted putsch; Muscovites honored their sacrifice
with tributes, flowers and impromptu memorials. The new era seemed to
promise a new respect for human life.
That optimism evaporated quickly. In 1993 the same Boris Yeltsin who
had stopped the tanks from going into action against his supporters two
years earlier shelled a rebellious Parliament into submission. More than
100 people died, and the building was left a charred ruin. A year later
Russian troops launched the first war in Chechnya that cost thousands of
lives on both sides. In the fall of 1999, a series of bombings of Russian
apartment buildings killed about 300 people. Putin, who was prime minister,
blamed Chechen terrorists. He then began the second bloody war against the
Chechens, whipping up the popular support that propelled him to the
presidency. But this chain of events prompted press speculation that the
FSB, the successor to the KGB, may have planted the bombs itself—a charge
Putin heatedly denies. Whatever the truth of the matter, many Russians
believe that their leaders are still very capable of making such brutal
And why not? Brutality remains a commonplace fact of Russian life. The
demoralized, underpaid Army is a dangerous institution, with or without a
war to fight. Hundreds of new recruits die each year at the hands of more
seasoned soldiers and officers who torture and beat them, justifying their
actions as hazing. “They broke my nose twice, they beat my head against a
wall and a chair,” Kostya Lavrov, an 18-year-old recruit, wrote to his
mother. “Mom, do anything you can to get me out of here.” His letter
reached its destination only after his badly bruised body arrived in a
coffin, with the explanation that he had committed suicide. The lawlessness
spills over to civilian life as well. On a per capita basis, Russia now has
nearly three times as many murders as the United States—a country that has
a justifiable reputation for violence.
Other deaths result from sheer carelessness. Safety measures were
virtually nonexistent during the Soviet era, prompting huge numbers of
rarely reported industrial accidents. The Kremlin also spent less and less
on its “nonproductive” health system, which was one reason for a remarkable
trend revealed by Western demographers: in the 1970s the Soviet Union
became the first industrialized country in the world to experience rising
infant mortality and declining life expectancy. (Today life expectancy for
Russian men hovers around 60.) Women had little access to birth control,
but free access to abortions—on average, undergoing six to eight abortions
apiece, often resulting in uterine damage. Appalling hospital conditions
and chronic food shortages also contributed to these trends. In the new
Russia, the wealthy can get excellent medical care, but the public-health
crisis has only deepened. And in many factories the old, unsafe equipment
has deteriorated even further.
To be sure, ordinary Russians are responsible for some of their own
problems. Self-destructive behavior—particularly heavy drinking—hasn’t
changed much since the Soviet era. Those who drink themselves into oblivion
seem to be saying: why should I value my life when nobody else does? Maybe
the outrage against Putin’s handling of the Kursk disaster signals a
willingness of many Russians to demand a different value system. But the
pessimists don’t give them much of a chance of succeeding. And, as the old
Soviet saying puts it, a pessimist is a well-informed optimist.
Russian Waterways Contaminated
November 1, 2000
By DAVID BRISCOE
WASHINGTON (AP) - Dangerous radioactivity has been found in waterways flowing
from a Russian nuclear complex in Siberia at levels higher than would come
from 10,000 commercial nuclear reactors, U.S. and Russian nuclear watchdog
groups said Wednesday.
``We were shocked at the levels of contamination,'' said Tom Carpenter,
director of the Government Accountability Project's office in Seattle, Wash.,
who helped conduct tests of water in the Tom and Romashka rivers.
The groups reported evidence that pollution from the Siberian Chemical
Complex constitutes the largest nuclear river contamination anywhere in the
world. They demanded an immediate end to dumping of nuclear waste from the
complex, site of secret nuclear weapons development during the Soviet years
and where an explosion spread radioactivity in 1993.
Carpenter said in an interview that levels were too high to have originated
at a nuclear power plant or normal reprocessing activities and suggested the
possible presence at the site of an unacknowledged nuclear weapons-grade
reactor or giant nuclear accelerator.
The exact source of the radioactivity was not determined during testing in
August by environmentalists from the U.S. group and the Siberian Scientists
for Global Responsibility, he said. The Government Accountability Project is
a nongovernmental legal and environmental group that watches the nuclear
industry and defends nuclear whistle-blowers. The Siberian group is a
nongovernmental organization that monitors nuclear pollution.
Calling the radioactive problem ``out of rational control,'' the groups also
urged the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, to send an
emergency response team to cordon off areas of high contamination and
determine the level of danger to humans from food contamination.
Carpenter said scientists took samples in areas of cattle-grazing and
fishing. He showed a picture of fish that registered with levels of
radioactivity more than 20 times normal and said it would be harmful if it
The analyses showed strontium 90 in plant life along the Romashka River of
10,000 picocuries per liter, the report said. The permissible level for U.S.
drinking water is 8 per liter. Dangerous levels of phosphorous 32 also were
found, it said.
``The magnitude of the reported ... release of beta radioactivity to River
Tom is staggering,'' the report said, many times greater than other known
nuclear pollution problems in Russia or pollution of the Columbia River from
the Hanford, Wash., nuclear reservation.
The conclusions were based on laboratory examination of samples conducted in
Russia, Canada and the United States, Carpenter said.
Findings were presented at a news conference by Carpenter and Norm Buske, a
physicist and oceanographer with the watchdog group who said the nuclear
waste was being ``straight-piped'' into the environment.
``This has not been done anywhere in the world since the Cold War,'' Buske
Local residents call the Siberian complex ``the largest and greatest nuclear
facility in the world.'' During Soviet times it featured five nuclear
reactors and produced weapons-grade plutonium. Two nuclear reactors continue
to produce electrical power for surrounding communities, but they could not
account for the extreme radiation levels, Buske said.
November 2, 2000
GAO Report Finds Aid To Russia Had Only Mixed Results
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Financial aid sent to Russia by international donors
has had only limited success in fostering its transition toward a market
economy, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) study.
Compiled at the request of House Banking Chairman James Leach, R-Iowa, the
report covers ground well covered in investigations by the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and others, and its findings will surprise few.
"The overarching lesson is that without some degree of consensus and
political commitment within Russia, the impact of assistance programs on
political and economic reforms is limited," the GAO said in a draft version
of the report.
"The immense challenge of Russia's transition to a market economy and
democratic society was underestimated by the international community and by
Russians, and the transition will clearly take longer than initially
expected," GAO said.
GAO recommended that future programs be structured for longer-term
involvement in Russia, and directed more at building grassroots support for
development of Russian institutions vital to a market economy.
Although Congress has been a vocal critic of international financial
institutions, the report in a way validates the approach to Russian reform
taken by the IMF and World Bank since Russia's financial meltdown in the
summer of 1998.
The Bank, with its focus on poverty reduction and project-oriented structural
reform, has provided the bulk of assistance since 1998. Economists at both
the World Bank and the Fund have stressed the need for Russia to establish
rule of law and a court system, as well as a functioning banking system and
an end to barter payments.
The five institutions and donors reviewed in the report provided about $66
billion to restructure the country's economy through September 1998, and
includes the IMF, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development, the U.S. government, and the E.U. Technical Assistance Program.
This amount compares with about $700 billion spent by the German government
in eastern Germany since 1989, and international assistance to Poland of
about $50 billion between 1990 and 1999.
While the degree to which the international community could influence Russia
is subject to debate, western encouragement for the government to privatize
large firms did quickly contribute to concentration of power and income into
the hands of a small group who had an interest in preventing reform, the GAO
Also, the lack of pressure for a social safety net to cushion the impact of
economic restructuring on the poor hurt public support for reform.
But efforts were not entirely wasted, GAO said.
"The Russian government's recent development of a long-term economic program
demonstrates its capacity to seriously evaluate and debate the economic
policy choices the country faces," GAO said. "Donors can take some credit for
helping develop this capacity."
November 2, 2000
DEFENSE DOSSIER: Afghan Conflict Revisited
By Pavel Felgenhauer
In February 1989, the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan f withdrawing from
the troubled land where the Soviet empire fought and lost its final war. Now
Russia is back again supporting its former foe, mujahedin commander Ahmad
Shah Masood, who is fighting the radical Sunni-Moslem Taliban movement that
controls more than 90 percent of the country.
For years now, all foreign powers have officially denied that they are
supplying the warring Afghan factions. But last week Moscowofficially raised
its stake in the conflict when it announced a meeting between Masood and
Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
Of course, Russian officials have secretly met with Masood many times before.
Russia has also been the main coordinator of the multinational effort to
boost the anti-Taliban forces for years. After the Taliban captured the
Afghan provinces bordering Iran in 1997 and sealed a noninterference
agreement with Turkmenistan, Iranian weapons supplies to Masood and other
anti-Taliban forces have been channeled by the Russian secret services
through Central Asia.
Sergeyev's meeting with Masood is a clear signal that Russian involvement in
Afghanistan is no longer a covert operation. This diplomatic demonstration
was also backed with barely disguised military support. State-owned ORT
television this week showed footage from Afghan territory controlled by
Masood in which anti-Taliban forces can be seen using newly painted f Russian
military style f Grad multiple-rocket launchers to lob missiles at Taliban
The same ORT report also showed Masood's troops being supported by
Russian-made military helicopters. Of course, all warring factions in
Afghanistan have for years been been using old Soviet military equipment that
was left behind when the Red Army withdrew. But most of Masood's present
arsenal as shown by ORT did not seem to be of that vintage. On the contrary,
it appeared to have been supplied just days ago directly from Russian army
It has already been reported that Russian military instructors are deployed
in Afghanistan and are training Masood's fighters to use their
Russian-supplied heavy weapons. Most likely the rebel-controlled helicopters
that ORT filmed this week are actually being flown by Russian pilots. It's
also reasonable to suppose that these helicopters operate out of Russian air
bases in Tajikistan, since the small mountainous region Masood controls does
not provide adequate facilities to maintain combat-ready helicopters.
By flaunting the level of Russian involvement in Afghanistan, the Kremlin is
openly challenging the Taliban: Stop trying to wipe out Masood or Russian
involvement may be escalated further. It's possible that Russia will not
confine its support of anti-Taliban forces to mere logistics, but that
Russian warplanes could begin a full-scale bombing campaign in support of
It's also important to note that Russia officially stepped up its support for
Masood just a few days after talks on Afghanistan in Moscow with visiting
U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering. It would seem that the Kremlin
first got an OK from Washington before officially disclosing the depth of its
involvement in the Afghan conflict. It is also possible that the United
States itself will take military action against the Taliban in the near
future in reprisal for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.
With the United States, Russia, the Central Asian republics and Iran all as
active enemies, the Taliban would appear to be in deep trouble. But this
grand anti-Taliban alliance is shaky: All the partners are highly suspicious
of one another; the Central Asian regimes are corrupt and inefficient;
several of Masood's field commanders have also recently changed sides after
apparently accepting bribes from the Taliban; and the minority Tajiks
supporting Masood will never win a civil war against the Taliban, which is
backed by the majority Pushtu tribes.
President Vladimir Putin has been actively promoting himself as the leader of
a crusade against Moslem radicals in Chechnya and Central Asia, and he has
been soliciting Western support. At least with regard to the Taliban, it
would appear that Washington has unofficially authorized Putin's crusade. But
if the Taliban refuse to back down and Russia is dragged into open
hostilities, Putin may find himself fighting a determined foe with no true
allies supporting him. The resulting disaster may be comparable to the Soviet
debacle of a decade ago.
Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent, Moscow-based defense analyst.
NEWSWEEK WEB EXCLUSIVE
The Record: Russian Relations
How smart were Gore’s deals with Moscow?
By Arlene Getz
October 31 — Al Gore’s hands-on experience in shaping U.S. foreign
policy was supposed to be an advantage in his race for the White House. The
vice president’s campaign staff believed that his unusually active
role—particularly as the U.S. chair of a commission on Russia’s economic
transition—would underscore the candidate’s expertise while highlighting
George W. Bush’s weaknesses. The problem for Gore: things haven’t quite
gone according to plan.
Instead of being praised for his work with the commission’s co-chair,
former Russian Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, Republicans are
accusing Gore of negotiating secret deals that flouted American laws and
allowed Russia to continue selling arms to Iran. They also charge that he
undermined Washington policy towards Moscow, turned a blind eye to Russian
corruption and missed opportunities to stabilize the country’s collapsing
But are these fair criticisms? Or are they Republican red herrings
intended to distract Gore—and the voters—in the final days of the campaign?
Mostly, it’s the latter. “The allegations that are being made are driven by
election year partisan politics,” says Jon Wolfsthal, an associate with the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “I think it’s wrong to take one
activity out of context and paint it in a partisan light.”
The GOP claims that Gore mishandled Russian policy on several fronts.
Its most-publicized charge: that Gore signed a secret 1995 agreement with
Chernormyrdin allowing Russia to continue selling weapons to Iran. The
thrust of the agreement was that while Russia would make no new arms deals
with Iran, it would be allowed to deliver already-sold items—including 160
T-72 tanks, 600 armored personnel carriers and a diesel-powered Kilo-class
submarine—by Dec. 31, 1999. In return, Washington promised not to invoke
sanctions against Moscow under a 1992 law imposing such measures against
any country that delivered advanced weapons to Iran.
Russia failed to meet last year’s deadline. And in October, Republican
lawmakers accused Gore of breaking his own 1992 law—written together with
Senator John McCain when Gore himself was still in the Senate—by not
imposing economic embargoes on Moscow. “The law requires them to use the
sanctions,” said Sam Brownback, the Republican Senator who presided over a
foreign relations committee hearing on the subject on Oct. 25. “It may be
their opinion that they don’t want to use the sanctions, but the law
Not so, argue Administration officials. John P. Barker, Deputy
Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation Controls, testified
during last week’s committee hearing that the Gore-McCain sanctions law was
not violated because the weapons Russia had sold to Iran did not meet the
definition of “advanced conventional weapons” under the Act.
McCain himself is more skeptical, describing the Administration
position as “probably false.” “Both Vice President Gore and I cited
transfers of Kilo-class sub deliveries as weapons Gore-McCain intended to
prevent,” he said in a statement on Oct. 13. “And it is highly debatable
that the other conventional weapons transfers to Iran do not amount to
destabilizing amounts of advanced weapons.”
However, at least some independent scholars disagree with McCain’s
view. “Iran does represent a potential threat to U.S. interests, but it has
not had a major conventional arms build-up or received destabilizing
transfers of advanced conventional weapons,” wrote Anthony Cordesman of the
Center for Strategic and International Studies in an Oct. 15 report. “The
violations of U.S. and Russian agreements have been minor, have had little
military meaning, and have been more technical than substantive.” Says the
Carnegie Endowment’s Wolfsthal: “There’s a very good argument that [the
sales] were militarily insignificant. These were not cutting edge weapons.
They added only incrementally to Iran’s weapons capability.”
Nor was the agreement exactly a secret. While certain details still
remain confidential, the White House held press conferences about it and
U.S. newspapers carried reports of it at the time. In addition, Barker told
the hearing, Congressional committees and interested House members received
both open and classified briefings on it several times between 1995 and
1997. “I don’t think it was meant to be a secret deal,” says Toby Gati, a
former assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research who
helped the Clinton Administration develop its Russia policy. “It was not
meant to be public because that’s how a lot of diplomacy is conducted. If
you want public diplomacy, you can go to CNN.”
What of the other GOP charges? The Speaker’s Advisory Group, a
Congressional panel led by Republican Christopher Cox, issued a September
report blaming a Gore-led “troika” for what it considered the failure of
the Clinton Administration’s Russia policy. The report is especially
critical of the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, established in 1993 to manage
a wide range of U.S.-Russia issues. “The meager accomplishments of the
Commission could hardly mask its fundamental failures,” says the report.
“Russia even today lacks the most basic elements of a free market economy;
the costs and delays from U.S.-Russian space cooperation continued to
accelerate; the “privatization” of Russia’s energy sector was becoming
criminally corrupt; and Russia was accelerating its proliferation of
Paula Dobriansky, a pro-Bush Russia expert who testified at the GOP
platform hearings on the country last June, says she believes that Gore
“frittered away” opportunities to promote Russia’s development. The
Administration has not dealt with the country’s corruption and had failed
to appreciate how its powerful Kremlin-aligned criminal syndicates could
influence Moscow politics, she says.
Dobriansky believes the Administration also erred in condoning massive
infusions of foreign aid which was neither monitored nor tracked. Bush has
backed away from his debate claim that Chernomyrdin lined his own pockets
with loans from the International Monetary Fund and the IMF says it has no
evidence of such misappropriation. Nonetheless, argues Dobriansky, that
money was “at best wasted and at worst stolen.” “I feel that the
[administration’s] handling of Russia’s economic affairs has basically been
inept,” she says. “While primary responsibility for Russia’s problems rest
with Russia’s leaders, I think that our mistakes—American mistakes—have
contributed to Russia’s economic and political problems.”
It is true that the Administration did miss some opportunities to
shore up the Russian economy before it collapsed in 1998. “There is some
deserved criticism that there was not complete vigilance in terms of
tracking every dollar,” says the Carnegie Endowment’s Wolfsthal. Still, he
argues, Gore should get some credit for the gains he did achieve. “Look at
what the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission accomplished. It eliminated nuclear
weapons from three former Soviet republics—Kazakstan, Belarus and Ukraine.
It ended up destroying hundreds of missiles capable of delivering
thousands of warheads [to the United
Administration supporters also argue that the vice president’s Russia
policy initiatives—especially the deal over arms to Iran—should be examined
in the political context prevailing at the time. Barker, the
nonproliferation expert, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that
without the Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement Iran today “would have received
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of sensitive nuclear technology and
would be well on the way to mastering the nuclear fuel cycle.” “It did not
give us everything we wanted, but it did eliminate those aspects of
cooperation with Iran that presented a clear and present danger to our
national security,” said Barker.
Gati, now a senior advisor to an international law firm, says the
Administration took the chance that the five years allotted by the
Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement on Iranian arms sales would give the Russian
economy enough time to stabilize so that would have less need for the
foreign currency generated by such sales. At the same time, the White House
also hoped Moscow could be won over to Washington’s views about the
regional threat posed by Iran. None of that has happened. But to what
extent should the vice president be held accountable for Russia’s ongoing
internal problems? “Gore was extremely conscientious in learning all he
could about Russia,” says Gati. “He understood the risks and tradeoffs he
was taking [in signing the agreement]. The problem with the deal is that
anybody who studies Russia knows that two, three, five years is an
eternity.” To Gore, at least, the debate probably feels almost that long.
CDI Russia Weekly: http://www.cdi.org/russia
Johnson's Russia List Archive (under construction): http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson
to CDI's Home Page I Return
to CDI's Library