The ISCIP Analyst
Behind the Breaking News
Volume III Number 7 (May 7, 1998)
by Susan J. Cavan
Russia and China cooperation in nuclear power
DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
by Michael Thurman
Rosvooruzhenie denies reports of shrinking revenues...
Director General Yevgeni Ananev of Rosvooruzhenie reported to the Duma's Defense Committee that the state's arms trader had already received orders totaling more than $8.5 billion for work out to the year 2003. According to Interfax, sources have reported that the amount may exceed $9 billion by the end of 1998. During a press conference held after the closed-door session with the Duma, Ananev cited many examples and statistics to refute claims that arms sales revenues had actually shrunk; he gave Russian President Yel'tsin's August 1997 decree "On Measures to Strengthen State Control Over Cooperation for Trade in Arms and Related Services with Foreign Countries" credit for much of the success. Ananev said that, since 1996, the number of importers had grown from 49 countries to 58 and that planned arms exports for 1998 would be almost $3.5 billion.
Ananev's primary argument was that the net gains
due to arms sales have increased. During the press conference he pointed
out that the former Soviet Union annually supplied weapons to countries
with extremely limited budgets. He said that "our [Soviet] arms exports
were an addition to our ideological expansion" and claimed that the
practice of handing out arms for free had stopped. He compared 1997 arms
exports proceeds of $2.5 billion to the Soviet arms exports in 1990 worth
more than $16 billion but with gains of less than $900 million. (Interfax,
1404 GMT, 16 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-106, and Interfax, 0903 GMT, 28 Apr 98;
Defense minister snubs NATO commander
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Heads of State hold summit
The twice postponed Heads of State meeting was finally held in Moscow on 29 April. Unlike previous conferences, which often took up several days, this summit apparently only lasted three hours. In keeping with past meetings, the council failed to sign any significant documents and did not issue a joint communique at the end of the conference. Commenting on the failure to issue a joint statement, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev said, "What is the sense if nothing is decided?" Nazarbaev went on to describe the summit as "totally empty" and "leading nowhere."
The issue of establishing an "interstate forum," first put forward by Ukrainian President Kuchma and Yel'tsin after their bilateral meeting last month--and one of the main agenda items--was shelved until at least July. The question of CIS military cooperation and planning through the year 2001 was also postponed due to a lack of consensus among the presidents. The Russian-sponsored "Declaration on the Further Development of Equitable Partnership and Cooperation in the CIS" was also voted down due to objections from Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan because it did not contain language confirming the territorial integrity of CIS member states. Russian initiatives were not the only ones to receive short shrift. President Nazarbaev's proposal to create a single CIS economic space and a free trade zone was also rejected (Intelnews, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120, Jamestown Monitor, 30 Apr 98, and ITAR-TASS, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
Commonwealth leadership posts filled
The biggest shock to come out of the CIS summit was the appointment of Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky as CIS executive secretary. Berezovsky takes the post from Belarusian Ivan Korotchenya, who held it since 1991 when the secretariat was known as the CIS working group. Berezovsky's appointment may be seen as a shift in policy for Moscow from an attempt to dominate the CIS politically and militarily to a policy which recognizes economic dominance as the critical locus. If there were any question of the extent to which Korotchenya was Yel'tsin's lapdog, the Russian president promised to find the dismissed secretary an "equal post" in the future. It will be interesting to see if that post materializes in the Russian government (Interfax, 1028 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
Boris Yel'tsin was again elected to the post of chairman of the Council of Heads of State, this time until the year 2000. In a somewhat surprising move--in that it actually fulfills the requirement of the CIS charter to rotate leadership positions--Uzbek Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov was elected chairman of the Council of Heads of Government and Aueznur Kazhenov was appointed to preside over the CIS Economic Court. Now that Berezovsky has been named executive secretary, it is likely that power will begin flowing away from these councils and toward the secretariat. Therefore, these non-Russian appointments may be strictly ceremonial (Interfax, 1028 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
Major General Sergei Korobko's status as commander of CIS peacekeeping forces in Georgia was confirmed by the heads of state. Korobko has been serving as acting commander of the unit for several months after President Shevardnadze requested the expulsion of the old commander for "taking sides" in the Abkhazian conflict (ITAR-TASS, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
Russia guts its CIS bureaucracy
Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko's government reforms have destroyed the special status previously enjoyed by Russia's CIS bureaucracy. When Kirienko reduced the number of deputy premier slots to three, he eliminated the post of deputy premier for CIS affairs, the position Ivan Rybkin filled just last month. He then abolished the CIS cooperation ministry, leaving Anatoli Adamishin, who took the post approximately six months ago, without a job. The functions of the ministry are being transferred to the foreign ministry, and probably to First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, who has said that, although several commonwealth countries have pursued friendly relations with capitols other than Moscow, "We shall not allow this process to develop to the detriment of Russia's interests" (Jamestown Monitor, 1 May 98, and Interfax, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120).
Special services' chiefs meet
Russian Federal Security Service director Nikolai Kovalev chaired the third meeting of the CIS council of special services' chiefs in Yerevan a few days prior to the Heads of State meeting. Representatives of all countries except Azerbaijan attended. Kovalev ended the session by saying, "We have come to the unambiguous conclusion that it is necessary to unite efforts and will do our utmost towards this end." He also reported that 15 documents had been signed and, although their contents were classified, at least a few dealt with the "military technical aspect" of cooperation.
The conference, mirroring previous meetings, addressed procedures to combat terrorism, organized crime, economic crimes and illegal migration. An agreement to exchange information on the movements of known members of terrorist organizations was approved and additional work on the joint data bank developed last year was completed (ITAR-TASS, 27-28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-116 and FBIS-SOV-98-117; Snark, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118).
CIS peacekeeping zone extended--again
Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said that the CIS decided to expand the Russian peacekeepers' patrol zone in Georgia. A similar decree was issued last March by the heads of state but was never enforced. This time the order comes from the CIS Collective Security Council (formed in Tashkent in 1992) and was not addressed at the Heads of State summit. It is improbable, however, that the new order will meet with any more success than the previous one (Interfax, 1512 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
The 'Four' become 'Five'
Prime ministers from the "Group of Four" (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan) held a meeting chaired by Kyrgyz Prime Minister Kubanychbeck Zhumaliev on 28 April in Moscow. The group spent most of its time discussing how best to forge a single economic space in the CIS. The main event at the meeting was the inclusion of Tajikistan as a full member. The council also agreed to adopt Kazakh President Nazarbaev's "Ten Simple Steps" as the model for future economic integration. The steps include mutual recognition of university diplomas and scientific degrees, as well as simplification of money transfers and postal deliveries. They also call for allowing free passage across state borders, and simplifying the procedure for gaining citizenship.
The council adopted a treaty on the legal status of citizens of one country permanently living in another member state, stipulating that such citizens are not subject to restrictions on their rights or "additional obligations which may be set for foreign citizens in the receiving country." The group also decided to move its headquarters from Moscow to Almaty (ITAR-TASS, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118, and Interfax, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118). Despite their work, however, the heads of state decided not to adopt further economic integration for the entire CIS. Nazarbaev's plan, therefore, will only be used by "The Five."
by Mark Jones
New Alliance for Democratic Reforms holds a majority in the parliament
After almost five weeks of political maneuvering the right-wing Democratic Convention of Moldova (CDM) and the Party of Democratic Forces (PFD) signed an agreement with the pro-presidential Bloc for Democratic and Prosperous Moldova (BMDP) to form the ruling Alliance for Democracy and Reforms (ADR). By joining ranks they effectively quashed any hopes that Moldova's Communist Party retained to dominate the parliament with its 41 seats. The ADR's combined total is 60 seats.
The ADR was made possible by the reconciliation of Moldova's President Petru Lucinschi and his predecessor Mircea Snegur, head of the Party of Rebirth and Conciliation, which joined forces with the Moldovan Popular Front to form the CDM for the parliamentary elections. (Infotag, 1800 GMT, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118) The two had not met since Lucinschi assumed office on 15 January 1997. Snegur said that the three parties had to disregard their ideological differences, since the "next four years would be hard" ones in order to solve Moldova's economic crisis. (Rompress, 1420 GMT, 27 Apr 98; FBIS-EEU-98-117)
However, this arrangement is one of convenience rather than genuine reconciliation of party platforms. The first cracks in the alliance appeared over negotiations for Moldova's new prime minister. The CDM won the right to name the new prime minister after ceding the parliament's chairmanship to the BMPD's candidate, Dumitru Diacov. Infighting broke out in the CDM when Snegur's group protested the Popular Front's nomination of parliament deputy and economist Valentin Dolganiuc. President Lucinschi also protested the nomination, saying he preferred someone who had no prior strong political affiliations. (Basapress, 2000 GMT, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-121) When it became clear that the Popular Front would not name a new candidate, Snegur allied himself with the BMPD in favor of current Prime Minister Ion Ciubuc, who with his cabinet had formally resigned last week. Ciubuc was instructed by President Lucinschi to form a new government on 6 May. (Jamestown Monitor, 7 May 98)
In the Gagauz-Yeri autonomous oblast the new coalition has not been widely recognized. In its stead the region's parliamentarians are seeking to form a new party. Halk Birlii, leader of the Unity of the People Party, said that the new party would be "aimed at uniting patriots of the (oblast)...and South Moldova in order to avoid a union between Moldova and Romania." During the parliamentary elections the Constitutional Court vetoed a proposal by the oblast's parliament to hold simultaneously a referendum on a constitution for the region. (Basapress, 1600 GMT, 24 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-116)
Transdniestr's hopes to join Russian-Belarusian Union vetoed
At the recent CIS summit in Moscow, Russia's President Boris Yel'tsin and Ukraine's Leonid Kuchma issued a joint statement disapproving of a region-wide poll in Transdniestr on the regions joining the Russian-Belarusian Union. The poll is being run by a local pro-union movement, with the assistance of Alexandru Caraman, Transdniestr's vice president, from 25 April through 15 May. (Basapress, 2000 GMT, 30 Apr 98: FBIS-SOV-98-121)
This statement in support of Moldova's claim to the region contradicts reports by Bender city's Mayor Fedor Dobrov, who says he attended talks on Transdniestr joining the union at the ministry level in both Minsk and Moscow. He said that Transdniestr hopes to achieve observer status in the Union soon, as have some Armenian and Ukrainian political groups. (Infotag, 1600 GMT, 24 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-114)
Hints of the Soviet era still abound...
At the annual May Day parade many persons took to the streets of Minsk holding pictures of Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenka above their heads and with slogans one could have seen in Moscow's Red Square 12 to 15 years ago: "No to War, but Yes to Meat and Sugar." (NTV, 1200 GMT, 1 May 98; FBIS-SOV-98-121)
The Soviet-esque march followed a meeting Lukashenka held with state officials four days previously, during which he demanded that they "improve their efficiency." Lukashenka cited polls in which 60 percent of Belarusians believed bureaucrats are "indifferent to people and nearly half said... (the authorities) were engaged in red tape and lacked general culture." He said that a team of Belarusian scientists had been gathered to create an ideology of the state that would direct and inspire citizens in "constructive work." As in the days of the Soviet Union, propagandists in charge of ideological activities have been assigned to large state-owned factories and farms. (Interfax, 1624 GMT, 27 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-117)
Russian youth join the Belarusian opposition in protest
During a 25 April rally to commemorate Belarus's Chernobyl victims, plainclothes policemen detained between 30 to 40 demonstrators. Included among the detainees were 15 Russian minors, some as young as 14 years old. They are members of the Moscow-based Antifascist Youth action. Their leader, Petru Kaznacheev, said at the rally that the group came to Minsk because "Belarus had become an island of dictatorship and turned into an ordinary police state." (Belapan, 1409 GMT, 26 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-116) The following day the group was deported to the Russian town Smolensk. They were accompanied on a train by a Belarusian security convoy.
Progress of Union lagging
During a visit to Moscow for the CIS Summit, Lukashenka spoke to a group of students at Moscow's Literary Institute. He told them that Russia was not yet ready for a "full-fledged union" with Belarus. He criticized the slowness of unification, citing hundreds of signed agreements that had yet to be implemented. Lukashenka said cooperation was vital and that he could not "be indifferent to what is going on in Russia. If Russia sinks, everybody else will." (Interfax, 1448 GMT, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118) The next day in a meeting with Lukashenka, Russian President Boris Yel'tsin said he believed that relations between the two states were progressing "well enough." (ITAR-TASS, 0946 GMT, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98- 118)
Tarasyuk's pro-NATO statements
Boris Tarasyuk, Ukraine's new foreign minister, is already out campaigning for Ukraine's closer integration with the West. In an interview with Uryadovyy Kuryer just prior to his appointment, he emphasized that "NATO remains the only security structure which has the means to maintain peace in Europe." Tarasyuk stated that Ukraine and even Russia should consider joining the organization.
In the same interview he said Ukraine's "long term strategic goal was EU membership." At this time, however, he believes that Ukraine is not ready to join the economic union, since the country lacks the necessary infrastructure and bureaucratic apparatus to maintain the EU's standards. (Uryadovyy Kuryer, 18 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119)
Punches thrown in fight for new speaker in Crimea's parliament
As the new Crimean parliament convened in Simferopol on 29 April, protesters stood outside demanding Communist candidate Leonid Grach be appointed parliament speaker after Crimean Prime Minister Anatoli Franchuk tried to have him barred from running. Inside the parliament, the dispute evolved into a fist fight. Franchuk supports the reelection of former speaker Anatoli Gritsenko. Grach accused Franchuk of attempting to place his own puppet in the post, and promised that if elected he would immediately dismiss the PM. (Intelnews, 0149 GMT, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120)
As of 5 May the dispute had not been settled, although the Communists had appealed to Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, the Rada and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly to intervene. (Jamestown Monitor, 5 May 98)
Cooperation is always rewarded
On 6 May the United States signed an agreement with Ukraine enabling it to produce its own nuclear fuel for reactors. Currently Ukraine purchases fuel rods from Russia. The deal is said to be worth $30 million. The initiative is clearly a reward for Ukraine's backing out of its prior contract with Russia to provide turbines to a nuclear power plant in Iran. (Jamestown Monitor, 6 May 98)
by Tracy Gerstle
Defense minister resigns amid sabotage charges
Defense Minister Vardiko Nadibaidze resigned on 27 April amid charges of failing to provide military escort planes for the presidential plane. At the same time, it became publicly known that military personnel were suspected of involvement in the 9 February attempt to assassinate President Shevardnadze.
On 27 April, Shevardnadze revealed that all of Georgia's tanks in the vicinity of Tbilisi were sabotaged on the day of the assassination attempt. The tanks had been drained of motor oil and hence could not have been used to secure the capital had the assassination attempt succeeded. Shevardnadze disclosed that "the brother of one of the terrorists was the commander of that tank battalion," and indicated that an investigation was underway. (Radio Tbilisi Network, 0800 GMT, 27 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-117)
The defense minister's resignation was linked specifically with the sabotage of Georgian planes while they were being serviced at a Russian base. The planes were supposed to provide escort for the presidential plane during Shevardnadze's trip to Turkey but were disabled when sand and stones were placed in their engines. Neither the Georgian prosecutor, Badri Bitsadze, nor the president blamed Russia for the incident. Instead they emphasized that the servicing of the planes was a routine procedure that should not have taken place at the Russian bases at all. (Radio Rossii, 1800 GMT, 27 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-117) The former defense minister has not been formally charged with any crime; on the contrary, Shevardnadze praised his accomplishments at reorganizing the Georgian military. At least thus far, Nadibaidze has not fled to Russia.
The new defense minister, Colonel Davit Tevzade, served previously as the head of the Main Military Inspection of the Georgian Armed Forces General Staff. He earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from Tbilisi University. A native of Sukhumi, he joined the armed forces in 1992 as a battalion commander and rose to brigade leader during the war with Abkhazia. In 1994-95 he attended courses at the NATO military college in Rome and in 1996-97 attended classes at the military college of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. (ITAR-TASS, 1711 GMT, 27 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-117, and ITAR-TASS, 1712 GMT, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118)
After Tevzade was confirmed by parliament, Shevardnadze promoted him to the rank of major-general and introduced him to the ministry staff on 30 April. (Interfax, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120) Shevardnadze emphasized the following as the most important and immediate challenges for the armed forces:
by Miriam Lanskoy
Russia, Kazakhstan settle differences on Caspian division and Baikonur
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev and Russian President Boris Yel'tsin met in Moscow on 28 April to sign a statement on their agreement over the division of the Caspian Sea bed. The two presidents will sign a formal agreement on the seabed's division in early July. The statement also called for the leaders of all the other littoral states to make greater efforts to reach an agreement on the sea's legal status (Interfax, 1158 GMT, 28 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-118). The Kazakh and Russian presidents were able to resolve most of their differences over the division of the Caspian Sea's resources at a 9 April meeting in Moscow, where they agreed that, although the seabed should be divided into national sectors along median lines, the sea's surface should not be divided and should be demilitarized (Interfax, 1809 GMT, 9 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-099). Agreements on shipping and fishing rights and on environmental considerations will need to be addressed by all of the littoral states together (Interfax, 0935 GMT, 20 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-110).
The two presidents were also able to reach an initial settlement of the Baikonur lease agreement. President Yel'tsin agreed that the Russian government should pay $115 million for its use of the Baikonur space station in 1998. The $460 million which the Russian government owes for its lease of the facilities over the past four years will be repaid in increments, once the two countries' governments have agreed on how to restructure the debt (ITAR-TASS, 0704 GMT, 21 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-111).
Kazakhstan adopts plan for nuclear energy development
On 14 April, the Kazakh government approved a draft program for the development of its nuclear energy sector. The draft calls for three nuclear reactors to be built at Lake Balkhash, each capable of supplying 640 megawatts of electricity. These reactors are to provide electricity mainly for Kazakhstan's southern regions, which are currently dependent on Uzbek power supplies. The draft program also proposes that additional nuclear reactors be built in Almaty, Akmola, and Ust-Kamenogorsk (Kazakhstanskaya pravda, 15 Apr 98, p. 1; FBIS-TAC-98-110).
The Lake Balkhash reactors are to begin producing electricity in 2005. US $440 million have been allocated for the construction of the reactors, which are to be Russian VVER-type reactors. The Kazakh government intends to raise the necessary funds for the Balkhash complex's construction principally by selling weapons-grade uranium to Russia (ITAR-TASS, 1140 GMT, 23 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-113).
90% of UTO troops registered, but only 40% have disarmed
On 29 April, Mizrob Kabirov, state advisor to President Rahmonov, announced to the Interfax news agency that approximately 4,000 United Tajik Opposition (UTO) troops are now registered and stationed in special training camps, in compliance with the terms of the peace agreement's military protocol. According to Kabirov's calculations, this means that at least 90 percent of the UTO's units have been registered. Those opposition troops who are considered physically fit enough are to be integrated eventually into Tajikistan's national army. The implementation of the measures specified in the military protocol is six months behind schedule, but Kabirov stated that the process would be completed by 1 July, in line with the deadline set by the International Contact Group at its 28 April meeting.
The International Contact Group (its members are the ambassadors of the various countries which have agreed to guarantee the implementation of the peace agreement) also unanimously called for the already much-delayed repatriation of the 500 UTO troops who remain in Afghanistan to be carried out no later than 25 May. Plans for how to transport these UTO troops and their weapons across the border (via the Lower Panj checkpoint) and to their bases in the Garm and Tavildora regions were still under discussion by representatives of the Tajik government, the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), the UTO, the command of the CIS Joint Peacekeeping Forces, and the UN mission (Interfax, 0704 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-UMA-98-119).
Another cause for concern among the members of the International Contact Group, and of the various international agencies which are involved in carrying out the terms of the peace agreement, is the fact that although nearly all of the UTO troops may now be registered, more than half of their arms have not. Thus far, only 40 percent of the UTO troops' weapons have been registered, according to a statement released by members of the UN Observer Mission on 29 April (Interfax, 1241 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119).
The huge influx of weapons into Tajikistan caused by the civil war is most likely the leading cause for the rising rate of violent crimes in the country, especially in and around Dushanbe, which is currently host to representatives of several different political and military factions.
Slow progress in the peace agreement's political protocol
On 25 April, a UTO representative announced to the press that Said Abdullo Nuri, the leader of the UTO and chairman of the NRC, had sent a letter to President Rahmonov nominating another eight opposition members to posts in the Tajik government. Nuri has proposed that these opposition members be appointed to head two ministries and five government organizations and also to fill another deputy prime minister's post. The names of the nominees were not identified (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1600 GMT, 25 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-115).
New clashes reported in Kofarnihon and near Dushanbe
According to a Tajik defense ministry spokesman, government forces (Tajik defense ministry troops) were attacked by UTO troops on 29 April outside Rokhaty, a village located 10 kilometers east of Dushanbe, after they refused to meet the opposition group's demand that they abandon their post. The government troops eventually withdrew to a nearby military block post, but the UTO units again opened fire on them in the early evening. The government troops returned fire, and were subsequently joined by reinforcements from Dushanbe. Clashes between the two groups continued into the morning of the following day (Interfax, 0728 GMT, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120).
On the morning of 30 April, a large group of UTO troops attacked a Tajik defense ministry post in Kofarnihon, on the highway leading to Dushanbe. An unknown number of casualties were reported on both sides, as well as injuries to civilians. The same morning attacks were also reported on a border troop unit, an interior ministry troop detachment, and on three police posts. According to Radio Tajikistan, all of these attacks were launched by UTO units (Radio Tajikistan Second Channel Network, 1400 GMT, 30 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-120).
by Monika Shepherd
Changes come about in citizenship law
The For the Fatherland and Freedom /LNNK faction finally acceded to pressure from fellow government coalition members, international agencies, and the wishes of much of Latvia's population in early May by agreeing to a loosening of the country's citizenship law. On 6 May the government announced a change in the law that will grant citizenship to all children born in Latvia after 21 August 1991 regardless of their parents' citizenship, provided the parents have been living legally in Latvia for at least five years. (RFE/RL Newsline, 7 May 98)
According to the agreement that formed the ruling coalition government, changes to the law on citizenship were possible only by unanimous agreement of all coalition members. For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK had consistently been the holdout in any discussion of the citizenship law, seeking instead to toughen existing citizenship requirements. Apparently increased pressure from the international community--spurred by heightened tensions in Latvian-Russian relations since the beginning of March--and an awareness of Latvia's tenuous position without support from outside the Baltic area brought about the change of mind.
Relations between Latvia and Russia could not have been termed "good" for several years. The chief reason stated publicly has been the large, primarily Russian-speaking, non-citizen population in Latvia. Russia repeatedly used the existence of approximately 200,000 non-citizens in attempts to influence Latvia's domestic policy and to force--through international pressure--blanket naturalization of the entire population. (As has been noted in previous digests, while an estimated 121,000 non-citizens were eligible to apply for naturalization in 1997, only 2,994 did so, according to Elizenija Aldermane, head of the naturalization department. Moreover, Aldermane reported that less than five percent of applicants were denied due to insufficient command of the language or knowledge of Latvian history. See ISCIP Editorial Digest, 4 February 1998). Russia's oft-cited charges of human rights violations were never proven; in fact, international observers refuted the claims. As recently as February a member of a group of visiting French MPs described such allegations as Russian propaganda which no one in Europe took seriously. (BNS Daily Report, 1600 GMT, 14 Feb 98)
What non-citizens do lack primarily are certain political rights. Still, it appears this lack of political rights means more to Russia than it does to the non-citizens themselves. A study on the formation of a civic society in Latvia, prepared by the Baltijas Datu Nams company, demonstrated that the main reasons behind the slow naturalization of non-citizens included uncertainty about their ability to pass the language and history examinations, lack of interest, and alienation from the state. Although the requirements of the naturalization tests were cited as primary reasons behind the slow pace of naturalization, however, two-thirds of the alien population admitted that they were not personally acquainted with test requirements and knew nothing about the documents needed. (BNS Daily Report, 1700 GMT, 18 Mar 98). In addition, it seems as though the intransigence of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK is not shared by the population at large: The study showed that 82 percent of citizens and 95 percent of non-citizens supported the naturalization of aliens' children, while the option of naturalizing all persons who were born in Latvia has the support of 56 percent of citizens and 91 percent of non-citizens. (BNS, 1100 GMT, 19 Mar 98)
Unfortunately, a series of events in the past couple of months provided Russia with ammunition in its public relations war against Latvia: Police forcibly dispersed a rally of over 1,000 elderly, mostly Russian-speaking, picketers in the capital after main thoroughfares had been blocked (no injuries were reported); a parade and gathering to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Latvian SS legion was held in Riga and attended by some government officials, although their participation was unsanctioned (Radio Riga Network, 1000 GMT, 16 Mar 98; FBIS-SOV-98-075); and bombs damaged a Riga synagogue (BNS Daily Report, 1100 GMT, 2 Apr 98), the Russian embassy (BNS Daily Report, 1400 GMT, 6 Apr 98) and a monument to Russian World War II soldiers in Dobele (Interfax, 0808 GMT, 5 May 98; FBIS-SOV-98-125). During a meeting of the OSCE permanent council in Vienna, Russia's attempts to characterize the rally dispersal as ethnic discrimination met with little support--most members saw the police action as being aimed at the restoration of public order. Only Belarus accepted Russia's stance. (BNS Daily Report, 1700 GMT, 12 Mar 98). Russia then submitted a draft resolution on the situation in Latvia to the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva (ITAR-TASS World Service, 1349 GMT, 2 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-092). The resolution went nowhere. When attempts to draw international censure against Latvia failed, Russia turned to economic threats--a move which earned a rebuke from the OSCE. While calling on Latvia to review its attitude toward national minorities, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek, the OSCE chairman, stated at a news conference on 15 April that Russia had overreacted, and that the OSCE was dissatisfied with the policy of sanctions. (Radio Riga Network, 0900 GMT, 15 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-105) Foreign ministers of the Nordic countries and representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also condemned Russia's policy of economic pressure. (Radio Riga Network, 1100 GMT, 22 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-112, and Radio Riga Network, 1700 GMT, 29 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-119)
While Russia was unable to bring down international condemnation upon Latvia, the heightened tensions did result in strong comments from international players which no doubt led to the 6 May action by the government. The citizenship law change followed the recommendation of OSCE High Commissioner for Ethnic Nationalities Max van der Stoel, a regular visitor to Latvia, who had been suggesting changes in Latvia's citizenship and language law for quite a while. More recently, van der Stoel upped the ante, warning Latvia that the country risked international isolation if it continued to ignore OSCE advice. (BNS Daily Report, 1700 GMT, 31 Mar 98) A few days later, former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke visited Riga and advised Latvia to continue to examine the citizenship issue. (BNS Daily Report, 1700 GMT, 2 Apr 98) At about the same time, van der Stoel was able to note increasing support for his recommendations in the Saeima. (BNS Daily Report, 1900 GMT, 2 Apr 98) By mid-April the three largest factions in parliament--Latvian Way, For the Fatherland and Freedom, and Saimnieks--had agreed to offer the opportunity for naturalization to children of non-citizens once they reached the age of 16 and had passed the language test or completed schooling in Latvian. (Radio Riga Network, 1500 GMT, 14 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-104) Moreover, during a discussion between US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Latvia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Valdis Birkavs in Washington, DC, Talbott reportedly also weighed in on the side of the OSCE recommendations. (Radio Riga Network, 2000 GMT, 24 Apr 98; FBIS-SOV-98-115)
One must tread carefully when examining these developments, however. Although in the end, Russia did manage to succeed in applying pressure to affect Latvian domestic policy, the international community cannot be assumed to have fallen for Russia's line. The aim of such players as the OSCE, the UN, and others seems to be a refusal to allow either Latvia or Russia to become so entrenched in rhetoric that all chances for good relations evaporate.
by Kate Martin