The ISCIP Analyst
Behind the Breaking News
King interviews Putin
President Vladimir Putin presented himself to an American audience in an interview with CNN's Larry King on 8 September. (All quotes are from the TRANSCRIPT OF THE LARRY KING LIVE SHOW, CNN, 8 Sep 00; via Johnson's Russia List)
Responding to King's early question of what happened to the Kursk submarine, Putin provided a terse "it sunk." When prompted to elaborate on the incident, Putin claimed that a "powerful blast" caused the tragedy and that "75 or 80 percent of the crew died within the first 90 seconds."
On the subject of foreign assistance in the rescue efforts, Putin glided over his earlier rejection of international aid by declaring that once an "official proposal was tabled," the offer of foreign (British) assistance was "immediately accepted."
When asked about Edmund Pope, the American businessman held on espionage charges, Putin replied with a formulaic, "let the courts decide," answer. He then added some unusual comments for a former KGB agent: "I don't really think that intelligence can be that harmful."
Indeed Putin's take on the role of intelligence stressed the information-processing aspects, and its role in influencing decision-makers. Putin returned to the question of espionage while discussing the Russian opposition to an American missile defense system. Citing its potential destabilizing effect on strategic balance, Putin recalled the role of scientists working on the American atomic bomb project, who "on their own will transferred that secret to the Soviet Union" in order to "restore the balance."
On freedom of the press issues, Putin sought to deflect criticism by characterizing the disputes as financial. Vladimir Gusinsky's Media-MOST supposedly was targeted, not for its criticism of the president, but because it was operating in the red. Likewise at ORT television, which also works at a loss, 49-percent shareholder Boris Berezovsky has no real complaint with government attempts to gain control of his stock, because they aren't earning him any profit. In sum, Putin views complaints about the interference with free speech as "only a pretext to be able to cover up their own commercial interests in some quarters."
In general, Putin seemed stiff and curt, yet nonetheless oddly comfortable during the interview. Of course, the host wasn't particularly challenging or aggressive in his questioning, but perhaps that was to be expected, given the format.
Media war intensifies
When Putin met with families of the Kursk submariners last month, he encountered an angry, tearful crowd. He deflected their anger by blaming the media and his predecessors for the problems with the rescue efforts. Claiming that the media reports were "lies," Putin criticized the oligarch-owners of the media outlets. "They have embezzled enough, bought up the media, and are now manipulating public opinion." (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 1640 PDT, 31 Aug 00; via Cfirstname.lastname@example.org) The transcripts of Putin's remarks, apparently surreptitiously recorded, was published in the Berezovsky-owned Vlast magazine.
Putin went on to claim that the media were trying to force the political leadership to "fear them and obey them and let them further rob the country, the army, and the navy." Funny, that's not what he told Larry King.
Boris Berezovsky finally yielded, in his own way, to heavy-handed Kremlin pressure to give up control of his shares in ORT television. He has offered various journalists and officials partial control of his shares as a means of staving off full governmental control of ORT. He announced his intentions in a public letter to the president, in which he spelled out both the Kremlin's pressure tactics and the repercussions for society. "Last week, a senior official in your administration gave me an ultimatum: handover control of my shares of ORT to the government or go the way of [Media-MOST chief Vladimir] Gusinsky." (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 0440 PDT, 4 Sep 00; via Cemail@example.com) Berezovsky took the comment to be a threat of imprisonment in Butyrskaya jail, where Gusinsky was incarcerated last June until an earlier state-issued amnesty award won his release.
"In presenting me with the ultimatum," Berezovsky's letter continued, "you have actually posed a very important question to society -- whether or not non-state mass media have the right to exist in Russia."
A Kremlin source responded to the open letter, admitting that Kremlin Chief of Staff Aleksandr Voloshin had "insistently recommended Berezovsky to [sic] hand over his [ORT] shares to the state, but did not threaten him with imprisonment." (KOMMERSANT-DAILY, 8 Sep 00; RusData DiaLine-Bizekon News via lexis-nexis)
The Kremlin source went on to claim that the government would not introduce censorship, but rather "certain restrictions," including a possible ban on fanning "anti-presidential sentiment" during emergency situations.
In what some are claiming was simply a fall rescheduling at ORT, the weekly interview program Vremya was canceled on 9 September. Vremya's popular host, Sergei Dorenko, was once a fawning supporter of Putin, but has turned (like many others) into a critic of the president. According to Dorenko, the decision to cancel Vremya is linked to President Putin and ORT's coverage of the Kursk disaster. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 1014 PDT, 9 Sep 00; via Cfirstname.lastname@example.org) Dorenko is one of the journalists to whom Berezovsky apparently intended to turn over his shares of ORT. Berezovsky, among others, views the removal of Dorenko's program as another attack on freedom of the press, but perhaps it is only a pretext.
State Council established
President Putin decreed the creation of a State Council on 1 September. The State Council will not formally be a presidential organ, but will be chaired by the president; the secretary will be a deputy head of the presidential administration. The council, as currently conceived, will be a consultative body that will discuss issues of federalism, the interaction between federal and regional structures, as well as executive and legislative bodies. It will meet approximately every three months and will form a seven-member presidium, appointed by the president, whose membership will rotate twice a year. Members of the State Council will serve without paid compensation. (INTERFAX, 1636 GMT, 1 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0901, via World News Connection)
The initial presidium has already been named. Its members are: Khabarovsk Governor Viktor Ishaev; Tomsk Governor Viktor Kress; Tyumen Governor Leonid Roketsky; St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev; Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov; Chairman of the State Council of Daghestan Magomedali Magomedov; President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev. (KOMMERSANT-DAILY, 5 Sep 00; Russian Press Digest, via lexis-nexis) They represent the seven new federal districts.
New information security doctrine
Anatoli Streltsov, deputy head of the Security Council's (SC) information security department, announced on 12 September that President Putin had approved Russia's new information security concept. The four main elements of the new doctrine are: constitutional rights and freedoms (including the development of moral values); information support for state policy; modern technologies and the domestic information industry; and the protection and security of Russian information systems. (ITAR-TASS, 0928 EDT, 12 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis)
A reorganization of the Security Council's interdepartmental commissions, decreed by the president, has resulted in the addition of a commission for CIS affairs. The SC, after the reorganization, also has the following commissions on: military security; public security and the struggle against crime and corruption; defense industry security; economic security; and constitutional security. (ITAR-TASS, 1523 GMT, 4 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0904, via World News Connection)
by Susan J. Cavan
Human rights foundation raided...
The Glasnost Foundation, a human rights organization that speaks out actively against, and holds conferences to deliberate upon, problems like the war in Chechnya, as well as FSB (and previously KGB) abuses and corruption, was raided by "masked commandos wielding automatic rifles" at about 7 p.m. on 28 August. (MOSCOW TIMES, 1 Sep 00; via www.moscowtimes.ru) This isn't the first time the organization has faced reprisal from the power organs: The Glasnost Foundation website lists three major raids (with confiscation of property, primarily archival material and equipment) by the KGB-FSB, arrests, beatings, bureaucratic harassment of, and even the assassinations and assassination attempts on persons affiliated with Glasnost. (GLASNOST FOUNDATION WEBSITE, via www.glasnostonline.ru)
On this occasion, seven or eight armed officers, masked and in camouflage, led by an unmasked lieutenant of the 18th Moscow police precinct, broke down the back door of the Moscow office, and, at gunpoint, forced the dozen or so staff members and visitors present (including a 10-year-old girl) to lie on the floor; the officers reportedly kicked Sergei Grigoryants, the head of the organization, for not complying with the orders quickly enough. (M2 PRESSWIRE, 1 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis) The victims were kept on the floor for about 40 minutes before a police captain arrived and demanded to see Grigoryants' documents. When the organization's leader refused, declaring that according to the law on police the captain had to show him his documents first, the captain said "You know the laws too well" and left with the rest of the officers, without offering any information. In a telephone interview, Grigoryants told a Moscow Times correspondent, "They knew exactly where they were going. This was a conscious, government action aimed at intimidating civil society." (MOSCOW TIMES, 1 Sep 00; via www.moscowtimes.ru)
...just days after demanding a trial of those responsible for the Kursk
On 22 August, Glasnost was one of the most prominent of the 37 human rights organizations which demanded -- in a message addressed to Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Kasyanov, Yegor Stroev and Gennady Seleznev -- that criminal proceedings be initiated against officials responsible for the submarine tragedy. (SEGODNYA, 23 Aug 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis) The charges against the military leadership would include violation of a number of federal laws and of the constitution. (EKHO MOSKVY RADIO, 1930 GMT, 21 Aug 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis)
Security services are moving into the XXI century
The Russian Minister of Communication, Leonid Reiman, signed RF order No. 130, "On the Procedure for Introducing a System of Technical Devices to Support Operations-Investigative Measures on Networks of Telephone, Mobile and Wireless Communication and Personal Radio Calls for General Use" on 25 July. Internet, telephone, cellular and paging network operators are to install the devices (abbreviated SORM) at their own cost -- then hand over full control of the "operations-investigative measures" to the FSB. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 29 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0831, via World News Connection) Most Internet service providers, aware of the FSB's wrath for non-cooperation, have already signed installation plans, but a couple, namely Irkutsk's Delovaya Set' and Volgograd's Bayard-Slavia, are willing to stand up and contest the legitimacy of the order. (SEGODNYA, 22 Aug 00; via lexis-nexis) In addition to concerns about the infringement of citizens' constitutional rights, there are questions as to whether the new order could be used for financial advantage. (MOSCOW TIMES, 6 Sep 00; via www.moscowtimes.ru)
It depends what you mean by 'healthy'
Pre-existing cancer, Graves disease, kidney pains, fading vision and severe headaches apparently leave one healthy enough to undergo a Federal Security Service investigation. Or, at least, this seems to be true for 54-year-old Edmund Pope, a former US Navy officer held in Lefortovo on charges of espionage (gathering top-secret information on a high-speed underwater missile from Russian scientists). The US administration had been slow in responding to the situation and did not seriously challenge the arrest until Pope's wife, Cheri, made further avoidance impossible: even now, however, there are more words than actions taken concerning the issue. (INSIGHT MAGAZINE, via www.insightmag.com) A court hearing had been scheduled for 11 September to determine whether Pope should be released on health grounds, but it has been delayed until 19 September because of a technicality -- Pope had wanted to be present at the hearing, and the court has to arrange for him to be brought in by convoy. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 11 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis) There was a rumor that the FSB may offer to swap Pope for Aldrich Ames -- an odd concept considering that both are US citizens and that, even if Pope were proven guilty, his offenses could hardly be compared to Ames'. (MOSCOW TIMES, 29 Aug 00; via lexis-nexis)
The war on crime continues
In other news, there has been a whirlwind of antiterrorist actions. The fifth phase of the Vikhr antiterror campaign, carried out in Russian cities with populations exceeding 1,000,000 (but most intense in Moscow and in the Moscow region) and involving "preventive" investigation of suspicious persons (read: persons from the Caucasus), was launched on 8 August. The campaign already has proven fruitful: 408 suspected criminals have been detained and 124 tons of explosives, 3,800 firearms and more than 4 million pieces of ammunition have been confiscated. (ITAR-TASS, 2016 GMT, 20 Aug 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis) Nine cooperation agreements to combat organized crime were signed in Kyrgyzstan at the meeting of the interior ministers of CIS countries. (ITAR-TASS, 0714 GMT, 8 Sep 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis) Finally, the Russian interior ministry has been closely cooperating with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in combating terrorism and organized crime going so far as to select permanent groups of specialists who will interact in complex situations. (ITAR-TASS, 1646 GMT 18 Aug 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis)
by Luba Schwartzman
In another week of non-stop diplomacy, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Japan from 3-5 September, followed by a trip to New York for the United Nations Millennium Summit from 5-8 September. But unlike his last whirlwind foreign trip to China, the DPRK, and Japan in July, when he stole the limelight from more seasoned statesmen, Putin brought no diplomatic surprises with him to either engagement last week.
Status quo to reign in Russo-Japanese relations
Putin's long-anticipated state visit to Japan was unsurprisingly anticlimactic. With a series of other bilateral meetings in the spring and summer under their belts, Putin and Japanese President Yoshiro Mori were undoubtedly looking for something to show for their efforts. Resolution of contentious issues in Russo-Japanese relations, however -- most notably the Kurile Islands territorial issue and negotiation of a peace treaty which would formally conclude hostilities stemming from the Second World War -- were not destined to be among them. Regarding these issues, the presidents reached yet another stalemate highlighted by a further suspension of loans to Russia by the Japanese.
But the dual track approach once again saved the summit. Under this approach, the Russians and Japanese treat the territorial issue and peace treaty as distinctly separate from all other Russo-Japanese relations. In effect, the approach allows Russo-Japanese relations to progress along one track despite the tensions caused by the lingering disputes on the other. And indeed, the approach allowed Putin and Mori to sign a package of agreements at the summit which look like those signed between allies -- not disputants with raging territorial disagreements who are still technically at war. The agreements in fact cover relations across the board from trade and disarmament to cooperation on international issues such as the Korean Peninsula and terrorism. (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 5 Sep 00; via RussiaToday.com)
Despite the obvious pageantry, the summit does suggest that the thaw in Russo-Japanese relations begun by Boris Yel'tsin and Ryutaro Hashimoto is deepening. However, it also indicates that, although both sides may be ready to eliminate these vexing issues, they are not yet ready to make the concessions necessary to resolve their differences. In fact, the summit once again only proves that as long as relations can continue along a dual track, a decisive resolution of either the territorial issue or peace treaty is not necessary. In effect, the status quo -- no peace treaty, no Kuriles, no loans -- will reign until either the Japanese give up their claim to what is historically theirs, or the Russians relinquish control over what is an issue of pride.
Putin on the hot seat
Bill Clinton's 1 September Georgetown University speech deprived Putin of anti-National Missile Defense (NMD) slogans at the summit and turned the media spotlight back on Putin's domestic bungling of crises over the past month, including the Kursk submarine tragedy and the Ostankino tower fire. As a result of these crises and the later firing of Sergei Dorenko, a popular television host who recently has criticized the Putin administration, Putin's leadership has been brought into question, along with the state of the armed forces and freedom of the press in Russia. During his New York stay, Putin found himself on the media hot seat on two occasions, once at a posh 21 Club dinner with various media and again on CNN with Larry King. Under this kind of scrutiny, Putin was left with no choice but to confirm that he had mishandled the Kursk accident by staying in the Crimea during the first days of the tragedy. But true to Russian form, he balanced this admission of fault with the observation that rushing to Murmansk would have been simply for "PR" purposes since he was in close contact with the military throughout the crisis. (CNN, 0900 EDT, 8 Sep 00)
Putin's lackluster speech at the UN, instead of repeating his G-8 coup concerning an alleged North Korean promise to halt its missile development program, reiterated timeworn Russian positions on several international issues. However, his statements did reflect the lessons that Russia has learned over the past few years, namely the importance of the UN in international affairs. (STATEMENT FROM THE RUSSIAN PERMANENT MISSION TO THE UN, 7 Sep 00; via Johnson's Russia List) Indeed, Russia's one last bastion of superpower status remains its permanent UN Security Council seat. US-led "unilateralism" -- as evidenced by Desert Fox, Kosovo and NMD -- embodies one of Russia's greatest fears: a world in which the US erodes Russian influence by circumventing Russia's UN veto. Thus for Russia, Putin's speech bore an important message since it highlights a main Russian policy concern: staying in the game.
At least in bilateral relations with the US, however, Russia is still firmly in the game. With NMD "deferred," Russia and the US used the summit to continue negotiation on START III and other issues of strategic stability. Russia previously had threatened to abandon these negotiations if the US decided to construct even a limited NMD. But on these bilateral issues the sides accomplished little at the summit. The one main agreement signed was a Joint Statement on Strategic Stability Cooperation Initiative which commits Russia and the US to "finishing an agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile launches... and creating a shared early warning facility in 2001." (US DEPARTMENT OF STATE BRIEFING, 7 Sep 00; via Johnson's Russia List) But this statement is simply the third iteration of the same document signed by Putin and Clinton earlier this year. In addition, Shared Early Warning has been an issue on which Russia has been more than willing to negotiate, regardless of NMD. In fact, Putin finally agreed to open a Joint Data Exchange Center in Moscow during the height of NMD tensions in June of this year. For Moscow, Shared Early Warning means more US dollars in Russia, since the project would be US-funded.
In effect, neither Putin nor Clinton got what they wanted. Regardless of US dollars flowing into Russia, Putin has still not "won" the NMD debate. The issue has only become an unknown factor until the next US presidential administration.
by Sarah K. Miller
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
A curious Federation Council takes form as it is gently put to sleep
The membership of the upper house of the Federal Assembly (now officially referred to as a "transitional" Federation Council) will be divided between the old system of directly seating the governors and heads of the regions' parliaments, and the new system of appointed membership until the first of January 2002, when the entire house will be comprised of the new membership.
The problem with this long transitional period is that the effectiveness of the upper house will be seriously compromised as two classes of members form and inevitably battle for power, thus turning their attention away from pending legislation. The new, permanent representatives may want control over important committees which the governors and heads of regional parliaments will not relinquish readily. The rules of the chamber are based on the old system of membership, which may not be convenient or workable for the new membership. And as the number of Federation Council members seated by the new system approaches 50 percent, a battle for the heart and soul of the institution may occur. Such a paralysis could provide Putin with a convenient excuse for putting the Federation Council out to pasture.
This scenario suggests that the Federation Council may be put out of the business of checking the actions of a power-grabbing chief executive who is unaware that the Cold War has ended, and a lower house whose singular purpose seems to be to sing the praises of the Glorious Leader.
To make matters worse, Putin's State Council, with no independent power whatsoever, co-opts the country's only other real source of power, the governors, with an illusion of effective participation in the nation's business. And they, like the Duma and the "parties" of which it is constituted, walk willingly to the noose applauding along the way that finally a decision has been made.
By constructing a system of "federal regions" headed by the president's "representatives plenipotentiary," who in fact do not hold plenipotentiary power but are dependent upon Putin's every decision, the governors' collective position is weakened further. Again, no one seems to mind.
With the Federation Council effectively out of commission, Putin can shift its power onto organs more easily controlled, such as the State Council. It is perhaps not for nothing that Putin changed its full title from the Presidential State Council to the State Council of the Russian Federation. As discussed below, the president's complete control over the membership and functioning of the State Council makes it a perfect device for restoring the unquestioned authority of the occupant of the czars' palaces in the Kremlin. With the Duma in one pocket, and the governors in the other, Putin can finally turn out the light on the Federation Council with its pesky streak of independence. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 25 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0829, via World News Connection)
Shoigu, Unity and national disaster
An interesting development has emerged with the twin disasters of the sinking of the Kursk submarine and the fire in the Ostankino TV tower in Moscow. Sergei Shoigu, both emergencies minister and the head of Putin's Unity party, must have learned after Putin's sorry performance in the face of the Kursk disaster that the chief executive should be placed in the best possible light during crises. With the Ostankino TV tower fire, Shoigu came out quickly with statements that Putin had everything well in hand.
The curious point is that the extent of the fire was in large part due to Putin's need to be in charge. It took three hours to turn off the electricity once the fire had been detected because everyone involved was afraid to move without Putin's approval, even the usually independent-minded Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov. (THE TIMES, 1 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis) The continued supply of electricity caused the fire to spread.
But this is not important. As long as national disasters can be "spun" by a dedicated follower such as Shoigu, Putin's image can be maintained.
Putin forms the State Council
Issuing the decree on the first of September, Putin finally has the State Council he has so long advocated. The structure is quite simple and will serve Putin's interests quite well. He will, of course, be the chairman of the council, which will be comprised of the country's 89 governors. To direct, guide and control, a seven-member presidium will also be constituted. Presidium membership will rotate every six months, thereby eventually allowing every governor a chance to participate.
The question remains as to whether the State Council will replace the Federation Council, which Putin seems to hint is his ultimate aim. With regards to the duties of the State Council, Putin replied that, "It would be improper to entrust the [State Council] with new functions while the Federation Council is still functioning. A joint decision will be made on ways in which to proceed. Decisions will not be made behind closed doors, for any constitutional changes must be consistent with the Constitution," he said. (INTERFAX , 1253 GMT, 31 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0831, via World News Connection)
What he means by all this is wholly unclear. Putin bases his decree setting up the State Council on Articles 80 and 85 of the Constitution. Why then is he speaking of constitutional change? Is he just waiting until the Federation Council is dissolved or rendered toothless to put his "presidium" into place? For now the State Council is nothing but another powerless organization taking up office space, but it has the potential of being something much more than Putin's founding decree demurely suggests.
by Michael DeMar Thurman
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
The peril of easy money
Almost one year ago, the International Monetary Fund began its "tough love" policy toward Ukraine. Upset with slow reforms, disturbed by a seemingly impotent government, and concerned about possible accounting discrepancies in the budget, the organization suspended its $2.6 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) loan to the country and stepped away. The IMF hasn't fully returned to the country since, although it has studiously monitored the progress of three audits being conducted on the National Bank of Ukraine. This month, the final audit was completed and it seems that the country at last may be close to having its EFF loan reinstated.
As discussed in the 16 May 2000 NIS Observed: An Analytical Review, the first audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that Ukraine overstated its reserves to the IMF on several occasions in order to qualify for $200 million in IMF loans during 1997. "By giving a misleading impression of the size of Ukraine's reserves," an IMF news brief stated, "the National Bank of Ukraine's reserve management practices may have allowed Ukraine to receive as many as three disbursements [totaling $200 million]... that it might not otherwise have been able to obtain." (IMF NEWS BRIEF NO. 00/26, 4 May 00) The same IMF news brief also ominously stated, "Once a final determination on misreporting is made, the Executive Board will decide what remedial action may be appropriate." Since that time, Ukraine has existed in a sort of pre-punishment limbo. Would it be disqualified from all future IMF lending? Would it be forced to repay the improperly received disbursements? Or, would it receive little more than a reprimand?
Ukraine's leaders, perhaps nudged along by IMF representatives behind the scenes, decided not to wait for the final judgment and repaid $96 million of the improper tranches last month. The Ukrainian daily newspaper Fakty i Komentariyi quoted Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko as saying that the country wanted to end speculation and "concentrate its attention on renewing the Extended Fund Facility lending program." (FAKTY I KOMENTARIYI, 28 Aug 00; via Bloomberg)
That possibility seems much more likely following last month's IMF Executive Board meeting in New York. After that meeting, the organization's directors announced that the third and final PwC audit of the Ukrainian National Bank had turned up no additional instances of misreporting. The audit also confirmed that no IMF money had been misappropriated in any way, and that the Ukrainian government had fully cooperated with the investigation. With that, the IMF directors "expressed concern that the Ukrainian authorities had overstated their reserves throughout the entire period under review," sternly reprimanded Ukraine, and announced that all future lending would be kept in an IMF account and used only to repay the fund. This is, incidentally, the same penalty imposed on Russia last year. (IMF NEWS BRIEF NO. 00/77, 6 Sep 00)
The directors no doubt also took note during the meeting of Ukraine's progress toward fulfilling the reforms deemed necessary by the IMF. Although a few points have not been met, the country seems to have put itself in a good position to receive renewed lending.
Ironically, the soon-to-come renewal of IMF lending actually presents a danger for Ukraine. Remarkably, against both the odds and the predictions of many analysts (including this one), Ukraine seems to be in a more stable fiscal position today than when it received regular lending from the IMF and World Bank. Today, the country boasts a small budget surplus, significantly reduced pension and wage arrears, improved tax collection, and a seemingly complex and well thought out economic strategy. Without foreign lending to depend upon, the country has been forced to be self-reliant. It is this self-reliance that could truly be endangered by renewed IMF lending. Unfortunately, with IMF and World Bank money to count on, the toughest choices may become easier to avoid.
Consider, for example, the words of Deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov, discussing future IMF lending: "If there will be no loans, we would have to implement additional measures. For example, today I postponed an approval of a cut in budget spending, as there is no need to do that so far. But we will be forced to cut the appetites of our ministries if there is no foreign lending and additional revenue from economic growth [before the end of the year]." (BLOOMBERG, 31 Aug 00; via America Online)
While no one wishes for services to go undelivered, some of Ukraine's ministries probably could stand to lose a little weight. With IMF lending secured, this is unlikely to happen. Ironically, it was Yekhanurov who earlier had praised Ukraine's economic work over the last year, and said with pride, "This shows that financial discipline and discipline of expenditures is being established in Ukraine. Such policy helps us live using our own resources." (INTERFAX, 30 Aug 00; via lexis-nexis)
Of course, given the country's energy, agricultural and foreign debt crises, Ukraine has no choice but to accept IMF lending -- to do otherwise would simply be foolish and short-sighted. One hopes, however, that this lending will be used not as a crutch, but as a cane meant only to steady the step. If it is used otherwise, the country's hard-won self reliance could be lost for years to come.
How to legitimize an unlawful president
For several months, representatives of just about every European organization dealing with human rights threatened Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. If he did not meet specific criteria, they told him, the upcoming parliamentary elections would not be recognized, and international election observers would be withheld in protest. The criteria were basic for any election: devising fair, concrete and understandable electoral legislation, providing the parliament with meaningful functions and powers, giving the opposition access to the media, and stopping political persecution (which includes the release of political prisoners).
In a surprise to no one who has watched events unfold in Belarus over the last several years, Lukashenka not only failed to meet the criteria, but figuratively thumbed his nose at them. "We are holding these elections not for the United States or the West, but for the people of Belarus," he said many times. (REUTERS, 4 Sep 00; via America Online) At the same time, he continued his massive persecution of opposition figures. Just weeks ago, for example, former prime minister Mikhail Chyhir was again arrested and charged with tax evasion. This followed months in prison for another charge that was ultimately dismissed by the Belarusian Supreme Court under immense international pressure.
Even with this, the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE, Council of Europe and European Union determined that a hearing on the subject was needed before deciding whether to send international observers to the election. Therefore, the Technical Conference on Belarus was held at the end of August to discuss the issue that seemed so obvious to many. At the conference, David Johnson, US ambassador to the OSCE, argued vehemently against sending any type of international mission to the country for the election. To do so, he said, "at the urging of a regime that seeks such observation as a badge of legitimacy would be a mistake." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 28 Aug 00) Johnson, and US Counselor Andrew Steinfeld, methodically laid out systematic violations of human rights by Lukashenka. From the imprisonment of opposition figures to ongoing trials of opposition leaders to the disappearance of a number of prominent opposition and media members, Johnson emphasized the United States' position. It is a position that turned out to be very isolated.
The conference recently announced that a "technical assessment mission" would be sent to the country to view the parliamentary elections. In addition, the chairman of the conference announced that the parliamentary assemblies of the OSCE, Council of Europe and European Union would "continue their consultative and monitoring functions during the parliamentary elections." (OSCE PRESS RELEASE, 31 Aug 00) This decision, according to the conference's resolution, "does not constitute an act of international recognition of the democratic character and outcome of the parliamentary election process." (BELAPAN, 1100 GMT, 31 Aug 00; BBC Monitoring Service, via lexis-nexis) It does, however, provide Lukashenka with exactly the opportunity he needed.
Declaring the decision of "victory," Lukashenka suggested, "This decision allowed Europe to save face by not pushing Belarus away," and expressed his gratitude to the Europeans for "resisting this [US] empire" and managing to "withstand this pressure and not allow the appearance of a new hot spot in Europe." (REUTERS, 1 Sep 00; via America Online) One portion of the opposition, the splinter Belarusian Popular Front Conservative Christian Party, suggested just the opposite. It lashed out at the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group in Minsk, and suggested, "It will not be possible to strangle Belarus quietly. ... The European community will get one more Kosovo crisis." (BELAPAN, 1715 GMT, 25 Aug 00; BBC Monitoring Service, via America Online)
The rest of the opposition, however, continued following OSCE recommendations, and attempted to suggest that this limited monitoring mission was a victory. It also requested that the OSCE respond to Lukashenka's declarations that the international community had given in to him and decided to send observers. So far, the OSCE has remained silent on that issue. With that silence, yet another opportunity for the international community to isolate Belarus, support the opposition, and stand up for the people suffering under Lukashenka's dictatorship has passed.
by Tammy Lynch
Russia abandons Bishkek Treaty
On 31 August Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced that Russia will withdraw from the 1992 Bishkek Treaty which mandates visa-free travel among the CIS member states. Since some CIS states have very high rates of unemployment, many workers and traders make their living in Russia. At best, the imposition of the visa regime will cost them time and money as they return to their countries of origin to comply with new bureaucratic regimes. At worst, it will make it impossible for them to continue with their current employment. In either case, this can seriously undermine the economies of CIS member states. In addition, it marks the end of even tentative progress towards a liberal free trade regime in the CIS region.
The move represents the latest in a pattern of growing Russian reliance on bilateral relations. At Putin's first CIS summit, in January 2000, he initiated the practice of limiting all substantive discussion to secretive, one-on-one meetings. The same pattern emerged at the August CIS summit. Now, according to Ivanov, the existing visa regulations will last another three months, so that individual states may negotiate separate agreements with Russia. (DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, 31 Aug 2000; via lexis-nexis) The shift to bilateralism is reminiscent of imperial (or Soviet) arrangements, where each territory maintained relations with the metropole but had no forum in common with other territories.
Russian representatives have indicated that those CIS states which have subordinated themselves to Russian geopolitical designs -- Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan -- need not worry. The move only punishes those states that have sought to assert their independence. What will the Caucasian states be asked to cede to Russia? Will Georgia be asked to keep Russian bases in place? Will Azerbaijan be asked to reconsider its stance on the sectored division of the Caspian Sea and the route of the Main Export Pipeline?
The implications for the CIS, as an organization, are profound. It is unclear what remains of the CIS structure since the visa-free regime was the only tangible benefit of membership. The other pillar of the alliance, the Collective Security Treaty, has never been invoked (even in the current war against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU) and has had a substantial decrease in participants as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan left the treaty.
... And jump-starts GUUAM?
Speaking after a meeting of GUUAM presidents on the sidelines of the UN Millennium Summit, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze announced that Romanian President Emil Constantinescu had voiced the intention to join GUUAM. (INTERFAX RUSSIAN NEWS, 9 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis) Moreover, the participants in the meeting pledged to meet regularly and create a more meaningful institutional structure for GUUAM. (AZERBAIJANI TV, CHANNEL ONE, 1600 GMT, 7 Sep 00; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis)
The increase in GUUAM's activity "is a sort of demarche to Russia's decision to withdraw from the CIS Bishkek agreement" on a visa-free regime for CIS citizens, Shevardnadze said. Earlier the member countries of GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) indicated that they would maintain a visa-free regime, promote integration and create a free economic zone. (PRIME-NEWS, 0755 GMT, 4 Sep 00; via lexis-nexis)
The GUUAM association was formed in 1997 in response to concerns about the upward revision of CFE flank ceilings. Due to profound Russian resentment of the evolution of an independent group of core states within the CIS, GUUAM avowed limited economic goals and proceeded only very haltingly. At each juncture some of its members were too timid or too distracted by other concerns to develop the alliance to its full potential. Perhaps now that Russia has reneged on the central element of the CIS alliance, the GUUAM members will be more successful.
FSB issues credentials to kidnapping suspect
The Glasnost Foundation, the human rights organization that was raided recently by the Russian security police (See Security Services above), has launched a new e-mail Daily News Service covering the North Caucasus region.
On 9 September, the Glasnost Foundation reported that the Dagestan police found an FSB license on a suspected kidnapper. (via www.glasnostonline.org) Umar Albekov was detained on 6 September in connection with an abduction of a 12-year-old boy who had been held for nearly a year and released in exchange for $25,000 in March 2000. Albekov had applied for employment with the Dagestan FSB in July 2000 and the agency granted him a temporary license. The local FSB spokesman, S. Zabitov, told Glasnost that it is typical modus operandi for those engaged in kidnapping to seek FSB credentials.
This is only the latest case where the FSB seems deeply implicated in the hostage-taking business. (See The NIS Observed, 23 Aug 00) Zabitov's comment raises some troubling questions. If it's standard practice for kidnappers to seek FSB credentials, why haven't the services taken some trouble to vet their applicants? How many other such cases have there been? Is this ever discovered by the FSB itself -- or only when its agents are arrested?
by Miriam Lanskoy
Fighting may be part of a broader plan for regional instability
Insurgency and instability are the two words increasingly associated with Central Asia. And once again in August fighting broke out in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Islamic insurgents operating from bases in Tajikistan staged several attacks into a remote mountainous region straddling Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The attacks are deepening concerns among Central Asian states that a concerted effort is underway to destabilize the region. (RIA, 1628 GMT, 6 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0906, via World News Connection)
Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have been taking up fortified positions in the mountainous region to defend against a force of about 700 rebels supposedly operating from mountain bases in Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The (IMU) is suspected of orchestrating the attacks and maintaining a presence in Uzbekistan and southern Kyrgyzstan. The IMU infiltrated these areas from mountain strongholds in Tajikistan. (INTERFAX, 1628 GMT, 6 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0906, via World News Connection) All three republics are working together at the national level to defend against the guerrilla attacks and have established a joint military command center in Tajikistan. In Kyrgyzstan, the IMU retraced the same infiltration route into the Batken region bordering Tajikistan that it had used in August 1999. According to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), the Kyrgyz National Security Council secretary believes the attacks are designed to expand drug trafficking routes throughout the Batken region, "the most direct and, until last year's incursion, the least guarded." (IWPR CENTRAL ASIA, 18 Aug 00; via email@example.com) The base of support for the IMU may be widening and there are also indications that "Islamic radical cadres are operating underground at universities across Uzbekistan, including in Tashkent." (EURASIANET, 8 Sep 00) The Central Asian governments could use this as an excuse to crack down on radical Islamic activity even more, further exacerbating the situation.
There has been little or no evidence of fighting in the last few days; however, government forces are monitoring the situation closely and conducting reconnaissance patrols in the mountainous areas. The southern group of the Kyrgyz armed forces, intimately familiar with the local terrain, has established and reinforced checkpoints along highland routes and mountain passes as a means of checking the movement of rebel forces. (ITAR-TASS, 1243 GMT, 6 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0906, via World News Connection) The Uzbek defense ministry says it is carrying out "a so-called mopping-up operation" against the IMU in southern Uzbekistan and the Tashkent region. Uzbekistan is the "strongest military power in Central Asia." (INTERFAX, 1311 GMT, 30 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0830, via World News Connection) According to Uzbek officials and Russia, training and operating bases for the IMU are said to be located in Taliban-controlled territory. The 10,000-strong Russian border contingent in Tajikistan is tightening security controls in all sectors of the Tajik-Afghan border and could call on Russia's 201st Motorized Division, currently stationed in Tajikistan, if needed. The Taliban seems to be in complete solidarity with the IMU and its aim to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, as well as being "likely to provide the IMU with massive military aid." (INTERFAX, 1628 GMT, 6 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0906, via World News Connection) This could mean the rebels are being supported by external forces, perhaps some of the same forces alleged to be promoting the guerrilla war in Chechnya, thus creating an "arc of instability" from the northern Caucasus to Central Asia.
Kazakh officials and Western diplomats believe the insurgents are Islamic militants armed and trained in Afghanistan. The international community and regional authorities have been asking what is behind the latest attacks. Many believe the rebels want to ensure that borders remain open for the illegal heroin trade that now traverses the former Soviet republics of Central Asia -- Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan -- or from part of a broader plan for the spread of Islamic extremist fundamentalism. According to a spokesman for the OSCE, "these countries can cope with the threat now, but it seems to be a long-term strategy [by the rebels] to find military and political weakpoints." Questions remain about whether the fighting in August was the culminating point or an introduction to a more intense war intended to cause greater instability in Central Asia. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6 Sep 00)
Central Asian countries have highlighted the need for closer regional cooperation on anti-terrorism and other security issues as recently as this month's UN Millennium Summit. While Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan claim they intend to "crush" this insurgency, they lack the necessary resources to do so without Russian intervention. Russia is prepared to render military assistance to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan "to enhance their defense capability and stabilize the region." (ITAR-TASS, 1310 GMT, 7 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0907, via World News Connection) While this does not necessarily mean troops, particularly in light of recently announced cuts in force levels and the ongoing war in Chechnya, Russia will most likely provide arms, equipment and military advisers to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in accordance with bilateral agreements. It remains to be seen whether Russia will use this crisis as a means to establish a more permanent military presence in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan is particularly wary of becoming too dependent on Moscow but may feel pressured to renew its membership in the CIS Collective Security Treaty, signed in Tashkent in 1992, for accepting Russian assistance. Uzbekistan withdrew from the security pact in 1999 after a break in Uzbek-Russian relations. (EURASIANET, 8 Sep 00)
The Russian foreign ministry also identified the Taliban in Afghanistan as a "source of instability and terrorism in Central Asia, posing a direct threat to the interests of Russia, Uzbekistan and other CIS member countries." (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 31 Aug 00) This hard line towards Afghanistan is also reflected in Russia's new foreign policy concept, which states that Afghanistan "poses a real security threat to the southern borders of the CIS and directly affects Russian interests." Russia's preoccupation with Afghanistan is probably due to its historical ties to Central and South Asia (including the 1979-1989 Afghan war), and the predisposition of the Taliban to export terrorism and religious extremism. It also underscores Russia's recent efforts, such as reinforcing its strategic partnership with Kyrgyzstan, to forge closer ties with Central Asia quite possibly to rein these states back into its sphere of influence, as well as create a buffer on its southern periphery against Islamic insurgency. Russia's strategic interest in Central Asia most likely stems from its geopolitical position and historical ties to these republics. It is also likely that Russia could use bases in Central Asia to launch air strikes against rebel strongholds in Afghanistan. According to Vremya novosti, "the promised preemptive strikes against Taliban bases and camps are starting to look like a fairly realistic prospect." (VREMYA NOVOSTI, 2 Aug 00; via Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press)
Whether designed to create a blanket of instability to keep smuggling routes open for drug trafficking or part of a strategy for the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, the fighting has far-reaching implications for both Russia and Central Asia and represents a serious threat to regional security. A more cohesive and responsive approach, in coordination with some type of regional forum brokered by the OSCE to address security issues including human rights, is needed to ensure long-term regional stability in Central Asia.
by Lt Col James DeTemple
Regional and bilateral interactions help states entrench their positions
The Baltic states continue their quest to be (just about) everybody's friend, with a few notable exceptions. Indeed, in the past few weeks there has been a flurry of international activity designed in part to maintain bilateral relations but also to cement positions in the world community that may help to ensure international outrage should any neighbor come a-calling uninvited. Such a gambit appears to be working, moreover, if statements from US government and non-governmental representatives are any indication.
To be sure, no troops have been seen massing at the eastern borders, but if words were stones there would be many in the Baltics sporting bruises. Russia has continued hurling accusations, even if such claims are increasingly ludicrous: The Russian news agency RBC reported that a battalion which purportedly included fighters from the Baltic states was active in Chechnya, although there was no official confirmation. Members of this battalion, RBC added inexplicably, were dressed in Russian army uniforms in order to discredit Russian federal forces. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 17 Aug 00) It is odd, to say the least, that the media would assume that soldiers in Chechnya wearing Russian uniforms would be anything but Russian. Perhaps the folks at RBC haven't been watching the news since the invasion last fall.
Rather than respond to such outlandishness, Baltic foreign ministries have focused largely on matters of regional cooperation. Baltic and Nordic ministers meeting in Denmark last month decided on a psychologically important symbol of progress. The meetings, which had been called "5 + 3," will hereafter be termed meetings of "8" countries, eradicating an inherently divisive indicator and implying a level of equality that the previous term withheld. Officials at the meeting discussed European Union (EU) enlargement, regional cooperation, and relations with Russia. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 30 Aug 00) Javier Solana, the former NATO secretary-general and currently an EU representative for foreign policy, joined the ministers and offered words of hope to Baltic aspirants to the EU and NATO. "I am sure that both processes will end happily soon," Solana told a news conference after the meeting. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 30 Aug 00) Subsequently, the vice president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Tahir Rose, voiced his opinion that the Baltic countries should be included in the next round of the alliance's enlargement, and that their membership in NATO would lead to greater security and stability not only for them but also for Russia. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1300 GMT, 1 Sep 00)
Despite the sublime forecast, relations with Russia continue to be somewhat rocky, but apparently everything is relative. Yet another spy scandal erupted last month, as the Estonian foreign ministry asked two Russian diplomats, Yuri Yatsenko and Vladimir Telegin, to leave the country within 48 hours after they were reportedly caught attempting to gather information about Estonia's defense forces. "Diplomats are indeed obliged to collect information, but they cannot go too deep into guarded details or question people in a way that turns diplomacy into intelligence," one anonymous official explained. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 1 Sep 00) In addition to denying Tallinn's charges, Russia responded by expelling two Estonian embassy officials. Still, Estonian Ambassador Tiit Matsulevits in Moscow remained unconcerned that the brouhaha would have long-lasting repercussions. "Estonian-Russian relations have never been as good in the past 500 years as they are now," he explained. Enough said.
Western, specifically US, evaluations of relations between the Baltic states and their neighbor have been quite clear-eyed lately. For example, US Ambassador to Latvia James Holmes encouraged Riga to continue its moves towards the West and yet remain prepared to accept any Russian overtures, should they come. "[E]verybody understands that the slow pace in building bilateral relations is due to Moscow as it is Russia which keeps silent and fails to respond to Latvia's efforts," Holmes said. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 24 Aug 00) Meanwhile, Philip Petersen of the Potomac Foundation, a Maryland think tank, was blunter: Petersen advised politicians in Vilnius to investigate who is sponsoring the activities of neofascists in Lithuania. "Lithuania does not need to prove that pro-fascist forces compromising this country are supported by any specific country. To confirm these allegations, Lithuanian would only have to prove that the financing of the activities of these forces does not come from within this country," he said. He even offered direction as to where the study might first focus. "Russia has been consistent in its opposition to Lithuania's NATO membership. Representatives of the US Congress are concerned over how Russia is using US financial assistance.... If it turned out that part of the US financial assistance to Russia is being spent on interference into the affairs of other countries, there would be a great scandal at the US Congress," he added. (BNS, 1607 GMT, 25 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0826, via World News Connection)
Alas, some officials are willing to give Moscow a bit of diplomatic ammunition. On the same day that Max van der Stoel, OSCE high commissioner for national minorities, commended Estonia for the country's success in the integration of ethnic minorities, an unauthorized leak from the interior ministry demonstrated that not all officials are as dedicated to successful social integration as one could hope. Jaak Valge, who heads the aliens department for the interior ministry, has circulated a draft repatriation program which foresees the reduction in the number of Russian citizens resident in Estonia by one-half, or about 50,000, in order to solve the country's problems with high rates of unemployment and crime among non-citizens. The interior ministry's deputy chancellor for population issues, Tiit Sepp, noted quickly that the paper did not represent the ministry's official policy. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 23 Aug 00)
Then again, the official policy of integration engendered some diplomatic whining as well. Aleksei Glukhov, the Russian ambassador to Estonia, complained to the Russian Duma that a policy of integration means turning non-Estonians into Estonians. Apparently, that's a bad thing. In a stunning example of how one person can simultaneously understand a situation and yet miss the point, Glukhov told the Duma that "After regaining independence nationalist governments adopted the course of ousting everything connected with Russia, Russians and our common past ...." (ETA, 0728 GMT, 25 Aug 00; FBIS-SOV-200-0825, via World News Connection) Perhaps the ambassador should re-examine that "common past" to find clues as to possible Estonian motivation. Then again, it probably wouldn't do any good.
While relations with Russia are unlikely to improve in the short term, the Baltic countries are working actively to increase interaction with other states. As has become customary in the summer months, international joint exercises were held with a variety of countries. Latvian and US sea forces worked on dive training in Liepaja port at the end of last month (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1400 GMT, 19 Aug 00), while approximately 1,000 Italian servicemen are holding a joint military exercise with their Lithuanian counterparts in the Pabrade central training ground near Vilnius through mid-October. The exercises will provide Lithuanian forces with experience in the armament, technical equipment and communication means used by NATO members. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 16 Aug 00)
Indeed, regular interaction with the West has led the Baltics to assume the mantle of elder brother with CIS states that are not as far along in their quests for Western alliances. Following a meeting with his Georgian counterpart, Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves reportedly said, "Estonia has shown by deeds her support to Georgia's integration with Western structures. Estonia is ready to share her experience and also Western countries will support it." (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1600 GMT, 21 Aug 00) Ilves also offered training for Georgia's border guard, police and other forces. Such role model activity was not limited to international aspirations, either. Estonia's Pro Patria Union invited represented of Belarusian opposition parties to its congress, which will be held in Tallinn later this month. "It is Pro Patria's duty, you remember how important a visit and advice from each fraternal party was for ourselves 10 years ago," explained Prime Minister Mart Laar, who is chairman of the Pro Patria Union. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE DAILY REPORT, 1000 GMT, 22 Aug 00). Moreover, the foreign secretary of Pro Patria Union, Jaanus Reisner, spoke twice at a seminar of the united opposition in Belarus, while MP Aimar Altosaar conducted a training course in Ukraine for members of the Belarusian opposition parties.
Estonia is also actively pursuing relations with China. On the eve of a visit by Li Peng, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), Riigikogu Speaker Toomas Savi promised a strengthening of economic links and expansion of cultural exchanges. (XINHUA, 0530 GMT, 8 Sep 00; FBIS-CHI-2000-0907, via World News Connection) Indeed, the improvement of Chinese relations was on the agenda of each of the Baltic countries, although the leadup to Li's Vilnius visit did not run as smoothly as some would have liked: Shortly before Li was to arrive, MP Vidmantas Ziemeles registered a draft resolution offering moral support to Tibet and calling for recognition of Tibet as an occupied country. (BNS, 1301 GMT, 5 Sep 00; FBIS-SOV-2000-0906, via World News Connection)
by Kate Martin