At a cabinet meeting on February 21, President Putin
instructed Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to "get tougher" on
"bandits" in the Caucasus (for a more detailed discussion of MVD
activities, which Nurgaliyev reported to Putin at this meeting, please see
Security Services below). (1) The only surprising thing about this
admonition is that Putin hasn't taken his own advice.
While Putin's response to September's jarring attack in
Beslan – holding an hours' long meeting with foreign journalists,
specialists, and academics and then turning inward to attack Russia's diffusion
of governance (such as it was) by tightening vertical control over the regions
-- is strikingly weak, certainly by Putin's standards, for those who wonder how
long the rule of the sword (and the shield) will last, it is a red flag. Hence we see evidence of opposition to
Putin unimagined since the electoral rout of the 2003 parliamentary
elections: Dissatisfaction and
criticism with the handling of the Beslan hostage crisis, especially among the
families of the children; the failure and attendant criticism of administrative
reform; Ukraine's rejection of Putin's attempts to influence voters in their
presidential election; pensioners taking to the streets throughout Russia to
protest the monetization of benefits; cracks in the cohesion of the Kremlin
apparat, as insiders tussle for authority; and, perhaps most surprisingly, the
appearance of an opposition candidate a full three years before the next
(scheduled) presidential election.
Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov did not, apparently,
call a press conference to announce as a potential contender in 2008, but
rather to publicize his new consultancy endeavor. (2) Nonetheless, Kasianov not only dropped a "coy" hint
at presidential ambitions by responding to a direct question on his
presidential ambitions with "everything is possible;" he went further
in his criticism of the current executive, "The main thing is that whoever
comes to power [in the next election] spearheads a movement toward democratic values." (3)
Already, analysts are handicapping Kasianov's chances and,
again, a familiar name surfaces as the potential kingmaker. Andrei Ryabov of the Carnegie Moscow
Center claims, "If Kasianov means business, Anatoli Chubais will back
him." (4) It is interesting
to note that among Kasianov's perks, remnants of his tenure as Prime Minister,
are not only bodyguards and his Moscow residence, but "a direct line to
the Kremlin." (5)
What is not disclosed however, is just who answers at the
other end of Kasianov's Kremlin hotline.
Within the Kremlin, there are traces of infighting, which
appear magnified when compared to the remarkable stillness of apparat waters
during most of Putin's administration.
The division between "liberal economists" and siloviki has been evident for some time; there is now,
however, actual cross-pollination of spheres as economists venture into the
security sphere (as in the case of P.M. Fradkov addressing MVD and FSB
officials) and siloviki (such as
presidential aide Viktor Ivanov) hold forth on the tariff regime before the
Customs Service. (6) Speculation
over the cause of past appointments (e.g., Dmitri Kozak being transferred to
the Caucasus in order to get him out of Moscow) and rumors of new personnel
moves (apparently, current Drug Czar Viktor Cherkesov is anxious for a higher
profile post and has his eyes on the FSB chief spot) are as rampant today as
they were during any of Yel'tsin's unfathomable absences throughout his
administration. If access to the
texts of decrees was as open today as it was in the nineties, it would be
interesting to compare the number of decrees promulgated now to those that
would appear during any of the famous Yel'tsin "holidays." The variety of decrees and, in
particular, the number issued that directly contradicted those issued just days
earlier, provided a remarkable "kremlinological" tool for gauging the
membership and relative strength of apparat factions.
Putin's missteps in Ukraine, inaction and inability to
protect Russian citizens, (especially in southern Russia), and curtailing of
democratic development, which garnered heavy international criticism, have left
him weakened, and there appear to be few rallying to rebuild his tarnished
image. For some, Putin likely
burnt bridges of support after turning on the financial kingpins behind the
"Family" that brought him to power; for others, Putin is either too
weak or slow in bringing the military in line with the "security
agenda," and, of course, there are those who have continued simply to toil
in the economic and financial minefields as Russia lurches (on the back of its
oil reserves) toward a vigorous GDP.
None of these groups have a particular urgent motivation to prop up
Putin's sagging administration.
However, that does not mean that they will not find suitable motivation
should a threatening political force appear.
Putin, on his own (or Putinists, sinn féin)
The reverberations from Ukraine's Orange Revolution are
still echoing across Central Eurasia, but if Kommersant has its story right (and there is some debate about
that), then Putin and his team already have set to work creating a mass student
organization to replace the "Walking Together" movement. Nashi, or Our
Own is being organized by Kremlin Deputy
Chief Vladislav Surkov, together with Walking Together's creator, Vasili Yakemenko. Surkov has reportedly met with youth
activists in St. Petersburg to formulate the foundation of a movement that will
have branches in major urban areas across Russia and hopes someday to boast a
membership of 200-250,000.
Funding reportedly will be provided by Kremlin-favored
oligarchs, who hope their business interests will benefit from a stable Putin
administration. Perhaps Surkov and
these Putin supporters hope that any mass demonstrations by students in Russia
can be diverted through an alternative source of young, urban groups
controlled, at least politically, by the Kremlin (or one faction therein).
RTR Russia TV, 1100 GMT, 21 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via
The Moscow Times, 25 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets
Database. Kasianov's new
consulting agency, MK-Analytika will, no doubt, benefit from the publicity
attending his announcement, but if opposition to Putin was not "bankable,"
Kasianov would not have employed this tactic.
Gazeta, 25 Feb 05; What
the Papers Say (WPS) via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
Gazeta.ru website, 17 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
Kommersant, 21 Feb 05; WPS via Lexis-Nexis. Ekho Moskvy, 21
Feb 05 had a report of the new
movement, "Nashi," drawn from the Kommersant report, but also ran
comments by the alleged founder of the new movement (and former head of Walking
Together, Vasili Yakemenko, that "what Kommersant is saying is simply
ridiculous." (Ekho Moskvy, 21 Feb 05, 0745 GMT; BBC Monitoring via
The tactics security forces displayed in the somewhat
lopsided confrontation between Russian security forces and reported terrorists
in Makhachkala, Dagestan (described in the last NIS), which included the use of
a tank to destroy the building in which the terrorists were holed up, appear to
have become standard operating procedure for the security services, as
evidenced by the similar tactics displayed in another such operation later in
January. These tactics appear to
be part of a new Kremlin plan in the Caucasus that includes greater force and
more frequent raids, increased rhetoric and even a de-Chechenization of
security in the region (possibly withdrawing support from the clement Chechen
regime), although it is not clear how well the plan is being coordinated at
On the last weekend in January, security forces began what
became a two-day operation against suspected terrorists in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria. Available details are less than clear,
but it appears the first stop for FSB and regional Interior Ministry agents was
a house to arrest two suspected terrorists plus a woman alleged to have lived
with the suspect in last August's Rizhskaya subway bombing. Successful in that encounter, agents
then proceeded to apprehend three more suspects in a nearby apartment building,
where they met with less success.
After spending Saturday attempting to negotiate with the three in the
five-story structure, several dozen police and special forces personnel raided
the building Sunday morning with what was described as "heavy artillery,
armored vehicles and gas."
The building was said to have been ablaze when the raid was concluded. (1) All terrorists within (reports vary, claiming three or four,
including women) were reportedly killed.
Initially, authorities were tight-lipped on the operation, perhaps
because of the presence of women among the dead alleged terrorists, or perhaps
because of the scale of the operation in contrast, again, with the number of
terrorists. More complete reports
did not appear in the media until the last week of February, along with words,
which have become almost boilerplate that tied the suspected terrorists to Aslan
Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev.
Accompanying these later, more complete reports were
descriptions of other, less publicized, similar action—160 police and FSB
troops killed a single "rebel militant" in Karachayevo-Cherkessia,
and an unreported number of special forces personnel killed terrorist leader
and al-Qaeda emissary Abu Dzeit, along with two other accomplices, in an
Ingushetian village. Not
surprisingly, much more was made of the latter event, including claims that Abu
Dzeit distributed al-Qaeda funds throughout the Caucasus and that he was
personally involved in the June 2004 Ingushetia attack and the Beslan siege in
September 2004. Perhaps also not
surprisingly, Kommersant questioned
these claims, both the fact that Abu Dzeit was killed and that he was as
influential as FSB reports made him out to be. (2) The
suspicion regarding the identity claim, certainly, is to be expected: following the January Makhachkala
incident (see previous NIS Obs), government agents reported that Rasul
Makasharipov was among the dead.
Makasharipov later posted a statement on the Chechen Kavkaz Center
website stating that he was, in fact, alive and well and would continue to
Such tactics were put on display for all to see on a Channel
One TV report in February highlighting an interdepartmental anti-terror
exercise in the Moscow Region. The
report showcased the government's new GROU, or operational command groups,
combining forces from the Interior Ministry, the FSB, the Defense Ministry and
the Emergency Ministry. In the
presentation, the forces, "[a] mini army . . . helicopters, special troops
and armoured hardware," were under the command of a single person from the
Interior Ministry, in this case Colonel General Nikolai Rogozhkin. This GROU appears to be an Interior
Ministry-led team. The report stated
that such groups already have been "set up in 12 parts of the Southern
Federal District" in the second half of 2004 (although not specifically as
a result of the Beslan siege) and had shown their success in the Makhachkala
and Nalchik raids. The report also
claimed that the Interior Ministry was "drafting a proposal to set up such
units all over Russia, not only in the Southern Federal District." (4)
There are two common themes with these events: First, security services have stepped
up their actions significantly, using large force elements from multiple
agencies to capture or, more often, kill even a solitary terrorism
suspect. All of these events
appear to get a spotlight, even if it comes into focus only some weeks after
the fact, but that obviously begs the question, What are we not seeing? And
second, all of these relatively high-profile actions, which include claims of
direct links to al-Qaeda and the deaths of the highest-ranking members of the
separatist terror movement, have taken place outside of Chechnya, although
typically in adjacent regions.
Perhaps this answers the begged question—scant news from Chechnya
proper does not necessarily mean scant action. It is quite possible similar events are occurring there as
well, but without success, publicity is of no use. Besides, the threat to Russian security has manifested
itself as terrorist acts outside Chechen borders; success in deterring and
denying terrorist freedom of action and movement in adjacent areas is much more
clearly painted as success in Russia's war on terror.
Russian president Vladimir Putin clearly and publicly
approves of such tactics.
Following the Nalchik raid, he was quoted as saying, "I think you
should tie up all the loose ends that could appear in the process of investigating
this [Nalchik] affair . . .You should work like this in the future, and treat
[the terrorists] more severely."
He praised Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev and the Interior
Ministry-led efforts and charged him with further toughening Interior Ministry
efforts to combat terrorism in the region. (5)
However, Dmitri Kozak, Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal
District, evidently has concerns. Specifically, he has criticized the
"system of control" over anti-terror actions in the Southern Federal
District. He claims that in
Chechnya specifically, government organizations have been "piled on one
another" with no single agency bearing responsibility for overall
coordination. "There are 13
regions in the Southern federal district.
The FSB is in charge of the war on terrorism in some of them, while the
Interior Ministry is in charge in others." Acknowledging the newly created counter-terror groups
(GROUs), evidently there is some confusion over who is in command: technically, regional leaders should be
in charge, however, specially-trained Interior Ministry personnel have been
inserted into the chain of command.
One official familiar with the situation claimed that the system is
ineffective: "There is nobody
in the Interior Ministry or Defense Ministry to hold accountable for failed
In an attempt to alleviate his frustration, Kozak has
drafted a presidential decree that would put the FSB in charge of anti-terror
operations throughout the region, countering a move by President Putin last
June in which he designated the FSB in charge of anti-terror efforts throughout
Russia except for the Southern District, which falls under Interior Ministry
authority. This would also run
counter to a proposed anti-terror bill under consideration in the Duma that
would give the lead for such efforts to regional leaders. Kozak's plan would rely on commanders
of regional FSB directorates to chair local anti-terror commissions and command
a headquarters for counter-terror operations. Such a change would have to be incorporated into the
proposed legislation. (7)
This may be part of a larger Kremlin plan to de-emphasize
Chechen participation in its efforts in the region. In late 2002, the Kremlin began a policy of
"Chechenization," whereby Chechens themselves were enlisted in the
Russian fight against separatist terrorists, lessening the Russians'
war-fighting burden. This policy
appears to have been less than successful, following numerous incidents of
terrorist-led violence not just within Chechnya, but throughout Russia as
well. Following the death of
pro-Moscow presidential choice Akhmad Kadyrov last May, the Kremlin inserted
the former Chechen Interior Minister, Alu Alkhanov, into the post, but owing to
competition from others (Ruslan Yamadaev, Ramzan Kadyrov, and Aslanbek
Aslakhanov) for influence in the region, or perhaps simply due to incompetence,
the region's security situation has deteriorated. (8)
Kozak's proposal would draw a more direct line of control
from Moscow to the fielded forces, bypassing regional leaders. It has the added benefit of relying on
the president's own FSB over the Interior Ministry, despite their apparent
status in the region. But it does
put him in direct confrontation with Interior Ministry chief Rashid Nurgaliyev,
who is himself under attack from Prime Ministry Mikhail Fradkov who has charged
the Interior Ministry with uncontrolled corruption. (9) It also
puts his desires at odds with the proposed anti-terror legislation, but
President Putin himself has expressed some concern with that legislation as
well. This could be a simple case
of Kozak's frustration with the status quo and the lack of effective security
in the region, or it could be a political move for position as the landscape is
drawn prior to 2008. In either
case, it is a dangerous game to play without a larger plan in sight. Certainly a more rational plan for
coordinating counter-terror activities is in order, and no single agency has
proven itself spectacularly capable of executing such operations in the
past. Kozak's criticism of the
current state of affairs, which puts the Interior Ministry in charge of
anti-terror operations in one highly volatile part of the country while the FSB
retains in control elsewhere is valid.
His solution may be a good one, but if it is simply politically
motivated, it is likely to be no more effective than the current arrangement.
Arutunyan, "Troops Confront More Terror Cells In North Caucasus," The
Moscow News, 23 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging
Markets; Russia: "Kabarda Police Chief Shies Away From Speaking On Nalchik
Siege," text of report by The Caucasus Times web site, BBC Monitoring, 7
Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
Arutunyan, "Troops Confront More Terror Cells In North Caucasus," The
Moscow News, 23 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging
Markets; and "Abu Zeit – Terror Kingpin Or Small Fish?" Chechnya
Weekly, Volume VI, Issue 8, 23 Feb 05, The
"Security Forces Again Battle Dagestani Militants" Chechnya
Weekly, Vol. VI, Number 6, 9 Feb 05, The
"Russian Power Agencies Drill Troops For Joint Fight Against
Terrorism," Text of report by Russian Channel One TV, 18 Feb 05, BBC Monitoring
Ingram and Said Tsarnayev, "Putin Calls For Tougher Action In The
Caucasus," The Moscow Times, 22 Feb
05, p. 3; available online at (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/stories/2005/02/22/011.html).
Slavina, "Responsibilities For Fighting Terror Should Be
21 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis; and Natalia Gorodetskaya, "The F.S.B. Will Be
Placed In Charge," Kommersant,
24 Feb 05, p. 3 via ISI Emerging Markets.
Gorodetskaya, "The F.S.B. Will Be Placed In Charge," Kommersant, 24 Feb 05, p. 3 via ISI Emerging Markets; and Nabi
Abdullaev, "Police Role May Pass Back To FSB," The Moscow
Times, 25 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
Smirnov, "Russian Security Officials Want To End Chechenization,"
Chechnya Weekly, Vol VI, Issue 8, 25 Feb 05, The Jamestown Foundation.
Saradzhyan, " Police Force Gets A Dressing Down," The Moscow Times, 17 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
By Eric Beene (email@example.com)
Bush and President Putin emerged from their private summit meeting in
Bratislava, Slovakia and presented themselves as a united front, standing
together on issues of mutual concern and underemphasizing areas of disagreement
between the two states. With Russian press headlines like "Friendship won
the day" (Vremya novosti), "Gas in exchange for
and "Putin can be trusted
when he talks about democracy" (Izvestia), it would seem that the summit was a vote of
confidence in Putin from Bush, allowing the Russian leader to return home after
successfully handling criticisms on the key issue of Russian democracy.
During the public press conference following the private
meeting between the two leaders, Bush made some "soft" statements
concerning democracy, making it clear that a democratic system for Russia is
important to maintaining a solid U.S.-Russian relationship. However, these
statements did not reflect sharp criticism for Putin's specific consolidation
of power, suppression of the media, the conflict with Chechnya or general
backsliding on democratic values. Bush mentioned rule of law, the protection of
minorities, a free press and a viable political opposition but only to say that
"democracies have [these] certain things in common" and that "in
the 21st century, strong countries are built by developing strong
democracies." (1) He
expressed concern that Russia may not be fulfilling its commitment to universal
democratic principles but was conciliatory in recognizing that Russia is
changing, that he "applaud[s] President Putin for dealing with a country
that is in transformation." (2) Overall, Bush concluded that the two men
"found a lot of agreement, a lot of common ground, and the world is better
for it" and that "the common ground is a lot more than those areas
where we disagree." (3)
Putin responded that this "dialogue of interested
partners" was a reflection of joint efforts "to accumulate a unique
cooperation." (4) His public remarks centered on the areas of cooperation
between Russia and the U.S., especially international security. The fight
against terrorism, specifically measures to neutralize systems of financing and
recruiting of terrorists, to stem the illicit trade of MANPADS, and to stop
proliferation in Iran and North Korea.
Economic cooperation and the possible accession of Russia to the WTO,
the expansion of the operation of U.S. oil companies in Russian energy markets,
cooperation in the provision of liquefied natural gas from Russia to the U.S.
(set for 2010-2011), and general bilateral investment cooperation are other
areas of interest the two states are supposed to continue to pursue jointly.
When pressed by reporters on the issue of his attitude
toward Putin, Bush stated that Putin is the "kind of fellow who, when he
says, yes, he means yes, and when he says no, he means, no" and that
"yes meant yes, when we talked about the values that we share." (5)
Putin claimed that Russia made a choice for democracy
fourteen years ago and that "any kind of turn towards totalitarianism for
Russia would be impossible, due to the condition of Russian society." (6)
Putin stated that "we are not going toinvent any kind of special Russian
democracy" but that "the principles of democracy should be adequate
to the current status of the development of Russia, to our history and our
traditions." (7) Putin's idea of the essence of democracy is to
"strengthen statehood and it should improve living standards for the
It seems that in the discussion of democracy, Putin and Bush
may speak a slightly different language. The same words may have different
meanings. As new waves of liberation roll through the Caucasus and Ukraine
(and, perhaps, Central Asia), Putin and other post-Soviet leaders are faced
with challenges to authoritarian leadership and a probable geopolitical
reorientation of democratized republics, thus undermining Russian-led efforts
to create an alternative bloc in post-Soviet Eurasia. (9) On the eve of the
summit, Putin spoke to Slovak journalists and said that he could not understand
the logic of "imposing" democracy on the states of Russia's
"near abroad." He remarked, "If democracy doesn't work in the
post-Soviet countries – as some people seem to believe – what's the
need to introduce it there?" () "But if we introduce democratic
principles [into these countries' political systems], why then do we need
revolutions there?" (10) Putin and other CIS leaders are pushing an
"adaptation" of democratic principles and institutions in their
countries, to cite Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov, "Democracy is
not a potato and cannot be readily transplanted from one field to the
other." (11) In fact, Russia is concerned with asserting hegemony in
post-Soviet territories, and their democratization constitutes an obstacle.
The idea of an "adapted democracy" as described by
Putin was criticized by Anna Politkovskaya in a recent Novaya gazeta article and she likened it to the term
"creeping authoritarianism" that some in the U.S. have used to
describe Russia's political system. Politkovskaya states that the democratic
hopes for Russia haven't come true – "because of oligarchs, then the
illness of Yel'tsin, a war, a collapse of the freedom of speech, losing the
qualities of parliament by the parliament, decease of the opposition"
– and that these developments took place in much of the post-Soviet
arena, disabling hopes for democracy there, as well. (12) The reporter believes
that no "adapted democracy" would help Russia, and would be as likely
to fail as what's been termed Russia's current "managed democracy."
(13) She also notes that "the Kremlin is free to accentuate our
originality and Russia's peculiar way as long as it wants to" but that the
modern reality demonstrates that the quality of a state is a product of the
equality of its elites which, in ideal situations, "pull up their
Perhaps, as Politkovskaya implies, the question of a future
democratic Russia lies with the potential desires of the masses, denigrated by
an observer with Novaya gazeta as
"millions of indifferent lumpkins" who, as a recent poll from Vision
(as reported by Profil magazine),
indicated that 20-30% pay virtually no attention to developments in foreign
affairs and almost as many (20-25%) "are inclined to drastic fluctuations
in their assessment of Russia's foreign policy course, under the influence of
the media."(15) On the whole, the same poll shows, Russians show a 65-70%
approval rating of the president's actions overall, and he is the most trusted
politician in Russia at the moment, although according to the Public Opinion
Foundation (FOM), Putin is not really perceived as a politician, because a
politician is someone who is struggling for power: "He's not fighting for
power; a tsar is not a politician in a monarchy." (16)
Putin may describe his desire for an "adapted
democracy" and U.S. officials may describe it as "creeping
authoritarianism," underscoring concerns that Russia has moved and
continues to move away from democratic values and institutions, but what
President Bush seemed to take away from this rather anti-climatic summit, was
that "the most important statementwas the [Russian] President's
statement, when he declared his absolute support for democracy in Russia, and
they're not turning back. To me, that is the most important statement of my
private meeting and it's the most important statement of this public press
conference. And I can tell you what it's like dealing with the man over the
last four years: When he tells you something, he means it." (17) If this
is true, then Putin means what he says when he promotes an "adapted
democracy." But if this is
not the democracy Bush speaks of, if Putin's adaptations are ultimately
antithetical to Western democratic principles and institutions, then Putin will
be a man of his word in upholding a very different kind of political system
than Bush envisions.
1) White House
Office of the Press Secretary via Johnson's Russia List (JRL), 24 Feb 05,
#8-JRL 9068 via (www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/9068-8.cfm).
Eurasia Daily Monitor (The Jamestown
Foundation), 25 Feb 05, "Different Understanding of Democracy May Put Bush
and Putin on Collision Course" by Igor Torbakov via (www.jamestown.org).
12) What the
Papers Say via ISI Emerging Markets, 25 Feb 05 via (http://site.securities.com/doc.html?pc=RU&doc_id=69520708).
White House Office of the Press Secretary via JRL, 24 Feb 05.
By Rebecca Mulder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Legislative Branch
Toward civil society influence?
The bill for the establishment of a public chamber passed
its second reading on February 18. The law is slated to have its final reading
in early March and go into effect on July 1. A number of amendments aimed at
making the chamber more transparent were cut. The resulting public chamber will
consist of 126 members. The president will appoint one third of the members or
42 people. Those presidential appointees will select a second group of 42
culled from national non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The remaining third
will be chosen by the first 84 members and will be drawn from regional NGOs.
Representatives from regional NGOs will be recruited using regional
conferences. The conferences are not required to be publicized; there is also
no minimum number of groups required to participate. These factors leave the
process open to easy manipulation.
Analysts predict that the public chamber will force a rift
between human rights organizations that are willing to cooperate with the
government and those that are not. (1)
Some have complained about the fact that the public chamber's
pronouncements will be advisory and will not carry the force of law. While it is
clear that it should not be the responsibility of an unwieldy public chamber to
balance the actions of the executive, Putin's post-Beslan reforms so denuded
the legislative branch that public oversight was left to the newly-created
chamber. The erosion of even its rudimentary functions along with the usurption
of appointment prerogatives lessens further the value of democratic governance
in Putin's Russia.
However, the public chamber model could serve as an
effective mechanism of public accountability if the media serve their function
as providers of information and report on the chamber's reactions to laws.
Media coverage of the chamber could serve as a mechanism to increase
transparency. Unfortunately, the current state of the media in Russia makes thorough
coverage of the chamber's activities unlikely. The media's reaction to the
chamber's pronouncements will be a key determinant of the chamber's efficacy.
A legitimate cause for concern lies in the infrequency of
the public chamber's meetings and in its administrative structure. The chamber
is set to meet only twice annually; its daily activities will be overseen by a
small staff led by an official appointed by the government. Delegating daily
direction of the chamber's activities to someone who is responsible to the
prime minister and the president allows much room for manipulation. Perhaps
someone who is voted on by the public chamber should assume those
Several key human rights organizations such as Memorial
already have stated their intention not to participate in the public chamber.
(2) The lack of transparency in
the assigned operations of the organization raises concerns that the president
will use the chamber to claim the approval of civil society when it may be, in
fact, manipulated or coerced. The non-participation of groups that might wield
influence will weaken the effectiveness and legitimacy of the organization. It
does not mean, however, that the public chamber is doomed to serve as another
powerless public body. As with many situations in Russia, in the (unlikely)
event that the members of the public chamber (or heads of regional governments,
for example) are willing to act independently of those who appointed them, the
system could function effectively because of appropriate checks and balances.
Unfortunately, the nature of political power is such that allegiance is likely
to go to the one who is best able to ensure the continuance of one's own
personal power. If that political reality wins out in the public chamber, then
Russia has just witnessed the birth of yet another rubberstamping scapegoat.
While convenient to have around, they're not good for much more than
A glance at the media
There are several reasons to cover events in a media system
that is dominated by government-owned media or is highly government influenced.
First, coverage ensures that people know what the government is doing for them.
It presents the government spin on things and makes it look as though
politicians are earning the money they are receiving (or the benefits they are
receiving in the case of the state Duma, which - somewhat hypocritically -
recently defeated a bill proposing the monetization of parliamentary benefits).
Second, newspapers provide an important public service by notifying their
audience of issues that are likely to have an impact on them. In this way, the
media serves as a sort of public information system. Third, the media has to
report on significant events that many people know about, otherwise they lose
Russia's media and government have come under fire in recent
years, the former for self-censorship and the latter for tighter control of
media content and tougher treatment of journalists. These allegations have some
foundation. For example, the FSB recently ordered the deportation of Yuri
Bagrov, a Radio Liberty correspondent for the North Caucasus, under claims that
he used falsified documents to establish Russian citizenship. Bagrov, whose
mother and wife are Russian, was granted a reprieve by the North Ossetian
Interior Ministry on February 23, but not before restrictions on his freedom of
movement had prevented him from covering the Chechen presidential elections in
August and the Beslan hostage-taking. (3)
Incidents such as Bagrov's aside, the Russian media cover
more events and issues than the reasoning mentioned above would suggest.
Western researchers, including those who contribute to this publication, rely
on the Russian media as sources for the information they analyze. As much as Russia is attacked for its
restrictions on the media and the way it keeps government criticism from being
voiced, opposition opinions are still voiced in some newspapers and events
unfavorable to the government, such as the pensioners' protests, are still
being covered. As much as they do wrong, it should be acknowledged that the
Russian media are still doing some things right.
Of constitutional amendments and such
The issue of amending the constitution as regards the
president has resurfaced. Drafts have been written proposing the appointment of
the president by a state assembly. The president would not have a heavy
concentration of power. The prime minister, on the other hand, would have a
great degree of direction over the government. Not surprisingly, one name to
surface as a potential prime minister was that of Vladimir Putin. Despite all
the talk, State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov announced that his faction, which
holds the majority in the Duma, would "use it for preserving the existing
Constitution." (4) Gryzlov's
avowals aside, given the Duma's record of collaboration with the Kremlin, it
seems unlikely that a constitutional amendment, if pressed, will be rejected.
Reforms and no confidence
A no confidence vote in the government, proposed by the
Communists, was voted down on February 9. The vote was a direct result of the
social upheaval caused by the poor implementation of the monetization of
benefits scheme passed by the Duma in August. The Communists attempted to
position themselves (largely after the fact) as the leaders of the protest,
even scheduling additional rallies. Rumors of impending shifts in the
government persist although Putin has resisted intimations that he may fire one
or more of his ministers. The Duma is requesting a report from Prime Minister
Mikhail Fradkov on benefit reform in late March. (5) In response to the
protests, the Duma raised the amount of money allotted for benefits, drawing
primarily from the stabilization fund. The International Monetary Fund has
issued a warning to Russia, stating that the stabilization fund should not be
subject to further infringements unless for the purpose of paying off Russia's
external debt. (6) Meanwhile, the
"Public chamber left toothless," Moscow Times, 21 Feb 05 via ISI
"Police tell journalist he can stay in Russia," Moscow Times, 24 Feb
05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
"Speaker Gryzlov says Duma to do best not to amend Constitution,"
ITAR-TASS, 15 Feb 05 via World News Connection (WNC).
"State Duma to ask Fradkov for report on benefit reform in late March,"
ITAR-TASS, 15 Feb 05 via WNC.
urges quicker reforms," Moscow Times, 18 Feb 05 via ISI Emerging Markets.
By Robyn Angley (email@example.com)
The gravest threat
It is little wonder that the most highly publicized area of
agreement between Presidents Bush and Putin at their recent summit was on the
issue of nuclear security cooperation.
In the joint statement released after the summit, Bush and Putin
proclaim that "The United States and Russia will enhance cooperation to
counter one of the gravest threats our two countries face, nuclear
terrorism." (1) This problem
was emphasized by several high profile actors on both sides of the Atlantic
recently. Self-exiled oligarch
Boris Berezovsky grabbed media headlines early in February when he advised the
Kremlin that it should accept the Chechen proposed ceasefire and offer to
negotiate, because, he claimed, he had received information that the Chechen
rebels were in possession of a small nuclear explosive device. (2) This report initiated a flood of
speculation as to whether or not Berezovsky's claim was anything more than a
political attention-grabbing stunt.
Although Russian authorities refused "to comment on the delirious
statements of a person who is on the international wanted list," numerous
experts refuted the idea that the Chechens actually could have come into
possession of such a device. (3)
Nearly all experts agreed that it would be virtually impossible for the
insurgents to explode such a device even if they had one. Nonetheless, the media flurry that
followed Berezovsky's comments, including several calls by members of the
government and Duma to examine more thoroughly the possibility that his claim
could be true, highlights the universal sensitivity to the perceived danger
presented by the prospect of terrorist organizations gaining possession of a
Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was quick to claim that
security of Russia's military nuclear facilities is world class and routinely
provides media and other foreign observers opportunities to witness security
exercises at nuclear military facilities.
"We pay very close attention to the issue of guarding and defending
military facilities, and we are willing to show that the existing myths that
Russia has problems in this area are indeed nothing but myths." (4) A December 2004 report by the U.S.
National Intelligence Council, a think-tank that supports the U.S. intelligence
community notes the efforts of the Russian Defense Ministry in a rare positive
light. According to the report,
the Russian Defense Ministry is not the source of significant concern with
regard to loose nukes. However,
the report documents numerous cases of stolen or lost nuclear material from
Russian nuclear facilities that were under the jurisdiction of the Federal
Agency for Atomic Energy. Despite
claims that all the material has been recovered; the report concludes, "that
undetected smuggling has occurred, and we are concerned about the total amount
of material that could have been diverted or stolen in the last 13 years."
(5) A similar alarm was sounded by
U.S. Senator John Rockefeller, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee. Following a CIA
briefing on security threats that face the U.S., Senator Rockefeller surely
aimed to have an impact on the agenda of the U.S.-Russian Presidential summit
when he insisted "a lot of those lost nuclear weapons can be out
circulating in the terrorist community" and suggested that President Putin
"ought to be very worried" that these weapons or materials could end
up in the hands of Chechen separatists. (6) According to Igor Ostretsov, the deputy director of the All-Russia
Research Institute of Atomic Engineering, it would be technically possible for
terrorists, in primitive conditions, to create a real atomic bomb out of spent
nuclear fuel. "The main
preoccupation should be to ensure 100 percent security of spent nuclear fuel at
power stations and at storage sites." (7) In a radio report, Ekho Moskvy radio correspondent Andrei Gavrilov claimed that Chechen rebel field
commander, Shamil Basayev, has on more than one occasion "declared
readiness to resort to nuclear terrorism in Russian cities." Gavrilov goes on to recount several
instances where nuclear materials had been planted by terrorists in an effort
to make a statement, and once, in 1998, in an apparent effort to explode a
dirty bomb. (8) Indeed, nuclear
materials are loose in Russia.
They are loose in small quantities, as was evidenced this past November
when a Russian geologist turned in plutonium that he had been storing in his
garage after finding it in a garbage heap outside an abandoned laboratory in 1997
or 1998. (9) And, as Moscow
military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer points out, hundreds of tons are vulnerable
in the form of plutonium sitting in unsafe storage still awaiting completion of
a new facility in the Urals. (10)
The U.S. has committed $1.6 billion this year under the Cooperative
Threat Reduction program to push its oversight over the disposition of Russian
nuclear weapons and material, without which it is assumed that the Russians
could not hope adequately to secure the enormous amount of arms-grade nuclear
material. (11) Russians are asked to balance their fear of the U.S. with their
fear that Basayev will attempt to make good on his threat.
Now it's legal
Early in February the Duma passed, in its first reading, a
bill that would allow Defense Ministry resources (troops and money) to be used
domestically in the fight against terrorism. (12) Purportedly part of the government's effort to respond to
the Beslan tragedy, the new law serves only to legitimate the government's
current counter-terrorism efforts in the North Caucasus rather than
representing a new strategy. It is
common knowledge that units from the Defense Ministry's 42nd
Motorized Rifle Division, which is permanently stationed in Chechnya, not only
participate daily in military missions against Chechen rebels, but that, until
recently, significant numbers of airborne troops also had been deployed to the
mountainous regions of Chechnya to conduct operations. These units were contract soldiers
belonging to the 76th Airborne Division stationed in Pskov and have
since been redeployed. Their
missions were assumed subsequently by the contract soldier units of the 42nd
Division. On a number of occasions, Ivanov has, bragged about the
performance of his contract soldiers in Chechnya: "These divisions are
well known. They proved quite
efficient during counterterrorist operation in the North Caucasus. It is there that the new approaches
towards using army units and fighting illegal armed groups were first tested in
the fight against international terrorism." (13) On other occasions, Ivanov had been an outspoken opponent of
using defense ministry forces in the counterterrorist struggle, saying that
using the army to fight terrorists is like using a hammer to kill a mosquito.
(14) This picture was drawn very
vividly in a recent article written by Nabi Abdullaev that recounts the
keystone cop-like performance of security forces in two recent standoffs
against small groups of terrorist.
The standoffs ended in both cases only after the army troops bulldozed
terrorist-occupied houses with armored vehicles (in one case a tank, in another
an armored personnel carrier) killing the terrorists inside. (15)
The fact of the matter is that although the 42nd
Division has been fully transitioned to contract soldiers, the new
professionals still suffer from many of the old deficiencies. The unit still has only outdated and
worn out equipment, no modern communications gear, and the troops use their own
money (at least they have some now) to purchase foreign made radios. (16) Their flak jackets are damaged and not
replaced and obsolete night vision equipment means that terrorists basically
move with impunity at night. Because
the tours are longer, more time can be put into training the contract soldiers
who now run through nearly 10 months of combat training before being put into
action, as compared to the 5 months available to conscripts. However, training is still limited to
small groups of soldiers since regimental exercises are not possible for
security reasons. (17) The contract forces still demonstrate the same lack of
discipline, violence towards their fellow soldiers, and criminal behavior that
all were emblematic of the conscripted force, and which vastly reduces their
effectiveness and continues to reflect poorly on the government. (18)
Retired General Makhmud Gareyev, President of the Academy of
Military Sciences, claims that the government's real problem in its struggle
against terrorism is not the lack of firepower, but the disastrous lack of coordination
between the three primary power ministries – defense, interior and
Federal Security Service (FSB) – and the remarkably poor intelligence
gathering effort demonstrated thus far. (19) He observes that instead of improving efficiency, the new
bill was designed to enhance the distance of the Kremlin and the FSB from
criticism concerning their handling of the operation. Having moved the primary coordination function for
antiterrorism operations to the Interior Ministry last summer, this latest move
puts another layer of scapegoats between any disaster and the Kremlin.
Putin: defender of the soldier
On 7 February, President Putin made an obvious effort to buy
another insurance policy by portraying himself as the defender of the
soldier. In a televised cabinet
meeting, Putin "dressed down" his ministers, specifically the Finance
Minister Aleksei Kudrin, for not having responded with adequate speed and
thoroughness to Putin's demand that military salaries are raised across the
board. (20) Back on 24 January, in
response to rising political heat over the declining socio-economic status of
the military that was accelerated by the benefits reform enacted January 1,
Putin instructed Kudrin to meet with Ivanov and develop the details to support
a 20% pay raise for the military – and, to make it happen much sooner
than the 1 September date suggested by Kudrin. Putin had been made well aware that the armed forces would
once again not see pay raises in 2005 and that more than a third of military
families would live below the poverty line. But Putin's overt demonstration of support for the military
came only as the Kremlin began to feel the heat from the unpopular benefits
reform combined with other political defeats the Kremlin has suffered
recently. While some in the media
talk about the potential for a rebellion within the military, Felgenhauer
thinks that Putin is far more concerned that the Russian military should not
behave (or fail to act) as did the Ukrainian military, should civil unrest
arise, but instead would defend the authorities. (21) Putin's display on national television reflects his hope
that if he defends the soldier now, the soldier will return the favor in the
"Joint Statement by President Bush and President Putin on Nuclear Security
Cooperation," Office of the Press Secretary, Washington, D.C., 24 Feb 2005
"Exiled Oligarch Says Chechen Resistance Has Nuclear Capabilities"
RFE/RL Newsline Vol. 9, No. 25, Part I 8 Feb 05.
"Defense Minister Says Russia to Debunk "Myths" at Nuclear
Security Exercise," ITAR-TASS, 12 Jul 04; FBIS-SOV-2004-0712 via World
Report to Congress on the Safety and Security of Russian Nuclear Facilities and
Military Forces," National Intelligence Council, Dec 2004 via http://www.cia.gov/nic/special_russiannuke04.html
"U.S. Senator: Half of Russia Nuclear Material Not Accounted For,"
AFP, 20 Feb 05 via Johnson's Russia List (JRL).
"Russian Expert Concedes that Chechens Could Get a hold of Nuclear
Materials," Interfax-AVN, 8 Feb 05 via JRL.
"Russian Experts React to Reports of Chechen Nuclear Capability," Ekho
Moskvy, 8 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via JRL.
"Weapons Buy-Back Lands Radioactive Haul," RFE/RL Newsline Vol. 8,
No. 207, Part I, 2 Nov 04.
"Proliferation of the Bigwigs," Pavel Felgenhauer, Moscow Times, 22 Feb 05 via JRL.
"Bush to Focus on Nonproliferation," Kim Murphy, Los Angeles Times, 22 Feb 05 via JRL.
"Russian Duma Approves Using Military Forces in Internal Conflicts,"
Mosnews.com, 2 Feb 05 via JRL.
"Remarks by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov," Federal News
Service, 13 Dec 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
"The Army's Role in Anti-Terror Plans," Nabi Abdullaev, Moscow
Times, 17 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
"Troops Withdrawn From Chechnya," Ivan Yegorov, Gazeta, 11 Jan 05; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
"Advantages and Disadvantages of the 42nd Division," Vadim
Udmantsev, Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer, No.
2, 19-25 Jan 05; WPS Defense and Security via Lexis-Nexis.
"The Wild Division," Yevgeni Yanovskii, Versiya, No. 48, 14020 Dec 04; WPS Defense and Security via
"The Army's Role in Anti-Terror Plans," Nabi Abdullaev, Moscow
Times, 17 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
"Putin Demands Rise in Military Compensation," RFE/RL Newsline, Vol.
9, No. 28, Part I, 10 Feb 05.
"Veteran's And Military Protests Continue," RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 9,
No. 36, Part I, 24 Feb 05.
inherited a huge Soviet-legacy military when it gained independence in
1991. While a powerful force, this
military was designed as a component of the overall Soviet military apparatus
and did not serve the evolving needs of the newly independent Ukraine. Additionally, Ukraine did not possess
its own military/civilian institutions due to the central command model of the
Soviet-era forces. The process of
adapting the military into a truly Ukrainian force, capable of meeting Ukraine's
security challenges, was slowed by the need to create its defense institutions,
such as the National Security and Defense Council, Ministry of Defense, General
Staff, Component Service Commands and Defense Academy. NATO participation and assistance with
Ukrainian military reform started almost immediately after the country's
independence and since President Viktor Yushchenko's ascendancy to power, the
possibility for Ukrainian full membership in NATO looks brighter than ever.
A history of
relations started in 1991 when Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation
Council, now known as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. While politically and economically tied
to Russia, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma saw increasing ties with NATO as a
way to lessen Russian influence.
In 1994, Ukraine became the first CIS country to join the Partnership
for Peace (PfP). This NATO program
was designed to enhance security and defense cooperation between NATO and
disinclination to sign a treaty with Ukraine that would formally recognize
Ukraine's borders, pushed Ukraine toward greater rapprochement with NATO. In 1997, Ukraine informed NATO that the
Partnership for Peace program no longer met Ukraine's security needs and
requested a special partnership agreement with NATO. President Kuchma said, "NATO is an alliance of
democratic and civilized states which do not threaten or pose territorial
claims on anyone." (1)
National Defense and Security Council chief Volodymyr Horbulin stated
that "certain actions and statements by Russia's Duma and members of the
Russian government force Ukraine to seek to protect its security in a security
While NATO and
Russia were proceeding with talks about their new relationship, Ukraine moved
to establish official relations with NATO and sign a special partnership
agreement at the 1997 NATO Madrid Summit.
During NATO discussions, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council
head Volodymyr Horbulin, Foreign Minister Hennady Udovenko, and Defense Minister
Oleksandr Kuzmuk agreed that the current military status of Ukrainian forces
would not allow them to join NATO, but they reserved the option to apply for
NATO membership in the future.
for official NATO ties and discussions regarding membership impelled President
Boris Yel'tsin to visit Kiev prior to the Madrid Summit. In Kiev, Presidents Kuchma and Yel'tsin
agreed in principle to the Ukrainian-Russian treaty. The treaty was signed in May 1997 and ratified by the
Russian parliament in December 1998 and February 1999. The obvious lesson was that continued
Ukrainian engagement with NATO provided Ukraine with leverage when dealing with
Charter on a
Distinctive Partnership and Partnership for Peace
At the NATO
Madrid Summit in July 1997, Ukraine signed the Charter on a Distinctive
Partnership. The document covered
cooperation in the areas of economic security, conflict prevention, crisis
management, military reform, including enhanced civilian control,
non-proliferation, arms control and transfers, and combating drugs and
organized crime. Additionally, the
Charter allows for expansion in all areas.
the Distinctive Partnership Charter, the record of Ukraine-NATO cooperation has
been impressive. Ukraine
frequently has hosted NATO military exercises for both ground and naval
forces. It has converted its
Soviet-era Yavoriv military range, Europe's largest military training area,
into a NATO peacekeeping training center.
It maintains a joint military unit, the Ukrainian-Polish joint
battalion, UkrPolBat, which participates in NATO peacekeeping missions. The battalion joined the NATO
peacekeeping mission in Kosovo under NATO command. It also has been deployed to the Lebanese-Israeli border as
part of UNIFIL. Ukraine has allowed nearly 1,200 military flights, mostly
American, to transit Ukrainian airspace, en route to Afghanistan and Central
established an outstanding record of Partnership for Peace participation. Ukraine has taken part in almost 200
PfP events every year since 1999.
In addition to participation, Ukraine has hosted several annual PfP
exercises. The largest naval, air
and amphibious exercise conducted by NATO in the former USSR was hosted by
Ukraine in the Black Sea in June 2000.
The Annual Peace-Shield' PfP exercise has also been hosted by
impressive, despite the ongoing political situation and some "hostile
rhetoric" during 2004 in Ukraine, the Ukrainian military still
participated in 220 events within the framework of NATO's Partnership for Peace
program. (3) Ukraine and the
United States conducted joint naval exercises in the Black Sea in November 2004
that included Ukraine's flagship, the Hetman Sahaidachny, the Kostiantyn
Olshansky large landing craft, and the United States' 6th Fleet command ship,
the USS La Salle. The exercise was
conducted in advance of the Ukrainian Navy joining NATO's anti-terrorism
operation, Active Endeavor, conducted in the Mediterranean Sea. Ukraine is scheduled to join the operation
in 2005. (4)
conflict was the first serious crisis in Ukrainian-NATO relations; President
Leonid Kuchma's non-bloc, multi-vector foreign policy swung toward Russia, but
Ukraine did not sever relations with NATO fearing that would lead to a break
with the EU as well. While the NATO campaign in Kosovo did little to effect
NATO-Ukraine relations, it did affect public perception of NATO even in Western
Ukraine, which was solidly pro-NATO.
This perception has lingered since 1998 and will have to be overcome if
Ukraine is going to pursue full membership.
The second issue
was the establishment of the NATO-Russia Council in May 2002. Previously, NATO had been careful not
to elevate Russia over Ukraine in bilateral arrangements, so this new role for
Russia in NATO caused concern for the impact on relations with Ukraine.
However, on May 23, President Kuchma decided to initiate preparations for the
full membership of Ukraine in the alliance, and to draft a strategy to reach
that goal. (5)
At the NATO
Prague Summit in November 2002, the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan was adopted. While not part of the Membership Plan,
the Action Plan set out specific goals, covering political and economic issues,
information issues, security, defense and military issues, information
protection and security, and legal issues. NATO urged Ukraine to take the reform process forward and
strengthen democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the market
economy. NATO agreed to
significantly step up its efforts to transform the defense and security
institutions in Ukraine.
To support the
implementation of the Action Plan's objectives, Annual Target Plans are set for
Ukraine to establish its own targets in terms of the activities it wishes to pursue
both internally and in cooperation with NATO. Assessment meetings take place
twice a year and a progress report is prepared annually. Despite the lack of progress in
democracy, law, human rights and economy, the military has done surprisingly
well in achieving its goals in both the NATO-Ukraine 2003 and 2004 Target
reforms despite political tensions
slow, Ukrainian military reform was stimulated by aggressive NATO involvement,
specifically Poland. In 2004, the
Ukrainian Army was cut by 70,000 personnel. When Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk was dismissed in 2004
due to an ammunition storing and disposal issue, President Leonid Kuchma told
new Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk that military reform must be pursued further. "We must not dismiss those who
benefit the armed forces. I am referring to military professionals,"
Kuchma said. "We must depart
from old approaches and stereotypes concerning military threats, and develop
the armed forces on the basis of the principle of a sufficient defense."
(6) One week before Kuchma's
comments, NATO Military Committee chief Harald Kuyat had given high marks to
the progress Ukraine's military reforms and said that the long-term plan for
reform is "quite healthy." (7)
Kuyat said that all NATO evaluators noted the positive aspects of
Ukrainian military reform and the "openness and sincerity" with which
Ukraine made its report on this reform.
In October 2004,
the Ukrainian government announced plans to reduce its armed forces by 50,000
to 235,000 servicemen in 2005, according to Defense Minister Alexander
Kuzmuk. The reduction was in line
with the approved, NATO-endorsed Ukrainian armed forces reform. Current servicemen will be dismissed in
2005, as opposed to previous years when reductions were made by trimming
redundant positions and setting smaller conscription targets. (8)
president in December, Viktor Yushchenko has pushed for more military
reforms. Yushchenko wants the
terms of conscription reduced from 18 months to 12 months in the ground forces
and from 24 months to 18 months in the Navy by the beginning of 2005. More importantly, he wants a plan for
the entire Armed Forces to switch over to a contract system by the beginning of
January 2010. In the fall of 2004,
the first few combat units started a test period for the new contract system.
Ministry also has other problems such as an outdated monetary allowance system,
a huge disparity between civilian and military pay and retirement issues.
Defense Minister has formed working groups to reform the system of monetary
allowances and social bonuses and compensations to the servicemen and civilian
personnel of the Armed Forces. The
main objective of the working group is to develop a concept for a new and more
effective system of payment for all Ministry personnel, as well as to find ways
to provide housing and improve the mechanisms of social bonuses and
compensations for servicemen and military pensioners. The first meeting of the working group, held in February
2005, discussed the issue of reforms of the monetary allowances, social bonuses
and compensations to servicemen and civilian personnel of the Armed Forces, as
well as the plan to address the reform concept. (10)
consequences of NATO membership
In addition to
continued military reforms, there are other issues raised by possible NATO
membership that President Yushchenko has to take into account. Ukraine was the sixth largest weapons
exporter in terms of the overall volume of conventional arms supplies from 1999
to 2003. During that period,
Ukraine's weapons exports totaled 2.195 billion dollars. (11) The concern in Ukraine and Russia is
that the push toward NATO will undermine this component of Ukraine's economy. Presidential candidate Viktor
Yanukovich actually used this issue during his failed campaign. He warned against pushing for NATO
integration because this may cause Ukraine to "lose the entire
military-industrial sector of the economy." (12) "If we gear our policy only towards the development of
relations with NATO and accession to this organization, we may lose a whole
sector of the economy – the military-industrial one," he told
Russian journalists on Monday.
"Because NATO standards will need to be introduced, we will have to
close plants, and buy weapons and equipment in the West. We cannot allow this
to happen," he said. (13)
During a meeting
of the Interparliamentary Russian-Ukrainian commission on 15 February 2005, the
Chairman of the CIS Affairs committee at Russia's Federation Council, Vadim
Gustov, said that if Ukraine joins NATO then the volume of its arms and
military equipment exports could dwindle considerably. (14) Gustov said that
Ukraine's admission to NATO with its differing weapons standards and trade
limitations would result in diminishing the export potential of the Ukrainian
defense industry complex. (15)
transforming the Ukrainian defense industry is a major internal problem for the
new government, the external problem likely will be the transformation's impact
on the Russian arms industry. Many
parts for Russian weapons systems are made in Ukraine. Kiev's Research Center for the Army,
Conversion and Disarmament Problems estimates that Ukraine exported
approximately 600 million dollars in weapons in 2004. About one fourth of those exports were under contracts
negotiated through Russia's Rosoboroneksport arms exporter, but Moscow's Center
for the Analysis of Strategies and Technologies estimates the number closer to
and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko estimates that 2,000 businesses interact
between the two countries in the arms industry and without this interaction it
will not be possible to produce some products. Russia does not produce the AA-10 Alamo (R-27) medium range
air-to-air missile, but does often include these missiles when selling its
aircraft throughout the world.
Numerous types of gas turbine engines for both ships and aircraft are
produced by Ukraine at Motor Sich in Zaporizhzhya, not in Russia. (17) No matter how quickly Ukraine moves
toward NATO membership, it is unlikely that President Yushchenko could
restructure completely Ukraine's defense industrial complex. However, NATO membership or even
increased cooperation will force Ukrainian-Russian defense exports to suffer.
road toward NATO
Yushchenko's rise to power through the Orange revolution, he has made it clear
that his policies will focus on European integration. He was the only non-NATO head of state invited to the 22
February NATO meeting. At that
meeting, NATO leaders expressed support for Ukraine's reform agenda and agreed
to strengthen cooperation with the country.
At the special
NATO-Ukraine Summit, President Yushchenko outlined to NATO Heads of State and
Government his plans and priorities for the reform process in Ukraine. "NATO is ready to work with
you," ready to "sharpen and refocus" the existing cooperation, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop
Scheffer said at a joint press conference with President Yushchenko. (18) "Ukraine has made its position
clear about joining the Membership Action Plan," he told reporters,
"At the same time it means that our country will be also using the
possibilities that are provided by the existing instruments for cooperation,
meaning the Action Plan between NATO and Ukraine." (19)
As an expression
of its determination to enhance cooperation, NATO has launched a NATO
Partnership for Peace (PfP) Trust Fund project to help Ukraine deal with the
huge Soviet-era stockpiles of ammunitions, small arms and light weapons. The Project will help Ukraine destroy
these aging stockpiles including numerous Man-Portable Air Defense Systems
(MANPADS). This 30 million dollar
initiative is the largest single demilitarization effort in the world, and the
largest of its kind ever undertaken.
The United States has stepped forward to act as the lead nation for this
NATO/PfP Trust Fund project, the first time the United States has volunteered
as the lead nation. (20)
Kuchma's multi-vectored foreign policy never fully aligned Ukraine with
NATO. His repeated use of NATO as
leverage against Russia served simultaneously to start the reform of the
Ukrainian military. More
importantly, no matter the political situation or rhetoric, Ukraine never
stopped pursuing its NATO Action Plan goals. In early 2005, President Yushchenko took command of a
military that is much closer to NATO standards than the post-Soviet legacy
military inherited by President Kuchma.
Ukraine is still several years away from joining NATO. The country has significant defense
reform to complete prior to achieving NATO standards. Additionally, if we look at the 1995 NATO enlargement
criteria, Ukraine has significant work to do in each area: 1) established
democracy; 2) respect for human rights; 3) market-based economy; 4) armed
forces under civilian control; and 5) good relations with neighboring states
(resolution of internal ethnic disputes). (21) President Yushchenko needs to continue his string of
victories by having Ukraine designated as a market economy this year and
receiving WTO membership before the March 2006 parliamentary elections. WTO success coupled with further
reformist success in the 2006 elections could then accelerate the NATO
application process. President
Bush and NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer have emphasized NATO's
"open-door" policy that would admit Ukraine if President Yushchenko
can succeed with his reforms.
2 Feb 97, Ukraine Determined to Obtain Special Partnership with NATO, via
Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 3 Issue 24, 4 Feb 97.
17 Mar 97, "Ukraine Feels Pushed Toward NATO", via Eurasia Daily
Monitor, Volume 3 Issue 54, March 18 , 1997.
Voyennykh Novostey, 25 Jan 05; "Ukrainian Troops Take Part in 220 Partnership for Peace
Events in 2004," FBIS-SOV-2005-0125 via World News Connection.
(4) Moscow Agentstvo
Voyennykh Novostey, 9 Nov 04; "Ukraine, US Begin Joint Naval Exercises in Black Sea,"
FBIS-SOV-2004-1109 via World News Connection.
(5) "Ukraine Embarks on
NATO Course" via Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 8, Issue 106, 31 May 02.
Interfax, 28 Sep 04; "Ukraine: Kuchma
Tells New Defense Minister To Promote Military Reform," FBIS-SOV-2004-0928
via World News Connection.
(7) Moscow Interfax, 21 Sep
04; "Ukraine: NATO Chief Gives Positive Evaluation of Military
Reform," FBIS-SOV-2004-0921 via World News Connection.
(8) Moscow ITAR-TASS, 5 Oct
04; "Ukraine To Reduce Army by 50,000 in 2005," FBIS-SOV-2004-1004
via World News Connection.
(9) ITAR-TASS, 27 Jan 05;
"Acting Minister: Ukrainian Defense Ministry Ready To Adopt New Armed
Forces Model," FBIS-SOV-2005-0127 via World News Connection.
(10) Agentstvo Voyennykh
Feb 05; "Ukrainian Military Developing Monetary, Social Reforms,"
FBIS-SOV-2005-0214 via World News Connection.
(11) KIEV INTERFAX-UKRAINE, 3
Dec 04; "Stockholm Peace Institute Says Ukraine Ranked World's Sixth
Largest Arms Exporter," FBIS-SOV-2004-1203 via World News Connection.
(12) Moscow ITAR-TASS, 27 Sep
04; "Premier Says NATO-Centrist Policy May Cost Ukraine Defense
Sector," FBIS-SOV-2004-0927 via World News Connection.
(14) ITAR-TASS, 15 Feb 05;
"CIS Official Warns Arms Exports May 'Considerably Dwindle' if Ukraine
Joins NATO", FBIS-SOV-2005-0215 via World News Connection.
(16) Vedomosti, Moscow, 14 February 2005,
"Ukraine`s NATO aspirations cast a cloud over Russian arms
exporters," via (www.gateway2russia.com/st/art_268619.php).
(21) "Study of NATO
Enlargement", September 1995, cha 5 via (www.nato.int).
By Kyle Colton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Russia vs. Voronin
The approaching parliamentary elections in Moldova are
contested by a puzzling blend of political parties, most of which have very
similar platforms. A month before the elections, yet another player has emerged
in the Moldovan political arena – Russia.
At the beginning of February, a group of Russian deputies
visited Tiraspol (the capital of Transdniestr), without obtaining prior
approval from Chisinau. Moscow's stated goal of the visit was to devise a plan
to protect fellow Russians in this unrecognized republic. Moscow realizes that
the Transdniestr conflict requires new approaches. Tiraspol did not have to
wait long. Soon after the deputies' return to Moscow, the Duma unanimously
supported Deputy Alksnis' (formerly known as the "black colonel")
initiative to introduce economic sanctions against Moldova in response to
Voronin's refusal to sign the "Kozak memorandum" in November
2003. The most significant of the
proposed sanctions are: (1) Supplying energy to Moldova based on world prices
(excluding Transdniestr); (2) banning imports of alcohol products from Moldova
(excluding products produced in Transdniestr); and (3) introducing visas for
Moldovan citizens wishing to travel to Russia (excluding residents of the
Dniestr republic). Voronin accused Russia of trying to interfere with the
Moldovan parliamentary election campaign by turning the Moldovan population
against the party in power. The Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev stated
that "certain Russian political forces are sparing neither effort not
money to destabilize the situation in Moldova." (1)
It is difficult not to agree with Mr. Tarlev. Given that the
Moldovan Communists refused to sign the Kozak memorandum at the last minute,
boycotted numerous CIS summits, called for the withdrawal of Russian
"occupation" troops from Transdniestr at NATO summits, and fiercely
advocated for Moldovan integration with Europe, it comes as no surprise that
Moscow has its eyes set on eliminating Voronin and his party from the Moldovan
political scene. Although Russia's intentions to remove the Communists from
power are evident, it is not clear whom it would like to replace them. While
their names may suggest differently, the Communists, the Christian Democrats,
the Democratic Moldova voting bloc, and the Social Democrats (parties that have
realistic chances of obtaining parliamentary seats), in essence have very
similar political programs, which boil down to bringing Moldova closer to
Europe – a goal incompatible with Russia's geopolitical aspirations for
Moscow denies any accusation of attempts to influence
Moldova's parliamentary elections in Moldova and claims that the well being of
Russians in Transdniestr was its primary concern when voting for the
introduction of sanctions. The sincerity of these words is doubtful, to say the
least. Given Moscow's record of "selling out" Russian citizens living
abroad for all kinds of useful commodities (gas, for example, which was the
impetus behind the Russia-Turkmenistan deal in April 2003, which bartered the
citizenship of thousands of Russians living in Turkmenistan for a sweetheart energy
arrangement), it is unlikely that the well being of Russians in Transdniestr is
Moscow's main concern. If there is no economic or geopolitical gain in sight,
Russia is unlikely to act. In addition, the timing of such sanctions is
curiously close to the parliamentary elections. The Kozak memorandum failed
almost two years ago. Why did Moscow decide to act only now?
It is doubtful that Russia's threats to introduce economic
sanctions against Moldova will have the desired effect – for at least two
First, the proposed sanctions will hurt the general
population and not the bureaucrats in power. Russia is one of Moldova's main
export markets. By closing the door to Moldovan wine producers, it dooms them
to uncertain times and lost income. Introducing a visa regime with Moldova will
mean that thousands of Moldovan citizens who now work in Russia will have to
return to Moldova and, most likely, find themselves unemployed for a prolonged
period of time. Increased energy prices will mean higher energy bills for the
regular citizens. In a fair, transparent democracy these sanctions could have
made the people rise up against a government that failed them. In Moldova,
however, where the main mass media sources are government-controlled, the
ruling party is likely to present its own interpretation of the situation or
simply not avoid mention of the Moldova-Russia squabbles altogether.
Second, Voronin's official approval rating remains rather
high. Recent opinion poll of the Institute for Public Policies showed that if
elections were held at the time of the survey (mid-February), Voronin's party
would have won with almost 62 % of the vote (2) – an unrealistically high
estimate, later disputed by the Social Democratic Party, which claimed the
Communists' real approval rating was approximately 27.5%. (3) While both
figures might lack objectivity, the fact that the Communist Party of Moldova is
still the most popular one in the country is a reality. Although election
results will, most likely, be rigged, it will be done in order to boost the
percentage with which the Communists will win, rather than to change the
winning party altogether.
Consequently, due to the Communists' relative popularity and
lack of objective information coming form the main media sources, even if the
elections are rigged, it is dubious that mass protests will take place. The
opposition, however, is not loosing hope. It already has "reserved"
the Central Square in Chisinau for the purpose of holding mass protests against
the falsification of the election results. Different opposition parties even
chose various colors for the upcoming revolution – orange (Christian
Democrats) and yellow (Democratic Moldova voting bloc) are the two most
prevalent ones. (4) If Russia is serious about removing Voronin from power, it
will be interesting to watch its reaction on 7 March.
One of Yushchenko's campaign promises was to get rid of
corruption in the government and to ensure transparency within the ruling
elites. The President has begun to fulfill his promises recently by opening
investigations against some government officials and by dismissing others. The Prosecutor-General's
Office has instituted a criminal case against the former head of the
Directorate for State Affairs under the former president Leonid Kuchma, Mr.
Ihor Bakay. The reason is abuse of office and illegal use of state funds
totaling 3.4 million dollars. Bakay was said to have left Ukraine in late December 2004,
right after Viktor Yushchenko won the presidential election. (5) The Secret
Service is also investigating its former Deputy Chief Volodymyr Satsyuk who
headed a special department charged with raising funds for the intelligence
service. Statsyuk is also suspected of implication in the dioxin poisoning of the
President. (6) Yushchenko also has issued a decree dismissing Mykola Obykhod
and Serhiy Tuz as deputy heads of the Security Service of Ukraine. Yevhen Serhiyenko, the head of the directorate for
fighting corruption and crime, was fired, as well. (7) At the end of February,
Yushchenko, as he had promised, dismissed the Customs Service Chief, Mykola
Earlier in February, Yulia Timoshenko stated that the
government would challenge in court the privatization of nearly 3,000
businesses. There have been previous attempts to investigate all these cases,
but they were closed following orders from the government. (8) "We will
open a public and transparent tender, and you will see how we will earn three
to four times more," said Yushchenko to a group of foreign investment
Yushchenko's recent dismissal of top officials and investigations
of privatization deals undoubtedly are aimed at increasing the fairness and
transparency of the system, but ordinary Ukrainians have not yet seen any real
direct improvement in their lives. My aunt, a longtime resident of Ukraine,
expressed concerns that seem almost universal in Ukraine now,
"Re-privatization started in Ukraine. All that was sold by the former
regime to their friends for nothing is being taken back by the government. In
short, the revolution continues! I only hope that ordinary people will benefit
from all this, as well. It can happen that the government re-divides everything
between its own members and that will be the end of the democratic show!"
News Agency, 22 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets.
Newsline, Vol. 9, No. 33, Part II, 18 Feb 05.
Reporter.md, 22 Feb 05 via (www.reporter.md).
(4) Kommersant Plus, 22 Feb 05 via (http://www.km.press.md/index.html).
Kanal, 22 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
France Press, 20 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
News Agency, 15 Feb 04; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
Newsline, Vol. 9, No. 32, Part II, 17 Feb 05.
Business Group, 20 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
By Elena Selyuk (email@example.com)
We're not gonna take it anymore
During February, Russia and Georgia had numerous
opportunities to make progress on a number of contentious issues plaguing their
relations. For the first time
since the Rose revolution, a Russian
Foreign Minister visited independent Georgia, the two countries' foreign
ministries held "framework" talks, and the Russian and Georgian
parliamentary speakers met in Vienna.
However, the discussions generally devolved into heated rhetoric and
recriminations, as Georgia accused Russia of reneging on past agreements and
Russia again threatened "preemptive" terrorist strikes in Georgia's
The month began badly when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov's February 18 visit was downgraded by Georgia from an official state
visit to a "working" visit.
The partial snub came after Lavrov refused to lay a wreath at the
memorial to Georgians killed in separatist conflicts during the 1990s. The Georgian government cannot
have been surprised at Lavrov's response, given Russia's support for the
separatist movements, but the country's willingness to openly challenge the
Russian foreign minister sent a clear signal.
The meeting itself between Lavrov and Georgian Foreign
Minister Salome Zourabichvili resulted in nothing more than plans for yet
another round of talks on the same issues that have already been discussed for
years. Putting her best foot
forward, Zourabichvili explained, "We have agreed, and this is very
important, on how to continue working over these issues." (1)
Primary among these issues are Russia's non-compliance with
its 1999 agreement to disband its military bases in Georgia and its
single-handed destruction of the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation in Pankisi
At the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Summit, Russia and Georgia signed
an annex to the adapted CFE Treaty.
In it, Russia agreed to "disband and withdraw" its bases in
Gudauta (Abkhazia) and Vaziani by July 2001. The two countries also agreed that "during the year
2000" they would "complete negotiations regarding the duration and
modalities of the functioning of the Russian military bases at Batumi and
Akhalkalaki . . . ." (2)
While Russia closed the small Vaziani airstrip in 2001, the
country merely announced that the soldiers at the Guduata base within Abkhazia
were now "peacekeepers," and therefore, its military base had been
eliminated (a technique also used in Moldova's Transnistria separatist
enclave). Russia also appears to
have tried to draw out, as much as possible, the negotiations over the "duration"
of its other two bases in Georgia.
On December 23, 2000, after five rounds of negotiations
covering almost a year, the two sides had barely moved forward on the question
of Batumi and Akhalkalaki.
Russian then-Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov explained, "Russia
offered to extend its mandate by another 15 years. We think there's no necessity for a hasty withdrawal."
(3) When Georgia balked at the
suggestion of Russian military bases on its territory for another 15 years, a
spokesman at the Russian Defense Ministry complained about "Georgia's
Indignantly, he said, "Georgia is talking not about the terms and
conditions of the functioning of the Russian military bases in Akhalkalaki and
Batumi, but about their closure." (4)
Now, more than four years later, Akhalkalaki and Batumi
remain, as does Guduata in another form, and the two sides have reached nothing
near consensus. Moreover,
throughout all these years, Russia has worked closely with the leadership of
the Georgian breakaway republics.
This cooperation has become far more public in the last year, as Moscow
has hosted several meetings of various representatives of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia, and as the country passed a bill making Abkhaz and South Ossetian
residents – inside the sovereign country of Georgia – Russian
At the same time, Russian rhetoric regarding Georgia's
so-called support for Chechen terrorists has increased in the last several
months. At the end of 2004, Russia used its OSCE veto to scuttle an extension
of the mandate of the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation (BMO) along the
Georgian-Russia border. Lavrov
called the mission "no longer needed" and said "it has not been
instrumental in reducing the number of border violations." Therefore, he said Russia's own border
guards will control the border. (5) The OSCE BMO mission, which provided 24
hour monitoring of the Pankisi Gorge border crossing by internationally trained
observers, is now closed.
Throughout the last several months, the Russian media have
been filled with accounts of supposed border violations in Pankisi, along with
suspiciously detailed descriptions of how groups of Chechens are using Pankisi
Gorge as a base. Russia
Major-General Ilya Shabalkin, for example, related that "a gang of over
200 men" was near the Georgian villages of Duisi and Tsinabani, while
"a gang near the village of Birkani includes 30 or so foreign mercenaries
talking Turkish among themselves." (6) Meanwhile, another
"source" explained that a "group of about 50 militants" was
camped near the villages of Omalo and Tselebani." (7) Russian officials explained that
these "bases" were used as training camps and as "rest
points" for Chechens hiding from Russian forces or needing medical
However, despite repeated requests from Georgian leaders
that Russia provide detailed information explaining when, where and how these
"militants" were crossing the border, the country provided
nothing. Moreover, Russia
apparently decided not to avail itself of assistance from the international
OSCE Monitoring Operation – which may have been able to use its
helicopters and other surveillance equipment to document Russian claims. As it was, the monitoring mission
found that the border was stable with little activity.
Without the mission, Georgia fears that Russia will use the
excuse that Chechens are hiding in Georgia as a pretext for military strikes
within its borders. On February
13, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We have killed so many
foreigners in Chechnya carrying passports with a Georgian tourist visa in their
pockets. () You can't deny they are penetrating our territory through the
territory of Georgia, that's a fact." (8) However,
Georgia can and does deny this fact, and continues waiting in vain for
documents and details.
The Defense Minister went on to ask, "If we know that
some place in the world there are terrorists in hiding, plotting to carry out a
terrorist act on the Russian territory, should we wait and let them go. ? Or hit them straight away? I think the answer is clear." (9)
Finally, Georgia appears to have had enough. On February 24, during a meeting on the
sidelines of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Georgian Parliamentary Speaker
Nino Burjanadze held an apparently difficult meeting with her Russian counterpart,
Boris Gryzlov. Burjanadze
reported that she "informed him in detail about our absolutely justified
complaints toward the Russian side."
Burjanadze said she pointed to "the border issue, the need to pull
out the Russian bases as soon as possible, [and] the problem that Russia has
been actually meddling in Abkhazia and Samachablo South Ossetia." (10)
Most important, Burjanadze drew a line over the remaining
Russian military bases in Georgia.
"I very openly told Mr. Gryzlov that if in the very near future we
failed to agree on a final date for the Russian military bases pullout, the
Georgian parliament would declare the presence of the Russian bases illegal on
Georgian territory, and I'm sure that the rest of the authorities will also
support us in this matter." (11)
The comment followed a similar statement made by Givi Targamadze, Chair
of the Georgian Parliamentary Defense and National Security Committee. On February 23, Targamadze said,
"If Russia does not specify the deadline for withdrawing its bases within
several months, Georgia should start the procedure for closing them
unilaterally." He said this procedure would include blockading all supply
routes into the bases. (12)
Already, Georgia has begun surreptitiously holding up visas for Russian
servicemen, thus interrupting the rotation of personnel. (13)
Burjanadze has also been vocal about the BMO mission and
Russia's claims regarding Pankisi Gorge. She said, "Statements made by high-ranking
Russian officials do not allow us to conduct Russian-Georgian relations in a
normal and civilized manner. Those
truly irresponsible statements clearly aim at the further deterioration of
Russian-Georgian relations and prepare the ground for justifying, on the basis
of these statements, certain provocative actions to be taken against
Georgia." She noted,
"When Georgia is left face to face with Russia and is not able to fall
back on international observers, Russia will find it much easier to make
allegations against Georgia." (14)
Burjanadze and other Georgian leaders are now pressing
international organizations for assistance in continuing to have some type of
an international presence on the border.
They are also asking that international pressure be increased on Russia
to remove its military bases.
So far, NATO is refusing to ratify the adapted CFE treaty
until Russia honors its 1999 Istanbul commitments. Also, the US recently announced the continuation of a
training package for Georgian military and border guards. However, the EU and the OSCE have
offered very limited assistance on both issues.
In response to this hesitance, Georgia continues to increase
the pressure itself on Russia to pull out its bases, and is attempting to
create its own international border monitoring group, possibly made up of
former Soviet and client states.
The country is hoping also that its recent decision to more than double
the number of troops in Iraq – from 300 to 850 – will help
convince the U.S. and NATO to participate in a border monitoring mission. The
fact is that Georgia's dependence on Russian energy supplies and its economic
situation will make it difficult for the country to take care of these issues
without significant Western support.
Given the precariousness of Georgian-Russian relations, the Western
international community would do well to work to eliminate any future potential
areas of military conflict by energetically supporting Georgia's efforts to
keep its territory free of foreign troops, and to monitor its border openly and
"Tbilisi, Moscow Set Short-Term Agenda for Talks," Civil Georgia, 18
Feb 05 via www.civil.ge
Statement of the Russian Federation and Georgia, 17 Nov 99 via
France Presse, 23 Dec 00 via Lexis-Nexis.
News Agency, 26 Dec 00 via Lexis-Nexis.
News Agency, 0952 GMT, 19 Jan 05 via Lexis-Nexis
Nezavisimaya gazeta, 10 Dec 04, pp. 1,9 via Lexis-Nexis.
Novosti, 29 Nov 04 via Lexis-Nexis.
Georgia, 13 Feb 05 via (www.civil.ge).
TV, 1800 GMT, 25 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
News Agency, 23 Feb 05 via Lexis-Nexis.
Novosti, 22 Feb 05, p. 5; Defense and Security via Lexis-Nexis.
(14) Briefing of Nino Burjanadze,
Rustavi-2 TV, 18 Jan 05; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
By Tammy Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Opposition on the verge of splitting?
In September last year, Kazakhstan held its second
parliamentary elections since obtaining independence in 1991. During the year
preceding the polls, several events occurred that were to have a considerable
impact on the vote. First, in October 2003, President Nursultan Nazarbaev's
daughter Dariga formed her own political party, Asar, and announced her intention to run in the elections.
(1) Nazarbaeva's emergence onto the political scene seemed to indicate that the
long-rumored succession battle between Nazarbaeva and her brother-in-law, Timur
Kubilayev, finally had been decided in her favor.
Then, in July 2004, President Nazarbaev appointed Altynbek
Sarsenbayev, one of three co-chairmen of Ak Zhol (Kazakhstan's strongest opposition party) to the post of Information
Minister. (2) In his first official interview, Sarsenbayev stated that he had
accepted the position only upon receipt of a guarantee from Nazarbaev that
elections would be conducted in an "open and honest" fashion. (3)
Less than two weeks after Sarsenbayev's appointment, Bolat Abilov, another of Ak
Zhol's co-chairmen, was convicted of
slandering a fellow Majlis deputy, and barred from running in the polls. (4) It
was evident immediately that these events were part of a concerted campaign to
subvert the opposition and to clear the path for Nazarbaeva's ascendancy.
Election returns showed that this campaign had been successful: Asar gained three seats in the Majlis, making it the
second largest pro-presidential party in the country.
Less than 24 hours after the election, Sarsenbayev announced
his resignation, stating that he could not remain in a government which
"actively interfered with the election campaign, juggled and falsified
results of the expression of people's will." (5) The question had to be
posed as to why Sarsenbayev accepted the President's "assurances" and
took a government post. One plausible answer is that he wished to draw
attention to the plight of opposition groups, and Kazakhstan's democratic
If this indeed was Sarsenbayev's motivation, then he was
successful. But his actions may have weakened even further the only viable
opposition group in Kazakhstan.
On 13 February, Ak Zhol's third co-chairman, Alikhan Baimenov, called a special plenary meeting
of the party, and proposed a vote of no confidence in Sarsenbayev. Although
several regional factions of the party refused to join the vote, the motion was
passed, and Sarsenbayev's position now stands in question. Abilov chose to side
with Sarsenbayev in calling the vote a "foolish escapade." (6)
Baimenov apparently called for the vote due to an alleged violation of party
rules. Sarsenbayev has apparently been negotiating in recent months with Democratic
Choice of Kazakhstan and the Communist
Party with the intent of forming one joint opposition group, to be called the Coordinating
Council of Democratic Forces. (7)
The proposed triple-merger would see a joint candidate put forward for the
Presidential elections slated for January 2006. Baimenov has claimed that such
merger talks are not permitted by the Ak Zhol charter, and submitted the no-confidence motion for
A dispute in the leadership of Ak Zhol apparently has been fermenting for some time, with
the vote of no confidence merely being the first public manifestation of a
wider problem. Baimenov and other senior opposition figures, since September,
have been accusing Sarsenbayev of betraying the opposition's cause whilst
serving as a Minister, because he ordered the closure of several media outlets
that were sympathetic to the opposition's cause. (8)
The war of words between the co-chairmen since the plenum
has continued: Abilov published a statement in which he accused Baimenov of
violating party statutes by calling for the vote against Sarsenbayev. As yet,
there has been no indication that Baimenov has responded to this allegation.
But if Sarsenbayev is not removed—as called for by the vote, it is
possible that Baimenov will split from the party. Baimenov holds the sole seat
gained by Ak Zhol in the parliamentary
elections. It is not clear what would happen to the seat if he leaves the
party, but it is possible that the seat would be put up for re-election, and
that Kazakhstan's opposition would lose its "symbolic" presence in
the Majlis. (9) At this point in time, Party members apparently are divided
equally between the two leadership factions, and a decision on whether to break
up the party will be made at its next congress, to be held on a date, as yet
unspecified, in the near future.
The dispute in Ak Zhol
worsens an already dismal situation for the opposition in Kazakhstan. In
January, an Almaty court ruled that Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan must be
liquidated because statements made in December by the party had effectively
threatened revolution and called for "resolute public
actions, including civil disobedience campaigns," and further, had
declared Nazarbaev's Presidency to be "illegitimate and anti-people."
(10) As yet, the party has not disbanded, and has moved to appeal the judgment
against it. It must be stated that the likelihood of a successful appeal is
remote. If Ak Zhol indeed splits, and Democratic Choice is liquidated, Kazakhstan will lack any viable opposition group that will be able to collect the necessary
signatures to mount a challenge against Nazarbaev in 2006.
On 27 February, Kyrgyzstan held
parliamentary elections. The three-month period prior to the elections
witnessed several important developments. First, President Askar Akaev's son,
and most importantly, his daughter, Bermet Akaeva, were nominated to stand in
the election. (11) At the same time, Roza Otunbaeva, co-leader of Ata Jurt-one of Kyrgyzstan's leading opposition parties, and former Foreign
Minister, was barred from running in the election. Although the official
explanation for her exclusion was that she failed to meet residency
requirements, it was suspicious, to say the least, that Otunbaeva had planned
to run in the same district as Akaeva. (12)
Otunbaeva's exclusion sparked a number of
protests outside the Parliament in Bishkek. President Akaev was quick to
dismiss the protesters, labeling them "home grown instigators" who
wished to re-create Kiev's Orange Revolution.
(13) Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev joined in attacking the protesters, even
going as far as issuing a thinly veiled warning that the government would be
prepared to use force to prevent revolution if necessary. (14)
That President Akaev and his government
are deeply concerned about a 'Kiev repetition' has been shown throughout the
election campaign. In an interview given to Nezavisimaya gazeta, Akaev accused the United States of covertly funding Otunbaeva's
candidacy, while Tanayev warned the OSCE that any outside meddling in the polls
would not be tolerated. (15) At the same time, President Akaev attempted to
appeal directly to the Kyrgyz people. In a key speech given at a youth rally in
Bishkek, Akaev argued that the elections were a "test" for the
country, and stated that Kyrgyzstan was immune to the "sickly foreign
rose, orange and yellow viruses" represented by opposition figures. (16)
At first glance, Akaev's appeals would
seem to have fallen on deaf ears: There have been protests around the country
for the last three weeks—including on election day itself. A closer look
however, shows that these protests have been caused directly by the actions of
President Akaev and his government.
On 8 February, the newspaper Moya
Stolitsa Novosti (MSN) published an article
alleging that members of Akaev's family, including his children, had been
involved in illegitimate business deals. Nine days later, President Akaev
accused the newspaper of "systematic information terror," and
threatened to sue the media outlet, unless a full apology was published. (17)
On 22 February, the printing house in which the newspaper is housed,
experienced a power outage lasting 48 hours. Freedom House protested the
outage, noting that it was probably a deliberate attempt at
"censorship," and that the action raised serious concerns that "the
Kyrgyz government seeks to deny opposition newspapers and candidates a voice in
the crucial pre-election period." (18) Akaev's threat to sue resulted in protests in Bishkek during
which calls were made for the government to cease harassing media outlets. As a
result of the power outage becoming public knowledge, the protests lasted into
the next day. (19) The more serious protests, however, have been those that
have occurred nationwide in reaction to the barring of opposition candidates
from the elections.
On 22 February, a large protest involving
several thousand persons occurred in the Naryn region, where the demonstrators
blocked a major highway leading to Bishkek and demanded that the government
reinstate opposition candidates from the district. A second demonstration
involving similar tactics occurred at Issyk-Kul Oblast, where 2500 persons used
logs and garbage to block another major thoroughfare to protest the barring of
opposition candidate former Prime Minister Arslanbek Maliev from the election.
Similar protests on a smaller scale—including one in Jalal-Abad Oblast
involving 500 demonstrators—reportedly took place in three of
Kyrgyzstan's seven oblasts. (20) The government's reaction to these
protests—some of which lasted more than five days—revealed major
concern: On 25 February, the Interior Ministry announced that it was placing
all law enforcement personnel, including riot police, on high alert for the
remainder of the election period. (21) There was no indication whether the
military's alert status had also been upgraded.
Until now, Kyrgyzstan's Parliament had
been a bicameral body. As a result of recent changes, Parliament is now a
unicameral institution with 75 seats. 420 candidates competed for these seats
in Sunday's election. Preliminary
turnout data showed that over 50% of the eligible population voted in the
polls. (22) However, the election has proven to be largely inconclusive with
preliminary results showing that only 30 of 75 seats were decided. (23) Run-off
elections are expected to be held for the remaining 45 seats on Sunday, 13
As was the case in neighboring Kazakhstan,
the Kyrgyz government, together with CIS observers, has been insisting that
there were no violations, and that the polls were a demonstration of
Kyrgyzstan's forward progress. (24)
However, the OSCE, in its preliminary statement, noted that it had
observed "widespread withdrawal of candidates from the election campaign,
bribing of voters, and a low level of voter confidence." (25) In the
interim, the most interesting developments are that President Akaev's son won
his district, while his daughter Bermet—running in the district
previously occupied by Roza Otunbaeva—has made it through to a second
round. President Akaev held a press conference after the polls closed on Sunday
evening, during which he announced that he "never intended to launch any
constitutional amendments" to extend his term, and that he was "not
going to do so now." (26) Under the Kyrgyz Constitution, Akaev's current
(second) term must be his last; it is an interesting omission however, that
President Akaev failed to address the question of whether one of his
pro-presidential allies in the Parliament might launch such an amendment for
him. As such, Akaev's statement should not yet be
taken at face value. Akaev's future moves may depend on his daughter's
performance in the 13 March run off.
Finally, although the opposition Ata-Jurt
party held a small rally (which Roza Otunbaeva
addressed) on 28 February in Bishkek, no really major demonstrations have been
held so far since the elections. (27) It remains to be seen what occurs when
the Central Election Commission announces the final results of the 30 decided
seats, and what occurs in the second round of voting.
(1) See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume IX, Number 14
(15 September 2004).
(5) See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume IX, Number 15
(29 September 2004).
(6) TCA-Kazakhstan, 16 Feb 05; The Times of Central Asia via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
(7) Eurasia Insight, 16 Feb 04 via (www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav021605_pr.shtml).
(8) Kazakh Television First Channel Astana, 22 Feb 05; BBC
Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(9) TCA-Kazakhstan, 16 Feb 05; The Times of Central Asia via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
(10) "Kazakh Court Rules for Liquidation of Opposition
Party," RFE/RL Newsline-Transcaucasus & Central Asia, Volume 9, Number
4, 7 Jan 05.
(11) See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 1 (31
(15) See NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, Volume X, Number 2 (11
(17) "Media Controversy Helps Spur Protesters in
Kyrgyzstan," Eurasianet Civil Society, 22 Feb 05, via (www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav0222.html).
(18) AKIpress news, 24 Feb 05; AKIpress News Agency via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
(20) Weekday Magazine-Kyrgyzstan, 22 Feb 05; Radio Free
Europe/Radio Liberty via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(21) Eurasia Insight, 25 Feb 05, via (www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav022505_pr.shtml).
(22) ITAR-TASS News Agency, 27 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
(23) "Kyrgyzstan Set For Run-Off Polls," 28 Feb 05, (www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4304069.stm).
(24) RTR Russia TV Moscow in Russian, 27 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring via
ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(25) ITAR-TASS News Agency in Russian, 28 Feb 05; BBC Monitoring
via ISI Emerging Markets Database.
(26) TCA-Kyrgyzstan, 28 Feb 05; Times of Central Asia via ISI
Emerging Markets Database.
(27) "Kyrgyzstan: Opposition Holds First Protest Ahead of Election
Results," RFE/RL Feature Article, 28 Feb 05 via (www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2005/02/d70f3123-91b5-4adf-af8f-89dd5e28175e.html).
By Fabian Adami (email@example.com)