|The ISCIP Analyst|
Volume XII Number 5 (25 May 2006)
No.4 (20 April 2006)
Executive Branch by Susan J. Cavan
Foreign Relations by Marisa Payne
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Robyn Angley
Armed Forces by J. Marcel LeBlanc
Caucasus by Anastasia Skoybedo
Western Region by Tammy Lynch
Channeling his inner Roosevelt
President Putin's annual address to the Federal Assembly was a solid recitation of concrete goals and issues that need to be tackled, punctuated by frequent (if robotic) rounds of applause. Congratulations, this clearly signals progress in Russia's consolidation of democracy. Can steeply declining electoral participation rates be far behind?
Beyond Putin's demographic cheerleading (to breathe life back into the birth rate) and promises of financial support for military enterprises, the speech served as a response to sharp criticism from the US, particularly of Russian actions in neighboring states and in the energy markets as well. It is easy to gauge from Putin's words that criticism from the US no longer holds quite the same sway it once did:
[W]e too have to build our home, our own house, to be strong and safe - because we can see what is happening in the world. We can see it! As they say, comrade wolf knows whom to eat. He is eating and listening to no one. And it would seem he has no intention of listening. (Applause) Just where does all the rhetoric on the need to fight for human rights and democracy disappear when it comes to the need to realize one's own interests. It turns out that everything is permitted, there are no restrictions whatsoever. (1)
The attack on the US for hypocrisy in foreign affairs (in the latter half of the quote) represents a riposte to Cheney, but it is not as intriguing as Putin's call for self-defense and self-reliance that begin these remarks. Gone are questions as to the nature of the US-Russian relationship (partnership? friendly or competitive?); they have been replaced with a determination (buoyed by gas prices, no doubt) to strike a distinctly, and perhaps solitary, Russian path.
In domestic affairs, where succession surely occupies the minds of most Kremlin denizens, Putin has called for a campaign to curtail corruption, and he has used an unusual source as his springboard:
In the working out of a great national program which seeks the primary good of the greater number, it is true that the toes of some people are being stepped on and are going to be stepped on. But these toes belong to the comparative few who seek to retain or to gain position or riches or both by some short cut which is harmful to the greater good. (2)
As Putin noted: "Fine words. A shame, then, that it was not I who thought of them, (applause)but Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president of the USA in 1934." (3) Putin explains his use of the Roosevelt quote by remarking that many countries have confronted similar problems with corruption and found their path out through firmly-rooted judicial reform.
But it is less his explanation than the actual quote that intrigues: Is this type of utilitarian argument really a proper source of inspiration in Russia today? Roosevelt was still confronting the effects of severe economic depression and was initiating a far-reaching public works program. Putin is riding the crest of an energy boom and simultaneously slashing the remnants of the Soviet social net. While his occasional moves against oligarchs have been popular, Putin also has overseen a stunning recentralization of wealth (particularly energy wealth) in the hands of the Kremlin few. Perhaps the quote, and the entire anti-corruption drive, should serve as a reminder to the inner circle that, succession debates aside, Putin still has a few more hands to play before the game is called, and he could choose to root out corruption at the highest levels before he quits the field.
Let the games begin
The first victims of the anti-corruption campaign are known: Aleksandr Zherikov, head of the Federal Customs Service and two of his deputies (Leonid Lobzenko and Yuri Azarov); two deputy heads of the FSB Service for Protecting Constitutional Order and Countering Terrorism; a deputy head from the FSB Economic Directorate; two officials from the Procurator-General's office; and six officers from the Interior Ministry. (4)
The Customs Service will now be led by a former head of Rosoboroneksport, Andrei Belyaninov. (5) One of the clearest signs of succession turmoil in Russia in recent years has been tumult and intrigue involving the director of arms exports (e.g., the fights over control of Rosvooruzhenie in 1996 reflected the uncertainty in Yel'tsin heart surgery prognosis). Belyaninov involvement, especially at this early stage, in the corruption questions at Customs should have Vladimir Vladimirovich asking just who recommended Belyaninov transfer.
All we need is…reciprocity
After VP Cheney's attacks on Russian use of energy as a weapon in international affairs, particularly in regard to neighboring states, Russia has decided to make clear its use of energy as a weapon could be a lot more painful. A partnership deal for US firms in the Shtokman gas fields (set to produce liquefied natural gas for the American market) may face new hurdles if WTO accession talks stall or if Russia is made to answer new demands, according to presidential aide and G8 "sherpa," Igor Shuvalov. (6) Shuvalov made the remarks during a visit to Washington, DC in April.
Kremlin Press Spokesman Dmitri Peskov must have been grinning as he explained that the main criterion in the decision of partners for Shtokman would be "purely economic." "The key thing here," explained Peskov, "is reciprocity." (7)
Fraud victims protest
President Putin is confronting an issue, with which few before him in the Kremlin have had to contend: victims of property sales fraud. These victims, who have appealed for a face-to-face meeting with the president in an open letter, at a press conference and during an "unsanctioned" protest on Gorbaty Bridge claim to represent more than 200,000 families who have paid for, but never been able to claim apartments and residences across the country. (8)
The group is targeting the construction industry in particular, and the government did respond last year by enacting a law to prevent construction companies from demanding early down payments on home construction; this legislation did not provide for retroactive compensation however.
The defrauded home buyers group plans to take its protests to the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg this July and to the World Trade Organization, where they will argue to ban Russian participation due to rampant corruption. (9)
1) Putin Annual Address to Parliament—Full Text, RTR Russia TV, 0800 GMT 10 May 06; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
2) On the Seventy-third Congress," Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fireside Chat #5, 28 Jun 1934 via millercenter.virginia.edu/scripps/diglibrary/prezspeeches/
3) Putin Address, Ibid.
4) And Now, About the Successor, Noviye izvestia, No. 81, 16 May 06; What the Papers Say (WPS) via Lexis-Nexis.
6) The Moscow Times, 18 May 06; Independent Press via Lexis-Nexis.
7) Lloyd's List International, 22 May 06 via Lexis-Nexis Academic.
8) The Moscow Times, 23 May 06; Independent Press via Lexis-Nexis.
By Susan J. Cavan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Russia’s double-headed eagle has two voices
A 15 May 06 headline on the official web site of President Vladimir Putin read: “Russia has always been a reliable and consistent friend of the Palestinian people.” (1) What that headline fails to capture, however, is the recent inconsistencies in the Kremlin’s dual diplomatic channels between Fatah and Hamas.
The latest effort to engage the Palestinian Authority took place between Putin and Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian National Authority, in Sochi on the southern coast of Russia. The talks were categorized as "friendly" and involved a great deal of back-patting by Abbas (Abbas addressed Putin as “Your Excellency” and testified to Russia’s elusive role as international superpower. (2)) The talks also served to illustrate the shortsightedness of Russian foreign policy. While Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party, explicitly mentioned the Quartet’s Road Map, referring to it as “an important, if not the only way to reach a political settlement” with Israel, (3) it is important to note that just over two months ago, the Kremlin entertained Fatah's rivals, Hamas, the party that currently leads the parliament and also falls on the Quartet’s list of terrorist organizations. Hamas has rejected the Quartet's demand that it abandon terrorism, recognize Israel, and abide by all previous international agreements – including the Quartet's own Road Map.
The Palestinian territory is on the brink of civil war as well as economic collapse. Russia, arguably, has jumped to the front of the diplomatic line by being what Abbas referred to as “the first help” given to the Palestinian National Authority (4) – Russia sent US $10 million directly to Abbas at the beginning of May (5) – as well as the only Quartet member to negotiate with Hamas.
While the Kremlin boasts of itself as a model example of diplomatic fairness – Putin pointed out in February 2006 that Russia, unlike the other Quartet members, never qualified Hamas as a terrorist organization and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said “the whole world should hold negotiations with Hamas” (6) – other Quartet members, as well as Israel, which Hamas threatens with annihilation, remain wary. The Quartet only recently decided to channel money to Abbas, hoping to bypass the Hamas-led government. This tentative decision, which was made on 9 May, at the UN headquarters in New York City, calls for an initial three-month plan before the Quartet meets again to reassess the situation. (7)
Russian officials have been quick to attribute the Quartet’s decision to re-establish aid to the Palestinian Authority as a renewal of Russia’s place on the international scene. A source at the Foreign Ministry bragged, “All members of the Quartet acknowledge the need to assist Palestine, in the form proposed by Russia.” (8) Clearly, Russia is taking the Quartet’s decision, which still is not finalized due to concerns of the United States and Europe, as a victory for Russian diplomacy.
But is this really a victory or simply a play for power? Unquestionably, Russia is using the Middle East as a platform to play power politics. In an interview on Russian radio Mayak, Aleksandr Pekeyev, head of a department of the Institute of Economy and International Relations, spoke of the reasons behind Russia’s current Middle East policy:
In the past 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has been pursuing a pro-Israeli position in the Middle East, with some deviations. On the whole, Russia followed the Western camp in this, but in exchange, Russia did not get anything from the USA…If they are going to try and push Russia in the future, if the policy of conditions, NATO expansion and so forth continues, Russian policy in the Middle East may change and it may change quite radically. (9)
Yevgeni Satanovsky, the president of the Middle East Institute, tried to disagree with Pekeyev during the same interview; however, his argument degenerated into the same conflicted line of reasoning – that Russian policy in the Middle East is set up to counter Western policy. He called the Quartet’s decision to stop funding the Palestinian Authority (keeping in mind that Russia is a member of the Quartet) “a recipe for disaster:”
We have a certain balance in our relations with Israel and the Arabs…Mahmoud Abbas is fighting to survive, to set up a new organization against his old rivals, and Russia has paved the way with its money by creating a mechanism which will make it possible to help the Palestinians and Abbas but not Hamas…It appears we will have some tough times in our relations with the USA particularly because we have become rivals, competitors. (10)
Arguments like Satanovsky’s and Pekeyev’s seem intended to constitute a response to US Vice President Dick Cheney's statement of 5 May, that referred to Russia using its energy supplies to blackmail its neighbors and criticized Putin’s increasingly authoritarian rule. A May 9 New York Times editorial entitled, “Cheney as Pot, Putin as Kettle,” criticized the timing of Cheney’s remarks, pointing to Cheney’s support of the authoritarian regimes of oil-rich states like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. (11) A divided Quartet is not good for Russia, the United States, Israel or the Palestinian people.
Russia vies for its old sphere
Aside from the Palestinian Authority’s Abbas, Russia also received praise from Sudan’s Foreign Minister Dr. Lam Akol, who proclaimed during a meeting in Moscow on May 17 that Russia is the only country that is helping Sudan without interfering in its internal affairs. (12)
After roughly three years of civil war and genocide in Darfur, Sudan, Russia and the international community at large are starting to take notice of the dismal situation there. In April 2006, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution calling for sanctions against four Sudanese war criminals and continued peacekeeping activities. Russia has chosen to participate in the process by sending peacekeeping troops to Darfur, including, most recently, four helicopters and 200 troops. (13)
But Russia is hoping that the two countries’ cooperation can extend beyond peacekeeping. Besides supporting the May 5 peace agreement (which, importantly, does not include NATO intervention), Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov expressed support for increased bilateral cooperation between Russia and Sudan. He called it “a very promising partner” after he met with Akol. (14) Specifically, Lavrov spoke with Akol about contracting Russian companies to develop a Sudanese railroad network. (15)
This proposed partnership between Russia and Sudan is, indeed, promising for Moscow considering the rocky historic relationship between the Soviet Union and Sudan. Prior to 1977, the Soviet Union and Sudan enjoyed a relationship that culminated in Soviet arms shipments to the northeast African country. After an ideological change on the horn of Africa, however, and a turn toward arms partnerships with the United States in the late 1970s, the Soviet Union backed away from the lucrative Red Sea sphere. (16)
Russia’s re-engagement in the area today is not only a way of making up for Soviet mishaps, but also a way of assuring Russia’s stance as an important player in the region. On top of Akol’s praises and Russia’s victory (keeping NATO out of the peacekeeping operation), Russia is making sure that it gets a head start in the region by creating economic and diplomatic ties between Moscow and Khartoum.
(1) Russia has always been a reliable and consistent friend of the Palestinian people, 15 May 06 via www.kremlin.ru.
(2) Beginning of Meeting with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, 15 May 06 via www.kremlin.ru.
(5) “Russia ready to provide additional aid to Palestine,” 15 May 06, Xinhua News Agency via Lexis-Nexis.
(6) Yasmann, Victor, “Russia: Is Putin’s Hamas Overture a Calculated Risk?” 15 Feb 06, RFE/RL via www.rferl.org.
(7) Dubov, Dmitri and Suponina, Elena, “Hamas won’t get any money,” 11 May 06, Vremya Novostei; What the Papers Say via Lexis-Nexis.
(9) “Russia Pundits Ponder ‘Cost of Friendship with Arab States’,” 17 May 06, Radio Mayak; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(11) “Cheney as Pot, Putin as Kettle,” 9 May 06, New York Times via www.nytimes.com. In all fairness, however, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan never showed the promise that Russia did in the early 1990s under Yeltsin. With that in mind, Cheney’s remarks about Russia’s increasing authoritarianism could be looked at as more of a venting of disappointment than as an hypocritical attack.
(12) “Sudanese Foreign Minister Lauds Relations with Russia,” 17 May 06, Itar-Tass; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(13) “Russia to Maintain Peacekeeping Presence in Sudan – Foreign Minister,” 17 May 06, RIA Novosti; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis.
(16) “The US-Soviet Struggle to Control the Horn of Africa,” 29 Aug. 1977, US News & World Report via Lexis-Nexis.
By Marissa Payne (email@example.com)
DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Regional Review: The Far East – Migration and resources
The Far East federal region is overseen by presidential envoy Kamil Iskhakov, who assumed the post in December 2005 when it was vacated by his predecessor Konstantin Pulikovsky; Iskhakov also acquired Pulikovsky's position on the Security Council. Iskhakov, an ethnic Tatar, had spent the previous seventeen years as mayor of Kazan. During his tenure, Kazan was the only municipality to contract a loan from the World Bank. Shortly after assuming oversight of the Far East region, Iskhakov headed Russia's delegation to the Organization of the Islamic Conference summit, where Russia has observer status.
On visiting the region in December 2005, Rashid Nurgaliyev, serving as head of the Russia's Ministry of Internal Affairs, discussed the region's "mounting social tension in the Far Eastern Federal District, the scales of the criminalization of its economy, and the rise in illegal migration." (1) This speech was seen as a blueprint for Iskhakov's efforts in his new post. Pursuant to addressing those issues, Iskhakov has adopted as his primary emphasis the social and economic development of the region.
The Far East has major natural resources, including oil, natural gas, coal, timber, gold, and diamonds. It is also home to substantial former Soviet military industries, which have yet to convert to efficient production. In order to be able to make use of its vast natural resources, the region needs a steady supply of labor. Consequently, of major concern is the number of persons migrating from the region. The Far East’s peak population was 8,057,000 inhabitants in 1991. (2) During the 1990s, the region’s population declined by almost 10 percent. (3) From 1990-1992, the Far East experienced a net outmigration of more than 225,000. (4) The extreme examples of this phenomenon are the regions of Magadan and Chukotka.; they have had 43 and 61 percent of their populations respectively leave from 1992-2002. (5) The current population of the Far East is around 7 million.
One of the primary reasons for the veritable exodus was the reduction of federal subsidies following the collapse of Communism. The price of food and other supplies, most of which have to be imported from outside regions, rose dramatically. Iskhakov plans to encourage immigration from other parts of Russia and the CIS by boosting the economic and social development of the region. The Far East's economy has begun to show improvement, but the numbers of emigrants have not declined.
Some of the Russian outmigration has been replaced by Chinese migrants to the Far East. Migration from China remains a tendentious topic, with estimates of the number of Chinese in the region ranging from a conservative 30,000 to a hyper-inflated 5 million. (6) From 1992-1993, the border between China and Russia was open; this changed when Russia began to require business visas in 1994. Many Chinese routinely gain entrance into Russia using tourist visas, which are cheaper than business visas, and then simply overstay.
Strategies to deal with Chinese migration have varied greatly. The local governments have placed restrictions on the localities Chinese tour groups may visit and in which hotels they may stay. Formally, tour guides are held responsible at the border if any of their party fail to reenter China. However, enforcement depends largely on personal relationships between tour guides and border guards. Additionally, Primorskii Krai and Khabarovskii Krai have implemented periodic police sweeps of markets and tour groups. In one of the more extreme measures, lawmakers in Primorskii Krai also established an initiative in 1999 to promote the founding of Cossack settlements along its Chinese border to help protect it from illegal immigrants. (7)
Presidential envoy Iskhakov's plan to draw migrants to the region from Russia and the CIS differs markedly from the efforts of Roman Abramovich, governor of the Chukotka region and one of Russia's wealthiest men. Since 2000, Abramovich has focused on making his region fairly self-sufficient as well as encouraging outmigration of all but the native inhabitants. Sustaining life in the region's demanding weather and natural conditions (extremely harsh winters combined with earthquakes and other natural hazards) is too costly, Abramovich contends; instead outmigration should be encouraged. The two points of view are not mutually exclusive; the two most likely regions to draw migrants are Primorskii Krai and Khabarovskii Krai, as evidenced by the concentration of Chinese migrants in the those areas.
The Far East does boast a significant criminal element, particularly around the border areas. The RFE has the leading crime rate of the federal districts - 290 crimes per 10,000 people. (8) Criminal elements are gaining footholds in some areas, most notably the timber industry. Timber is harvested illegally and exported to China. An estimated 1.5 million cubic meters of timber are illegally harvested annually in Primorskii Krai alone. (9) Recently, corruption cases were filed against the chiefs of Vladivostok and Bryansk customs houses.
Other issues currently facing Iskhakov include management of the merger of the Koryak Autonomous Area and the Kamchatka region and oversight of reconstruction in the Koryak Autonomous Region following a destructive earthquake. The Koryak Autonomous Area and Kamchatka region recently announced that they could finish the merger as soon as 1 July 2006, a full year ahead of schedule. The current governor of Kamchatka, Oleg Kozhemyako, likely will head up the new region, christened Kamchatka territory. The merger was approved by the popular vote (78% in favor) in an October 2005 referendum. Other possible mergers include the Chukotka and Magadan regions.
On 21 April, the Koryak Autonomous Region (located on the Kamchatka peninsula) was struck by an earthquake that registered 7.9 on the Richter scale, requiring the evacuation of 1,000 people. The destruction caused by the earthquake has spurred further migration away from the region. Of the region’s 12,000 inhabitants, 1,500 had stated their desire to move after the 21 April earthquake. (10) The region was hit with another earthquake that registered a 6.0 on the Richter scale on 23 May. After the first earthquake, Putin ordered reconstruction to be completed by August in order to try to be prepared for the onset of winter.
(1) Yekaterina Blinova and Roman Ukolov: "The Far East Earns a Demerit," Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 18 Dec 05 via WNC. FBIS Transcribed Text.
(2) Timothy Heleniak, “Demographic Change in the Russian Far East,” in Michael J. Bradshaw, ed., The Russian Far East and Pacific Asia: Unfulfilled Potential, Richmond, UK: Curzon Press, 2001, p. 138.
(3) Timothy Heleniak, “Demographic Change in the Russian Far East,” p. 139.
(4) Sherman W. Garnett, Limited Partnership: Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 1998, p. 34.
(5) Timothy Heleniak, “Migration Dilemmas Haunt Post-Soviet Russia,” Migration Information Source, Country Profile, October 2002, http://www.migrationinformation.org/Profiles/display.cfm?ID=62, p. 6. Accessed 1 March 2006.
(6) Galina Vitkovskaya, “Does Chinese Migration Endanger Russian Security?” Vol. 1, Iss. 8, Aug 99, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, http://www.carnegie.ru/en/pubs/briefings/48353.htm, p. 2. Accessed 1 Mar 06.
(7) Vladivostok News, no. 172, 24 Jun 98 as cited in Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, “The Russian Far East’s Economic Integration with Northeast Asia: Problems and Prospects,” Pacific Affairs 72 (2), 1999, p. 221.
(8) Russia Far East crime fighting inadequate to tasks,” ITAR-TASS, 1 Mar 06 via WNC.
(9) Vilya Gelbras, “Chinese Migration in Russia,” Russia in Global Affairs (2), April – June 2005, http://eng.globalaffairs.ru/numbers/11/916.html, p. 4. Accessed 1 Mar 06.
(10) "Putin tells Russian earthquake region to rebuild by end of August," BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 15 May 06 via WNC.
By Robyn Angley (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ARMED FORCES (EXTERNAL)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is not a military alliance
Last month, Russian Federation Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov met in Beijing with the heads of the defense departments of the countries that comprise the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). At the beginning of his visit Ivanov explained to reporters that the SCO would not become a military-political alliance. (1) While a literal interpretation of the SCO charter supports Ivanov’s claim, the organization often serves as a convenient vehicle for military cooperation between its members. The end result is that although the SCO may not be a military alliance, it has many of the same characteristics.
The SCO charter
At April’s meeting in Beijing, Ivanov drew a contrast between the nature of the SCO alliance and that of other organizations, specifically NATO, and he emphasized that the SCO was not chartered to perform military functions other than what might be required to promote regional stability. (2) According to the charter of the SCO, Ivanov’s characterization is correct: there is no provision for a military alliance among SCO members. Unlike “Article 5” of the NATO charter – invoked by NATO immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – there is no article in the SCO charter by which an attack against one of its members is considered an attack against all of its members. (3) Although security and collective defense are often repeated themes, the SCO charter only specifies joint military action as a means to combat the triple threat that “terrorism, separatism, and extremism” pose to peace and security in the region. (4) But joint efforts under SCO auspices to combat this triple threat are indiscernible from joint efforts of other full-fledged military alliances.
One outcome of April’s meeting of SCO defense ministers was a promise to hold joint anti-terrorism exercises in Russia next year. (5) According to officials, these exercises will be held in 2007 in the Volga-Urals military district and will include Special Forces troops and air forces using precision-guided weapons. (6) Military forces of each of the six SCO member countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) will be represented at the exercises. The last such joint exercise, Coalition 2003, involved more than 1,300 troops and took place in Kazakhstan and China. If the planned exercises for 2007 bear any resemblance to those in 2003, they will involve thousands of troops, live fire ranges, advanced military weapons and tactics and, to outside observers, they will look very similar to joint exercises of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), NATO, or any number of political-military alliances.
Benefits of membership (or prospective membership)
The SCO also has served to facilitate military cooperation between its members (or prospective members) that otherwise might not have been possible.
India, which is an observer country to the SCO, reportedly will deploy 20 Mig-29 fighter aircraft to an airbase in Ayni, Tajikistan. (7) Considering Russia’s close military relationship with Tajikistan (both nations are CSTO members) and Russia’s frequent use of the airfield in Ayni, it is reasonable to expect that the Indian fighter deployment into the post-Soviet space might concern Russia. So, there can be little doubt that India and Tajikistan consulted Russia and that the Russians tacitly approved of the plan, all under the rubric of SCO membership. Indeed, the head of the Russian Federation Council's Security and Defense Committee, Viktor Ozerov, confirmed Russia’s approval when he told reporters, “considering that India is an observer in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and is bidding for full membership in the SCO…I think that the deployment of Indian planes [to Tajikistan] will meet the security interests of Russia.” (8)
However, affiliation with the SCO does not guarantee the benefits of military alliance, a lesson Iran currently is learning.
Like India, Iran is also an observer country to the SCO. But, unlike India, Iran seems destined to remain an observer for the foreseeable future. When Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mohammadi predicted in mid-April that, by the end of this summer, “[Iran] could become a full-blown participant [in the SCO],” Russian Defense Minister Ivanov curtly dismissed the idea. (9) From Beijing, Ivanov remarked, “Iran is an SCO observer, and no one has any obligations to it,” and he further rejected any “moronic ideas that the SCO will defend Iran.” (10) Even as the SCO likely is not meeting Iran’s expectations, it is significant that the Iranians sought to use the organization to meet their political and, possibly, military needs.
The SCO will continue to develop as a political organization. Although Sergei Ivanov may be correct when he promises that, as it develops, the SCO will never become an official military alliance, the level of military cooperation and exercise between its members suggests it will continue to function like one.
In accordance with agreements signed last year, Russia this month began to remove military equipment from its base in Akhalkalaki, Georgia in preparation for the closure of the Russian base there. Russian officials have promised that the base at Akhalkalaki will be closed by the end of this year. Moreover, Russia also has agreed to close its base in Batumi, on Georgia’s Black Sea coast. (11) A significant portion of the tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military equipment removed from Akhalkalaki likely will be re-located to Russian bases in Armenia, just a short distance from where they are now. (12) Vladimir Kuparadze, Deputy Commander of Russia’s forces in Georgia, confirmed as much when he told AFP reporters that “A part of the equipment will be delivered to the Gyumri base in Armenia.” (13) However, despite its obligations under a 1999 international treaty on force reduction, Russia refuses to evacuate its military base in Gudauta (Abkhazia).
While official Ukraine predicts its inevitable accession into NATO, Russia refuses to negotiate on the Black Sea Fleet accords.
Reuters reported on 2 May that Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers that Ukraine has embarked on an unalterable course toward NATO membership. (14) Tarasyuk remarked that, “those political parties that made anti-NATO slogans the core of their electoral programs have failed to get to the Ukrainian parliament” and that he further expects the Ukraine-NATO relationship to strengthen in 2006, ultimately resulting in an “invitation to accession talks." (15)
In what is ostensibly an unrelated issue, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Interfax on 3 May that Russia was not interested in renegotiating what it pays Ukraine to base Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Crimea. (16) Karasin stated that “reconsidering provisions such as the size and term of [Russia’s] rent is out of the question. It may result in a dangerous review of a wide range of issues, which does not meet the interests of either party.” (17) The status of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine often has been contentious; however, the “Gas War” of December 2005, the ensuing lighthouse row this January, and Ukraine’s recent overtures to NATO have combined to make the status of the Black Sea Fleet an even touchier subject. (18)
(1) Izvestiya, “SCO is Not NATO. Sergey Ivanov Strengthens Military-Political Positions in East,” 28 Apr 06; OSC translated text via World New Connection (WNC).
(2) ITAR-TASS, “Russia: Ivanov Urges SCO Coordination to Ensure Stability, Security,” 26 Apr 06; OSC transcribed text via WNC.
(5) Xinhua, “China, Kazakhstan to Increase Military Cooperation,” 27 Apr 06; OSC transcribed text via WNC.
(6) Xinhua, “SCO Member States Step Up Cooperation in Defense and Security,” 26 Apr 06; OSC translated text via WNC.
(7) Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, “Russian FC Member on Possible Indian Fighter Deployment to Tajikistan,” 28 Apr 06; OSC Transcribed text via WNC.
(9) ITAR-TASS, “Official Visiting Moscow Says Iran to Join Shanghai Body Summer 06,” 14 Apr 06; OSC translated excerpt via WNC.
(10) Interfax, “Russian DM Dismisses Idea of SCO Military Support for Iran as ‘Moronic’,” 24 Apr 06; OSC transcribed text via WNC.
(11) “Russian military hardware quits Georgia in base closure,” Agence France-Presse, 15 May 06, via Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) 2006-#113 (#30).
(12) For more on Russia’s base realignment in Georgia, see The ISCIP Analyst, Vol. XII, No. 3, 17 Mar 06, Armed Forces: External, by J.M. LeBlanc.
(13) “Russian military hardware quits Georgia in base closure,” Ibid.
(14) “Kyiv Says NATO Bid is ‘Irreversible’.” JM, 2 May 06, RFE/RL Volume 10, Number 79, Part II.
(16) “Russia Opposed to Renegotiating Rent for Black Sea Fleet,” BW, 3 May 06, RFE/RL Vol. 10, No. 80, Part I.
(18) For more on the “Lighthouse Row” between Russia and Ukraine, see The ISCIP Analyst, Vol. XII, No. 1, 27 Jan 06, Armed Forces: External, by J. M. LeBlanc.
By J. Marcel LeBlanc (email@example.com)
Severing all ties
On 2 May, Mikhail Saakashvili urged the government to consider the future of Georgian membership in the CIS. (1) Following his request, the parliament created a special Evaluation Commission, which few doubt will decide against continued membership. The Parliament and the opposition already have voted unanimously in favor of secession from the CIS (2), thus making the commission appear to be a mere formality. Georgia's membership, which was undertaken in response to the Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts, often is perceived as detrimental to its political and economic development. (3) It has experienced neither the promised benefits, nor any special security provisions, initially offered to CIS members. What it has received were continuous violations of and limits placed on its sovereignty by Russia. Hence, the Saakashvili government assesses the consequences of withdrawal to be minimal, particularly when compared to the hazards of membership. Withdrawal from the CIS likely would aid Georgia’s inclusion in NATO, which, it is assumed, would provide the necessary security and economic guarantee. Withdrawal from the CIS does not require Georgia to sever its ties with countries with which the relationship could be construed as bilateral, bypassing the middleman.
It seems apparent that the ultimate goal of Georgia's European strategy is NATO membership. However, the membership path, assuming NATO decides to accept Georgia, likely will include resolution of the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In light of this probable twin caveat, Georgia has recently stepped up negotiating efforts with its breakaway regions. Bilateral talks with Abkhazia commenced on 15 May when the Georgian-Abkhaz Coordination Council met for the first time in five years (4); the session was attended by the Georgian and Abkhaz delegations, as well as Russia, Britain, United States, France and Germany. The Abkhaz delegation submitted a "peace plan," and the two sides officially agreed to resume negotiation efforts. (5) Abkhazia insists that its independence is the core principle of a negotiated plan, while Georgia rejected, and will reject, outright Abkhaz independence as a basis for negotiations. Georgia's acknowledgment of some Abkhaz proposals as "interesting" suggests that the process could still produce positive results. (6)
Georgia's resolve to keep its territory intact (endorsed by NATO among others), suggests that Georgia might be contemplating the renewal of military actions. (7) Georgia is determined to curtail Russian (especially military) involvement in its sovereign affairs. Georgia reinforced these assumptions by its actions regarding South Ossetia. First, it accused Russian forces of being biased and not fulfilling their “peacekeeping” mandate leading to calls for a Russian withdrawal and replacement by an international force. (8) Second, Georgia refused to sign a non-aggression pact as a promise not to re-launch military actions in the region. (9) South Ossetia and Abkhazia therefore claim to have confirmation in their fears.
Throughout May, Russian leverage in the region continued to dissipate, and further receded with the long-awaited pull out of Russian forces from their military base in Akhalkalaki. (10) The complete withdrawal, which began May 15, from Akhalkalaki and Batumi is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, with the transfer of 25% of the military equipment to Daghestan. It seems that Georgia has managed to diminish Russia's ability to influence diplomatic and political processes in the region; however, despite the obligations of the 1999 international agreement on reduction of forces, Russia continues to keep its forces in Gudauta (Abkhazia).
An escalation or, perhaps, stabilization?
In the past week there were several attacks on policemen and servicemen throughout Chechnya, Daghestan, Karachevo-Cherkessia and Ingushetia, representing an alarming increase in the frequency of such incidents. The separatist website Kavkaz-Center proudly announced on 20 May that “more than 40 occupiers and marionettes have been killed and wounded in the past two days in Chechnya.” (11) Sporadic attacks by guerrilla groups from 17-19 May in various districts throughout the republic have left 38 dead, and around forty wounded, the website claims. These represent a continuation of attacks from the previous week, in Shali and several mountainous districts of the republic. The operation in Noviye Atagi left three Russian soldiers dead and three wounded and claimed the lives of two rebel commanders, Timur Maayev and Bilal Edilsultanov. Meanwhile ambushes and covert attacks on policemen and servicemen happened sporadically throughout the Nozhai-Yurt, Kurchalovskii, Vvedenskii and Itum-Kalinskii districts on 13 and 14 May. (12)
On 16 May a policeman, nine civilians and two militants were killed in a twelve hour battle in the Daghestan city of Kizil-Yurt. The rebels blockaded themselves in an apartment building, which subsequently was stormed by the Special Forces. Kommersant reported that the diagram of Kizil-Yurt School No. 7 had been “found” on one of the rebels (13); however the legitimacy of his discovery remains highly questionable, as does the issue of whether the two militants were more than just guerrilla fighters. This operation left the apartment building almost fully destroyed, but successfully “smoked out” the two rebels. The high death toll, severe destruction, length of the battle and the fact that the Russian forces employed heavy machinery, once again exposes the inadequateness and the lack of professionalism of the Special Forces in dealing with the rebels.
Multiple attacks throughout Chechnya and Daghestan followed the assassinations of Ingushetia’s Deputy Interior Minister Dzhabrail Kustoev and the head of Karachevo-Cherkess SIZO (FSB detention center) Khasan Zhanaev on 17 May. Both killings are considered to be “profession-related” by Russian investigators (14); however, certain remarks from the rebel site cause concern. One of the rebel commanders, Amir Magas, in an interview, published 17 May on Kavkaz-Center, mentions the unstoppable nature of jihad in the North Caucasus. (15) Moreover, he speaks of the creation of Special Operational Groups (SOG) endorsed by Shamil Basayev in the North Caucasus Front, whose stated aims include “target[ed] attacks on certain persons; planning and execution of adequate military operations in destroying previously specified targets, as a response to FSB actions.” (16) Since no group claimed either of the attacks, their origin is open to speculation; assassinations carried out by SOG or by individual rebels under the direct orders of Basayev seem a likely possibility. However, since the Russian government continues to promote the image of the relative stability of the region and the success of its forces, it will accept any explanation, except the one that is most probable.
Escalations of attacks into Karachevo-Cherkessia and Ingushetia, as well as more fierce and frequent attacks on policeman and servicemen in Daghestan and Chechnya have been alarming to many, save the Russian government, which still considers the situation in the Caucasus as “stabilizing” and “under control.” Militant groups have increased their membership, and SOGs have been highly successful. Operations similar to the one in Kizil-Yurt, where security services units inadequately “smoke out” two would-be terrorists with mediocre (and damaging) tactics in a civilian area, serve only to create a semblance of activity and response, instead of serious consideration and actual control.
(1) ITAR-TASS, 8 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection (WNC).
(2) Georgian TV1, 8 May 06; OSC Translated Excerpt via World News Connection (WNC).
(4) ITAR-TASS, 15 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via Word News Connection (WNC).
(6) Rustavi-2 Television, 15 May 06; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection (WNC).
(7) Interfax, 11 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection (WNC).
(8) Interfax, 18 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection (WNC).
(9) Interfax, 12 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection (WNC)
(10)AFP (North European Service) 15 May 06; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection (WNC).
(11) Kavkaz-Center, 20 May 06; http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2006/05/20/44642.shtml
(12) Kavkaz-Center, 13 May 06; http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2006/05/13/44431.shtml
Kavkaz-Center, 14 May 06;http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2006/05/14/44435.shtml
(13) Kommersant, 18 May 06; http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.html?DocID=674434&IssueId=30097
(14) Newsru.com, 17 May 06; http://newsru.com/arch/russia/17may2006/kostoev.html
(15) Kavkaz-Center, 17 May 06; http://www.kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2006/05/17/44511.shtml
By Anastasia Skoybedo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
GUAM and the Orange Coalition
This week, two important events overlapped in Ukraine – the GUAM summit and the start of the country’s new parliamentary session. The grand ambition of the former highlights the crisis engulfing the latter. No matter how many promises are made at the summit, or how many working groups created, without an effectively functioning parliament and a visionary cabinet able to implement projects, little can be accomplished.
The two-day GUAM event in Kyiv, where the presidents of Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan welcomed representatives from Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and the United States, was designed to increase the profile of the organization and find joint responses to questions of energy security and separatism. Members also officially changed the name of the group to The Organization for Democracy and Economic Development–GUAM. Like earlier summits, it was marked primarily by lofty intentions. But, unlike earlier summits, the members of ODED-GUAM seemed to understand the need to move from words to actions.
The first step was the signing of a “free trade protocol” by the members. The protocol is designed to allow easier access to the markets of other ODED-GUAM members in an attempt to blunt some of the damage from Russia’s bans on several of their most important products. It should be noted, however, that typical of other similar Ukrainian initiatives, this is a protocol of intentions. President Yushchenko explained, “The protocol we signed today makes agencies and ministries responsible for formulating all these procedures.” The President also noted that additional work needs to be done to “unify” customs, border, and tariff policies. (1)
Therefore, it is clear that the actual procedures for implementing free trade have not yet been worked out, and it will be up to an as yet unnamed Ukrainian government, not the presidential administration, to ensure that it happens in Ukraine. Still, the protocol seems to go farther than previous GUAM attempts at synchronizing aspects of their economy, and if an accord is completed, it would be a major step forward for the organization.
Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko also suggested a number of additional, ambitious ideas, couched in grand language. “We are united by common values, common goals, the aspiration to occupy a respectable place in a united Europe,” he said. “I am firmly convinced that our region has a great potential and will become one of the most promising in modern Europe.” (2)
Yushchenko announced that his country would like to build a large new oil refining facility and to participate in new energy transit opportunities. He talked about the need to end separatist conflicts and disrupt organized crime and smuggling rings. (3)
But all of these things, as well as implementation of the free trade protocol, take an effectively functioning, activist government – a government willing to begin big new projects and to create a vision for the future. As of today, Ukraine does not have one of these. In fact, the government has largely been in caretaking mode since January, as the parliamentary election season began. And the energy-related projects promoted this week by Yushchenko have been discussed in Ukraine for almost a year. Most are worthwhile, some are possible, and real progress has been made on none.
It appears that this caretaker government could be in place through June, since the country’s political parties cannot seem to agree on the parliamentary majority that will name the cabinet and prime minister.
In fact, the ODED-GUAM summit did not interrupt what has become an endless cycle of bickering and backstabbing over the creation of a majority. But there is little hope that a possible visit by U.S. President George Bush would provide an impetus to end the fighting, either.
The Financial Times reported this week that Bush is planning a visit to Kyiv in June or July. (4) Individuals connected with the proposed visit have confirmed privately that the White House is targeting 21 June for the visit, in advance of the U.S.-European Union Summit. They say that in Kyiv Bush may be prepared to announce U.S. support for the opening of NATO accession talks and to use the opportunity to support Ukraine’s entry into the WTO this year. (5)
However, there is one very large catch. If a reform-oriented government is not in place before mid-June, President Bush will not stop in Kyiv. Clearly, the visit then has two goals – to demonstrate U.S. support for President Viktor Yushchenko’s reform agenda, and to pressure Ukraine’s politicians to agree on a new government two months after the country’s 26 March parliamentary elections.
But the immediate response from some of Ukraine’s political leaders undoubtedly will clause concern at the White House, and suggests that Mr. Bush may have to forego his stop in Kyiv. Despite announcing on 25 May that the coalition partner are moving closer together on a program, it appears that they are as far apart as ever on their biggest sticking point – who will take the post of prime minister.
On 24 May, two of the three possible members of Ukraine’s potential “orange” majority coalition, The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYUT) and the Socialist Party, initialed a joint draft coalition agreement. The document, which is said to include a detailed program, includes the standard European coalition provision that the biggest party in the coalition will name the prime minister. (6)
But BYUT and the Socialists cannot form a government alone. They need the third potential coalition partner, the third “orange” party, the pro-presidential Our Ukraine bloc. And that bloc seems unwilling to agree.
On 23 May, Our Ukraine’s spokeswoman announced that the bloc had finalized its own draft coalition agreement – one which did not include any provision for choosing the prime minister. (7) Given that this provision is standard in most European government coalition agreements, this stance creates a decidedly anti-European impression. Can a party that calls itself pro-European reject a key European parliamentary point?
Apparently, yes. Several prominent Our Ukraine members have stated publicly that they simply will not support a coalition with Tymoshenko at its head, despite finishing eight points behind Tymoshenko in March’s elections.
This is, of course, more of the same jostling. But as the parties argue, reforms are stalled, the economy is underperforming in key areas, and Russia’s Gazprom has said it is preparing to raise gas prices substantially, as early as 1 July. “This is a funny way to go about proving they should be admitted to European structures,” a foreign European diplomat recently said privately. It is, said a U.S. official, “a mess.”
Therefore, the U.S., which sees Ukraine as an important strategic partner, is attempting to nudge President Yushchenko forward with Bush’s visit, and to show the world that the U.S. remains supportive of the beleaguered president.
Although Yulia Tymoshenko has been criticized by some for speaking publicly about negotiations, it is, in fact, Viktor Yushchenko and the Our Ukraine party that have received the bulk of recent criticism from foreign officials and press, both publicly and privately. A recent appearance by Presidential Secretariat Head Oleh Rybachuk on BBC’s HARDTalk provides the clearest example. The interview featured Rybachuk zigging and zagging as journalist Stephen Sackur threw sharp daggers at him over Our Ukraine’s coalition stance and the largely discredited January 2006 gas deal with Russia. (8)
The most basic question was the one on everyone’s mind: “Yulia Tymoshenko clearly won the biggest number of votes in that [proposed] orange coalition, 22% of the vote,” he said, “a much bigger bloc than that which went to Our Ukraine, so she must be the prime minister, mustn’t she?”
Of course, Rybachuk did not agree, suggesting in the midst of a somewhat rambling answer that she must first “convince [people] she is a different person.” Sackur responded that perhaps Yushchenko was attempting to protect his “cronies” from Tymoshenko’s “anti-corruption crusade.” It is a disturbing opinion.
On 23 May, the schism between BYUT and Our Ukraine seemed to widen further when BYUT representative Oleksandr Turchinov left early from a group tasked with preparing the opening of the new parliamentary session on 25 May. Turchinov and other BYUT representatives complained that previous agreements over everything from seat distribution in the hall to committee assignments were not kept by Our Ukraine. (9)
At the same time, current Acting Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, number one on the list of Our Ukraine, called again for a majority coalition that would include Our Ukraine, the Party of Regions, BYUT and the Socialists – or 96% of the parliament. (10) Needless to say, most students of parliamentary standards would agree that a majority of 96% will not function.
Regardless, Tymoshenko has repeatedly said that she will not join a coalition that includes those accused of rigging the 2004 presidential election – the Party of Regions. So, in reality, Yekhanurov is calling for a coalition that includes Our Ukraine, Regions and the Socialists. This would represent a total abandonment of the “orange” ideals.
So then, the question becomes – how can a government so fractured initiate the projects envisioned by ODED-GUAM, or create opportunities that were not previously considered? Of course, it cannot.
Once again, then, it comes down to President Yushchenko. He must broker a coalition agreement. And he must convince Our Ukraine – which campaigned under the slogan “The Party of Yushchenko” and which lists Viktor Yushchenko as its “honorary leader” – that it is time to accept the reality of a Tymoshenko premiership based on her bloc’s success in the election. Not to do so simply invites questions like those posed by the BBC’s Mr. Sackur, endangers the projects envisioned by ODED-GUAM, and puts an important visit by the U.S. President at risk.
(1) “President pleased with GAUM summit,” Press Office of President Viktor Yushchenko, 13:50 CET, 23 May 06.
(2) “Ukrainian President Announces Free-Trade Zone at GUAM Summit,” TV 5 Kanal, 0920 GMT, 23 May 06 via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) “Prospect of Bush visit puts pressure on Kiev parties,” Financial Times, 19 May 06.
(5) Conversations/e-mails with author.
(6) “Tymoshenko bloc, Socialists agree on democratic coalition – 1,” RIA Novosti, 1527 CET, 24 May 06 via Yahoo! News; and “Moroz i Timoshenko parafuvali koalytsyinu ugodu,” UNIAN News Agency, 1334 CET, 24 May 06 via www.unian.net.
(7) “The Our Ukraine bloc has written a coalition agreement and asks allies to co-ordinate the text,” Press Service of Our Ukraine, 1140 CET, 23 May 06, and “Petro Poroshenko: The Our Ukraine bloc has not settled personnel affairs yet,” 1514 CET, 22 May 06 via www.razom.org.ua/en.
(8) BBC HARDTalk, 2 May 06, BBC World, 0330 GMT 0830 GMT 1530 GMT 1830 GMT 2330 GMT; BBC News 24, 0430 and 2330; complete interview available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/hardtalk/4965486.stm.
(9) ITAR-TASS, 0908 EST, 23 May 06 via Lexis-Nexis; and Press Service of BYUT, 1646 CET, 23 May 06 via www.byut.com.ua.
(10) Ibid (ITAR-TASS).
By Tammy Lynch (email@example.com)
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