This Date's Issues: 4621
Johnson's Russia List
5 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. The Russia Journal: Tatyana Matsuk, Life not all doom and gloom,
2. Moscow Times EDITORIAL: Putin's Cult Of Uneven Publicity.
3. Reuters: Putin sacks arms export heads, merges agencies.
4. From Al Decie.
5. Peter D. Ekman: Root of All Evil.
6. Mark Yoffe: Reply to 4613-Higgens/Song.
7. IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE: Valery Dzutsev, OSSETIANS REVIVE PAGAN RITUALS.
8. Val Samonis: Jumpstarting the "Real" Virtual Economy in Russia: Can Government Help?
9. Vremya MN: YULI VORONTSOV: "WE MADE OURSELVES DEPENDENT ON THE USA." Super-professional diplomat Yuli VORONTSOV interviewed by Stanislav KONDRASHOV.
10. The Russia Journal: Yury Sigov, The U.S. election and the ‘Russian card’
11. The Russia Journal: Piontovsky, Unified Korea is key to
12. Matthew Maly: invitation to visit a website.]
The Russia Journal
November 4-10, 2000
Life not all doom and gloom, even here
By Tatyana Matsuk
I’m a realist: you know, the one who sees light at the end of the tunnel
but knows it’s from an oncoming train. And because I know this, I can run
out of the tunnel in time to save my skin. It’s important to be a realist
in Russia. There’s a proverb here that goes: "If I’d known where I was
going to fall, I’d have laid straw."
That’s my altruistic job – to lay straw for my readers, to warn you all
that day-to-day life in Russia is like that proverbial tunnel, full of
hidden dangers that require constant vigilance.
Back when we had the debris of the Soviet Union coming down around our
ears, we had a joke about a foreigner who comes to Russia and falls into a
hole in the center of Moscow. When the rescuers pull him out, he asks
indignantly why no one had posted any red flags as a warning.
"What do you mean we didn’t post any red flags?" he is told, "When you came
into this country, didn’t you see that whopping red flag on the border?"
But, being a realist, I also know that not everything is all doom and
gloom, even in Russia. Sometimes I’ve been told I paint our life too black
and that it isn’t good to inflict such relentless bleakness on my readers.
We’re not all at war, after all, are we? Well, sometimes I wonder; but
maybe you need a bit of harrowing war to really appreciate the lulls in the
fight for survival and savor life’s little pleasures – pleasures, like even
a trip to the dentist.
Yes, I am afraid of many things, but I no longer fear dentists, for
instance. Neither do my friends and family. A nearby clinic opened in
Moscow, a place where the average Russian can get high-quality and
affordable treatment, and the average foreigner can get good treatment, but
at a higher price.
My mother had a tooth pulled just the other day. She has a mortal fear of
dentists, the kind that could give a panicked patient a heart attack. But
before getting at her teeth, the dentist took her blood pressure and gave
her some drops to keep the old ticker calm. He used a French anaesthetic,
too, and she didn’t feel a thing.
At 400 rubles, I call that service. You don’t have to queue, you don’t have
to give little presents to make sure you get a competent dentist rather
than someone who missed his vocation as a secret police torturer. Now,
that’s enough to put a healthy-toothed American-style smile on anyone’s face.
There’s also taxis, I mean the civilized kind of taxi service where you
call a polite operator and order your choice of car. Yes, this kind of
service exists in Moscow. My favorite taxi company comes on time, the cars
are clean, the drivers civil, and you don’t pay extra for the call.
But, better than the taxis are the people. Now, I’ve written, for example,
about what a selfish lot our doctors are. I’ve got bad luck that way, I
keep getting sick and encountering those who make a regular practice
deviating from the Hippocratic Oath.
But to be honest with you, some stick to the oath and deserve their fee. I
know a good Chinese doctor here in Moscow, a good Korean doctor, too. I
also know two good Russian doctors. So, there is hope yet for the medical
profession in this country.
I’ve also written some critical things about our service sector, about
shops and the people who work in them. But here, too, I have to admit that
there are good, honest salespeople out there.
To get back to my mother, she is just charmed by this guy who sells her
fruit. He’s a big man, the kind you’d be afraid of in a dimly lit alley,
though my mother calls him "the little fellow." That’s how lovably friendly
he is. And even the bags he puts his fruit in aren’t just any old bags.
They have pictures of fruit drawn on them. It’s a nice little touch. You
can order fruit from him ahead of time, he won’t lie about the quality, and
if you don’t like something, he’ll give you your money back.
So there I go, eating my old, bleak words. But don’t worry, there’ll be
more clouds, and more silver linings. Take it from me, I’m a realist.
(Tatyana Matsuk is a regular columnist for The Russia Journal and a former
researcher for the Russian Academy of Sciences.)
November 4, 2000
EDITORIAL: Putin's Cult Of Uneven Publicity
One can't help feeling just a little sorry for Vladimir Putin. We're not sure
how the president feels about having a walking tour created in the Pskov
region in his honor, or what his reaction was to having a book on children's
rights annotated with such revealing hagiographic details as the fact that
Putin doesn't smoke, or what his schoolmates thought of him as a child.
But we're willing to believe that he would be perhaps a tiny bit embarrassed
by the out-and-out hero worship displayed by both Leonid Panov, head of the
Museum of Regional Studies in Izborsk, and the St. Petersburg branch of the
Unity faction, who sponsored the publication of the children's book.
What's next, we ask ourselves? Are more "Putin Was Here" tours on the way?
Roll up, roll up, see the place where the president paused for thought in
Arkhangelsk! Gaze in reverence at the plate Putin ate breakfast off of in
Or will the next round of devotion be something more in the spirit of a cult
of personality, such as a statue f probably astride a horse, if it is crafted
in St. Petersburg?
The "love thy president" manifestations to date hardly constitute a cult of
personality, of course: The Kursk disaster didn't make much of a dent in
Putin's approval ratings, but the flak the president had to endure for a week
or so would never have happened had he been considered flawless.
Nonetheless, if the president is a little uneasy at the kind of publicity
he's getting in Izborsk, he has only himself and his PR gurus to blame for
the kind of publicity they themselves put out before the election in March.
Putin in a fighter jet; Putin in a judo costume; Putin whizzing down the
piste; Putin "wiping out the bandits in the outhouse." The whole idea behind
this publicity campaign was to dispel his gray, faceless image f as a former
secret agent and unknown bureaucrat f and to project him onto the nation's
consciousness with nonstop wall-to-wall coverage of his manly exploits beamed
into 100 million homes.
This, you may remember, got his opinion poll ratings from single digits to a
first-round victory at the polls. So it is hardly surprising that one or two
people have swallowed the message just a little too hard.
What would be really worrying would be if Izborsk experienced mass
pilgrimages of acolytes desperate to drink at "Putin's well." Although there
weren't many on a cloudy day this week. (Mind you, they spent millions on
EuroDisney, and nobody went there, either.)
Putin sacks arms export heads, merges agencies
MOSCOW, Nov 4 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin dismissed the heads of two
arms export agencies in one of Russia's most lucrative export sectors and
merged the two bodies under a new director.
A series of presidential decrees said Alexei Ogaryov had been dismissed as
head of the Rosvooruzhyoniye agency as had Sergei Chemezov of Promexport.
The newly created body, named Rosoboronexport, is to be headed by Andrei
Belyaninov -- previously Chemezov's deputy.
Putin chaired a Kremlin meeting on Saturday of government officials, but
there was no indication whether the shake-up had been discussed.
On Friday, the Kremlin press service said he had met Ogaryov, but a report on
the meeting by Itar-Tass news agency focused on increases in
Rosvooruzheniye's orders and sales.
ORT public television suggested Putin took the action after being told of how
the functions of the two agencies were overlapping. Private NTV suggested
that Ogaryov had been replaced because he was seen as being too close to the
previous administration of ex-President Boris Yeltsin.
The notion of merging the agencies had been under discussion for several
weeks with the stated aim of streamlining policy.
A discussion on the matter late last month at a meeting of a government
commission failed to win the necessary support.
The AVN Military News Agency said this week that four heads of
Rosvooruzheniye had been replaced in the last three years and various
agencies had undergone mergers and splits in the past decade.
Ogaryov had gone on record as opposing the merger, saying a big monopoly
would prove unwieldy.
He told reporters last month that Rosvooruzheniye's exports this year would
amount to $2.95 billion of a total $4 billion exports.
He said the portfolio of the company's foreign orders exceeded $10 billion
and that was likely to increase with new contracts, citing in particular
Promexport has dealt primarily with smaller contracts.
From: "Al Decie" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: from Al Decie
Date: Sat, 04 Nov 2000
I wanted to thank the JRL readers who have offered advice and
expressed their concerns both on the list and to me individually.
Regarding the suggestion to expeditiously end this ordeal by illegally
leaving Russia. Though I believe such a suggestion was made with good
intentions, I do not really consider it an option. Up to this point, I have
not broken Russian law and I do not plan to do so. For the last four
months, my supporters and I have repeatedly asked from Russian authorities
to respect Russian and International law. I cannot do any less.
Furthermore, all of my work here in Russia has been focused on development
of civil society and rule of law. What sort of example would I be to my
colleagues in Siberia if I now did not practice what I worked on with them?
From: "Peter D. Ekman" <email@example.com>
Subject: Root of All Evil
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2000
If I'd been able I would have asked that you not
post my article from the Moscow Times "Passport are the
Root of All Evil." It contains 2 errors of fact, for which I
apologize, and I've gotten several e-mails attacking it as
"American arrogance" toward Russia.
I don't consider the article to be anti-Russian, but
it is not a gentle, reasoned piece. Rather it was a blunt
instrument intended to show both Russian and Americans that
they many of them have completely different ideas on internal
passports and the role of government in society.
The errors of fact were 1) the proposed law on internal
passports is contained in the Administrative Code, not the Civil
Code, and 2) the Federation Council has actually sent the law
back to the Duma, for which I congratulate them. Nevertheless,
I doubt that the law requiring Russians to carry internal passports
will soon change.
The attacks on the article tend to say that America has many
problems, is materialistic, etc. Since I didn't address these questions
in the article, I can only interpret the attacks as extreme sensitivity
to an American criticizing Russia. One point in the attacks that makes
more sense is that Germany has an internal passport system and
presumably is a "normal" country. I won't argue that Germany isn't
normal, but I will say that it would have been easier for the German
government to have a healthy relationship to its people if it didn't have
internal passports. I'll also mention that the genocides of the 30's and 40's
in both the USSR and Nazi Germany were made easier by the
internal passport systems that both countries had.
None of the attacks criticized my main point - that the internal
passports represent the major difference between Russian and American
forms of government, e.g. 1) "When all is said and done, all these documents
mean is that bureaucrats can do whatever they damn well please - the essence
of Russian government," compared to 2) "The essence of American political
thought is that government is a necessary evil that should be given just
power to accomplish a few well-defined tasks."
Perhaps 1) is too obvious to argue with. If you think that most Russians
agree with 2), I'm afraid that you're mistaken.
I'll end with a well-known Russian saying. "Without papers, you're kaka;
with papers, you're a human being."
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2000
From: Mark Yoffe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Reply to 4613-Higgens/Song
This is a reply to Wednesday, Nov. 1 Wall Street Journal article titled: When
Russian's Sing, "Kill the Yankees," What Do They Mean? by Andrew Higgins.
These preposterous ungrateful Russkies! We introduced them to freshness of
Spearmint, thaught them to appreciate comforts of Chevrolet, showed them
use Tampax and what do we get in response? "Kill the Yankees!"
The anti-American sentiment described in the article When Russians sing,
Yankees," what do they mean? by Andrew Higgins (WSJ, Wednesday Nov. 1,
page) should first of all be attributed not to xenophobic hysteria within some
elements of Russian rock community, but to a greater degree to the very
Russian rock counterculture as such.
Counterculture always finds its place on the other side of barricades, in
contradiction to the mainstream of social thinking, consumer behavior,
Counterculture is by its nature contrarian, likes to find its place on the
side of the conflict, aligns itself with the underdog. It also likes to
scandalize the philistines.
The songs of Russian songwriter are indeed directed not so much against
as such but more against domestic targets: Russian consumerists, pro-Western
One needs to remember that the same very anti-American rockers of today were
anti-Soviet dissidents in the years before and during Perestroika. Today
changed their targets while their nonconformist position remained the same.
There is planty of murderous passions found expressed in rock music Western as
well as Russian. Lyrics of M & M, Slayer, Napalm Death Mask are not
of messages of Christian love and forgiveness. And when Dead Kennedys sing
like: "Kill the Poor" and "Let's Lynch the Landlord" we don't forget that
dealing here with pop culture phenomenon which by its nature is prone to
hooliganism and provocation. And what is more provocative then suggesting
someone? That's the nature of rebel rock.
Or do we expect Russian rockers to rebel only against Communists while their
Western colleagues can rebel against Capitalists?
The question in the title of Higgin's article smells itself of nasty
Perhaps we should ask not what RUSSIANS mean when they sing "Kill the
what particular rockers mean by that. Otherwise it seems like the song is an
anthem for many young Russians, which is as true as Sex Pistols's "God
Queen" was an anthem for every young Englishmen.
Mark Yoffe, Ph.D. Curator, International Counterculture Archive
Slavic Librarian, The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Phone: 202 994-6303
From: Institute for War & Peace Reporting <email@example.com>
Subject: IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, NO. 56
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2000
WELCOME TO IWPR'S CAUCASUS REPORTING SERVICE, NO. 56, November 3, 2000
OSSETIANS REVIVE PAGAN RITUALS
Disenchanted by the post-Soviet wilderness, North Ossetians are eagerly
embracing the religious beliefs of their ancestors
By Valery Dzutsev in Vladikavkaz
Valery Dzutsev is the coordinator for an international NGO in North Ossetia
North Ossetia's own curious blend of Christian, Islamic and pagan beliefs -
fiercely suppressed by both the tsars and the Soviets - is experiencing a
Today many of the old practices, including animal sacrifices, are being
eagerly revived as people in the North Caucasian republic seek to fill the
spiritual vacuum left by the fall of Communism.
But many observers are wary of the religious resurgence, pointing out that,
while the rituals themselves are being observed, the moral context has
According to most historical studies, Christianity came to Ossetia via
Georgia some time between the 5th Century and the 10th Century AD. However,
over the years, the traditional Christian beliefs became intertwined with
Islamic teachings and pagan rites, creating a unique local faith which had
no equivalent across the Russian Empire.
In the 19th Century, the Russian colonial administration in the North
Caucasus set up a "Society for Christian Revival in the Caucasus" which was
aimed at eliminating pagan elements from local religious observances.
A Russian ethnographer of the day commented, "When accepting Christianity,
an Ossetian observes some of the Christian customs: he gets baptized, fasts,
sometimes goes to church and occasionally mentions the name of Christ and
the saints. But, at the same time, he celebrates his former pagan feasts,
makes sacrifices - sheep, goats, bulls - on certain days and certainly does
not consider that his ancient customs in any way conflict with the teachings
of the clergy."
When the communists came to power in 1917 and declared war on the Orthodox
Church in a bid to win over the souls of the Russian people, the Ossetians
swiftly divested themselves of the last remnants of the Christian faith and
renewed their old practices - albeit in secret. The process was accelerated
by the fact that most people associated the Orthodox Church with hated
During the Soviet era, Ossetian religious circles were marked by rampant
hypocrisy with highly placed Communist officials practising the old customs
in private whilst persecuting fellow believers in public.
Ossetia's religious community prefers to worship God, the saints and the
angels in traditional pagan settings - such as forest groves or mountain
gorges invested with mystical significance.
Many of the rituals are centred around the dining table. Toasts are drunk in
a strict order - the first to God Almighty, the second to St George and so
on, depending on the occasion. Animal sacrifices are commonplace, although,
in contrast to most pagan religions, the dead animal later becomes part of
In effect, the dining table serves as a portable place of worship for the
Ossetians. Even in the republic's towns, apartment blocks are equipped with
communal dining-halls built by local residents.
When Vladimir Odintsov, a Russian government envoy, was sent to bring law
and order to North Ossetia in 1981, one of his first acts was to demolish
the offending buildings with bulldozers. With the advent of perestroika in
1985, the Ossetians promptly rebuilt their former "temples" and today no
self-respecting block of flats is without one.
But many old believers fear that the religious renaissance currently
gripping North Ossetia is little more than a fad - the rituals have become
more elaborate than before but their moral content has been eroded.
The new worshippers are highly selective in their approach to the old ways -
ascetic practices such as fasting have been abandoned while hedonistic
rituals have been embraced with renewed enthusiasm. Prayer is little more
than an accompaniment to feasting and drinking, with an emphasis on the
latter. Being unable to respond to the spiritual challenges which face it,
Ossetia's religious legacy has been transformed into a social pantomime.
Meanwhile, local Muslims - who make up around 20-25 per cent of the
population, have mimicked this casual attitude to religious worship - they
also toast St George and eat pork on feast days.
In short, the situation mirrors many of the social phenomena in North
Ossetia today as a vulnerable society searches for a new identity.
Date: Sat, 04 Nov 2000
From: Val Samonis <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Jumpstarting the "Real" Virtual Economy in Russia: Can Government
Prof. St. Menshikov (How Important Are Reforms For Growth? Fresh Look at
"Virtual Economy" Needed) again touches upon a very important problem of
the government role in promoting growth at the current stage of reforms
in Russia and other transition economies. The discussion is not new (see
the latest major contribution: "Systemic Change in Post-Communist
Economies" edited by Paul G. Hare, Macmillan,
http://www.macmillan-press.co.uk) but is necessary still as the reality
seems to defy our understanding of the problem.
Yes, definitely, a fresh look at the virtual economy and sources of
sustainable growth and how to bring about it is needed. However,
misleading if ironic terminology like "virtual economy" (Prof. Menshikov
merely quotes others here) is not going to help understand what is
needed here, that is precisely a "real" virtual or digital economy in
Russia so that it takes advantage of the considerable technological
skills of the Russian people and comparatively high levels ot technical
education with which they can carve out their niches in the global
digital economy; for more on the nature of it, see:
But can government help jumpstart such a virtual economy?
There has been a lot of controversies in the world literature on the
relative merits of deliberate policy initiatives aimed at jumpstarting
new stages and/or modes of economic development. Most of the arguments
center around the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of “continuity”
approaches and mechanisms during the periods of revolutionary changes in
economic and business paradigms underwritten by breakthroughs in
technology, e.g. the advent of the Internet and the global digital
economy. The ineffectiveness of such “continuity” approaches is of
varying degree and sometimes, especially in more extreme cases, might be
interpreted as “market failures”.
One major line of thinking regards such policy initiatives as little
more than a creeping government interventionism leading, in extreme
cases, to costly “government failures” substituting for less costly
”market failures”. The new growth theory or rather theories (e.g.
Romer’s) present powerful arguments in favor of such policy initiatives
based on the interpretation of more and more of technological progress
as endogenous (as opposed to exogenous) in the last decades. The birth
of the Internet can well be regarded as the example in favor of such
The overarching hypothesis of my current research project is that the
issue may be more complex than somewhat oversimplified general lines of
thinking have it. On top of more theoretical research (e.g. based on new
growth theories) and the relevant argumentation advanced, the project
presents and critically analyzes experience from a number of new and old
incubators, innovation centers, etc, in such countries as Finland,
Poland, Baltics, USA, Canada. Case-study type insights are presented on
specific approaches that worked well within specific
institutional/systemic settings called policy environments. Such policy
environments (their parameters) are created mainly on the interaction of
business, government (various levels), and other elements of a civil
society in particular countries or integration groupings. Apparent
failures in this regard are presented as well. By going deeper into the
nature of policy environments (especially incentives they create), the
project attempts to contribute to the refinement of discussion on this
issue. Also, the project attempts to draw lessons for many countries but
especially for less developed countries and countries in transition like
Russia so they can learn from the already accumulated comparative
international experience and leapfrog past the very costly
Yes, a fresh look, indeed the first serious look at the virtual economy
in Russia is needed.
The Center for European Integration Studies, Bonn
November 1, 2000
[translation from RIA Novosti for personal use only]
YULI VORONTSOV: "WE MADE OURSELVES DEPENDENT ON THE USA"
Super-professional diplomat Yuli VORONTSOV interviewed by
Question: How long were you the Russian ambassador in
Answer: For nearly five years, from 1994 to January 1999.
Question: And before that you were Russia's ambassador at
the UN, right?
Answer: Yes, I moved from New York to Washington without
even going back to Moscow. On the whole, I was Russia's main
official in New York and Washington for nearly nine years.
Moreover, I spent 25 years holding various diplomatic posts in
New York and Washington.
Americans Don't Believe We Have Changed
Question: What do you think about the possible outcome of
the forthcoming presidential elections in the USA?
Answer: I asked Americans about it, and they say it is
very difficult to predict an outcome. Gore and Bush are moving
shoulder to shoulder, with the possible difference of only tens
of thousands of votes.
Question: I don't think it seriously matters to Russia who
Answer: Indeed. But still, Bush is the unknown entity. His
team knows us, and we know it. But Bush himself, what with his
character and temperament, we don't know. And it will be more
difficult for us to get used to Bush. There will be no need for
getting used to Gore. On the other hand, relations between
states do not depend only on individuals.
There will be ups and downs. Relations between our
countries will be difficult, because they somehow don't believe
us. They don't believe that we have changed, that we are going
the democratic way. They say, Your oligarchs are major crooks.
I reply, Come on, they must be your spiritual brothers. They
say, No, don't regard us on a par with them; we don't want
I can explain this major mistrust by one thing only - the
70 years of fear and hatred that they still remember.
Question: Well, this is the old foundation of mistrust.
But new floors have been built on it. What way is capitalist
development moving in Russia? The very origin of Russian
capital, and its political influence must be adding to old
Answer: They certainly do, with a vengeance. When we tell
them what we are building, they reply, looking you direct in
the eye: No, we disagree. This is not capitalism; this is
something we cannot understand. I answer: this is not
understandable not only for you but also for us. On the whole,
they are wary. And the general meaning of their attitude to us
is, Let's wait and see what happens.
Question: I have not been to the USA recently, but I had
worked there for a long time and I am still watching
developments there. And it seems to me that our relations no
longer have the old crucial element of nuclear competition, the
Answer: Seemingly, yes. But in fact, nothing has changed -
[nuclear weapons] are either buried in soil or hidden in
submarines. We are entering the new millennium with the same
old ability of liquidating each other. Nothing has changed.
There are thousands of warheads and bombs, missiles and the
like on either side. But why do we need them, if there are no
antagonistic contradictions between us? We say, Let's scrap
them. They reply, Let's do it, but not all of them. We ask, Why
not? It's calmer this way, they reply. And they want to
preserve at least 2,000 nuclear warheads. What do they need so
Question: They probably understand that we can hardly
maintain the nuclear missile parity in the current economic
situation. Besides, they claim the position of superpower - one
and only, what with their economic and military might and
budgetary possibilities. And they probably fear that we will
not be able to ensure proper maintenance of our nuclear missile
forces, or even their reduction, in the current economic chaos.
No wonder that they finance the reduction of our nuclear
Answer: I don't agree that the USA is the only superpower
now. I have always argued with the Americans, asking then what
encouraged them to think so. Let's discuss it. Why did you
recognise the Soviet Union as a superpower and named it as such
in the past? For economic reasons? Nothing of the kind.
Financial? We did not have that much money. Living standards?
Nothing of the kind. Why did you admit that we were your equal
and another superpower? For one reason only - the nuclear
Why then do you say now that there is only one superpower
now, the USA? What has changed? We still have the missiles,
they are on their sites. Reduce them? But even in this case we
will remain equal in terms of the ability to destroy each
other. So, your claim to the status of the only superpower was
premature. By the way, they accept this reasoning. When you say
this to a large audience, they start thinking, and then they
come up to you and say, You know, you are right, in general. We
still can destroy the USA within 90 minutes. It is quite
another matter that this is not a thing to do.
Question: But now that we have emerged from the nuclear
missile confrontation and the world is no longer divided into a
socialist and a capitalist camp, they can exert much stronger
influence on the world. And we depend on them in some things.
Take their dominant position in the IMF and other international
Answer: We will not depend on them if we stop dipping into
the IMF. And we must do this. We have made ourselves dependent.
Where did the IMF money go? To the budget. And what happened to
the budget? Devil only knows, as our former president said. The
money vanished "devil only knows where." We should not have
done this at all.
Question: Let's get back to Gore and Bush. Why would it be
more difficult to get used to Bush?
Answer: Republicans have some stated positions, which it
would be more difficult to deal with or accept. Take the NMD
system. Bush made it the cornerstone of his foreign policy
programme and pledged to create it. If he does, the balance of
nuclear missile forces will crumble and we will have to invest
money into other things than economy. Democrats also stated
their support for the NMD system, but their words did not carry
conviction. But Republicans have long wanted to spend one or
two hundred billion dollars on it.
We Should Look 15-30 Years Ahead
Question: You have recently voiced an interesting and
indisputable idea: Politicians live in four- to eight-year
cycles, but history has much longer cycles.
Answer: I stressed that we should look 15-30 years ahead.
What problems will we see if we do this? Today our attention is
focused on the Middle East, Europe and the Balkans. But this
will pass. There are sparkles of hope for a settlement in the
Middle East. The recent statement by Barak to the effect that
he was ready to divide Jerusalem is a very good basis for
There is fighting and clashes there now, but this will pass,
If the idea of divided Jerusalem persists, the settlement might
have a very interesting form. In this case, the situation in
the Middle East will stabilise in three to five years. And the
role of Israel as an economic factor will attract many Arabs,
so that we might get a kind of a Middle Eastern "common
market." The Balkans today, after the developments in
Yugoslavia, will calm down for awhile. Of course, the situation
in Kosovo is not quite clear. How will the Western countries
emerge from it?
For it appears that Kosovo will become independent. Serbs and
Montenegrins will not applaud this. But this will not look so
dramatic in ten years. The situation in Europe will be more or
less calm then. Of course, there will be nervous breakdowns
somewhere in Moldova - Russian troops, non-Russian troops...
But this will pass, too.
The greatest tensions are developing in Asia now. Their
weight will grow, of this I am absolutely sure. There will be
major tensions between large countries, with a large population:
China, India, as well as, to a degree, Indonesia and other
South Asian countries. Their problems lie ahead yet, what with
the growth of China's military superiority and the build-up of
India's military potential. There has never been any love lost
between them, but there were territorial clashes and major
tensions. The situation will deteriorate there.
This is why I frequently tell the Americans to look ahead.
Russia-USA relations should be developed with a view to what
lies ahead, to future problems and our ability to jointly
resolve them. We must be together, because Russia is an Asian
power and the USA is a Pacific power. And we should pool
efforts to bring tensions down, because if tensions continue to
grow, the major clashes between such large countries with
billions of population would not benefit anyone.
So, let's look ahead instead of removing or sticking
superpower and non-superpower labels. Russia is a vast country
with a major potential of influence in Asia. The USA is an
alien in Asia, anyway, and hence it should have friends or
allies in its future work in that region. This is why I say
that in 15-30 years we will be able to seriously help each
But the trouble is that the Americans cannot look that far
ahead. They physically cannot do this; their policy is always
based on short periods of four to eight years. And what will
happen after that? They openly say: After that we will have a
new president and a new administration, and it will be their
task to think. Incredible! A large country, it calls itself the
world leader but does not want to look ahead.
Question: Regrettably, we cannot look ahead very well
either. Take Asian problems. We are partly an Asian state, what
with the vast territory located there. But the number of
population [in our Asian part] is so small, and it keeps
dwindling, that the pressure of our southern neighbour, China,
is growing on Russia, both objectively and subjectively.
Answer: But we have a potential there that the Americans
do not have. We have not yet grasped the full meaning of that
potential. And certain possibilities for joint operation and
the use of resources to the benefit of both Russia and Asian
countries can play their role, too. If they [Asian countries]
are hungry for some resources, we can retarget our attention to
the economic side, to the Asian economic market, without giving
them control, of course, but by involving them in joint work.
Question: Right, but this presupposes persistent work on
our part, and long-term planning, which is still lacking. We
are very much like a dog in the manger sometimes, although this
is a harsh, unpleasant and even denigrating comparison. That
is, we have a small population but vast natural resources. Yet
we are not trying hard enough to attract others to pool
Answer: We are moving in the right direction. Imagine
joint projects with Japan, with its capital and abilities to
work, and our natural resources. Or the construction of gas
pipelines to China and further on. Why not? And we should also
work on the Asian economic community. By the way, we have
better minds than the Americans do. We have quite a few
research institutes, although many of them have been left in
the lurch or closed. We have good specialists of Asia,
including China and India. We can elaborate our ideas better
than the Americans do. Long ago, back at the time of the old
Russian school of Oriental studies, these ideas were not
limited to the rule of one leader. Our scientists looked
broader and further, in terms of historical perspective.
If we could rally the best minds and think what we should do
Business Is Worthless in a State Kicked by Everyone
Question: But to mobilise the best minds, we need, among
other things, a strong and effective state, which we,
regrettably, do not have now, although the goal of creating it
on a new foundation has been set. And we should also have an
effective economic system, when concerned people would be able
to organise everything you mentioned.
Answer: This will become possible, if we move over to
private business, if we encourage our businessmen to stop
running around and doing God knows what and start working in
the vast Asian part of the country, producing resources,
creating jobs and building new cities. Let the private business
learn to work in its own country. It is very bad that our
businessmen have not seen this truth yet, but maybe this is
because we have just started moving.
They [Russian businessmen] should work here, in their own
country, for a long time. The transfer of capital to foreign
banks, in the USA or Switzerland, is not a proper thing to do.
Money must be invested in one's own country. Money should be
invested in ex-Soviet republics. I still cannot understand why
we deserted them. We had established contacts there, we know
them well, and we have related enterprises there. Why don't we
invest money there? Why did we run away from them? And where
are we running? Probably because our businessmen are still very
young and green, and they don't understand many things.
They don't see the importance of strengthening the state.
Business can prosper only in a strong state. Business is
worthless in a state that is weak and kicked by everyone. We
should teach these young people to think broadly. They are
young, energetic and can really do some things very well. But
they are mostly working for themselves, without seeing the
Snatch something and forget about the world around you: Go away
from me; don't touch me. It will probably take some time for
them to see what lies under their feet.
Question: I know that you are working to implement the
idea of a Russo-American business council. What is it?
Answer: Yes, we are trying to do this. I saw during the
last few years of my work as ambassador in Washington that a
comparison of what American businessmen were doing in Russia
with what Russian businessmen were doing was not in our favour.
Despite their natural loyalty to the idea of private ownership
and private interest, the Americans can, when necessary, see
the necessity and the benefits of uniting, forming a group and
attaining a goal as a group. Our businessmen cannot do this yet.
Each of them still wants to grab something for himself and run.
The Americans have created an American-Russian Business
Council, which includes some 400 American companies who want to
work in Russia. They have an office here in Moscow, the
American Chamber of Commerce. Roughly 200 companies are working
energetically, while the other 200 have only their
representatives in the chamber, who sit in Moscow waiting for
the emergence of proper conditions for their operation in
There are organisations that unite them. We have nothing of the
kind. And this is why each of our businessmen is individually
trying to establish contacts with the USA, thinking that he can
move mountains alone -- without knowing the specifics of the US
market, legislation and so on.
This is why, when I was still the ambassador in
Washington, I persistently suggested rallying our young
businessmen in a kind of organisation, where they would
exchange experience and use state assistance when they need to
Question: Did you find fertile soil for that idea?
Answer: Yes, I did. We have established the Russo-American
Business Council of 50 companies, large ones. These are space,
oil and gas companies (like Gazprom), machine-building and
metallurgical companies, in short everyone who wants to work
with the USA. And they have seen the worth of the idea, because
some of our enterprises have stumbled across American laws and
other barriers. And they see now that they need assistance and
joint efforts. We have created the trusteeship council, which
several ministers and representatives of the presidential staff
We have ensured the support of the president and the
government, which issued special instructions entrusting the
Russo-American Business Council to act as a consultative agency
on questions of economic relations between our countries. This
is good. The next step we should make, and which I regard as
very important, is to attract not just large companies, but
also our regional economic organisations. Our regions know even
less about the specifics of working on the American market.
They need assistance.
* * *
Yuli VORONTSOV, born into the family of a naval officer in
Leningrad on October 7, 1929, graduated from the Moscow State
Institute of International Relations in 1952, worked in the
Soviet mission at the UN in New York, took part in the Geneva
talks on banning nuclear testing and on disarmament. In
1977-78, he led the Soviet delegation at the Belgrade meeting
on security and cooperation in Europe. He was the Soviet
Ambassador to India in 1978-83 and the Soviet Ambassador to
France in 1983-86. In 1986-90, he was first deputy foreign
minister of the Soviet Union, and in 1990-94, the Ambassador of
the Soviet Union and Russia at the UN. In 1994-99, he was
Russia's Ambassador to the USA. He retired last year and became
the special representative of the UN Secretary General in
Russia and the CIS, as well as (by decision of the UN Security
Council) high-level coordinator on disputes between Kuwait and
The Russia Journal
November 4-10, 2000
The U.S. election and the ‘Russian card’
Latest round of Russophobia just doesn’t get voters excited
By Yury Sigov
(Yury Sigov is Washington bureau chief for Noviye Izvestia and a regular
columnist for The Russia Journal.)
WASHINGTON – The Russian card, which was almost forgotten here since the
Bank of New York corruption scandal faded away, surfaced again in the
The anti-Russian report by a Republican congressman, accusations that
Victor Chernomyrdin stole IMF loans to Russia, and tales of Moscow-Tehran
secret arms deals supposedly arranged by the White House (the American one,
not the Russian) are the key points of the new Russian attack prepared by
The assault, of course, was not fuelled by any dislike of Russians, but
simply as a way of boosting George W. Bush Jr.’s presidential campaign.
However, it would be an exaggeration to think that this Russian card – both
on corruption and illegal deals – can make any significant impact on the
Nov. 7 U.S. presidential election. If one reads the Russian media, it looks
as if the "Russia topic" is the most important issue in the American
presidential fight. The view from here shows it’s definitely not.
According to recent polls, only 3 percent of the U.S. electorate is
concerned about the topic of Russian corruption, mysterious Chernomyrdin
accounts somewhere in Switzerland and the hard-to-follow arms deals between
Russia and Iran.
Meanwhile, the Middle East crisis is important for 11 percent of voters,
and Yugoslavia for about 4 percent. All other international (including
Russian) factors are of no interest at all for the vast majority of the
At the same time, the rights of national minorities are important for 14
percent of voters, issues regarding abortion and the improvement of medical
assistance for 16 percent, and better access to education for 24 percent.
It means that the Russian topic, if it exists here at all, is important
just for the Russian media and several long-forgotten Russian politicians.
It basically means nothing to any Tom, Dick or Harry in Oklahoma or
Nebraska who couldn’t even find Russia on a map.
As far as U.S. politicians are concerned, brandishing the Russian card is a
ritual political action rather than a matter of principle. Do you think
Republicans really care about the country’s failed policy toward Russia
other than to use it to score points against the Clinton-Gore
administration? If Republicans can exchange those lost billions of dollars
sent to Russia over the past decade into a few extra votes on Nov. 7,
they’ll do it.
And if they can’t fault the administration on the booming economy, they can
blame it for allowing Russia to steal and embezzle U.S. taxpayers’ money.
However, both Democrats and Republicans are criticizing Russia in a
somewhat lazy way, and it doesn’t surprise me.
Democrats have been directly involved in distributing billions of dollars
of assistance and aid to Russia all these years, so they are not really
interested in displaying the Russian card in the media.
However, it would be a mistake to think the Republicans were much better in
their Russia position. If one remembers how many of these billions have
been allocated to Russia through the supposedly anti-Russian minded
Congress, it would be clear that members of the GOP themselves played a
hand in this illicit enrichment of top Russian politicians with
The Americans long ago calculated that nine out of every 10 U.S. dollars
allocated for foreign aid come back to the States in one way or another. It
is true that some Russian officials definitely got some bargains from this
American assistance. However, the number of U.S. officials from different
foundations, groups and NGOs who enriched themselves through friendly
cooperation with Russia was much larger, both numerically and in dollar terms.
Debating how many people in Russia stole U.S. money is entertaining
business for a very limited group of people in the States. It’s no surprise
that ordinary American voters didn’t pay attention to the Russian topic
brought to them first by candidate Bush ("Chernomydin stole the IMF
billions"), and later by the Republicans ("Gore’s secret deal with Russia
on arms trade to Iran").
Everyday Americans are much more concerned about what the candidates are
going to do with growing domestic inflation, education woes, crime or
whether to allow official marriages for gays and lesbians.
Those Russian politicians who worry that they may become media items in the
United States due to their alleged or real involvement in various scandals,
deals and other events, can relax. Those old shouts that the "Russians are
coming" – or today’s version, the "Russians are stealing" – don’t get
Americans very excited.
The Russia Journal
November 4-10, 2000
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Unified Korea is key to stability
By Andrei Piontkovsky
The decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to South Korean President Kim
Dae-Jung came as deserved recognition of this outstanding man’s entire
political life. Kim Dae-Jung is of the rare breed of idealist-politician
who has always upheld the principles of freedom, democracy and human
dignity. Among heads of state, the only person who can compare with him is
probably Vaclav Havel.
But this is a prize awarded also for the future. The unavoidable
unification of the two Koreas, the first step toward which was made by the
June 15 South-North Joint Declaration, is important in itself, above all
for the future of a divided people. But it also has much deeper
implications for future security arrangements for the whole region of
North-East Asia. Korean unification won’t take place in an abstract
geopolitical vacuum, but in a region that is a meeting point for the key
interests of such nations as China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
Moreover, it seems to me that the relations to be formed in the coming
century between these countries and a new player – unified Korea – will
have to be a defining factor in the long-term global geopolitical
structure. Russia’s survival in the coming century depends on whether it
can hold onto its position in the region and keep hold of eastern Siberia
and the Far East. It’s not a matter of potential military threat to Russia.
The matter is that if current trends continue, Russia will lose these
territories, first economically then demographically.
The still-growing giant, China, will have to define its place in the system
of international relations. And the world’s only superpower, the United
States, will have to decide what kind of relations it seeks with China –
strategic partnership, strategic competition or something else.
Strategists in different countries are trying to come up with, or forecast,
various geopolitical combinations that could emerge as a result of
developments in the region. Two concepts are worth a further look.
One of them is fairly consistently set out in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s book
"The Grand Chessboard." Brzezinski’s starting point is that America will
not be able to keep carrying for long the burden of being the only
superpower. What he puts forward is the model of a condominium of two
superpowers – the United States and what he calls "Great China," that is,
China plus its zone of influence, which includes Japan, the Korean
peninsula and two of three states (Siberia and the Far East) to form out of
What’s interesting is that this model for geopolitical division of the
world reproduces almost exactly the bipolar global model of the second half
of the 20th century (the Soviet Union – America), only with China replacing
the Soviet Union.
Russia’s political class, on the other hand, is very taken by the idea of
strategic partnership with China. The idea is being forced down China’s
throat at every opportunity, be it at official level or during informal
discussions among experts. China has shown a cool reaction to these
overtures, always emphasizing the independence of its foreign policy and
its wish not to bind it exclusively to the interests of any one country.
The Russian political class’s obsession with the idea of strategic
partnership with China is deeply psychological in nature and is a traumatic
reaction to defeat in the Cold War and dissatisfaction with the post-Cold
War relationship with the West.
In trying to give an anti-American color to a Russian-Chinese partnership,
supporters of the idea neglect two simple questions: Does China want this
kind of alliance? And what would be Russia’s role in it?
Both of the above-mentioned geopolitical concepts are to a large extent
produced by the inertia of Cold War-era political thought. The multipolar
world concept is burdened with the same Cold War heritage. The idea, which
rejects the notion of unipolarity, is different only in that it would
extend the list of privileged nations from one superpower to five or six
"poles," dividing the world into spheres of influence. A concept closer to
the realities of the modern world is that of "global diversity," based on
naturally emerging powers instead of pre-chosen "poles" able to contribute
to the development of this or that region.
The diplomatic support of four countries (China, Japan, Russia and America)
for the two Koreas’ efforts to draw closer together and eventually unite
will not only help the Korean people fulfill their historical dream. For
the countries involved, this whole process will be something of a "case
study" enabling the principles of global diversity to be defined and laid
down – a long-term and sustainable system of mutual relations in this most
dynamic region of the world.
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research.)
From: "Matthew Maly" <email@example.com>
Subject: invitation to visit a website
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2000
I would like to invite JRL readers to visit my website
It is dedicated to discussion of my book How to Make Russia a Normal
Country. While this book is in Russian, the site also contains two short
Understanding Russia and
Understanding Soviet History
How to Make Russia a Normal Country (Moscow: 2000, in Russian, 320 pages)
describes and explains the unique Russian approach to law and state
building, explains the history of the Soviet period and the ideology of
totalitarianism, discusses the impact of envy and fear on Russian society,
and gives a prescription for transition to democracy and market economy in
Russia. The book will also serve as a foundation for an interactive internet
project aimed at creating a grass roots democratic movement in Russia.
CDI Russia Weekly: http://www.cdi.org/russia
Johnson's Russia List Archive (under construction): http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson
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