Johnson's Russia List
1 May 2003
A CDI Project

  DJ: I would like to hear from writers who have cited Johnson's Russia 
List in their books and publications. It will be useful to have information
about how JRL is being used in research and publication.

  1. Moscow News: Ella Maximova, Russian Archives, Forbidden Ground.
  2. REEIfication (Indiana University): Paul Carter, Smolensk Archive Home 
Safe and Sound.
  3. Sokurov's Mission. Moscow saw the long-expected film 
"Russian Ark."
  4. Reuters: Soccer-Russia slump again as the rest of Europe get friendly.
  5. Reuters: Image at home pushes Putin to new standoff with US.
  6. American Enterprise Institute Russian Outlook: Leon Aron, 
Russia, America, Iraq.]


Moscow News
April 30-May 6, 2003
Russian Archives, Forbidden Ground
Ella Maximova

A recent Duma hearing highlighted the "acute problem of Russian archives 
use." Scholars, academics, and inquisitive ordinary folks are concerned by 
the fact that great chunks of archival information are off limits. The 
problem did not originate yesterday, but it is still here today 
Academician Fursenko, secretary of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) 
History Department is outraged: Researchers cannot get from a Russian archive 
what is readily available at any archive abroad.
Several collections of articles on the Cold War, published in the U.S., are 
compiled from our documents which are off limits at home. So you will have to 
fly overseas for the material and then translate it from English back into 

Abstracts of 6,000 documents on the "CPSU case," collected in 1992 for the 
Constitutional Court, were published in 1995. The Kremlin and Staraya 
Ploshchad Archives catalogue, aimed at "a broad readership," was available in 
the public domain. Copies of it were of course also bought by foreigners. A 
law that was adopted later on restricted the use of a number of documents in 
the catalogue.

There are various ways documents leak out. Information is a valuable product 
while some of the archivists, largely selfless people devoted to the cause of 
science, happen to be venal. A report by the Intelligence Directorate of the 
General Staff indicating the number of U.S. POWs in Vietnam as substantially 
differing from the information Vietnam had presented to the United States, 
ended up in the West, creating a political uproar.

A research center across the ocean boasts a collection of top-secret 
documents whose copies were obtained from a prominent Russian military 

CPSU Archives

Ten years ago basic legislation on the RF State Archive and other archives 
was adopted, laying down new, democratic principles for the storage and use 
of the domestic historical heritage. Throughout the lifetime of several 
generations the historical truth had been excluded from the ideology imposed 
on society. CPSU archives are enormous: millions upon millions of cases and 
files classified secret.

Soon after the August putsch, as part of a group of journalists, I got into 
the holy of holies of the CPSU Central Committee: the archives of its General 
Department. We looked on as Storage No.9, with Secretariat and Politburo 
documents, was opened. Another storage facility contained the archives of the 
Personnel Department with dossiers on the entire party and state nomenklatura 
since the 1917 Revolution. Meanwhile, the corridors and offices were packed 
with boxes and cases of current documents and paperwork as well as bagfuls of 
shredded documents.

I was allowed to open a few files. Dangerous Trends in the CPSU's Ideological 
Work (an article declaring Marxism-Leninism a utopia), Assessment of the 
Democratic Russia Movement complete with dossiers on Starovoitova, Popov, 
Burbulis, Boldyrev, and so on and so forth. Later on, samples of CPSU 
resolutions were displayed at an exhibition mounted on Staraya Ploshchad. In 
my note pad they come under the heading "ON": On Hostile Moves at a Party 
Conference of the Heat-Engineering Laboratory of the Academy of Sciences; On 
F. Chaliapin's Daughter's Trip to Italy to Meet with her Mother; On Procedure 
for Burial at the Novodevichye Cemetery, to name but a few.

These scads of documents were to be sorted out and brought in line with 
common sense, i.e. internationally accepted "presumption of openness" with 
regard to the most reliable type of information - the archives. There were no 
laws. There was only the romantic zeal to put an end to propaganda myths. An 
ad hoc commission was set up including, among others, archivists. The 
archives took on the most difficult part of the job. Within two years they 
had identified and prepared for declassification five million documents.

Secrets of Secret Services

The fundamental legislation was followed up by the Law on State Secrets that 
came into conflict with this legislation (which is still in force). 
Archivists were denied the right to declassify documents at their own 
discretion: This became the prerogative of the government agency or 
department where a particular document had originated and been classified. If 
this agency or department or its successor has been abolished, the decision 
rests with the Interdepartmental Commission, or MVK.

The power - i.e. state security, foreign intelligence, law enforcement, and 
military - agencies had a special set of rules written for them. The 
situation here is arcane. Their archival services do not answer to the 
Russian State Archive Administration although the contents of their archives 
are part of RF national assets.

The Security Agencies Law says that documents will be moved to state archives 
"when they have lost their operational value" and "become a source of 
historical information." When is this supposed to happen? Documents of the 
Cheka, or the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission for Combating 
Counterrevolution and Sabotage, have been under lock and key since 1919. Do 
you know what the Russian State Archive received from the Central Archive of 
the Federal Security Service, or the FSB? Police field reports on Emperor 
Nicholas II's trips across the country and dossiers on White Guard officers.

The Law on Operational-Investigative Activities classifies all information 
about agents provocateurs and informers who operated during the Stalin-era 


Quite a few official archives ended up in the legal vacuum. Consider the 
Religious Affairs Council, the Main Administration for Safeguarding State 
Secrets in the Press, or Glavlit, and hundreds of other organizations that 
were abolished. None of them could match the CPSU that had no legal 
successors and 90 percent of whose documents were classified secret. A 
special commission was set up for the party. Two years later it died a quiet 
death when its chairman quit. No action was taken in the following five years 
despite recurring appeals from the Russian State Archive Administration and 
individual scholars to the Presidential Staff. Was there some ulterior motive 
behind this sluggishness by the ruling authorities? Communist intrigues? Or 
the usual, thoughtless disdain for the past and lessons of history?

What is the procedure in countries with strong democratic traditions and 
straightforward laws? It would probably be inappropriate to draw analogies 
here - what with Russia's obsession with secrecy, including classification of 
lists of state secrets: There is no way of knowing whether or not a 
particular piece of information is secret because this is a secret.

In a democratic society, a researcher looking for a particular document will 
be told that the document is there, but, as the case may be, is classified, 
and why: Otherwise the clerk will have violated the law and run the risk of 
losing his job. Declassification is under public control. It proceeds in 
accordance with a public or individual need or by presidential decree, which 
fact is widely reported in the media. Individuals take legal action to obtain 
particular information, and often win, as was the case with "opening" the 
Vietnam war. Public institutions help while independent lawyers, politicians 
and historians look into the legitimacy of withholding particular documents.

Our laws also provide for legal recourse if no satisfactory explanation has 
been given. Russian Start Archive officials, however, could not recall a 
single such case.

It seems that in this setup hopes should be pinned on the archivists 
themselves: After all they are also an aggrieved party. Society, and 
prominent scholars should exert pressure on the ruling establishment, 
enforcing a review and implementation of laws. But this will take time. 
Meanwhile, the Federal Archive Service, duly authorized by the MVK, 
declassified within a single year the entire archive of the Soviet military 
administration in Germany. Hopefully, the same procedure could be used in 
declassifying whole areas of CPSU Central Committee activities: culture, 
sports, the mass media, education, and trade, where lurking behind each 
document is a Party, not state, secret.


News From the Indiana University Russian and East European Institute
April 2003

Smolensk Archive Home Safe and Sound
This article was generously submitted by Paul M. Carter.

On March 25, 2003, American diplomat and I.U. alumnus Paul M. Carter, Jr.
(MA 1984; Ph.D. and REEI certificate 1997) represented the United States at
a ceremony marking the return of the famous “Smolensk Archive” of regional
Soviet Communist Party records, which had been captured by the German
Wehrmacht during its invasion of the USSR and held for much of the Cold War
period in the U.S. National Archives in Washington. U.S. Ambassador
Alexander Vershbow symbolically presented the archive to the Russian
government at a ceremony in Moscow last December, timed to coincide with
the physical transfer of the documents to the Russian Embassy in
Washington. The March 25 ceremony in Smolensk signaled the archive’s final
return to its original location. 

The odyssey of the Smolensk Archive is a fascinating study in the
interconnection of politics, scholarship, and military history. Discovered
by German intelligence officers after the capture of Smolensk in July 1941,
the archive was soon recognized as valuable fodder for anti-communist
pro-paganda and eventually shipped westward apparently for use by Nazi
ideologists at their anti-Bolshevik re-search center in Silesia. Most of
the archive – reportedly enough to fill three and a half railroad cars –
was recaptured by the Soviets at the end of the war, but about 570 files
somehow were separated from the rest of the archive and fell into American

Few of the American-held files were sensational or dramatic, the bulk
consisting of ordinary personnel records, interoffice memoranda, and
meeting reports. Nevertheless, the importance of the Smolensk Archive for
Western understanding of the Soviet system could hardly be over-estimated.
It provided American intelligence analysts, then Western scholars, with
some of the first documentary evidence of the internal workings of the
Soviet Communist Party as it attempted to remake Russia along Marxist lines
through crash in-dustrialization, collectivization, and mass terror. A
leading American sovietologist Merle Fainsod used the archive as the basis
for his classic 1958 study Smolensk Under Soviet Rule, which detailed these
processes and remains even now a staple of Soviet studies.

The first attempt by the U.S. Government to return the archive was made in
the 1960s, but the CPSU Central Committee was unwilling to acknowledge the
authenticity of the documents because of their politically embarrassing
nature. In the early 1990s, a tentative agreement was reached for the
archive’s return, but a transfer did not take place because the U.S. wanted
clarification of Russian intentions with regard to the Schneerson
collection of Russian Lubavitcher documents that had fallen into Bolshevik
hands soon after 1917. An important event in the eventually successful
return of the archive was the 1998 Washington Conference on Holocaust Era
Assets, at which the United States and the Russian Federation pledged
themselves to an international effort to help research and uncover cultural
assets that were seized by the Nazis during World War II and to return them
to their pre-war owners or heirs. In the years following the conference,
both public and private institutions in the United States and Europe have
taken steps towards addressing issues related to Nazi-confiscated cultural
assets. Chairman of the Commission on Art Recovery Ronald Lauder and his
representatives played a particularly important role in ensuring the return
of the Smolensk archive.

Moscow Embassy Second Secretary Paul Carter, accompanied by Library of
Congress Open World Program Moscow Coordinator Aleksandr Khilkov,
represented the United States at the March 25 ceremony marking the
archive’s return to the Smolensk region. Also in attendance were the
Director of the Russian State Archives Vladimir Kozlov, several other
federal archival officials, Deputy Director of the Diplomatic History
Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Valerii Kushpel, Deputy
Governor of Smolensk region Aleksandr Vorotnikov, regional archival
officials historians, and a large contingent from the regional press.

The ceremony took place in the large facility that houses the entire
collection of post-1917 archives for the region. Remarks by Russian
officials noted the historical importance of the Smolensk archive and their
deep gratitude to the United States for its return. In his remarks, Carter
described the opportunity to participate in the historic ceremony as a
great honor and pleasure and discussed some of the historical background
leading up to the archive’s return. He noted the archive’s tremendous
importance for Western scholarship, the commitment of the United States to
the return to their original owners of all archives and other cultural
assets displaced during World War II, and the significance of the Smolensk
Archive’s return as a further step in the strengthening of U.S.-Russian
relations. In an interview with Russian State Radio, Carter also discussed
the importance of the archives for his own understanding of Soviet
communism and offered his opinion on the nature of the system.

Following the ceremony, Carter and Khilkov were given a tour of the
archival facility and shown the newly returned files in their rightful
places. Archive director Alvina Dedkova explained that they had preserved
the numbering and filing system and the storage method used for the
documents as developed by the National Archives and opened a few boxes to
reveal the contents. The documents – made of low-grade Soviet paper – were
yellowed, and the information printed on them, whether hand- or
type-written, was in many cases faded beyond legibility. The archivists,
nevertheless, were overjoyed to have the documents back and promised to do
their best to preserve them for posterity.


April 30, 2003
Sokurov's Mission 
Moscow saw the long-expected film "Russian Ark"

Russian film director Alexander Sokurov differs from many of his colleagues 
as he doesn't stand up for "Orthodoxy, autocracy and folk character"; he is a 
rare guest at film congresses, sessions and different meetings; he doesn't 
run for governmental posts. This not tall, slightly limping man with low 
voice merely makes movies, but doesn't proclaim at that he is Russian. In 
fact, this explains quite a lot. 

Sokurov is known for a long period already as an elitist film director who 
makes films for those people who can understand them. Any kind of reputation 
is sticky. The reputation of a genius artist who looks like a man not of this 
world and who can be understood just by elite only is practically indelible. 
The time when Alexander Sokurov made "odd" movies (such as "Lonely Voice of 
Man", "Spiritual Voices") has sank into oblivion. His last works, "Moloch" 
and "Taurus" are wonderfully made, although they are rather primitive 
conceptually. In fact, there is hardly a film director in Russia who makes 
films like Alexander Sokurov; the actor performance is very particular in his 
films, the film maker employs different technical innovations. The idea of 
the film "Moloch" is to demonstrate the wretchedness of those people whom we 
elect to be in power and who are consequently guilty of all troubles people 
suffer. The idea demonstrate thus that people are themselves guilty of all 
their problems. The film "Taurus" is movie for the sake of movie. 

Sokurov's "Russian Ark" will be certainly included into all text-books on the 
movie history. The film is a sure feat. We would like to beg pardon of the 
film's admirers, but it is still not clear why the film maker shot the whole 
of the film in one take without stops. Why was it done so while it was 
possible to shoot a film in several takes and the camera could be stopped? It 
is quite obvious that the author did it with a view to attract people who 
don't belong to admirers of elite movies.  

The subject of "Russian Ark" is wonderful: the whole of Russia's history is 
shot is the halls of the Hermitage within 1.5 hours without stops. 
Realization of the idea is also stunning. Camera of German cameraman Tilman 
Buttner weighs 35 kilograms, and he stoically rushed about the Hermitage with 
the camera following the Russian history in every hall of the museum. This 
hard work lasted for 1.5 hours. Over 1,000 people acted in the film and its 
crowd scenes. 3 pails of special make-up powder were bought and 6,500 
particular "history authentic" buttons were made especially for the film. 
There is no precedent for this film in Russia. Experiments of this kind have 
already been made in the world cinematography, let's take Alfred Hitchcock 
for example. 

Once in an interview Alexander Sokurov complained that Europe was ready to 
ignore Russians, that Europeans on the whole knew less about Russians than we 
knew about them. Is Sokurov's new film a campaign against the foreign 
ignorance, an idea to demonstrate our Russian ark of culture? Probably it is 
not bad. It is worth mentioning that the box office of the film in the USA is 
fairly good: as Americans say themselves, the last movie by Alexander Sokurov 
registered the box office at the rate of about one million dollars (while 
other sources say the sum is 1,800 thousand dollars). It is very good for a 
Russian film. Sokurov and his producers established direct contacts with 
foreign film distributors. Within a year, the film "Russian Ark" was 
demonstrated in almost half of the world countries, the USA, Germany, Brazil, 
Japan, Portugal- For the time being, the Russian film is demonstrated in 20 
countries. It is strange but the film is not widely demonstrated in Russia. 
It was only last week that "Russian Ark" showed up in Russia's St.Petersburg 
and a bit later was demonstrated in Moscow. 

Premiere of the film in Moscow was organized in Moscow's Kinocenter (Movie 
Center), although its Grand Hall is three times less than in the House of 
Movies. Recently, Alexander Sokyrov withdrew the film from voting for 
nomination at the Gold Eagle film contest. He explained that the film was not 
yet finished and promised to run for the nomination next year. It is strange 
that the film was considered as finished for participation in the movie 
festival in Cannes, for demonstration in the USA and Japan, but it is said to 
be not finished for participation in the contest for Russian nomination.   

 But it is now perfectly evident who is to be awarded with the Gold Eagle 
prize next year. It will be embarrassing not to award Sokurov for making this 
film. A bit earlier, Alexander Sokurov asked the European Film Academy to 
strike cameraman Tilman Buttner out of the list of candidates to the 
nomination Best Cameraman. And that concerns the very cameraman who rushed 
about the Hermitage with his heavy 35-kilogram camera! It was said that some 
faults in his work entailed losses (however, it would be strange if a 
cameraman were not mistaken at least once while realizing the difficult idea 
of the film director). In a word, that was not quite nice of Alexander 
Sokurov to strike the cameraman out of the list of nominees, especially if we 
take into consideration the hardest regime of Buttner's work. In fact, the 
budget of the film was not big, 2.5 million dollars; the government also made 
its contribution into the film budget.  It is said that it was the German 
company Egoli Tossel Film AG that incited the Russian film director for the 
doing with respect to the cameraman as it was dissatisfied with its losses at 
the rate of 0.5 million dollars. Long-term designs connected with German 
money and the need for a scandal, this is how Alexander Sokurov fell out with 
the European Film Academy.  Sokurov's cruel self-promotion that he has 
mastered recently became an obstacle for Buttner on his way toward the 
nomination the Best Cameraman. 

To convey the Russian culture into the western masses is very noble doing. 
And rather profitable, by the way. One may be declared a man really caring 
about the Russian culture if one is not shouting at every corner about 
reviving of Russia and its art, is not speaking about Russia what it could 
have been but will never be at all. If a man is quietly making a film for a 
narrow circle of connoisseurs at home and for a wide range of admirers abroad 
with money sent from the west, he can be called a man really caring about the 
Russian culture. Every artist wants to be famous. Some people are ready for 
becoming famous, they are ready to disregard their glorious artistic past and 
become the Chief Keeper of the sovereign culture (like Russia's Nikita 
Mikhalkov). Others are ready to disregard the governmental officialism and to 
become the Chief Keeper of the culture, but an unofficial one. One is working 
hard on the domestic market, and the other - on the foreign one. The result 
they both achieve is practically the same. As for Sokurov, there is less 
piety in his address, as he is shouting less about the Russian culture and 
its problems, and certainly because he makes good quality films. It is 
important to say here that although Alexander Sokurov has taken great 
interest in commerce and self-promotion, but he has still managed to retain 
his talent.  And at that he is getting much dividend. It looks like Russian 
culture missionaries are coming into fashion in the west once again.      

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Soccer-Russia slump again as the rest of Europe get friendly
By Mitch Phillips

LONDON, April 30 (Reuters) - On a night when most of Europe's big guns were
involved in friendlies, Russia's hopes of joining them at the Euro 2004
finals suffered a setback when they went down to a second successive
qualifying defeat, this time 1-0 in Georgia.

Malkhaz Asatiani, who plays for Lokomotiv Moscow, scored early in the first
half to give Georgia a well-deserved 1-0 Group 10 win in Tbilisi.

The result, coming after the 3-1 loss in Albania last month, leaves Russia
in second place with six points from four matches, two points behind group
leaders Switzerland. Albania are third on five with Ireland and Georgia on

"It is a great day for all Georgian soccer," said elated new coach Ivo
Susak of his first match in charge.

While Russia are struggling, Latvia are starting to dream of making their
first-ever major finals as a 3-0 home win over San Marino took them back to
the top of Group Four.

Two goals for midfielder Imants Bleidelis and one for Andrejs Prohorenkovs
took Latvia to 10 points from four games, with Poland (seven points),
Hungary and Sweden (both five) trailing in their wake.

In the stand-out friendly of the night, the Czech Republic looked on course
for a hugely impressive win after racing into a 4-0 halftime lead over
World Cup semi-finalists Turkey.

Goals by Tomas Rosicky, Jan Koller and Liverpool duo Vladimir Smicer and
Milan Baros had the Czech fans singing in Teplice.

In other early friendlies Croatia won 2-1 in Sweden, Denmark beat Ukraine
1-0, Romania won 1-0 in Lithuania and Bulgaria beat Albania 2-0.


It was also a memorable day for Liechtenstein, who enjoyed only the third
win in their history as they beat Saudi Arabia 1-0.

The Saudis, who reached last year's World Cup finals, join China and
Azerbaijan on Liechtenstein's honours board after a first-half goal by
Franz Burgmeier in Vaduz.

England were the only one of Europe's top 25 nations not to play on
Wednesday. Ironically, instead of preparing his team, national manager
Sven-Goran Eriksson spent the day in meetings listening to leading premier
league managers complaining about losing their players for international

Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands were all in
action later on Wednesday.


ANALYSIS-Image at home pushes Putin to new standoff with US
April 30, 2003
By Richard Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Fear of losing face at home a year before seeking 
re-election may lie behind Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to 
embark on a fresh and risky standoff with Washington over Iraq, analysts said 

Putin, who jeopardized his close partnership with U.S. President Bush by 
opposing the war on Iraq but who has escaped relatively lightly in the 
post-war fall-out, on Tuesday surprisingly set the stage for another 
international row -- this time over the issue of U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

In talks outside Moscow with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the U.S. main 
ally on Iraq, Putin rejected their calls for a quick end to U.N. sanctions 
against Baghdad.

Sending Blair back to London empty-handed, the Kremlin leader said United 
Nations sanctions could be removed only after arms inspectors had established 
the truth about alleged Iraqi stocks of banned weapons.

"Sanctions were imposed on Iraq on the basis of suspicions that it held 
weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions can only be removed if there is no 
suspicion and it is only the (U.N.) Security Council that can remove these 
sanctions because it imposed them in the first place," he said.

The United States is planning moves at the U.N. to end the sanctions, imposed 
on Iraq after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait, and to start phasing out the U.N. 
oil-for-food program .

But Putin said that far from wanting it to be phased out Moscow wanted the 
program -- in which Russian firms were very active players before the war -- 
to be extended and kept under U.N. control.

At the root of Moscow's concern is that once sanctions are lifted and the 
oil-for-food program ended, the United Nations will no longer have any 
control over Iraq's considerable oil sector.

Russia's worst fears are that the Iraqi economy would then be controlled -- 
for some time at least -- by Washington and its war allies -- and Russia 
would have to fight hard to defend its considerable oil industry interests in 
the region as well as recoup the $8 billion it is owed by Iraq from Soviet 


But analysts said that after being humiliated and ignored by Washington in 
the run-up to the war on Iraq, Putin, who will seek a new, four-year term in 
office in March 2004, had no choice but to take a tough stance on the lifting 
of sanctions.

They said Bush has little to offer Putin now and there is no real reason for 
the Kremlin leader to compromise himself at home.

"Putin spent two years crafting his partnership with Bush and he made some 
serious concessions, many of which he has not been forgiven for. Then at the 
moment of crisis he was simply disregarded," said Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy 
director of the Moscow-based U.S.A.-Canada Research Institute.

"On the eve of elections it is not a good position to be in. So, this display 
of force is not so much for the Americans but for voters at home," Kremenyuk 

Putin's tough stance, which sets him on a new collision course with the Bush 
administration, was the more surprising since Washington signaled that it 
sees France as the real villain of the anti-war camp rather than Russia.

Bush, in a television interview on April 24, made clear it was France that 
was likely to be on the receiving end of U.S. post-war displeasure. French 
President Jacques Chirac, Bush said, would not be "coming to the ranch any 
time soon."

Whether Putin will get his name again into the visitors' book at Bush's Texas 
ranch in Crawford  -- he went there in November 2001 when his friendship with 
Bush was just budding -- still remains to be seen.

A possible new confrontation comes at an untimely moment for Putin who at the 
end of May is hoping to attract Bush, Blair, Chirac and other world leaders 
to glittering festivities in his hometown St Petersburg to mark the 300th 
anniversary of the old tsarist capital.

He would not want the birthday party to become a bear-pit.     


Ironically, in early 2001 Russia found itself in the position of pressing for 
the sanctions to be relaxed, saying they mainly harmed Iraq's civilian 

At the time Russia proposed sanctions be suspended if Iraq agreed to allow a 
resumption of inspections to ensure it held no banned weapons.

A permanent member of the Security Council with the power of veto, Russia 
prizes the authority of the U.N. which is one of the few bodies where Moscow 
retains some of its former superpower clout and can exert leverage on 

After the buffeting the world body sustained in being by-passed by Washington 
in the decision to go to war, Russia is keen to see a central role restored 
to the U.N. in settling Iraq's future.

"Putin made a show of Russia's position over sanctions because at the moment 
it is the only leverage Russia has over the United States. Russia's plan is 
to force the United States to return to the Security Council where Russia's 
role is crucial," Kremenyuk said.

"Relations with the U.S. will remain vague for the time being. Putin will 
only lose from any knee-jerk moves. He is entering the election phase and 
that overrides everything," he added.

(Additional reporting by Andrei Shukshin)


American Enterprise Institute
Russia, America, Iraq 
By Leon Aron 
Leon Aron is a resident scholar at AEI.
Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 
AEI Online  (Washington)  
Publication Date: May 1, 2003 

Russia's opposition to the U.S.-led war against Saddam Hussein's regime in
Iraq and recent revelations about Moscow's military and intelligence
collaboration with Baghdad raise serious questions about the nature and
long-term prospects of a U.S.-Russian post-September 11 "partnership,"
which, the Iraq contretemps notwithstanding, both nations continue to insist
they regard as central to their foreign and security policies. 

To address such questions in post-Soviet Russia, which is no longer an
ideological dictatorship, it is not sufficient to analyze just the views and
choices of the top Kremlin executives and their reference groups among the
"elites." Important though they are, a realistic assessment of the
U.S.-Russian relationship, present and future, must also take into account
the domestic context of Russian foreign policy, which to a far greater
extent than ever before is shaped by public opinion, powerful constituencies
outside the Kremlin, the imperatives of the political calendar, and the
Russian economy. 
Public Opinion

There is little doubt about where Russian public opinion stood on the
U.S.-led effort to disarm and destroy the Ba'athist regime--or how closely
the Kremlin hewed to it in the run-up to and at the onset of the war. 

From the first hint of possible military action against Saddam Hussein to
the fall of his statue amidst a jubilant, shoe-banging crowd, Russians have
been skeptical of the threat posed by Iraq, insistent that their government
work for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, passionately opposed to any
use of force, and suspicious of America's motives in the region. 

In a January 2003 national poll, 52 percent of Russians felt "indignant"
about a possible U.S.-British "military operation against Iraq," while only
3 percent approved of the idea.[1] Asked which side would enjoy their
sympathy in the event of war, 50 percent said neither, while 10 percent
would root for America and 32 percent for Iraq.[2] While about one-fifth
thought the United States was preparing for war in order to "destroy
terrorist bases" or prevent Iraq from manufacturing weapons of mass
destruction, twice as many ascribed America's bellicosity to a desire to
"show the world 'who's boss,'" and over a third (34-37 percent) considered
U.S. "economic interests"--including control over Iraqi oil--as the
underlying casus belli. [3]

In the months leading to war, positive attitudes toward America fell from 69
percent in October 2002 to 48 percent in March 2003, while negative ones
rose from 24 percent to 40 percent.[4] With coalition forces massing in the
Persian Gulf in early March, far more Russians considered the United States
a greater threat to world peace (71 percent) than they did Iraq (45

By the end of March, as coalition forces raced across the Euphrates plain,
only 14 percent of Russians believed that America played "a mostly positive
role in today's world;"[6] 91 percent disapproved of the war, while in
another poll, 82 percent expressed indignation over it.[7] President Bush
commanded an all-time unfavorable "high" of 76 percent in Russia.[8] At the
same time, Saddam Hussein's favorability ratings--at 22 percent--barely
budged with the outbreak of war, up a mere seven points from February
2002.[9] Similarly, in early March the majority of respondents (51 percent)
felt that Iraq was neither a hostile nor a friendly country to Russia.[10]
Thus, most Russians' anger appears to have stemmed not from sympathy with
the target of American power but from its very exercise. 

Policy Choices. Despite their opposition to the war, the majority of
Russians--when asked in polls between December 2002 and April 2003 which
side their country should take--consistently replied that Moscow should
remain neutral (61-73 percent). Between 7 and 9 percent advocated support
for the United States, while 19 to 32 percent were for "diplomatic
assistance" to Iraq.[11]

The percentages of these latter two "proactive" groups virtually coincide
with poles in Russian politics: the former with the liberal modernizers of
the Union of Rightist Forces, headed by Boris Nemtsov, Egor Gaidar, and
Anatoly Chubais and the latter with the Communist Party. As an analysis last
January by a leading Russian polling firm put it, "The attitude towards the
United States . . . [is] the dividing line of the Russian political

The outbreak of war did little to jolt the broad desire for neutrality.
Asked in early April if Russia should risk "damaging its relationship with
the United States over war with Iraq," a clear majority (60 percent) said
no. In fact, only 16 percent advocated this course of action; the remaining
24 percent "weren't sure."[13]

With the official policy reflecting the majority's attitude faithfully, at
the end of February 2003, almost seven in ten Russians (66 percent)
supported their country's position, and a solid plurality (45 percent) felt
their country was gaining respect in the world because of its stance.[14]

Russia's Muslims
Within the general electorate, Russian Muslims are a constituency to which
the Kremlin likely paid special attention in developing its Iraq policy.
Concentrated mostly in seven autonomous republics* and numbering 15 to 20
million, they are 10 to 14 percent of the population-the largest Muslim
minority in Europe.** (By comparison, there are 4 to 5 million Muslims, or 7
to 8 percent of the total population, in France; 2.9 million, or 4 percent,
in Germany; and 1.7 million, or 3 percent, in the United Kingdom. The 6
million Muslims in America are 2 percent of the United States' population.) 

Some Muslim activists claim that because of a birthrate much higher than the
national average, Russian Muslims will constitute one-third of the country's
population by 2025.[15] In May 2002 the Russian Muslims' top administrative
body, the Council of Muftis, drafted a manual for officers of the Russian
armed forces, in which every tenth serviceman is of Muslim extraction. The
handbook contained "a list of regulations from the Koran" and "descriptions
of the particulars of everyday Muslim life."[16]

Like other religious minorities in Russia, most notably the Jews, the Muslim
community has undergone an astonishing religious and cultural renaissance in
the past decade. In 1991 there were eighteen mosques in Tatarstan, the home
of Russia's most numerous Muslim people; today there are more than 1,000.
The Russian Islamic University opened in Kazan, the Tatar capital, in 1998.
Last September, the Kazan Mohammediya madrassa, a religious school, had
about 1,000 students. 

A Danger of Radicalization. While the overwhelming majority of Russian
Muslims follow the more liberal Sufi branch of Islam, freedom of travel has
exposed tens of thousands of haj pilgrims to the more militant and austere
Wahhabite sect practiced in Saudi Arabia. Russia's largest mosque is being
built in the center of Kazan with money from the Saudi-based Islamic
Development Bank. In December 2001 one of Russia's top Muslim leaders
admitted to having met Osama bin Laden's brother several times in the
Muslim-majority autonomous republic of Bashkortostan.[17] 

Hundreds of Russian Muslim clerics, community leaders, and young students of
Islam have trained in Saudi Arabia and returned as proselytizing Wahhabite
imams, while Arab teachers of Islam freely travel throughout Russia. In
November 2001, following reports that some graduates of the Yodyz madrassa
in the city of Naberzhnye Chelny had gone to Chechnya to fight the Russian
troops, the Tatarstan government expelled the Arab teachers of the madrassa
and revoked the school's license.

This past March, the chief mufti for the Sverdlovsk region, Khazrat
Sibgatulla Khadzha, told reporters that the "struggle against Islamic
extremism in the central Urals area is not sufficiently active."[18]
According to the mufti, "Arab emissaries" distributed Wahhabite literature
that contained "calls for an armed struggle against the nonbelievers." The
cleric also claimed that the Wahhabites had opened two youth camps in the
region and organized similar camps in Siberia and the Far East.[19]
With the Soviet legacy of enforced atheism and secularism crumbling rapidly
in Tatarstan, the number of women insisting on wearing head scarves in
public grew large enough to alarm the federal Ministry of Internal Affairs,
which in the spring of 2002 issued a decree requiring that no scarves be
worn in photographs for official documents, such as domestic passports and
driver's licenses. Insisting that the Koran prohibited a Muslim woman from
"removing the veil before an unknown man," fifteen Tatar women, represented
by the Muslim Women's Union, sued the authorities for denying religious
freedoms guaranteed by the constitution. Turned down by a Kazan district
court and then in the Supreme Court of Tatarstan, the plaintiffs appealed to
the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which upheld the lower courts'
decision in March 2003.

From 9/11 to Iraq. Two weeks after the September 11 attacks, Vladimir Putin
met with Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin, the chairman of Russia's Council of Muftis,
and Talgat Tadzhuddin, supreme mufti of the Central Religious Board of
Russian Muslims. (The political leadership of Russia's Muslim community is
largely split between these two clerics, who are bitter rivals.) Putin had
invited them to the Kremlin to express gratitude for their support in the
war against terrorism. Both Tadzhuddin and Gaynutdin joined the government
in its condemnation of the attacks in New York and Washington, proposing
that an international conference be held under the banner, "Islam against
terror."[20] However, as soon as U.S. bombs began to fall on Taliban
positions in October, at least some prominent Muslim clerics and their
followers dissented from the official position. 

Already by October 15, 2001, protests against the U.S. strikes took place in
Kazan during the annual "day of mourning" rally, which commemorates the fall
of the city to the Russian forces under Ivan the Terrible in 1552. Two weeks
later, a cochairman of the Council of Muftis, Nafigulla Ashir, condemned the
attack on Afghanistan's Taliban rulers as a "criminal war" and avowed that
it would be "justified" for any Russian Muslim to take up arms in defense of
the Taliban.[21] 

In April 2002, as the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia marked
Memorial Day in Israel with rallies that condemned suicide bombings and
commemorated their Israeli victims in nearly 100 Russian cities,
Abdul-Vakhed Niyazov, a deputy for the Duma's largest party, the
pro-government United Russia (UR), led a protest outside the Israeli Embassy
in Moscow. A much larger anti-Israel demonstration was held in Khasavyurt,
Dagestan's second largest city, with participants carrying posters that read
"Hands off Palestine" and "Sharon is Terrorist No.1."[22] "We are absolutely
dissatisfied with Russia's attitude toward the Palestinian problem," the
imam of one of the mosques in Dagestan's capital, Makhachkala, told
reporters. "There are more than 25 million [sic] Muslims in Russia, and if
Russia is not taking into account the position of its citizens, this may
lead to serious problems."[23] 

"Setting the Islamic World Against Russia." In October 2002 a prominent
Russian Islamic scholar warned that Russia's "fully supporting the U.S.
administration plans for a military strike at Iraq . . . eventually would .
. . set the Islamic world against Russia."[24] As the prospect of U.S.-led
war on Iraq hardened into a reality, the position of the leaders of the
Russian Muslim community shed any trace of ambiguity. At the end of
February, Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin declared that a military operation against
Iraq would be a "tragedy for the whole region" and could provoke a "wave of
terrorist acts" throughout the world. He claimed that "thousands" of Russian
Muslims were prepared to go to Iraq to "defend the Iraqi people."[25]

On March 13 Mufti Tadzhuddin told reporters in Moscow that the "Muslim
community of Russia condemns the actions of the United States and Britain,
which are blasphemously attempting to assume the role of supreme rulers of
the world's destiny." He added that Russia's Muslims "fully support the
position of President Vladimir Putin on the Iraq question."[26]

During an antiwar rally sponsored by United Russia on April 3, Tadzhuddin
announced, during an antiwar rally sponsored by United Russia, that his
organization had declared jihad against America. "Russia's Muslims have
effective levers of influence in the United States," he said. "We will set
up a fund to raise donations that will be used to buy weapons to fight
against the United States and to purchase food for the people of Iraq." He
added that this was the first time Russia's Muslims had declared jihad since
the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany in 1941.[27]

Tadzhuddin's outburst provoked swift denunciations from most quarters,
including the Russian Orthodox Church, the speaker of the upper house of the
Russian parliament, the president of Russia's Jewish congress, and Muslim
muftis from across the Russian Federation.[28] In a meeting chaired by
Sheikh Ravil Gaynutdin on April 14 in Moscow, Russia's Islamic leaders came
together to annul the call for jihad and, more importantly, snatch power
from the "rogue" cleric: "Tadzhuddin has seceded from Islam and presented
himself as a false prophet. His statement conflicts with the major
postulates of sharia law." A near-unanimous resolution was subsequently
passed in support of President Putin and his policy concerning
"stabilization around Iraq and worldwide."[29]

Politics and Economy

Although Russia's Iraq policy appears to have mirrored the country's mood
(and certainly that of its Muslims), it cannot be explained by public
opinion alone. After all, public opinion is not always automatically
translated into policy even in mature liberal democracies, much less in
nations, such as Russia, that have only recently broken with a long
authoritarian tradition. Deference to the leader, especially in matters of
foreign policy and national security, is an integral part of that tradition
and, with his country in its fourth year of economic growth, Vladimir Putin
remains a very popular president. Why, then, has he not attempted to use his
popularity to mold and change the country's attitude or, failing that,
hazarded his vast political capital on taking an unpopular decision and
leading Russia in a pro-U.S. direction, changing public opinion as British
prime minister Tony Blair and his Spanish counterpart, Jos? Maria Aznar,
have done? 

Elections and Reforms. While no single cause can by itself account for
Putin's choice, a combination of factors proved irresistible in the end. The
Duma election is only eight months away, and the presidential poll is to
take place in March 2004. While Putin's reelection appears certain, the
voters are likely to punish United Russia, the pro-government party in the
Duma, for any and all unpopular decisions the president makes. Meanwhile,
despite the Kremlin's blessing, United Russia, which advertises itself as
the party of the post-Soviet middle class, has been less than uniformly
successful in local gubernatorial and mayoral elections around the country.
Among those who intend to vote, UR is in a dead heat with the Communists
(KPRF): 23 percent to 24 percent in favor of the KPRF, which since 9/11 has
been skewering the Putin administration for being America's lapdog.[30] If
Putin had sided with the United States on Iraq, he would have undoubtedly
reduced or even jeopardized the UR's plurality, let alone majority, in the
2004-2008 Duma. 

During what would be his second and last term as president, Putin
desperately needs a pro-reform majority, or at least plurality, in the Duma
in order to complete a very ambitious program of structural reforms, which
he considers one of the most important parts of his legacy. Among the most
painful and politically risky measures are the privatization of state-owned
monopolies in electricity and other utilities; the housing reform that would
gradually eliminate enormous state subsidies and bring rents closer to their
real cost; the pension reform that would gradually shift funding from the
state to payments by employees and employers and transfer custody of
millions of pensions from the state-owned Sberbank to private
state-regulated mutual funds; and a sharp reduction in the ranks of the
armed forces and the creation of an all-volunteer army. 

Just how much political capital Putin will need to spend to secure these
reforms is evident from a recent national poll: between 36 and 56 percent
felt that the housing, electricity, and pension reforms would "make life
worse for people like me"; only 8 to 14 percent thought that the reforms
would make their lives better.[31] 

The Elite Grievances. The Kremlin's policy choices in the Iraq affair were
also influenced by the mood of the political establishment, including
deputies in the Duma and the senior bureaucracy in the foreign and defense
ministries, which have grown increasingly unhappy with what they perceive as
a "one-way street" in Russo-American relations.

In this view, Russia has taken a number of major steps helpful to the United
States since September 11, 2001: unprecedented overflight and basing rights
and intelligence sharing; quiet acquiescence to the unilateral abrogation of
the ABM treaty (despite the spoiling for a fight by the Democratic majority
in the U.S. Senate and by America's European allies) and the expansion of
NATO to former Soviet territory. Not only, the argument goes, did the United
States fail to reciprocate in any way commensurate with the Russian
proffers, but, in fact, it damaged Russian interests in a number of ways.
Much in the list of particulars may be inaccurate, ascribing ill will and
intent to oversights, bureaucratic inertia, and policies in which Russia was
far from a major consideration. Still, as the dean of American sociologists,
W. I. Thomas, once noted: "If men define situations as real, they are real
in their consequences."[32] 

Among the Russian grievances are: 

The Jackson-Vanik Trade Law Amendment. Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1974,
the measure prohibits granting normal trade relations (formerly known as
most favored nation) status to countries with non-market economies that
restrict freedom of emigration. Even though more than 70 percent of the
Russian economy is in a nonstate sector (last year the United States
officially recognized Russia as a market economy) and both emigration and
travel abroad are unrestricted, Russia has to receive an annual waiver to be
exempted from the law. By contrast, China no longer does. 

The Bush administration repeatedly promised Moscow that it would have
Congress repeal Jackson-Vanik. Last year it encountered stiff resistance in
the Senate, controlled by the Democrats until the November midterm
elections. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph R.
Biden, opposed the repeal because of a Russian ban on U.S. poultry exports.
(Russia was the single largest importer of American chicken parts,
accounting for half of the total U.S. exports, much of them produced in
Biden's home state of Delaware.) The White House retreated.  

Steel Tariffs. In March 2002 the Bush administration imposed tariffs ranging
from 8 to 30 percent on imported steel for a three-year period. In addition
to Russia, which provided 4 to 6 percent of the over 23 million tons of
steel imported by the United States, the countries most adversely affected
by the tariffs were Ukraine, Japan, China, South Korea, and Brazil. 

Russian steel imports to the United States accounted for 10 percent of the
annual trade turnover between the two countries, and Russia stood to lose
$400 to $500 million because of the imposition of the duties. In addition,
the sharp decrease in trade was predicted to cause massive layoffs in the
privatized Russian steel industry, which employed 750,000 people. At the
time, Moscow called the imposition of the tariffs "illegal" and warned of
their "negative" impact on the relations between the two countries.[33] 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Paris Club Debt. Russia hoped for
U.S. assistance in expediting its entry into the WTO and in negotiating
partial forgiveness or rescheduling of more than $100 billion of Soviet debt
to sovereign lenders (the so-called Paris Club). As of now, Russia remains
at least a year away from WTO membership, and the Paris Club has not
rescheduled or forgiven any of its Soviet debt (most of it accumulated by
the Gorbachev government between 1988 and 1991). The latter is likely a
source of particular bitterness, as the Russians watched Eastern European,
particularly Polish, communist-era debts forgiven in the early 1990s and as
the United States today helps postwar Iraq write off its Saddam-era debts,
many of which are owed to Moscow.

The Consulate. The U.S. Embassy's Moscow consulate is known throughout
Russia for the rudeness and incompetence of its staffers, who capriciously
deny visas to (or subject to humiliatingly long interviews) not just
would-be tourists from the middle and upper-middle class, but also leading
Russian entrepreneurs, civic leaders, and cultural figures traveling to
America by invitation.  

Fear of "Backlash." Meeting with the Bush administration's top foreign
policy officials in Washington last February, one of President Putin's key
advisors added to this litany the alleged U.S. "opposition" to Russian
interests throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States, pressure on
pro-Russian elements in the post-Taliban government of Afghanistan, and
resistance by U.S. diplomats in Georgia to Russia's efforts to rid the
Pankisi Gorge of Chechen and Arab fighters. 

According to the same Kremlin insider, this record, as seen from Moscow,
made even generally pro-U.S. members of the political class doubt if Russia
could count on U.S. assistance--military, economic, and diplomatic--in
coping with a "backlash" and "retaliation" by the "Islamic world" which,
they felt, would inevitably follow Russia's support of a U.S. war on Iraq.
Unlike the United States or Europe, Russia must take into account its "soft
underbelly": over 60 million Muslims in six states on or close to its
southern borders--Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan--and, further south, Iran, Pakistan, and

Economic Benefits of the Status Quo. Economic considerations have also
contributed to Moscow's policy choices. Iraq was the Soviet Union's client
state for two decades in the 1970s and 1980s (its debt to Moscow is
estimated at $8 to $12 billion), and Russia inherited a major economic
presence there. Russia remained one of Iraq's major trading partners after
UN sanctions were imposed in 1990. Iraq bought products that Russia could
not sell anywhere else, including its cars, which are by far the dominant
brand on the Iraqi road. Russian technicians continued to run power plants,
manage factories, and build railroads. Russia's sales to Iraq under the UN
oil-for-food program likely have netted Moscow well over $1 billion.[34]
Thus, the status quo (inspecting Iraq for weapons of mass destruction while
preserving the regime and possibly lifting UN sanctions) translated into an
important cash flow for Russia and generated thousands of jobs. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia remained Iraq's main supplier
of weapons and military equipment. Undoubtedly, arms shipments have also
been made by private Russian firms in violation of the UN-imposed sanctions.
The disclosure in late March of the sale of Russian-made night-vision
goggles, antitank missiles, and global-positioning-system jamming devices to
Saddam's troops is only the most conspicuous part of the pattern. As with
the export of Russian nuclear energy technology to Iran, the Russian
military-industrial complex is willing (or, perhaps, eager) to complicate or
even damage Russo-American relations for cash and jobs.

Russia's interests in Iraqi oil are also extensive. Russian businesses hold
hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of contracts to explore, drill, and
service Iraqi oil fields, which are among the world's richest. In 1997
Russia's largest oil firm, LUKoil, negotiated a $4 billion,
twenty-three-year contract to rehabilitate the West Qurna oil field in
southern Iraq. In addition, it is almost certain that Russian oil companies
facilitated the export of Iraqi oil in circumvention of UN sanctions. 

The removal of Saddam Hussein is also likely to cost the Russian treasury
billions of dollars in lost taxes because of a sharp increase in Iraqi oil
production, which may conceivably rise to 4 million barrels per day from
last year's average of 2.9 million. With every dollar drop in the price per
barrel estimated to cost Russia a half percentage point of its GDP, regime
change in Iraq could jeopardize Russia's four-year-old economic recovery and
the steadily rising standard of living, on which the Putin administration
rightly prides itself. Asked by pollsters to predict the consequences of
U.S. victory in Iraq, most leading Moscow political analysts, journalists,
and intellectuals said that they expected it would result in "the worsening
of the economic situation in Russia."[35]

The French Syndrome. Finally, like their German and French counterparts, a
sizeable segment of the Russian elite undoubtedly welcomed a chance to
demonstrate that former superpowers can "stand up to" and thwart the world's
"hyperpower," if only momentarily and largely on a symbolic level.
Short-lived though it is likely to be, this revival of "multipolarity" and
the opportunity to strut in the brief but bright limelight of world
attention must have been gratifying even to those in the political class who
see partnership with the United States as the only viable strategic option
for Russia. 

Neither Carrots nor Sticks. In the fall of 2001, after siding decisively
with the United States, Vladimir Putin declared: 

Unlike the past, Russia today cooperates with the West not because it wants
to be liked or wants to get something in exchange for its position. We are
not panhandling and we are not asking anyone for anything. I conduct this
policy only because I feel that it is completely in accordance with Russia's
national interests.[36] 

At the time, Putin showed little deference to, or even patience with, the
traditionally anti-American defense and foreign bureaucracies, whose list of
grievances was likely to have been just as long then as it is now. Within a
week of September 11, he overruled his defense and foreign ministers by
granting U.S. troops unprecedented overflight rights and encouraging the
former Soviet republics in Central Asia to allow the establishment of
American bases there. 

According to a top Kremlin official, the Russian president understands,
unlike many of his subordinates, that at least some of the U.S. policies
Russia finds objectionable are not those of the Bush administration and,
indeed, often are contrary to the wishes of the White House. Instead, they
have been implemented by the lower echelons of the vast bureaucracy
(especially in the State Department and the Pentagon), which the Kremlin
perceives as "incorrigibly anti-Russian." In the same official's words,
"even though the transmission has been disconnected, the motor is still

Moreover, a Kremlin insider close to President Putin insisted in February
that Moscow views the United States as its "most important strategic
partner," and that "partnership, if possible, alliance and, even better,
close friendship" with the United States remains the "strategic direction"
of Russian foreign policy. The necessity to salvage this "strategic
direction" may have been behind Putin's conspicuous silence during the final
rounds of the Iraq debate in the United Nations in February and March of
2003. Unlike his French counterpart, Jacques Chirac, Putin did not publicly
support his foreign minister in brandishing a veto over the putative
U.S.-British UN Security Council resolution. 

Still, by the end of 2002, the United States had neither sticks nor carrots
with which to influence Russia's behavior. From NATO expansion and ABM to
the WTO and the Paris Club debt, the chips had either been cashed in or
thrown out. Without Russian public opinion united behind him in sympathy and
solidarity with the United States, as it was after 9/11, and with his
pockets empty of anything that would impress the political class, Putin
apparently decided not to challenge the elite consensus and, instead, joined

Where To From Here? 

Opposing an international mandate for a project that America's elected
leaders and a majority of its population consider vital to their security is
a serious matter. Providing the enemy with equipment that diminishes the
effectiveness of the U.S. military and endangers the lives of its soldiers
makes the situation worse still. 

Yet the tension over Iraq is hardly a renewal of the cold war. True, the
former superpower, with which America was locked in a worldwide ideological
and political struggle not yet seventeen years ago and which ten years ago
still had 10,000 nuclear weapons aimed at the United States and its allies,
has failed to behave as Britain, Denmark, Spain, or Poland did. Instead, it
acted only slightly better than France.

U.S. & Russia, Ltd. The conflict over Iraq will not rupture U.S.-Russia
relations. It is bound, however, to bring the tenor of the discourse to a
considerably more subdued level and will result in a more realistic
assessment of the limitations to U.S.-Russian cooperation. A product of the
1991 "velvet revolution," today's Russia is a coat of many colors. Some are
brilliantly bright, others almost as dark as in Soviet days, and many,
still, in shades of gray. So too in Russia's foreign and national security
policy do radical demilitarization, the end of global imperial ambitions,
the peaceful liquidation of empire, and a dramatic reorientation of the very
criteria by which national greatness is judged, coexist (and are likely to
continue to coexist for years if not decades) with tactics and public
opinion trends that America and Americans will find less than helpful and,
sometimes, adverse.

Much as the commonalities of American and Russian interests will multiply as
Russia moves, however haltingly, toward a functioning democracy and liberal
capitalism, geography, history, and demography will for a long time (if not
forever) prevent Russia from siding with the United States on every aspect
of every issue of international relations and security. Until then, the best
strategy is an obvious one-to forgo the illusion of a cloudless
relationship; expand and deepen areas of proven, long-term, strategic,
mutual interest (a global war on terrorism and Russian oil exports to the
United States top the list today); and frankly discuss, contain, and, where
possible, defuse disagreements to prevent them from poisoning the rest of
the ties.

Cleaning House. While the United States ought to do what it can to rid the
relationship with Russia of unnecessary irritants, some of which have been
listed above, the Kremlin will have a great deal to do to demonstrate a
reciprocal commitment. In addition to addressing its apparent inability to
control arms exports to rogue states, Moscow must react credibly to the
evidence found in the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi secret police, the
Mukhabarat, that the Russian External Intelligence Service (SVR) offered
two-week courses in surveillance and eavesdropping techniques to Iraqi
agents as recently as September 2002.

There is a long tradition in Russian history of crying out "If only the tsar
knew!" when incompetent or rapacious officialdom commits abuses in the name
of the state. If Russia is to be treated as a modern democracy, its chief
executive sooner or later will have to ensure that his publicly declared
policies are followed not only in the vast concrete fortresses of the
foreign and defense ministries, still stuffed with reflexive
anti-Americanists, but also in the musty and dimly-lit basements where its
weapons traders and secret services continue to do deals with criminal,
blood-soaked regimes.

A Credible Promise. Provided that the United States and Russia are satisfied
with each other's efforts to address their mutual concerns, there are
several reasons to believe that a limited but better-focused relationship
will be viable. First, victimization by determined and relentless Islamic
terrorism has forged a bond between Russia and America--and this tie
bypasses a lotus-eating Europe. Unlike Europeans, but like Americans, the
Russians have seen buildings razed by explosions in their cities, and their
grief, angst, fear, and anger that call for action are comparable to that of
Americans. The October 2002 horror of hostage-taking in Moscow has greatly
strengthened the post-September 11 solidarity with America's global
antiterrorist project. (In the aftermath of the terrorist attack, some local
Russian leaders pointed out that, in contrast to the European Union's laws,
the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit the death penalty, which an
overwhelming majority of the Russians support in cases of terrorism, and
called for the repeal of the moratorium on capital punishment in Russia.)

Second, occupying the top third of the Eurasian continent, as Russia does,
cannot but encourage activism and longing for participation in world
affairs. Many in the Russian political elite (most certainly, President
Putin and his entourage) understand that only by allying itself with America
will Russia have an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful and productive
way to a better, safer world. As President Putin said in the beginning of
April, "The United States and Russia are the biggest nuclear powers in the
world, and a special responsibility rests upon us. In solving . . . problems
. . . of a global [nature] and crisis situations, [post-Soviet Russia has]
always cooperated, [is] cooperating, and will cooperate with the United
States."37 America, in turn, has a historic opportunity to help channel
Russia's aspirations in a direction beneficial to both the Russian people
and the world.

There is, furthermore, the unrivalled centrality of the United States in the
Russian national conscience. Even when America was the enemy, her appeal to
the Russians, elite and hoi polloi alike, was far and away stronger than
that of Europe. It is America, not Europe, that for decades provided a
yardstick against which to measure Soviet achievements: from Stalin's
prescription of "Bolshevik enthusiasm" and American working habits as the
key to success, to Nikita Khrushchev's slogan of "catching up and surpassing
America" (not France or Germany), to the obsession with American clothes and
music among the children of the Brezhnev elite in the 1970s. In Soviet days,
as today, very few, if any, achievements were as beneficial to a
politician's domestic standing as a summit with the American president.

Public Support. Iraq notwithstanding, Russian public opinion is likely to
continue to support the U.S.-Russian partnership. Even in a March 2003
nationwide poll, a solid plurality (42 percent) felt that, while "staying on
the sidelines" of the U.S.-Iraq conflict, Russia ought to "remain in the
U.S. antiterrorist coalition."[38]

Despite much grumbling, America's core image in Russia is hardly negative.
In a national poll administered last August, among the "words most suitable
to describe" the United States, the top choices (between 58 percent and 35
percent) were "wealth," "power," "progress," and "liberty." [39] Despite
decades of Soviet propaganda, "violence" (18 percent), "inequality" (14
percent), "imperialism" (17 percent), and "racism" (10 percent) were
distinctly less popular. (By contrast, in the same poll administered in
France, the latter four words were chosen as best describing the United
States by, respectively, 35 percent, 39 percent, 27 percent, and 23 percent
of the respondents.)[40]

Putin Changes Tack. After allowing the histrionics of Russia's defense and
foreign policy establishments to run their course during the first weeks of
the war, Putin reemerged in early April to assert the need for pragmatism
about Iraq. On April 2, during a visit to the city of Tambov, Putin
acknowledged Russia's opposition to the war, but then stressed that, "for
political and ideological reasons, [Russia] is not interested in the defeat
of the United States."[41]

The next day, the president urgently summoned a group of journalists to
Novo-Ogaryovo, his country residence outside Moscow, where he lectured them
on the necessity to maintain and "develop further" partnership with the
United States in the war against terrorism, nuclear arms reduction,
preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the
economy. Asked about widespread opposition to the war, Putin said, "I can
understand people who [disagree]. . . . I understand and in general agree
with their opinions. . . . But at the same time, I think emotions are a bad
adviser when it comes to decisionmaking."[42] 

On April 5 Putin urged Russian lawmakers to ratify the Treaty of Moscow-the
major nuclear disarmament agreement that he and President Bush signed in May
2002, and which the Duma had refused to consider in protest of the war.[43]
On the question of writing off Iraq's debt, Putin again distanced himself
from the anger and outrage expressed by aides: "On the whole, the proposal
is understandable and legitimate," he said on April 11. "Russia has no
objections to such a proposal."[44]

Policy Debate. The disagreement with the United States over Iraq has already
provoked some much-needed introspection about the rabidly anti-American
tendencies of the foreign and defense establishments. In mid-April the
editors of Yezhenedelny Zhurnal castigated Foreign Minister Ivanov as "a
Soviet diplomat . . . most concerned with finding the harshest possible
expression to characterize the Americans."[45] In the opinion of Vladimir
Lukin, deputy speaker of the Duma and former ambassador to the United
States, "the psychological condition that we inherited from the Soviet
Union, from our past superpower status . . . [that compels us to act as] an
irritant to the United States . . . often takes precedence over a rational
approach to our own interests."[46] Georgy Mirsky, chief political analyst
at the Moscow Institute for World Economics and International Relations,
told a gathering of leading foreign policy experts, "Our anti-Americanism is
disgusting. It's the anti-Americanism of hooligans and vulgar people."[47]

At a Kremlin-run forum on April 16, several foreign policy intellectuals
declared Russia's Iraq strategy a failure. Former deputy foreign minister
Anatoly Adamishin said, "We were so proud of forming an antiwar bloc . . .
but someone in Moscow should have understood that it was impossible to avert
this war. Our main goal now is to make sure that our relations with the
United States do not suffer further."[48]

Even Yevgeny Primakov-former prime minister, confidante of Saddam Hussein,
and keeper of the flame of Russian great power ambitions-recently
acknowledged in a primetime television interview, "We should under no
circumstances lapse into anti-Americanism [because] this would inflict a
great deal of damage on our interests."[49]

Europe: A Short-Lived Romance. By contrast, Russia's romance with Germany
and France (and, by extension, the European Union) is very likely to be
short-lived. In the past several years, Russia has been profoundly
disenchanted with Europe, and a temporary anti-U.S. diplomatic alliance is
not likely to repair the rift. Europe has repeatedly disappointed Moscow
with its isolationism, its systematic and deliberate disavowal of the key
tools of global influence (armies, military hardware, and technology), its
near-obsessive concentration on what, to the Russians, seem to be petty
details and projects of political correctness and unification. Russia is
frustrated by Europe's willful somnolence, its seeming lack of concern for
its sluggish economy, and, most of all, the wishful thinking that passes for
European policy in the war on terrorism. 

According to Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the International Relations
Committee of the Federation Council (the upper house of the Russian
parliament), Russia's siding with the United States in the war on
"international terrorism" has posed a threat to the "Euro-Islamic
idyll."[50] Margelov sees the roots of Europe's hostile attitude toward
Russia as part of the wider "vexation" of the "openly anti-American forces,
including those in the Islamic world," which have "despaired of finding in
Russia an ally-an heir to the USSR's struggle with 'Satan Number One.'"[51] 

With this recent history in mind, a contributor to Russia's leading business
newspaper, Vedomosti, recently cautioned Moscow against the "temptation of
multipolarity," in which Russia would join France and Germany in "standing
up" to America.[52] Unlike America, however, the EU is not a "global player"
capable of flexibility in its relations with Russia in order to pursue a
larger strategic "geopolitical" agenda. When the war in Iraq is over, the
authorwarned, Russia will again face in the EU a heavily bureaucratized
colossus, "unable to compromise." [53]

After Washington chose China, not Russia, as its chief mediator with North
Korea, Andrei Piontkovsky of Moscow's Center for Strategic Studies said, "We
are losing our positions in Asia because of . . . this failure of a
strategic triangle that [Foreign Minister] Ivanov invented with Germany and

A Different Association

Russia's policy on Iraq has been shaped by a number of factors, including
public opinion, domestic politics and the political calendar, short-term
economic objectives, the state of bilateral U.S.-Russian ties, as perceived
by the Russian political class, and the desire for great power recognition.
Thus far, their combined weight has proved greater in the Kremlin's
policymaking than the apparently sincere desire by the Putin administration
to enhance and deepen the U.S.-Russian post-September 11 "partnership." 

The result--behavior that the U.S. government and the majority of U.S.
citizens found unhelpful and, at times, adverse to America's objectives in a
matter of paramount importance to their country's national
security--highlights the limitations of the U.S.-Russian relationship. Yet,
rid of unrealistic expectations and refocused on the areas where mutual
concerns continue to generate cooperation--be they the world struggle
against terrorism or Russian oil exports to the United States--the
association itself is likely to survive. 

For, as they say in economics, the "fundamentals" have not changed. A Russia
that continues a difficult and uneven evolution toward democracy and liberal
capitalism will not remain a U.S. opponent for long and, instead, will be
propelled, again, toward greater cooperation and, eventually, greater trust.

Similarly unaffected by the row over Iraq is America's key strategic
priority in its relations with Russia: to help build a regime responsive to
the will of the Russian people. Indeed, it may be a small but nevertheless
significant consolation to the United States that, in the case of Iraq,
Russian foreign policy, which used to be hermetically sealed from public
opinion, reflected the latter rather closely.

We are likely to remember the rift over Iraq as sobering evidence of the
significant gulf that remains between the United States and Russia, as well
as between Americans and Russians, not as the wedge that drove them
unbridgeably apart.


1. Vserossiyskiy Tsentr Izucheniya Obschestvennogo Mneniya (VTsIOM, Russian
Center for Public Opinion and Market Research), conducted January 24-27,
2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
2. Fond Obschestvennoye Mneniye (FOM, Public Opinion Foundation), conducted
February 1-2, 2003. Accessed at on March 6,
3. VTsIOM, conducted September 21-23, 2002. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
4. VTsIOM, conducted February 26-March 3, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
5. Ibid.
6. FOM, conducted March 22, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003.
7. FOM, conducted March 22-23, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003; and
VTsIOM, conducted March 21-24, 2003. Accessed at on April 22, 2003.
8. FOM, conducted March 29, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003.
9. FOM, conducted March 29, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003.
10. Rossiyskoye Obschestvennoye Mneniye i Isledovaniye Rynka (ROMIR, Russian
Public Opinion and Market Research), conducted March 6-11, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003.
11. ROMIR, conducted November 2002. Accessed at on March 6, 2003; FOM,
conducted February 1-2, 2003. Accessed at on
March 6, 2003; VTsIOM, conducted January 24-27, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003; and VTsIOM, conducted February
26-March 3, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
12. L.A. Sedov, "Yanvarskii Opros VTsIOM" (VTsIOM January Evaluation),
VTsIOM, February 11, 2003. Accessed at 030211_politru.htm on March
6, 2003.
13. FOM, conducted April 12-13, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
14. FOM, conducted February 22-23, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003. In
the same poll, 24 percent thought that respect for Russia was unaffected by
its position on Iraq, 5 percent felt that it was diminishing, and 25 percent
did not know.
15. Francoise Michel, "Russia's Muslims uneasy at U.S.-led strikes in
Afghanistan," Agence France Presse, November 15, 2001. Accessed at on March 6, 2003. 
16. Nabi Abdullaev, "Muslims Want to Give Army a Lesson," Moscow Times, May
30, 2002. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
17. Gordon M. Hahn, "Putin's Muslim Challenge," Russia Journal, January
25-31, 2002. Accessed at
on April 20, 2003.
18. "Urals Region Called Center of Islamic Extremism," RFE/RL Russian
Political Weekly, Volume 3, Number 12, March 19 2003, pp. 1-2.
19. Ibid.
20. "Putin Meets Russia's Muslim Leaders," BBC Monitoring, September 24,
2001. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
21. Anatoly Medetsky, "Russian Muslims lash out at U.S. campaign in
Afghanistan," Associated Press, Novem-ber 5, 2001. Accessed at on March 7, 2003.
22. Anderi Zolotov, Jr., "Russian Jews and Muslims Take Sides," Moscow
Times, April 16, 2002. Accessed at on March 6, 2003. 
23. Ibid.
24. Dmitry Makarov, "Nurullaev: We Have Created Our Civilization Together,"
Argumenty i Fakty, October 30, 2002, p. 7.
25.. "'Thousands of Russian Muslims Prepared to Fight on Iraqi Side: Head
Mufti," Agence France Presse, February 26, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
26. "Russian Muslim Leaders Condemn U.S. Policy in Iraq," RFE/RL Newsline,
March 14, 2003, p. 2.
27. "United Russia Declares Jihad on America," Kommersant, April 4, 2003, p.
28. "Mufti's Jihad Call Does Not Reflect Muslims' Position-Speaker,"
ITAR-TASS, April 4, 2003. Accessed at on April 18,
29. "Mufti Tadzhuddin Commits Self-Jihad," Kommersant, April 15, 2003, p. 8.
30. L.A. Sedov, "Rezul'taty Fevral'skogo Oprosa VTsIOM," VTsIOM, February
28-March 3, 2003, p.11.  
31. VTsIOM, conducted February 28-March 3, 2003. Accessed at on March 6, 2003. Between 24 and 32 percent of the
surveyed saw no effect from the reforms on their lives and 12 to 23 percent
were uncertain. 
32. As quoted in Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (New
York: Free Press, 1968), p. 475.
33. "United States to Impose Duties of 8 to 30 percent on Imported Steel,"
Mining and Metals Report, March 7, 2003. Accessed at on
March 6, 2003.
34. Carrie Satterlee, "Who Benefits from Keeping Saddam in Power," the
Heritage Foundation, February 28, 2003, p. 1. Accessed at wm217.php on March 6, 2003.
35. FOM, conducted April 1-3, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
36. As quoted in Lidiya Andrusenko and Ol'ga Tropkina, "Mezal'yans s
Amerikoy" (Misalliance with America), Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 11,
2002. Accessed at on March
6, 2003.
37. Anthony Louis, "Analysis: Russia Changes Tack on Iraq," United Press
International, April 5, 2003. Accessed on on April 22,
38. VTsIOM, conducted February 28-March 3, 2003. Accessed on March 18, 2003.
39. A.A.Golov, "Obraz SShA vo Frantsii, v Rossii i v partiynykh
elektoratakh" (America's image in France, Russia, and Within Parties'
Electorates), VTsIOM, August 22-26, 2002. Accessed at on
March 6, 2003.
40. Ibid.
41. Sergei Blagov, "Iraq: Putin Softens Tone in Fence-Mending Move with
United States," Inter Press Service, April 4, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
42. Anthony Louis, "Analysis: Russia Changes Tack on Iraq," United Press
International, April 5, 2003. Accessed on on April 22,
43. "In Further Bid to Mend U.S. Ties, Putin Promises to Ratify Nuclear
Accord," Agence France Presse, April 5, 2003. Accessed at on April 21, 2003.
44. Dmitry Zaks, "Russia Hints 'Peace Camp' Alliance with France and Germany
is Dying," Agence France Presse, April 13, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
45. Sarah Karush, "Russian Analysts Warn about Knee-Jerk Anti-Americanism
After Iraq War," Associated Press, April 16, 2003. Accessed at on April 19, 2003.
46. Ibid.
47. Ibid.
48. Dmitry Zaks, "Russia Misplayed Iraq Hand, but Damage to U.S. Relations
Not Fatal: Analysts," Agence France Presse, April 17, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
49. "Anti-Americanism not in Russia's Interests-Former PM," BBC Monitoring,
April 7, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.
50. Mikhail Margelov, "God posle 11 sentyabrya" (A Year After September 11),
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 9, 2002. Accessed at on March 6, 2003.
51. Ibid.
52. Fyodor Luk'yanov, "Rossiya i Irak: iskushenie mnogoplyarnost'yu" (Russia
and Iraq: A Temptation By Multipolarity), Vedomosti, March 7, 2003. Accessed
at on March 7, 2003.
53. Ibid.
54. Dmitry Zaks, "Russia Misplayed Iraq Hand, but Damage to U.S. Relations
Not Fatal: Analysts," Agence France Presse, April 17, 2003. Accessed at on April 20, 2003.


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