The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume IV Number 9 (2 June, 1999)
The Family strikes back
The decision to sack Yevgeni Primakov and face the Duma's impeachment vote
head-on is pure Yel'tsin: last-minute resoluteness (or reckless stubbornness)
in a confrontation, which brings the country to the brink of political chaos.
When Yel'tsin eventually prevails, as he has done a dumbfounding number
of times, he then retreats on vacation while his gains are frittered away
by Kremlin and government apparat ineptitude.
Just how Yel'tsin managed a hat trick last month -- i.e., dislodging Primakov,
dodging an impeachment charge and winning confirmation of Sergei Stepashin
-- nearly defies explanation. And yet, as astonishing as Yel'tsin's re-emergence
and effective reassertion of authority may be, the utter confusion and back-room
infighting evident in the selection of cabinet ministers represent an exponential
magnification of the factional rivalries that have marred previous governments.
The fierceness of the personnel combat is necessitated by the scarcity of
resources at stake. In this incarnation, the government's members seem less
determined to protect or invigorate economic reforms; this government's
raison d'etre appears to be to secure access to sufficient funds to influence
the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. That is, assuming
elections will actually be held. Speculation is rampant over the possibility
of canceling the elections, and it is with great pessimism I note that it
now seems anything could happen in Russia this year.
For the record, following are the more contentious of the government appointments
Sergei Stepashin -- Prime Minister
Nikolai Aksenenko -- First Deputy Prime Minister
Viktor Khristenko -- First Deputy Prime Minister
Valentina Matvienko -- Deputy Prime Minister (social
Vladimir Shcherbak -- Deputy Prime Minister (agriculture)
Ilya Klebanov Deputy -- Prime Minister (military policy)
Vladimir Rushailo -- Interior Minister
Mikhail Kasayanov -- Finance Minister
Leonid Drachevsky -- CIS Affairs
Vyacheslav Mikhailov -- Nationalities Minister
Mikhail Fradkov -- Trade Minister
Viktor Orlov -- Natural Resources
Alex Pochinok -- Tax Collection
Farit Gazizullin -- Privatization
Viktor Kalyuzhny -- Fuel and Energy Minister
Ilya Yuzhanov -- Anti-monopoly
Andrei Chernenko will head up the government apparatus.
(MOSKOVSKY KOMSOMOLETS, 26 May 99; Agency WPS/nexis,
TODAY FEATURES, 1 Jun 99; www.russiatoday.com)
by Susan J. Cavan
Done deal, or deal undone?
As NATO's air campaign against Serbia moved into its third month, the US
administration and NATO spokesmen insisted that the alliance remained firmly
united behind its military and political objectives. The administration,
however, having turned over much of the negotiating process to the Russians,
enabled Moscow to use the Balkan crisis for its own, quite distinct, ends.
The peace deal touted at the end of May had fewer contradictions than the
proposal put forward at the beginning of the month, but it fell far short
of the aims the administration had touted as worth fighting for. Russia,
meanwhile, emerged from the confusion strengthened.
The fog of peace
In early May the Clinton administration turned to the G-7, a body not previously
known for its diplomatic role, as the multinational instrument through which
to boost its Kosovo peace plan. The body was perhaps a natural choice, given
that it includes only those NATO members most resolute in pursuit of the
White House's aims and is a regular host of Russia, the country through
which the administration hoped to reach Belgrade. Even a good bottle, however,
cannot disguise a bad wine, and the ambiguities of the G-7's plan left a
bad taste in all the parties' mouths.
The proposal, for example, insisted that "international civil and security
presences" protect returning Kosovar Albanian refugees, but did not
specify whether this meant a heavily armed NATO force, as the White House
demanded, or peace keepers drawn from neutral countries under the United
Nations' command, as Russia preferred. Under the plan, the Kosovo Liberation
Army was to disarm -- a demand the KLA leadership had already rejected.
Even the eventual legal status of Kosovo was described in utterly contradictory
terms. Rule over Kosovo, the plan said, would be determined while "taking
full account of the Rambouillet Accords and principles of sovereignty and
territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia." Since
the Rambouillet Accords had included a referendum on Kosovo's legal status,
and since such a referendum would have almost certainly produced a declaration
of the province's independence, the G-7 plan was either insubstantial or
insincere -- or both. (THE OTTAWA CITIZEN, 7 May 99; nexis)
Safe European home
The Clinton administration, however, not only put forward a bad plan: The
US asked the Russians to implement it. Moscow promptly exploited the proposal's
internal contradictions to its own advantage. Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni
Primakov may not have survived Boris Yel'tsin's latest return to the world
stage, but Primakov's assertive foreign policy suddenly suited Yel'tsin
more than ever. Under the direction of longtime Primakov protege Igor Ivanov,
the Russian foreign ministry picked at the very Western alliance on whose
behalf it was supposedly acting.
Ivanov, for example, continued Primakov's long-term strategy of cultivating
relationships with NATO's continental members under the rubric of the common
European home that they and Russia share. He first had French President
Jacques Chirac endorse a bilateral French-Russia working group on the Balkans,
the appointment of Finnish President Marti Ahtisaari as the UN's international
mediator, and the positioning of the UN as final arbiter of peace. (RUSSIA
TV, 1600 GMT, 13 May 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/nexis) Invited
to a meeting of European Union foreign ministers, Ivanov then met separately
with Greek Foreign Minister Yeoryios Papandreou and later promoted a Greek
plan for a cease-fire. (NET TV, 1500 GMT, 17 May 99; BBC Summary of World
In his own presentation to the EU meeting, Ivanov outlined a vision of European
security under which Russia and the EU would cooperate during crises. Later,
Russian ambassador to the EU Vassily Likachev explained that Moscow and
Brussels needed to work especially closely when "the different poles
of this multipolar world behave differently." (EUROPE REPORT, 22 May
In his continual demands that NATO halt its bombing campaign, Ivanov put
the blame for upsetting a European peace on the alliance's military commanders
and hinted that the United States' role in European security would have
to be dramatically reduced. NATO's relations with Russia, Ivanov said, "could
never be the same as they were before March 24," the day the bombing
began. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 1042 GMT, 25 May 99; nexis) Later, Ivanov
suggested alternatives to the alliance -- organizations of which Russia
is a member and in which the United States has a minor role. "The Council
of Europe has every chance of becoming a foundation of the European architecture,
similar to the OSCE," Ivanov declared. "This is particularly important
given the lessons of the ongoing Balkan crisis." (INTERFAX RUSSIAN
NEWS, 26 May 99; nexis)
The Indispensable Nation
Despite Moscow's hostility both towards the NATO alliance and the bombing
campaign it was pursuing, the Clinton administration leaned on Russian diplomacy.
In fact, the White House depended so heavily on Moscow's supposed "special
relationship" with Belgrade that Russia was able to hold the entire
negotiating process hostage.
Whether Russia actually has deep historical ties to the Serbs is debatable.
(See Rosenberger, Chandler, "Russia's 'Little Slav Brother'?"
in PERSPECTIVE, March-April 99) The historical legitimacy of the
supposed relationship became irrelevant as the White House propounded the
theory and the Russians gladly accepted their enhanced prestige. Moscow's
influence grew so great that on 21 May United States Deputy Secretary Strobe
Talbot found himself negotiating with two Russian partners, first meeting
with special envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and UN representative Ahtisaari,
then holding separate talks with Ivanov.
Russia thus appeared above a conflict in which the United States was merely
one of the combatants. As the peace mediator, Russia expected its wishes
to be respected, envoy Chernomyrdin said. If not, "Russia will simply
withdraw from this process," he told Russian TV. "This is not
our war. We did not start it." (RUSSIA TV, 2046 GMT, 24 May 99; BBC
Summary of World Broadcasts/nexis)
Faced with such threats, Talbot watered down the United States' position.
The White House no longer demanded that all Serb troops remove themselves
permanently from Kosovo. If "Belgrade completes the withdrawal of troops
[from Kosovo]," Talbot said, "the international community may
stop and think about how to let some Belgrade officials come back to the
region." Nor was the United States still insisting that the Rambouillet
Accords form the basis of peace. The US and Russia agreed, Talbot said,
that Kosovo must remain within Serbia. Talk of a referendum that might end
in Kosovo's sovereignty was dropped. This was a relief, perhaps, to those
who had found the contradictions in the US policy troubling. It threw into
question, however, why the US had insisted on war in the first place. (INTERFAX
RUSSIAN NEWS, 26 May 99; nexis)
However much destruction NATO had wreaked on Serbia and its military in
May, the Clinton administration's questionable diplomacy harmed US interests
in Europe to an even greater degree. The administration may yet choose to
ignore the peace plan that it negotiated through Russia's good offices,
and fight on the ground for the principles that launched its campaign from
the sky. Washington, however, has managed to squander diplomatic control
over its own military campaign. To use the language with which it once blurred
moral distinctions in Bosnia, the United States is now merely one of the
by Chandler Rosenberger
* * * * *
Are you with us?
Russian efforts to build better relations with China may be succeeding.
Lately, Russia and China have been seeing eye to eye on many global issues,
including Kosovo. Indeed, both have demanded that NATO stop the bombing
in Yugoslavia before the G-8 peace proposal can be taken to the UN Security
Council. However, before NATO could be persuaded, it bombed the Chinese
embassy in Belgrade. In response, China has threatened to prevent a UN Security
Council resolution to adopt the G-8 plan. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR,
12 May 99) In the wake of the Chinese embassy bombing, Russian Presidential
Envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese President
Jiang Zemin and Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to address the delicate matter.
Russia has an interest in maintaining its relationship with China as well
as in ending the Kosovo crisis. According to Chernomyrdin, his trip to Beijing
focused on gaining Chinese support for the peace plan in the Security Council.
Although the Chinese gave no indication of their decision after the meeting,
the trip indicates Russia's commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic end to
the conflict, especially if Russia's efforts look successful at NATO's expense.
by Sarah K. Miller
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
A busy couple of weeks for the Duma
Prime Minister Primakov was dismissed and his first deputy, Sergei Stepashin,
was nominated to fill his position. This came just before the Duma debate
on removing Yel'tsin on five articles of impeachment, the most serious of
which was complicity in the bloody war in Chechnya. Some thought that the
sacking of the popular prime minister would push enough legislators into
the anti-Yel'tsin camp to pass one or more of the articles. This did not
happen. The Duma then confirmed Stepashin's nomination for prime minister.
Two important questions can be asked in light of these recent events: Has
Yel'tsin won at the Duma's expense, and what will a Stepashin prime ministership
mean for the upcoming Duma elections?
It had become quite common to claim that Primakov was the real power in
Moscow, with help from his Communist allies in the Duma. Yel'tsin was cast
as a waning monarch who had become a national embarrassment. However, such
assessments neglected to take into account the fact that the prime minister,
no matter how powerful, serves at the pleasure of the president. The Duma,
or more accurately the anti-Yel'tsin camp of deputies, lost in two ways:
without the patronage of a prime minister like Primakov (Stepashin is loyal
to the president), the Duma will be increasingly marginalized; and by voting
for Stepashin, it has shown it cannot stand up to the president in the run-up
to the elections in the fall. Not much more should be expected from this
However, the Duma's return to the margins of Russian political power is
not so surprising: It is accustomed to being there. What is new, and will
have a potentially far greater impact on the future of the federation, is
the person of the prime minister. In an interview given just after his appointment
as first deputy prime minister, Stepashin spoke of Yel'tsin's motives: "The
president explained his decision in a conversation with me by the fact that
there was a need to increase the work with the regions. This includes using
the potential of the Ministry of Internal Affairs -- I think you understand
what I mean by that. Secondly, there also is much work to be done in connection
with the upcoming elections. The point is to stop criminal elements from
getting to power whether in the executive branch or the legislative branch.
In this sense, a first deputy premier who simultaneously is the minister
of internal affairs and looks after regional policy and other areas of policy
has a fairly major role to play." (NTV, 1700 GMT, 2 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0502)
With political parties and movements proliferating all over the place, and
with the regions feeling their oats, Yel'tsin could easily be concerned
that he may not be able to influence significantly the elections to the
Duma in December and to the presidency a year after that. A prime minister
with ready access to the troops of the state police, and one who is not
afraid to use them, may be in a better position to push and prod at the
edges of the electoral process to obtain a favorable outcome.
All-Russia movement plans to cooperate with new government
The most recent, and potentially the most viable political movement, All-Russia,
has announced it will cooperate with the new government of Sergei Stepashin.
All-Russia was formed to represent the interests of the regions and it actively
solicits support from the country's governors. Although it is not a party,
the movement could influence the coming elections by allying itself with
a party which has registered to run.
Mintimir Shaimiev, the president of Tatarstan, claimed that the movement
would seek to win a majority in the Duma in the upcoming elections, thereby
ideologically linking the Federation Council and the Duma. (INTERFAX NEWS
AGENCY, 22 May 99; nexis)
by Michael DeMar Thurman
Is there a doctrine in the house?
Months before Operation Allied Force unleashed NATO's airpower against Serbia,
there were numerous calls within Russia to reform the country's military
doctrine. The conflict in the Balkans brought a new wave of criticism of
the existing doctrine, and new statements from Russian officials that military
doctrine and security issues need to be revised.
In 1993 the document "Main Provisions of the Russian Federation Military
Doctrine" was published. This was significant for two reasons. First,
the Soviet Union never published a single source official military doctrine.
Westerners were able to piece together what in effect was the Soviet doctrine
only through careful analysis of Russian military writings in various journals
and publications. Second, the publication of the doctrine in 1993 gave the
West insight into the emerging Russian Federation's military direction.
Looking back at the document with recent statements in mind, questions arise
as to what part of the doctrine is seen to be needing revision. Some of
the stated political foundations of the doctrine represented quite a departure
from the Soviet era. Acknowledging the end of the Cold War with the statement
of "overcoming of the confrontation brought about by the ideological
standoff," the new doctrine stated plainly that the Russian Federation
"does not treat any of the states as an adversary." Nuclear weapons
were a key deterrent force, but Russia would work to reduce nuclear forces
to a minimum and support stopping nuclear weapons testing. The primary sources
of potential conflict were seen as nationalist and religious wars and conflicts,
with those that were in the "immediate vicinity" of the Russian
borders posing threats to the Federation. (MILITARY THOUGHT, special issue
November 93, pp. 2-3)
The basic doctrine was modified in the following years, but those key concepts
remained. Now, alarmed by NATO's (and, by implication, US) intervention
within the internationally recognized borders of a sovereign country, Moscow
may be working on a doctrinal revision. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev said
that he received instructions from the president of the Russian Federation
on this issue, but gave no details. (ITAR-TASS, 0736 GMT, 14 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0514)
It's one thing when reading sentiments of this nature in Rossiyskaya gazeta,
Komsomol'skaya gazeta, or (especially) Sovetskaya Rossiya, but Sergeev's
comments elevate the revision calls to a higher, more serious level. Unfortunately
for the Russian officials, though, there is a critical gap between words
in a document and the military and economic power to back up a more aggressive
stance. Interestingly, Tass released two more press releases quoting Sergeev
saying the same thing on 14 and 25 May, apparently in the belief that repeating
anything often enough will make it so.
There were other similar, and familiar, press reports during May. In an
address prepared for a military parade in Moscow, ITAR-TASS pulled out Sergeev's
comments on the strength of Russia's nuclear forces and made a short release
of that; ten days later a "leading Russian foreign policy analyst"
called for a policy of "early use of nuclear weapons at the first sign
of a threat." (ITAR-TASS, 1214 GMT, 7 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0507 and
BNS, 1534 GMT, 17 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0517) Combined with the many published
critiques of NATO's policies and actions, a change in doctrine seems inevitable.
But is it really? The major US newspapers pretty much ignored these statements,
as did the US government, at least publicly. Perhaps the West is taking
most of these outwardly belligerent statements for what they are, examples
of Russian frustration at the marginalization of Russia's influence on the
world stage. The West, as well as the Russians, know that no real change
in Russia's military direction can take place in the current economic situation.
As a reminder of that, let's look at some other news items. In the meantime,
if Russia succeeds in finding a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis,
perhaps that will be enough to restore some Russian pride and reduce the
calls for revising its military doctrine.
Tass reported on drug addiction and alcoholism in the Russian military in
late May. The information came from members of the Main Military Prosecutor's
Office. Its director stated that part of the problem is that the makeup
of the armed forces reflects that of society at large; he also noted that
the US experienced similar problems but solved them through an integrated
effort to combat narcotics distribution. (ITAR-TASS, 0947 GMT, 20 May 99;
FBIS-SOV-1999-0520) It was unclear if the director was referring to US military
counter-drug efforts or the general war on drugs conducted by civilian authorities
throughout the land. It is true that in the 1970s the US armed forces, with
the significant players probably being the Army and the Navy, experienced
serious drug abuse problems within the ranks. After rigorous programs were
instituted, including mandatory random drug screenings which continue to
this day, the US reduced illegal drug use to a very low level. So, with
the right approach, and resources, such problems are not insurmountable.
On a lighter note, the Russian Pacific Fleet had two birthday parties this
year, sort of. Turns out that the 21 April celebration of the fleet's 67th
anniversary was off by a month and a few years, as historians determined
that the Russian senate actually established the Okhotsk port and military
flotilla on 21 May 1731. The party celebrating the 268th anniversary must
have been a blast: The officers were to be entertained by the historians
who discovered the "historic truth." (ITAR-TASS, 0040 GMT, 21
May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0521) No word on what refreshments may have been served.
There isn't much to celebrate about the Russian air force these days, based
on an Interfax report. (INTERFAX, 0706 GMT, 22 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0522)
The short release starts out on a deceptive note, stating that "over
one billion rubles" were saved by the merger of the Air Force (VVS)
and the Air Defense Troops (VPVO) into one service. More than 44,000 personnel
were retired, all with pay, which is indeed good news. Then comes the rest
of the story. Training flights were cut in half, so that pilots now get
50 hours of flight time per year. Training flights for "graduates of
Air Force schools were slashed to 100 hours, while the norm is 250 hours."
To put those hours in perspective, US military tactical (i.e., fighter-type)
pilots log about 20-25 hours each month on a normal basis, excluding operations
in the Balkans and Iraq. USN student pilots undergo 250-275 hours of training
before receiving their wings. USAF pilot training is similar in length.
Just as telling as to the state of the Russian air force were aircraft acquisitions:
The service received 77 aircraft in 1992; 66 in '93; 29 in '94; 31 in '95;
19 in '96; 6 in '97; and zero in 1998.
This column will go on hiatus until August, when the 1999-2000 military
fellows will resume covering the Russian armed forces. Inbound are Lt Col
Jill Skelton, USAF, and LCDR James Duke, USN. CDR Drummond will be joining
the staff of Commander Carrier Group Four in mid-June.
by CDR Fred Drummond
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Defense ministers meet in Yerevan
On 20 May, the CIS defense ministers held their first session since the
CIS Collective Security Treaty withdrawals and GUUAM enlargement last month.
Although the Russian government has stressed that withdrawal from the Collective
Security Treaty does not affect CIS membership, the attendance roster in
Yerevan suggests that GUUAM members do intend to limit their involvement,
at least in military-related CIS affairs. Azerbaijan, Georgia and Uzbekistan
opted not to attend, while Moldova and Ukraine, as well as non-GUUAM members
Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, sent only representatives. In contrast, Armenia,
Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan -- all of which are members
of the Collective Security Treaty and traditionally pro-Russian on CIS matters
-- sent their defense ministers. Prior to the meeting, the Armenian and
Belarusian ministers took the opportunity to sign a military bilateral agreement
which "lays the legal foundations for military cooperation between
Yerevan and Minsk," according to the Belarusian minister. (INTERFAX,
0814 GMT, 20 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0520) The session addressed many issues
of CIS military cooperation, including coordination efforts, Collective
Security implementation, and a CIS air defense system. (ITAR-TASS, 1240
GMT, 20 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0520) In effect, the meeting highlighted the
increasing polarization of the CIS in the past month between the "Russian
6" (the five ministerial Yerevan attendees plus Tajikistan) and GUUAM.
The venue alone -- Yerevan, instead of a more neutral capital -- did little
to make non-Collective Security members feel welcomed at the session.
In with the new...
New CIS Executive Chairman Yuri Yarov met with new Russian Prime Minister
Sergei Stepashin in Moscow on 22 May to discuss CIS reorganization efforts
in preparation for the 4 June CIS Heads of State summit. (INTERFAX, 0650
GMT, 22 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0522) The two met after Yarov's first round
of CIS-wide shuttle diplomacy. Yarov has indicated that his foremost concerns
are implementation of a CIS single economic zone and downsizing of the CIS
executive structure, both of which were discussed at the last CIS Heads
of State summit. (See The NIS Observed, 26 April 99) Thus far, Yarov has
failed to persuade several CIS members that a single economic zone is in
their interest, especially since membership could conflict with possible
membership in other non-CIS economic organizations such as the World Trade
Organization. According to Turkmen President Saparmurad Niyazov, joining
the CIS free trade zone is unfeasible since there is no way of assuring
an "equal and mutually advantageous partnership." (INTERFAX, 1122
GMT, 14 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0514) In fact, only 6 out of 12 CIS members
have signed the 1994 agreement, which was scheduled to become effective
on 1 January 1999. (SNARK, 1530 GMT, 19 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0520)
Meanwhile, GUAM has taken steps to realize a new economic partnership with
Poland that would pipe oil along a proposed Baku-Gdansk line. The plan has
been discussed at several bilateral meetings between Ukraine, Poland and
Azerbaijan. Ukraine has taken the initiative to develop relations with both
countries and has nearly completed its end of the deal, a large-capacity
oil terminal outside of Odessa. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 18 May 99)
If the pipeline does open, it will provide an alternative route for oil
that cannot be pumped through the unfinished Baku-Ceyhan line while providing
another new economic partnership with Poland, a NATO nation. In light of
Azeri, Georgian, and Ukrainian interest in NATO programs and eventual membership,
these economic inroads could prove helpful in the future.
by Sarah K. Miller
Much ado about not much; No ado about everything else
Police in Simferopol are searching for the individual(s) who set off an
explosive device near Communist Party headquarters during the Crimean Tatar
demonstration commemorating their expulsion in 1944. The explosive device
was reportedly planted in the vicinity of a tent city erected by the demonstrators
in Lenin Square.
From the amount of attention given the event by the news media, one would
assume that the explosion caused major damage, or at least substantial injuries.
The media explained that the explosion "shook the building of Ukraine's
Communist Party" (UKRAINIAN TV THIRD PROGRAMME, 1500 GMT, 20 May 99;
BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/nexis) and "... a missile exploded
in the air ... in the vicinity of the tent city." Russia's NTV reported
that "last night's explosion may shutter [sic] the fragile stability
that the authorities have managed to achieve in the republic." (NTV,
0400 GMT, 23 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0523)
However, there were, in fact, no injuries, and the only damage now appears
to have been a few broken windows in the Communist headquarters building.
Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the unrecognized Tatar Assembly denied
that demonstrators had been involved in the incident. Remzi Ablaev blamed
"certain forces" for trying to "drive a wedge between the
Crimean Tatars and other members of Crimean society." (ITAR-TASS WORLD
SERVICE, 1245 GMT, 23 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0523)
The apparent outrage over this incident contrasts sharply with the almost
complete lack of attention given to the significant rise of violence against
Tatars. As reported in The NIS Observed of 10 May, several mosques were
recently destroyed in suspicious fires, graveyards were seriously damaged
and a monument to those who died during deportation in 1944 was vandalized.
The negative attention also overlooked the general peacefulness of the protest.
Although the Tatars held a week of demonstrations in at least six major
Crimean cities, culminating in 40,000 people converging on Lenin Square
on 18 May, there was no violence reported until the explosion. Despite this
fact, and despite the massive numbers of protesters, there was minimal press
coverage of events commemorating the deportations.
In contrast, the "First Congress of Ukrainian Russians," held
in Kyiv on 22 May, garnered significant attention by both the media and
the government. President Leonid Kuchma sent a message of greeting to the
participants. That greeting read, in part, "Our state shows constant
concern for ensuring the constitutional rights and vital needs of those
Russians for whom Ukraine has become home and promotes the preservation
of their ethnic, linguistic and cultural distinctiveness." (ITAR-TASS
WORLD SERVICE, 0739 GMT, 22 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0522) Unfortunately, no
such greeting was sent to the Tatars, and none is expected any time soon.
Everybody smile and say, 'Decree!'
Question: How many decrees does it take to make a re-elected president?
Answer: As many as Leonid Kuchma can sign by 31 October.
Just days after the official start of the presidential campaign, and armed
with a suggestion by the IMF that the organization may grant Ukraine an
additional $350 million this year if progress is made on reforms, President
Leonid Kuchma has begun a new decree spree.
In mid-May, Kuchma announced that, on 1 June, he would introduce at least
six new decrees and over a dozen other presidential "measures"
dealing with everything from banking to tariffs to licensing of businesses
to tax breaks to privatization tenders to repayment of wages. The measures
include detailed sell-offs of hundreds of state companies and at least 20
land sites. (INTELNEWS, 0600 GMT, 18 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0518)
The decree spree was highlighted by Kuchma in Lvov at a conference of executives
from Western companies. At the conference, Kuchma seemed confident of an
election victory. "Ukraine's policy will remain balanced, consecutive
and there will be no throwback," he said. "I am sure that the
future presidential election will bring no surprise." His decrees will
"make life easier" for foreign investors, he said. (REUTERS, 24
May 99; Russia
In spite of the support given Kuchma's actions by the IMF, many of the announced
decrees and measures seem impractical in today's political environment,
while others seem to be simple election pandering.
For example, although Kuchma announced on 17 May that the large number of
state companies protected from privatization because of "strategic
importance" would be "reduced within one month," on 21 May,
his cabinet of ministers added 70 new companies to that list.
In addition, Kuchma announced many "draft laws" to be submitted
to parliament that stand little chance of passage. His privatization and
tax decrees also will undoubtedly encounter trouble in the parliament. Past
Kuchma privatization and tax decrees have become the subject of a power
struggle between the presidential administration and the parliament. In
fact, the parliament voted on 14 May to halt the privatization of a large
aluminum plant; a privatization that had been sought and approved by the
Kuchma administration under a 1993 decree. (REUTERS, 14 May 99; Russia Today)
In a frightening commentary on the state of Ukrainian politics, it is unclear
whether the parliament's vote to halt this privatization is binding, since
the chain of command in Ukraine has become so confused. Do Kuchma's decrees
overrule the votes of the parliament, or is it the other way around? No
one -- not Kuchma nor the members of parliament -- seem to be able to provide
that answer. In this environment, Kuchma's decrees have occasionally been
effective, but often not. Nevertheless, Kuchma's announcement garnered support
from the Western companies represented in Lvov. Perhaps Western investors
understand that in Ukraine, "occasionally effective" is better
than not at all.
And the winner is ... a secret
Like fireworks that fizzle before being shot into the sky, the Belarusian
opposition-sponsored presidential election has ended with a pop rather than
an explosion. After 10 days of voting conducted in "mobile polling
stations" erected by the opposition, the alternative presidential election
produced only one clear winner ... Alyaksandr Lukashenka's dictatorial policies.
On 19 May, Viktor Hanchar, chairman of the Central Election Committee, quietly
declared the results of the election to be invalid, without announcing which
candidate had received the most votes. Just two days earlier, Hanchar had
announced himself satisfied with the voting, saying that voter turnout had
been over 50%, and therefore, the election results would be valid. (BELAPAN,
1330 GMT, 17 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0517) "The turnout itself demonstrates
a rejection of the regime by the population," he said. He believed
the election would have "serious" international consequences,
and that it would give a "powerful impetus to governmental and international
organizations," ensuring "a different attitude by the OSCE and
other international organizations."
These statements turned out to be wishful thinking, however. By 17 May,
police had arrested over 100 opposition vote-takers and were holding one
of the two opposition candidates, Mikhail Chygir, in jail indefinitely,
while the OSCE had arrived to announce that the election was important to
democratic principles, but that it would not "meet the OSCE's standards."
(BELAPAN, 1210 GMT, 18 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0518) At the same time, there
was palpable silence from many international organizations, and few countries
expressed more than passive support for the activities of the opposition.
Perhaps most importantly, when Hanchar made his statements of success, the
votes had not been counted. It can be inferred from his statements during
the press conference that Alyaksandr Lukashenka received the highest number
of votes. "... [S]ince the state bodies of power have barred citizens
from electing a president freely and have denied them a right to discuss
the candidate's election programs comprehensively and freely, the election
outcome has been declared invalid," he said. (INTERFAX, 1525 GMT, 19
May 99; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts/nexis)
The election was also undermined by the sudden and questionable withdrawal
of Zenon Poznyak, the candidate representing the Popular Front. Poznyak
withdrew his name from consideration just days before the close of voting
because of "irregularities."
Within days of Hanchar's announcement invalidating the election results,
the European Union and the United States released statements praising the
efforts of the opposition. The statements called on Lukashenka to begin
negotiations with opposition representatives. (EUROPEAN NEWS SERVICE, 22
May 99; nexis, and US Department of State, 20 May 99; www.secretary.state.gov/www/briefings/statements)
Meanwhile, Hanchar has vowed to hold another election "with new candidates"
in three months. (REUTERS, 20 May 99; Russia Today) Perhaps this time the
fireworks will at least get off the ground.
Same ole, same ole
Moldova's government structure will remain unchanged, after the failure
of a referendum that would have increased dramatically the powers of President
Petru Lucinschi. Although 60 percent of those casting ballots approved the
measure, voter turnout was only 56 percent. According to Moldova's constitution,
turnout needed to be 60 percent for the referendum to be valid. (REUTERS,
25 May 99; Russia Today)
The failure of the referendum leaves Moldova with perhaps the most powerful
parliament among all CIS states, and the least powerful president. Moldova's
constitution dictates that the cabinet be formed from a specific formula
based on parliamentary majority. The lack of a majority in the last election
resulted in fragile coalitions and two changes of government in the last
several months. The president also has minimal decree powers, a fact which
has often left the government paralyzed in a struggle between the leftist
parliament and centrist president. Lucinschi has not stated whether he will
hold another referendum on the same issue in the future.
During the same election, voters cast ballots in regional elections. Results
in seven of the nine regions have so far been declared valid. Under 20 percent
of the residents of Chisinau voted, however, making a second election necessary.
It is widely expected that incumbent Mayor Serafim Urecheanu will eventually
be declared the winner. (ITAR-TASS WORLD SERVICE, 1605 GMT, 23 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0523)
by Tammy Lynch
Unity bloc takes the lead
The Unity bloc, headed by the last pre-independence Armenian leader, Karen
Demirchian, and the current defense minister, Vazgen Sargsian, became the
largest party in parliament following the 30 May elections. The Unity party
won 40 percent of the vote; the Communist Party came in second with 12.5
percent. (REUTERS, 2 Jun 99; nexis) Despite errors in the voting rolls and
some reports of ballot tampering, the Central Electoral Commission approved
the results immediately. The first group of European observers to publicize
an appraisal of the poll, the European Institute for the Media (EIM), described
the journalistic coverage of the campaign as "neutral and objective."
The Armenian media rated "okay" in relation to European standards
and "good" in comparison with other post-Soviet states. (SNARK,
1300 GMT, 31 May 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring/nexis)
Under Armenian law, Vano Siradegian's parliament seat extends his immunity
from prosecution. Siradegian, who has been accused of ordering contract
killings while he served as interior minister in Levon Ter-Petrosian's government,
has not been prosecuted fully due to his immunity as the leader of the Armenian
Pan-National Movement and his status as an electoral candidate.
Echoes of Kosovo
The leaders of the Caucasian states did not wait for a resolution for an
end to the bombing of Serbia to draw lessons from the conflict. While in
Washington for the NATO summit, Armenia's foreign minister drew parallels
between Armenia's support for Nagorno-Karabakh and NATO's support of the
Kosovar Albanians. "By using our own forces, we created a security
buffer. What NATO is trying to achieve today in Kosovo is what Armenians
did in Nagorno-Karabakh. We did NATO's job at the time." (WASHINGTON
POST, 28 Apr 99; nexis) This statement provoked biting criticism in Yerevan
where the prevailing mood favors Russia and Serbia and regards Turkey and
the Albanians with hostility. "Both Serbs and Armenians, not only the
Karabakh Armenians, defended their motherland(!) respectively from Albanian-Muslim
and Turkic expansion." (GOLOS ARMENII, 5 May 99; FBIS-SOV-1999-0507)
President Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan offered a different view: "[T]he
territorial integrity of every nation should be inviolable. We are against
separatism." (WASHINGTON POST, 28 Apr 99; nexis) Although the Azerbaijani
government seeks membership in NATO, and has taken every opportunity to
show goodwill to the West (even volunteering to send personnel to Kosovo
at the outset of the crisis), Aliev fears the precedent that the Kosovo
crisis may set. On what grounds can NATO members continue to insist on a
restoration of Azerbaijan's sovereignty over all of its territory if they
preside over the partition of Serbia?
What price oil as deadline for the Ceyhan pipeline approaches?
Construction of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline could start in the next three months,
Heydar Aliev announced in late May. Ankara echoed this optimistic assessment
when the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources offered the terms of a
commercial proposal to Azerbaijan. Citing the 13 April Istanbul Declaration,
Ankara stressed its commitment to finalizing three key agreements in early
June. (ANATOLIA, 0938 GMT, 27 May 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring/nexis)
The construction of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline has been repeatedly postponed
because neither the governments nor the companies concerned have come up
with the necessary funds. The dramatic decline in the price of oil in 1998
and early 1999 to the nadir since the 1950s represented particularly bad
luck for Azerbaijan and Turkey because it has discouraged the consortium
member companies from making the necessary investments.
The cost of building the pipeline, estimates of which vary between $2.5
billion and $4 billion, will be easier to meet now that the price of oil
has rebounded. Since the end of 1998 it has gone up 60 percent from about
$10 to $16 per barrel and some experts predict an increase to as much as
$20 or $21. (BUFFALO NEWS, 25 May 99; nexis) Under such conditions the pipeline
to Ceyhan may turn out to be much more profitable than previously expected.
Recent events reveal another advantage of the Ceyhan route: its independence
from Russia and the Persian Gulf. As oil prices began to show a recovery
in March, several of the major oil producers, including OPEC, Russia, and
Mexico, announced they would reduce the amount they supply in an effort
to drive prices even higher. As an oil-importing state, the US would benefit
if a new independent oil producer entered the market.
Russian journal exhibits rare candor
In its March 1999 issue, the journal Vlast (Power), which draws its audience
from the presidential administration, the government, and the Federal Assembly,
ran the article "Caspian Oil and Russian Security," by Artem Mal'gin,
an instructor of International Relations at the Moscow State Institute for
International Relations (MGIMO), which falls under the foreign ministry.
Mal'gin argues that American interests require that the US pursue non-OPEC
sources of oil, while Russia stands to benefit from "limiting the number
of 'sellers' on the energy market, which would allow them to agree upon
and maintain the necessary price level. The appearance of new independent
or US-dependent market participants is disadvantageous for Russia."
Some may note that the oil producers have failed to collude successfully
to set the price on numerous recent occasions and that the volume of oil
from the Caspian would not come in sufficiently large quantity to alter
the market price. Still, the political implications of his argument are
clear: Russian interests are served best if Caspian oil remains in the ground.
But if it must reach the market, it should go through Russian pipelines.
How will Russia pursue this objective? This "became evident in January-February
of this year and in the first place concerns the Baku-Ceyhan route. On the
eve of the adoption of the final decision regarding the route of the main
artery for Caspian oil, Armenia tapped into the PVO [air defense system]
of the CIS. In this way, the republic falls under Russia's powerful 'umbrella'.
The existence of this 'umbrella', as many in Baku believe, can stiffen Yerevan's
resolve in the negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, where in the event of
renewed hostilities the military balance would not be in Azerbaijan's favor."
Moreover, Western investors, Mal'gin argues, must worry about the proximity
of Nagorno-Karabakh to the export route: Wouldn't they be scared off by
a new upsurge in the fighting?
This rather blatant threat comes from a person who teaches Russia's future
foreign policy practitioners and a journal aimed at its current policy makers.
Interestingly, it contains no mention of the legal status of the Caspian,
or of a legality of any kind.
by Miriam Lanskoy
Opposition threatening to withdraw from NRC for second time
The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) is threatening to withdraw its representatives
from the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) for the second time since
the June 1997 signing of the inter-Tajik peace agreement, unless President
Rahmonov and his administration agree to the immediate fulfillment of a
number of conditions. These conditions include: the release of 93 opposition
troops from prison, in accordance with the amnesty law which President Rahmonov
finally agreed to put into effect earlier in the month; the granting of
full legal status to the opposition parties and organizations which constitute
the UTO; removal of restrictions on the opposition media, which were officially
prohibited in 1993 by Tajikistan's Supreme Court; the transfer to UTO members
of their full 30 percent share in the country's executive and legislative
bodies, both at the national and local level; 30 percent representation
in Tajikistan's foreign diplomatic missions and in the banking sector by
the opposition; and the approval of the UTO's nominee for the post of defense
minister, Mirzo Ziyo. The deadline for these demands to be met is mid-July.
The opposition leadership would also like to see parliamentary elections
held prior to the presidential elections, contrary to President Rahmonov's
proposal. (ITAR-TASS WORLD SERVICE, 1236 GMT, 24 May 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring/nexis,
and RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 25 May 99)
Said Abdullo Nuri, the chairman of both the UTO and NRC, had already published
a number of these demands in an open letter to UN Special Envoy to Tajikistan
Jan Kubis approximately three weeks ago, when the peace process stalled
over President Rahmonov's refusal to approve the NRC's proposed constitutional
amendments. At a news conference following his return to Dushanbe from Iran
(where he had been receiving medical treatment), Nuri explained the reasons
behind the UTO leaders' decision to withdraw their representatives from
the NRC if their demands are not soon met. He stated that the NRC would
not be able to complete its remaining tasks until the president and his
administration agree to meet the UTO's demands (most of which are stipulated
by the political protocol) and therefore it would be futile for the opposition
representatives to attend any further NRC meetings. He added that the government's
reluctance to implement the terms of the political protocol was causing
considerable dissatisfaction among UTO members, as well as creating a serious
obstacle to any further progress in the peace process. (VOICE OF THE ISLAMIC
REPUBLIC OF IRAN, 1600 GMT, 21 May 99; BBC Worldwide Monitoring/nexis)
President Rahmonov has assured everyone that he firmly intends to hold new
presidential elections by the time his own term of office ends and that
new parliamentary elections will then follow. However, he seems to have
forgotten that, unless the opposition parties which make up the UTO are
legalized with ample time to organize political campaigns, the next presidential
and parliamentary elections will be as meaningless as the last ones were.
It is not surprising that President Rahmonov is less than willing to create
conditions for free and fair elections; however, it is surprising that he
has chosen to flout the terms of the peace agreement so openly. It is also
worth noting that although spokespersons from the EU, the UN, the United
States and Iran have urged the Tajik president to accelerate the rate of
the peace process by complying with the political protocol, the Russian
government has so far remained silent. Russia recently signed a military
cooperation agreement with Tajikistan which grants the Russian government
an even greater degree of influence over Tajikistan's affairs than in the
past. The agreement also reaffirmed Russia's support for Tajikistan's current
regime. As a result, President Rahmonov may now feel confident enough to
ignore international pressure and adhere to his own agenda, which is unlikely
to include ceding power to members of the opposition.
Over 1,000 UTO troops now working for Russian border guard
According to Major-General Mahmudbek Ahmedov, more than 1,000 troops from
the Tajik opposition forces have been integrated into Tajikistan's State
Border Protection Committee and now assist in patrolling the Ishkoshim,
Murghob, Panj and Qala-i Khum sections of Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan
and China. Former UTO troops are also stationed along the Tajik-Uzbek and
Tajik-Kyrgyz border. Although the State Border Protection Committee is a
Tajik entity, it is operationally subordinate to the Russian Federal Border
Service command stationed in Tajikistan. Russian troops guard Tajikistan's
"external" borders and supervise the activities of the Tajik State
Border Protection units which operate there. Tajikistan's "internal"
borders are guarded only by native forces, which now consist of approximately
9,000 men. (ITAR-TASS WORLD SERVICE, 0534 GMT, 4 May 99; The British Broadcasting
These appear to be the only UTO troops which have thus far been fully integrated
into Tajikistan's national armed services. By assigning the UTO troops to
border guard units, the Tajik government accomplishes a number of aims.
Firstly, the opposition fighters are kept well away from President Rahmonov's
center of power in Dushanbe, which has shown itself to be quite vulnerable
to attacks from discontented militia leaders. Border guard duty is also
a fairly difficult and dangerous task, which frequently involves shoot-outs
with groups of smugglers from Afghanistan. The UTO units, seasoned as they
are, will no doubt have their hands full trying to curb the narcotics and
weapons trade. Their proximity to the smuggling trade also provides an opportunity
for Tajik government officials and Russian border guard commanders to use
them as scapegoats in the corruption scandals which occasionally surface
in the Tajik government. Finally, the Tajik government has managed to assign
ultimate responsibility for the former UTO troops' conduct to the Russian
border guard command, instead of to Tajik military leaders. Thus, none of
Tajikistan's government or military officials will have to answer for the
former UTO fighters' shortcomings.
by Monika Shepherd
Activities of special ops leader focus attention on group's lack of oversight
While President Lennart Meri would not accept Defense Forces Commander Lt.
Gen. Johannes Kert's resignation over the issue, charges of criminal activity
by the leader of the forces' Special Operations Group will likely continue
to have reverberations. An ad hoc commission examining the group cited a
discrepancy between the actual and legal chain of command of the unit, and
suggested that there had been violations of various regulations by members.
(RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 2 Jun 99) According to police, Sgt. Indrek Holm, the acting
head of the Special Operations Group, has been pursuing extracurricular
activity that clearly conflicts with his job. In mid-May Holm was shot in
the shoulder and the head when he and his accomplices attempted to rob three
men near the village of Kaberneeme, police said, in an operation that bears
similarities to a robbery that occurred in January east of Tallinn in which
a cash collector was killed. In both robberies, three perpetrators, wearing
dark clothing and black masks, first clubbed a security guard and then attacked
the driver, according to Baltic News Service, and the same caliber gun was
used both times. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 18 May 99)
Holm reportedly used his service weapon, a Glock pistol, in the May attack.
The Special Operations Group he commands is officially subordinated to the
defense forces' guards battalion and military police.
Don't let the door hit you ...
President Lennart Meri, clearly indicating that enough is enough, has suggested
other uses for the funds of the Organization for Security and Cooperation
in Europe (OSCE) than its current mission in Tallinn. "... I think
the OSCE Mission should be, not wound up, but reorganized so that it would
also in the future help our state overcome the Soviet past," Meri said,
suggesting that perhaps a research center, or an academic chair at Tartu
University, could be considered. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000
GMT, 7 May 99)
OSCE High Commissioner for National Minorities Max van der Stoel continues
to pepper the government with recommendations about amendments to its laws
on elections and language. The election law will require fluency in the
Estonian language for members of parliament and local self-government councils.
The language law amendment mandates the use of the Estonian language in
the private sphere as well. According to Prime Minister Mart Laar, the government
has higher priorities than discussing Stoel's memorandum. "It is nice
for Estonia to have such an active adviser who sends us letters of different
contents, which we here read with great interest," he added. (Baltic
News Service DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 6 May 99) One of Laar's higher priorities
was taking the visiting president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary
Assembly, Lord Russell-Johnston, on a tour of the northeastern region of
the country, where the population is predominantly Russian-speaking. The
visit seemed to pay off, since Russell-Johnston announced he heard no complaints
of discrimination during his visit. He also took the opportunity to support
vocally the much-discussed language law. "I'm not an expert in this
field, but Estonian is the official language in Estonia and I don't see
any reason why people here shouldn't be able to speak it," he remarked
at Concordia University in Tallinn. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300
GMT, 12 May 99)
Another group quickly becoming organization non grata is the Council of
Baltic Sea States (CBSS). The council's commissioner, Ole Espersen, often
has echoed allegations emanating from Russia that there are human rights
violations occurring in Estonia. Continuing the new tactic of Estonian officials
to stop accepting free unsolicited advice on the country's legislation,
Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the CBSS is addressing matters
outside its purview. "The Council of the Baltic Sea States should concentrate
on solving economic problems," Ilves said. "...Estonia's official
position is that the mandate of [Council Commissioner] Ole Espersen is fulfilled.
(Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 17 May 99)
Political typhoon rocks ship of state
A political crisis nearly swamped Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans last month,
and, while he survived a vote of no confidence in parliament, the storm
may not have passed yet. The catalyst for the crisis was at times quite
vocal dissension, claims and counterclaims between the government and one
of its members, Economics Minister Ainars Slesers. Slesers charged that
entrepreneur and Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs held too much sway over
the Kristopans government. Slesers also said that Lembergs had named himself
a state trustee in the Latvian energy company Latvenergo, and in reaction
to Slesers' accusations of possible conflict of interest, brought pressure
to bear on the ministry and the government. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT,
1800 GMT, 10 May 99) Slesers, a member of the New Party, indeed was forced
from his position after he failed to take advantage of the opportunity to
resign voluntarily. He claims the dismissal was due to his unwillingness
to heed "the dictate by sponsors." (Baltic News Service DAILY
REPORT, 1800 GMT, 10 May 99) Much more likely a motivating force is Kristopans'
oft-stated refusal to deal with vocal opposition from within his government.
However, rumors had begun to swirl earlier in the month, with reports from
the Kristopans camp that the opposition was attempting to destabilize the
government. Intimations of increasing instability were verified by members
of the government and of the opposition, which hinted that defections from
the government coalition could lead to Kristopans' overthrow. (Baltic News
Service DAILY REPORT, 1800 GMT, 6 May 99) Opposition People's Party spokesman
Gundars Berzins said his faction was waiting for action by members of the
coalition, specifically the New Party, to initiate a vote of no confidence.
"This is a decisive moment in the fate of the New Party and the government's
survival is in the New Party's hands," Berzins said. (Baltic News Service
DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 10 May 99) In the end it was Skele's People's Party
that filed the motion to hold a vote of no confidence in the parliament
against Kristopans. While Kristopans claimed the move was political, and
Lembergs charged Skele with fomenting instability in the government to further
his own business interests (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT,
12 May 99), the real catalyst most probably is a combination of the two.
Still smarting from earlier scandals that virtually ensure he won't lead
a Latvian government despite the continued popularity of his People's Party,
Skele has not hesitated to voice his disapproval of the incumbent PM. Moreover,
given the current discussions concerning privatization, the government needs
to appear balanced in its dealings with all economic interests that are
eager to participate in the process. In the end, the New Party remained
with the coalition government. The motion of no confidence failed to pass
with 24 votes for, 60 against, and 14 abstention. (Baltic News Service DAILY
REPORT, 1000 GMT, 20 May 99)
Government instability ends in new leadership
While dissent within the government coalition was not sufficient to topple
Latvia's government, discord between the prime minister and president in
Lithuania (see The NIS Observed, 19 May 99) did manage to bring in new leadership.
Although the Conservative Party political council at first promised not
to accept any nomination for PM to replace member Gediminas Vagnorius, the
tune changed when President Valdas Adamkus began discussions with Rolandas
Paksas, mayor of Vilnius. Thus, on 5 May the political council announced
that "the president should not nominate and appoint a Conservative
party member to the prime minister's post." (Baltic News Service DAILY
REPORT, 1600 GMT, 5 May 99) Less than one week later, Conservative faction
spokesman Arvydas Vidziunas announced a reversal: "If a member of the
Conservative Party accepts at his own free will the presidential trust and
the proposal to become a candidate to the prime ministerial post, the parliamentary
Conservative faction will not mind." (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT,
1000 GMT, 11 May 99) Paksas, who public opinion polls name as the most popular
figure in the Conservative Party, obtained a clear signal of support from
parliament: The Seimas vote on his appointment was 105 in favor, 1 against,
with 12 abstentions. (Baltic News Service DAILY REPORT, 1800 GMT, 18 May
99) Paksas' years as mayor of Vilnius, overseeing the often-contentious
City Council, should serve as valuable experience as he heads the new government.
He also approaches his new position with at least a verbal guarantee that
the storm which sank his predecessor's government will not unseat him: At
a meeting of Adamkus, Landsbergis and Paksas, it was agreed that the new
premier alone will select ministerial candidates. (Baltic News Service DAILY
REPORT, 1600 GMT, 12 May 99) Tensions between Vagnorius and Adamkus had
heightened over charges that the president was interfering overmuch in the
government's work. Paksas presented his Cabinet -- only half of which is
comprised of ministers from the Vagnorius government -- to parliament for
approval on 1 June.
by Kate Martin