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Johnson's Russia List


December 1, 2000   

This Date's Issues:   4663 Ľ 4664


Johnson's Russia List
1 December 2000

[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Berezovsky millions save Russia's Sakharov centre.
2. Moscow Times: Sarah Karush, Proposed Code Has Labor Up In Arms.
4. BBC Monitoring: No political opposition exists in Russia - journalist. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta's Vitaliy Tretyakov)
5. Carnegie Webcast and Transcript Available: 205 Days of Putin: Geopolitics and Nuclear Security 
6. Reuters: Ex-Soviet states divided before CIS summit.
7. Emily Tall: re: Andrew Miller/4662.
8. Peter Lavelle: 10 Best Reasons to be on the JRL.
11. RFE/RL: Julie Corwin, From Ballots to Beers: Russia's View on the U.S. Presidential Election.]  


Berezovsky millions save Russia's Sakharov centre
November 30, 2000
By Jon Boyle
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Self-exiled Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky threw a
$3 million lifeline Thursday to the Andrei Sakharov center established in
memory of the late Soviet rights activist.

Yelena Bonner, outspoken widow of the Nobel Prize winning dissident, said she
had decided to accept the funds despite her deep mistrust of Berezovsky's

The Andrei Sakharov Foundation, a museum, library and human rights
organization, faced closure Friday unless funds were found, but the center
said the Berezovsky cash and other donations had lifted the threat.

The gesture was the latest round in a strident campaign by Berezovsky, who is
abroad, against President Vladimir Putin. The media-to-oil businessman,
summoned for questioning in a fraud case, says he fears Putin will order his
arrest if he returns to Russia.

Berezovsky was one of a group of businessman who used their wealth through
the 1990s to call political favors under Russia's first president, Boris

But he fell from favor and launched a bitter campaign against the Kremlin,
accusing Putin of authoritarian rule and threatening freedom of speech.

Bonner told a news conference that while she was grateful for the money,
channeled through a U.S. branch of the foundation, she was skeptical about
the millionaire's motives.

"I told him, 'Boris Abramovich (Berezovsky), you approached me in the summer
and you approached me now. It's clear that you need my name, but I'm not
giving my name for anything in the world,"' Bonner said.


She said the money would not force the foundation to alter its stance on a
number of issues -- including its opposition to the Kremlin's crackdown in
separatist Chechnya.

However, she said: "I, personally, am very grateful to you. Like it or not,
even the dissident movement cannot exist without money."

A brilliant scientist, Sakharov helped create the Soviet Union's hydrogen
bomb, but turned against hardline Soviet rule in the 1970s. He was hounded by
police and eventually sent into internal exile in 1980 in the Volga city then
known as Gorky.

He was allowed to return six years later by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev
and remained a forthright defender of human rights until his death in 1989.

Bonner's son, Alexei Semyonov, said the bulk of the cash -- to be placed in
an endowment to guarantee the foundation's future -- had already been
deposited, and the rest was due soon.

About half of the center's annual basic running costs of $300,000 will be
covered by the donation. The center "is not yet completely safe, because the
funds for that endowment will not be available until a year from now," he

But personal gifts and funds from the United States would tide the foundation

In a statement read out at the press conference, Berezovsky said fundamental
freedoms were again under threat.

"The main weapon of an authoritarian government against society is fear," it
read. "Andrei Sakharov showed that fear can be defeated, that even under an
government out of control, freedom of thought is stronger than the state


Moscow Times
December 1, 2000
Proposed Code Has Labor Up In Arms
By Sarah Karush
Staff Writer

A long-simmering debate over the country's outdated Labor Code is coming to a
head as the government prepares to push its version through the State Duma
this month, much to the chagrin of the labor movement.

Alarmed at the government's plan, which diminishes the power of unions,
introduces a potential 56-hour work week and halves the allowed maternity
leave, pro-union deputies introduced their own alternative in May. Cabinet
officials say the deputies' version is too hard on management and will hinder
economic development.

The Duma is scheduled to consider both versions f in addition to a radical
Communist version and an incomplete one, neither of which is considered to
have a chance at passing f on Dec. 21. The Federation of Independent Unions
of Russia has planned demonstrations for Dec. 14 through Dec. 19 to drum up
support for the deputies' version.

The current Labor Code has changed little since 1971, although dozens of
additional laws regulating labor relations have been passed outside the code.
Employers complain that many of the limitations it contains do not make sense
in a market economy.

"The code does not reflect, even approximately, the dynamic and changing
relationships that have taken shape between the worker and the employer,"
said Alexei Sklyar, personnel manager at Business Consulting Group.

Labor activists agree that the current Labor Code, which was drawn up when
the state was the only employer, no longer meets society's needs.

"The biggest problem is the lack of mechanisms to bring people to
accountability," said Irene Stevenson, Moscow field representative of the
AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center. "There are a lot of rights, guarantees, but a
lack of mechanisms."

The classic example is the right to get paid twice a month for one's work.
For much of the 1990s, millions of workers saw their wages delayed or
substituted by goods that they could then sell or barter away to survive. But
when workers tried to sue, their efforts came to nothing.

The deputies' version of the Labor Code lays the responsibility for on-time
payment explicitly on the employer's shoulders and gives workers the right to
take action even before a lawsuit is settled f by stopping work.

For the most part, however, the deputies' version differs little from the
current code. All of the guarantees for workers laid out in the latter are
included, and some are expanded on.

The government version, on the other hand, contains radical changes.

Among the most controversial are:

■Temporary contracts. The government version would pave the way for wider use
of temporary work contracts, which under the current Labor Code can only be
used in certain cases. It would also allow employers to renew those temporary
contracts indefinitely. Today, if a temporary contract is renewed, it
automatically becomes a permanent contract.

Union activists fear that the government's innovation will simply become an
easy way for companies to fire workers f without providing compensation or

But Sklyar of Business Consulting Group contends that the current limitation
on temporary contracts creates problems for companies.

Elsewhere in the world, top-level managers are hired for several years at a
time, and those contracts are only renewed after their performance is

But in Russia, if a company is not happy with an employee, "you have to
convince them to write a letter of resignation of their own initiative," he

However, Sklyar conceded that it might be wise to limit this practice to
rank-and-file workers.

■Diminished role of unions. The current code lists eight acceptable reasons
to fire an employer. Union approval is required for three of them f including
mass layoffs, incompetence and inability to work for more than four months
(e.g. because of illness). The government's version does not require union
approval for any firing.

The government version would also deprive unions of the right to be provided
office space and telephones and give management the right to choose which
unions to negotiate with and which to ignore. Unions could be fined for not
providing management with information about workers.

"The trade union becomes the rat instead of a representative of the
employees," Stevenson said.

■"With the worker's consent." The government version would allow exceptions
to accepted norms, such as the eight-hour day, if the worker agrees to it. A
person's hours could be increased in this way up to 12 hours a day and 56
hours a week.

Union activists say the government is unfairly assuming that the worker and
the employer are equal partners in a contract. But workers are in fact
dependent on their bosses and could easily be coerced into giving formal
consent, they say.

■Less maternity leave. According to today's code, women get five months of
paid maternity leave, but can stay home without losing their jobs for three
years. The government wants to cut that down to 1 1/2 years. Labor Minister
Alexander Pochinok has argued that the three years of leave prompts employers
to discriminate against women in hiring.

Speaking at a public hearing at the Duma in November, Deputy Andrei Isayev,
one of the sponsors of the alternative version, said this would cause major
difficulties since most day-care centers in Russia only accept children who
are at least 2 1/2.

"Hundreds of thousands of people will have to choose between their family and
their career," he said.

The current labor laws are obeyed only a small part of the time.
Rostrudinspektsia, the state labor inspectorate, registers 2 million
violations of the code a year. Former Duma Deputy Anatoly Golov, who
introduced his own, incomplete code in 1999, said at last month's hearing
that the real number of violations was closer to 300 million.

Golov estimated that half of all workers are completely off the books and
therefore have even more difficulty using the Labor Code to defend their

Adherents of the government version say the current Labor Code is not being
followed because it is utopian and needs updating.

Union activists do not accept that logic.

"People are killing each other. Does that mean we should legalize it?"
Stevenson said.


 MOSCOW. Nov 30 (Interfax) - Over a half of all Russians (58%)
believe that the currently existing tricolor is best Russia's state
flag, and 46% think the two-headed eagle should be the state's official
state emblem and Alexander Alexandrov's music for the former Soviet
anthem should be used for Russia's national anthem.
 The All-Russian Public Opinion Center VTsIOM on Thursday reported
these figures to Interfax after conducting a representative poll of
1,600 Russians November 24-27.
 The pollsters reported that 22% spoke in favor of a red flag, 7%
for the former flag of the Russian Soviet federative republic (red with
a blue stripe) and 6% believe that a new Russian flag should be created
to reflect the country's contemporary ideals.
 Sixteen percent of the Russians surveyed support the use of the
hammer and sickle as Russia's state symbol, 9% would favor the red five-
pointed star and 10% say that a new Russian state emblem should be
 As for the national anthem, 11% of Russians favor the preservation
of its current version, the "Patriotic Song" by Mikhail Glinka, 7%
support the "Slavic Woman's Farewell March," 6% more the "Song Of The
Motherland" by Isaac Dunayevsky, and 3% the "Internationale" by Pierre
Degeyter. Another 14% believe that a new tune should be composed to
reflect Russia's contemporary ideals.


BBC Monitoring
No political opposition exists in Russia - journalist
Source: 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta', Moscow, in Russian 30 Nov 00

Journalist Vitaliy Tretyakov has taken issue with political advisor to the
Russian president Gleb Pavlovskiy over whether or not there is a political
opposition in Russia. In an article in the Russian newspaper 'Nezavisimaya
Gazeta' on 30th November, Tretyakov quoted Pavlovskiy's claims of a "combined
attack ... on Putin's team" then systematically demolished them by showing
how each of the possible sources of opposition had been rendered impotent,
whether by circumstance or by design. Even the media, he suggested, are
voluntarily muzzled by the gift of freedom of speech. The following are
excerpts from the report. Subheadings have been inserted editorially.

The day before yesterday, responding to a series of items in some half-dozen
Moscow newspapers ('Nezavisimaya Gazeta', 'Izvestiya', 'Moskovskiy
Komsomolets', 'Segodnya', 'Versiya'), Gleb Pavlovskiy [head of the Effective
Policy Foundation and political advisor to the Russian president] made a
series of surprising generalizations and predictions ... I quote:

"The combined attack by the central press, NTV, and a number of members of
the State Council on [President Vladimir] Putin's team may mean the start of
opposition activity by the State Council with the aim of changing course and
amending the constitution...

"Today's (that is, 28th November - V.T.) items in practically all the central
newspapers...mark the start of a new political attack on Vladimir Putin...

"Instead of the old, spent Berezovskiy-Gusinskiy team new opposition forces
and a new opposition platform have been brought to the fore ... This platform
was made public by a group of State Council members...

"As the immediate target they have chosen [Emergencies Minister] Sergey
Shoygu, [chief of the presidential staff] Aleksandr Voloshin, and also
[deputy head of the presidential administration] Aleksandr Abramov and
[deputy head of the presidential administration] Vladislav Surkov... In order
to discredit them conflicts within the circles of the Russian president
supporters are used - or rather, manufactured...

"The 'aim of the attack': to isolate the executive branch and Unity from the
support of local public circles - to provoke a government crisis - The
priority is the revision of the constitution, a purge of the Presidential
Staff, and its (apparently the State Council's - V.T.) transformation into a
parallel institution of power - Who is behind the 'new State Council
opposition' is not yet clear." ...

What is really surprising is the following: Gleb Pavlovskiy, who kept his
feet perfectly amid the real public and political neuroses of last year and
the first half of this year, has discovered "new opposition figures and a new
opposition platform". And where? In Russia at the end of the year 2000. A

Putin responsible for lack of opposition

I am afraid that this delusion - to put it mildly - of Gleb Pavlovskiy's is
not so much spy mania syndrome but a symptom. Of what? Apparently, of poverty
of political expertise (not of every kind, of course, but of the Kremlin or
pro-Kremlin kind)...

And let me note from the outset that if there is anything that Russia as a
democratic society suffers from today it is the complete, not to say utter,
absence of opposition. Which is, in general, a bad thing.

And the person who is to blame for the absence of opposition is Putin, who by
the will of fate became the leader and symbol of the victorious anti-Yeltsin
opposition. And the anti-Putin opposition that thrashed about feebly at the
beginning of the year has long since been routed.

But let me take everything in order.

Potential sources of opposition ruled out

On what basis can a real rather than a mythical opposition be built (that is,
manufactured)? On at least one of four foundations.

1. Mass dissatisfaction of the population with the regime or its leader.
There is no hint of that in Russia today. Indeed, Putin continues to enjoy a
remarkably high and stable level of support among the population.

2. Strong opposition parties. There are none of these in Russia at all. The
only strong party, and at the same time the only party at all, the Communist
Party of the Russian Federation [CPRF], is not even 10 per cent in opposition
to Putin. And there are no other parties. Fatherland-All Russia has
evaporated. Unity, which anyway is loyal to Putin to the tips of its
fingernails, is evaporating. And there is no need to undermine anything...
Yabloko, as everyone except its leaders had predicted for it, is experiencing
an acute ideological crisis because the two main targets that Yabloko made
its name by shooting at - the CPRF and Yeltsin - have been removed from the
political stage. The Union of Right-Wing Forces [SPS] is neither a party nor
an idea and is oppositionist to precisely the extent that its two leaders,
[chief executive officer at power grid company Unified Energy Systems of
Russia Anatoliy] Chubays and [presidential representative in the Volga
Federal District Sergey] Kiriyenko, are free in their actions as federal
officials who chose their jobs not on orders from the Kremlin but by the
dictates of their hearts.

The sum total of oppositionism of the SPS and Yabloko today suffices only to
pursue the fight against Aleksandrov's [Soviet national] anthem. If that is
opposition it is opposition within the framework of a music club.

And beyond that there is nothing. Except the Liberal Democratic Party of
Russia, which it is laughable to talk about in terms of opposition.

3. Another possible foundation for opposition is the regional and Moscow
(oligarchic) elites. The former were destroyed as an opposition by the
federal reform and were channelled into the State Council, on whose agenda
the Kremlin placed the following items: item 1 - the tune of the anthem; item
2 - the words of the anthem; item 3 - the order of the stripes on the Russian
flag; item 4 - the number of heads of the two-headed eagle.

The oligarchs have been partially routed, partially forced out of the
motherland, but for the most part are loyal or have become so. Boris
Berezovskiy, the boldest and most influential oppositionist of the whole of
the year 2000, is out of the country. [President of Chuvashia] Nikolay
Fedorov is the only one of the governors to raise a voice of protest, a lone
voice in both the Federation Council and the State Council, like Nikita
Khrushchev in his retirement.

4. The next foundation on which at least an embryonic opposition could exist
is a counterideology. There is not even a hint of that, since Putin has
sucked up all the opposition ideas of the Yeltsin era like a vacuum cleaner,
and the one idea that he did not suck up (the human rights idea) was
discredited back in the days of the first president elected by the whole

In Russia today there is no ideology that is at all competitive in the eyes
of the people other than the one indicated by the word "Putin". Where is the
"new opposition platform" to come from? From the personal struggle among the
vestiges of the oligarchic clans? From the "new oligarchs" on their reins?
>From the governors who convert loyalty to the Kremlin into the preservation
of their sinecures?

There is, of course, a personal struggle for space in Putin's young
bureaucracy. Especially since that bureaucracy is only in its infancy. But
that struggle is as far removed from an opposition struggle as, for instance,
a struggle between chess players at a juniors' tournament.

Opposition from media undermined because freedom of speech retained

True, in Russia today there is another possible foundation for the emergence
- more spontaneous than organized - of an opposition. That is the national

But thanks to the prudence (or democracy?) of the authorities this is not
happening. After seizing the commanding heights in the electronic media the
Kremlin went no further. And it was right. First, it did not dismantle
freedom of speech, which is a good thing from every angle. Second, it did not
take away from the people one of the few achievements of the political
reforms of the preceding period. Third, by preserving pluralism of the press
the Kremlin effectively consolidated its democratic image, which had been on
the point of being eroded by certain actions. After all, nothing comes so
cheap and yet is valued so highly as freedom of speech. Even given Putin's
present popularity.

Let me sum up exactly the opposite to Gleb Olegovich's maxims: What is
repellent is not that "new opposition forces and a new opposition platform
have been brought to the fore", but that there is a total absence of "new" as
well as "old" opposition figures and especially of a "new opposition
platform". That is the reason why Gleb Olegovich cannot understand who is
"behind" this opposition. If there is none, then naturally there is nobody
behind it...

But it would be good to start up an opposition - it is a useful thing.


Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000
From: Julie Shaw <>
Subject: 205 Days of Putin release

Security and Foreign Policy High on Putin Agenda
Russian Leader Stakes Out Ground in Realpolitik Fashion

Webcast and Transcript Available

While the United States has been preoccupied with domestic events and the
Middle East, Russian President Vladimir Putin has been laying down markers on
the security front and traveling abroad like a whirlwind diplomat. His
statements and actions portend a return to a traditional approach to nuclear
arms and to balance-of-power geopolitics. Carnegie Endowment experts analyze
the Russian leader's stance on nuclear security and his foreign policy towards
the East and West in "205 Days of Putin: Geopolitics and Nuclear Security," a
panel discussion now available at

In the past decade, the U.S. arms control community has emphasized a less
formal nuclear relationship with Russia. While at first enthusiastic about the
progress made, Rose Gottemoeller, senior associate and a former
official in the U.S. Department of Energy, now sees obstacles. "Putin's
rise in
power has brought the security services to new prominence.we will have
difficulty making headway in Moscow with a less formal approach to arms
because the government superstructure in Russia simply cannot support it."

Looking towards the East, Russia's triangular relationship with China and
is bound by shared interests, but should not be exaggerated by U.S. policy
makers, notes Andrew Kuchins, director of the Endowment's Russian and Eurasian
Program. "Conclusions that the Sino-Russian and the Indo-Russian strategic
partnerships have either taken the place of the U.S.-Russian partnership.or
inherently deeply threatening to U.S. interests at this point.are misplaced."

Meanwhile, to the West, Putin has accentuated Europe over the United States,
says Thomas Graham, senior associate and a former State Department official
served in Moscow. U.S.-Russian relations have been deteriorating because of
"the growing asymmetry and power, attitude, and fortune between the United
States and Russia." Also, in the absence of a bipolar world, "the United
no longer has an integrated policy towards Russia. What we have is a little
box down in the corner of every other policy that says, the Russian element."

"205 Days of Putin" was held at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
on November 28, 2000 by the Endowment's Russian and Eurasian Program. This was
the third and final seminar examining initiatives and policies of the Putin
administration's first six months in power.


Ex-Soviet states divided before CIS summit
November 30, 2000
By Dmitry Solovyov
MINSK, Belarus (Reuters) - One day before a summit of the Commonwealth of
Independent States, the grouping of ex-Soviet states appeared Thursday to be
riven by conflicting interests and different visions of its future.

Prime ministers of 11 of 12 CIS states in attendance agreed in the
Belarussian capital to proceed with a long-planned center to fight terrorism
and jointly finance air defense. But they differed on the cardinal issue of
creating a free trade zone.

Slav neighbors Belarus and Russia resumed their protracted talks on a
post-Soviet merger, but Moscow remained adamant on introducing visas for
citizens of fellow CIS member Georgia.

Turkmenistan, intent on displaying its neutrality, stayed away altogether.

CIS Executive Secretary Yuri Yarov told a news briefing after the prime
ministers met that all present had shown solidarity in creating the CIS
Anti-Terrorist Center, due to start work Friday.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the center was unprecedented in
world practice and would coordinate efforts to fight "international
terrorism" from two sources -- the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Russia is waging its second war in the separatist region of Chechnya in the
North Caucasus. Five ex-Soviet Central Asian states fear the spread of
militant Islam styled after the Taliban leadership in adjacent Afghanistan.

Russia, while enthusiastically backing the center, firmly opposed proposals
to extend free trade. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the news briefing
his energy rich-nation objected to paying excise duties on its lucrative
energy exports.

"Russia still asks to make an exception for its oil, gas and gas condensate
exports," he said.


Russia, which dominates CIS activity, and Belarus stressed the warm relations
underpinning the planned "union state."

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Belarussian counterpart Alexander
Lukashenko signed the latest in a series of accords intended to move toward
using the Russian ruble in both states by 2005 and establishing a joint
currency by 2008.

Kasyanov said integration was yielding concrete results.

"Every time I come here I feel more and more at home," he said. "Every time
we resolve more and more problems ... linked to the actual creation of a
union state."

He said Russia would lend Belarus $161 million to create even economic
conditions for the introduction of a single currency. Another $100 million
would be disbursed to support Belarus's balance of payments.

But Putin appeared to pour cold water on Lukashenko's long-held desire to
give the union a greater political role.

"The creation of a union state demands the voluntary renunciation of a
certain amount of sovereignty, so we first need to think 100, or 1,000 times
and only then act," he said.

Talks on integration were also tinged by Lukashenko's reputation among
Western states as a hard-liner bent on running roughshod over the country's
liberal and nationalist opposition.

Lukashenko made waves ahead of the summit by sacking key members of his
security forces.

Putin said he believed the firing of the head of Belarus' Security Council,
the prosecutor general and the chief of the secret police had been planned.

Lukashenko, speaking on Russian state television, dismissed opposition
complaints that Belarussians had been cleared out in favor of pro-Russian

"There has been far too much exaggeration here," he said. "There is no 'hand
of Moscow' at work here and no plot. We simply had a discussion and brought
out the shortcomings."

(Additional reporting in Minsk by Larisa Sayenko)


Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000
From: Emily Tall <>
Subject: re: Andrew Miller/4662

    I don't know if Andrew Miller seriously meant what he said about
Russian literature, but I'd like to reply that 1) it is not true that
reading Dostoevsky in the original has been undertaken by virtually
nobody; 2) it is not true that "Pushkin in English is a train wreck."
There are some very good translations of "Evgenii Onegin" available, and
when I heard the actor R. Fienes read translations of some Pushkin
lyrics my heart stood still; 3) finally, it is not true that no one
reads Russian classical literature today. Turgenev, Chekhov, Tolstoy and
Dostoevsky are read all over the world and, in English, their works are
continually in print.
    Emily Tall, assoc. prof. of Russian, State University of New York at


Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000
From: "Peter Lavelle" <>
Subject: 10 Best Reasons to be on the JRL

Something on the lighter side on this dark and cold Moscow afternoon.

Ten Best Reasons to be on the JRL

10.  The JRL is probably an assembly of some of the most interesting people
on the planet.
9.  If you love or hate Russia this is the List to be on.
8.  Your Inbox is ALWAYS full.
7.  One can never complain there is nothing interesting to read.
6.  If you are into confrontation or prefer passivity, here there is
plenty of both.
5.  One can come to the realization that grad school in the social
sciences was not a complete waste.
4.  Those of us living in Russia get a daily reality check.
3.  By far the best medium to hear the whole story about Russia.
2.  Something to look forward to - eventually, there will be a JRL
1.  David loves us all


 MOSCOW. Nov 30 (Interfax) - The economic reforms of the Russian
government are a type of guarantee for foreign investors, Economic
Development Minister German Gref said on Thursday. He is now taking part
in the Russian-German Economic Forum.
 "We have promised to cut taxes and we have taken the first rather
serious steps," Gref said. The tax cuts, at 2% of GDP over the year,
"are a serious step," he noted.
 "We have promised to transform the customs laws, and we have done
that. The government has signed related resolutions," Gref said.
 The first steps have been taken in court reform, as well.
 "Currently, only the compliance of expectations with actual deeds
can be a guarantee [for investors]," Gref said. The government "is
trying not to promise much and to keep its promises," he added.
 "I think there cannot be a larger guarantee than openness and
honesty of the government," the minister said.
 The situation, including that of corruption, is swiftly changing in
Russia, Gref said. The unification of customs tariffs "has an anti-
corruption nature," as corruption used to start from the border, he
 The bank reform is significant for a normal and favorable climate
for investments and the first steps have been made, Gref said. "I think
we will try to progress in the solution of this problem in 2001," he


 MOSCOW. Nov 30 (Interfax) - The Russian Audit Chamber and the U.S.
General Accounting Office are to approve in January the field for a
joint audit, the Russian chief auditor said on Thursday.
 The audit results would be reported to the U.S. Congress and the
Russian lower house of parliament, the State Duma, Sergei Stepashin, who
heads Russia's Audit Chamber, said after a meeting with U.S. Comptroller
General David Walker.
 "For the moment we are taking a time-out. In January the subject
for the joint audit will be chosen and approved," Stepashin said.
 "We agreed to continue cooperation in the field of exchange of
experience, joint training, the training of personnel for the Audit
Chamber in the United States and cooperation in the field of information
technologies," he said.
 The Russian and U.S. audit agencies have decided to choose fields
for joint audits next year, Stepashin said. They will focus on
environmental protection and the use of uranium, chemical and nuclear
weapons and their destruction.
 The two countries' audit services also plan to consider chances for
U.S. and other loans for Russia and for humanitarian relief for the
 Walker said the U.S. General Accounting Office has already
inspected humanitarian relief projects, environmental protection and the
use of uranium in Russia.
 He said the office has also been interested in Russia's
international contacts, including the country's dealings with the
International Monetary Fund and World Bank


Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000
Subject: Corwin Presentation

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC  20036
tel: 202-457-6900  *  fax: 202-457-6992

In lieu of a briefing report, we would like to share the written remarks
from today's briefing by Julie Corwin, "From Ballots to Beers: Russia's
View on the U.S. Presidential Election".  We hope it will be as interesting
to you as it was to us.
    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is a private, international
communications service to Eastern Europe and Southeastern Europe, Russia,
the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East funded by the US Congress
through the Broadcasting Board of Governors.  More than 35 million
listeners rely  on RFE/RL's news, analysis and current affairs programs to
provide a coherent, objective account of events in their region and the

#  #  #

>From Ballots to Beer:
How Russia Views the U.S. Presidential Election Stalemate
Julie A. Corwin (

Julie A. Corwin is a regional specialist on Russia at RFE/RL's Washington
where she contributes daily analyses on Russian domestic and economic
to RFE/RL Newsline« and edits the RFE/RL Russian Federation Report, a weekly
review of news in Russia's regions.  This paper was presented during a
briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office on 30 November 2000.

     As Democrats and Republicans have been wrangling over the
advantages or disadvantages of hand counts, dangling and dimpled chads,
public officials and the media in Russia have mostly been having fun with
the current U.S. presidential election stalemate.
     For Moscow, the timing of the Florida stand-off could not have been
better.  The U.S.-Russian relationship is at perhaps its lowest point in a
decade.  There is increased emphasis in Russia on distinctly Russian
institutions and Russian-made solutions to problems.  And the U.S.
election snafu has given Russian officials, citizens, cultural figures and
media an opportunity to criticize the U.S., to compare and contrast
Russian and U.S. institutions, and also to indulge in some good old
Schadenfreude, the malicious enjoyment of another's misfortune.  Even those
Russians who
have a fairly favorable view of the U.S. seem happy to point out ways in
which Russian institutions or methods work better.
     According to one joke currently making the rounds in Moscow,
Russians now are proudly pointing out to the superiority of their brand of
democracy -- in the US, results of the presidential election are still not
known more than three weeks after the voting took place; in Russia, the
results are known three months in advance!  Another joke is also going
around.  According to it, Russian President Vladimir Putin kindly agreed
to send Russia's top election official Aleksandr Veshnyakov to the U.S. to
help with the counting the votes in Florida.  And the result?  Putin won!
     In an important respect, though, these jokes go against the trend,
because they subtly criticize Russia, while the main thrust of Russian
officials' comments and media coverage on U.S. presidential stalemate has
been quite the opposite.  The Russian reaction has been mostly critical of
the U.S. -- of our confusing and "archaic" system involving the electoral
college, of the low level of voter participation, and the massive
opportunities for fraud.
     In the short term, the U.S. election stalemate and U.S. policy
makers' resulting preoccupation with domestic politics has enabled Russia
to reassert its presence internationally, increasing its participation in
the Middle East peace process for example.  Over the longer term, the
current perception that the U.S. presidential election was in some ways
unfair and/or mismanaged could have two negative consequences.  On the one
hand, it could undermine the U.S.'s ability to lead by example in the area
of building democratic institutions and establishing a rule of law, areas
which even President Putin has acknowledged Russia may need help.  And on
the other, it may also make it harder for the U.S. to condemn unfair
elections in other countries.
     I'm going to divide my remarks in three parts.  First, I'll put
Russian attitudes towards the U.S. election standoff in the context of the
broader relationship between those two countries, then I'll describe
exactly what those attitudes are.  Third, I'll put forth some of the long
term and short term impacts of the stand off.

A Worsening US-Russia Relationship Even Before the Vote

     First, let's look at the US-Russia relationship. The title of my
talk from ballots to beer refers to a remark made by President Putin to
reporters while he was in London meeting with British Prime Minister Tony
Blair. Putin joked that he discussed the issue of U.S. presidential
elections with Blair over a mug of beer. In other words, Putin was
implying that U.S. election has proceeded like some kind of strange
sporting event that two chaps might discuss in pub over two pints. The
Russian leader's offhand remark in some ways sums up exactly where
U.S.-Russia relations are at this moment in time. Russia/Putin is mocking
the U.S.'s pretensions to lead by virtue of its fine example. At the same
time, Russia/Putin is pursuing a more serious agenda of  building
relationships with individual European countries and the EU to
counterbalance U.S. influence worldwide.
     Since Putin became President, Moscow's foreign policy has shown a
marked tilt toward Europe and EU--pulling even further away from the U.S.
This is perhaps natural given Putin's previous working experience in
Germany, his knowledge of German, but more importantly it grows out of the
worsening of Russia's relationship with the U.S. Tom Graham of the
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said earlier this week that
basically everyone believes that the U.S.-Russia relationship at a low
point right now -- except for those who work at the State Department.
     Why has this happened? A recent opinion poll in Moscow showed that
more than half of respondents believed that the greatest deterioration in
the U.S.-Russia relationship occurred NATO bombing of Serbia last year.
But many people would say that tension in the relationship started even
earlier with NATO expansion and the general disillusionment with the
so-called pro-U.S. liberal economic reformers. Some evidence of the
deterioration in the relationship are U.S.-Russian differences in a number
of key areas, National Missile Defense, ABM treaty, arms sales to Iran, UN
sanctions against Iraq, and the list goes on and on.
     There is also evidence of tension at a cultural level. Even at the
retail level, Western-labeled products no longer sell as well in Russia.
Part of the reason is that they are often more expensive, but researchers
have found that Russian consumers also want to buy Russian-made goods on
principle.  For example, Coke has been having trouble with sales and is
now looking to re-label some of its products.  Ten years ago this would
have been almost unimaginable.  And as with Coca Cola, in the past few
years Russians have increasingly been asking whether other U.S. "imports,"
such as democracy assistance, election observers, etc, are really
necessary.  And they are insisting that home-grown institutions and
practices are better suited to Russian reality.

Russian Reactions are Mostly Negative

     I'd like to turn now to how Russia has reacted to the elections,
first giving a general overview of Russian reactions and then discussing
the specific comments of specific Russian policy makers and others.
     After reviewing a large number of central and regional newspapers
and wire service reports, I can only conclude that the Russian assessment
of our election has been mostly negative.  Almost the only pro-U.S.
commentary I found were quotations from cultural figures, singers and
actresses, and obscure political scientists, who mainly expressed
indignation that anyone could favorably compare the Russian election
system with the U.S. system but none of these people provide any
     In addition, there was also an unusual article in "Segodnya" that
made some positive remarks about the U.S. national character -- but not
about the U.S. system for electing officials. ("Segodnya" is a central
newspaper owned by the embattled Vladimir Gusinskii and his company
Media-MOST.) The article argues that Russians are "smart, cynical and fed
up." Americans on the other hand are "naive, cheerful and rich." They are
able to "believe in the fairy tales thought up by their founding fathers
200 years ago." The author continues, "If Russia split 50/50 over who
should be president, it would mean civil war. In the U.S., they do a
     But that article was really the exception. As far as comments by
journalists themselves are concerned, these were rarely positive --
although some expressed a view along the lines of this well, this is their
system, screwy thought it may be, let them do what they want. The comments
of Russian government officials, elected and appointed, were similar. At
best, they advocate tolerance for the U.S.'s peculiar system. At worst,
they suggest that democracy in the U.S. is deeply flawed and hardly worth
emulating .
     Regional newspapers have mostly hewed to the line adopted by the
central press -- with some being a bit more negative. For example, one
newspaper in Nizhnii Novgorod said that the U.S. election results show
"that democracy there is in danger." A newspaper in Novosibirsk commented
that the result is really of little concern to Russia anyway since "since
a majority of Russians were freed from the illusion a long time ago that
anyone in the West has a benevolent attitude towards Russia and sincerely
wants to help it."
     I'd now like to provide more detail about the substance of these
criticisms. Russians have been making four basic criticisms. First, the
level of voter participation in this country is extremely low. Second, the
campaigns are the extraordinarily expensive. Third, the election process
is overly confusing and complex nature. And fourth, a related issue, the
electoral college is an archaic/undemocratic institution.
     Of all the features of the election, the electoral college has
been singled out for most scorn. Vladimir Lukin, a former Russian
ambassador in Washington who is now a State Duma deputy and a member of
Yabloko, noted that the electoral college has voted against the will of
the U.S. people on two previous occasions. He added that the current
situation shows that the U.S. election system is "stuck on a medieval
level." Other commentators called the electoral college  "confusing,"
"bizarre," and "an anachronism." One history professor at Moscow State
University said that the electoral college may have made sense at one
point, "two centuries ago," but "today the technology exists to accurately
reflect the popular vote in the final result." And she concluded that
"Americans are always ready to preach democratic reform to the world, but
after this is over, they might consider the need to make some progressive
changes of their own."
     On the issue of the campaign finance, "Kommersant-Daily," a
centrally-based newspaper controlled by Boris Berezovskii, called the
Bush-Gore campaign the most expensive in nation's history,  costing
taxpayers $3 billion.  (In fact, that was the cost of the entire
     On the issue of complex and confusing election process, a
newspaper in Nizhnii Novgorod expressed puzzlement that the federal
election is conducted by a different procedure not only in each state but
in each county. On the issue of the low level of voter participation,
members of the State Duma adopted a statement in which they stated that
since only half of US citizens even participated in the election, no one
--neither Bush nor Gore-- can declare they know the will of the people.
One member of a delegation of Russian election officials which visited the
U.S. during the election commented that Americans are too lazy to show up
to vote so they do it by mail. (He also said that even those who do vote
are lazy and tend to vote a straight ticket rather than bother to acquaint
themselves with issues and candidates.) Another election official in the
Far East expressed surprise that there are no minimum levels of voter
turn-out for an election to be considered valid.
     Now I would like to describe what Russian policy makers at three
different levels are saying.
     At the executive level, President Putin has only made a few
comments about the Florida events -- and most of these have been jokes.
Soon after 7 November, he helpfully suggested that Central Election
Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov could give U.S. officials some
help with how to count the votes quickly. He made the beer remark I
discussed earlier, and he also noted that events showed that there is a
"certain balance" among U.S. institutions. He also stated that "we should
be tolerant" and cautioned that "if the American people believe that there
is a need to correct the election laws, that is their internal affair."
     At a second level, we have Aleksandr Veshnyakov, who, as I
mentioned earlier is Russia's top election official. He oversaw Russia's
recent presidential as well as its State Duma elections. When he was
appointed, he was considered fairly apolitical, but the commission has
taken one too many decisions that just happened to be in the Kremlin's
self-interest, causing some analysts to conclude that he is perhaps less
than impartial. Nevertheless, the Russian elections were given a mostly
positive evaluation by the OSCE. More recently, however, questions have
been raised by "The Moscow Times," who after an extensive nationwide
investigative effort, suggested that in some regions fraud was rampant. It
concluded that although President Putin would have won eventually, his
election might have required two rounds.
     Veshnyakov was actually in the U.S. at the time of presidential
elections, visiting Washington, D.C. and Chicago. In an interview with
"Kommersant-Daily," Veshnyakov concluded the Russian system because it
doesn't have the electoral college is "more democratic" and is less
confusing to voters. Later he said that although the U.S. made some of
"same mistakes that are made in Russia" these were more openly discussed
in the Russian media.  He called the "situation around the elections" a
"blow to reputation of U.S. democracy." He further declared that  "there
is a lot we can learn from Americans, but Americans should not think too
much of themselves either and should learn from us too." Because he views
the electoral college an anachronism, he criticized "tortuous" process
required in the U.S. to amend the constitution. But unlike many other
Russian officials, Veshnyakov suggested that there are still certain
things in the U.S. worth copying. One, he liked the feature that only a
political party can put forth candidate. Two, that candidates can
participate in nationwide TV debates. And, three, that voting can be
conducted by mail and by computer.
     A third group of policy makers are the members of the State Duma.
In general, they been fairly anti-US in orientation, and the Florida
dispute has been like manna from heaven. Even before the election, members
wanted to send international election observers to the U.S.  (Even now
Aleksei Mitrofanov, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovskii's party, called for
sending observers to watch over the recount in Florida.) In fact, in late
October a vote to send observers got only 28 votes (of 226 required). But
after the election, some 246 Duma deputies supported a statement noting
the "significant drawbacks in [U.S.] election legislation" and calling the
nature of the election procedure in the U.S. "archaic." The statement also
noted that it was "surprising" that the OSCE had "refused to take part in
monitoring the presidential elections in the U.S., proceeding apparently
from the presumption of the infallibility of the American electoral
system." A top Duma official, Dmitrii Rogozin, head of International
Affairs Committee, said election showed "the archaic nature of the
democratic system of U.S., the illiteracy of a huge number of voters and
the complexity and intricacy of the voting process itself."

The Elections and the Future of US-Russian Relations

     The chief short term effect of the American electoral imbroglio
has been that Russia has been able to take advantage of the U.S.'s
inattention to world affairs. Two prominent examples are expanded Russian
participation in the Middle East peace process and Russia's announcement
that it will be beginning talks with Iran in the very near future on
conventional weapons sales. In addition, Russia's announcement that it was
pulling out of the 1995 Gore-Chernomyrdin agreement limiting these sales
two days before the election was held was likely not accidental.
     Over the longer term, the election imbroglio may make it harder
for U.S. to criticize election shenanigans in other countries.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta," another centrally-based newspaper owned by Boris
Berezovskii, suggested recently that the Florida "re-counts may deprive
Russians of their last illusions about the fairness of the democratic form
of government" and "now any election commission in any other country when
it is accused of violations will get to point their finger at the US." I
have not been following the reaction in Minsk, but I am sure officials
there have not been sad about certain allegations made in Florida.
     It may also make it harder for the U.S. to lead by example. Former
U.S. ambassador Vladimir Lukin, a member of Yabloko, said that Russia can
draw a lesson from the U.S., namely that Russian lawmakers can see what
"serious political consequences an imperfect election system can trigger."
Some people in the U.S. might think the more appropriate "lesson" to draw
is that while outcome has been disputed there was a legal process in place
for these disputes to be aired and followed through. But people in other
countries can and will draw their own conclusions, based on their own
preconceptions. And the images of angry voters in Florida, of ballot boxes
being discovered, and of blacks being turned away from polling stations
will at the very least make it harder for U.S. groups to conduct technical
assistance in the area of elections.
     A third possible outcome--and this may be overly optimistic--is
that the American events may allow Russian policy makers to vent a little
steam. Perhaps if they release some of irritation and resentment at the
U.S., there will be a bit less remaining. Over the past decade, the
Russian economy has declined by some 40 percent, a figure usually
experienced only by countries after they've lost a war. During the same
time period, the U.S. economy has grown and now as a result, Russia's
economy is less than 10 percent of the U.S.'s. It must be profoundly
irritating to Russians. Maybe our political crisis -- even if it is over
by next month -- might somehow help to even the scales at least a little
     In sum, the U.S. presidential elections has presented Russian
officials with a number of opportunities. One, they've been able to poke
fun at the U.S. and at the same time challenge its claim to moral
leadership. Two, they've been able to challenge the U.S.'s claim to render
judgment on the fairness or validity of elections in other countries.
Three, they've been able to take advantage of the U.S.'s absorption with
domestic issues to put forth their own interests in a number of key
foreign policy areas. And perhaps, if the current deadlock continues,
Russia will be presented with even more opportunities.


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