#12 - JRL 7221
Wall Street Journal
June 13, 2003
Jobs for the Boys: Putin's New 'Militocracy'
By ADRIAN KARATNYCKY
Mr. Karatnycky, counselor and senior scholar at Freedom House, is co-editor of the just-released comparative study Nations in Transit 2003: Civil Society and Democracy in East Central Europe and the Newly Independent States.
On its face, the June 1 summit in St. Petersburg between Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin was a success. The two leaders pointed to their personal friendship and Mr. Putin promised that "cooperation will continue to expand and develop." There were encouraging words of collaboration on issues such as the emerging nuclear threat from North Korea and the war on terrorism.
But there also were discordant notes. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "baseless pretensions were made toward Russian companies about their cooperation with Iran," referring to U.S. allegations that Russians and Russian technology has been helping Iran's nuclear weapons program. Mr. Putin rejected U.S. entreaties to curtail nuclear cooperation with Iran and suggested that U.S. pressures were a disingenuous effort at "unfair business competition against us."
Two years ago, at a meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, President Bush proclaimed a new era in relations with Russia , declaring that he had looked President Vladimir Putin "in the eye" and had found him "straightforward and trustworthy." In the days after 9/11 Mr. Bush's optimism appeared warranted, as Mr. Putin offered strong assurances support in the war on terror. But as the U.S. war against Saddam Hussein unfolded, relations with Russia deteriorated dramatically, suggesting that good personal relations are hardly a guarantee of close cooperation among states.
For instance, Foreign Minister Ivanov publicly mocked Mr. Bush's declaration at one point that the liberation of Iraq was approaching, and blasted the U.S. for violating international law. Advisors close to Mr. Putin publicly predicted that the U.S. would face a long and protracted war -- a quagmire.
Meanwhile, the Putin-controlled Russian broadcast media touted each temporary U.S. setback and pointed explicitly at every errant U.S. missile in Iraq. Anti-American demonstrators from the Kremlin-backed youth movement Moving Together frequently surrounded the residence of Washington's ambassador to Moscow, Sandy Vershbow. Driven by the relentless official anti-American drumbeat, 71% of Russians now tell pollsters that they believe the U.S. is a major threat to world peace.
Indeed, the recent deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations was entirely predictable, and is a better indicator of future relations between the two powers than the bonhomie on display at the St. Petersburg Summit. This is because 12 years after the collapse of Communism -- Russia is ruled not by political reformers nor even by pragmatic technocrats. Its ruling elite is what Russian sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya has labeled a militocracy. In this case, that means a leadership consisting of middle-aged armed forces and security operatives (average age 52) who came to political maturity under Soviet Party bosses Leonid Brezhnev and Yuri Andropov. Their worldview is infused with anger over the loss of Soviet power and prestige and a seething resentment of U.S. power.
In the early years of the post-Communist Russian state, the Russian government, parliament and regional leadership was dominated by well-educated civilians. Today, as a result of trends that began in the mid-1990s, but which accelerated and reached an apogee when Mr. Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin as president, the takeover by the militocracy is nearly total.
According to Ms. Kryshtanovskaya, who has been conducting a long-term analysis of the Russian state elite, more than 35% of all deputy ministers appointed by Mr. Putin since 2000 come from the military-security sector. More than a quarter of Russia's highest-ranking officials today are graduates of military academies.
This militocracy has supplanted the Yeltsin-era elite of civilian officials with advanced and professional degrees: the number holding such degrees has declined from 50% of state leaders to 20% today. High-ranking military and security men (only 1.7% of the Russian leadership consists of women) populate not only the traditional preserves of defense, intelligence, and national security: They now help lead many civilian ministries, including foreign trade, industry, economic development, transport, communications, property relations, and justice. They are emerging as a major presence in the Russian legislature and now represent the bulk of President Putin's representatives in Russia's regions.
This security-military elite has utterly supplanted the ideologues and party apparatchiks of the Soviet era; the reformers and technocrats of the early Yeltsin era, and the businessmen and oligarchs of the late Yeltsin years. Their rise to power has been paralleled by a shift in emphasis in the state-dominated and state-influenced media, which have turned public opinion away from themes of political liberty. Instead these outlets are propagating an image of ruthless efficiency in coping with terrorist threats, national emergencies and the secessionist movement in Chechnya, while at the same celebrating the "heroism" of the Soviet era security services.
Mr. Putin's picks for elite security and military jobs -- like the apparat of the ministries -- were never subject to thoroughgoing internal reform. They were directly affected by the social and political upheaval that convulsed Soviet and Russian society. They functioned in the hermetically detached environments of the military and security services, which were largely bypassed by civic democratic reforms and attitudes. It is, therefore, no accident that this social group still holds troublesome and archaic views on issues related to foreign policy, security policy and political and press freedom.
Russia's militaristic elite resents American power; seeks the unattainable revival of Russian regional hegemony over Ukraine, the Caucasus and Central Asia; and supports arms sales to states like Iran and until recently Iraq. Nobody should have been surprised when in late May Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reporters looking through the files of the former Iraqi regime found new evidence pointing to detailed negotiations over illegal arms sales between Russian companies and Saddam Hussein's regime.
Although President Putin portrays himself as a democratizing reformer, who seeks enhanced participation in the broadening European space, clearly Russia's militocratic leaders differ fundamentally from the civilian leaders now in office throughout the Euro-Atlantic community.
Just as importantly, however, Russia's ruling political elite is fundamentally out of sync with the Russian civil society that is gradually emerging from out of the rubble of Communism's wreckage. This society now includes more than 70,000 voluntary civic organizations that engage more than 2.5 million citizens, an entrepreneurial elite, and courageous human rights advocates and independent journalists who resist state domination.
Even so, while the ruling cadres may not determine everything, they determine a great deal. Until there is a fundamental shift in the composition of the state elite to better reflect Russia's emerging society, the country's evolution toward democracy will remain stalled. And Russia will remain an unpredictable and unreliable partner no matter how frequently U.S. officials invoke the strong personal relationship between Presidents Bush and Putin.