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The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume VI Number 20 (12 December 2001)
 

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Michael Comstock
Security Services by Michael Varuolo
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Luba Schwartzman
Foreign Relations by Scott Bethel
Armed Forces by Walter Jackson

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Tammy Lynch
Caucasus by Miriam Lanskoy

Central Asia by Fabian Adami and Michael Donahue

Baltic States by Michael Varuolo


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Volume XII
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Volume VI
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Volume IV
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Volume III
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Volume II
No. 22 (4 December 1997)
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No. 1 (22 January 1997)

Volume I
No. 4 (18 December 1996)
No. 3 (4 December 1996)
No. 2 (20 November 1996)
No. 1 (6 November 1996)

Untitled Document

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

PRESIDENCY

Scope and intensity of Kremlin cleaning eased; Berezovsky speaks

Amid flurries of rumor and speculation, many have wondered about the likelihood and extent of President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin purge of Yel'tsin-era officials. Several high-ranking figures were under intense scrutiny, particularly Alexander Voloshin, the head of the Presidential Administration, who seemed a likely target for firing. (IZVESTIA, 30 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Recent events have put this expectation largely to rest. Voloshin has managed to retain his position. Moreover, in a significant ceremony, Putin elevated former President Boris Yel'tsin to the Order for Services to the Fatherland, First Degree. "I think this is right and symbolic that it is in this particular surrounding that we are decorating the man who has done so much for the CIS to be set up and gain strength...," Putin explained at the opening of the CIS meeting. (RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV [ORT], 30 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) As a Yel'tsin era official, Voloshin may have received his unofficial acquittal in the court of Putin's favor. The public's honors to Yel'tsin indicate that his appointments are safe, for the time being at least.

 

Additionally, Putin has consolidated power further within the Federation Council, following the resignation of Orel Region Governor Yegor Stroev, who has served as the council's speaker for the past six years. It is important to note that "Putin lavished praise on the out-going speaker," and that Stroev is not leaving office under pressure from the General Prosecutor's office. (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) In fact, the deal which resulted in Stroev's resignation and his replacement's nearly unopposed ascension mirrors in many ways Putin's own unexpected rise to political potency. The new speaker of the Federation Council, Sergei Mironov, is a former resident of St. Petersburg. He is expected to solidify further the council's support for the executive branch. Since his "election," Mironov has suggested that the current presidential term might be extended to five years (RUSSIAN TV, 8 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The position of speaker for the Federation Council is understood to be the third most powerful in Russia. This development leaves only Prime Minister Kasyanov between the St. Petersburg Group and complete control of Russia at this high level -- a fact not unnoticed by the pro-Kremlin faction Unity. "All that remains is for [chairperson of the Legislative Assembly's Budget Committee] Sergei Nikeshin to be named Prime Minister and everything will be just fine," according to deputy Viktor Yevtukhov. (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

However, Kasyanov does not appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. He recently presided over the railways ministry's 2002 Investment Program meeting, where he identified Minister Nikolai Aksonenko as a poor manager. (Logically, Kasyanov could not serve as the implementer of Putin's will in this case while at the same time being a target.) Aksonenko is an earlier victim of Putin's Purge at the hands of the General Prosecutor's office. Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies, said it was unlikely that the railways minister would be imprisoned, despite the threat of legal action: "They don't want blood, they need control over the financial resources." (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 29 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) While Aksonenko faces the harshest recent attacks by the St. Petersburg Group, it seems unlikely that he will need to follow his protégé, Boris Berezovsky, into exile. Thus not only the scope, but also the intensity, of the purges appears to be lessening.

 

Berezovsky also has been in the media spotlight recently. Portraying himself as an unappreciated visionary, Berezovsky said in a November interview, "I'm convinced that those politicians who try to see forward and act counting with the future are sure to be unloved." In the same interview he cited the need for a viable opposition to Putin's domestic and international agenda, and included this choice exchange:

 

"Berezovsky: Liberal reforms are incompatible with the authoritarian system of government in Russia. It's necessary to return to the former political system constructed by Yel'tsin.

Question: Do you mean oligarchic capitalism?

Berezovsky: Let's not discuss epithets. It is a fact that reformers have managed to improve the situation in the country in the past 10 years by means of large capitalists." (ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, 1 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Putin responded through ITAR-TASS: "Society needs healthy political competition more than a fruitless struggle which only weakens the state system, spoils the authorities' image and distorts the basic democratic principles." (ITAR-TASS, 1 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Although this comment was addressed to Putin's own supporters within the Unity and Fatherland Union, it is probably the friendliest statement he could issue on Berezovsky's vision. Then, on 4 December, Berezovsky published an open letter to the Nezavisimaya gazeta newspaper in which he calls upon "Voloshin, Anatoly Chubais, Mikhail Kasyanov, and others called 'the Family' by Boris Yel'tsin's enemies" to resign en masse before Putin can purge them, thereby creating the core of a new and powerful liberal opposition to Putin. The grandiloquently worded letter also contained extensive criticism of Putin's domestic and foreign policies and hearkened for a return to the Yel'tsin era of governance. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 4 Dec 01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

No resignations have occurred to date. "Underappreciated Visionary"? Perhaps. Critics have deemed Berezovsky's campaign to be empty of any real ideology, and merely an attempt to recapture prestige for his own purposes. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 5 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) However, in light of the fact that Putin has consolidated tremendous power, Berezovsky's statements may still attract adherents.

 

by Michael Comstock <jm-comstock@msn.com>

 

 

SECURITY SERVICES

Services use 'war on terrorism' to expand their own scope

The security services of Russia are taking advantage of the "war on terrorism" to expand their operations into Afghanistan. When Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov announced that Russia would continue its goal of "liquidating the ringleaders" in Chechnya, he was drawing a thin veil with which to shroud the recent activities of security elements within Afghanistan. (ITAR-TASS, 0857 GMT, 6 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1206, via World News Connection) On 26 November, 12 IL-76 military transports landed and began to move in personnel from various ministries of the government. (INTERFAX, 0802 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection) Included among the first representatives of the new Russian embassy are members of the emergency ministry, federal security service and the foreign intelligence service. This provides the leader of operations, Colonel General Valeri Vostortin, many tools with which to further his mission of organizational and restoration work while establishing contacts with the Northern Alliance. (ITAR-TASS, 1529 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection)

 

While denying reports that two airborne regiments were deployed along with the embassy contingent, the Russian government has insisted that its personnel are there solely to facilitate humanitarian missions. Although this may be a priority for the personnel assigned to Kabul, it is not the only one. There are early indicators that they have an additional tasking as well.

 

Among the first 100 personnel to arrive in Kabul were members of the GRU and SVR serving within the emergency situations ministry. They wasted little time before commencing extensive searches of suspected Al Qaeda homes. They are seeking evidence that will tie together Al Qaeda and various Chechen leaders. Chief on their list of Chechen leaders suspected of cooperating with Al Qaeda is the Saudi-born Khattab. (TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, 2 Dec 01; via lexis-nexis) The searches have yielded nothing that would connect Khattab directly to Al Qaeda. (INTERFAX, 1735 GMT, 23 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1123, via World News Connection) Despite this the GRU and SVR continue an aggressive search program within Kabul in an attempt to gain information and to further Russian influence within the coalition against terrorism. After all, as an unidentified Russian intelligence officer said, "Afghanistan is much closer to our border than it is to Britain and America. We have been fighting Muslim terrorists for years." (TIMES NEWSPAPERS LIMITED, 2 Dec 01; via lexis-nexis) In this regard it can be assumed that Russia perceives itself as playing a much greater role in the region in the future, and intends to use the "war on terrorism" to further this objective.

 

by Mike Varuolo <varuolom@bu.edu>

 

 

DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

FEDERAL ASSEMBLY

Stroev certainly will not bite the hand that feeds him...

Since governors can no longer be members of the upper house of parliament, Yegor Stroev, the governor of the Orel region, had to make a decision: give up either his regional leadership or his position as chairman of the Federation Council. On 29 November, Stroev asserted that "above all, he has to be loyal to his people," and confirmed earlier reports that he would not participate in the 5 December elections. (ORT, 29 Nov 01; www.ortv.ru)

 

As his replacement, he recommended Sergey Mironov, the St. Petersburg legislature's representative to the Federation Council, whose candidacy is believed to be endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mironov worked with Putin in the office of then-St. Petersburg Governor Anatoly Sobchak. It has been rumored that Putin recommended Mironov for the post of legislative assembly representative to the Federation Council in the spring of 2001. Mironov rejects those suggestions, but he does not deny that some of his visions for the Federation Council fit with the president's. The new chairman plans to focus on "economic questions, the budget process, restructuring of industry, and tax policy," as well as "systematizing Russia's legal field." To accomplish this, the frequency of meetings will be increased to three per month. His statements also seem to support Putin's propensity for centralization, although, unlike the president, he would like to see Federation Council members elected rather than appointed. (KOMMERSANT, 6 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Elected by a vote of 150 to 2, Sergei Mironov delighted many cynics with one of his first pronouncements -- that the current four-year presidential term in Russia should be extended by at least one year, to "allow for a wider window of opportunity to carry out reforms in the country." Mironov did include a disclaimer: "I would not say that such changes would be made during Putin's presidency... I believe that four years is not enough, whoever is the president," but most are convinced that the Federation Council is now firmly under the control of the Kremlin. (ITAR-TASS, 10 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

MEDIA

...while the government will not protect those who criticize it...

Over the last few weeks, attacks on the employees of TV-6 have become more frequent.

 

In October, the anchor of Zemlya-Vozdukh [Earth-Air] was stabbed twice with a screwdriver (13 October) and TV-6 General Director Yevgeny Kisilev was harassed (26 October) by "hooligans," the police maintain, despite the fact that the hooligans themselves admitted that they were hired.

 

Then: On 19 November, unidentified persons threatened Sergei Bazhenkov, the director of the Pilot TV company, which produces the program Tushite Svet! [Turn Out the Light!], with physical injury. On 20 November, the neighbors of Seichas [Now] correspondent Svetlana Kunitsyna stormed into her apartment and brutally assaulted her. And on 25 November, the apartment of Itogo [In Summary] anchor Igor Irteniev was robbed -- the burglary was reported to have been strangely methodical.

 

On the night of 29 November, three men were waiting for Il'dar Zhandarev in front of the elevator on the landing of his floor. They knocked him off his feet, handcuffed him, taped his mouth and eyes and dragged him into the stairwell. As they took his apartment keys out of his pocket they told him that they were hired to do so, that his television shows -- Interesnoye Kino [Interesting Cinema] and Bez Protokola [Without a Protocol] -- were not to their liking, and that he needs to leave Moscow in two weeks. Zhandarev was able to get to his feet and ring a neighbor's doorbell. In the meantime the men stole $400, two cellular phones and a video camera from his apartment.

 

Police reports have been filed concerning all of the attacks and the administration of TV-6 has asked the Moscow police department to analyze carefully all of these assaults. TV-6 representatives do not dare accuse the government of harassment -- instead they suppose that a rival company, jealous of TV-6's recent success, is to blame. (NTVRU, 30 Nov 01; via www.ntvru.com) A statement put out by TV-6 management, however, does accuse the authorities of not taking any significant actions to stop the atrocities, and of upholding LUKoil's actions to liquidate the television channel. (INTERFAX, 0605 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection)

 

...or don't support its preferred candidates

In the Sakha Republic (Yakutia), Viktoriya-Press, a local newspaper critical of the presidential election candidates, recently experienced both a boom in circulation -- 205,000 copies -- and a surge of checkups by the local prosecutor's office. Authorities even closed two radio stations belonging to the same media company for a month on the pretext of paperwork (i.e., red tape while the stations sought permission to install a more powerful transmitter) and arrested the general director of the company, Aleksandr Glotov, and four journalists. In the prison cell Glotov had a heart attack. No charges had been brought against him, and he was released from the prison's hospital ward after signing a promise not to leave the city. (REN TV, 1000 GMT, 7 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

REGIONS

Political mayhem in Yakutia

The election in Yakutia has been at center stage because the Kremlin hoped to add the republic-controlled 32-percent packet of shares of the ALROSA Diamond Company to the 32 percent already owned by the Federal Property Committee in exchange for letting incumbent Mikhail Nikolaev run for a third term in office. After Nikolaev refused, the Yakutian Prosecutor's Office arrested several experts of his election staff, the Accounts Chamber has accused him of embezzlement during the restoration of the city of Lensk, and Vyacheslav Shtyrev, the head of ALROSA and a popular candidate who had been eliminated from the presidential election for missing the registration deadline, has been put back on the ballot. (IZVESTIYA, 3 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Shtyrov has stated openly his opposition to the planned transfer of the Yakut-held ALROSA stocks to a trust managed by the local Sakha-Invest Fund, instead of the government, and expressed his willingness to cooperate with the center. (IZVESTIA BIZEKON REPORT, 5 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

ALROSA accounts for about 20 percent of world diamond production, provides 75 percent of the budget receipts in share royalties, and currently is negotiating a $4 billion five-year agreement with De Beers. (VEDEMOSTI, 4 Dec 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

by Luba Schwartzman <luba7@bu.edu>

 

FOREIGN RELATIONS

NATO expansion (or is it enlargement?), Russia, and the rest of the story...

The evolving relationship between NATO and Russian remains a hot topic. Over the weeks since the Bush-Putin meetings in Washington and Crawford, Texas, the NATO-Russia relationship has taken center stage. Surprisingly, this issue is getting more international press than any other, including the ABM treaty status, nuclear force reduction, or even Russian contributions to the "war on terrorism."

 

Chief among Russia's NATO suitors are British Prime Minister Tony Blair and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. (THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov 01) Initial proposals to deepen the existing working relationships between the alliance and Moscow were nebulous to say the least. Prime Minister Blair seized the initiative by making a bold proposal to institute a new forum called the Russia-North Atlantic Council. (AP, 28 Nov 01; via yahoo.com) The most interesting aspect of Blair's proposal is that it appears to have come as a surprise to many of the 19 NATO members. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 28 Nov 01) Several alliance members, among them France and Germany, appear to have been completely unprepared for Blair's radically more formal relationship which envisioned a Russian voting role on some matters of NATO policy. (ITAR-TASS, 1354 GMT, 30 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Blair neither made it clear on which issues Russia might vote, nor did he (more importantly) specify whether the Russians would have the same veto power as NATO members. This issue has brought the most reaction from alliance members.

 

In response, both Secretary-General Robertson and PM Blair have made every effort to refine their proposals and to clarify their remarks. Robertson visited Moscow on 23-25 November in an effort to solidify the growing relationship. During the visit, he regularly affirmed the desire for NATO to deepen the relationship between the alliance and Russia, and even committed NATO to "represent no threat at all to Russia." (TV6, 1200 GMT, 23 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) One noteworthy element is that Robertson no longer refers to increasing NATO membership as "expansion" but rather as the less-threatening "enlargement." (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 5 Dec 01)

 

NATO has signaled its seriousness towards this new relationship by better defining issues with which the Russians may play a role at the highest levels of NATO. In a statement released at the end of the foreign ministers' meeting at the North Atlantic Council (NAC), NATO's highest decision-making body, the issues for which Russian cooperative involvement is sought currently were defined. Besides the struggle against terrorism, Russia and NATO suggested that they could work together in such areas as crisis management, nonproliferation, arms control, theater missile defense, search and rescue at sea, military-to-military cooperation and civil emergencies. (AP, 7 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com) They also moved closer to defining the so-called "19 plus 1" formula for how the Russians would be given the right to vote, or to veto, in the proposed new body. The NAC has deferred formalizing the new construct until May when its next set of ministerial meetings is scheduled to take place in Iceland. (REUTERS, 8 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com) There have been some unsubstantiated reports in the press that the US, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have expressed the desire to slow down the formalization of a NATO-Russian relationship. (REUTERS, AP, 7 Dec 01; via yahoonews.com) However, it seems clear that from the NATO side there is concrete movement towards a larger role for Russia in the alliance.

 

In Russia, however, Putin has been able to parlay the entire NATO issue into another policy success for himself. He has kept the focus in his speeches and press conferences on limiting the eastward expansion of NATO. (RIA, 0925 GMT, 29 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) He also has made it quite clear that Russia's movement towards NATO will be on Moscow's terms. "....I would like to repeat again: Russia does not intend to queue up for NATO membership," Putin said during a recent public TV forum. (RUSSIAN PUBLIC TV, 1500 GMT, 22 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) It is clear that he doesn't want to seem too eager to be drawn into a Russian-NATO relationship not to his liking nor one that he can't say is in the best interests of the state. It is also unlikely that Putin will establish a broad NATO relationship at the expense of bilateral relationships with individual NATO countries or allow any close scrutiny of the Russian military. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov 01)

 

There has been remarkable solidarity in Russia concerning this rapprochement with NATO. Even senior military leaders, who often have clashed with Putin's military policy, appear generally to favor closer ties with NATO. During some very pointed remarks General Staff Deputy Chief Colonel General Yury Baluevsky said that he supported Putin's efforts and that "Moscow is prepared to expand cooperation with NATO, as long as it is done under conditions that safeguard Russian national security interests." (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 5 Dec 01) Though Baluevsky was critical of Putin concerning possible flexibility on the ABM treaty and reductions in warheads, he expressed the defense ministry's general view that increased cooperation with NATO is a good thing.

 

The future remains uncertain for NATO-Russian relations. However, there are three major conclusions that can be drawn from the events so far. First, the nature of the formal arrangements between the two countries will change by the NATO ministerial meetings in Iceland next May. The particulars will depend on events, personalities, and other exchanges occurring between now and then. However, it is clear that the UK prime minister and the NATO secretary-general want that relationship to be deeper and more formal. Second, Russia, more specifically President Putin, is in no hurry to enlist in NATO. He doesn't want to be tied down by the cumbersome alliance; it is more useful to be courted and see what concessions he can garner in the process. NATO's interest in Russia could be an effective springboard to membership in the World Trade Organization or even increased levels of Russian participation in the European Union. Finally, the US remains committed to deepening its relationship with Russia. President Bush has stated repeatedly his desire for increased cooperation with Russia and greater trust between himself and Putin. However, a strong Russian presence in NATO dilutes US primacy in Russian relations with the West and it introduces a complication for US dominance in NATO. Though Blair and Robertson have claimed US support for their initiatives, the US officials have been strangely silent regarding changing the Russian-NATO relationship. How the US policy evolves will be the lynchpin in its success or failure and will be the barometer to watch until next May.

 

Russia in the Middle East -- stirring the pot...

In November Russian leaders met with King Abdallah II of Jordan. Abdallah's visit was aimed at keeping Russia involved in the Middle Eastern peace negotiations. The Jordanian monarch clearly stated that "Russia, side by side with the USA and Europe must play a vital role to end the circle of violence in the Palestinian territories and prepare the proper ambience to put the peace process on the right track." (PETRA-JNA, 24 Nov 01; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

The substance of the talks was limited, resulting in only a modest military-technical agreement between the two countries which could result in a few million dollars in arms sales, including some armored vehicles, tanks, and perhaps some upgraded radar components for the Jordanians. (KOMMERSANT, 27 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The important aspect of the meetings was the king's endorsement of a central role for Russia in the Middle East peace process.

 

Abdallah views himself as the successor to his father King Hussein, and in this role wants to be a voice for moderation, peace, and stability in the region. However, he walks a fine line considering the large Palestinian minority in Jordan and the fact that his reign is secured by a series of alliances within his own country, most importantly with the Jordanian military. It is crucial for Jordan to have Russia as a counterpoint to the dominant US presence in the region.

 

It is also important for the Russians to play a major regional role. First, by becoming a focal point in the volatile Middle East peace process, Russia continues to push towards regaining the status of world power. Further, by doing so Russia seems a significant player in an area where the US views itself as the lead negotiator. Finally, active involvement in the Middle East keeps Russia highly visible on the world stage, giving Moscow increased prestige and power especially among developing nations.

 

King Abdallah and President Putin also touched briefly on both nations' mutual interest in Iraq. In a joint statement, the two leaders said that a continued push in the UN for a relaxation of sanctions and a concerted effort to bring Iraq back into the family of nations is the "best approach." (ITAR-TASS, 1052 GMT, 26 Nov 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The meeting preceded the planned visit by Russia's ambassador-at-large, Nikolay Kartuzov, to Baghdad.

 

During his Baghdad visit, Kartuzov expressed his desire to see sanctions reduced and his opposition to altering existing restrictions on Iraq along the lines of US-sponsored "smart sanctions" which are more flexible and designed to increase or decrease pressure on Iraq depending on Baghdad's compliance. (ITAR-TASS, 1202 GMT, 5 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) He also called the relationship between Russia and Iraq "special" and hoped to see it continue to "deepen."

 

With the focus of US attention in its war on terrorism now turning towards Iraq, this "special relationship" could prove to be a serious sore spot in the thaw between Moscow and Washington. The Russian side has long defended Iraq in the UN Security Council and has tried to torpedo sanctions against Baghdad. However, if accusations made by the US that Iraq is supporting international terrorism, or worse manufacturing and exporting weapons of mass destruction, are proven publicly, then Russia may be forced to choose between its old friend Saddam or its new partners in Washington.

 

by Scott Bethel <sbethel@bu.edu>

 

ARMED FORCES

Peacekeepers or occupation force?

Two years after Russia agreed to withdraw troops from Georgia and Moldova, Moscow slowly is beginning to comply with the accords reached at the 1999 Istanbul summit by the Organization for Security and Cooperation on Europe (OSCE). A substantial amount of the military hardware removed from Moldova and Abkhazia is too old even to be sold, and will be scrapped or, in the case of ammunition, exploded. According to OSCE spokesman Matti Sidoroff, for the first time separatist authorities in Moldova refrained from preventing OSCE mission members from reaching Kolbasna, as they have in the past, allowing for the verification and inspection of the departing military trains. (ITAR-TASS, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)

 

In Georgia, Russian troops are being renamed "peacekeepers" at the Russian garrison at Gudauta. According to the Istanbul accords, the base at Gudauta was to be turned over to the Georgian defense ministry by July 2001. Instead, Russia merely has reclassified existing military forces. (Of course, these are not peacekeepers in accordance with UN-recognized definitions, since the units are composed entirely of Russian forces.) This only impedes the peace process within Georgia. According to Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikhuralidze, so far 375 servicemen from the base have joined the "peacekeeping" force; there are still 600 Russian servicemen, 34 pieces of special machinery and 6 air-defense systems at the base. "The stay of these servicemen in Gudauta is inconsistent with the peacekeeping force's mandate because they are stationed outside the security zone, which is far from Gudauta. Furthermore, Russia is ignoring the provision of the Istanbul agreements under which the infrastructure of the base must be handed over to the Georgian Defense Ministry," he said. (GEORGIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY STATEMENT, 16 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1116, via World News Connection)

 

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the 1999 Istanbul commitments concerning Russian troop withdrawal from Abkhazia have been honored "not only de jure but also de facto." (INTERFAX, 5 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1105, via World News Connection) Russia's view of "de facto" must be different from that of everyone else present at the 1999 summit. In the broadest definition of honoring the agreement, the basic assumption is that sovereign Georgian troops would command the Gudauta base, which also could support Russian peacekeeping forces if their presence was requested, which of course it has not been. How effective have the Russian troops really been in western Georgia? One recent example comes immediately to mind.

 

The Great Georgian Train Robbery

On a dark and stormy night, on 24 October, in the Georgian region of Abkhazia, the first train robbery of the 21st century occurred. Gunmen didn't just rob the military train bound for Russia, they stole it, along with an undisclosed amount of Russian military hardware (including four BUK surface-to-air missile systems worth an estimated 236 million rubles) from the 50th Russian military base in Abkhazia. The alleged perpetrators, according to Russian military personnel (who were unable to stop the hijacking), were "armed Abkhaz men." In what can only be described as typical "Keystone Cops fashion," the train left in an "unknown direction" with lots of shots fired, but no one (miraculously) was injured. The entire (600-strong) Russian garrison at Gudauta was unable to locate it for three days. The train, along with the surface-to-air missile system, reportedly was recovered, and subsequently departed for Russia on 3 November. (INTERFAX, 1156 GMT, 6 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1106, via World News Connection) It's too bad no one thought to follow the train tracks.

 

Speaking of trains

Environmentalist groups such as Exotika and Greenpeace have long criticized Russian handling of hazardous materials during transit. According to Exotika, in Novouralsk in 1994 1,000 liters of a sulfuric solution containing uranium accidentally spilt along the train tracks. But Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev stated during a recent speech that "over the fifty years of transporting nuclear materials not a single accident had occurred in our [Russian] country." First Deputy Minister Valentin Ivanov also refuted the Exotika allegations but did state that "all future details surrounding trains and routes will remain secret." (IZVESTIA, 23 Nov 01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Could the same Russian guards who "lost" the train in Georgia have been reassigned to Novouralsk?

 

Northern Fleet shakeup

In one sweeping sickle-like motion, Russian President Putin has "purged" nearly the entire senior leadership of the Russian Northern Fleet. The shakeup occurred after a meeting between President Putin and Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov (who has been heading the Kursk investigation). The officers were dismissed, according to Navy spokesman Commander Vladimir Kuroedov, for serious flaws "at all levels of the [Kursk] command system and[those responsible for the] organization of training-combat activities." Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov and Chief-of-Staff Vice Admiral Mikhail Motsak headed the list of persons fired. All of the 14 senior officers dismissed were responsible for the planning, training and combat readiness of the Kursk and her crew. Deputy Chief of the General Staff Colonel General Vladislav Putilin and at least one Duma deputy, Andrei Nikolaev, believe that underfunded military budgets often result in accidents from poor combat readiness and added stress on military personnel. They also predicted that more accidents are likely. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 4 Dec 01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

President Putin also has stated that there is no substantiated proof that the Kursk accident was caused by the collision with a foreign submarine. Vice Admiral Motsak had been a vocal proponent of the foreign submarine theory, seen by many as an attempt to shift responsibility away from the navy, and to Russia's long-time enemies. But President Putin no longer cites NATO as a threat to Russia, thus the need for a change of guard in the Northern Fleet. (BBC, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline) Chief of the General Forces General Anatoly Kvashnin stated that Popov and Motsak were punished for general mistakes commanding the fleet, and not specifically for the Kursk accident. (EKHO MOSKVY RADIO, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)

 

Pacific Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Gennady Suchkov has been named as the new Northern Fleet commander. (INTERFAX, 5 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline) He will have his hands full leading the fleet away from the Cold War mentality, while focusing on combat readiness, training and modernization issues. In this case drastic changes in leadership were warranted, especially after the continuous flow of negative media concerns on the state of the fleet. In the submarine force alone, incidents have ranged from drunken brawls to increased suicide rates to even criminal convictions of commanding officers.

 

Officers and gentlemen?

In many modern military, the officers are responsible for the health and welfare of their troops, and are generally held to the highest standards of personal conduct. According to Russian Military Prosecutor Justice Major General Valery Suchkov, the "crime rate among officers is what worries us. Over 100 officers were convicted [of crimes] over the last three years, including 67 senior [officer] ones. The convicts include the commander of a submarine force, two submarine commanders, and five unit commanders ... This year, we logged 17 corruption-related crimes. In percentage, this is more than throughout the whole Far East Military District. Practice shows that crooked officers act together with private organizations and individuals dealing in equipment containing non-ferrous, rare, and precious metals, etc." (BOEVAYA VAKHTA, 5 Dec 01; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) With over 100 Russian nuclear submarines tied up, rusting away, is it any wonder that theft of nuclear material has been a real concern? Although Russian officials are quick to say that such theft is impossible in Russia, these acknowledgements continue to raise doubts, rather then dispel Western fears.

 

In the West, the conduct of officers responsible for the safekeeping of nuclear weapons and capital ships has been inseparable from the sanctity of national security. If senior officers who controlled nuclear weapons and ships were selling everything that wasn't nailed down, it would have monumental national security implications. Evidently, not in Russia. And what happened to those responsible for the mismanagement of the Northern Fleet? Ex-Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Vyacheslav Popov has been named to a top post in the atomic energy ministry. (RIA-NOVOSTI, 1 Dec 01; via RFE/RL Newsline)

 

by Walter Jackson <wjackson@bu.edu>

 

NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES

WESTERN REGION

UKRAINE

Remember us?

Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Taken together, the area is geographically quite large, and is home to hundreds of millions of persons. Yet, it seems to have developed an odd habit of becoming invisible during certain times -- at least on some maps. Today is one of those times.

 

Take, for example, the following statement from Lord George Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO, regarding the new NATO-Russia Council: "We are now united in the war against global terrorism," he said, "and we have a mighty obligation and duty to make sure that we don't throw away the fruits of that cooperation, but that instead we build on it, and we build a lasting relationship that will be in the interests of the people of Russia and the people of Western Europe as well." Lord Robertson indeed must have a very unique map. (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 23 Nov 01; via lexis-nexis)

 

The peoples of the former Soviet Union (and its former satellites), however, are perfectly clear about their geographic position. Despite recent attempts to tone down the rhetoric surrounding the new NATO-Russia rapprochement, they have been left scrambling to figure out where they fit in now. For Ukraine, the short-term answer has become painfully clear -- in the arms of Russia.

 

Ukraine's turn eastward did not begin after 11 September, of course. Since last year's Gongadze scandal, it has been to President Leonid Kuchma's great advantage to curry Russian support. To do so, he began turning his back on policies that his country had previously seen as vital to its independence. Closer military cooperation and increased Russian participation in privatization were just two benefits allocated to Russian President Vladimir Putin for his assistance. Still, Kuchma remained committed -- at least publicly -- to Ukrainian economic independence and integration into Western organizations. He and the rest of his administration seemed to remain relatively supportive of the country's position as a regional leader, following through with plans for the institutionalization of GUUAM. Much of this commitment was produced by steady behind-the-scenes pressure from Western officials and organizations, coupled with financial incentives. Ukraine was valued as a "counterweight" to Russia. "Engagement" with the country was seen as vital in the world of geopolitics. Not anymore apparently -- at least for some.

 

Since the terrorist attacks on the United States, Western (and in particular West European) attention has shifted into Russian pacification mode. The Russian "sphere of influence" -- roundly rejected when Boris Yel'tsin proposed it in 1992 -- has been de facto recognized. Russia is thanked for "allowing" US and British planes to use Central Asian bases in sovereign states. Russia is limply criticized for dropping bombs on two villages deep within Georgian territory. Russia is praised for finally fulfilling one part of an agreement to withdraw from Moldova (removing armaments), while little is said about its failure to fulfill the other part (removing troops) At the same time, attention becomes so concentrated on integrating Russia into NATO that any focus on the countries in this sphere is severely diminished (or worse, filtered through the eyes of Russia). Consequently, President Kuchma has placed Ukraine firmly under the Putin umbrella. Recently, following a meeting with Putin, Kuchma suggested the need for "closer integration of the former Soviet republics," and announced that "the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the resulting borders have created big obstacles in our life." (ITAR-TASS, 1510 GMT, 29 Nov 01; Federal News Service, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Russian-Ukrainian military cooperation has increased most substantially since 11 September. The two sides have completed draft agreements detailing "interaction on the arms markets of third countries," undertaking "research in the development of new weapons," and setting up "cooperation in repairing, modernizing and testing warships of the two countries." (ITAR-TASS, 1434 GMT, 1 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1201, via World News Connection) Additionally, ITAR-TASS has reported that Russia soon will begin "upgrading MiG-29s for the Ukrainian air force to MiG-29 SMT." (ITAR-TASS, 1312 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection) And, there have been calls by some Russian officials for joint command posts for anti-missile defense forces. (A&G INFORMATION SERVICES, 22 Oct 01; via InfoTrac) The impact on Ukraine's participation in the Partnership for Peace program has not been discussed, although one would imagine that the changing world environment could lead to changes in the program itself.

 

Meanwhile, the Russian government is pressing on with its timeworn calls for the elevation of Russian to a state language, and is supporting the new NTV-Ukraine television station, which will go on the air in January. "We consider ourselves the junior partner of the Russians," owner and media magnate Vadim Rabinovich said. "Making a new television program," he explained, "we know that 99 percent of Ukraine's people want to watch Russian channels and read Russian newspapers. Ukraine and Russia form their own media spaces, but it is impossible to break these ties." (INTERFAX, 1705 GMT, 30 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1130, via World News Connection) It is unclear where Rabinovich found his figure of 99%. And Rabinovich has not explained how he will avoid the Ukrainian law requiring that all television channels carry over 50% of their programming in Ukrainian. But then again, the Ukrainian government hasn't challenged him or his plans.

 

The West (with the exception of the United States) also has not challenged any of Ukraine's latest policy moves, even when given a simple opportunity to do so. For example, over two years ago, as Ukraine began contemplating Chernobyl's final shutdown, the country faced an emergency in its energy sphere. Its arrears to Russia for gas and electricity were increasing exponentially, and the loss of the energy from Chernobyl's one remaining reactor would exacerbate its dependence on its neighbor. In order to convince Ukraine to shut down the reactor, the G-7 countries agreed to help fund the construction of two new reactors. After years of delays and wrangling, this was finally supposed to be accomplished when the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) offered a loan of $215 million.

 

While the European wrangling continued, Russia began expressing an interest in assisting in the construction of the reactors. At the time, Ukraine shied away from Russia's offer. But over the last year, the EBRD has been pressuring Ukraine to increase electricity tariffs. Unless the country agreed to do this, the organization said, it would not release the loan money. Last week, Ukraine refused to meet the condition, and said it would instead accept Russia's offer. "Now that the world economy is slowing down," Kuchma explained, "our major and most energy-consuming industries have reached the breakeven point of their profitability. If we raise the tariffs, this will bring Ukrainian industry to ruin." He added, "But we are ready to hold talks [with the EBRD]." (STB TV, 1700 GMT, 3 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Unfortunately, there would be no immediate talks, and at this point it is unclear what the talks would accomplish. Shortly after Ukraine's announcement,, the EBRD spokesman questioned "whether it is worth pursuing the project in its current form." More importantly, when questioned about Russia's involvement, he seemed uninformed. "We do not understand," he said, "what Russia can contribute to the completion of the reactors, which technologies or conditions." (ONE PLUS ONE TV, 1730 GMT, 5 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging markets Database)

 

The EBRD may not understand Russia's future contribution, but the significance of the EBRD's contribution should have been very clear. With Western financing, Ukrainian reactors remain a Ukrainian project and a Ukrainian asset. Ukraine would be given a small piece of energy independence. Without the financing, the project becomes yet another Russian project on Ukrainian soil. The EBRD's actions may ensure that this is exactly what it will become.

 

As NATO countries work to create a new relationship with Russia, it is imperative that they not forget the countries in the middle -- the countries that fought so long for independence. Indeed, this year, Ukraine has chosen an eastward path. If Western countries continue to focus only on engaging Russia, that choice likely will continue indefinitely. But if the country is pressured and coddled and given the necessary incentives, it has some of the greatest potential in the area, both domestically and as a regional guarantor of stability.

 

Not so long ago, analysts and politicians asked, "Who lost Russia?" It would be lamentable if, three years from now, those same analysts and politicians found themselves asking, "Who lost Ukraine?"

 

BELARUS

Still ticking

Despite Alyaksandr Lukashenka's increasing attempts to silence members of the media and opposition, a small group of dissidents continues to fight for attention. Although in today's climate very little attention is forthcoming, dissent persists. The family and friends of missing journalists and politicians are among the most vocal.

 

On 9 December, 400 people formed a human chain -- called the "Chain of Concerned People" -- in central Minsk during an "unauthorized" protest. The wives of missing businessman Anatol Krasowski, opposition leaders Viktor Gonchar and Henadz Karpenka, and journalist Dmitri Zavadsky were among the protesters, and they once again called on officials to investigate the disappearances of their husbands. Their calls fell on deaf ears, of course. The wives suggest that even many Belarusian citizens seem to have accepted Lukashenka's claims that he has no knowledge about the cases. The wife of Karpenka, however, sadly predicted that in the future "many" Belarusians will be forced to deal with "the questions that are now haunting the families of the dead." (BELAPAN, 1506 GMT, 9 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

by Tammy M. Lynch <tlynch@bu.edu>

 

 

CAUCASUS

GEORGIA

More bombings in Pankisi

According to information provided by Georgian border guards, on the night of 27 November Georgian territory was bombed by Mi-24 helicopters and Su-25 fighter aircraft. The planes intruded 50 km inside Georgian territory. First, the village of Birkiani in Akhmeta District was bombed and then the Mta-Tusheti province was attacked. Thirty-six shells hit the village the Omalo alone. Villagers fled their homes and two shepherds reportedly were killed.

 

According to Georgia's air traffic control, there is video evidence which documents the movement of the aircraft. The air traffic control radar screen recorded the violation of Georgia's airspace at 2120 local time [1720 GMT]. The duty controller noticed initially four and then another two aircraft in the northern section of the country's airspace. "The six aircraft entered Georgian airspace from the direction of Nalchik. At the end of the 20-minute operation, the group of fighter aircraft disappeared in the direction of Russia. "

 

The bombed areas were inspected by officers of the Georgian State Border Guard Department and the Ministry of State Security, as well as the president's representative in the province of Kakheti. "The area was shelled with NURS-type rockets. Anti-tank shells were also used," Korneli Salia, chief of staff of the Georgian border troops, said. The fragments will be presented to Russia.

 

Asked by the Georgian television correspondent, Giorgi Tskhvitava, "Do you think it was Russian aircraft that bombed the area?" Salia responded that, "No one else in this region has aircraft capable of flying at night." (GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 1600 GMT, 28 Nov 01, and KAVKASIA-PRESS, 1150 GMT, 28 Nov 01; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Georgia signaled that it was taking measures to protect itself against future attacks. The country's armed forces were placed on combat alert and anti-aircraft units were deployed in the Pankisi and Arkhoti gorges. According to unnamed senior military officials, other defense ministry units also will be deployed there in case of urgent needs to protect the region. (GEORGIAN TV, 30 Nov 01; via BBC Worldwide Monitoring)

 

Shevardnadze in Moscow

While attending the CIS summit in Moscow, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze said he had decided not to broach the subject of the bombardments at the main meeting. He would discuss it privately in the now traditional one-on-one meetings with the Russian president. Shevardnadze told journalists that this was not the first time that Russian planes bombed Georgian villages, that no one was hurt (in contradiction of earlier reports - ML), and that he proposed a joint Russian-Georgian commission to investigate the matter. Putin commented that "it is necessary to investigate this more thoroughly and perhaps not even wait for the next time. We hope that nothing like this will ever happen again." Then Putin went on to question, "what kind of bombing was it if air strikes were delivered on settlements and no one was hurt?"

 

Having said that, Putin segued into retelling dubious reports (emanating from Russian security services) to the effect that Chechens and Arabs had clashed in the Pankisi gorge. This, too, according to Putin, should be studied carefully. (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 30 Nov 01; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

The new joint commission may prove to be a convenient way to ignore or suppress the ample evidence provided by Georgian border guards. Potentially, it also could play a more sinister role, the one mapped out by Putin: It could become the vehicle by which Russia gains access to the Pankisi Gorge with Georgia's acquiescence.

 

In a post-summit interview with Moskovskiye novosti, Shevardnadze hinted that an agreement with regard to Pankisi has been reached. "As for the Chechen problem, Vladimir Vladimirovich is well aware of our difficulties and he understands that we cannot conduct a large-scale military operation in an area inhabited by civilians [with] 7,000 refugees, including militants. But we worked out mechanisms for solving that problem together. I won't tell you all the details, but the public in Russia and Georgia will soon learn about it."

 

Shevardnadze also said that Gelaev's October excursion into the Kodori Gorge was prompted by a "provocation." According to him "Gelaev's people were told that they would leave Abkhazia for the North Caucasus through a mountain pass. Instead, they encountered fire. I was told that Russia had guaranteed them safe passage." Reportedly, Gelaev's unit could not get to Russia from the Pankisi Gorge since that section of the border is well-protected and -monitored. Hence, the promise of safe passage back to Russia through Abkhazia enticed him to leave the Pankisi Gorge. (MOSKOVKKIYE NOVOSTI, 4-10 Dec 01; Kremlin Package, via ISI Emerging Markets Database. For more about the October incident see THE NIS OBSERVED, 24 Oct 01.)

 

Feeble international response

Although it was widely anticipated that US Secretary of State Colin Powell would discuss the bombing of Georgian villages during his Moscow visit on 9-10 December, he apparently failed to do so. Last month, the State Department statement indicated that US officials would raise the matter with their Russian counterparts. However, there has been no indication in the US or Russian media that any US figure, including Gen. Powell, has discussed these matters with Russian authorities.

 

At the 28 November daily briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher commented that, "We have some confirmation that there were helicopters that entered Georgian air space from Russian territory, subsequently attacked areas on the Georgian side of the border in what's known as, I think, the Pankisi Valley, Pankisi Gorge. There are unconfirmed reports now of two deaths on the ground in the course of these attacks. We have consistently supported the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia. We are deeply concerned about these intrusions which undermine stability in this region, and we've raised the situation at senior levels with the Russian government in the past and will do so again in the near future." (www.state.gov)

 

On 4 December, the ministerial council of the OSCE discussed the events in Georgia and adopted a decision. However, there is barely a mention in regard to the two most serious issues for Georgia's security: the repeated bombings of Georgian territory by Russian aircraft, and the refusal of the Russian side to abide by OSCE-sponsored agreements to close its military bases on Georgian territory.

 

The decision applauds Russia and Georgia for setting up a joint commission to investigate the bombardments of Georgian villages. However, the OSCE easily could obviate the need for this commission. The OSCE has a monitoring mission on the border between Georgia and Chechnya. If the OSCE would make public the results of this monitoring, it would shed light immediately on the confusing and conflicting claims. This is precisely the purpose of having an objective international presence in a volatile area. All that the head of the OSCE mission to Georgia, Jean-Michel Lacombe, could bring himself to say was "we have noticed some unusual movements and the bombing of Georgian territory. " (GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 1600 GMT, 28 Nov 01; via BBC Monitoring) This reticence renders OSCE activities useless. Now the OSCE ministers speak of expanding the border monitoring mission to cover the Ingush segment of the border. This, too, will be futile if their findings are kept secret.

 

Similarly, the ministers made no mention of the fact that Russia has violated its promise to return the Gudauta base to Georgian control by 1 July 2001. Instead, the OSCE foreign ministers "look forward" to an "early transfer" of the base to Georgian authority.

 

The decision says :

1. We express our firm commitment to support the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia (....)

2. We welcome developments in the peace process in Tshkhinvali region/South Ossetia. (...)

3. We reconfirm the leading role of the United Nations in Abkhazia, Georgia and the importance of the Geneva process as the main framework of negotiations. We condemn the shooting down of a UNOMIG helicopter on 11 October and urge the honest fulfillment of all agreements, including, inter alia, the Moscow Cease-fire Agreement of 14 May 1994. We call for the resumption of a constructive dialogue aimed at achieving a comprehensive settlement, including defining the political status of Abkhazia as a sovereign entity within the state of Georgia. (...)

4. We acknowledge the significant contribution to stability and confidence in the region made by the OSCE Border Monitoring Operation along the border between Georgia and the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. We direct the Permanent Council to examine proposals to extend the Border Monitoring Operation to the Georgian border with the Ingush Republic of the Russian Federation.

5. We welcome the progress made this year towards meeting the commitments made in Istanbul on the future of Russian forces in Georgia. The closure of the Russian base at Vaziani and the withdrawal of the equipment from the Russian base at Gudauta were important steps forward. We look forward to the implementation of the other Istanbul commitments. We call for the resumption of the Georgian-Russian negotiations concerning the elaboration of appropriate transparency measures with regard to the closure of the base at Gudauta. We hope for an early legal transfer of the infrastructure of the former Russian military base at Gudauta. We also look forward to an early agreement on the duration and modalities of the functioning of the remaining Russian military facilities. We welcome the contributions made by Participating States to the voluntary fund to support the withdrawal from Russian facilities, and agree to consider on an urgent basis proposals from the parties for the use of the fund.

6. We welcome the aspiration to good-neighbourly relations and development of co-operation that was manifested at the meeting between the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze, on 30 November 2001, as well as the agreement to establish a joint commission to investigate the reported cases of bombardments in the border areas of the territory of Georgia. (STATEMENT OF THE MINISTERIAL COUNCIL, DECISION 2, 4 Dec 01)

 

The decision barely mentions the UN helicopter that was shot down over Georgia in October. The UN Observer Mission in Georgia refuted Abkhaz claims that Chechens were responsible for the 8 October crash of the UNOMIG helicopter: "[T]here is not enough of a basis for the conclusions made by the Abkhaz probe into the disaster, in particular, for the statements that it was downed by Chechen rebels from Ruslan Gelaev's group."

 

"Moreover, the results of the technical examination of the helicopter's debris, which is now being conducted by the Ukrainian administration, are still not known," the mission's press release says. "Before making any conclusions, the UNOMIG thinks it fit to wait for the results of the work of the above-mentioned commission...." ( INTERFAX, 1450 GMT, 30 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1130, via World News Connection)

 

by Miriam Lanskoy <mlanskoy@bu.edu>

 

 

CENTRAL ASIA

KAZAKHSTAN

Democracy can wait

Several weeks ago, Kazakh Prime Minister Qasymzhomart Toqaev demanded that several senior ministers, including the deputy prime minister, be removed from their posts. Toqaev threatened that, unless the officials were dismissed, he himself would resign. These ministers, have, with "considerable regret" on the part of President Nursultan Nazarbaev, been removed from their positions. (CENTRAL ASIA CAUCASUS ANAYLYST, 5 Dec 01)

 

The ministers were members of a recently formed movement, "Democratic Choice," which mandates the formation of an independent judiciary as well as an increase in parliamentary powers. Under the country's constitution, support for such a movement is illegal, and members of the government must "adhere to a single view." (FBIS-SOV-2001-1129, 29 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1129, via World News Connection)

 

There are indications, however, that the forced resignations were not simply the result of political intrigues between Nazarbaev, Toqaev and Democratic Choice, but rather were part of a larger web of intrigue involving the president's own family.

 

The president's son-in-law, Rahat Aliev, held the post of deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, but was pushed to resign from this post, supposedly because he had become estranged from Nazarbaev's daughter. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet) However, if Nazarbaev's relationship with Aliev had become strained, it certainly did not remain so for long. A mere four days after his resignation, Aliev was appointed deputy commander of Nazarbaev's Presidential Guard. (CENTRAL ASIA CAUCASUS ANALYST, 5 Dec 01)

 

The real reason for Aliev being shuffled around may lie in his links to the media. Nazarbaev's family (but most especially his daughter, Dariga Nazarbaev, and her husband, Aliev) own and control most of the country's media organizations, including Alma Media, Kazakhstan Today, and the country's leading TV Station, Khabar. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet) Several leading members of Democratic Choice had been trying, through outlets favorable to them, to break that media control. It is obvious, since Aliev's resignation on 14 November came days before Toqaev's ultimatum, that Nazarbaev wished to ensure that his son-in-law remained politically untarnished.

 

While personally motivated tampering with the government is worrisome in and of itself, the timing of such action provides the greatest pause for thought. The attempt by Nazarbaev to tighten his power comes at a time of great US involvement in Central Asia. Indeed, US Secretary of State Colin Powell visited Almaty between 9 and 10 December and met with Nazarbaev, less than two weeks after the purge of senior government officials. There was every indication that the war in Afghanistan was discussed, but little mention of the status of democratization. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 10 Dec 01; via Eurasianet)

 

It was to be hoped that US involvement in the region would lay the foundations for democratization. Tragically, it seems that the opposite is true.

 

by Fabian Adami <fabs@bu.edu>

 

UZBEKISTAN

Return to oppression, under the veil of counter-terrorism

As a full and committed partner in the "war on terror," Uzbekistan stands shoulder to shoulder with the nations of the world fighting the common enemy and keeping the world safe for freedom-loving peoples. At least that's the claim of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and his largely state-controlled media services. However, behind the publicity shots and officially released statements of "common goals" of "peace and stability" lie sinister-looking signals of a return to authoritarian, and even dictatorial, rule.

 

By now it is common knowledge that the October agreement between the United States and Karimov included American security guarantees in exchange for the use of military facilities for launching offensive operations against the Taliban. However, this agreement seems to have sent the Uzbek president a message that, with America looking after his external security, he could focus entirely on internal security, and in any manner that he chooses. As a result, since the 11 September attacks, and under the guise of fighting terrorism, President Karimov has taken serious steps to solidify his power for the long term and to restrict further basic freedoms in Uzbekistan.

 

Long a target for the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the government in Tashkent has taken the 11 September attacks as the most recent excuse to crack down on freedom of speech and religion. In an apparent "house-cleaning" that stems from a failed 1999 assassination attempt on Karimov, the Uzbek government has requested the extradition of dissident and writer Mohammed Solih from the Czech Republic. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 4 Dec 01; via Eurasianet) Such tactics to eliminate opposition leaders are common, as are claims of mass arrests and show trials with pre-determined outcomes.

 

Beginning a governmental public relations offensive in recent weeks to improve the image of his regime for the international community, the Tashkent press has been complicit in publicizing Karimov's humanitarian strides, both real and imagined. In his never-ending effort to be seen as an "enlightened" despot, President Karimov recently supported legislation to cut the number of offenses in the Uzbek criminal code that carry a death sentence from eight to four. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 27 Nov 01; via Eurasianet) Opponents and global activists still claim, however, that the death penalty is used to oppress religious and political dissenters.

 

In his most recent gesture to the international community, President Karimov reached a deal with US Secretary of State Colin Powell to open the Friendship Bridge, connecting the Uzbek and Afghan banks of the Amu Darya River. By opening the bridge, which had remained closed for four years, President Karimov apparently has reduced the transit time for humanitarian assistance between Termez, Uzbekistan, and the Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, a major refugee center, by 10 days. (BBC WORLD SERVICE, 9 Dec 01; via BBC News)

 

Taken at face value, these two "humanitarian" gestures have improved the quality of life for the people of the region, and demonstrate a positive change in the often-criticized Karimov government. However, not satisfied simply with the "quality" of his rule, President Karimov has searched for some creative ways to get his hands on a more lasting authority. On the eve of Secretary Powell's visit, the Uzbek parliament endorsed a proposal to make Karimov "president for life." (EURASIA INSIGHT, 7 Dec 01; via Eurasianet) While no doubt Secretary Powell was impressed with the irony that the first American Congress had discussed bestowing George Washington with the same honor, the secretary noted the current state of political affairs in Tashkent. Despite offering assurances that America's commitment to the region would be long-term, Powell voiced concerns about human and political rights and the slow pace of democratization in Uzbekistan. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 9 Dec 01; via Eurasianet) Secretary Powell's words surely offer hope to the citizens of Uzbekistan and human rights groups around the globe who, heretofore, have been somewhat alarmed with the United States' apparent willingness to play quid pro quo with anyone willing to help in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

 

Despite these strong words by Secretary Powell, however, America has a long history of mutually beneficial relationships with less-than-savory governmental leaders. And as long as there remains utility in a relationship with President Karimov, one shouldn't expect little things like "human rights" or "democracy" to get in the American government's way. While internally the state-controlled press continues to put Karimov's spin on domestic and international affairs, the average Uzbek and informed international observer can see clearly what has happened with increasing frequency in Uzbekistan since 11 September. Suppression of basic freedoms, elimination of enemies, and movements towards dictatorship seem to be in fashion this season in Tashkent.

 

by Michael Donahue <donahue@bu.edu>

 

 

BALTIC STATES

OSCE missions expected to close

As the OSCE offices in Estonia and Latvia prepare to close their doors, these two Baltic states face one of the most serious challenges to their bid for European Union (EU) membership and NATO accession. Both countries have undergone immense scrutiny for their policies concerning the Russian-speaking minorities who reside within their borders. Now the OSCE is content that Latvia and Estonia are in compliance with acceptable standards; however Russia adamantly rejects the OSCE claims and continues to assert that there is a serious problem in the area.

 

In Estonia, the OSCE has monitored the situation since 1993, and feels that the OSCE mission there has fulfilled its mandate. The mission points to the decision to repeal the Estonian Language requirement for parliament candidates as clearing the last stumbling block to full compliance with the mandate. This stumbling block was removed on 21 November and it now seems clear that the mission will be closed by the end of the year. (ETA, 1420 GMT, 26 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1126, via World News Connection) Meanwhile, the situation in Latvia is not as clearly defined., Besides receiving sharp criticism from Russia, the OSCE mission has come into conflict with the Council of Europe and its findings. (BNS, 0745 GMT 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection)

 

The Council of Europe claims that Latvia is still not fulfilling its human rights responsibilities. The latest charge is that the Latvia police have been using methods of investigation that are incompatible with acceptable standards, such as beatings, electric shock, and asphyxiation, when questioning suspects. (LETA, 1421 GMT, 23 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1123, via World News Connection) The Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have denied the accusations. However, these charges support Moscow's claims that the Baltic states are not respecting the rights of the Russian-speaking minorities.

 

The Russian foreign ministry, on 28 November, claimed that "European institutions still have much serious work to do in Latvia." (BNS, 1028 GMT, 29 Nov 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1129 via World News Connection) The Foreign Ministry goes on to note that the conference on bilingual education, held in Riga the week of 21 November, shows that little progress has been made in the area of education because the methods being used are unscientific and undeveloped. Furthermore, the conference purportedly demonstrates that there is a political voice within Latvia which the authorities cannot ignore.

 

Despite these recent public disagreements over the findings of the international communities, the OSCE will consider the fate of its missions on 20 December. (BNS, 0745 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection) The OSCE already has decided that the offices are no longer relevant. Yet while the outcome of the meeting appears to be predetermined, serious discussion may ensue as to whether the closing of these missions promotes security and cooperation within Europe.

 

The debate could have far-reaching implications for Estonia and Latvia. Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis Berzin, alluded to the main issue at stake, when he stated, "Russia's opinion on human rights in Latvia has been different from that of the EU for a long time but Latvia sought membership of the EU, not the CIS, therefore it is the EU position that matters to the Baltic State." (BNS, 0745 GMT, 3 Dec 01; FBIS-SOV-2001-1203, via World News Connection) Invitations to join the EU and NATO could hinge on which perception of the human rights situation is believed. While the OSCE decision would affirm its belief that acceptable standards have been reached, the closing of the mission offices will not close the debate.

 

by Michael Varuolo <varuolom@bu.edu>




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