This Date's Issues: 4636
Johnson's Russia List
15 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Christian Science Monitor: Fred Weir, Russia's disarmament gambit.
Putin calls for bilateral reduction to 1,500 warheads by 2008 as part of military
2. Itar-Tass: Russia wants US nonstrategic weapons out of
3. Interfax: Russia's Communist Party leads in opinion poll.
4. Reuters: Russia's top media bosses in exile.
5. BBC Monitoring: Laundering of Russian funds through Swiss banks
"far larger" than thought.
6. strana.ru: Kremlin is to give presidential envoys to seven federal
districts more power to carry out economic reforms.
7. TIME EUROPE: Yuri Zarakhovich, Where the Grass Is Greener — and More
Democratic. Russia may be laughing at the American electoral mess, but the U.S. has it
8. Interfax: DUMA TO EXPRESS OPINION ON SITUATION SURROUNDING U.S.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS - DUMA OFFICIAL.
9. Reuters: Russian agriculture needs revamp to lure investors.
10. The Globe and Mail (Canada): Geoffrey York, Russia threatens
Afghan war. Strategist says it would be suicidal for Russia to take on another armed
11. eurasianet.org: Andrei Kortunov Examines Russia’s Positions
on Central Asian security.
12. strana.ru: Moscow’s new foreign policy: switching priorities
from European Union and United States to Asian countries.
13. Peter Lavelle: Florida Goes to Putin?]
Christian Science Monitor
November 15, 2000
Russia's disarmament gambit
Putin calls for bilateral reduction to 1,500 warheads by 2008 as part of
By Fred Weir Special to The Christian Science Monitor
With his country's back to the wall financially, President Vladimir Putin
is moving to reduce and modernize Russia's costly Soviet-era military
machine and proposing a radical bilateral reduction in strategic nuclear
Mr. Putin has launched a sweeping disarmament appeal that would reduce
nuclear weapons on both sides to barely a quarter of their present numbers.
The plan would have to be negotiated with the United States.
"This is not a propaganda gimmick," the independent Interfax news agency
quotes an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry official as saying. "It is an
absolutely clear and public signal given by Russia to the next US
"We have proposed to the United States to aim toward cutting the nuclear
warheads of both countries to 1,500, which is perfectly feasible by 2008,"
Putin said Monday. "But this is not the limit. We are ready in the future
to look at further reductions."
Analysts say Putin will mention the idea to President Clinton at this
week's meeting of the 21 member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, but that
his real goal is to win headlines amid the confusion of the US presidential
election. The Kremlin may be hoping the balloting imbroglio could weaken
the next US leader, whoever he is, and leave him more dependent on the good
will and initiative of established foreign leaders.
"Of course it's a propaganda ploy," says Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent
military expert. "But Putin obviously hopes he can capture the agenda, and
make some gains that might not have been possible if the American
succession were clearer."
After a decade of vacillation, cash-strapped Russia is lurching toward
radical military reform. Analysts say the internal political struggles are
over, and the Kremlin has won broad agreement on deep cuts in conventional
and nuclear forces.
"There is no real opposition anymore to the need for major military
restructuring," says Mr. Felgenhauer. "It's either that or imminent
Although awesome on paper, the Russian Army has for years failed to
suppress a separatist rebellion in the southern province of Chechnya, due
to lack of skilled manpower, inadequate equipment, and miserable morale.
The country's Soviet-era nuclear deterrent is fast approaching the end of
its operational life, and there is no money to build a new superpower-size
Last week, Putin ordered the military to cut its ranks by 20 percent within
five years. Of the 600,000 personnel to be retired, nearly a
quarter-million would be officers - including 380 generals - and another
130,000 would come from the vast Defense Ministry bureaucracy.
Under the START II treaty, ratified by the Russian parliament earlier this
year, both sides are obliged to cut their strategic forces to around 3,500
warheads. The two nuclear powers have also tentatively agreed to downsize
further, to around 2,500 warheads each, under an as-yet unfinished START
Both sides currently deploy between 6,000 and 7,000 warheads each, on
land-based missiles, bombers, and submarines. That's down from around
11,000 each a decade ago.
The debate over how to reform Russia's armed forces has been raging for
years. But the need for decisions became critical after the Kursk, an
ultra-modern nuclear attack submarine designed in Soviet times to attack
American aircraft carriers, sank during Arctic war games three months ago.
Though the cause of the explosions that destroyed the Kursk is still
unknown, experts agree that the post-Soviet malaise of underfunding,
inadequate training, and equipment shortages almost certainly played a role.
"It has become clear to our leaders that we can no longer pretend to
fulfill the Soviet Union's global mission," says military journalist
Alexander Goltz. "Those superpower symbols are very hungry, and they
swallow up all the resources that could be used to create a modern military
machine, one that would be more appropriate to Russia's real security needs
and limited means."
Russia's annual defense budget is around $5 billion, compared with almost
$300 billion for the US.
In addition to silencing military opposition to reform, Putin has
apparently won the support of Russia's powerful Communists, who had blocked
almost all reform of the military under his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
"We opposed Yeltsin-style military reforms because they played into the
hands of the United States, by agreeing to cut down our best and most
powerful weapons," says Georgy Krasheninnikov, the Communist Party's
parliamentary military expert. "But Putin is taking a rational approach. He
wants to destroy old weapons but also build smaller numbers of powerful new
ones. Everyone knows Russia can't be like the Soviet Union any more. We
will support Putin's efforts if they make Russia a strong, modern power
that's capable of deterring potential enemies."
The main sticking point is an on-again, off-again American plan to build a
national missile-defense network that could shoot down attacking rockets in
flight. Moscow says the scheme would undermine three decades of arms
control and force Russia to respond by building its own anti-missile system
or deploying sufficient numbers of new offensive weapons to overwhelm the
American defense shield.
In fact, Russia simply cannot afford either alternative. "If we cannot
bring the Americans around to joint action, Russia will probably have to
disarm unilaterally," says Alexander Pikayev, an expert with the Carnegie
Endowment in Moscow. "The level of 1,500 warheads is about the maximum
amount Russia could afford to sustain."
Clinton has left any decision on the nuclear missile defense shield to his
The Kremlin is already signaling the next president, whoever he turns out
to be, inviting him to join a politically popular common disarmament effort
rather than risk his tenuous mandate in a long, acrimonious dispute with
Moscow over who killed arms control.
Russia wants US nonstrategic weapons out of Europe
Moscow, 14th November: "The Russian initiative to reduce radically nuclear
arsenals also stipulates negotiations on a pullout of US nonstrategic nuclear
weapons from Europe," the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's department
for security and disarmament, Yuriy Kapralov, told a news conference here on
Tuesday [14th November]. He said that Russia had unilaterally reduced its
stockpiles of such weaponry. "Experience of the past decades shows that such
weapons can play a decisive role on the European continent," he noted...
"Russia needs no confrontation. It comes out for the reduction of strategic
nuclear forces to 1,500 warheads," Kapralov stressed. "Moreover, several
Russian initiatives are intended to demilitarize the outer space (a large
international conference on this problem will be held in Moscow next year),
to establish global control over missile weapons and technologies. Not fully
assessed so far was the statement by President Putin, offering to create a
fuel cycle based on the use of weapons-grade nuclear materials.
Implementation of this Russian initiative will contribute to global stability
and to the reduction of the arsenals of strategic weapons."
Russia's Communist Party leads in opinion poll
Moscow, 14th November: Russia's Communist Party (CPRF) would win more votes
than any other group if parliamentary elections were held next Sunday, an
opinion poll suggests.
The CPRF would receive 37 per cent of the vote, the All-Russia Public Opinion
Research Centre studies group said in a report obtained by Interfax on
Tuesday [14th November].
The Unity party, led by Sergey Shoygu, would win 21 per cent, the Right
Forces Union of Boris Nemtsov and Irina Khakamada 11 per cent and Grigoriy
Yavlinskiy's Yabloko 9 per cent of votes.
Vladimir Zhirinovskiy's Liberal Democratic Party would receive 6 per cent,
Alevtina Fedulova's Women of Russia 4 per cent, Yuriy Luzhkov's Fatherland 3
per cent and Gennadiy Seleznev's Russia 2 per cent.
Nikolay Kharitonov's Agrarian Party, Aleksandr Lebed's People's Republican
Party, Viktor Chernomyrdin's Our Home is Russia and Russian National Unity
would each muster 1 per cent of the vote.
The other groups would receive a combined total of 1 per cent of votes.
Three per cent of Russians would vote against all the groups.
The research centre questioned 1,600 people, recording the answers of only
those who said they would definitely go to the polls.
Russia's top media bosses in exile
By Peter Graff
MOSCOW, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Russia's two top media bosses were both in exile
on Tuesday, refusing to come home to face prosecutors in cases they said
were aimed at extinguishing criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
Boris Berezovsky, the ultimate Kremlin insider under Putin's predecessor
Boris Yeltsin, said in a statement he had "taken the difficult decision"
not to return to Russia to answer a summons on Wednesday.
His announcement followed an arrest warrant issued on Monday for Vladimir
Gusinsky, owner of the Media-Most publishing and broadcasting empire, after
he failed to appear for questioning in a separate case. Gusinsky's lawyer
said he was "in Europe."
Gusinsky owns Russia's only independent nationwide television network,
while Berezovsky controls 49 percent of one of the two main state networks.
Both also own newspapers and other media.
"The president is trying to impose his control over the main mass media,
with the goal of setting up a regime of personal power," Berezovsky said in
GAZPROM PULLS OUT OF GUSINSKY DEAL
A last-ditch effort to secure editorial independence for Gusinsky's media
crumbled on Tuesday when gas giant Gazprom, which holds nearly $500 million
in Media-Most debt, withdrew from an out-of-court settlement.
Media-Most has said the Kremlin is trying to use the group's debt to
Gazprom to gain control over its media.
It announced a deal at the weekend that would have allowed it to clear
about half of its debt to Gazprom without losing editorial independence.
Details were supposed to be made public on Tuesday, but instead, Gazprom
said it was pulling out.
Media-Most said prosecutors had blocked the deal, which it said would also
have eliminated any criminal complaint against Gusinsky. Gazprom officials
said they concluded the deal was unlawful and decided to pull out.
Prosecutor's spokesman Leonid Troshin told Interfax news agency the
criminal proceedings against Gusinsky would have continued with or without
"The out-of-court settlement deals with $211 million of debt, while
investigators have information about fraud involving figures well beyond
that sum," he said.
Berezovsky has been summoned to answer prosecutors' questions in a case
involving alleged profit-skimming from the national flagship carrier
END OF AN ERA
The exile of Gusinsky and Berezovsky signals the end of an era in which
media barons vied for political influence.
Both financiers had actively promoted Yeltsin during his 1996 re-election
campaign. But they became bitter rivals last year.
Gusinsky's media began increasingly to criticise the Kremlin, while
Berezovsky's ORT television feverishly supported it, agitating on behalf of
Putin and his hastily assembled Unity party in the run-up to a
But after Putin was elected, the new president lashed out equally at both
men, saying Russia needed a free press, but that commercial media bosses
were jeopardising that freedom by campaigning "against the state."
Putin has said he intends to end the influence of the businessmen who
amassed their fortunes under Yeltsin, although critics charge that he has
simply rotated some out-of-favour "oligarchs" while allowing others to grow
Berezovsky suddenly split with the Kremlin shortly after Putin's
inauguration in May, criticising the president's plans to take more powers
from the regions. Berezovsky said on Tuesday his earlier support for Putin
had been "a mistake."
"He has turned the country over to secret services and bureaucrats who
strangle the freedom and initiative needed to raise Russia," his statement
"We'll leave the question of morals to the consciences of the president and
his circle -- God is their judge."
Laundering of Russian funds through Swiss banks "far larger" than thought
Text of report by Swiss Radio International's Swissinfo web site on 14th
The size of Russian funds laundered through the Bank of New York, and
transferred through Swiss accounts, has turned out to be far larger than
previously reported. During a seminar on corruption, Geneva judge, Laurent
Kasper-Ansermet, revealed that around 850m Swiss francs [SFr] (482m dollars)
had passed through bank accounts in Switzerland.
The sum greatly exceeds the SFr30m that have already been blocked in
Switzerland. It now appears that the judicial authorities in Geneva will have
to sift through thousands of banking transactions relating to hundreds of
The funds came from accounts held by three American companies, Benex, Becs
and Lowland, at the Bank of New York.
In mid-1999, it was revealed that Lucy Edwards, vice president of the Eastern
Europe division of the Bank of New York, and her husband, Peter Berlin, had
served as intermediaries in laundering funds from Russia.
According to charges filed in the US, between February 1996 and August 1999
more than SFr12bn passed through accounts that Benex, Becs and Lowland held
at the Bank of New York. The companies were fronts that were controlled by
several Russian banks, including DKB and Flamingo. The money was illegally
moved out of Russia, passed through New York, and was then distributed to
various offshore accounts.
The aim was to dodge Russian fiscal controls, circumvent currency exchange
legislation and recycle money obtained from criminal activities. Edwards and
Berlin admitted their involvement, and subsequently cooperated with the FBI.
In Geneva, a money laundering inquiry was opened in 1999, following
unsolicited offers of cooperation by about a dozen banks holding accounts
that were likely to be implicated in the scandal.
Kaspar-Ansermet, who is leading the investigation, is set once again to ask
for legal assistance from the American authorities, to determine the exact
origins of the SFr850 million that were deposited at the Bank of New York,
and which later passed through Switzerland.
The judge will have to make the distinction between criminal funds and funds
that result simply from tax evasion. The latter is not a criminal offence in
Switzerland. It will also be up to him to determine where the criminal funds
eventually ended up.
November 13, 2000
Kremlin is to give presidential envoys to seven federal districts more power
to carry out economic reforms
By Gennady Nikiforov
With Monday marking six months since President Vladimir Putin issued a decree
appointing presidential envoys to the seven federal districts, the Kremlin is
drafting a decree expanding their powers. It is now obvious that they do need
Presidential envoys themselves say their rights were curtailed in the spring
when Putin's decree concerning them was still in the making. They claim that
as plans stood originally, they were to get more extensive powers but then
some officials of the Kremlin administration persuaded the President to put
them on hold until presidential envoys showed their worth. As a result, the
decree gave them what amounted to "observer" status.
In the past six months federal authorities must have come to the conclusion
that presidential envoys have indeed shown their worth, so much so that the
authorities now feel that their powers should be extended. That this is so is
seen from official reports saying that all financial assistance going from
the national budget to the provinces will now be under the exclusive control
of presidential envoys. Furthermore, many speakers at meetings with the
President which have taken place in all seven federal districts have pointed
to the need to draft economic development programs for each district. It is
quite obvious that presidential envoys will be "the general contractors" of
the programs. Besides, once federal authorities have sorted out the problem
of incompatibility of federal and local legislation, they will have to start
more intensive economic reforms in the provinces, and quite soon too.
Consequently, presidential envoys will no longer be content with their
observer status if they are to take a direct part in economic reforms.
According to some reports, the Kremlin is putting the finishing touches to a
presidential decree empowering presidential envoys to give "instructions" to
regional leaders. Meanwhile, the territorial department of the Kremlin
administration is at loggerheads with presidential envoys, with the
territorial department being less than enthusiastic about the prospect of
presidential envoys receiving more powers. According to a high-ranking
Kremlin official, presidential envoys have been engaged in a long campaign
with the aim of abolishing the territorial department. For its part, he says,
the territorial department is making every effort to demonstrate that
presidential envoys as an institution are superfluous. Whatever is the case,
the scales are now tipping toward presidential envoys who have the support of
Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov.
If a decree outlining new powers for presidential envoys does make its
appearance, it will represent the first step for presidential envoys to
become true governor-generals.
Naturally, governors refuse to believe that the envoys will be given extended
powers and are still trying to drive a wedge between the President and "evil"
envoys. Says Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev: "I don't think that the federal
center stands behind the attempts of presidential envoys to take over the
powers of the heads of subjects of the Federation (governors). Rather this is
spontaneous activity by individual envoys themselves." In reality, however,
presidential envoys are not prone to "spontaneous activity." Putin appointed
them for the express purpose of executing his will.
November 14, 2000
Where the Grass Is Greener — and More Democratic
Russia may be laughing at the American electoral mess, but the U.S. has it
By YURI ZARAKHOVICH Moscow
As the latest Moscow joke has it, Albert Veshnyakov, head of the Russian
Central Elections Commission, says of the US presidential elections, "Isn't
it a shame they still can't tell the winner days after? In Russia, we know
him months before."
Kidding aside, Veshnyakov indeed remarked, "In Russia, presidential
elections are conducted in a more democratic way and are more easily
understood by the voters." His words not only make a dubious equation
between democracy and simplicity but also reflect the gleeful — and often
gloating — leitmotif of comments on what many Russians see as an American
electoral snafu. "This is simply quite stupid ... The American electoral
system needs modernizing," said liberal politician Boris Nemtsov. "An
American comedy!" scoffed Moskovsky Komsomolets, a popular tabloid.
The most remarkable comment so far came from the Sovietskaya Rossiya
newspaper, a Russian Communist Party mouthpiece: "Christians support Bush,
Jews support Gore," the paper said. "Bush's mass base of support reminds
[us] ... of the social-political portrait of those who support communist
[Gennadi] Zyuganov, while Gore's electorate reminds us of the supporters of
our democratic 'reformist' forces." The daily also regretted that the State
Duma — the lower house of the Russian parliament — failed to send observers
to monitor the US presidential race. "The experience of our communist
deputies would have been of great help to our American colleagues to unwind
electoral knots and puzzles, so painfully familiar to the Russians," it
All these comments boil down to the same punch line: "And these are the
people who have been teaching us democracy?" In short, having failed so
much themselves, many Russians are delighted at the sight of what they see
as an American failure — at last.
But has there been a failure? Is the direct simple vote that "legitimizes
autocracy and keeps reproducing the same ruling clique" in Russia, to quote
Moscow Carnegie Center political analyst Liliya Shevtsova, really much
better than the electoral college? Has the American system broken down?
No. The Americans have a working problem, but this problem is being
resolved in a legal way through the courts. However, when Russia has
electoral problems, we are more likely to see tanks and troops out in our
streets than the inside of a courtroom. And even if the Americans fail to
elect a new President right away, they can do without him for a long while.
They have a civil society. They have real political parties. They have a
well-developed and functional system of local self-government. They have a
working legal system. As a result, they have a functioning economy.
Are we really laughing at the Americans? At the poor souls who can't even
have a President elected in an orderly fashion? God forbid they ever elect
their President in as orderly a manner as we do — or else where will we
import our food from? Some say they are not fit to teach us democracy. But
why — after our thousand years of history — should we be seeking teachers
at all? Why don't we develop our own civil society, our own
self-government, our own functioning economy? Maybe because we don't need
all those things when it is so simple to have our President elected.
The great writer Nikolai Gogol once wrote, "Who are you laughing at? You
are laughing at yourselves." Yes, the Americans have shown that they have
problems. I wish we had their problems in Russia, but it might take us yet
another millennium to have them. Until then, we'll keep declaring winners
months before rather than days after.
DUMA TO EXPRESS OPINION ON SITUATION SURROUNDING U.S. PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTIONS - DUMA OFFICIAL
MOSCOW. Nov 14 (Interfax) - The Russian State Duma intends to
express its opinion concerning the situation surrounding the
presidential elections in the U.S.
"The State Duma will definitely formulate its opinion on this
matter, regardless of who wins," Duma International Affairs Committee
Chairman and member of the People's Deputy parliamentary group Dmitri
Rogozin told the press on Monday.
"We would like to see in the U.S. president a serious and deserving
partner whose legitimacy will not be questioned by America, Russia, or
the whole world," the parliamentarian stressed.
Only with such a partner can negotiations be held on the whole
range of the most important problems concerning not only relations
between the two countries but "life on the planet," Rogozin said.
Russia is concerned about how the election campaign in the U.S. has
been conducted, but this does not mean that the State Duma will adopt
"hooligan statements and send its observers" to the U.S., Rogozin said.
A member of the Liberal Democratic faction Alexei Mitrofanov
suggested at a Tuesday session of the Duma Council that a resolution be
adopted on sending Russian observers to the U.S., where the votes cast
on November 7 in several counties in Florida are being recounted.
These elections have vividly demonstrated "the archaic nature of
the democratic system in the U.S., the illiteracy of a huge number of
voters and the complexity and intricacy of the voting process itself,"
Rogozin noted. "The Americans have slapped themselves in the face, they
have definitely whipped themselves," the parliamentarian said. He also
pointed to the fact that both the Republicans and the Democrats actively
tried to involve Russia, "to pull it by its ears" into the election
campaign in the U.S. "You cannot even imagine what pressure we had to
bear from both the Democrat and the Republican sides," he stressed,
adding with satisfaction that Russia managed to distance itself from the
elections in the U.S. "However, the State Duma still has the right to
express its opinion on how they have been conducted," the
Russian agriculture needs revamp to lure investors
By Samantha Shields
MOSCOW, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Russia needs to revamp the legal and bureaucratic
structure of its farm sector to attract investment that may help it produce a
regular grain surplus, investors and agriculture analysts said.
Western investors who have lost money in the past in Russian agriculture are
cautiously eyeing the country again as the ecomomy grows, participants at an
investment conference on Monday and Tuesday said.
But they pointed to the lack of a sound legal infrastructure to protect
investments, red tape and the problems the industry faces in borrowing from
banks as big obstacles.
"Investors must be able to obtain the necessary recourse and enforcement of
shareholders' and creditors' rights," said Henri Jean Bardon, president of
EuroAsian Investment Holdings.
"We have found that local tribunals and the local administration will
systematically not enforce the rights of foreign investors or creditors," he
Bardon stressed that Russia, a frequent grain importer since Soviet days, had
huge potential despite the problems, and other speakers saw signs of change.
"What's important now is to look at what's working," said John Costello, head
of the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, the Washington-based U.S.
government funded organisation that organised the conference.
FARMERS THINKING COMMERCIALLY
Elvind Djupedal, President of Cargill Foods in Russia, which has been heavily
involved in seed growing, storing and processing in Russia for the past 10
years, said some farmers were starting to think commercially and some money
was being made.
"There's an impetus now and I think things will progress faster in the next
10 years. It's possible that Russia will become a surplus grain producer," he
Russia's Agriculture Ministry last week estimated that the 2000 grain crop
would be 65-66 million tonnes by clean weight with the harvest almost
That figure is above 1999's 54.7 million tonnes, but well below the peak of
110 million in 1980.
Andrei Sizov, analyst at leading farm consultancy SovEcon, has estimated
Russia might have to import as much as two million tonnes of wheat and barley
from Kazakhstan this year. Previous poor harvests have forced Moscow to seek
U.S. and EU food aid.
Djupedal lamented government interference in agriculture, old-fashioned
production practices and the fact that many Russian farm enterprises are
financially responsible for the settlements surrounding them.
"Our advice would be not to start with big projects, but with small- to
medium-sized ones," he said.
The next wave of development in Russian agriculture may give investors a
chance to buy into enterprises that were poorly managed previously and deal
with companies that are now known quantities, Andrei Danilenko, president of
International Fund Russian Farms, said.
"There'll be a second wave of privatisation when a lot of companies go bust,
and western companies today know a lot about who not to work with and what
not to do," he said.
The Globe and Mail (Canada)
November 14, 2000
Russia threatens Afghan war
Strategist says it would be suicidal for Russia to take on another armed
MOSCOW -- Russia's military is issuing new threats of war and funnelling more
weaponry into Afghanistan in a steady escalation of its entanglement in the
bloody Central Asian conflict.
Russia's border guards, with more than 10,000 troops stationed on the
Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, threatened on the weekend to fire into
Afghanistan in a punitive strike at the Taliban, the Islamic purists who
control 95 per cent of the country.
The Kremlin is already sending helicopters and other weaponry to the
anti-Taliban forces of Ahmad Shah Masood. Russian military advisers and
pilots are also believed to be helping the Masood forces.
Russia's support for anti-Taliban forces was traditionally covert. But last
month Russian Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev met openly with Mr. Masood, and
the Kremlin is now reportedly planning to create a military base in
Tajikistan near the Afghan border.
Russian border guards said 10 mortar bombs from Afghanistan exploded in
Tajikistan last Friday. They said Russian troops and local civilians could be
killed or wounded by the "frequent incidents" of shells and missiles straying
"To prevent injury and destruction on Tajik territory, the command of the
border guards . . . does not rule out that it may be necessary to . . .
strike at armed formations of the Taliban in the Tajik-Afghan border region,"
the Russians said in a statement.
The Taliban responded angrily with accusations that the Russians "want to
burn Afghans in the flames of war." It warned that the Russians themselves
could be engulfed by the flames.
Afghanistan has been Moscow's nemesis for more than 20 years, repeatedly
thwarting the Kremlin's strategic plans for winning control of Central Asia.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 in an attempt to prop up a
pro-Soviet regime. Instead, the invasion became the final losing war of the
Soviet empire. The Soviets suffered heavy losses in a decade of fighting
against Islamic guerrilla forces, including Mr. Masood, who has now become
Moscow's key ally in the battle against the Taliban.
By some estimates, the Soviet Union lost 14,000 soldiers (dead or missing) in
its Afghanistan adventure before finally withdrawing its last troops in 1989.
Russia, like almost every other country in the world, has refused to
recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. It
continues to recognize the exiled government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, which
was driven out of Kabul by the Taliban four years ago.
By supporting the Masood and Rabbani forces, the Kremlin is trying to prevent
the Taliban from capturing full control of Afghanistan, which could finally
lead to full international recognition. Only three countries -- Pakistan,
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- have officially recognized the
Taliban as the legitimate rulers of the country.
Analysts in Moscow say there is strong evidence once again of mounting
Russian involvement in the Afghan war. Russian television has shown pictures
of the anti-Taliban forces using new Russian-made helicopters and
multiple-rocket launchers, apparently supplied recently by the Russian army.
The analysts also believe the anti-Taliban forces may be using Russian
helicopter pilots and Russian-controlled air bases in Tajikistan. There is a
possibility that Russia could soon begin a full-scale bombing campaign in
support of the Masood forces in their battle with the Taliban, they said.
Last month, Russia reportedly supplied three Mi-17 military helicopters to
the Masood forces for use as troop and ammunition carriers.
The proxy war against the Taliban is linked closely to the Kremlin's
14-month-old war in Chechnya. Moscow often charges that the Islamic militants
are a growing threat to Russian interests in the Caucasus and in Central Asia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin blames the Taliban for supporting Chechen
rebels and fuelling terrorism in Russia's southern underbelly. "There is an
arc of instability south of Russia and the main hot spot is, more and more,
moving to Afghanistan," Mr. Putin said in the summer.
Other Russian leaders are even more scathing in their verbal blasts at the
Taliban. "What sort of order is there in Afghanistan?" asked Sergei Ivanov,
head of Russia's powerful Security Council, last week. "Apart from
medievalism and the production of drugs, there is nothing. There is total
ideological brainwashing and the support of religious extremism."
In the spring, the Kremlin threatened to launch "preventive strikes" against
the Taliban in response to its alleged support for the Chechen separatist
"Russian leaders are obsessed with the mythology of protecting Western
civilization from the threat of Islamic fundamentalism," Andrei Piontkovsky,
head of the Moscow Centre for Strategic Studies, said.
"It began as a propaganda cover for the Chechnya war. The problem is that by
repeating this propaganda, Russian leaders have begun to believe it."
Moscow's involvement in Afghanistan, like its current Chechnya conflict and
its earlier invasion of Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989, is likely to become a
costly quagmire, Mr. Piontkovsky said.
"I think it's a very foolish and dangerous step. Russian forces could be
bogged down in this region for many years. They're being dragged into another
war without prospects of victory. It will be suicidal for Russia. It's the
usual process of escalation, step by step, beginning with a psychological
escalation and air strikes."
Only the Russian military will benefit, he said.
November 14, 2000
Andrei Kortunov Examines Russia’s Positions on Central Asian security
Editor’s Note: Andrei Kortunov is president of the Moscow Public Science
Foundation, and is the director of the Open Society Institute Russia’s
Russia has joined the states of Central Asia in expressing alarm over
recent military gains made by Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, as well as
the threat posed by the Islamic insurgency in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
Leading Russian international security affairs expert Andrei Kortunov spoke
with EurasiaNet about Russia’s strategy and interests in Central Asia. The
transcript of the interview follows:
EurasiaNet: The situation in Central Asia is deteriorating with the Taliban
making advances, and a split has appeared among some Central Asian nations.
Uzbekistan, in particular, is reaching out to the Taliban. How does Russia
view President Islam Karimov’s actions vis-à-vis the Taliban, and what
might Russia do to respond?
Kortunov: Well, I think that the Russian position is dubious because, on
the one hand, they are concerned about Taliban, and about connections
between Talibs and the rebels in Chechnya. In Moscow, they know pretty well
that there are some of what they call "mercenaries" from Afghanistan
fighting in Chechnya, and there are links between the two regions. On the
other hand, I think they realize that Uzbekistan doesn’t have too many
choices and if indeed the whole of Afghanistan, in the near future, is
controlled by Talibs, then Karimov will have no other option but to start
negotiating with them.
So Moscow understands that Uzbekistan really needs some fall-back
positions. However, as far as I can see, they still believe in Moscow that
the Talibs will not be able to control all the territory of the country,
and that the [anti-Taliban] Northern Alliance will have enough power and
local support to keep some territories in the north of the country. The
recent developments in Afghanistan suggest that the Talibs are not that
close to any ultimate victory, so depending on how the military situation
changes, the participants might try to stick to their traditional partners,
or maybe to look for a third party…
EurasiaNet: Who might that third party be?
Kortunov: Some other mediators who don’t represent the Uzbek group, but who
are also not a part of the Talib community, might emerge as brokers or
mediators. This is something which cannot be excluded. But of course if
worst comes to worst, Russia itself will be forced to negotiate with Talibs
EurasiaNet: What extent is the threat posed by the Taliban to Russian
Kortunov: Well, it’s hard to tell. … There are political forces in Russia,
and some local leaders and journalists who tend to be apocalyptic about the
Taliban and their potential march through Central Asia. They have their own
domino theories about Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, and some go as far as to
state that this form of Islamic fundamentalism might reach Russia proper,
and the Turkic republics of the Russian Federation -- places like Tatarstan
and Bashkortostan-- not to mention the northern Caucasian republics. This
penetration could be at least ideological, if not direct in terms of the
There are more conservative estimates, and some experts claim that Talibs
are mostly inward oriented, in that they have no capacity and no intentions
to export their values and their principles to the world, and therefore
it’s mythical to imagine very active and drastic penetration of Talibs into
Central Asia. Of course, the idea of Russia being conquered or somehow
taken over by Talibs is kind of a fantasy.
EurasiaNet: Would you say, though, that the Taliban poses a threat to
Russian interests in Central Asia proper, and what is Russia’s aim,
ultimately, in Central Asia?
Kortunov: Well, I think that first of all, Russia is a status quo power in
Central Asia. It would prefer to see only gradual change, and if it is a
choice even between rapid transition to democracy on the one hand, and
keeping stability on the other, I guess right now that, in Russia, the
predominant view is: ‘let’s keep stability, let’s be very cautious, let’s
not push them in the direction of Western-type liberal democracy, because
if the price is to lose stability, it’s too high a price to pay.’ So Russia
is supporting existing regimes in the countries of Central Asia. It is
interested in preserving the buffer between South Asia - Afghanistan,
Pakistan – and its own territory.
Russia is clearly interested in keeping its strategic positions in the area
- like the presence of the Russian military patrolling the borders,
Russia’s interest is in limiting illegal drug trafficking, because it goes
to Russia, and through Russia to Europe. Likewise it is quite interested,
as I said earlier, in somehow insulating the Chechen situation from what is
happening or might happen in Central Asia. So I will say that it is
generally a conservative position that has primarily security dimensions,
but which also has some political and economic dimensions, because Russia
is interested in exploring natural resources, especially in Kazakhstan,
especially in the case of oil.
But it is not limited to oil. If you take Uzbekistan, of course there are
large enterprises in the Russian Federation that depend upon cotton imports
from Uzbekistan, even now, after ten years of the Soviet disintegration. If
you go to Ivanovo and see that many of the factories are primarily used for
cotton, it’s not always registered. Sometimes, if you’re looking only at
the sheer statistics, you might come to the conclusion that the economic
relations between Russia and these countries are close to zero. But it’s
not exactly the whole picture.
So, there are certain economic interests, and there are what they call
"ideological interests" – you know, that in Russia the ‘Eurasian’ idea is
still quite popular, and some Russian nationalists believe that Russia
should probably decrease its activity in Europe because Europe will never
accept Russia as an equal partner, Russia will never be integrated into the
European Union, and Russia should rather concentrate – at lease concentrate
more than it does now – on its relations with Central Asian governments.
EurasiaNet: Turning the last question to the Caucasus, and you mentioned
oil and gas also, Russia and Azerbaijan have, in recent months, seemed to
be inclined to improve bilateral relations. What is Russia’s aim in
Azerbaijan, and is it your impression that perhaps [Azerbaijani President
Heidar] Aliyev, who is concerned with ensuring a smooth transition of power
to his son, is looking mainly to Russia to act as a guarantor of Ilham
Kortunov: Well, I think that there are a couple of interests. The most
adamant common interest, paradoxically, is the oil. Because Russia and
Azerbaijan might have different views on pipelines, or on the Caspian Sea
status or something like that, but both Russia and Azerbaijan want to
explore all the resources, and they want to market the oil of the Caspian
Sea region. There are a lot of connections at different levels. There are
speculations that the family of Aliyev for example has some shares in Luke
Oil, and that on the other hand some of the Russian oil barons have their
interests within Azeri oil companies, so there should be some kind of
interaction and cross-fertilization.
Now that oil is so expensive in global markets, of course there are
additional incentives to do something in the field and to do something
fast. Plus, Azerbaijan still depends on Russia in terms of oil extraction
machinery, and Russia is interested in Azerbaijan in terms of oil
transportation, so there are some of what they would call objective mutual
The second issue for Russia, which is quite important, is how to provide
for the positive neutrality of Azerbaijan, at the very least, on issues of
the north Caucasus. And it’s not just Chechnya, it’s also Dagestan, which
borders Azerbaijan. There are some minorities which migrate from one
country to another, and from the position of Aliyev, the position of the
intelligence community of Azerbaijan and the security community in general
is quite important.
On the one hand, if you look at Azerbaijan, I think transition is an
important issue, and of course Aliyev should be concerned about transition,
but also the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, now that Azerbaijan is
also not immune to secessions, both in the north and in the south, and
therefore Aliyev is not that critical of the Russian actions in Chechnya
because he realizes that in some cases he might face similar problems in
his own country. In this sense, I would say that we might see new
rapprochement between Russia and Azerbaijan, and maybe Putin is better
equipped to deal with Aliyev than his predecessor.
November 14, 2000
Moscow’s new foreign policy: switching priorities from European Union and
United States to Asian countries
On the face of it President Vladimir Putin's upcoming visit to Brunei looks
like a purely routine event, and indeed some analysts see it that way.
After all, all he is scheduled to do is discuss globalization problems with
APEC leaders, hold a few bilateral meetings with such "heavyweights" as
leaders of the United States, China and Japan and sign a final communiqu?.
However, writes Pyotr Vlasov of Ekspert Journal, that assumption sheds no
light on why Putin has chosen to publish an article in several leading
Asian newspapers detailing Moscow's "modified" policy in Asia. In a
nutshell, Russia's President is trying to demonstrate that "Russia is a
kind of integration hub linking Asia, Europe and America." He also shows
that Russia has distinct economic and political interests in the region. As
soon as it formulates a relevant foreign-policy doctrine, those interests
will take concrete shape.
Putin's article is a graphic illustration of an obvious fact: Russia is
seeking to level out its foreign policy, a policy that has been oriented
mainly toward the European Union and the United States throughout the past
decade. It is noteworthy that Russia's President has struck a balance
recently by offsetting each visit to the West by a visit to the East. Since
he took office President Putin has visited every key country in the East:
China, India, Korea, Japan and, most recently, Mongolia. Moscow is no
longer keen to proclaim its commitment exclusively to "a common European
home." Today Russia views its position in the world somewhat differently:
in Putin's words, it has "always perceived itself as an Asian country."
Of course banking on a single partner is not at all a good policy in
diplomatic terms but there are also objective reasons for the change of
course. For one thing, Russia's recent economic growth requires new export
markets, above all for industrial output. India, China and Mongolia can
provide the "easiest" markets, considering that memories of cooperation
with the Soviet Union are still fresh in the minds of many people there. It
is true that so far Russia has no trading relations with Brunei but APEC
countries are doing brisk business with it on a par with Eastern and
Central Europe and are about to catch up with the CIS. Only the European
Union is still ahead - it accounts for 35% of Russia's foreign trade.
Another factor is that Moscow can ill afford to provide adequate funding
for the development of the country's easternmost regions and Siberia as a
whole. Therefore, Moscow would do well to take advantage of Asia's economic
boom for development purposes. It might invite China, Japan and Korea to
take part in several major projects (especially Japan and Korea), which
could attract investment and technologies. Fuel and electricity apart, the
projects might include transport channels linking Japan to the continent,
And finally, Russia has quite a few potential "allies" in Asia, who look to
Moscow to take more active steps in the Pacific. The fact of the matter is
that in the past century Japan, China and the United States have in one way
or another compromised themselves in the eyes of the weaker countries of
the region. As "a fresh leader" Russia has a good chance of playing an
important role in regional affairs. In that case China or Japan will have
to make concessions in other areas if they are to get Moscow's support for
From: "Peter Lavelle" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Florida Goes to Putin?
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000
SKATES Capital Markets Russia: Peter Lavelle, Florida Goes to Putin?
The morning after Americans woke-up to discover that President Clinton had
no confirmed successor. Americans also received a quick and rather stern
study of their own political system - an anachronism or not, the Electoral
College is something that does matter in the American democracy. On top of
this, they learned to understand something that has rarely been discussed
in recent American mainstream political discourse - the concept of
political legitimacy. Incidentally, a concern Americans have been
exporting to the world with wild and unreflective abandon since Woodrow
Wilson's Fourteen Points. Issues, interestingly enough, at the heart of
the redefinition the world with the end of the Cold War and the Leninist
Taking virtue from necessity, I believe the "American political crisis"
speaks to all who are interested in democracy moving forward into this new
century. No polity - be it in the "developed West" or "developing East" -
has mastered the essential elements practicing democracy nor perfected the
key political issue of legitimacy. The US is not the world model for
democracy; it is rather one of many. As has been vividly displayed, the US
model too has room for improvement. There, the all-important issue of who
is enfranchisement and by what means (read: the design of ballot) is not
uniformly determined nor accepted. Those who content the "blue-haired" and
those "not from here" are at fault in fact undermine the current system and
put into the electoral process in doubt. In reality, it is these voices
that reinforce intolerance and the inability to learn from past mistakes
and the capacity to look forward. The Voting Rights Act is not in the
distant past, if I am not mistaken.
The election also raises the issue of media responsibly - another area in
which the US should reconsider its relative world standing in terms of
professionalism and social accountability. The "fourth estate", out of
hubris and fear of being out done by the new political power in the world -
the Internet - behaved in the most irresponsible way. Irresponsibility on
such a scale that gives some additional cause to accuse and give cannon
fodder to attack free media elsewhere, Russia one of the best and most
Many in the Russia's media and political elite have (purposefully) drawn
the wrong conclusions from "what happened in Florida"? Taking in delight
in another country's internal political problems to demonstrate Russia's
superiority in election making is nothing less than laughable, especially
in light of dubious balloting procedures in Russia's regions. It is
dangerous for the health of the civic activism as well. Russia has a long
way to go to make going to the polls a normal civic exercise. Until this
is the case, the importance of political legitimacy in Russian political
culture will remain less than secure.
Unfortunately, in Russia, power and authority - two different qualities -
are assumed to be the same. For a functional polity, power and authority
need to be considered axiomatic opposites to express the all-important
political quotient of legitimacy. Authority is the right to act, while
power is the ability to act. Both are judged in terms of legitimacy.
Legitimacy is one of the most difficult concepts to explain, like liberty
it is probably best to define was it is not. Power is exercised
illegitimately if there is no right to exercise; otherwise it is exercised
legitimately. Putin and Russia today is an interesting exercise in trying
to understand the difference between the two - if indeed there is one.
Greater experience with elections may engender a clearer distinction. The
difficulty in electing a president in the US does not automatically
legitimize Russia's elector system nor does it instantly indicate the
illegitimacy of the American political system. The difficulty in America
is how to best serve the people, in Russia is the satisfaction the Kremlin
that takes precedence.
Democracy is a hollowed ideal in our time. Its meaning was debated and
fought over at tremendous cost and intellectual compassion during the Cold
War and before. Democracy is also something that can never to be practiced
enough - something never ultimately perfected. This as it should be,
ideals should remain ideals and never considered accomplished banalities.
With the end of the communist "other" the West has been at pain to look at
itself. The cloak of American moral righteousness is not always what it
claims; even some of the weaknesses of its electoral processes are now bare
for all to observe. Whether Florida - and the presidency - is awarded to
Bush or Gore, the United States is now forced to reexamine some of its
institutions. In the meantime, countries such as Russia should take pause
to understand the events occurring in the US as the Americans attempt to
"better perfect" its democracy instead of looking for propaganda points and
Peter J. Lavelle
Head of Research
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