stops, doesn't it?
Putin's Kremlin website has a fabulous photograph from February 9, featuring a
bemedalled Ivan Yakovlevich Novikov holding red carnations as he is awarded the
Order of the Patriotic War, 2nd class, by President Putin. (1) Putin smiles warmly at the veteran,
whose expression seems so joyous, you just know that Putin must have slipped a
free bus pass in with the new medal.
never was going to be a good time to kick pensioners and veterans off the dole,
but does the presidential press service really believe that photo ops with
veterans and oily praise of their service and bravery dripped over a policy
speech will staunch the flow of protests?
revolt (mixed in with the general discontent of all the other previous
beneficiaries of government subsidies, such as military personnel) does seem to
have had an impact, albeit not a particularly effective result. Despite the Kremlin's clear
authoritarian bent, a sliver of responsiveness to citizens' concerns, certainly
a hallmark of democratic governance, remains: the Duma felt compelled to take a vote of no confidence in
the Fradkov government. Granted,
it failed, but it does suggest a vestige of constituent service (perhaps even
more hopeful is the interpretation of the vote as political haymaking, which
suggests the opposition, such as it is in the Duma, isn't totally cowed).
certain government members have accepted personal responsibility for the
implementation of the monetization reforms. At least, I think that's what they did: Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin spoke
unequivocally of his failings to the Duma, "If we made mistakes in some
respects, I can say that in this sense, we, of course, to an extent, left the
president and the Duma exposed, in so far as there was a need for timely and
rapid adjustment whilst these decisions were being implemented." (2)
to the crisis, such as it was, seems to consist of public curtness toward his
ministers. Hence, reports of a
recent government meeting play up the "public roasting" of ministers,
as Putin scolds Kudrin over the slow implementation of payment increases for
the military and his attempt to excuse his efforts: "Leave out the commentary. Just do it, and then report." (3) The next stage of presidential response
is predicted to take the form of a reorganization of the government.
certainly are likely, the President's personnel decisions will have little to
do with actual policy or competency issues. The monetization of benefits, as difficult as it most
certainly is, will stand as a reform, perhaps watered down for some sensitive
groups (more likely for the military than the pensioners, despite the
protests). The expansion of
government benefits during the Yel'tsin administration, which Putin correctly
highlighted in his January government meeting (and noted in the last NIS
Observed), may have taken some of the sting out of the monetary reforms –
such as the revaluation of the ruble and its eventual devaluation – but
could not be supported by an unsteady Russian economy. Putin may yet "sacrifice"
some ministers to soothe the popular outrage – the government, after all,
is composed primarily of holdovers from the Yel'tsin era, and economists whose
ties are closer to Anatoli Chubais than to the current president. (4)
and possibility of dismissal of certain government ministers (namely, Gref,
Zurabov and Kudrin) brings a familiar division within Putin's circle into high
relief. Once again, the
"liberals" (economic reformers) and the siloviki are portrayed as locked in a zero sum
contest for the president's ear.
As was the case when Putin first took office, the President's own
political beliefs are not at issue, nor are they known. The relative closeness of one faction
over the other to the Kremlin center of power occupies political, economic and
security forecasters as they attempt to gauge the relative stability of Russian
leaders, markets, nukes and a myriad of other issues. It is a strategy that worked well in the Soviet era and continued
throughout the Yel'tsin presidency.
When it comes to Putin's Kremlin however, it seems more productive to
distinguish among the various realms that each faction is allowed to dominate: despite rampant rumors in Putin's first
term, Sergei Ivanov was not going to be appointed as Prime Minister to oversee
economic reform; his place is with the military, security services or some
(Conversely, in Yel'tsin's administration bodyguards, tennis players,
and immediate family were placed in positions of astonishing authority based on
a loyalty test, rather than an assessment of competence.)
While there are
still important economic reforms to tackle, Putin is likely to leave the
economists (Chubais' cadres) in charge.
At the same meeting in which Putin spoke sharply to Kudrin, he later
heard a report from German Gref, the Economic Development and Trade Minister,
that the government was pressing ahead with the ever controversial land
reform. Gref informed the
president of the need to establish a "delimitation of land ownership
rights between the state, constituent entities, and municipalities." (5)
If that isn't
going to be controversial enough, Gref also referred to an issue sure to prove
nightmarish, "the buy-out of plots of land under privatized
buildings." (6) Putin
acknowledged the importance of Gref's undertaking, as a "very acute
issue." (7) When the tough
economic decisions have been made and the fallout for their social consequences
exacted however, the composition of the next government Putin forms could prove
A quick check in
on Putin's drug tsar reveals that Viktor Cherkesov has been keeping busy with
that fight against drug traffickers.
In a meeting at the end of last month with the president, Cherkesov
noted that "international law" calls for much more stringent
penalties against narcotics traders and for those dealing, not just with the
drugs themselves, but "drug precursors." (8) In Russia, as in other countries, the
issue centers on the trade in heroin emanating from Afghanistan.
did not propose legislative reform to deal with the sentencing problems
involved with adjudicating drug offenses in Russia (he instead emphasized the
need for a maturation of the judicial system), he did offer to submit proposals
to Putin that would bring Russian law into line with international norms, and
would deal with the thorny issue of drug raw material and precursors. Poppy lovers take heed.
2) NTV Mir, 1900 GMT, 21 Jan 05; BBC
Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis Academic database.
3) "President gives Kudrin a public
roasting," by Oksana Yablokova in Moscow Times, 8 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis
4) See previous issues of the NIS Observed,
Executive Branch for details of the Fradkov Government's pedigree.
5) ITAR-TASS, 7 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis
8) RIA Novosti, 28 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis
By Susan J.
In a period in
which the Russian government has such control of the media, it is interesting
that we hear and read a good deal of disaffection towards and even within the
government in the press. Notably,
in recent weeks we have seen numerous stories about the impact of benefits
reform on the security services.
While benefit reductions made news earlier in the year with
demonstrations from old age pensioners who demanded that lost benefits be
restored, only recently have we been made aware of the impact of monetization
on the security services. Like the
pensioners, security service personnel lost access to free transportation to
and from the workplace, among other benefits. While this may seem trivial, apparently this had been a
significant element of compensation, long considered an entitlement for public
workers. The transportation loss
has prompted many in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry
(MVD) to work on developing creative alternatives: Some personnel have requested to leave work early because
they have been forced to walk home; others have claimed they can only work
certain days of the week in an attempt to limit costs; some have even brought
bedding into work to avoid the commute; and others have submitted resignations,
claiming that the new costs for transportation amounted to "41 per cent of
my monthly wage." (1)
Although it does
not appear that members of the security services actually will resign en
masse or even take to the
streets protesting the loss of transportation, their dismay illustrates just
how the government-supported barter economy has been such a critical element in
the lives of so many workers, the real cost of such actions, and the
deleterious impact it has had.
Various responses have been outlined by the government: the Interior Ministry announced it will
raise salaries for employees by 50% to compensate for the loss of benefits (the
loss of transportation plus property taxes, another benefit cut). (2) The Finance Ministry announced a
proposal to subsidize long-distance train transportation, providing 50 rubles
per person transported, a subsidy expected to total 8.5 billion rubles in 2005.
(3) Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, in an unrelated meeting, announced that the
FSB's budget will increase by 25%, although it is not clear whether this was a
previously announced increase for 2005.
Interestingly, according to the report, "Fradkov said that some
parts of the FSB budget have grown so much that the agency is already having
trouble spending all the money."
(4) Among the benefits not
yet cut, but closely monitored, is a free prescription benefit. While collecting payment information
for government benefit recipients, Health and Social Development Minister
Mikhail Zurabov "asked the heads of regions and health institutions to
continue strict control over the dispensation of medicines to benefit
recipients." (5) It seems the minister is concerned with the exploitation
of the system of black market diversion of medicine.
points out a major effect of monetizing the economy by cutting
benefits—reducing the trade in subsidized goods and services that has for
years provided the opportunity for government workers to enjoy a better quality
of life than pure financial compensation would indicate. Granted, giving free
rides on public buses or even trading in prescription medications, is not the
type of corruption to which President Putin referred when he blasted federal
forces for enabling terrorists in Russia, but it is not a stretch to say that
such actions are steps along a spectrum of conduct not so far removed from more
familiar, and more detrimental, forms of corruption. To wit:
"Arkadi Yedelev, chief of the regional operational staff for controlling
the anti-terrorist operation in the North Caucasus, said that everyone
[including federal soldiers in addition to Chechen separatists] abducts people.
Chechen Prosecutor Vladimir Kravchenko said that a tenth of all abductions are
committed by the security and law enforcement agencies." (6) These "abductions," in many cases simply
detainments made possible by the role security services personnel play in the
region, are conducted for ransom.
Additionally, nameless FSB officers were alleged not only to abduct
people for money, but FSB commanders also are said to condone such acts in
order to create a climate of fear in order to keep outsiders away from the
Caucasus region, which leaves the security services free from outside scrutiny. (7)
This may help
explain the recent announcement from an Interior Ministry spokesman that Russia
"intends to [involve more actively] private security organizations
operating on Russian territory in the protection of facilities from the threat
of terrorism." (8) Acknowledging
the spotty reputation private security firms have for excessive force, Leonid
Vedenov, chief of the assessment and licensing directorate of the Department
for the Protection of Public Order of the Russian Federation Interior Ministry,
pointed out the Interior Ministry personnel also have been the subject of
investigations into similar acts.
He noted that the quality of such firms has improved recently, and the
market for their services is on the rise.
In fact, about half a million security personnel work for private
security firms, with about 40% having prior experience in the police or federal
forces. (9) This appears to be a method effectively
to deputize such personnel as they continue to protect both public and private
facilities. The challenge is to
create an effective legal framework that allows such personnel to coordinate
their activities and share information with government services, building a
network of security through which, it must be hoped, terrorists will be less
capable of penetrating. No mention
was made of how their services would be compensated. Such a framework apparently will allow the administration to
leverage security personnel who are privately employed—effectively
getting free help without having to rely on the state budget for more money or
benefits or compensation. And
thus, the Russian government would receive a benefit of its own.
So it is with
even greater curiosity that we see a separate announcement regarding the
FSB—it has been tasked publicly with spying on industry to "help
[the administration] provide an effective legal foundation, make decisions on
equal competition conditions, develop business and create a favorable
investment environment," said Prime Minister Fradkov. The administration appears frustrated
by what it perceives as the use of "state secrets" by other countries
or corporations to gain an advantage in "international
negotiations." In making the
announcement, Fradkov acknowledged the possibility of corruption, either by
having individuals share "state secrets" with corporations or looking
the other way when faced with suspect corporate practices. He emphasized that the state will be on
guard for such actions. It is
understandable that the Russian government would want the best advantage, but
it seems odd this sort of tasking would be discussed publicly. Fradkov, however, specifically stated,
"The authorities and citizens have the right to expect returns from what
the country is investing in the FSB." (10)
Perhaps the public exposure is an attempt to ensure both the public and
FSB agents themselves understand what is expected of them.
Finally, we also
now see government agencies pitted against one another for resources. Defense Ministry announcements of
changes in compulsory service, including reducing the number of draft deferment
categories, have reduced the pool of candidates from which other agencies
recruit. Previously, time spent
serving in the Interior Ministry, for instance, precluded mandatory service in
the military. In fact, the Defense
Ministry has long been frustrated with the Interior Ministry: "Every year they siphon off up to
15,000 conscripts under oath."
To avoid this in the future, the Defense Ministry is attempting to
change the interpretation of the law that allows exemptions from military
service. (11) In anticipation, perhaps, of losing
conscripts back to the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry has essentially
adopted a Moscow secondary school.
This official relationship, expressed in a resolution from the ministry,
will train students in some of the fundamental skills used by Interior Ministry
personnel, and ensure these students remain physically fit for duty. The announcement stated that such
students will be better prepared for further education at Interior Ministry-run
schools. (12) This move,
presumably will help create a pool of career Interior Ministry officers who
will then be unavailable for military service.
interesting report, however, is that President Putin has expressed dissatisfaction
with parts of the anti-terror bill that was passed recently through the first
of three readings in the Duma.
(13) The major provisions
of this bill, as discussed previously, include giving the FSB on-scene
commander authority over all other government personnel involved in a terrorist
response operation; giving the local FSB commander the lead in developing
procedures for responding to such events; granting authority, in general, to
detain family members of terrorists and hostage-takers in attempts to bring
such events to an end; and the introduction of Terrorist Threat Modes (TTMs),
declared by the on-scene commander (even when, in some cases, there is not an
actual terrorist event taking place).
One of the implications of a TTM declaration is the ability to restrict
media access to the scene. (13)
President Putin's concern is not with the enhanced role of the FSB (which has a
speckled record of success in such events) or even with the detainment of
terrorists' relatives; he is against the bill's planned media restrictions
during terrorist events. According to Vedomosti, "Putin had told parliament he
feared the section of the bill relating to journalists reporting of such
attacks violated Russia's existing press law." While President Putin previously has favored press
restrictions, he now either does not favor restricting the kind of press
coverage we saw during the Beslan siege, or does not wish to be seen favoring
them. (14) Possibly he has taken note of the
worldwide sympathy his country received following the publication of images and
accounts of the Beslan siege from all manner of media sources and reporters,
and the favorable, if brief, support his administration received from other
states in the days that followed.
Is this an
indication that the Russian president has begun to change his restrictive and
authoritarian ways? Unlikely,
given only this evidence. This
announcement, however, does bring us back to the fact that, given President
Putin's moves to consolidate power, there are still opportunities to criticize
his administration. Undoubtedly, there is a vast amount we cannot observe
through the media, but the parts that we can observe appear quite revealing,
showing a state in transition and turbulence. And in these revelations, perhaps the president is beginning
to learn a lesson in statesmanship that many expected he could not.
(1) BBC Monitoring, "Russian
Soldiers Quit 'En Masse' In Protest At Benefits Reform," Moskovskiy
komsomolets, 21 Jan 05,
(2) "Interior Ministry To Compensate
Cancelled Benefits For Police," Interfax, 26 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(3) "Govt Reviews Monetization Law,
Promises To Solve Problems," ITAR-Tass, 24 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) Valeria Korchagina, "Fradkov
Asks Spies for Economic Aid," Moscow Times, 31 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(5) "Government Reviews Monetisation
Law, Promises To Solve Problems," ITAR-Tass, 24 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) Yelena Shesternina, "Everyone
Abducts People," Russkii
kurier, 2 Feb 05, from
What the Papers Say via ISI Emerging Markets.
(7) Vyacheslav Izmailov, "Special
Delivery Services: Do FSB agents
get the ransom for abducted foreigners?" Novaya gazeta,
27 Jan 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(8) BBC Monitoring, "Russian Police
See Antiterrorist Role For Private Security Firms," ITAR-Tass, 2 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(10) Valeria Korchagina, "Fradkov
Asks Spies For Economic Aid," Moscow Times, 31 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis; and
"Government Hopes For FSB's Broader Security Role In Economy," Interfax, 28 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(11) Yuri Tretyakov, "The Military
Agencies Share Conscripts: The Army Wants To Replenish Its Ranks At The Expense
Of The Police," Trud,
12 Jan 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) Svetlana Alikina, "Interior Ministry
Acts As Guardian Of Moscow School," ITAR-Tass, 28 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) The NIS Observed: An Analytical
Review, Volume IX,
Number 19, 9 Dec 04.
(14) "Russia's Putin Objects To
Anti-Terror Law," Reuters, 2
Feb 05 via Johnson's Russia List # 9046.
By Eric Beene (email@example.com)
made his first visit as Syrian president to Moscow in January, and his talks
with Russian President Vladimir Putin were said to be "a milestone in
bilateral relations." (1) The
main result was the signing of a declaration of friendship and cooperation,
with the hope that it will open new opportunities for business ties, cultural
exchanges, and maintain traditional areas of cooperation in hydro energy, oil
and gas production and transport construction. A solution was found regarding
Syria's debt to Russia, a long-standing issue between the two countries, one
that will provide a stimulus for their economic ties. (2) Both leaders said
they supported continuing peace talks in the Middle East, the withdrawal of
Israeli troops from all Arab lands occupied since 1967, and the creation of a
Palestinian state. (3) Support for UN initiatives, UN reform, the war on terror
and the desire for Iraq to maintain territorial integrity were also matters
upon which they agreed. (4)
to assist Arab regimes and regain a greater position in the Middle East was
evident during the Assad talks and a recent visit by Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas (see below). This could put Moscow in a difficult
position with Washington, however, as the U.S. and Russia find themselves on
opposite sides of many important issues in the region. Russia's reported plans,
for example, to export Iskander and tactical missiles to Syria, a state sponsor
of terrorism, drew a sharp rebuke from Washington. (5)
the Middle East?
demonstrated an interest in cooperation with Middle Eastern states and
reasserting Russia's role in the region during his talks with the recently
elected President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. According to
Putin, this meeting was a positive development in Russian-Palestinian
relations, a continuation of what Yassar Arafat—"a sincere friend of
our country"—began years ago. (6)
economic ties and support for the Putin administration's efforts to bring about
economic recovery, humanitarian relief issues in Palestine and scholarships for
Palestinian students—the largest aid package that Russia allocates to any
Middle Eastern country—were discussed. (7) Concerning peace negotiations,
both leaders support a speedy normalization of the situation and the creation
of an independent Palestinian state, which, according to Putin, "has the
right not only to exist, but has the right to a secure existence."
"Russia should play an important part in international relations both
through its own initiatives it puts forward and through the role it plays in
the quartet of international mediators." (9) Putin pointed out that the
Middle East lies in close proximity to Russian borders and that this, as well
as the Middle East's direct impact on the world economy and on the energy
sector, in which Russia holds a particular place, determine that Russia should
play an active role regarding the Middle East settlement issue. (10)
In spite of
Putin's desire for a greater role in the Middle East, some political experts,
such as Aleksei Malashenko, acknowledge that Russia will be unable to promote
Palestine's interests effectively "as it does not have the money, ideas or
levers of influence to do so." (11) Malashenko further asserts that Russia
can only maintain its position as a world leader and retain its presence in the
region by force of inertia. It must be remembered that the talks between Putin
and Abbas are "only words." (12)
A six billion
The secret is
out concerning Rosneft's purchase of Yuganskneftegaz. Rosneft, the leading
state-owned Russian oil company, borrowed $6 billion from Chinese banks through
VneshekonomBank in order to secure what was formerly the largest oil-producing
subsidiary of YUKOS. (13) The Chinese bank loan seems to be aimed at securing
long-term oil supplies from Rosneft. (14) Controversy surrounds this deal and
the involvement of Chinese banks complicates the matter. Analysts have stated
that the deal appears to have been structured via the banks rather than
directly from company to company in order to avoid potential legal consequences
for China National Petroleum Corp. The director of Group Menatep, YUKOS'
majority owner, said the involvement of the Chinese banks was clearly aimed at
complicating the deal and that CNPC would face legal action. (15) But
regardless of the outcome of the controversy, there will now be "a little
loan from China in every barrel of Yugansk oil." (16)
outcast—for the time being
At a recent
meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice communicated the hope that Russia would show a greater
commitment to fundamental components of democracy in the coming years, and
demonstrate cooperation with former Soviet republics where democracy is
beginning to take hold. (17) According to Rice, there will be no radical revision
of bilateral relations because present day Russia "is not the Soviet Union
and a return to the past is out of the question." (18) Rice's first
meeting with Lavrov, though essentially positive, underscored a comment she
recently made in Washington: "We are keeping an eye on the strategy [of
Russia's development –Vremya novostei] and decide what to do on the basis of
these evaluations." (19) Though the U.S. is monitoring developments in
Russia, "generally speaking, America's position remains unchanged. Russia
is not cast out for the time being." (20)
These talks were
meant to pave the way for the upcoming Bratislava summit with President Bush
and President Putin. The summit will focus on bilateral economic issues with
both sides understanding "the need to make a leap forward in [our]
cooperationachieve a real expansion of business contacts in the energy and
high technology sectors and ensure a steady rate of growth in investment."
(21) Russia's accession to the WTO in light of current negotiations with the
U.S., continuing cooperation in the war on terror and weapon disarmament and
the two countries' policies in the former Soviet Union are matters that will
also dominate the summit. The post-Soviet territory is a source of tension and
potential conflict. Although Putin stated recently, "Stop telling me that
no country other than Russia can act on post-Soviet territory,"
competition is one thing and an attempt to neutralize Russian influence is
(1) "Press Statement by the President
of Russia Vladimir Putin and the President of Syria Bashar al-Assad,"
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation via Johnson's Russia List
(JRL), 27 Jan 2005.
(5) Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via
Johnson's Russia List, 14 Jan 2005, #11-JRL9016; (www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/9015-11.cfm).
(6) "Press Statements by Russian
President Vladimir Putin and President of the Palestinian National Authority
Mahmoud Abbas,"Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation via
JRL, 1 Feb 2005.
(11) RIA Novosti via JRL, 1 Feb 05,
(13) "A Little Loan from China In
Every Barrel of Yugansk Oil." Nezavisimaya gazeta; 2 Feb 05 via What the Papers Say via
ISI Emerging Markets, 1.4.
(15) "Chinese Lend Rosneft $6Bln for
Yugansk." The Moscow Times, 2 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(16) Nezavisimaya gazeta via WPS via ISI Emerging Markets, 2 Feb
(17) AOL News, 5 Feb 2005; (http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article.adp?id=20050203063609990003).
(18) Vremya novosti, 3 Feb 2005 via What the Papers Say via
ISI Emerging Markets,; 1.1 "The United States Perceives Too Much Power In
(21) "Russia-US Talks in Ankara to
Pave Way for Bratislava Summit". ITAR-TASS; BBC Monitoring via ISI
(22) RIA Novosti via JRL, 1 Feb 2005, JRL
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE
"We have to
admit today that we have lost at a moral and political level," said
Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev about the recent
scuffle over the monetization of benefits. (1) Elderly pensioners took to the streets in protest over the
inadequacy of the funds that replaced the in-kind benefits they had previously
been receiving. Several Duma deputies proposed dismissing the government in the
wake of the first spontaneous protests seen during Vladimir Putin's presidency.
In response, the government announced that it would increase pensions by an
average of 240 rubles. (2)
seems to have backfired on the Putin administration, although Finance Minister
Alexei Kudrin is laying the blame elsewhere. "The president is not to
blame for the initial faults in the reforms," said Kudrin. "We are
already aware of our errors; we let him down." (3) According to Kudrin, discretion on the
implementation of monetization was left up to regional leaders, based on the
assumption that they would know best how to manage the transition. That
assumption proved faulty as transportation benefits claimed the spotlight.
However, four regions already have begun the process of complete monetization,
including Tatarstan, without any negative backlash. The failure of most
regional leaders to implement monetization successfully may give support to
Putin's decision to appoint governors in the name of strengthening the power
cites regional leaders as a primary source of the problems, it is the Duma that
seems to be on the receiving end of the public's wrath, according to a recent
survey. The survey said that only 3 percent of Russians think the Duma is doing
a good job. Fifty-two percent of those surveyed rated the Duma as doing
"bad" or "very bad." The benefit reform issue is revealing
an interesting facet of Russian politics. Those with little real power take the
heat for problems, while those who consolidate the power vertical sidestep the
public's ire. Putin's ratings are falling, but not nearly to the extent that
the Duma's have plunged. The Duma, as an institution, has been so thoroughly
emasculated by Putin's reforms that it now serves as little else but a
rubber-stamping scapegoat - but a scapegoat that, until recently, has received
everything free except its mobile phones. (4)
its last direct election of governors on February 6. The event took place, with
minimal protests, by about 100 people, many of whom were members of the Yabloko
and Union of Right Forces political parties in Nenets Autonomous District. (5)
recently suggested that regional leaders tender their resignations. In exchange
for early voluntary compliance with the recently passed law eliminating the
direct election of governors, Putin proposes to consider their appointments
himself rather than putting them through the screening process conducted by his
regional envoys. (6) Sergei Darkin
of the Primorye territory (located on Russia's Pacific coast) was the first
governor to accept the president's invitation. In late January, he requested
Putin's formal approval for his re-nomination. (7) On February 1, he offered the regional legislature his
resignation and asked for their confirmation in his nomination as governor. (8)
The Primorye legislature approved Darkin's request almost unanimously on
appointment marks the formal shift from direct elections to appointment by head
of the executive branch with confirmation by the regional legislature. The
legislature may be dissolved if they consistently fail to confirm the
president's nominee. Although this initial appointment has proven
unproblematic, the sticking point for the new legislation will be the ethnic
republics such as Tatarstan. Tatarstan's president, Mintimer Shaimiyev, has
opposed the caveat allowing the president to disband parliaments for failing to
confirm his appointee. (9)
mayors start to fall?
second largest city in Russia's Kaluga region, recently became the first town
with an appointed mayor. Vladimir Morozov was named mayor in early February by
governor Anatoli Artamonov. (10)
The move may be the first step toward a Kremlin-proposed plan to scrap
the direct election of municipal leaders. Kaluga's legislature also passed a
law establishing elections for a town council in each town throughout the
region. Once elected, it is the council's job, according to the new law, to
appoint a mayor for their town. The decision to appoint Obninsk's mayor has
drawn criticism for revoking citizen's rights, as well as sparking allegations
of a Kremlin conspiracy. The actual impact remains to be seen.
A new youth
organization determined to bring the 'Orange Revolution' to Russia has formed.
Marching Without Putin, an organization whose title plays on the pro-Putin
youth movement Marching Together, has vowed to work to bring democratic elections
to Russia by 2008. Some members of Marching Without Putin purportedly were
involved in the protests at the recent gubernatorial election in Nenets
Autonomous District. (11)
(1) Russian Regional Development Minister
Interviewed, Izvestia, 4 Feb 04 via Johnson's Russia List
(2) "Russia's basic pensions to
increase to 900 rubles from 1 March," INTERFAX, 27 Jan 05 via WNC.
(3) "We misjudged the
situation," Kommersant-Vlast, 31
Jan 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(4) "Russian State Duma deputies may
give up certain fringe benefits," Izvestia, 4 Feb 04 via JRL #9050.
(5) "Small protest as Russia
conducts last gubernatorial election," Associated Press Worldstream, 6 Feb
05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) "Governors do not want to be
appointed," RIA Novosti,
2 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(7) "Russian governor seeks Putin's
blessing," UPI, 25 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
(8) "Russian regional leader wins
Putin's nomination under new law," Associated Press Worldstream, 1 Feb 05
(9) "Tatarstan President Disagrees
With Initiative on Disbanding Parliament," INTERFAX, 25 Oct 04 via WNC.
(10) "Kaluga moves to scrap mayoral
elections," Moscow Times, 3 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(11) "Small protest as Russia
conducts last gubernatorial election," Associated Press Worldstream, 6 Feb
05 via Lexis-Nexis.
By Robyn Angley
The impact of
the monetization of social benefits on the armed forces has been significant
and maybe not even fully appreciated yet.
Short-term readiness deficiencies caused by the reform are real and
nearly comical. Lt. General
Vladimir Shamonov, Deputy Prime Minister for the Social Protection of
Servicemen, cited examples of units unable to travel to their posts because
they had no money to pay for the public transportation upon which they
relied. "An honor guard
platoon which was supposed to be present when meeting a foreign delegation also
wasn't allowed into the subway. In
this case the soldiers turned around and returned to the barracks."
(1) The Minister of Defense,
Sergei Ivanov, still claims that the reforms are good, just poorly implemented. Failure on the part of the Ministry of
Defense to prepare for the inevitable impact of the reforms with alternative
ways to fund troop transportation, leaves local commanders scrambling, as
always, to find creative ways to overcome resource shortages, so the troops
might accomplish the mission.
and prestige of military service
reform also accelerates the decline in the socio-economic status of
servicemen. This will certainly
have both short and long-term implications for the combat readiness of the
Russian military. President
Putin's announcement at the end of January that servicemen will receive a 20%
pay raise this year appears as his attempt to douse an already raging political
brush fire. Although Putin's
effort came quickly, and would be significant if actually acted upon, it still
is unlikely to undo the damage to the armed forces that has already
occurred. The Kremlin and the
Ministry of Defense appear not to be sensitive to the fact that the benefits,
as noted by a military analyst with the group Generals for Democracy and
Humanism, "have always brimmed with symbolism, highlighting the prestige
of military service in the public eyes." (2) Combined with the reduction of benefits in retirement, this
reform strikes a significant blow to the socio-economic status of the armed
This most recent
decline in the economic condition of Russia's servicemen only accelerates the
trend of the past two years. While
Ivanov claimed that the troops he visited recently in Siberia actually have
benefited from the reform, the reality, according to a Defense Ministry survey,
is that 80% of servicemen oppose the action. (3) According to the same poll, only a meager 5% of servicemen
are content with their current economic well-being, down dramatically from 20%
contentment just 2 years ago. Of
course, with no salary increase to keep pace with inflation despite a modest
attempt in October 2003, servicemen are experiencing a real income decline in
pay. (4) The inability to house
servicemen is still a major failing of the MOD, and Ivanov has reported to
President Putin that more than 134,000 military families are without housing;
the current plan to remedy this situation already extends beyond 2015. (5)
Shamonov gets to
the heart of the issue when he predicts "with a high degree of
probability—that with the decline of prestige of military service because
of the cancellation of benefits and a number of other aspects, there will be a
problems with attracting contract servicemen.I can say with the very same
degree of probability that an outflow of junior officers will begin."
(6) Again, the reality is that
retention is already a major problem, especially among junior officers, and the
impact is already having a deleterious effect on military capability. According to an Auditing Chamber
report, almost one third of lieutenants quit the military within a year of
graduating from a military institute. (7)
A chronic shortage of officers has required the military to draft
officers into the armed forces that were trained in the military departments of
civilian schools. These officers
(30,000 to 40,000 per year), who in the past had been allowed to serve in the
reserves but were not drafted into the active force, are being called to duty
in far greater numbers than back in 1999 and are almost as numerous as those
officers graduating from military colleges. The system of military departments at civilian schools was
created, according to Ivanov, "to enable students not to serve in the army
but become officers of reserves without serving." (8) The programs vary in their effectiveness,
but in general, the level of training provided to graduates of these programs
is far inferior to that provided to the military college graduate. Because the Russian armed forces have
not yet developed a professional NCO corps, the preponderance of the
responsibility for training conscripts falls to the junior officers. According to experts "when they
find themselves in the troops, lieutenants from military departments know less
than the conscripts." (9)
contract soldiers is also a problem.
Ivanov recently has tried to lower the public's expectations of the
transition to a contract force, conceding that Russia will always need
conscripts to fill out the one million man armed forces that he says are
required to secure a country of ten time zones. "Theoretically," Ivanov noted, "it is
possible [to create a contract military], but practically it is
means is that he is incapable or unwilling to provide sufficient resources to
make contract service attractive enough to fill the ranks of the Russian
army. While the conversion to
contract soldiers progresses haltingly in other regions, professional units
assigned in Chechnya never have a shortage of soldiers applying to serve
there. This is most assuredly due
to the fact that the average professional soldier serving in Chechnya makes
three times what a soldier makes in Pskov (home of the other completely
professional unit, the 76th Airborne Division), even before combat
pay is considered. (11) At the
right price, individuals interested in military service increase in number and
even improve in quality.
But there is
more to the "desirability" of a military career than just pay. A significant source of the pride
associated with a military career has been extinguished through extensive decay
of discipline and moral fiber in the armed forces. Highlighting this was a report recently released by the
General Prosecutor's Office, which concluded that "the crime rate in the
army and other security structures has increased; theft and beatings have
become a serious problem." (12)
According to Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov, more than R1.7bn has
been stolen or embezzled by servicemen in the last two years. Ustinov notes that "the volume of
kerosene stolen from the Army would be enough to organize four months of flight
training for a regiment of the MiG-29 fighters." (13) These are official government figures;
The reality is likely many times worse.
There is also
new information documenting that life in the military is increasingly
dangerous. Novaya gazeta recently published an article citing an
anonymous Duma source who claimed that 10,799 servicemen have died in
non-combat related incidents over the past five years. Because this information was relayed
the day after Sergei Ivanov had briefed Parliament, the information is
purported to have originated with him.
With incredulity, the article goes on to compare the more than 2,000
deaths per year in the Russian army with the 1,000 deaths per year suffered by
the Soviet army while in heavy combat in Afghanistan, and the 1,300+ deaths
suffered by the U.S. in its nearly two-year-old Iraqi campaign. Regardless of the precise causes of
these deaths (left unclear in the article), the high number of losses prompted
the author to note that "It
appears the Russian army is conducting a heavy and exhausting waragainst
itself and suffering huge losses." (14)
track record and his plan
Ivanov knows the
armed forces are in a social crisis.
He knows that the decision to reduce the length of conscripted service
from two years to one year by 2008, "a major task of national importance
identified by the President," presents an additional challenge ahead,
especially when combined with Russia's negative demographic trends. (15) By failing to support even
inflation-matching pay raises for the servicemen in 2004 and 2005, by
supporting the monetization of benefits (which substantially hurt the soldier
economically), and by failing to provide enough money for an aggressive
transition to contract service, Ivanov demonstrates that he is trying to
resolve problems on the cheap. The
core of Ivanov's solution still appears to center on conscription. His plan to improve the quality of
personnel serving in the Russian armed forces was to increase the talent pool
from which the military drew its troops by removing deferments. He was forced to back away from that
plan early in 2005 because the government could not withstand the political
heat generated by the issue. But
student soldiers would not have been helped, as pointed out by Pavel
Felgenhauer, "the Soviet mass conscript army with university students as
foot soldiers did miserably in the war in Afghanistan in the late 1908's."
(16) Even if the deferments were
eliminated, well-to-do parents would find another way to keep their children
from serving in a military as abusive and dangerous as the Russian military is
analysts like Pavel Felgenhauer continue to assert that the real answer is to
modernize the Russian military personnel system by recruiting and retaining
talented officers and continuing the transition to a force of professional
soldiers, especially at the NCO level.
But what makes the military profession more or less attractive? Apparently Ivanov thinks he can
increase the prestige and status of a military career by preaching to the
public on a national patriotic TV station run by the Ministry of Defense, and
by making "basic military preparedness" compulsory in Russian
schools. Studies by the Russian
Armed Forces Sociological Center show that the same culture that allowed the
military to survive the extreme conditions of the past 15 years still exists
today, but is declining. The
bedrock of officers who still feel compelled to serve the fatherland are a
shrinking plurality in today's Russian military. (17) More and more frequently material security—including
housing—is playing a role in the decisions of young men and women with
regard to a career in the military.
As society's esteem for the military declines, so too do the social
motivations to make the military a career. The creation of a professional force, along with the
elevated awareness of economic well-being in modern Russian society is causing
the economics of a military career to become more important. Civilian salaries in Russia are much
higher, even the salaries of servicemen in Kazakhstan and Belarus are higher
than that of the Russian soldier. (18)
Economic realities add to the negative pressures already eroding the
Failure of the
Russian military to reverse the negative trends in the socio-economic status of
servicemen will have a long-term impact on readiness. In addition to the ongoing problems with crime and corruption,
increased problems with retention and recruitment are sure to reduce the
effectiveness of the force. Each
generation plays an important role in the evolution of a professional military
and if a generation is marred by defective elements, or simply by flight, it
will take several additional generations to undo the damage that undoubtedly
(1) "Benefits Monetization Threatens
the Armed Forces," Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, 27 Jan 05 via Johnson's Russia List
(2) "Putin Tries to Soothe an Irate
Military," Nabi Abdullaev, Moscow Times, 25 Jan 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
(4) "The Military-Police Budget As A
Sign of Our Times," Nezavisimaya gazeta, 26 Jan 05 via JRL.
(5) "Russian Defense Minister Meets
Putin, Outlines Service Issues," ITAR-TASS News Agency, Moscow 31 Jan 05;
BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets.
(6) "Benefits Monetization Threatens
the Armed Forces," Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, 27 Jan 05 via JRL.
(7) "The Military-Police Budget As A
Sign of Our Times," Nezavisimaya gazeta, 26 Jan 05 via JRL.
(8) "Military Departments: Sequester
or Second Life?" Krasnaya zvezda, 29 Jan 05; WPS – Defense and Security via ISI
(10) "Minister Admits Russia Will
Always Need The Draft," RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 9, No. 22, Part I, 3 Feb 05.
(11) "Professionals Are Leaving
Chechnya," Vladimir Mukhin, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 23 Nov 04; WPS – Defense and
Security via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) "Low Pay, Protests Don't
Mix," Pavel Felgenhauer, Moscow Times, 25 Jan 05 via JRL.
(13) "Civil Oversight Over the Army
Remains a Topical Issue," WPS 31 Jan 05; WPS – Defense and Security
(14) "A Division of Non-Combat
Losses in the Russian Army Over the Past Five Years," Alexander Goltz, Novaya
Gazeta, 24 Jan 05; WPS
– Defense and Security via Lexis-Nexis.
(15) "Army, Navy Need Advanced
Education Level Conscripts," ITAR-TASS News Agency, 2 Feb 05 via
(16) "Drafting Students Means
Trouble," Pavel Felgenhauer, Moscow Times, 11 Jan 05 via JRL.
(17) "Sergeants Should Be Authoritative,"
Izvestia, 2 Feb 05;
WPS via Lexis-Nexis.
(18) "Putin Tries to Soothe an Irate
Military," Nabi Abdullaev, Moscow Times, 25 Jan 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
By Jeff Kubiak
Putin at the Russian Security Council
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his first Security Council
address since Russia's ill-advised intervention in Ukraine's presidential
elections and the subsequent election of opposition leader Viktor
Yushchenko. President Putin
highlighted lingering Russian fears over further NATO expansion, but promised
to increase cooperation with the alliance. President Yushchenko, inaugurated just days prior to Putin's
speech, repeatedly has made it clear that he will push for Ukrainian membership
in NATO. Russia opposes membership
for Ukraine based on several emotional reasons linked with its enduring self
image as a superpower, but actual security concerns include: the location of
the Black Sea Fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol and the thousand mile plus
border Russia would have with NATO, if Ukraine joined the alliance.
Putin's discussion of increased NATO cooperation in this year's
address was significantly different from his last Security Council speech in
July 2004. President Putin then
focused on Russia's preeminent role within the Commonwealth of Independent
States. He stated, "Russia's
role in increasing the influence and authority of the CIS is highly
significant." (1) At the same
time, he acknowledged, "We (Russia) are facing increasing political and
economic competition with the CIS (region)." (2)
desire to strengthen the CIS seems to have accomplished little in stemming the
tide of frustration within some former Soviet countries. President Putin is now facing the
question, of how to return Russia to its previous greatness without political
and military domination of the post-Soviet lands. Revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia have made it more
difficult for Russia to influence political processes across the near
abroad. This new reality finally
may force the Russian government to find other avenues, outside of bullying, to
further its agenda within its proclaimed "sphere of influence."
attitude calmly negative
his speech, President Putin emphasized a long-standing component of Russian
foreign policy, "As before, we are convinced that there is not an arguable
basis for the geographic expansion of NATO." (3)
Kelin, Deputy Director of the European Cooperation Department in the Russian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, put it this way, "As far as our attitude to
the (NATO) expansion is concerned, it remains calmly negative." (4) He also said, "To put it briefly,
there is nothing good in the NATO expansion for Russia. And we have both military and political
primary concern with former Soviet states joining NATO appears to be the
growing dependence of the NIS on NATO's system of decision-making, both in the
political and military arenas. The
influence that Russia once wielded over these countries has dissipated with
NATO's expansion; without this influence, Russia finds itself with less control
over the post-Soviet sphere.
secondary issue is Russian residual distrust, notable after the breakup of
Yugoslavia, particularly after the 1999 Kosovo conflict. NATO basically enlarged its military
mission to include out-of-area operations in a region whose problems did not
directly threaten any member states' security, but did threaten European stability
as a whole. After NATO's action
against the Serb-dominated rump Yugoslav state, 96 percent of Russians either
agreed or totally agreed with the proposition that "NATO's bombing of
Yugoslavia is a crime against humanity," and 77 percent either agreed or
totally agreed that "there is nothing stopping NATO from getting involved
in Russia as it did in Yugoslavia." (5)
for Russia-NATO Cooperation
President Putin is serious about significantly increasing cooperation between
Russia and NATO, certain options present themselves: strengthening or altering
the existing NATO-Russia Council; establishing a new joint NATO-Russia command;
or moving toward the inclusion of Russia as a full NATO member.
1 – Strengthen the NATO-Russia Council. Contacts in the context of the NATO-Russia Council are
usually high level. Direct
military to military interaction or cooperation is often limited to a single
exercise. The council could set up
a standard annual exercise schedule, increase the numbers of lower level
personnel exchanges, and look for creative ways to promote military technology
sharing. Strengthening the council
in these ways would probably not have any immediate effect on interoperability
for either Russia or NATO.
2 – Establish a joint NATO-Russia Command. With the prospect of significant changes to U.S. force
disposition within Germany and even Korea, the opportunity exists to establish
a joint Russia-NATO command. The
command, headquartered in Russia, could help eliminate Russian fears of NATO
troops massing on its borders. The
command's mission focus should be something relatively low tech, such as joint
peacekeeping, stabilization and reconstruction. Focusing in these areas, the command would be able to deal
with security concerns on both sides, while at the same time allowing the
inclusion and participation of all troops regardless of their readiness level.
3 – Russia steps on the path toward full NATO membership. In 1995, NATO advised potential new
members that the general membership criteria were as follows: (1) an
established democracy (with individual liberty and the rule of law); (2)
respect for human rights; (3) a market-based economy (with social justice and
environmental responsibility); (4) armed forces under civilian control; (5) and
good relations with neighboring states (with the resolution of internal ethnic
disputes). The current situation
in Russia appears to be diverting ever further from this "western"
model. Currently, it is not useful
to discuss Russian NATO membership.
will remain the key provider of European security and stability for the
foreseeable future. Russia already
has chosen a course of cooperation with NATO. If President Putin truly wants to take the NATO-Russia
alliance to a new level, Russia must overcome psychological scars it carries
from the Cold War. Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov noted at the Russian-U.S. Council for Economic
Cooperation, that current U.S.-Russian relations still bear traces of the past,
featuring "attempts to play a zero sum game." (6)
not the United States or NATO, is fixated on the idea of keeping its superpower
"sphere of influence."
Russia's inability to deliver security and stability to the former
Soviet states will only provide the impetus for continued NATO expansion. Russia simply cannot compete—even
in their own backyard. NATO and
the United States will not limit their own military or political initiatives in
any post-Soviet region based solely on Russia's historical claims. Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan
are in various stages of the NATO membership process. Increased NATO-Russian cooperation certainly could be
mutually beneficial, but until Russia overcomes its self image problems, it is
not likely to happen.
(1) Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(3) President Putin's Speech at the
Security Council Meeting, 29 Jan 05, www.kremlin.ru, via Johnson's Russia List
(4) "A Calmly Negative Attitude to
NATO Expansion," for the Journal Mezhdunarodnaya zhizn', 31 Dec 03 via
(5) "What do Russian voters
think?" Russian Election Watch, number 4, 4 Nov 99, page 3 via The Washington
Quarterly, Winter 2002, "Russia in NATO?"
(6) Russia and America search for rules
of the game in former Soviet Union, 1 February 05, RIA Novosti via JRL #9044.
Kyle J. Colton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Last Friday, the
450-seat Verkhovna Rada approved Yulia Timoshenko for the post of the
Prime-Minister with a vote of 370-0. Shortly thereafter, Timosheko announced
the members of her government, notably: First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy
Kinakh, Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko, Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk, Head
of the Secret Service Oleksanrd Turchinov, Deputy Prime Minister on European
integration Oleg Rybachuk, and Deputy Prime Minister on Administrative Reform Roman
Bessmertniy, among others. (1)
Timoshenko stressed that a candidate's beliefs, goals, and intents, not
arbitrary personal characteristics, should be the main criteria when selecting
any political candidate for a government position. The presentation of her
"Toward the People" action plan consisted of five main subsections:
Fairness, Harmony, Life, Security, and the World. Timoshenko started the
presentation of her program by underlining the importance of spiritual
education, faith in God, in Ukraine, and in the people's own abilities to build
a corruption-free, prosperous state. Timoshenko, reaching out to the wide
Ukrainian population, emphasized the importance of offering equal opportunities
to all Ukrainian children, regardless of their family financial abilities. She
underlined the significance of fair courts, separation of business and
government and the importance of reforming the military.
After the vote
which confirmed Timoshenko's appointment for the post of the Prime-Minister,
Yushchenko was the first to congratulate her. Speaker Litvin gave her a big
bouquet of white roses. Timoshenko expressed her gratitude to everyone, saying
that due to the collaboration between the government and the parliament,
Ukraine now "sparkled in the world as a diamond." (2)
Last week, the
Charter-97 website reported that all scripts of a comical Belarusian TV show,
KVN, which features humorous competitions between university student teams from
around the country, now will have to pass an ideological test in respective
universities' administrations before appearing on the air. In addition, student
teams will be prohibited from making jokes about Lukashenko or even imitating
his voice. Students were lectured on how much the President was doing for their
country and how joking about the leader was disrespectful towards their
education of the Belarusian nation, initiated by Lukashenko several years ago,
seems to be taking on an ever more absurd form. Now, Belarusians are being
deprived of the last outlet to ease their frustration with the current
regime—an ability to laugh openly at it. In schools, on the jobs, on TV
and radio, ideological education has been thriving for several years already.
been one of Lukashenko's main targets for promoting state ideology. One example
of his methods of achieving universal patriotism is forcing state ideology
students at the Mahilyow State Teacher's Training University to subscribe to
state-owned newspapers. Students will be allowed to sit state examinations only
upon presentation of their subscription slips. Even after graduation, future
Social Science and History teachers will be obliged to subscribe to a
government mouthpiece—Sovetskaya Belorussiya and a local newspaper Mahilyowskiya
university students have been facing compulsory courses on the fundamentals of
state ideology since 2003. Acclaimed philosophers, historians, political
sociologists and economists were trained to teach such courses. History
textbooks were rewritten on Lukashenko's order last year: those Lukashenko
deemed "talentless people" were excised; his designated
"patriots" remain in the textbooks. (5)
The Yakub Kolas
Lyceum, which had been attended by the children of many opposition members, was
one of many Belarusian schools closed down by Lukashenko, who declared that
"Education is one place where the opposition is not going to put down
high school students are forced to join a government supported clone of the
Soviet Komsomol organization, the Belarusian National Union of Youth (or
popularly known as "Lukomol"—a blend of Lukashenko and
Komsomol), membership in which is an unwritten prerequisite to entering university.
In the work
place, the ideological brainwashing is in full swing. Organizations now have
ideology managers or deputy directors of ideological work. These people are
required to hold regular political meetings and provide interpretations of the political
events unfolding in the country.
Media is yet
another crucial means through which the government brings the teachings of the
President to the people. Most TV channels are government mouthpieces.
Government-affiliated organizations (about 80% of all in Belarus) are forced to
subscribe to state-owned newspapers. Recently, Lukashenko passed a law which
forced all FM radio stations are required to fill 75 percent of their music
airtime with "domestic products." (7) There are restrictions even on
this law—Belarusian musicians who supported opposition candidates during
the past parliamentary elections, are banned from radio and TV by an informal
government order. (8)
What is the
essence Lukashenko's state ideology? What kind of citizen is he trying to
cultivate and what type of state is he trying to create? Lukashenko claims that the main purpose
of teaching ideology is to help the young Belarusian state, which has gained
independence for the first time in centuries, to consolidate into a strong patriotic
nation. "A state isn't worth much if it does not have its own ideology.
Our state is in its infancy and it should have a powerful immune system in the
shape of ideology to ensure its continued survival," said Lukashenko while
addressing students of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts two years ago.
(9) Indeed, given the tender age
of the Belarusian nation and lack of history of sovereign statehood, it might
be reasonable to create some common foundation for independent political and
publicized ideals and his true motives and actions are drastically different,
however. One of the priorities of Lukashenko's ideological teachings is
cultivating civic and patriotic feelings in the population. The common
definition of patriotism, however, is the love of one's Motherland, not
unquestioned loyalty to a president, which seems to be Lukashenko's focus.
Lukashenko does not hide the fact that his ideological teachings are a
"campaign for the current regime." (10) "We must inoculate the
people so that no one can lead them astray," said Lukashenko. "If any
washed-up crazies come along, no one will listen to them. The people will be
staunchly hostile to them."
In the past, the phrase "washed-up crazies" was used by
Lukashenko to describe the opposition. (11) Lukashenko also spoke against the
artificial creation of a party
of power. "This
process should go and ripen on its own," said the Belarusian President.
strengthening use of the national language and celebration of culture is yet
another established way to create a strong, patriotic nation. Unfortunately,
Belarus' President suppressed the revival of a Belarusian culture throughout
his decade-long presidency. During the past several years, Lukashenko closed 118
schools where Belarusian was used as the language of instruction, and 51
schools, where Belarusian was used together with Russian as the language of
instruction. (13) Numerous
Belarusian language newspapers have been closed and even the official presidential
website is written only in Russian and English, sending a strong message about
the President's language preferences.
It appears that
many Belarusians are skeptical about Lukashenko's ideological teachings and
realize that Belarusian state ideology is nothing more than brainwashing aimed
at creating loyal followers of the current regime. That awareness is not
leading to protest however. By not raising their voices, the Belarusians are
condemning not only themselves, but also their children to remain small screws
in the big dictatorial machine for years to come.
(1) Ukrainskaya pravda website, 04 Feb 05 via (http://www2.pravda.com.ua/ru/archive/2005/february/4/uriad.shtml).
(3) Charter-97, 31 Jan 05 via (www.charter97.org).
(4) Charter-97 website, 25 Jan 05 BBC
Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(5) Belapan Analytic Bulletin, 28 Dec 04
via ISI Emerging Markets.
(6) Current Digest of Post-Soviet Press,
10 Sep 2003 via Lexis-Nexis.
(7) Belapan Analytic Bulletin, 18 Jan 05
via ISI Emerging markets.
(9) Belapan news agency, 14 Nov 03; BBC
Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(10) Current Digest of Post-Soviet Press,
10 Sep 2003 via Lexis-Nexis.
(12) ITAR-TASS News Agency, 13 Aug, 2004
(13) Belapan Analytic Bulletin, 28 Dec 04
By Elena Selyuk
the loss of a revolutionary prime minister
During the early
morning hours of February 3, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and his
friend Raul Usupov were found dead in Usupov's Tbilisi apartment. Usupov served as the deputy
governor of Shadi Kartli.
Zhvania, with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Parliament Speaker Nino
Burjanadze, led Georgia through the "rose revolution." He was known as perhaps the smartest
and most strategic politician in the country.
immediately suggested—even before medical testing had begun—that
Zhvania's death was a "tragic accident" caused by carbon monoxide
poisoning. Less than three hours
after the prime minister's body was discovered, Interior Minister Vano
Merabishvili told reporters, "This was apparently an accident."
(1) Merabishvili explained that
the installation of a new "Iranian made" gas heater at Usupov's home
just two days earlier was completed improperly. Later in the day, Justice Minister Levan Samkharauli
confirmed that the carbon monoxide level in Zhvania's blood was abnormally
high—more than twice the level considered fatal. (2)
the timing of Zhvania's death, combined with the country's long history of
political violence, has led many in the media and some in the parliament to
wonder if the cause was really as benign as authorities suggested.
In particular, opposition MP Alexander Shalamberidze alleged that Zhvania's
death was masterminded "by outside forces," and implied that those
forces originated in Russia. (3)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov immediately denied the accusation, and
said, "The statements of those who rush to make judgments . . . will
remain on their consciences." (4)
Media outlets also questioned the quick conclusion of authorities. The Georgian daily, 24 Hours, suggested
that the actions of the authorities seemed to indicate an attempt to cover up
evidence. The paper noted that
officials had shown journalists a video tape of the scene in Usupov's apartment
"in an attempt to disavow doubts," but that "the tape was surely
edited, which even more triggered a sense that it was made in an attempt to
hide something." (5)
The daily Rezonansi
"This is very strange. It is
quite possible that Zhvania really could have died by carbon monoxide
poisoning, but was it really a tragic accident?" (6)
are logical, given the many critical and often dangerous issues that were being
addressed directly by the Prime Minister at the time of his death.
Tbilisi's relations with the leaders of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian breakaway
republics are at a precarious point.
On January 26, President Saakashvili announced that talks with Abkhaz
representatives had been suspended because Abkhazia effectively had "left
the negotiating table" by refusing to negotiate certain points. In supporting the President's
announcement, Zhvania said, "The most important thing is that a tragic
fact must be recognized [in order] to continue talks on Abkhazia – ethnic
cleansing of Georgians took place in Abkhazia in 1993." (7) However, despite this statement,
several peace plans have been proposed by Georgian government and NGO
organizations, and Zhvania had been asked to generate support on both sides of
the conflict for a final settlement proposal.
On January 26, President
Saakashvili also announced a new South Ossetian peace initiative during a
session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). The plan proposed broad autonomy for
South Ossetia, including its own president, but the plan would keep the
republic within Georgia. The proposal has many similarities to the agreement
negotiated by Prime Minister Zhvania with Adjarian representatives in mid-2004,
technically ending the armed conflict there. (8) PACE members generally reacted positively to this latest
initiative, with PACE Venice Commission member Gianni Buquichio calling it
"a very good starting point which should facilitate settlement of this
surprisingly, South Ossetian representatives baulked at the initial announcement
of the initiative. "We have
always said that the South Ossetian Republic does not refuse to hold dialogue
but we do not intend to discuss the issue of the South Ossetian Republic's
status," the self-titled South Ossetian Foreign Minister Alan Pliev said.
Ossetian leaders claimed good relations with Zhvania, and progress had been
made in recent months. On November
5, the republic's self-styled President, Eduard Kokoity, signed a
demilitarization agreement with Zhvania and, at least publicly, remained
committed to the plan. On November
14, Kokoity said Zhvania led a "party of peace" in his efforts to
solve the situation. He suggested
that other Georgian leaders, most notably then-Interior Minister (current
Defense Minister) Irakli Okruashvili, "contribute to the tensions"
and he implied a clear unwillingness to work with individuals outside the Prime
Minister's circle. (11) Following
Zhvania's death, Kokoity's envoy told Interfax that a delegation from the
republic would attend the funeral.
"We were talking about ways of settling the conflict with Zhvania,
who tried to do a lot to normalize the situation in the region," Vazha
Khachapuridze said. (12) In fact,
the Prime Minister reportedly had intended to focus primarily on the South
Ossetian issue in the coming months. Kokoity's spokeswoman noted that Kokoity
"does not rule out the possibility that the negotiating process may now
become more complicated." (13)
The intention to
focus on South Ossetia was given new impetus on February 1, when a car bomb
exploded outside the police station in Gori, located just a few kilometers
outside of South Ossetia, about 30 kilometers from the South Ossetian capital
of Tskhinvali. The bomb killed
three police officers and injured 27 civilians. (14) Almost immediately, some
media speculated that South Ossetian separatists were to blame in an effort to
derail recent progress in negotiations.
One day after the bombing, Saakashvili blamed "anti-peace
forces" for the attack, and without naming South Ossetia, noted that the
blast came after his government had "initiated peace proposals."
(15) A South Ossetian government
spokeswoman, however, fervently denied involvement. "What happened is terrible," Irina Gagloyeva
said. "We hope this won't be
repeated. We definitely aren't
guilty of it." (16)
Zhvania supported Gagloyeva's statement.
He suggested that the bombing was not planned by Georgians or South
Ossetians and implied the involvement of a third country. Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili
also told reporters on February 1 that the attack seemed to be planned outside
Georgia. (17) At the same time,
all government ministers urged calm.
On February 3, just hours before his death, Zhvania said, "The
organizers of this terrorist act aimed to spread panic among the population and
destabilize the situation.
However, we should respond with consolidation and effective
attack, coincidentally or not, came just days after what one Russian newspaper
called a "summit of separatists" in Moscow. On January 25, the leaders of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and
Transdneistria arrived in the Russian capital. It is somewhat unclear with whom they met, and they claimed
not to have coordinated their visits.
However, the Kommersant
Russian daily newspaper reported that Kokoity met with Deputy Foreign Minister
Yuri Loshchinin, while newly elected Abkhaz "President" Sergei
Bagapsh met with Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov. Kommersant
also noted that former Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich, who
tacitly supported eastern Ukrainian separatist activity during his election
campaign, was in Moscow at this time. (19)
implication of a third country connection with the Gori bombing and his stepped-up
negotiations with Kokoity have added to the questions surrounding his
death. Without Zhvania,
South Ossetia negotiations will become more complicated, and the conflict could
continue to plague Georgia indefinitely, draining its resources and having a
destabilizing impact on its economic and political standing in the
Georgia's attempts to consolidate its power ministries and curb police
corruption—spearheaded by Zhvania—also likely will be impacted, at
least initially. Clearly, numerous
parties stand to benefit from his death.
questions remain about Zhvania's death, Justice Minister Levan Samkharauli
announced on February 4 that, although tests had revealed a lethal level of
carbon monoxide (technically carboxyhemoglobin) in Zhvania's blood, there will
be additional analysis. "In
other cases," he said, "a bio-chemical test would have been enough,
but this is a case of high-ranking officials and it has been decided to make
other tests within ten days." (20) In addition, officials announced that the U.S. Federal
Bureau of Investigation will assist the government by conducting forensic tests
on blood and tissue samples taken from Zhvania. (21) In response to questions about possible tampering with the
gas heater, Georgian Deputy General Prosecutor Giorgi Janashia told reporters
on February 5 that they are questioning "dozens" of persons who may
have information. (22)
In the meantime,
Saakashvili is serving as Acting Prime Minister while he prepares to nominate a
replacement for Zhvania. He must
do so by February 10, while a new cabinet must be formed by February 20.
suggest fierce battles over the prime minister position between two
"camps" represented in the government—one loyal to Saakashvili
and one loyal to Zhvania. The
battle is one not only of personality, but also of strategic policy. "Zhvania was the person
Saakashvili really listened to and in many cases, he managed to stop
Saakashvili on the brink of fairly radical things," Paata Zakareishvili of
the Center for Development and Cooperation in Tbilisi said. (24) Zhvania's camp may be searching for
some way to continue its "checks and balances" function, as Zhvania
did with Saakashvili over the past year.
leading prime minister candidates include State Minister for Euro-Atlantic
Integration and Zhvania protégé Giorgi Baramidze, Defense Minister and
Saakashvili supporter Irakli Okruashvili and Parliament Speaker Nino
Burjanadze, who served as interim president following Eduard Shevardnadze's
resignation. Clearly, the most
logical and acceptable choice would be Nino Burjanadze. The Speaker was a member of the
"rose revolution" leaders troika, and has been described repeatedly
by Saakashvili as his most important partner, along with Zhvania. She has shown a skill at not being
pulled into one camp and has impressed both Georgians and Western organizations
with her attempts to increase the power of the parliament to balance an
extremely strong president. In addition,
her relations with the separatist republics have been more productive than
faces a number of daunting challenges, and he must face them without the man on
whom he depended heavily. He will
be tempted to lean on his supporters who urge strident action and moves that
could undo the progress made over the last year. It is in his and his country's interest to have an
independent, balanced, tested partner by his side. It is also in his interest to ensure that the circumstances
surrounding the death of Zurab Zhvania are examined thoroughly and
transparently. Otherwise, any
choice he makes for the premiership will be tainted even before the first
cabinet meeting is convened.
(1) Agence France Press, 03 Feb 05, 11:33
AM EST via (www.bakutoday.net).
(2) Civil Georgia, 03 Feb 05, 6:14 PM
EST, "Official Speaks of Details of Zhvania's Forensic Expertise" via
(3) Associated Press, 04 Feb 05, 3:01 PM
via Yahoo! News.
(4) The Independent Online Edition, 04 Feb 05, "Moscow Denies Link to
Georgia PM's Death;" via (news.independent.co.uk).
(5) 24 Hours, "Results of Official Forensic
Examination Fail to Disavow Doubts," 05 Feb 05; Civil Georgia via (www.civil.ge), 05 Feb 05, 19:45.
(6) Rezonance, 05 Feb 05; Civil Georgia via (www.civil.ge, 05 Feb 05, 19:45).
(7) Civil Georgia, 29 Jan 05, 5:10 PM
EST, "Abkhazia Agenda Overshadowed by South Ossetia" via (www.civil.ge). (both Saakashvili and Zhvania quotes located here)
(8) General details of the South Ossetian
proposal can be found at www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=8891.
Civil Georgia, 28 Jan 05, 7:39 PM EST, "Georgia, Venice Commission
Work Over South Ossetia Status" via (www.civil.ge).
(10) Civil Georgia, 27 Jan 05, 4:53 PM
EST, "Breakaway South Ossetian Official Comments on Tbilisi's Proposals
(11) Civil Georgia, 15 Nov 05, 12:46 PM
EST, "Kokoev Speaks of Party of Peace" via (www.civil.ge).
(12) Interfax, 04 Feb 05, 9:54 PM EST via
(13) Interfax, 03 Feb 05, 11:28 AM EST
(14) Reuters, 01 Feb 05, 2:40 PM EST via
(15) Baku Today, 02 Feb 05, 5:24 AM EST,
"Georgia Blames Anti-Peace Forces for Deadly Blast" via (www.bakutoday.net).
(16) Reuters, 01 Feb 05, 2:40 PM EST,
"Car Bomb Kills Three Police in Georgia" via Yahoo! News.
(18) Civil Georgia, 03 Feb 05, 00:35 AM
EST, "Georgian PM Denies South Ossetia Link With Gori Blast" via (www.bakutoday.net).
(19) Kommersant, "Summit of Separatists," 26
Jan 05 via (www.kommersant.com).
(20) ITAR-TASS, 04 Feb 05, 8:35 PM EST
(21) Civil Georgia, 04 Feb 05, 4:35 PM
EST via (http://www.civil.ge).
(22) Civil Georgia, 05 Feb 05, 8:59 PM
EST via (http://www.civil.ge).
(23) Associated Press, 05 Feb 05, 8:18 PM
EST, "Georgians Mourn Prime Minister as Authorities Investigate" via
(24) BBC News, 04 Feb 04, "Zurab
Zhvania: Architect of Revolution" via (http://www.bbc.co.uk).
By Tammy Lynch (email@example.com)
Six weeks ago,
parliamentary elections were held in Uzbekistan. As was to be expected, the electoral process was
questionable at best. Weeks before the balloting was due to be held,
Uzbekistan's opposition bloc withdrew from the election, citing large-scale
governmental fraud and intimidation. (1) The result of this action was that
Uzbek voters were forced to choose between five political parties, all of which
In spite of this
"democratic setback," President Karimov conducted a campaign designed
to present a democratic image to the outside world, insisting that the
elections would be free and fair, and that all legitimate criticisms from the
OSCE and other observers would be accepted. (2)
after the election, Karimov's rhetoric concerning democratization and the OSCE
returned to its previously defiant note. Karimov noted that the OSCE had little
right to pass judgment on Uzbekistan, as the country had joined the
organization only because of its status as a post-Soviet Republic. In addition
to attacking the OSCE, Karimov, in an exclusive interview with Nezavisimaya
gazeta, claimed there
would be no color revolution in Uzbekistan since the country lacked
"protest potential" as well as any significant foreign influence.
(3) Karimov's interview showed
that he was worried by events in Ukraine this winter and was determined to
ensure that revolution did not occur in Uzbekistan. His actions in excluding
opposition parties must be viewed within the framework of domestic
"protest potential." Karimov's evident concern with the spread of
both unrest and willingness to demonstrate for political change made him
extremely cautious. In the last two weeks, Karimov has begun to address the
second of his concerns, namely foreign interference in Uzbek affairs.
On January 28,
President Karimov addressed the newly formed Parliament for the first time. A
considerable portion of his speech was geared towards discussing the role of
foreign NGO's in the country. Karimov stated that "inspections of some
nongovernmental and non profit organizations that have been set up primarily
with the help of certain foundations have shown that the activities of such
organizations are significantly deviating from those stipulated in their
statutes and programs and are pursuing specific objectives ordered by certain
forces." (4) Pointing directly at the gallery occupied by Western
(including U.S.) diplomats, Karimov added "we have enough power to curb
aid groups that violate our laws. I hope those sitting in the balcony understand
that." (5) Karimov's concerns regarding revolution are also affecting
Uzbekistan's foreign policy.
Significantly, his remarks contained no references to the U.S./Uzbek
relationship. Instead, he stressed the value to Uzbekistan of regional
alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Central Asian
Cooperation Organization and the Commonwealth of Independent States. (6)
continued during Karimov's post-speech press conference, during which he
emphasized that U.S. troops would leave the country upon completion of
operations in Afghanistan, and indicated that due to "tendencies that are
taking place in Ukraine and Georgia—and also in Moldova, which is a
member of GUUAM," Uzbekistan might withdraw from the organization in the
near future. (7) Finally, Karimov addressed the Strategic Partnership Treaty
signed with Russia last year, stating that relations between President Putin and himself were
"strengthening" and that the two countries would together take
"preventative measures in a complicated world filled with threats and
challenges to the security of the people." (8)
Karimov's statements seem to indicate that events in Ukraine have caused deep
concern and paranoia in Uzbekistan. Karimov clearly is concerned that the U.S.
presence in-country might have 'unwanted' effects on the political situation.
As such, he is less interested in regaining the financial aid cut off by the
State Department last year, and with maintaining the U.S./Uzbek alliance, than
he is in instituting all possible measures to ensure that Ukraine 2004 does not
become Uzbekistan 2005.
parliamentary elections are due to be held on February 27. In the last two
months there has been considerable political activity in the country indicating
that Kyrgyzstan may follow a dynastic succession. As yet, President Askar Akaev
has refused to be drawn on whether he would run for a third Presidential term.
But both Akaev's son and daughter—the latter more politically
experienced—have been nominated as candidates for the polls. (9)
Significantly, Bermet Akaeva is running in a constituency previously occupied
by one of Kyrgyzstan's most important opposition leaders, Roza Otunbayev, a
former Foreign Minister and current co-leader of Ata-Jurt. When Otunbayeva was excluded from the
elections, allegedly on the grounds of residency violations, (10) protests
occurred outside the Parliament in Bishkek, which lasted several days.
President Akaev's ostensible response to the demonstrators was to dismiss them
as agitators wishing to re-create the "Orange Revolution." Prime
Minister Nikolai Tanayev also addressed the demonstrators, warning them that
the government would be prepared to use force on February 27 to enforce
"political stability," should such action be necessary. (11) The war
of words has continued in recent weeks, coinciding with the official start of
electoral campaigning on February 2.
has expressed similar concerns to those aired by Uzbekistan's President Karimov
regarding events during the winter in Ukraine. In an interview given to Nezavisimaya
gazeta, and published
online in Britain by the BBC, Akaev alleged that the United States government
is secretly supporting Ata-Jurt and
Otunbayeva's candidacy (12) —an allegation which was denied strenuously
by Otunbayeva. (13) Believing U.S. involvement to be a key element, Akaev has
sought to place his rule firmly in the context of alliance with the United
States. Akaev claimed that the "emergence of political disorder" in
the country would have detrimental effects on Central Asia as a whole and
specifically on Kyrgyzstan's position as an "active" participant in
the Global War on Terrorism. (14) As such, his tactics are different from those
adopted by President Karimov. Akaev has chosen to stress Kyrgyzstan's
usefulness to the United States in order to prevent what he believes is foreign
interference in internal affairs: Kyrgyz
"stability"—represented, of course, by himself—is
"best of all" in the United States' interest. (15)
The idea of meddling
or fraud (both foreign and domestic) has been a persistent part of the Kyrgyz
government's rhetoric over the last two weeks: Prime Minister Tanayev warned
the OSCE on January 31 that "interference" (16) in the
polls by any observer missions would not be tolerated, while also promising
that the government itself would not intervene in the electoral process. (17)
leadership also is seeking to ensure that revolutionary change does not take
place, by appealing to the country's most important demographic, namely the
youth. Akaev's first official campaign business was to attend a youth rally in
Bishkek. Addressing almost 3,000 school children, Akaev warned that the
upcoming elections were a "test" for them, and told them that Kyrgyz youth
"have already demonstrated their immunity to the sickly foreign rose,
orange and yellow viruses that some home grown opposition figures are trying to
implant in our soil." (18) Akaev also used the rally as a venue to attempt
to assure the youth that the elections would be fair, noting that ballot boxes
would be marked and counted in a transparent fashion, and that voters would
have their fingers stained with ink in order to ensure that no voter
falsification takes place. (19)
the chances of a fair election in Kyrgyzstan are virtually nil: not only has
Otunbayeva been excluded, but the vote will also in large part be conducted
using the same Saylau' computerized voting system used last September in
Kazakhstan, and which is at the center of fraud allegations in that country.
Uzbekistan, the reverberations of Ukraine are causing deep concern in Bishkek.
But in contrast to Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz opposition is increasingly vocal,
with Otunbayeva stating that Kyrgyzstan has "matured" to the point
where it is ripe for peaceful revolution. (21) The real test of Akaev's
intentions will come on February 27 and 28, once election results are
announced: if opposition groups make significant gains, will Akaev remove
himself from the presidential picture in the fall? Most importantly, Akaev has
always styled himself as Central Asia's most moderate leader. As such, how will
he behave if protests emerge after the elections; will he use force to suppress
dissent, or will he allow peaceful expressions of dissent to occur? Based on
current statements, and the level of concern being aired at the highest levels
of the Kyrgyz government, the prediction must be that protests will be
stopped—violently, if necessary.
(1) See NIS Observed: An Analytical
Review; Volume X Number 1 (31 December 2005).
(4) Uzbek Radio first programme, 28 Jan
05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(5) TCA-Uzbekistan, 31 Jan 05; Times of
Central Asia via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(6) Uzbek Radio first programme, 28 Jan
05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(7) TCA-Uzbekistan, 1 Feb 05; Times of
Central Asia via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(8) ITAR-TASS, 29 Jan 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0129 via WNC.
(9) See NIS Observed: An Analytical
Review; Vol X, No. 1 (31 December 2005).
(12) "Kyrgyzstan Feels Wind of
Change," 3 Feb 05; BBC News via (www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4229985.stm).
(13) AKIpress news, 2 Feb 05; AKIpress
news agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(14) AKIpress News Agency in Russian, 3
Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(15) AKIPRESS, 3 Feb 05;
FBIS-SOV-2005-0203 via WNC.
(16) Public Educational Radio and TV
Bishkek in Russian, 1 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(17) ITAR-TASS, 31 Jan 05,
FBIS-SOV-2005-0131 via WNC.
(18) RFE/RL Newsline-Transcaucasus &
Central Asia, 4 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(19) Kabar Daily News, 3 Feb 05; Kabar
Information Service via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(20) AKIpress news, 31 Jan 05, AKIpress
news agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(21) AKIpress news, 2 Feb 05; AKIpress
news agency via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
By Fabian Adami