Alternate center of gravity
In Russian politics, President Vladimir Putin appears to remain untouchable;
in a recent poll Putin's popularity (in terms of support for his actions)
compared with the American president's at 75%. (INTERFAX, 28 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0228,
via World News Connection) Meanwhile, the prosecutor-general's office, under
Vladimir Ustinov, has proven to be Putin's expertly wielded political weapon.
Many of the president's political opponents, mostly members of the Yel'tsin-era
government (such as Boris Berezovsky and Nikolai Aksenenko) have been subjected
to Ustinov-led prosecutions.
While Berezovsky is by far the most prominent of Putin's nemeses, an
alternate center of gravity has been forming in opposition to Putin's previously
unchallenged progress. The members of this group, like Berezovsky, belong
to the old-new "apparat," but they are much more subtle than he.
Two of the leaders are Yevgeny Primakov and Arkady Volsky. Primakov, former
prime minister, head of the SVR, and failed presidential contender, recently
was chosen to head the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI), while Volsky
leads a lobbyist group, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs
(RUIE). (RUSSIAN TV, 1100 GMT 14 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) Both groups represent interests that favor heavy industry
and resource-exporting business, such as oil, wood, aluminum and steel.
The CCI tends to cater more to the mid- to small-sized businesses, while
the RUIE consists of larger entities, such as the oil giant LUKoil. In the
Yel'tsin years, these interests would have operated from within the executive
branch. Now, some businessmen have been relegated to the periphery of Putin's
orbit, and in some cases have been prosecuted for their previous excesses.
Recent evidence suggests that they have begun to consolidate in preparation
for the upcoming elections with the aim of achieving greater influence in
the legislative branch.
To demonstrate the common denominations of these two organizations, one
need look only as far as their respective leaders. Primakov was elected
to the board of the RUIE shortly after his ascent to the leadership post
of the CCI. Two months later, the favor was returned when Arkady Volsky
was elected to the executive board of the CCI. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 21 Dec
01, and VEDOMOSTI, 1 Feb 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) These two
additions to the RUIE and CCI, respectively, greatly increased the powers
of the industrialists and their resource-exporting allies. Both organizations
support Russia's entry into the WTO, and both endorse the explicit goal
of protecting Russian business interests, regardless of whether that protection
is from American anti-dumping laws or the prosecutor-general's office under
Ustinov. (KOMMERSANT, 24 Jan 02; INTERFAX NEWS, 6 Sep 01, and RUSSIAN TV,
1100 GMT, 14 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
In fact, Volsky met with Putin recently at the Kremlin, and it is widely
believed that the purpose of the meeting was to influence Putin to rein
in Ustinov and his office, following the arrest of (Gazprom subsidiary)
Sibur's president and vice president, Yakov Goldovsky and Yevgeny Koshchits.
(THE MOSCOW TIMES, 29 Jan 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Recent
statements by Putin regarding a war on crime and the renewed attacks on
and by Berezovsky suggest that there will be no real truce with some of
the oligarchs, although it is unclear how far RUIE and CCI will be affected.
It may be significant that other remnants of the Yel'tsin legacy are under
attack. Tatiana Dyachenko's recent marriage to Valentin Yumashev, for instance,
ties Yel'tsin's family to the RUIE. Yumashev's son-in-law is none other
than the aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska, a member of the RUIE and vocal
defender of Nikolai Aksenenko, the ousted railroads minister. (MOSKOVSKY
KOMSOMOLETS, 19 Oct 01, and VEDOMOSTI, 23 Oct 01; via ISI Emerging Markets
Primakov's predecessor at the CCI, Stanislov Smirnov, was ousted due
to charges that under his leadership the organization had "lost its
position in the business and political world of Russia," a situation
Primakov will attempt to change. (KOMMERSANT, 4 Oct 01; via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) In the days following his election as the head of the
CCI, Primakov outlined his primary goal to be the transfer to his conglomerate
of licensing powers for small- and medium-sized businesses controlled until
now by the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade: "We don't need
an unbroken hierarchy. There should be gaps in it. We should not have a
situation where the centre gives orders to everyone at local level, imposes
on officials at the local level and, generally, interferes with life at
the local level, etc.," he said. (RUSSIAN TV, 1100 GMT, 14 Dec 01;
BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This effort to decentralize
is unlikely to endear itself to Putin.
Still, some aspects of business policy may be agreeable to the Kremlin.
In late January, the RUIE took an additional step to increase its involvement
with the executive by creating a Committee for International Affairs that
will accompany President Putin abroad and coordinate foreign economic policy.
This will reinforce a situation in which most business-oriented approaches
already circumvent the foreign ministry and the economic development ministry.
In this capacity, the RUIE is not posing a direct challenge to Putin's domestic
powers, but increases its ability to influence Putin's foreign policy in
a way that benefits businesses.
However, the leaders of the RUIE and the CCI also are beginning to take
steps potentially challenging Putin's domestic power. Among the candidates
for ownership of the successor to TV-6, Berezovsky's former mouthpiece,
a union of Volsky and Primakov seemed probable. On 7 March, the union was
confirmed by Yevgeny Kiselev. (INTERFAX, 7 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0307, via
World News Connection) This media alliance is most likely taking place with
an eye to the coming elections and the opposition's need for a non-hostile
news channel. The founders of this new Sixth Channel include Oleg Deripaska,
Roman Abramovich, Oleg Kiselev, Alexander Mamut, Kakha Bendukidze, Anatoly
Chubais and Dmitry Zimin, nearly all considered to be tycoons of the business
community with ties to the Yel'tsin era. "The next presidential election
is approaching -- so it's clear why twelve Russian tycoons need a TV network.
They can afford to invest several million each," said one newspaper
analyst. (GAZETA, 5 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Currently, this group has the potential to become a very well-funded
opposition to Putin. Its members seem to be biding their time, and although
they support policies that Putin probably does not, they have not confronted
him directly yet. Instead, they have created a power base to champion their
own interests, and with their financial resources and recently acquired
media outlet it is highly likely that we will hear more of and from these
by Michael Comstock (email@example.com)
Berezovsky vs. FSB: Round Two
Several weeks ago, the FSB and exiled media mogul Boris Berezovsky renewed
their war of words. In an effort to achieve Berezovsky's extradition from
the United Kingdom, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev linked Berezovsky to
the United States' "war on terrorism," describing him as Russia's
"Osama bin Laden." (INTERFAX, 5 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0205, via
World News Connection)
Berezovsky, meanwhile, insisted that TV-6, a station which he owns, was
closed by the authorities because it planned to air a documentary linking
the FSB to the 1999 apartment bombings in Ryazan and Moscow. In the last
few weeks, the battle between the FSB and Berezovsky has intensified, with
both sides claiming to possess new evidence against their opponents.
On 5 March, Berezovsky held a long-awaited press conference in London,
asking the question "Putin's Russia: Is this state terror?" At
the center of the conference was a nine-minute segment from a documentary
produced by French journalists, "Assault on Russia," which is
soon to be aired in its entirety by the French production company Transparences
Productions. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 6 Mar 02) The piece shown
was an interview with a Ryazan telephone operator who allegedly overheard
a conversation between FSB headquarters and local agents in which the placement
of explosive devices was discussed. The documentary clip was not the only
evidence laid out by Berezovsky at the press conference.
Attending the meeting with him was former FSB officer Aleksandr Litvinenko,
who was granted asylum in the United Kingdom last year, and historian Yuri
Felshtinsky, who together penned a book which purportedly substantiates
Berezovsky's allegations. The book also was discussed at the press conference.
The English-language version, "Blowing Up Russia," was published
in New York in February 2002.
The new evidence in Berezovsky's case was a statement by Nikolai Chekulin,
a former director of the Roskonversvzryvtsentr Research Institute, which
is linked to the education ministry. Chekulin said that he had been recruited
by the FSB in 2000, and that his institute had been used as a cover for
the purchase of the explosive material Hexogen, which was used in the bombings.
(Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 6 Mar 02) Moreover, Chekulin claimed that
he possesses evidence of thefts of explosives from military warehouses by
At the same time, the FSB has continued to press its attacks on Berezovsky,
saying that it would not comment on statements made by a "private person
suspected of financing terrorist groups." (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 6 Mar 02)
Moreover, the FSB has levied new accusations against Berezovsky. Previously,
the FSB "only" alleged that he had directly financed Chechen fighters.
Now, however, the security service is attempting to link him to the kidnapping
of Russian officials in Chechnya, including Major General Gennady Shpigun,
who subsequently was murdered, and to the Chechen incursion into Dagestan
in the summer of 1999. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 5 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) In support of its allegations, the prosecutor-general's
office invited a group of Moscow journalists to view the testimony of a
witness who claimed that the kidnapping had been carried out on Berezovsky's
orders. However, Pavel Barkovsky, deputy head of the investigation directorate
in the prosecutor-general's office, stated that an official warrant for
Berezovsky's arrest would be issued only when all the relevant evidence
had been gathered. (Jamestown Foundation MONITOR, 6 Mar 02)
There is a growing consensus that Berezovsky's allegations have become
more than simply an attack on the FSB, and a struggle for transparency,
and that Berezovsky is now engaged in a campaign to settle political accounts.
Two Duma deputies appeared with Berezovsky to renew calls for comprehensive
hearings into the case. Motions to hold independent investigations, however,
have been rejected by deputies from Unity and other pro-government parties.
The continuing fight between the two protagonists leads to a greater
question: Why have President Putin and the FSB not addressed seriously the
question of the bombs in Moscow and Ryazan? If they possess evidence that
Chechens were indeed responsible for the bombs, it would seem obvious that
by sharing that evidence, Berezovsky might be silenced quickly.
by Fabian Adami (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Warmer weather but colder temperature
As if to make up for the months of relatively amicable feelings toward
the US, since the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games Russian politicians
have begun expressing anti-American sentiments with renewed intensity.
The latest opportunity for certain Duma deputies to join in the chorus
was the announcement that 200 US military specialists would be arriving
in Georgia. The politicians claim to be concerned that former Cold War rivals
might be located on Russia's border and to be aggrieved that Georgia turned
to the US for help.
In a statement "On the situation in Georgia in connection with the
US military presence on its territory" accepted by 385 votes with no
objections, the State Duma expressed regret that the Georgian leadership
had rejected Russia's "offers" of military aid "and had preferred
to turn, instead, to the USA for assistance in solving [their] problem."
Furthermore, the Duma claimed that the Russian leadership was not kept informed
by Georgia and "did not receive all the necessary information at the
required level from the USA about the plans for sending a large group of
military advisors, small arms, army communications and transport equipment
to Georgia." The document also alleged that the "presence of
US military personnel in Georgia to a large extent further aggravates the
already complex situation in Georgia and the Caucasus region as whole,"
and warned that, "should there be an unfavorable development in the
negotiations [of the disputes between Georgia and two of its territories,
Abkhazia and South Ossetia], the State Duma is ready to discuss another
approach to the creation of the statehood of the peoples of Abkhazia and
South Ossetia on the basis of a democratic expression of the people's will,
and in accordance with the international community's practice in the application
of the standards of international law." (INTERFAX, 1115 GMT, 6 Mar
02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0306, via World News Connection)
This was a transparent reference to the Duma's previous "offer"
to accept regions that belong to other countries (like Abkhazia, South Ossetia
and Transdniestr) as members of the Russian Federation, a euphemism for
annexation. Missing in all of the Duma's statement was acknowledgement
that Georgia is a sovereign country, not Russia's satellite, and that the
Duma, in effect, was infringing upon its territorial integrity.
At the same time, Russian politicians realize that Moscow is not in a
position to demand "independence" for Abkhazia. Federation Council
Security and Defense Committee Chairman Viktor Ozerov suggested that this
would qualify as "a policy of double dealing, and that opponents might
retort with a question of independence for Chechnya." (ITAR-TASS,
2039 GMT, 28 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0228, via World News Connection)
The deputies also criticized the US for raising customs duties on imported
steel. People's Deputy group leader Gennady Raykov suggested that the American
move was not only "a bad decision," but also "an act of discrimination"
against Russia's metallurgical industry, and complained, despite Russian
support of the US authorities in their fight against terrorism, that the
US had been committing "acts of discrimination against Russia -- from
sport to metallurgy," (referring to the Olympic Games, in which, in
fact, the real transgression concerned indications of collusion between
French and Russian judges).. As a measure of retaliation, Raykov recommended
increasing customs duties on imported machinery. (ITAR-TASS, 1103 GMT,
6 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0306, via World News Connection)
Playing by the rules
Former TV-6 director Yevgeny Kiselev once again has demonstrated his
bargaining skills. The Shestoi Telekanal consortium he headed -- consisting
of 12 businessmen and the TV-6 journalists -- had entered its bid for the
channel's frequency in time for the 6 March deadline, but withdrew its application
two days later to join with Yevgeny Primakov and Alexander Volsky's Media-Socium.
TV-6's press service reported that Kiselev and his team continued talks
with Primakov and Volsky until they were assured that the team of journalists
and original investors would be one of the three equal partners. Volsky
and Primakov are said to have the approval of the Kremlin and of Media Minister
Mikhail Lesin, while one of the other 13 bidders, Sergei Moskvin of the
Independent TV-VI Broadcasting Corporation, has accused Kiselev of wanting
to work for the Kremlin. (NTVRU, 7 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com)
Ekho Moskvy's Aleksandr Venediktov is also playing it safe. His newly
created Arsenal Radio recently won a bid for the 87.5 FM frequency and a
number of Ekho Moskvy's leading journalists have expressed their desire
to work for him; however, Venediktov expressed his intention to keep the
18% stake he has in Ekho Moskvy and his willingness to cooperate with that
radio station if the ownership issue is resolved. (IZVESTIYA, 1 Mar 02;
FBIS-SOV-2002-0301, via World News Connection) Venediktov said that it
is possible to avoid conflict between Arsenal and Ekho Moskvy because they
would differ in programming. Arsenal would be geared towards talk-radio
programs and run music for at least 30 percent of the airtime, while Ekho
Moskvy would remain a news station. (NTVRU, 5 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com)
by Luba Schwartzman (email@example.com)
Impact of US troops in Georgia
The US presence in Central Asia and Transcaucasia is about to be expanded.
President George W. Bush has offered up to 200 advisors to train the Georgian
military to bring the situation in the Pankisi Gorge under control. (AP
NEWS SERVICE, 1 Mar 02; via yahoonews.com) This new deployment and the reactions
of the Russian and US foreign policy teams show indicate significant changes
in East-West relations.
In brief, Georgia has a long-standing policy of trying to obtain US military
support and, perhaps, NATO membership. Now, Georgia has requested US assistance
to deal with the lawless situation in the Pankisi Gorge (Georgia's northwestern
region). (AP, 27 Feb 02; via yahoonews.com) The Russians have been alleging
that high-profile Chechens are hiding there (adding, for good measure, Osama
bin Laden and other terrorists). (REUTERS, 1 Mar 02; via yahoonews.com)
Russia has "offered" its troops to subdue the area, but Georgia
knows that such operations would undermine its sovereignty.
Initial responses to the US move by Putin, Russian Defense Minister Sergey
Ivanov and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov showed some disconnect. "I
would approach reports of this kind with very great caremedia reports often
contain unverified information," Sergey Ivanov warned initially. (RUSSIAN
PUBLIC TV (ORT), 1200 GMT, 27 Feb 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) This was followed, however, by a statement from Igor Ivanov that
"[the deployment of US troops] could still further complicate the already
complex situation in the region." (Ibid.)
Putin then toned down the reaction to US efforts in Georgia, presenting
an almost-cavalier attitude toward the dispatch of US forces. Noting that
the US already has deployed personnel in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan,
while Kazakhstan has offered its airspace and expressed its willingness
to increase support to the US, Putin asked "Why should [the US forces]
be in Central Asia and not in Georgia?" (REUTERS, 1 Mar 02; via yahoonews.com,
and ITAR-TASS, 1412 GMT, 1 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Databases) He further said that it was "no tragedy" that the US
was planning to deploy forces to assist the Georgians. (AP, 1 Mar 02; via
In fact, the states of the CIS, particularly Georgia, have long sought
US military assistance and cooperation. The US shrewdly used Russia's own
complaints about the Pankisi region to expand cooperation with Georgia and
bolster its government. Russia was in no position to oppose US assistance
since it had identified the Pankisi area as a hotbed of "terrorism"
that supported "terrorists" in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Tbilisi and
Washington are interested in expanding their security relationship. US
advisors have assisted Georgia in setting up more effective border controls
and America provides 20 to 30 military advisors in various ongoing programs.
(REUTERS, 1 Mar 02; via yahoonews.com). Still, there were immediate recriminations
from the more belligerent factions in the Duma. (ITAR-TASS, 1412 GMT, 27
Feb 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The new cooperation includes actual and possible advantages: (1) The
government of Shevardnadze, a staunch US ally beset by separatist and pro-Russian
opposition movements, is bolstered; (2) The Pansiki region could be stabilized
without subjecting the civilians to a Russian-style cleansing; (3)
The effectiveness of the Georgian military is likely to be improved; and
(4) The US gains allies in the region and ensures that al Qaeda does not
penetrate the area.
Staying relevant in NATO
After a flurry of activity late in 2001 and early in 2002, inertia has
set into Russia's relationship with NATO. The Russians recently expressed
some dissatisfaction concerning their involvement in cooperative NATO peacekeeping
efforts, but did evince interest in another meeting of the Russia-NATO council,
possibly in Italy. (ITAR-TASS, 1403 GMT, 28 Feb 01; BBC Monitoring, via
ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The Russians have long claimed that they are viewed as a junior partner
in terms of the international missions in Bosnia and Kosovo. In neither
place do the Russians have their own sector to command (in Bosnia they share
charge of the US sector and in Kosovo they are partners with the UK) and
all activities must be fully coordinated through a NATO command structure.
The Russians receive extensive monetary and logistical support through
the NATO coffers to ensure they meet payroll and other needs. (NATO, 2
Oct 01; via NATO.int)
NATO always has viewed the Russian presence in both the Stabilization
Force (SFOR) in Bosnia and the Kosovo Force (KFOR) as an acceptable nuisance,
and as a gesture of appreciation for Russia's role in the peace negotiations
in both conflicts. This was particularly true when Boris Yel'tsin personally
participated in bringing Operation Allied Force to a close. However, the
Russian Army cannot compare even with the least capable NATO force, and
so requires significant support to maintain forces in the region. In addition,
the Russians wanted access to NATO military planning (usually at the NATO
Secret level) and a hand in decisions made regarding the area. NATO routinely
has balked at the notion of making Russia an equal partner in the regional
decision-making process either in Bosnia or Kosovo and is not likely to
give Moscow access to NATO Secret plans any time in the near future.
As a result, Russia's inflated expectations have not been met. Discussions
with alliance military staff members confirm that Russia's contribution
to SFOR and KFOR has diminished while its "wish list" of desired
monetary and materiel support has grown. As a result, until the Russians
can become a full contributing member of the SFOR/KFOR team, they can expect
to be treated as increasingly irrelevant.
Russia is interested in continuing the positive trend in relations with
NATO. During a recent visit to Italy, Foreign Minister Ivanov noted the
proposal that the agenda of the next meeting of the NATO-Russia cooperation
council include furthering "the collaboration in the international
coalition against terrorism and beyond." (ANSA, 1714 GMT, 4 Mar 02;
BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
After a rapid acceleration at the end of 2001, the Russia-NATO relationship
has cooled. Several major proposals, including the initiation of the Russia-NATO
Cooperation Council, were made without a clear indication of how to implement
them. Most radical was the proposal of NATO Secretary-General George Robertson,
in concert with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for near-full membership
in NATO for the Russians. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov 01) The raises
the specter of Russian veto power over all initiatives. Russian diplomats
continue to try to downplay that aspect, but despite their efforts they
have been unsuccessful in reducing fears in Western capitals. (ITAR-TASS,
1305 GMT, 1 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Ultimately the Russians are angling for increased visibility at the European
table. They are seeking concurrently a larger role in the European Union
and NATO. The good news for Moscow is that Secretary-General Robertson
was very aggressive in pursuing the Russians with promises of greater inclusion
following Moscow's highly publicized efforts to assist in the war against
terrorism. Russians have long memories and will press NATO to follow through.
Just how much Brussels is prepared to give the Russians will be seen over
the next several months.
Another major deal collapsing?
Several major arms and co-production deals between the Russians and other
countries have collapsed during the last two months. Some major deals with
India have been put on hold because it appears Russia will not be able to
make timely delivery of goods as promised. (ITAR-TASS, 1305 GMT, 1 Feb 02;
BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
There are reports that an important cooperative agreement with Iran to
construct a nuclear power plant in the coastal town of Bushehr is in jeopardy.
An official government statement claims that all is well and that the project
will continue on as scheduled. (IRNA, 4 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI
Emerging Markets Database) Yet, it is clear the project has been shelved.
Some statements from Iran indicate that Tehran has been dissatisfied with
the quality of Russian work and with some delays in the schedule of bringing
the first unit online. (ITAR-TASS, 1633 GMT, 26 Feb 02; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) From Russia's perspective, the problem
is that many scientists and skilled workers are leaving the worksite because
of non-payment by the Iranians. (EKHO MOSKVY, 0830 GMT, 3 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
If this story proves to be true, it is significant because of the negative
pall it might cast over Russo-Iranian business dealings. The two states
concluded a major arms purchase agreement valuing more than $225 million
in the fall of 2001. Russia has been counting on cash deals with states
such as Iran, seeking to expand trade with as many countries as possible.
Though this one problem does not represent the end to the Iran-Russia relationship,
it does constitute a foreign policy challenge to both states. It's important
for the Russians to prove that they can ensure satisfaction for clients.
Moscow has a deal with Myanmar (Burma) to begin work on a major experimental
power plant and the Russians are hoping to expand the trade in nuclear technology.
Moreover, the Iranians need to keep Russia happy. Moscow is the first
major world power to re-establish overt trading ties with Tehran. In addition,
the Russians have assisted the Iranians in their first major weapons upgrade
in nearly 20 years. Since Iran is still struggling with its status as an
international pariah, keeping the Russians in their corner for as long as
possible will continue to be important. For those reasons, it is highly
likely that the two countries will work out any problems and the power plant
construction will continue, despite fears by the US that Iran is being aided
in its progress of developing weapons of mass destruction.
by Scott Bethel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The buck stops where?
Who is really to blame for the Russian military's current state of readiness?
Is it Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov
or the die-hard generals still clinging to visions of former Soviet greatness?
They all agree on what the problems are: not enough money for the defense
budget, poor morale, inadequate training and aging equipment. The question
is who is in charge, or who should step up to the plate and take charge?
Does size matter?
Those most directly responsible for readiness are the military leaders
themselves. Although some issues like the size of the defense budget are
beyond their control, most of the current problems are well within their
purview. In a recent interview, Russia's military manpower head, General
Valery Astanin, said that he (like most military leaders) still sees a need
for a large (million plus) military. He stated that only 12 percent (400,000
total) of the eligible conscripts are actually drafted each year, while
the rest obtain exemptions as students or due to poor health. He also stated
that tens of thousands prefer to risk arrest by evading the draft and many
pay bribes to avoid service. And of those drafted each year, over one-half
are unfit to serve. "That means that we can't send them to be trained
as specialists because they won't be able to cope with the program. So
that is the state of the 12 percent we get," he said. But Astanin
and other senior military leaders can't seem to do the math. They know
they must create a well-paid, well-equipped and well-trained professional
all-volunteer army. Unfortunately, given the cost of these reforms, a professional
force closer to 400,000 is more realistically affordable.
State Duma Deputy Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right Forces (SPS),
is a leading proponent of cutting the armed forces from the existing 1.2
million members to an all-volunteer force of 400,000 over a five-year period
beginning in January 2003. The Kremlin has included Nemtsov and other politicians
in recent key discussions on military reform, suggesting that President
Putin is becoming more frustrated with the slow pace of reform by the military.
(MOSCOW TIMES, 27 Feb 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security
Database) It is no wonder that senior Russian military officers such as
General Astanin feel the need to maintain a large military. If they are
correct (and they probably are in the best position to know) that over half
the military personnel is unfit to serve, then over a million recruits would
be required to obtain 400,000 professionals.
Flight time is one measure
It is not only the cost of heating oil and auto fuel that the military
cannot afford to pay, but also the cost of jet fuel. This translates directly
into decreased pilot training and readiness. One recent article likens
Russian military pilots to "endangered species." Reportedly,
annual flight time average is down to only 10-15 hours per pilot, less than
one-tenth that of Western military pilots. Soviet pilots were designated
First Class pilots by age 27-29, while the Russian Federation figure today
is between the ages of 35-37. Since statistically most Russian Air Force
pilots retire between ages 40 and 42, the majority of military pilots "on
the books" are not truly proficient. (ZAVTRA, 27 Feb 02; What the
Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
Readiness at issue
Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Military District Colonel General
Yuri Yakubov held a press conference to discuss the results of a two-month
readiness study, which focused on combat readiness, discipline, desertion
and social issues. While no specifics were given, Yakubov noted that many
problems discussed were to a large extent due to dereliction of duties (leadership
accountability) and must be corrected immediately. (SUVOROVSKY NATISK, 4
Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
Meanwhile, the Russian Navy's top admiral, Vladimir Kuroedov, published
an assessment of the combat readiness of Northern, Pacific, Baltic and Black
Sea fleets and the Caspian Sea Flotilla. "I am certain that the personal
passiveness of captains and echelon commanders in regard to maintaining
the prescribed level of combat readiness was the reason for 90% of flaws
we have revealed," he said. Poor organization and low levels of practical
experience by the command staff also were to blame. (EZHEDNEVNYE NOVOSTI,
11 Feb 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
Last December Russian Navy Northern Fleet Commander Admiral Popov and
many of his staff were held accountable not only for the "Kursk incident"
but also for an overall poor assessment of Northern Fleet readiness. (THE
NIS OBSERVED, 17 Dec 01) Now the axe has fallen on a group of senior airborne
troop commanders. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently issued
a stern reprimand to 31st Detached Airborne Brigade Commander Colonel Nikolay
Nikulnikov, and transferred Artillery Division Headquarters Major Yuri Onishchuk
to the reserves ahead of schedule. This action followed the murder of ten
people at the hands of two deserting paratroopers. Nikulnikov and Onishchuk,
Ivanov said, were responsible "for serious omissions in arranging the
work with the personnel and maintaining order." (INTERFAX, 4 Mar 02;
What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) This type of
accountability must be established by the military itself, not by the defense
minister. Many generals are lining up in hopes that Ivanov will take the
blame for reform setbacks.
Will the defense minister take the fall?
Will Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov be the military reform scapegoat?
Given the Kremlin's control over the media, articles circulating that Ivanov's
days at the defense ministry are numbered may be well-founded. Ivanov is
being criticized for everything from the failure to develop a reform plan
acceptable to the military, to electrical outages in every military region
in Russia, to failed arms export deals. Ivanov is in charge, and thus is
accountable. The question is: Will a "purge" fix these problems?
Or is President Putin submitting to pressures from senior military leaders
in order to maintain power? Or is Putin using FSB cadres to bully the generals?
The defense ministry's inability to manage the military effectively is
no surprise, as the military itself has provided many obstacles. Ivanov
is a Putin appointee who comes from the KGB. He is represented by the military
and faces stern competition from the ambitious Anatoly Kvashnin, chief of
the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin (NEZAVISIMOE VOENNOE OBOZRENIE, 4 Mar
02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
Moving the Pacific Fleet
Another reason for Admiral Vladimir Kuroedov's Pacific Fleet visit was
to decide upon a permanent and affordable homeport change. Apparently the
strategic importance of the Kamchatka peninsula is not high in today's less
US-hostile climate. Moreover, renovation or new construction in Kamchatka
is cost-prohibitive while the day-to-day logistic support is far too expensive.
Thus it is cheaper to move. This spring most active ships and submarines
will be relocated to Sovetskaya Gavan. (EZHEDNEVNYE NOVOSTI, 11 Feb 02;
What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) What about
the nuclear submarine junkyard left behind?
Nuclear submarine junkyard
In a recent interview Russian Duma Deputy Boris Reznik shared the results
of his own investigation into nuclear submarines scheduled for dismantling,
referring to confidential documents he obtained from his own sources in
the nuclear energy ministry.
According to Reznik's investigation, presently "there are around
75 decommissioned nuclear submarines in the Pacific Fleet [at Sovetskaya
Harbor in the Khabarovsk territory, on the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Primorye
territory] and 45 of them still have nuclear fuel on board. Over half of
the submarines are in an emergency condition. The situation at the temporary
'submarine graveyard' at the Pavlovskaya Harbor in the Primorye territory
is the most difficult. Three damaged submarines, which sustained nuclear
accidents during their time in service, have been stored in the restricted
areas. They have nuclear fuel on board which cannot be unloaded in normal
mode. The radiation level on these submarines is considerably higher than
permissible." Moreover, a vessel is used often as temporary storage
for nuclear waste and "has 126 defective channels through which radiation
is constantly leaking into the open sea." Nor is the nuclear vulnerability
new. Five years ago, Reznik reports, a loss of buoyancy sank a nuclear submarine
with a functioning reactor at its berth in the Krasheninnikov Harbor on
the Kamchatka Peninsula. The vessel was not raised for four months. Political
leaders had ordered the military to take appropriate measures to prevent
further nuclear accidents from happening, Reznik said, however, the military
evidently took that to mean keep the lid on (and the media away from) the
ecological disasters in Kamchatka. Reznik also accused both the defense
ministry and the naval headquarters of hiding the truth about the decaying
submarines. (IZVESTIA, 1 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets
Maybe the real reason that the Pacific Fleet is moving this spring is
that it will be impossible to clean up the radiation hazards left in Kamchatka.
How is it that Reznik can blow the whistle on the nuclear waste leaking
into the ocean, and avoid prosecution for divulging state secrets (unlike
the often-prosecuted Grigory Pasko)? Maybe they are not state secrets any
longer. We may never really know the extent of the ecological damage done
to the Northern Pacific environment. And it doesn't appear as though the
Russian military intends to stick around and find out either.
by Walter Jackson <email@example.com>
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
For the past four months, Yevhen Marchuk, the head of the National Security
and Defense Council (NSDC), has been battling accusations that he oversaw
a large weapons-smuggling ring in the early 1990s. Today, he is claiming
vindication, and threatening to sue those who accused him.
Marchuk's alleged involvement in the arms-smuggling network first received
attention last December. Then, the Kyiv Telegraph published a series of
articles suggesting Marchuk was the leader of an operation supplying weapons
to the Balkans between 1992 and 1993. During those years, Marchuk was head
of the Ukrainian Secret Service (SBU) and charged with monitoring the country's
new, growing arms sales program. Consequently, he advised the president
as to whether a company should be granted a license to trade Ukrainian arms.
One of the companies granted this license was led by Dmytro Streshynsky,
enabling him to purchase Ukrainian arms legally and resell them to approved
third parties. According to an Italian court, however, Streshynsky used
his license to buy armaments and then resell them in the Balkans -- a violation
of the UN embargo in place at that time.
During the Italian investigation of his activities, Streshynsky suggested
that Marchuk was aware of the arms network and even encouraged it. His
statements were seized upon by Marchuk's political rivals, and the former
SBU chief has been on the defensive, and claiming his innocence, since.
In fact, Marchuk not only has denied involvement in the smuggling activities,
he has claimed credit for stopping them. He has repeatedly suggested that,
upon discovering problems with Streshynsky's company, he informed then-President
Leonid Kravchuk, and action was taken quickly to stop the smuggling. In
a 17 December interview, Kravchuk supported Marchuk's statements. "We
found out that the company had problems," Kravchuk said. "With
my approval, via Marchuk, Ukraine started cooperating with the secret service
of a NATO country. This secret service caught Streshynsky and the ship
that was carrying arms." (ICTV, 1945 GMT, 17 Dec 01; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
It is worth noting, however, that despite Kravchuk's statement that the
"secret service caught Streshynsky," he quickly disappeared and
only recently was recaptured by Italian authorities. It is also worth noting
that, while it is almost impossible to confirm Kravchuk's statement about
the captured ship, the Ukrainian authorities in fact did have some success
during the embargo years at stopping smuggling operations. For example,
in 1994, the SBU captured a group of men attempting to arrange an arms shipment
to Croatia. (RADIO 1, 1700 GMT, 12 Aug 94; BBC Monitoring, via lexis-nexis)
It is generally accepted, however, that this minimal success was dwarfed
by the number of weapons that were smuggled successfully from, or through,
Ukraine to the Balkans. (For background, see THE TIMES, 27 Jan 93, and
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, 4 Oct 94)
Regardless, Marchuk's accusers apparently were unable to present legally
sufficient evidence implicating him in the Streshynsky weapons scheme.
On 4 March in Turin, Streshynsky was convicted of illegal arms trading and
sentenced to two years in prison. Four days later, Italian prosecutor Marcello
Maddalena released a letter confirming that no charges will be brought against
Marchuk. The letter is unclear on whether this is due to lack of evidence
or because the prosecutor sees no wrongdoing. Marchuk, naturally, chooses
the latter explanation. "What does it mean?" he asked. "It
means that a purposeful campaign has been organized to discredit me by accusing
me of a grave international crime. Today we have received documented proof
that all this was a lie." (ONE PLUS ONE, 8 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Who does Marchuk suggest is behind this "purposeful campaign?"
He quickly names former SBU head Leonid Derkach and his media-mogul son
Andriy. Andriy Derkach, interestingly, owns the television company -- Era
TV -- that loudly called for Marchuk's resignation. Additionally, Andriy
is a leader of Labor Ukraine, a party included in the pro-presidential For
a United Ukraine election bloc. Marchuk, meanwhile, is associated with
the Social Democratic Party - United (SDPU-u), the deposed "party of
power," which apparently became a little too powerful for its own good.
During the last year, President Leonid Kuchma and his allies (including
Labor Ukraine) have worked diligently to rid the administration of SDPU-u
members. Marchuk's removal would go a long way toward emasculating the
formerly untouchable party.
It is telling, however, that Marchuk is being targeted in this manner.
In a country that has become known as a "blackmail state" --
with the administration collecting "kompromat" on friends and
enemies to use if necessary at a later date -- it would appear that Yevhen
Marchuk has provided limited material. (Regarding the "blackmail state,"
see Keith Darden, EAST EUROPEAN CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW, Vol. 10, nos. 2/3
and Taras Kuzio, The Jamestown Foundation PRISM, Vol. VIII, Issue I, Part
4) In a state where tax audits, car crashes and arrests on corruption charges
are the norm when dealing with former members of the "in crowd,"
the attack against Marchuk has been comparatively benign. Indeed, it has
turned into little more than echoes from Italy that failed to resonate.
It would seem, therefore, that Marchuk will survive this arms-smuggling
storm and remain well situated to continue collecting plenty of "kompromat"
Back and forth in the Crimea
It's official, at least for now. After 31 March, Leonid Hrach will
be stepping down as the speaker of the Crimean parliament. No, it's not
by choice, of course. Hrach never has presented himself as the type of
man who would give up power voluntarily. So, the Crimean courts have decided
to help him along.
Hrach has been refused registration in the upcoming election to the Crimean
parliament. His registration papers were improper, the district court said
after an appeal by his rival. Specifically, the court suggested that Hrach's
papers were not filled out by him as required by law, he failed to declare
income (approximately $6,600) from the sale of an apartment, and he understated
the value of his home. The registration, which had been approved by the
Hrach-controlled Crimean Election Commission, therefore, was annulled.
Curiously, Hrach's registration to run as a candidate on the Communist ticket
for the Ukrainian national parliament was approved with no problem. So,
whatever happens in Crimea, Hrach has the opportunity to remain a legislator;
he will be a relatively small fish in a very big pond, however.
Hrach responded to his Crimean disqualification with his normal energy
and vigor, charging that the decision had been arranged from Kyiv based
on "anti-Russian" feelings. He quickly organized a tent camp
protest in the center of Simferopol and suggested at a rally that it may
be time to hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation. "If
Kyiv and its vassals continue what they are doing by bringing unprecedented
political and legal pressure to bear on us," he said, "we will
reserve the right, in particular, to speak of a referendum." (INTERFAX,
27 Feb 02; BBC Monitoring, via lexis-nexis) Despite a warm reception to
his statement by Yevgeny Seleznev and Gennady Zyuganov, the rest of Russia
did not respond quite as Hrach had expected. In fact, the silence surrounding
his statement about a referendum was almost deafening. The most meaningful
statement was actually one in opposition; Russian Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin
suggested that Hrach "is not right trying to get Russia involved."
(ROSBUSINESS, 5 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) Within days, Hrach was suggesting
that, although at least six media outlets quoted him identically and simultaneously
when he discussed the referendum idea at a rally, they were all incorrect.
He was misquoted, you see. He never really thought the referendum was
a good idea.
Regardless, he is doing everything he can to disrupt the election. He
is calling for a boycott of the polls on 13 March -- something that could
also affect the Ukrainian national parliamentary election. The Central
Election Commission, which is staffed with a majority of Hrach's fellow
Communists, has ceased to function. It seems that five out of thirteen
members are ill and unable to report to work for election preparations.
It did make one decision, though. Chairman Ivan Polyakov announced that
former prime minister and Hrach archrival, Serhiy Kunitsyn -- and 29 of
his bloc members -- were found suddenly to be ineligible to run in the election.
One day later, following a backlash (and possibly intervention by Kunitsyn
ally, President Kuchma), Polyakov swore he never said anything about disqualifying
anyone. He, too, was misquoted, no doubt. At the same time, the chairman
announced that all electoral registration documents had been taken from
the safe and had gone missing for a while. But, they're back now. What
condition they're in, no one seems to know.
What is certain is that whatever the results of the Crimean parliamentary
elections, they will be questioned. And following the election, there will
be a power shift in the territory. Whether this will destabilize the shaky
region is the question on everyone's lips -- except for Hrach. He seems
to want to do everything in his power to make sure that it does just that.
by Tammy M. Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Putin upbeat on US role
Commenting on US plans to deploy roughly 200 special forces to train
Georgian troops over the next three months, during a 1 March summt in Almaty
Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "There is not, and cannot be
any tragedy in the US presence in Georgia. If it is possible in the Central
Asian states, then why should it not be allowed in Georgia?. Every state
has the right to carry out its policy in the sphere of security as it considers
right. Russia recognizes this right." However, he noted, "The
issue is that in this case we did not know anything about it." (AGENCE
FRANCE-PRESSE, 1 Mar 02; via lexis-nexis) According to US Ambassador Alexander
Vershbow, the US has been informing the Russian side. (See THE NIS OBSERVED,
28 Feb 02).
The US has provided six Iroquois helicopters that the Georgians already
are flying over the Pankisi Gorge. US personnel deployment, so far, has
been limited to 18 senior officers who have arrived to study the situation.
This number is expected to increase to 200 as the training gets underway.
(GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 8 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) However, Georgian television reports that US pilots are training
Georgian pilots over the mountainous areas at or near the trouble spots.
(1 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Should such
flights draw fire, the difference between "training" and "conducting"
operations may become rather blurry.
Georgian officials have dismissed out of hand a flurry of rumors that
Georgia will be used as a staging ground against Iraq and a whole blizzard
suggesting that a swap of Pankisi for Abkhazia is underway. Despite the
"versions" and "scenarios," all that has been confirmed
is that the US has undertaken to train and equip roughly 1,000-2,000 Georgian
soldiers to carry out operations in the Pankisi Gorge.
Kalyuzhny muddies the water
In recent years the Russian Federation had signed treaties with Azerbaijan
and Kazakhstan recognizing their respective sectors of the Caspian seabed.
A serious departure from this principle occurred when Viktor Kalyuzhny,
the Russian president's advisor for the Caspian Sea, told journalists "there
are no Russian or Iranian or Azeri zones on the Caspian because there [is]
no fixed status of the Caspian Sea. [I]t is only after the problem of delimitation
of the resources on the seabed is solved and after the boundaries of these
resources are determined that it will be possible to work in the zones that
will be determined for each state. Let me repeat again that today there
are no zones belonging to this or that Caspian country. I believe that the
Caspian Sea rightfully belongs to the Russian market." With those
words Russian policy reverted to 1994, the year when these concerns first
surfaced. (FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 22 Feb 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Khasbulatov: War 'not a simple mistake, but a crime'
In the second of a series of interviews with Novaya gazeta, Ruslan Khasbulatov,
the former speaker of the Russian parliament, became perhaps the first from
among the Russian political elite to come out with scathing criticism of
Putin's leadership and the Chechen war. The most surprising of his comments
was his praise of Yel'tsin, his arch nemesis in 1993, whom Khasbulatov now
regards as "powerful political figure Yel'tsin knew how to make political
decisions. And fast! Decisions can be wrong (it's politics!), but they have
no right to be late. Putin is late. And I think he is a simple person.
He has entrusted the war to the generals. Besides the war he [Yel'tsin]
accomplished a great deal that will go down in history." (NOVAYA GAZETA,
28 Feb 02)
Khasbulatov drew comparisons with the trial of Serbian leader Slobodan
Milosevic now underway in The Hague and raised serious doubt that Chechens
were responsible for setting the bombs in Russian cities. "I was told
how the fighters left Dagestan. No one was giving them chase, no aviation
was used. They left like a parade. Prime Minister Stepashin said at the
time that the aggressor must be punished but there will be no war. Then
he was removed. It seems, I can presume, that the war was programmed.
Only public opinion stood in the way. And then the explosions: Buinaksk,
Volgodonsk, Moscow," he said.
To find a way out of the war, Khasbulatov suggests full-scale political
dialogue which would involve Chechen society along with the representatives
of the Chechen government. "People hate them both. I think that in
Chechnya there needs to be an anti-terrorist coalition of authoritative,
informal representatives who would become the main participants in the talks,"
he said. Chechnya's status would have to be defined in a way that would
provide international security guarantees against another "total war
aimed at the destruction of the entire nation."
Hunger strike for Chechnya
Nearly 500 persons worldwide will participate in a two-day hunger strike
for Chechnya on 12 and 13 March. Interestingly, almost all the participants
are in Europe, many in Russia, a few in the United States and none in the
Middle East. (radicalparty.org) Elena Bonner, among other human rights activists,
The effort began when Olivier Dupuis, a member of the European Parliament
(EP) from the Transnational Radical Party, went on a hunger strike on 21
February. Andrei Rodionov of the Anti-Militarist Radical Association in
Russia (since 25 Febraury) and Umar Khanbiev (since 5 March) joined him.
Dupuis is demanding that the EP replace the commissioner for humanitarian
aid who has not carried out his responsibilities; receive representatives
of Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov; and invite Chechen and Russian representatives
to give testimony on the state of the negotiations. The EP has agreed to
receive Deputy Prime Minister Akhmed Zakaev, Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmadov
and Health Minister Umar Khanbiev this week. In view of this concession
and several messages of gratitude and concern from Chechen representatives,
Dupuis decided to end his hunger strike.
In another important development, Zakaev met with Carla Del Ponte, the
Swiss judge prosecuting Milosovic. Zakaev voiced hopes that the perpetrators
of crimes against the Chechens also would be brought to justice. (EKHO
MOSKVY, 7 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
US and Germany far behind
While public activism is growing, Western governments have been slow
to respond. The US State Department's newly released Country Report on Human
Rights Policies raised howls in Moscow but the sections on Chechnya represent
a much weakened rehash of information documented and made available earlier
by Human Rights Watch and Memorial. Robbing the story of detail and narrative
elements that usually accompany human rights reporting, the US State Department
has managed to turn it into boring reading. With regard to political detail,
the most significant error (repeated twice in the text) is the claim that
federal forces killed Arbi Baraev in May 2001. According to Aslanbek Aslakhanov,
the Chechen Duma deputy, federal forces did not kill Arbi Baraev. Rather,
the notorious Chechen warlord responsible for the gruesome beheadings of
English and New Zealeander telecom workers was killed in June 2001 by krovniki,
that is, Chechens who had a blood feud against him. (See NOVAYA GAZETA,
27 Aug 01)
Germany's planned deportation of 20 Chechen refugees prompted protests
from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The German government
reasoned that Chechens in Russia can move to another part of Russia to avoid
the repressions of the Chechen war. Germany grants asylum to only one-third
of the Chechen refugees who apply. (AP, 5 Mar 02; via chechnya-sl) Germany's
argument reveals a profound ignorance of Russian life. The system of propiska
requires persons to live at the location where they are registered
if this happens to be in Chechnya, then so be it. A Chechen cannot legally
obtain a dwelling, send his children to school or register to vote in any
location other than where his propiska puts him. Moreover, there
is ample documentation that Chechens are subject to official harrassment
and discrimination throughout Russia.
A report by the Union of Council for Soviet Jews found that abuses against
ethnic Chechens in Russian regions ranged from administrative discrimination
to deportations, beatings, pogroms and murder. The report found "official
grass-roots discrimination and mistreatment of Chechens (and others from
the Caucasus) occur throughout the country." There is widespread and
frequent official tolerance of discrimination, harassment and violence against
Chechens and in some cases incitement of ethnic hatred by government officials.
by Miriam Lanskoy
The time for binding ties with the West is now
If America is the proverbial "city on a hill," then according
to the United States State Department, Kazakhstan -- at least as far as
the rest of Central Asia is concerned -- is at the summit of Mt. Everest.
Last week the US State Department released its annual report on Human Rights,
and noticeably absent from the region's usual list of abusers was President
Nazarbaev's regime. While somewhat less earth-shattering than an endorsement
for the Nobel Peace Prize, the report's stinging criticism of other Central
Asian states upon which the United States is relying heavily for logistical
and basing support for the "war on terror" makes this more than
simply a tacit endorsement of Nazarbaev. Indeed, it can and should be interpreted
as setting the conditions for a long-term bilateral relationship between
Washington and Astana.
Unlike Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Russia and China, which
seem to have reserved places on the annual reports, Kazakhstan was not singled
out for criticism for major human rights violations last year. (EURASIA
INSIGHT, 3 Mar 02; via Eurasianet) While the report acknowledges abuses
within both the Kazakh military and law enforcement system, there were an
equal number of references to reforms or attempted reforms and punishments
of offenders. (INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION PROGRAMS, "Kazakhstan: Country
Reports on Human Rights Practices," 4 Mar 02; via US State Department
To many human rights watchdog groups, however, the report amounts to
little more than a self-fulfilling prophecy. The argument is that the United
States wants to build a stronger relationship with Kazakhstan, for the future
exploitation of its vast energy reserves and its critical location for intelligence
and strike operations in the "war on terror," and therefore the
State Department gave Astana a pass on major violations of human rights.
According to the International Helsinki Federation, 2001 assessment, these
violations include a resurrection of Stalinist governance, religious intolerance
and political persecution, as well as judicial corruption. In a similar
report, Human Rights Watch further accused Nazarbaev's regime of election
rigging, elimination of opposition press and tolerating (if not condoning)
torture. If one accepts such accusations as fact, then their argument is
not without merit.
However, it is not difficult for NGOs, which in general have the luxury
of geopolitical insignificance, to find fault with Central Asian states
or Western tolerance of their regimes. Unlike the aforementioned human
rights organizations, the United States is burdened with international leadership,
even if it is a largely self-imposed burden. In light of the ongoing "war
on terror," a determining factor in whether America can maintain its
position of global dominance is to be found in Central Asia. Given its
size, location, relative (regional) economic stability and vast potential,
and coupled with its vast untapped oil and natural gas reserves, Kazakhstan
is the logical choice for anchoring American interests in the region. Finally,
Kazakhstan might not be tolerant or democratic by Western standards, but
it does seem to be less oppressive than some of its neighbors.
Since 11 September, Central Asia has experienced a diplomatic Renaissance
with the West that has resulted in increased development aid and international
scrutiny. Among the countries least concerned with what was happening previously
in the region, the United States has been the most aggressive in pursuing
bilateral agreements with each authoritarian regime in pursuit of its short-term
military objectives. This seeming dismissal of past abuses troubled even
allies, but as the five-month war has progressed it is apparent that the
initial carte-blanche diplomacy has evolved into a more thoughtful, selective
program designed to establish lasting ties between the United States and
Central Asia. US denunciation of regional allies such as Uzbekistan and
Kyrgyzstan, and simultaneous exacerbation of their domestic instability
by the very presence of American troops, emboldens the opposition to both
the government and the United States and does little to develop the appropriate
conditions for long-term relations. However, by concentrating efforts on
Kazakhstan and maintaining a low-profile dialogue regarding human rights
abuses, the United States can secure a lasting and mutually beneficial,
relationship with the region's largest and most important state. Many remedies
for human rights abuses can be found through private diplomacy.
The most unexpected development in Kazakhstan since it began developing
closer ties to the West was the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Tokaev
on 28 January. In choosing Imangaliy Tasmagambetov as Tokaev's replacement,
President Nazarbaev has begun what many interpret as a gradual movement
toward coalition government following his own administration. (EURASIA
INSIGHT, 30 Jan 02; via Eurasianet) However, the developing political reform
within Kazakhstan seems hardly the product of an internal change of heart.
Rather, growing American influence in Astana, as evidenced by the December
Bush-Nazarbaev joint affirmation of international standards of governance,
seems to have played a significant role.
The United States has long been accused of fast-food diplomacy, that
is, of being impatient and shortsighted. In selecting Kazakhstan, however,
America has pinned its hopes for regional influence not on the most militarily
important ally, but on the state with the greatest potential (and potential
utility). By not attacking Kazakhstan in the recent State Department report,
the US has established the conditions for a lasting relationship in which
discrete progress can be made to assuage the human rights problems while
at the same time enhancing America's position globally. While such a policy
may offend agenda-driven NGOs, any progress is progress, and progress has
already been made.
by Michael Donahue <email@example.com>
States return to defensive posture
A recent article appearing in the London-based Financial Times newspaper
has set the Baltic states on the defensive once again as they attempt to
explain their desires to join NATO. On 25 February the Financial Times
claimed that NATO members have reached consensus on a proposal that would
offer Russia decision-making powers on certain security-related topics.
The article, which states that NATO is furthering its goal of trying to
convert itself from an alliance of collective defense to a more regional
alliance of collective security, drew a reserved response from the Baltic
states. "Lithuania is joining the alliance which guarantees security
and stability. All steps by the alliance towards that goal are beneficial
to us and can only be evaluated positively," Petras Zapolskas, director
of information and culture in Lithuania, said. (BNS, 1600 GMT, 25 Feb 02;
FBIS-SOV-2002-0225, via World News Connection)
The US tried almost immediately to mitigate Baltic concerns over the
perception of a possible Russian veto to NATO endeavors, including that
of expansion. On the day after the article appeared, US Ambassador to NATO
Nicholas Burns explained that, although the North Atlantic Council would
continue to meet with Russia four or five times a week, the Russian would
have no veto power over any NATO operations and NATO would maintain its
ability to operate independently. (BNS, 1659 GMT, 26 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002,
via World News Connection) However, the timing of the article's release
added to existing tensions caused by Burns earlier that day when he told
Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas that NATO's decision-making process
concerning expansion is different than that of the European Union's and
that any expansion would be made based upon an aspirant country's commitment
to democratic ideals as well as whether or not a new member would enhance
the overall military strength of the alliance. (ETA, 1036 GMT, 25 Feb 02;
FBIS-SOV-2002-0225, via World News Connection) Such statements had been
made by other NATO members in the past, but not by the US. Whether this
is meant to indicate a subtle shift in NATO's attitude toward expansion
efforts remains to be seen, but the implication was not lost on the Baltic
states as they quickly took steps to reenergize recent negotiations in order
to ensure that they are perceived as military assets to the alliance.
During a meeting with Burns, subsequently, Lithuanian Defense Minister
Linas Likevicius discussed the possibility of purchasing more technologically
advanced weapons. Lithuania is seeking to obtain ground-to-air Stinger
missiles to join the complement of Javelin anti-tank missiles it purchased
last year. (BNS, 1055 GMT, 27 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0227, via World News
Connection) This would give the Lithuanian Army technologically advanced
capabilities not present in some NATO members' militaries, and would constitute
a substantial upgrade of the army's capabilities as well as demonstrate
a further degree to their resolve. As Linkevicius stated, "We will
not create new problems and, though modestly, we will participate in the
alliance's efforts." (LETA, 1304 GMT, 3 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0303,
via World News Connection)
Furthermore, the defense ministers of the three Baltic states met on
3 March to discuss their joint commitment to the alliance and how this could
be impressed upon US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Germany's
Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping when they meet later this spring. (LETA,
1304 GMT, 3 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0303, via World News Connection) Most
likely the Baltic ministers will echo the sentiments made by Kallas to the
British Minister of Defense, Geoffrey Hoon, last month. Kallas pointed
out that warfare has evolved and that threats to security are no longer
met by large armies on the field of battle, but rather by small, specialized
units. (ETA, 1520 GMT, 25 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0225, via World News Connection)
This is an obvious reference to the current "war on terrorism"
and operations within Bosnia and Kosovo. It highlights the cooperation
that the Baltic states have shown the alliance during these crises and hints
that NATO should take notice of those activities and recognize that the
Baltic states not only support NATO but also have been participating alongside
Since participation by the Baltic states within these NATO operations
as well as the modernization programs of the Baltic militaries are well
known by NATO officials, Burns' comments to Kallas concerning the criteria
for expansion seem out of place. In fact, his statements only become understandable
if the Financial Times is correct in its reporting about the growing cooperation
between Russia and NATO.
by Michael Varuolo (firstname.lastname@example.org)