Ignatiev to head Russian Central Bank
Following a dispute concerning the independence of the Russian Central
Bank, Victor Gerashchenko abruptly resigned the directorship in mid-March.
Gerashchenko has been something of an icon in Russian banking circles; he
managed the nation's finances through the 1998 financial crisis. However,
when he served as director of the bank during Yel'tsin's first term, he
presided over much-criticized inflationary policies. For this he was dubbed
"the worst central banker in history" by Harvard economist Jeffrey
Sachs. (THE ECONOMIST, 21 Mar 02) The current dispute involved the proposed
linkage of the Central Bank with a newly defined National Banking Council
to be composed of representatives from the legislative and executive branches.
President Putin is reported to have given the word that Gerashchenko's term
would not be renewed, sparking the resignation. (VEDOMOSTI, 18 Mar 02; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Gerashchenko's replacement is Sergei Ignatiev, whom he once fired. So
far Ignatiev has shown no sign that he will radically alter Gerashchenko's
financial course, although the media have been pessimistic that any Russian
liberal could manage the banking system responsibly. The real reason behind
Ignatiev's appointment may not be his actual banking skills at all. He is
reputed to be an effective and reliable administrator, not someone to shake
the boat, and, most importantly, a man without a personality as outgoing
and impressive as Gerashchenko's. With this appointment Putin may not gain
direct control of the Russian Central Bank, but he does get rid of a potentially
active opponent there. (VERSTY, 21 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Ignatiev has yet to announce a specific stance toward the creation of the
National Banking Council. Should such a measure be passed, the Russian Central
Bank would face the danger of becoming a highly politicized organization.
Ignatiev has supported the right of the oligarchs to channel their money
out of Russia and into the foreign currency market, which Gerashchenko had
long fought. (MOSKOVKSY KOMSOMOLETS, 18 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets
As opposed to most members of Putin's government, Ignatiev was not connected
to the St. Petersburg group. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 19 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) Rather, he has been linked more closely with the coterie
of Anatoly Chubais, although it is doubtful that this appointment constitutes
a substantial victory for that group. (ZAVTRA, 21 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) More than likely Ignatiev represents someone who can be
manipulated by the Kremlin. As deputy finance minister, he had all the
right credentials at the right time.
It is interesting to note the timing of this change with respect to the
upcoming Duma elections. Gerashchenko had been replaced temporarily by another
"liberal" head of the Central Bank only one year before the 1995
parliamentary elections. His current replacement was made only 18 months
before the upcoming Duma elections. In the words of one Russian newspaper,
"A convenient cashier, somebody who will not object to looking the
other way when told to do so, is needed." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 21
Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This rather conspiratorial view
emphasizes the need for Putin's camp to find a source of funding independent
of the less submissive oligarchs, who may have strings attached to their
by Michael Comstock (firstname.lastname@example.org)
New level of cooperation between FSB and Western agencies?
Immediately following the 11 September 2001 attacks on America, the Bush
administration determined that cooperation with Russia was desirable on
a variety of levels, if the "war on terrorism" was to be successfully
prosecuted. Russia was willing to play along for several reasons, not least
because Moscow is concerned about a potential spread of Islamic fundamentalism
from Afghanistan into Central Asia (a region Moscow claims to be in its
"sphere of influence"), and because President Vladimir Putin has
long alleged that there are links between Osama bin Laden, the Taliban and
Chechen separatists fighting the Russian Army.
The primary agencies involved in Russian contacts with the US were the
foreign intelligence (SVR) and the FSB, which were, according to various
reports, instrumental in reversing Russia's original opposition to the use
of covert airbases in Tajikistan. (Stephen J. Blank, STRATEGIC ISSUE ANALYSIS,
RUSSIA AND THE US WAR ON TERRORISM, 15 Jan 02)
In the last week, it has become evident that these contacts have involved
not only the FSB and US intelligence agencies on a bilateral basis, but
rather between a large number of states on a multilateral basis. Between
25 and 27 March FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev hosted a meeting at the Tavrichesky
Palace in St. Petersburg that was attended by representatives of 39 intelligence
and police agencies, including Britain's MI5 and MI6, and Germany's Federal
Intelligence Service (BND).
Victor Ivanov, deputy head of the presidential administration, opened
the forum with a message from President Putin: "No state, no matter
how big its military or economic potential is, can effectively fight alone
against a broad network of terror organizations." (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,
25 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Although, due to the sensitive subject matter, the meeting was held behind
closed doors, Patrushev subsequently spoke to the press and claimed that
international intelligence cooperation had reached unprecedented levels.
Patrushev stated that bilateral and multilateral interagency cooperation
already had produced "tangible results." He added that, despite
their conflicts of interest in many other areas, "We special services
trust each other in the fight against terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking."
(AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE, 26 Mar 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
As a result of the conference a permanent working group is to be established,
and the intelligence chiefs are to meet on an annual basis.
At the same time, two further official discussions about terrorism took
place. Representatives of the CIS countries and the standing Commission
of the Permanent Assembly of The Council of Europe (PACE) also met in St.
Petersburg. PACE General Secretary Peter Scheider and Sergei Mironov, chairman
of the CIS Inter-parliamentary Council, issued a joint statement declaring
their intent to work together against international terrorism.
Although a thawing of old Cold War attitudes -- particularly between
security services -- is welcome, it should not be exaggerated. For instance,
just last week the Russian Embassy in Washington DC served a summons to
the former KGB officer Gen. Oleg Kalugin. A similar summons was issued
to Alexandr Litvinenko, an FSB agent who also came over the West. Clearly,
cooperation has fairly circumscribed limits. It should be remembered that
Russia is pursuing its own agenda, particularly with regard to NATO expansion,
Iran and Iraq, as well as concerning the conflict in Chechnya. Putin's goal
is to ensure that Russia retains influence over matters that are deemed
important to national security. It seems that the chosen conduit for that
influence is to be the security apparatus.
by Fabian Adami <email@example.com>
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
A loss for the communists...
On 20 March State Duma deputies voted 245 to 159, with 2 abstentions,
to deprive State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev of his casting vote (in case
of a parliamentary tie). Seleznev protested that this vote is his constitutional
right, noted that he has only used this power a few times, and asserted
that the move against him was a political rather than a technical issue.
The Duma vote actually was a prelude to the motion to review the question
of removing Seleznev, a member of the Communist Party, from his speakership.
The ousting process was initiated by deputies from the Union of Right Forces
(Boris Nadezhdin), Unity (Vladimir Pekhtin), and Fatherland - All Russia
(Farida Gainullina); the motion to review was approved by a vote of 247
to 127. (NTVRU, 20 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com)
...is a victory for United Russia...
YABLOKO's deputy chairman Sergei Ivanenko spoke in favor of replacing
the speaker and suggested that a representative of the majority party (United
Russia -- the amalgamation of Unity, Fatherland-All Russia, People's Deputy,
and Regions of Russia) would improve the Duma's productivity. Oleg Morozov,
the leader of the Regions of Russia group of deputies and a member of the
General Council of United Russia, announced that he would be ready to take
up the position of chairman if United Russia wished. Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky additionally demanded that
the frequency of the Duma speaker's trips abroad should be grounds for his
ouster (Seleznev had, at the time, just left for a visit to Spain) and recommended
himself as a replacement. (NTVRU, 21 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com; and IZVESTIYA,
16 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0319, via World News Connection)
However, according to a source in the presidential administration, Gennady
Seleznev is likely to keep his position because the Kremlin does not support
the move against him. (LENTA, 29 Mar 02; via www. lenta.ru) Yet another
source suggests that the Duma's chief of staff, Nikolai Troshkin, who previously
was accused of conducting intrigues that benefited the communists at the
expense of the other parties, will be fired to satisfy the deputies. (NTVRU,
28 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com) Finally, rumors have been floated that Seleznev
might give up his membership in the Communist Party to save his position.
Seleznev has denied this. (INTERFAX, 0630 GMT, 24 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0324,
via World News Connection)
...and for the State Duma's popularity
If the "efficiency" and central orientation of the State Duma
is increased, public support is likely to grow. According to opinion polls
held by the independent center for Russian Public Opinion and Market Research
(ROMIR), the approval rating for the lower house of the Russian parliament
rose from 23.8 percent to 30.7 percent between April 2001 and February 2002.
The percentage of those who say they disapprove of the Duma's performance
dropped from 68.1 percent to 50.9 percent. (ITAR-TASS, 1330 GMT, 11 Mar
02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0311, via World News Connection) Still, hardly a resounding
vote of confidence.
Kiselev's team wins the bid for the TV-6 frequency...
Media-Socium, a non-profit partnership established by the journalist
and director of the ousted TV-6 team, Yevgeny Kiselev, Chamber of Commerce
and Industry Chairman Yevgeny Primakov, Russian Union of Industrialists
and Entrepreneurs Chairman Arkady Volsky, and a number of leading businessmen
-- including Oleg Kiselev, Anatoly Chubais, Roman Abramovich, Kakha Bendukidze,
Andrei Melnichenko, Alexander Mamut, Oleg Deripaska and Vladimir Yevtushenkov
-- won the tender for the Channel 6 frequency on 27 March. They may begin
broadcasts as early as at the end of the month, although the media ministry
contacted NTV-Sport, the temporary frequency holder, to make sure it could
continue its programming until the fall of this year.
Kiselev told reporters that his company is currently working "on
changing the old or creating completely new" program formats and deciding
on the channel's new name. (ITAR-TASS, 1611 GMT, 28 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0328,
via World News Connection; and NTVRU, 26 Mar 02; via www.ntvru.com) In response
to accusations that the Kremlin has approved the selection of Media-Socium
with an eye to controlling the information through Primakov and Volsky,
Kiselev replied: "The constitution outlaws censorship in this country,
and let us not call for breaking laws when touching upon the subject. The
story of Primakov, Volsky and the Kremlin is a scary tale for nervous women
who read gossip papers. It is nothing but idle talk." (INTERFAX, 0921
GMT, 28 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0328, via World News Connection)
The tender was observed by several State Duma deputies, but Liberal Democratic
Party of Russia Chairman Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who organized a protest in
front of the press ministry building, declared that this did not guarantee
the fairness of the process. Zhirinovsky, who also had submitted a bid,
asserted that a decision had been made ahead of time. (NTVRU, 27 Mar 02;
...but the victory may be for naught because of an appeal by... Kiselev
According to the latest reports, however, the decision favoring Media-Socium
may be invalidated if the appeal filed by the previous organization of TV-6
journalists, headed by Kiselev to protest the liquidation of TV-6, is approved.
In that case, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin reports, the whole process will
be started from scratch. (LENTA, 1 Apr 02; via www. lenta.ru)
by Luba Schwartzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Who's in charge?
Throughout the Middle Eastern crisis so far, the Russians have called
on both sides regularly to cease violence and to work toward a peaceful
settlement to the conflict. However, below the surface, Moscow clearly
has favored the Palestinians. There are two key reasons for Russia's support
of Arafat. First, Russia still seeks to be a world power and a viable alternative
to US "domination." Supporting the Arabs is viewed as being in
opposition to the United States (though the firmness of US support for Israel
is debatable). (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 27 Feb 02) Second, Russia (and the
Soviet Union before it) has maintained long-standing relationships with
such "rogue states" as Iraq, Syria and Iran. This is true in
terms of diplomatic support and significant sales of military hardware.
However, the escalation of Palestinian suicide bombing and the apparent
unwillingness of Chairman Yassir Arafat to agree to and enforce a cease-fire
have put the Russians in an increasingly uncomfortable position.
On 11 March, the Palestinian Authority (PA), backed by the Arab League,
appealed to Russia to become the principal advocate to defend Palestinian
rights. (ITAR-TASS, 1721 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) This appeal overtly placed the entire blame for the situation
on the shoulders of the Israelis, claiming: "Russia should take upon
itself the responsibility for protecting the Palestinian citizens against
Israeli barbarity." (ITAR-TASS, 1721 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The communiqué went on to highlight
Israel's use of modern weaponry including tanks and helicopters against
the Palestinians and alleged that the Israelis were targeting the hurt and
On the same day, Foreign Minister Ivanov met with the foreign ministers
of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. Again, the Arabs requested that Russia
take on the role of the principal protector of the Palestinian people and
force the Israelis to stop "any and all aggression against Arabs."
(ITAR-TASS, 1731 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) Ivanov responded with a restatement of the long-standing Russian
stance: "Russia's position is unchanged, violence must stop on both
sides." (RIA, 2000 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Also on the same day, the speaker of the Russian Federation Council,
Sergey Mironov, swung the pendulum toward the Israeli position. Most importantly,
he snubbed the Palestinian Authority by refusing to meet with Arafat as
planned for 12 March. He said this was his personal decision. "[W]hen
pondering the origin of the terrorist acts in Afghanistan, Chechnya, and
Israel, I have concluded they have the same roots, financial above all.
In this situation I am not prepared to make a polite gesture [toward Arafat]."
(ITAR-TASS, 1920 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) Later, in the presence of Israeli parliament speaker Avraham
Burg, he paid tribute to the "Israeli victims of Palestinian violence."
(ITAR-TASS, 2016 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
President Putin was noncommittal. On 11 March, he praised the "support
of Russian Jews" both in the current crisis and "through the years."
(EKHO MOSKVY, 1025 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) Two days later he joined the European Community in pressuring
the Israelis to withdraw their forces from Ramallah and expressed support
when they did so on 15 March. (ITAR-TASS, 1029 GMT, 15 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) He also has made several statements
encouraging the two sides to meet, discuss and sustain a workable cease-fire.
But, the president has been cautious in his support for the PA, compared
with previous Russian policies.
The Russians face a dilemma. Should Moscow step back from strong support
of the Palestinian side, it stands to lose position among the Arab countries.
However, as noted by the speaker, it is clear that much of the current
violence has been fueled by ongoing suicide attacks by Palestinian radicals,
which the Russians cannot ignore. Nor can they ignore the fact that funding
for international terrorism comes through the Palestinian Authority. (THE
NEW YORK TIMES, 21 Feb 02) Therefore, Russia is likely to continue being
cautious, condemning violence against and by both Israelis and Palestinians
while encouraging increased dialogue. However, it is unlikely that the
Russians will take a more active role until there is an opening for them
Still, it is not a sign of a healthy external relations apparatus to
have several individuals espousing different approaches. To this end Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov said during the government hour in the State Duma,
"It is quite obvious that (members of) the State Duma are interested
in playing a role in international affairs It is also quite obvious that
a state willing to play a key role in the international arena should speak
with one voice." (RIA, 0324 GMT, 15 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI
Emerging Markets Database) In a later interview, he explained the position
of President Putin on these issues: "Russian President Vladimir Putin
recently issued instructions to the Foreign Ministry to intensify the coordination
of activities. The Foreign Ministry should be responsible for everything
that happens in Foreign Policy." (ITAR-TASS, 1109 GMT, 16 Mar 02; BBC
Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Foreign minister answers myriad of questions on call-in show
On 15 March, Foreign Minister Ivanov answered questions submitted by
listeners for more than an hour on a Moscow radio show. No subject was
too controversial for this show. First, he confirmed that a recent blackout
of Russian TV in Ukraine was a technical malfunction, not a political decision.
(EKHO MOSKVY, 1025 GMT, 16 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) He also took time to chastise the US. "[The US] withdrawal
from the [ABM] treaty was not just directed at Russia as many believe.
It was directed against the international community." Ivanov also confirmed
the Russian position that the presence of US forces in Central Asia presented
no threat to Moscow. He explained that Russia was committed to the war
on terrorism and would stand with "the rest of the free world to stop
this activity at its root."
New Afghan leader visits Moscow
The head of the Afghan interim administration, Hamid Karzai, visited
Moscow from 11 to 13 March to discuss ways in which the Russians could assist
in the rebuilding of his country. Top on his list of priorities for discussion
was the reconstruction of Afghanistan. He also was interested in more military
cooperation with his large neighbor to the north and increased trade.
Karzai's trip followed several weeks of buildup by the Moscow media.
A great deal of history colors views of the future, although it seems there
is a general feeling that, with the new Afghan regime, relations could be
improved. Clearly Karzai is more interested in reconciliation than bravado.
"Afghanistan has long depended on good relations with Russian leadership,
now our people need a friend more than ever," he said. (ITAR-TASS,
1624 GMT, 12 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The Russian leadership clearly reciprocates the desire for positive neighborly
relations. "Russia has always supported Afghanistan's legitimate government
and is now ready to render sufficient support in restoring the country's
economy and settling urgent humanitarian and social problems," President
Putin said. (ITAR-TASS, 1313 GMT, 16 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) However, it is unclear what the "sufficient support"
Karzai also met with leaders of both houses of the Duma and other senior
Russian officials during his three-day visit. The Afghan leader discussed
increased border security and his country's willingness to increase efforts
to stem the drug trade. (RIA, 0907 GMT, 11 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) Karzai was warmly received; he promised
"drastic measures" against drug trafficking. (ITAR-TASS, 1518
GMT, 13 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Still, while the Russian leadership is embracing Karzai on these initial
visits, privately, it appears, there is much skepticism among Moscow's elite
about his long-term prospects for maintaining power. (THE NEW YORK TIMES,
5 Mar 02) For the short run at least, Russia will continue to do what it
can to help Afghanistan both for the international benefits associated with
being part of the regional solution and to ensure a position of influence
in post-war Afghanistan.
by Scott Bethel <email@example.com>
Right on the mark!
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the road to building
a professional military has to start with correcting existing social problems
that plague all the Russian military services. "The general condition
of the Armed Forces of Russia is rather bad," Ivanov admitted during
a recent visit to the Leningrad military district. Ivanov stated that the
military has lost "social and psychological prestige" over the
last decade, and that "a military man should earn 25 to 30% more than
a civilian." (VREMYA NOVOSTI, 11 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI
Defense and Security Database)
Despite repeated criticism from the military and Kremlin hard-liners,
Ivanov is clearly on the right road to true military reform, justifying
President Putin's decision to place a "civilian" without preexisting
(and inculcated Soviet) military bias in charge of the defense ministry.
Of course, Ivanov had served for a decade in the KGB. Hence continued tensions
between "civilian" leadership and the generals can be expected.
The existing military leaders continue to hold fast to the Soviet-era principle
of the bigger the better, and to explain poor readiness and morale as the
results of poor quality recruits, rather than inadequate leadership.
In the meantime, President Putin has issued a decree raising military
officers' pay to the level of their official state counterparts. Although
the decree does not specify a ruble amount to the officers' salaries, it
does direct the Cabinet to raise those salaries to the appropriate level,
prior to 1 July when military housing compensation and other "perks"
are abolished. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 8 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via
ISI Defense and Security Database) The defense ministry has prepared a table
equating military and civil ranks and positions. Beginning with the lowest
ranks, a private, will be equal to an adviser of the state service of the
third class for pay purposes. (NOVYE IZVESTIA, 13 Mar 02; What the Papers
Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) However, historically, a Russian
presidential decree has not meant necessarily that the money would be there,
and there is no reason to assume that this year things will be different.
The 2002 budget is under close scrutiny.
No news must be good news or maybe not
Every since the January inflationary figures surfaced, the finance ministry
has been tight-lipped about the implementation (or perhaps even the validity)
of the 2002 defense budget. According to Russian economist Alexei Vorobiov,
"This [silence] is very disappointing. I admit that this year the
budget revenues are not so high as before , but poor figures are not
such bad news as the refusal of the ministry to publish them." (VEDOMOSTI,
13 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Of course,
with President Putin's decree on military pay parity with civil servants,
and his stated plan to build a professional military, budget difficulties
could constitute an insurmountable obstacle. It appears evident though
that President Putin is determined to find a way to carry out his plans,
budget notwithstanding. But bad news never gets better with age. It only
makes one wonder how bad things really are.
Funding aside, where to start?
The General Staff had a 15 March deadline to submit reform recommendations
-- specifically a step-by-step plan to create a professional military --
to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov. Are the General Staff's recommendations
substantive reforms or merely a superficial alignment with the civil service
According to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, the 76th Airborne Division
in Pskov will serve as the test case for creating the first totally professional
(non-conscript) military unit. Ivanov stated that the "experiment"
will begin in the fall of 2002 and "by mid-2003 the military will be
able to calculate how much money will be needed to maintain each division
of non-conscript personnel." General Vyacheslav Putilin, head of the
Chief Organization-Mobilization Department (GOMU), estimates that the 76th
Airborne Division (with a preexisting level of 15% contract personnel) could
require as much as 1 billion rubles to transform it totally. (VREMYA NOVOSTEI,
8 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
One cost estimate of the military transformation, according to Maj-Gen
Valeriy Astanin, head of the GOMU Manning Department, is significant. Astanin
estimates that "full transition of the armed forces to contract service
will require at least doubling the [Russian] military budget. The calculations
have been made without taking into account the funds required to purchase
armaments and military hardware, and to conduct research and development
work." (ITAR-TASS, 1013 GMT, 27 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0227, via World
News Connection) It appears as though realistic figures are beginning to
surface. The challenge will be generating revenue to pay for these programs
given the current economic conditions in Russia.
Launching one division to determine actual costs might not seem like
a sufficiently scientific approach to calculating the defense budget. Yet
it might prove to be the most accurate way, given the difficulties facing
the defense and finance ministries as they try to develop a realistic budget,
manage inflation and pay the bills. Moreover, the elite 76th Airborne Division
is a good place to start building the professional military. Some critics
say that the General Staff already tried this experiment with the 201st
motorized division in Tajikistan, without any positive results (NOVYE IZVESTIA,
13 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database); however,
they overlook the fact that most of the money never made it into the hands
of the troops. For reform to work, timely and efficient payment is needed.
The model of military reform
Last year President Putin signed the Program of Construction of the Armed
Forces of the Russian Federation between 2001 and 2005. The reforms envisaged
deal with reduction in size and the reorganization of the military infrastructure.
Putin's ambitious timeline forces the military leadership to act now despite
the generals' clear preference for a much more gradual approach. President
Putin correctly views the relative "time of peace" in Russia as
optimal to make drastic reforms cutting infrastructure and improving combat
readiness. He also realizes, apparently, that he must have a well-paid
and professionally competent force.
Some generals have characterized the military reforms as the "establishment
of a small combat-ready army with the ability of fast mobilization,"
in other words, modeled after the 76th Airborne Division. What is the shape
of the airborne forces today? According to Commander-in-Chief Colonel General
Georgy Shpak, "The Airborne Troops are thoroughly under-equipped with
armored vehicles, reconnaissance means, engineering equipment, and communications
means. The level is below that specified by the guiding documents and varies
between 80% and 90%." (VREMYA NOVOSTEI, 13 Mar 02; What the Papers
Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) However, even the 80% to 90%
combat readiness figures include substantially outdated and obsolete equipment,
giving an inflated measure of readiness.
The troops are not the only portion of the military experiencing readiness
problems. According to Russian Deputy Defense Minister General Aleksandr
Kosovan, all 70 Russian military airfields need renovation, and over 60
percent of them have obsolete infrastructure. At current funding levels
the defense ministry is able to renovate only one airfield per year. Last
year the Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow got a new runway; this year the
Kubinka airfield, also near Moscow, begins renovation. (ITAR-TASS, 2050
GMT, 27 Feb 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0227, via World News Connection) This constitutes
yet another example of the how insufficient the defense budget is, and how
much is really needed to maintain existing infrastructure. One solution
might be the creation of a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program modeled
after the US program, in which a determination is made as to which bases
are really needed, and the rest are closed. Funds saved through base closures
would allow for accelerated improvements to the remaining bases.
2nd Army's spring exercise
Following the September terrorist attacks President Putin created the
2nd Army from the merger of the Trans-Volga and Ural military districts
to strengthen the Russian southern defense sector. The command-staff exercise,
from 11 to 18 March, was designed to test the 2nd Army's combat effectiveness
in two phases. The first phase consisted of a joint multinational force
exercise with Collective Security Treaty members Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The second phase featured a Russian-only exercise
on Russian soil. The "unnamed" enemy's simulated "attack"
came "from the Central Asian sector." The exercise, including
over 4,000 servicemen and 500 pieces of military hardware, was conducted
on the territory of the Samara, Orenburg and Saratov regions, and the Republic
of Bashkortostan. Reserve units of the 2nd Army and other security services
(including the interior and railroad services, border guards and emergency
ministry forces) participated as well. (VREMYA NOVOSTEI, 15 Mar 02; What
the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Politically this
is an important exercise for President Putin, meant to: demonstrate solidarity
with Collective Security Treaty members; project (at least the appearance
of) a positive image of the military; and serve to quell the fears of the
Russian population that the military cannot provide protection from Islamic
fundamentalist threats from the south.
Significant industry reforms in the shadows?
Although there is much written about reforming the Russian military,
plans for the military-industrial complex don't seem to have drawn as much
attention. This is not too surprising with arms exports reaching all-time
highs and sales significantly contributing to the government's revenues.
However, arms export revenues are a result of Third World demand for older
technologies and cheap (current) production costs. Although reforms have
been discussed for over a decade, export demands generating revenues have
pushed off serious discussions until recently. With rising production costs,
though, today's competitive pricing soon may be undercut. Demand for newer
technologies must be accounted for within the industry, and that involves
substantial investment in research and development and rubles currently
are in short supply. (ROSSIISKIE VESTI, 15 Mar 02; What the Papers Say,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Unpaid utility bills and wage arrears
are rampant throughout most of the industry, so profitability in the Russian
arms industry may be overstated. To survive on the world market, the Russian
defense industry will have to concentrate on industry (plant) modernization,
technological innovation and cost cutting.
Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Center of Analysis of Strategies and Technologies,
said that cardinal cuts in the military-industrial complex are inevitable,
and that Russia's existing military-industrial complex (created during Soviet
times) is too unwieldy. There are currently over 1,700 defense industry
plants throughout Russia and many are not operating efficiently. The total
number could be pared down to as few as 600.
"To date almost all defense plants duplicate each other: Uralvagonzavod
(Nizhny Tagil) and Transmash (Omsk) in the tank industry, the Irkutsk aircraft
plant and the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant in the aircraft industry,
and the Baltic Plant and Severnaya Verf in the shipbuilding sector. No one
knows which of these plants will remain," one source in the Ministry
for Industry and Science said. Wartime surge capabilities also will enter
into the final decision-making process. (VEDOMOSTI, 15 Mar 02; What the
Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database) Competition's pros usually
outweigh the cons. But a significant overhaul of Russia's military-industrial
complex is necessary to improve efficiency and maintain profitability.
With the Russian economy faltering, there are indications that prompt decisions
already are being made to determine which industries will merge.
Attrition actually may pare down the number of defense industry plants
even sooner. Igor Prostyakov, the first deputy presidential envoy to the
Siberian Federal District, said recently that not one of the 33 defense
enterprises in Novosibirsk Oblast' received a single kopek in payment from
the government for defense orders so far this year (during January and February).
He also stated that many of the defense industries in the Siberian districts
might have to declare bankruptcy. (INTERFAX-EURASIA, 15 Mar 02; via RFE/RL
Newsline) One way or another, it appears that significant changes are forthcoming
in the defense industry.
by Walter Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Seeing the glass as half-full
On 31 March, Ukrainians went to the polls in what was probably the most
contentious parliamentary election in the country's short 11-year history.
Long before the campaign began, it was clear that the government in power
would use every possible administrative resource to try to maintain control
of the chamber. It also was clear that, for the first time, an authentic
opposition movement existed in the country, and this movement had a chance
to alter significantly the power structure of the parliament. The election
battle was dirty -- and often illegal. In the end, however, Ukraine elected
a parliament that could turn out to be more reform-oriented than any in
recent years and possibly more capable than ever. If the divided body can
avoid becoming deadlocked on important issues, it could move forward on
reforms necessary in a number of areas.
Examining the poll results, the possibility of legislative deadlock
is of most concern, given the inability of any bloc to win a majority. In
fact, the two largest blocs have landed in a virtual dead heat -- at least
on paper. When the vote counting was completed, Viktor Yushchenko's opposition
Our Ukraine bloc had won 70 seats from party lists and 42 in single mandate
constituencies. President Leonid Kuchma's For a United Ukraine bloc garnered
34 party list seats and 68 from single-mandate areas. Additionally, two
parties that won three and four single-mandate seats, respectively -- Unity
and the Democratic Bloc already have pledged to join For a United
Ukraine. Consequently, Our Ukraine and For a United Ukraine control 112
and 109 seats, respectively.
However, the anti-Kuchma bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BUT) won 21 seats,
while the also largely anti-Kuchma Socialist Party gained 24. These 45 votes
likely will support Yushchenko's positions often. Meanwhile, the former
"party of power," the Social-Democrat Party-united, managed 23
seats, despite pressure applied against it by some of Kuchma's allies. Those
seats will be important swing votes, as will the 66 seats controlled by
the Communist Party and the 95 votes held by independent members of parliament,
where Kuchma is seen to have an advantage. (For detailed results, see the
Brama RCC POLITICAL REVIEW; via www.brama.com/rcc)
Despite the diverse numbers, there can be little doubt that Ukraine's
parliament is not nearly the parliament Leonid Kuchma desired when this
election campaign began, and that is an important achievement by the opposition.
Kuchma badly wanted to beat Viktor Yushchenko, and even more badly wanted
to see Yulia Tymoshenko removed. Neither of these events occurred. The
president also clearly hoped for a majority to help him move easily either
into a third term or retirement. Now, a third term seems impossible and
there may be little offered in the way of immunity once he is out of office.
On the other hand, the two Rukhs -- the most important reformist, "nationalist"
parties -- were given new, more powerful life in the Our Ukraine bloc.
And another of its components, the Reforms and Order party, championed by
Myroslava Gongadze (not one of Kuchma's favorite persons), also made great
gains. Although the possibility of real reform is just that -- a possibility
-- it is one that did not exist just a few days ago.
Of course, this mixed result may seem disappointing for an opposition
that dreamt of majority rule, but in an environment of intimidation and
repression, it is impressive. It also should be somewhat of a relief to
international organizations that worried about a major escalation of government
intimidation -- including more violence -- on election day in an attempt
to maintain control. Intimidation and manipulation certainly occurred, but
despite this, reformers made significant advances, proving that Ukraine
continues to shuffle ahead on the path to democracy. This was by no means
certain when the campaign began, and international organizations can take
a good deal of credit for their work to assist Ukraine down that path during
In the weeks leading up to the poll, organizations throughout the world
weighed in on the campaign. There were resolutions, press releases, reports
and official statements -- all designed to remind President Kuchma and his
allies that the world was watching. On 4 March, for example, the National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) released its detailed
Pre-Election Report. "The stakes in the March 2002 Rada [parliament]
elections are high," it reads. "[The elections] will determine
the composition of the next Ukrainian legislature, which has the potential
to become a platform for reform. The next parliament has the opportunity
to advance legislation to, among other things, revise the tax code, improve
the land code,... improve the court system, and establish an unambiguous
separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary."
The report took note of numerous violations in the campaign up to that
point (for details, see THE NIS OBSERVED, 27 Feb 02), and suggested that
"the pre-election environment and the application of the law has raised
concerns about the conduct, thus far, of the elections." (THE MARCH
31, 2002 PARLIAMENTARY AND LOCAL ELECTIONS IN UKRAINE: A PRE-ELECTION REPORT,
NDI, 4 Mar 02)
Meanwhile, in its Interim Report No. 1, the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
(OSCE/ODIHR) noted, "Recurrent complaints and allegations relate to
the advantages of incumbency and the failure of the State administration
at all levels to create equal conditions for all election contestants."
The report also discussed "intimidation and undue pressure directed
at opposition party activists, voters and candidates." (OSCE/ODIHR
INTERIM REPORT NO. 1, 26 Feb-11 Mar 02) Additionally, the European Union,
as well as representatives from individual countries, traveled to Ukraine
to assess and, most importantly, to publicize the situation.
All of this activity eventually led to resolutions in both the US House
and US Senate urging, among other things, "the Government of Ukraine
to meet its commitments on democratic elections" under its agreement
with the OSCE and to "enforce impartially its newly adopted election
law." In House Congressional floor debate, representatives called
attention to the still-unresolved murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze,
and reminded the country of the level of US aid provided to it in the past.
(HOUSE RESOLUTION 339, 20 Mar 02)
This US activity received an inordinate amount of attention in Ukraine,
as Kuchma, his allies and Russian representatives all railed against US
"interference" in Ukrainian affairs. Rep. Christopher H. Smith
(R-NJ), co-chair of the US Congressional Helsinki Commission and a co-sponsor
of the House resolution, responded quickly to the criticism. His words
should come as music to the ears of those in Ukraine who bemoan the lack
of attention sometimes paid to their country. "It is important to underscore
the reason for this congressional interest in Ukraine," he said. "The
clear and simple reason: an independent, democratic, and economically stable
Ukraine is vital to the stability and security of Europe, and we want to
encourage Ukraine in realizing its own oft-stated goal of integration into
Europe." (HELSINKI COMMISSION PRESS RELEASE, 21 Mar 02)
Ukrainians seemed to make progress during this campaign toward understanding
their own responsibility for attaining this goal. There was an explosion
of attention to the election by local, private polling companies, information/communications
firms, and all-Ukrainian not-for-profit monitoring agencies. All of these
organizations worked tirelessly to challenge the obstacles put in their
way by Kuchma's henchmen (and women). This bodes well for the future of
Ukrainian civil society. It is true that the majority of Ukrainians remain
disillusioned, but a certain segment of society came into its own during
this campaign. This can be nothing but positive.
It certainly was a positive development for this election. The local
work by Ukrainian organizations, combined with massive international attention
and pressure, as well as the over 1,000 international observers who arrived
in Ukraine to monitor the election, enabled the opposition to make significant
-- if limited -- progress.
It is true that there were numerous violations before, during and after
the casting of the votes. The OSCE International Election Observer Mission
recognized these violations in its Statement of Preliminary Findings and
Conclusions. Its observers, the organization said, found "shortcomings
which contributed to a general atmosphere of distrust and a low level of
public confidence in the election process. These shortcomings included abuse
of administrative resources, interference by local authorities, shortcomings
in the implementation of the new election legislation, and a campaign marred
by the murder of two candidates and other isolated cases of violence as
well as allegations of intimidation and harassment against opposition candidates,
activists and voters." They also noted progress, but declined immediately
to make a final determination as to whether the election met international
standards. That finding "will depend on the role of the election administration
and the judiciary in the post-election phase," the statement reads.
(OSCE NEWS RELEASE, 1 Apr 02) In other words, the organization will wait
until promised legal challenges in certain districts by Our Ukraine, Tymoshenko
and the Socialist Party are heard.
Nevertheless, in the end, even with all of its administrative resources
and pressure tactics, Kuchma's bloc merely survived. It did not win. Maybe,
in a country that is only 11 years old, with a dearth of experienced leadership
and decades of totalitarian control, this is all that truly can be expected.
Naturally, much more can be desired. It is, after all, distressing that
a country with so much potential must struggle so fiercely against its learned
totalitarian tendencies. But the parliamentary elections of 2002 should
not be seen as a defeat. They were simply a step -- one of many to come
-- in the right direction.
by Tammy M. Lynch (email@example.com)
Russia preparing to invade Georgia?
Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze called a press conference on
26 March to warn that Russia is planning a provocation against Georgia in
Abkhazia in order to delay the arrival of US special forces. (GEORGIAN
TELEVISION, 26 Mar 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Tevzadze
emphasized that Georgia is not interested in any escalation of tensions
Indeed, Kommersant reported on 27 March that units of the Russian 58th
Army stationed in the districts adjoining Abkhazia and South Ossetia "have
been placed in a state of heightened combat readiness." (BBC; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) However, sources at the General Staff explained
that the purpose of the alert was to secure the border -- and was not related
to the tensions surrounding Abkhazia and Pankisi.
Are the Americans coming?
The US State Department's deputy spokesman, Philip Reeker, emphasized
that President George W. Bush "has made quite clear that he remains
committed to conducting this train-and-equip program in Georgia, and the
preparation needed to move forward is on track." Reeker noted that
"Russia's 1999 Istanbul summit commitments on withdrawal of Russian
forces from Georgia are completely separate from the US train-and-equip
program." (www.state.gov) Reeker called on Russia to negotiate with
Georgia and fulfill its promises to withdraw the remaining military bases
from Georgian territory. Despite assurances that US plans for the missions
continue, no date has been announced. However, as previously reported,
US troops already are training Georgian helicopter pilots in the vicinity
of the Pankisi Gorge. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 13 Mar 02)
Reeker's comments came in response to Russian Defense Minister Sergei
Ivanov's statement that the arrival of the US special forces training mission
in Georgia could delay further the withdrawal of Russian military bases
from Georgian territory. Ivanov also asserted that the US may reconsider
its plans to deploy the mission. (MAYAK RADIO, 28 Mar 02; BBC, via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
Georgia's Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili responded to Ivanov's
comments in an interview with Vremya Novostei on 1 April: "Russia
is currently in gross violation of the agreements reached in 1999. Gadauta
should have been evacuated on 1 July last year. This has not been done.
There is no agreement on the duration of functioning of the bases in Batumi
and Akhalkalaki. Under these circumstances, the silence of the Russian
side can only be interpreted as an attempt to draw out and torpedo the process
[of military withdrawal]. This might be a harsh appraisal, but it is objective."
Chechens get weapons from RF base?
In a remarkably courageous feat of investigative journalism, reporters
from the Georgian independent television station Rustavi-2 captured on tape
a Georgian army colonel, Tristan Tsitelashvili, who incriminated himself
in two very fishy endeavors. First he elaborated plans to kidnap a Georgian
businessman and take him to the Pankisi Gorge -- ostensibly to cover a $14,000
debt he owed to Chechen militants. He also mentioned serving as a middleman
in the arms trade between Chechen militants and a Russian unit in South
Ossetia. Georgian police detained the television crew and the station's
offices were shot at on the day following the taping. The arms deal went
ahead in South Ossetia on 15 March. (RUSTAVI-2, 17 Mar 02; BBC, via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
Defense minister: No emergency in Pankisi
During a recent visit to Ukraine, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze
explained that "not a single incident was logged on the Chechen part
of the Georgian-Russian border in 2001," and emphasized that "the
media exaggerates some phenomena [relating to Pankisi]. Thank God, nothing
warrants or demands an immediate deployment of the army there. Like any
other state, Georgia is determined to restore order everywhere on its territory.
Not only in the Pankisi Gorge but also in Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
(ZERKALO NEDELI, 23 Feb-1 Mar 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging
Tevzadze dismissed the possibility of UN or NATO peacekeepers in Abkhazia,
saying that it would be preferable to create a truly international force
under the aegis of the CIS, which would include a sizeable Ukrainian contingent.
As regards NATO membership, he commented that Georgians are "psychologically"
ready but will require some years to bring their economy and their military
up to par with their ambitions and aspirations.
RNU trains recruits for Chechnya combat
A defector from Russia's 21st Airborne Brigade, Capt. Andrei Samorodov,
told The New York Times about his experiences on 17 March. He recounted
that his unit contained ultranationalist recruits who wore fascist insignia
on their uniforms. He also told of roadside executions of Chechen civilians,
and the existence of hit squads (he said members of one such unit showed
up at his home in Stavropol).
Since a great deal of evidence of Russian brutality already has surfaced,
that aspect of his account is not the most interesting. Rather, the emphasis
on the prevalence of a fascist party among the young recruits is the element
that is the most worrisome and little studied. Capt. Samodov's description
of atrocities contradicts the prevailing stereotype -- that hardened spetznaz
carry out atrocities while young recruits suffer at the hands of Chechen
militants. In this account, atrocities are carried out by young recruits
who are seized by a virulently racist ideology. His recruits had undergone
training in the fascist Russian National Unity party and wore RNU insignia
(the swastika) on their uniforms. More than any other testimony to date,
this account raises concerns about official tolerance for fascism in Russia's
At the same time, Capt. Samorodov is hardly the first officer to come
forth with first-hand testimony of savagery in the Russian armed forces.
A much longer and more thorough exposé was published on 17 September
2000 by Maura Reynolds in the Los Angeles Times. She provided excerpts
of interviews with many Russian soldiers and officers who described in detail
the atrocities they committed (including quartering a Chechen woman) and
explained that this behavior had been encouraged by their superiors.
but MVD professionals won't go
Moreover, Samorodov is hardly the only officer refusing to serve in Chechnya.
In the past six weeks, special police units in Kaliningrad, Syktyvkar, Vorkuta,
Vologda, Kirov and Murmansk have protested against serving in Chechnya,
in what The Guardian on 28 March described as a "spreading mutiny."
The article highlights an MVD rapid reaction force in Cherepovets that has
sent the authorities an ultimatum categorically refusing to become "cannon
fodder in Chechnya."
In the same article the authoritative military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer
commented that "This sort of thing is happening all the time, though
it's seldom reported. It's all risk and little pay. Officers are resigning
rather than go to Chechnya."
Spy vs. spy
The commander-in-chief of Russia's interior ministry troops, Vyacheslav
Tikhomirov, made public the results of his ministry's investigation into
the loss of the Mi-8 helicopter in Chechnya on 27 January.
"Experts have found that the helicopter was downed by a surface-to-air
rocket," indicating that it was shot down by the Chechen resistance,
Tikhomirov told ITAR-TASS on 23 March. The search for the attackers is underway.
"It is a matter of honor for us and the case will be closed only when
the attackers have been found," Tikhomirov said. (ITAR-TASS, 23 Mar
02; via lexis-nexis )
The crash killed 14 persons -- 11 MVD officers (including the deputy
interior minister, chief of the department for the Southern Federal District
Mikhail Rudchenko and Interior Ministry Troops Deputy Commander-in-Chief
Nikolai Garidov), and three crew members.
Tikhomirov's statement contradicts the earlier reports from the FSB that
the helicopter crash was due to mechanical failure. It remains unexplained
what factors account for the discrepancy between the FSB assessment and
the MVD report. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 13 Feb 02) Tikhomirov also announced
deep cuts into MVD manpower. According to present projections by 2005,
the number of Russian interior ministry troops will be reduced by 37,400
In another helicopter story, Anna Politkovskaya, an award-winning journalist
with Novaya gazeta, reiterated her contention that Russia's own forces shot
down a helicopter with eight General Staff officers on board over the center
of Grozny on 17 September 2001. The critical events of that day were recounted
by The Guardian newspaper on 16 March:
"A young Russian general () Anatoly Pozdnyakov, confided in Politkovskaya
that he was that day returning to Moscow with a report he had written on
corruption in Chechnya. He was the head of a new military investigative
commission, acting, he said, on the personal orders of Putin. An hour after
the interview, the general was dead. His helicopter, and his top secret
report, were shot out of the sky by a Stinger missile directly over the
city centre -- which was unusually empty, thanks to the military at the
checkpoints. 'The official version,' says Politkovskaya, 'is that a Chechen
fighter ran out on to the street, launched the missile and ran away. It
could not have happened like that. He would have been shot the moment he
popped his head out.' Ten days after writing that it was, in fact, colonels
in Chechnya who had shot down their own chief of staff, Politkovskaya, under
threat of her life, was forced to flee the country."
The report does not specify to which service the "colonels"
Atrocities spark protests
On 13 March, several hundred residents of the Starye Atagi village held
a rally in Grozny. They demanded an investigation and punishment of those
guilty of crimes against civilians committed in the village during a cleansing
operation ("zachistky") in early March. The Starye Atagi residents
brought with them the burned bodies of seven local residents killed by federal
According to Russian representatives, the bodies were of Chechen fighters.
A representative of the operative headquarters of the counter-terrorist
operation, Ilya Shabalkin, called the rally an "ordered action, paid
for by the opponents of peace settlement in Chechnya." Similarly,
FSB spokesman Alexander Zdanovich called the event a "planned provocation
against the federal forces." (INOSTRANETS, 19 Mar 02; What the Papers
Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
At a press conference on the same day, Memorial activists presented evidence
and testimony about ongoing war crimes in Chechnya. Representatives of
Memorial, Alexander Cherkassov and Oleg Orlov, said that during the operation
in Starye Atagi a week earlier, 15 persons were detained. One of them was
a militant, another was released, another was found dead -- 12 remain missing.
Photographs of disfigured Chechens from another town, Argun, were shown.
All bodies had wire marks on their wrists that prove that they had been
tied up for the last hours of their lives and could not have been killed
According to Memorial, the number of "missing" in Chechnya
is 2,000. To give this figure scale, Cherkassov reasoned, "The population
of Chechnya is about 600,000 at present. If the same proportion of people
disappeared in Moscow, then the number of disappeared people would have
run into tens of thousands. And this is commensurate with the Great Purge
of 1937-1938." (PRESS CONFERENCE WITH MEMORIAL REPRESENTATIVES, 13
Mar 02; Federal News Service, via lexis-nexis)
Cherkassov also described the operation of "death squads"
that "exist in the center in Khankala. This is borne out by quite a
number of burial sites found near Khankala or in Khankala, burial sites
for people who were variously detained in different places in Chechnya.
" According to Cherkassov, although it cannot be confirmed, it is
highly probable that some members of GRU are involved in such units. "Obviously,
such structures exist in some districts, for example, the Urus-Martan district
is famous for kidnappings of people at night and torture and then their
bodies are discovered. (...) We are sure that [this is not the work of]
militants. (...) [I]n Urus-Martan militants don't drive around during curfew
on army vehicles and trucks. Obviously, these are representatives of federal
by Miriam Lanskoy
The United States finds itself in an awkward situation in Central Asia
-- whether to deal with regimes for immediate objectives in the "war
on terrorism." Turkmenistan's eccentric President Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi"
Niyazov has been linked to the trafficking of illegal narcotics. According
to a variety of well-placed sources, Niyazov has been involved actively
in the trafficking of heroin (predominantly) at least since 1997. In fact,
the UN reports that nearly 50% of all drugs consumed in Western Europe are
trafficked through Central Asia, and as Niyazov is reported to transship
between 80 to 120 tons annually, he certainly appears to be the region's
most high-ranking drug middleman. (EURASIA INSIGHT, 29 Mar 02; via Eurasianet)
What may be most troubling about the possibilities of Niyazov's connection
to the drug trade is that it comes at a time when the United States is shopping
around for a state in which to anchor its regional influence for a longer
While Niyazov thus far has been of little obvious help to America in
the "war on terrorism," he possesses much that the United States
desires in a future friend, namely oil and a strategic location. He could
have used both to his advantage in inking a deal with Washington; instead
he ignored obvious opportunities and may have sealed his fate. Like other
authoritarian regimes in Central Asia, Niyazov's Turkmenistan is both oppressive
and paranoid. Opposition groups often operate in secrecy and are routinely
imprisoned or otherwise eliminated. Now, however, they may have an opportunity
to isolate Niyazov internationally and, ultimately, force his resignation.
The United States is certainly eager to participate in a free market competition
for Turkmenistan's share of Central Asia's energy reserves, and cannot fail
to appreciate that the country shares an expansive border with "Axis
of Evil" member Iran.
While Turkmenbashi himself has been cool to the Bush Administration's
advances, savvy opposition leaders such as Boris Shikhmuradov must realize
that they are faced now with opportunities. These groups could appeal to
Washington for financial aid and significant increases in diplomatic pressure
on Niyazov to resign in exchange for closer relations, and possible basing
rights within Turkmenistan. Washington, for its part, needs to understand
that the window of opportunity cannot remain open forever.
by Michael Donahue <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Domestic political issues threaten to jump across borders
The political forces within the Baltic states are beginning to realign
with the self-assertion of opposition groupings that in the future may produce
a political force capable of threatening the status quo within two of these
republics. Within Estonia, the two largest Russian political parties have
agreed to terms that would enable them to unify their constituencies in
a coalition umbrella for autumn local elections. (BNS, 1553 GMT, 25 Mar
02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0325, via World News Connection) Initially this move
by the Estonian Unity Party and the United People's Party is unlikely to
bring about major change within the country's political landscape, but as
more and more members of the Russian minority obtain citizenship the coalition
could present a new power nucleus within the state.
Meanwhile, in Latvia, the new center-left party calling itself the Social
Democratic Union (SDS) has moved into the political spotlight as it strives
to portray itself as the true champion of the Latvian people and their ideals.
(BNS, 0801 GMT, 25 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0325, via World News Connection)
The events in Latvia are particularly troublesome as they occur at a time
when domestic concerns are being elevated to the international scene through
the OSCE, Russia and Latvia itself. Recently, Latvia revoked the license
of the Russian-language Biznes un Baltija (BB) radio station when it determined
that the station had violated copyright and other media laws. (BNS, 1604
GMT, 18 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0318, via World News Connection) The move,
in accordance with Latvian Supreme Court ruling, effectively closed the
country's most popular radio station. As could be expected, this event
triggered a strong response from Russia. The international community subsequently
weighed in, with comments from the OSCE as well as Swedish and US officials,
concerning the use of the Russian language in Latvia. In Lithuania, another
minority political party, the Electoral Action of Lithuanian Poles, is solidifying
its position. Sparked by what it sees as attacks on its language and culture
within the minority language schools, the party organized protests and demonstrations.
(BNS, 1524 GMT, 13 Mar 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0313, via World News Connection)
by Michael Varuolo <email@example.com>