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BBC Monitoring
Leading Russian liberal outlines views on key issues
Source: Ekho Moskvy news agency, Moscow, in Russian 1540 gmt 20 Oct 01

Leader of Russia's Union of Right Forces party Boris Nemtsov has outlined his views on a range of topical issues: the struggle against international terrorism, Russia's relations with NATO, Russia's recent decision to close military bases in Vietnam and Cuba, the situation surrounding the recent resignation of Gazprom-Media chief Alfred Kokh and military reform in Russia. Nemtsov was speaking on Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio in an interview broadcast on 19 October at 1108 gmt.

Nemtsov welcomed Russia's decision to join the anti-terrorist coalition formed by the USA in the wake of the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington, saying that "our [Russian] economic interests are mainly in the West", and that "it is in Russia's strategic national interests to have good relations with the West". However, Nemtsov warned against relying exclusively on the use of military force in the struggle against international terrorism. "The use of military force on its own only generates more terrorism," Nemtsov said, adding that "terrorism is like a dragon in this way: you chop off one head, and three appear in its place". Nemtsov believes that if the USA widens its bombing campaign against Afghanistan to take in Iraq, Sudan, Libya and other countries, the result will be that the peoples of those countries will "consolidate around their leader, even if he is a scoundrel". "Other methods - primarily political ones - must be used," Nemtsov concluded.

On to the issue of Russia's relations with NATO Nemtsov declared his unequivocal support for the idea of Russia's accession to the Alliance. "It would be good for us, because NATO has an interest in reining in extremist regimes in Central Asia," Nemtsov said, adding that "cooperation with Russia would serve only to strengthen such views" within the Alliance. Nemtsov believes that Russia should propose its accession to the Alliance and that if NATO refuses, this will create "a big headache for Europe".

As for the USA's possible withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty, Nemtsov said that Russia's position was not the point at issue but that if the USA persists with its intention to ditch the treaty, this will "open up the possibility for negotiations: it will be possible to insist that the US national missile defence system be developed with the active technical cooperation of Russia and Europe". "Another possibility is the resolution of a whole range of economic problems we have, for example, attracting investment to Russia," Nemtsov added.

Nemtsov expressed his support of Russia's recent decision to close military bases in Cuba and Vietnam before commenting extensively on the main recent development in the Russian media - the resignation of Gazprom-Media chief Alfred Kokh. Nemtsov expressed the conviction that Kokh's decision was a result of his "refusal to dance to someone else's tune". "What is happening is an attempt to completely finish off [Russia's] NTV [television station]," said Nemtsov. "I am sure that Kokh will be replaced by someone who is absolutely dependant on the powers-that-be, someone who owes his entire career to them and who has no independence whatsoever," Nemtsov explained. He said that Kokh's departure is fraught with dangerous implications for other Gazprom-Media entities, including Ekho Moskvy radio. "Kokh exerted no pressure whatsoever on Ekho Moskvy's editorial policy, but I do not think that that will be the case when a new chairman takes office," said Nemtsov, adding that "the dominant mood at the moment is to put everything under total control. Nemtsov said that the most important thing now is "to do everything possible to ensure that Ekho Moskvy remains a private company" by implementing an agreement reached in the summer to transfer 9.5 per cent of the shares to Yevgeniy Yasin. He added that he himself had approached Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Gazprom board chairman Dmitriy Medvedev and presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin on the issue, but that no-one was forthcoming with a clear answer. He said that he interpreted the absence of a decision as "an attempt [on the part of the authorities] to maintain a grip on Ekho Moskvy".

Nemtsov also spoke about military reform in Russia. He said that the Union of Right Forces has worked out a detailed blueprint for military reform, the central point of which is the reduction of obligatory national service from two years to six months, after which soldiers would serve only voluntarily and on a professional basis, for a budget-funded monthly salary of about R3,000. Nemtsov expressed the conviction that such a reform would help do away with a number of serious problems in the military, including that of bullying and the dispatch of ill-prepared conscripts to conflict zones. He added, too, that such a plan of reform would be relatively cheap to implement and would cost the federal budget "no more than R28bn to R30bn annually". He said that the plan had been "quite well received by the authorities" and that it is now on Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov's desk awaiting further examination on the instructions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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