Putin's State of the Union address
In the last days before President Putin's annual address to parliament,
a flurry of news concerned his dissatisfaction with the government's economic
indicators. Economic Development Minister Herman Gref responded to one such
report: "[T]he ministry does its best not to make any mistakes, but
it will also do its best to raise the figures to which the president objects."
(IZVESTIA, 13 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Gref, who is believed
to have had a great deal of influence over important sections of the address
(namely those dealing with the economic situation in Russia), evidently
was not able to avoid such "mistakes." (ZAVTRA, 25 Apr 02; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) When Putin addressed the Duma subsequently,
he deadpanned, "The Government is not reckoning on higher rates of
growth. Such a low assessment of Russia's capabilities doesn't help the
cause. Moreover, it doesn't imply active policies, and doesn't envisage
measures designed to make use of the capabilities of the Russian economy."
(RUSSIAN TV, 0800 GMT, 18 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) In effect, the emperor had been told he was wearing no clothes,
to which he replied, "Yes I am, and you had better go and figure out
what color they are." However, no one could respond to his satisfaction
since, indeed, he was naked. Such is Russia's current situation. Putin asked
his economic advisors to rewrite their analysis of the country's performance
for the sake of his TV image. His advisors must be unprecedentally honest,
or the economic statistics already are stretched too thin, since, apparently,
they were unable to comply.
This episode reflects the limits on Putin's power within his own government.
Obviously he had requested important revisions before one of his most publicized
speeches, and his request remained unfulfilled. It indicates also that Putin
does not wish to shoulder responsibility for growth rates that he believes
to be too low (3.5-4.2%). By criticizing the government, Putin is trying
to distance himself from a harsh reality. Economic Development Minister
Gref may be serving as a lightning rod.
Putin continued to address the need for administrative reform within
the executive branch to create an apparatus that is "efficient, compact
and functional." He emphasized that three reforms were critical to
achieving this end: 1) "a wholesale modernization of the system of
executive authority"; 2) "effective and clear mechanisms for developing
the way in which executive decisions are taken"; and 3) "an analysis
of the state functions being carried out today, [retaining] only those that
are necessary." With such talk of reform Putin is avoiding the crosshairs,
referring to "elements of the executive " and "ministries."
(RUSSIAN TV, 0800 GMT, 18 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
In the instances cited here, Putin himself never offers any plan. He
is quite explicit about the need for change, but never about the actual
end toward which he is working. This is not to say that President Putin
has no plan; merely that whatever plan he might have may never be acceptable
to the Russian people. When the good president says, "we must substantially
change the actual system by which state institutions operate," he means,
and maybe even truly believes, that his own personal executive power needs
to be enhanced for the good of the nation.
Reactions not overly optimistic (except for some in the Duma)
"The address does not contain a single new idea," Communist
leader Gennady Zyuganov charged, "It reiterates the pro-American, pro-NATO
agenda. It reiterates the priorities of the liberal, hard-line, right-wing
economy benefiting oligarchs and suchlike. It reiterates the intention to
go on selling land and dismantle natural monopolies -- which will split
the nation and the state. Integrity of the state, security of the population,
development of science, culture, and education should be main topics in
every address. [Putin's] speech did not mention a single method for implementing
any of these objectives."
At the other end of the political spectrum, Anatoly Chubais said, "As
for a revision of the economic growth rate, this is an attractive idea.
I'm not sure, however, that the regime itself understands what price it
will have to pay for it. There is more to it than merely new laws or new
decisions by the government. The president will have to give up his political
face, his image. He will have to make some thoroughly unpopular decisions.
I'm not sure that the regime understands this or is truly ready for anything
like it." (GAZETA, 19 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The newspaper Vremya novosti called the speech "the most prosaic
document ever," and determined that it was far too boring to be leaked
prior to delivery. However, this did not stop sycophantic reactions from
within the Duma; Vremya notes that "the number of lawmakers who liked
absolutely everything about the address increased."(VREMYA NOVOSTI,
19 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Izvestia pointed out that
Putin's favorite phrase, "strong state," was not mentioned at
all. (IZVESTIA, 19 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
by Michael Comstock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
FSB discovers Irish Republican Army weapons purchase
Recently it has become increasingly clear that the IRA and some of its
splinter groups, such as the Real IRA, are not as committed to the Northern
Ireland peace process as they should be.
First, three IRA members were arrested in Bogota, Colombia, in August
2001, on charges of providing weapons and training to the Marxist FARC guerrillas,
who control large sections of southern Colombia. The men are awaiting trial.
More recently, raids on IRA safe houses carried out by police and British
intelligence operatives uncovered IRA intelligence files which contained
a target list of senior conservative members of parliament, and information
concerning army bases around the United Kingdom. (BBC NEWS ONLINE, 27 Apr
02) Now it seems that the list should include secret attempts to purchase
weapons and explosives from Russia, while publicly "decommissioning
arms." (THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH, 28 Apr 02)
According to both the Russian and British press, late in 2001 the IRA
purchased at least 20 AN 94 assault rifles (which can fire up to 1,800 rounds
a minute, and penetrate body armor) from "renegade Russian Special
Forces Officers." (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 22 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets
Database) Reportedly, the deal was discovered after an earlier attempt to
purchase arms had been made, at which point the FSB passed the relevant
information to the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE,
21 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) As yet, it is unclear whether
any arrests have been made in Russia. Downing Street and the FSB have refused
to comment on the matter.
There is no indication as to what the quid pro quo for such information
might be, especially in the current atmosphere of "cooperation"
in the fight against terrorism, which supposedly has existed since last
month's intelligence summit in St. Petersburg. The only return that the
FSB conceivably might seek from British intelligence is support for the
extraditions of former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko and exiled media mogul
Boris Berezovsky. However, it is highly doubtful that the British government
would agree to return either man to Moscow.
And seeks to expand cooperation with CIS states
Between 16 and 19 April, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev visited the Kyrgyz
capital Bishkek, to hold talks with President Askar Akaev and the secretary
of the Kyrgyz National Security Council, Misir Ashirkulov, concerning international
terrorism and crime. (ITAR-TASS, 16 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0416, via World
Patrushev promised that Russia would help Kyrgyzstan to combat drug trafficking
in the region, insisting that "Russia is no less interested than Kyrgyzstan
in the drug threat not spreading." (ITAR-TASS, 17 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0418,
via World News Connection) Patrushev stated that cooperation between Kyrgyzstan
and Russia was vital, because the US had announced its intention to remain
there only for a short term.
In the wake of the comprehensive anti-terrorist exercise held in Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan and Tajikistan between 14 and 20 April, a public relations effort
has been launched by the FSB that is designed to ensure that security services
will, in the words of Deputy Director Col. General Viktor Komogorov, not
"lose the struggle against this evil of the 21st Century," and
to ensure that the CIS retains a viable and capable anti-terrorist force.
(INTERFAX, 23 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis)
Clearly, Patrushev, and by extension, President Putin, are acting upon
the assumption that the US may withdraw from Central Asia upon the completion
of operations in Afghanistan, and that Russia will be able to re-establish
its influential position. As has been made clear previously, the FSB has
been given the task of ensuring that Russia retains influence in the region,
particularly with regard to security. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 3 Apr 02)
The events of the last two weeks prove that this is indeed the case. It
remains to be seen how successful the FSB manages to be.
by Fabian Adami <email@example.com>
DOMESTIC ISSUES & LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
The week of 15 - 20 April was "cleanliness week" in Rostov-on
the-Don. Already on 10 April, thousands of city residents were busy sweeping
streets, fixing up playgrounds, setting up trashcans, etc. Rostov Housing
and Utilities Department Director Vladimir Artsybashev announced that the
action would involve about 40,000 persons and culminate on 20 April in a
subbotnik, a traditional Soviet Sabbath of large-scale community service
work. (REGIONS.RU NEWS, 10 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
...And spring cleansing
At the same time, Rostov police officials are conducting a very different
"cleaning" procedure -- Operation Foreigner, a "preventative
measure aimed at finding and detaining illegal immigrants and preventing
them from breaking the law." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 12 Apr 02; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) A similar action is taking place in neighboring
Krasnodar Krai, where a new law restricting illegal migration was passed
recently. (ITAR-TASS, 1012 GMT, 13 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging
The date also coincides with Hitler's birthday, a major event for Russian
extremist youths whose harassment of darker-skinned foreigners from the
"near abroad" as well as from more distant lands has alarmed residents,
visitors and foreign officials in Russia. All of these events are connected.
First, they resonate with a general European zeitgeist of increasing nationalist
sentiments; secondly, they are a result of an absence of legislation addressing
domestic extremism; and finally, they reflect the interests of various parties.
Everybody's doing it
A number of Russian politicians have spoken about the relationship between
Russian ultranationalists and their European counterparts. Liberal Democratic
Party leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky pointed
to recent victories by a right-wing German party in a local election, to
Austrian Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider, and the extreme-right French
presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen (to whom Zhirinovsky recently sent
a congratulatory letter), explaining that "the future belongs to rightist,
to nationalistic parties." (INTERFAX, 0802 GMT, 22 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0422,
via World News Connection)
State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitry Rogozin also mentioned
Le Pen's advance to the runoff for the French presidency, pointing out that
the major influx of immigrants is a primary contributing factor to the "increase
in nationalist sentiments and the formation of skinhead organizations."
(INTERFAX, 0829 GMT, 22 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0422, via World News Connection)
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov suggested that "nationalist waves in Europe
have been recently reaching Russia." (INTERFAX, 0844 GMT, 22 Apr 02;
FBIS-SOV-2002-0422, via World News Connection) And finally, Communist Party
leader Gennady Zyuganov touched upon the international idea of neo-Nazism.
He, however, disputed the relevance of the link, stating that Russia "has
suffered from fascism more than any country in the world," and that,
therefore, "there is no place for Nazism" in Russia. Zyuganov
stated that the neo-Nazi ideology is ascribed to Russia's youths as part
of a campaign aimed at creating "conditions that would make it possible
to force on the State Duma the adoption of the bill concerning the prevention
of extremism," a bill that would be aimed "first of all against
organized opposition forces." (INTERFAX, 1231 GMT, 19 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0419,
via World News Connection)
Maybe if we ignore it, it will go away
In fact, there is no federal law on extremism, and it was only after
last fall's pogrom at a Moscow market that a police department against extremism
and terrorism was opened: the unit currently employs only about 20 persons.
(REN TV, 18 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Russia's liberals not only blame the dearth of legislation on extremism
for the recent problems, but also accuse the communists of stalling the
process of developing such legislation. (ROSSIYSKIYE VESTI, 17 Apr 02; What
the Papers Say, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov noted that he has passed a
draft law to the House and advocated developing a legal basis for enabling
law-enforcement bodies "to stop manifestations of extremism."
Federation Council member Ramazan Abdulatipov said that Russia fights international
terrorism but deals very little "with the roots of crime in our own
country." (ITAR-TASS, 1456 GMT, 18 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0418, via
World News Connection)
Russian officials claimed success in preventing violence in Moscow on
Hitler's birthday. However, the interior ministry's warnings, and the superficial
compliance of the skinheads, had no substantive effect on the situation
in Russia. Special units patrolled football stadiums, metros, and other
public places, as well as foreign consulates and embassies (including missions
from the US, Japan, India, the Philippines, Italy and Sweden), which had
received threats from the extremist organizations. (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES,
16 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Meanwhile, many of the skinheads went south to Krasnodar Krai, where
the weather and the reception were warmer. (INTERFAX, 19 Apr 02; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
Out of sight...
Immigration is a major issue in Krasnodar Krai, where legislation was
passed recently to increase state control over migration: Foreigners are
required to register with krai authorities, and persons illegally present
on the krai's territory are now subject to deportation. According to officials,
about a million persons have arrived in the region over the last decade,
forcing locals out of the job market. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 12 Apr 02;
via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The legislation was supported immediately by action. Within days, several
families were forcibly deported, and it has been noted already that the
victims of the deportations are "ethnic migrants," while numerous
Slavic illegal immigrants are given free rein. (IZVESTIA, 15 Apr 02; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the new
measures are supported by a majority of the local population. (NEZAVISIMAYA
GAZETA, 25 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
In the Rostov Oblast', more liberal than its southwestern neighbor and
considered less likely to adopt equally stringent legislation, settlement
by ethnic minorities -- currently at 16% -- also affects internal politics.
(NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 12 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The
Don Cossacks have volunteered to take the "restoration of the ethnic
balance" into their own hands. The Cossacks accuse Chechen, Ingush,
Chinese, Roma and Azeri groups of "ethnic aggression" and plan
to send Russian President Vladimir Putin an open letter requesting a meeting
to discuss the issue. (VREMYA NOVOSTI, 17 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets
While Russia's southern regions are particularly prone to endorsing the
suppression of ethnic minorities, according to the VTsIOM Public Opinion
Research Center, 58% of the Russian population nationwide supported the
slogan of "Russia for the Russians." This number has risen steadily
from 49% in 2000 and 43% in 1998. (IZVESTIA, 19 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging
...Out of mind
With the lack of legislation and the encouragement of national sentiments
by various political forces, actions by extremist youths in effect are condoned.
The 17 April vandalism at an Armenian cemetery in Krasnodar, especially
painful to the local Armenian community as it came just two weeks before
the Day of Remembrance of the Dead, was officially condemned. (INTERFAX,
0818 GMT, 18 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0418, via World News Connection) However,
no action was taken by the authorities.
Similarly, while 392 members of extremist youth organizations were detained,
and 198 described as "deserving close attention," only two criminal
cases were initiated against the skinheads since the offenses "were
not committed in public places and did not take the form of large-scale
street rallies." (INTERFAX, 0902 GMT, 25 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0425,
via World News Connection)
A journalist from the popular daily Moskovsky komsomolets (owned by Moscow
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and recognized for the attention it devotes to the actions
of nationalists) reported that she infiltrated an extremist organization
and made two fascinating discoveries: First of all, the nationalist actions
were planned not on the anniversary of Hitler's birthday, but on the anniversary
of his death; and second, the skinheads are trained at a special-purpose
police [OMON] center in the Moscow area. (EKHO MOSKVY, 23 Apr 02; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database)
by Luba Schwartzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A new Axis?
Russia President Vladimir Putin has met with Italian Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi four times during the past six weeks, both in formal and informal
sessions. Since Berlusconi's election in 2001 and his focus on increased
economic growth and defense (and subsequent decreased focus on social issues),
Italy's status in Europe has grown. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Feb 02; via
nytimes.com) The prime minister has widened Italy's reach on international
issues. Berlusconi has long championed the Russian cause among European
powers and was among the first to endorse a more extensive relationship
between NATO and Russia, as proposed by NATO Secretary-General George Robertson
and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 28 Nov 01) In
addition, starting in the Fall of 2001, Berlusconi established regular dialogue
with Putin, discussing a range of topics including the war on terrorism,
increased economic cooperation between Europe and Russia, and closer Russian-Italian
ties. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 13 Apr 02; via yahoonews.com)
The current round of Russian-Italian meetings began with a series of
informal discussions on the Middle East, the war against terrorism, and
Iraq. [RUSSIA PUBLIC TV (ORT), 1700 GMT, 2 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets
Database] A prepared set of statements and a press conference held by the
two leaders confirmed that "[Prime Minister Berlusconi] like President
Putin does not imagine a united Europe without Russia and is prepared to
do anything possible to fully integrate Russia into the European economy."
(RUSSIA TV, 1300 GMT, 2 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This
kind of support is crucial for increased Russian economic relations with
the European Union. Other European states, such as France and Germany,
have expressed reluctance to increase commercial ties with Russia because
of questions about the strength of the Russian economy, lack of significant
political and judicial reform, and its ongoing war in Chechnya. (REUTERS,
10 Apr 02; via yahoonews.com)
Berlusconi apparently has decided to play a major role in finalizing
a formal agreement between Russia and NATO. The initial discussions between
Putin and the Italian prime minister on this issue were concluded in Moscow
on 3-4 April. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12 Apr 02; via yahoonews.com)
What has yet to be clarified is the method of choosing which issues will
be on the agenda for the proposed new NATO-Russia group (the "Twenty")
and what force the resulting decisions made will have. A joint Russia-EU
summit is to take place on 29 May, and could provide additional details
about the future of economic relations between the European Union and Russia.
(ITAR-TASS, 1508 GMT, 18 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
It appears that Vladimir Putin's carefully laid groundwork is about to
pay off: Putin and his foreign policy team (including both Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov), seeking further integration
with NATO and closer economic ties with Europe, have held several high-level
meetings in Europe and regular exchanges with NATO since 11 September.
The final details of the new NATO-Russia association will be made public
during a meeting on 28 May. The future of the EU-Russia relationship remains
to be seen.
Closer ties with Iran
Putin and Co. have labored over the last year to forge even closer ties
with Iran. Russia has entered into major arms deals with Iran and has contracted
to build at least one and perhaps two nuclear reactors there. (See THE NIS
OBSERVED, 27 Feb 02)
Moreover, the Russians have favored the Palestinians, bringing Tehran
and Moscow even closer. Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi confirmed
the increasingly warm relationship between the two countries during a recent
trip to Moscow. Though the focus of the visit was to confirm Russia's support
for Iran and discuss their mutual interests in the Caspian Sea area, there
was plenty of opportunity for anti-American rhetoric.
"The proclamation by Washington of an 'axis of evil', to which Iran
was linked, is just a sign showing that the new doctrine of a uni-polar
world has begun to operate," Kharrazi noted. (ITAR-TASS, 2055 GMT,
4 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) At the same time, Kharrazi
made it clear who Iran's friends are: "Fortunately, the European Union,
Russia, and China oppose such a doctrine."
The Iranian foreign minister also took the opportunity to blast the US
presence in Central Asia saying, "The US presence in Central Asia will
not help the security situation there . Central Asian Nations have an obligation
to effect their own security." (ITAR-TASS, 1822 GMT, 4 Apr 02; via
ISI Emerging Markets Database) Official Russia has not echoed these fears,
and in fact has expressed muted support for the US activities in the region,
perhaps because Moscow has continued to be consulted on troop levels and
basing in post-Soviet republics.
Kharrazi conveyed the impression of Russo-Iranian entente over the Caspian:
"The Caspian Sea should be a sea of peace and friendship with all
littoral areas and states having equal access to its resources," he
said. (ITAR-TASS, 1822 GMT, 4 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
He claimed that the existing Caspian treaties, signed by Iran and the Soviet
Union, are effective but require modification and improvement over time
to maintain their effectiveness. (ITAR-TASS, 1822 GMT, 4 Apr 02; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database) Just what such modifications would entail, of
course, has been the subject of intense debate among the littoral states
that achieved independence after the treaties were signed. In effect, Moscow
and Tehran coordinated positions in the run up to the Caspian Summit, so
that Moscow would appear conciliatory, while Iran blocked progress.
Indeed, Kharrazi signaled that all was well with Russian-Iranian endeavors,
including ventures that seemed at risk recently. Despite rumors that both
sides were dissatisfied with the progress and were preparing to pull out,
he stated that "Russia and Iran have the opportunity to expand cooperation,
including the completion of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr." (ITAR-TASS,
1822 GMT, 4 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The official Iranian
news agency echoed that assurance. (VOICE OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN,
1630 GMT, 20 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
State of the Nation address -- foreign policy issues
During his State of the Nation address on 18 April, Vladimir Putin did
not tackle much of the foreign policy agenda for the coming year. However,
he did highlight two major issues as priorities of the Russian government.
First, he outlined the importance of Russian participation in the global
marketplace. "Competition has now assumed a genuinely global character.
Owing to our weaknesses we have had to yield to others our numerous niches
in the world marketsit is we ourselves who have to fight to regain our place
in the economic sunlight." (RUSSIA TV, 0800 GMT, 18 Apr 02; via ISI
Emerging Markets Database) One of the Soviet Union's key exports has continued
to be military hardware; under Putin, Russia has made every effort to capture
as much of that market as possible. These efforts have been successful
in the Middle East, Asia and even South America. Though military hardware
is not the only market Russia can and will pursue, it offers the best chance
at hard cash.
Putin also addressed Russia's desire to join the World Trade Organization
(WTO). Many of his critics in Russia have accused him of viewing WTO membership
as a panacea for the country's economic ills. Putin made it clear that the
WTO is a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. "I would like
to state the WTO is not an absolute evil or an absolute good. It is not
a reward for good behaviorthe WTO is a toolthe problem is that our country
is currently excluded from making the rules of world trade," he explained.
(RUSSIA TV, 0800 GMT, 18 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
While Putin spent some time describing the progress made in the war on
terrorism and the role Russia has played in the alliance, the focus of the
speech was on domestic political issues. Thus, the future of Russian foreign
policy is still murky. However, President Putin did emphasize a major component
of external relations -- the economic aspect.
by Scott Bethel <email@example.com>
Leadership, education or more hardware?
Following Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's recent inspection
of the Moscow Military District, part of a nationwide evaluation conducted
over the last year, he said the picture is not too bleak. "I don't
consider the situation in the army as being hopeless, though the plight
of military units and fleets, which I have already visited, differs depending
on commanders' skills," Ivanov stated. (GAZETA, 24 Apr 02; What the
Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
He also met with officers, who reportedly complained about the quality
of basic military training. Their concerns ranged from the study of obsolete
military hardware to the outdated combat tactics used during WWII.
However, Ivanov reported, "The main problems of the Army and the
Navy are connected with rearmament. Weapons and military hardware used
by the Army were created in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it is impossible
to replace everything [at once]. Some weapons can be used for several more
years." It is the defense minister's responsibility to "keep
the balance of the social status of servicemen, their money allowances,
and realize the [modernization and acquisition of new] armament program[s],"
he said. "In such circumstances, the situation will slowly improve."
(GAZETA, 24 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
Thus, Ivanov stated fairly concisely what his competing priorities were,
and acknowledged that it would take some time to make all the needed changes.
Perhaps, Ivanov will not fall for the notion that rearmament will solve
all of the military's other problems. New equipment without the resources
to maintain or operate it (such as tanks without fuel) will not address
the armed forces' social, educational, leadership, readiness and training
Especially interesting, however, is the realization by the younger officers
that an overwhelming part of what they are learning is "obsolete."
Perhaps access to the Internet, and an overall more "worldly wise"
and skeptical generation will force the acceleration of the military educational
system's overhaul. Although modern military theory has its roots in previous
military campaigns, proportional amounts of time must be spent on current
and future warfare tactics and innovations.
Alternative service debate continues
While there are still many opposing views concerning the ideal time requirements
of military and alternative service, the consensus seems to be developing
that the latter should be longer. Tiring of the nearly nine-year debate,
senior military officials from the General Staff just want the Duma to specify
the length of service requirements and the application procedures for alternative
(non-military) service. But it is not that simple.
The real issue is how long is enough? The more liberal Union of Right
Forces proposes one year of alternative service, or a six-month military
service commitment. This is unrealistic. One could even argue that the
existing two-year military service commitment isn't sufficient, given the
time needed to train recruits.
More of the same
If the solution isn't found soon to the alternative service issues, then
desertion and draft evasion will continue to erode Russian society's perception
of the military. The armed forces spring recruitment is best described as
"disastrous." According to sources in the military and registration
offices, the number of recruits is expected to be only 11.7% of the total
registered for the draft. An analysis of those recruited shows that one
out of every five is either from a single-parent dysfunctional home, uses
alcohol or drugs, or only has primary school education -- not exactly ideal
hands to be entrusted with modern weapons. (NEZAVISIMOYE VOYENNOYE OBOZRENIE,
17 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
One serious consideration will have to be the elimination of college
deferments. Another option well within the military's existing capabilities
is to clean up the rampant hazing, and other criminal disciplinary excesses
prevailing today. The caliber of Russian recruits, after all, is the foundation
upon which the military forces are built.
Bartering away more Russian debt at what cost?
On 16 April the Russian and Czech governments signed a long-awaited agreement
to settle the outstanding Russian debt to Czechoslovakia. The $400 million
debt will be met by the sale of three Russian-Ukrainian built An-70 military-transport
planes, seven Mi-24 combat helicopters, and miscellaneous spare parts for
existing Soviet and Russian military hardware used by the Czech military.
Reportedly, the AN-70 transport planes had been slated to go to the Russian
Air Force. (NOVYE IZVESTIA, 17 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense
and Security Database)
This is yet another example of the difficult balancing acts facing Moscow:
Pay off costly debt (receive no cash for the sale, but reduce cash expenditures
servicing foreign debts), sell military hardware for export and receive
cash to bolster the defense industry (and perhaps meet payroll demands),
or replace aging aircraft within the Russian Air Force all difficult choices.
Given the current politico-military situation in Russia, paying off the
debt probably was a good decision, since Russia is in no immediate need
of new transport aircraft or additional combat helicopters.
India, what's the rush?
As tensions flare up along the Indian-Pakistan border, it may be Russian
and Ukrainian tanks that wind up confronting each other. Indian Defense
Minister George Fernandez
recently met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov to discuss future
Indian purchases of Russian military equipment. Fernandez signed a preliminary
agreement for India to purchase 310 T-90S tanks for $800 million in response
to Pakistan's decision to purchase 320 T-84UD tanks from Ukraine. Fernandez
expressed his hope that "there are no obstacles to this contract, and
we hope that tanks will be shipped on time. We will be glad if the tanks
are sent to India ahead of the schedule in April ." (NOVYE IZVESTIA,
17 Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
The Indian contract is good news for the Uralvagonzavod plant, since
funding to build new tanks for the Russian Army has not materialized. But
India has its eyes set on fighter aircraft as well. Fernandez expressed
his hopes that the Irkutsk aviation plant can speed up delivery of SU-30MKI
fighters currently under contract.
Joint Russian-Indian military ventures, such as the development and production
of the Brahmos supersonic anti-ship missile, have proven successful. The
Brahmos missile is being featured on the international military arms-show
circuit. The Russian military-industrial complex is also looking for partners
to share in the funding and development for the Sukhoi design bureau's fifth
generation fighter, and India may be that potential partner. (VREMYA, 15
Apr 02; What the Papers Say, via ISI Defense and Security Database)
by Walter Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
Little international will for fight over Gongadze
In mid-April, four journalist organizations appealed to the Council of
Europe to increase its pressure on Ukraine to investigate further the circumstances
behind the murder of their colleague, Georgiy Gongadze. There has been
no response so far from the CE, and it is doubtful that anything significant
will be forthcoming. It appears that President Leonid Kuchma and his allies
have been successful in blocking the efforts of Gongadze's widow, media
and human rights organizations to have his death openly investigated.
It also appears, based on recent events, that the administration's intimidation
and repression of the media in Ukraine is continuing unabated.
Kuchma's latest success in thwarting efforts to examine the Gongadze
murder (in which allegedly he is implicated) came earlier this month when
his administration blocked the FBI from examining evidence gathered during
the initial investigation. The bureau had been invited very publicly to
advise and assist the prosecutor-general's office on the case and earlier
had participated in identifying Gongadze's remains. In fact, over the last
year, prosecutors routinely referred to their request for assistance from
the FBI as evidence that they were working diligently to solve the murder.
On 17 September 2001, for example, when asked about progress on the case,
Deputy Prosecutor-General Olexiy Baganets trumpeted the impending arrival
of the FBI. "A group of FBI experts would already be in Ukraine if
the tragedy had not hit the US," he explained. (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE,
17 Sep 01; via lexis-nexis) Unfortunately, Mr. Baganets neglected to mention
that when these experts did arrive, they wouldn't be allowed to do anything.
On 16 April, the US Embassy in Ukraine revealed that the FBI had left
Ukraine after being blocked from assisting in the investigation. According
to a statement released by the embassy, the four FBI representatives were
told that Ukrainian law prohibits prosecutors from releasing any information
to them. They were "unable to discuss any aspects of the case, share
evidence or conduct a joint site inspection," the statement said.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS, 17 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis) Baganets confirmed this
information when questioned. "We provided them with material that
is no longer an investigation secret as under international and Ukrainian
law we cannot share information that constitutes an investigation secret,"
he said. (INTERFAX, 16 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis) Baganets did not identify
the laws about which he was speaking. And up to this point, no one seems
Following the release of the US Embassy statement, Myroslava Gongadze,
Georgiy's widow, told Radio Liberty that Ukrainian law "allows for
bilateral agreements. International law enforcement officials -- if they
have been invited into the country -- are subject to the same laws as the
Ukrainian prosecutor general." Baganets justification for non-cooperation,
she said, "is simply not true." (RADIO LIBERTY, 18 Apr 02; via
www.rferl.org, and follow-up interview with author, 23 Apr 02)
The justification certainly won't impress US National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice, who in March discussed the FBI's anticipated involvement
in the Gongadze case during an interview with Kyiv-based 1+1 television.
"We have a team of FBI experts who will go to Ukraine in April to assist
the investigation," she said. "We have said very clearly that
we are ready to help anyone in the Ukrainian government to complete this
investigation. We are certain that this is a case that will affect the climate
of Ukrainian-US relations. Therefore, we [will] provide political and technical
assistance to ensure an open investigation." (ONE PLUS ONE, 1730 GMT,
4 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via lexis-nexis)
Even though Rice is likely to be irritated by the FBI's treatment in
Ukraine, it is doubtful that the US will respond with any vigor, at least
publicly. The advances made by reformers in the 31 March parliamentary elections
(after Rice's interview) have provided the US with an unexpected "light
at the end of the tunnel." When Kuchma's final term ends in a little
over two years, a reformer realistically could win the presidency -- a potential
outcome that did not appear at all likely before the elections. The Gongadze
case, therefore, ironically seems to have become a casualty of reformist
success. In the grand scheme of geopolitics, justice for Georgiy Gongadze
simply is not a compelling enough reason to continue confronting an obstinate,
out-of-touch, weakened regime. This is particularly true when the possibility
of success is so remote, and when Kuchma's domestic opponents are doing
a good job of debilitating him for you. Instead, the US probably will try
to encourage reform while waiting for Kuchma to go -- a delicate mix of
hands-on, but hands-off.
This "wait for Kuchma to go" strategy seemingly is also being
embraced by the Council of Europe. Despite significant attention to the
Gongadze case by the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), the Council of Ministers
-- which embodies what limited legal authority exists in the CE -- has taken
On 27 September 2001, PACE recommended that the Council of Ministers
"set up an independent commission of enquiry including international
investigators for this purpose, and ask the governments of the member states
of the Council of Europe to propose assistance by their investigators."
(PACE RECOMMENDATION 1538, 27 Sep 02) In December, however, Council of
Ministers President Antanas Valionis met with Ukrainian lawmakers investigating
the Gongadze case and chose not to suggest an international inquiry. (ITAR-TASS,
8 Dec 02; via lexis-nexis) At the time, it was privately suggested that
the CE would monitor the success of the FBI before making any decisions.
Now, given the non-cooperation of Ukrainian officials and the clock ticking
down on Kuchma, it would seem unlikely that Valionis will take any action.
Still, Gongadze's widow and colleagues recently made what may be one
final attempt to have his case investigated. On 12 April, the International
Federation of Journalists, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters
Without Borders and the Institute of Mass Information of Ukraine sent a
letter to Valionis. In it, the groups asked him "without further delay
and in accordance with the Parliamentary Assembly's recommendation 1538
(2001), to ask member countries formally to send investigators to participate
in the inquiry." (12 Apr 02; via National Union of Journalists)
In a clear sign of the current atmosphere, while the letter received some
attention in Ukraine, it barely registered in the West.
Although it is distressing that Gongadze's murder probably will not be
solved (at least during Kuchma's term in office), the most dangerous side
effect of the failure to pursue the investigation is the sense of impunity
it bestows on administration officials. "[Reopening the investigation]
is not only about the Gongadze case," Myroslava Gongadze said in a
3 April interview with this writer. "It's for all journalists who
are under pressure now." (See PERSPECTIVE, 16 Apr 02) And there are
many. Since 1998, 11 journalists have been killed and 48 severely injured
in unexplained attacks. (REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS STATEMENT, 18 Apr 02)
But it seems that the administration's success in staving off a Gongadze
investigation has emboldened it. Media intimidation has become more public
and less apologetic in the last year. The persecution of Oleh Lyashko is
a case in point.
And then there was Lyashko . . .
On 11 April, the Cherkasy Regional Prosecutor's Office ordered the arrest
of Oleh Lyashko for allegedly obstructing a police investigation of him.
The editor-in-chief of the Svoboda newspaper is accused of libeling an
as-yet-unnamed public official. Not coincidentally, Lyashko is associated
with Yulia Tymoshenko and has written a number of articles critical of former
Prosecutor-General Mykhaylo Potebenko. Even more important, Lyashko announced
in Svoboda on 27 March that he had written a "32-page booklet"
called "Secrets of the Prosecutor-General" based on "a two-year
journalistic investigation." Lyashko complained that his attempts to
publish the booklet had failed and noted that "the Svoboda editorial
office is still looking for a publisher that would agree to print"
the material. (SVOBODA, 27 Mar 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets
Officials apparently heard of the booklet on 23 March, when Lyashko took
it to a local printing house. Shortly after, the printing house refused
to publish the material, while police confiscated the entire 107,000-copy
run of Svoboda and dumped it into the river. The next day, 30 police officers
searched Svoboda's offices and printing house. Lyashko was then questioned
several times, ordered to turn himself in (he refused), and finally arrested
on 15 April.
The journalist is no stranger to the Ukrainian justice system; Lyashko
first was arrested on a libel charge in 1997 and acquitted in 1999. But
like many cases against journalists, a Kyiv appeals court overturned the
acquittal in June of 2001 and attempted to bar Lyashko from working as a
journalist. Reporters Without Borders responded sharply. "To forbid
a journalist to carry out his professional duties is unacceptable. Only
Iran and Yemen have so far resorted to similar punishment," the organization
pointed out in a statement. (UNIAN, 1536 GMT, 15 Jun 01; BBC Monitoring,
via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Charges were dismissed suddenly and
inexplicably several months later. On 24 January 2002, however, the reporter
was physically attacked in Kyiv as he was registering for his unsuccessful
run in the parliamentary elections.
Following this latest arrest on 15 April, Lyashko remained in detention
for eight days. He was released after vigorous protests from several media
organizations and the possibility of a PACE resolution over the case. One
day later, the Cherkasy Regional Court of Appeals dismissed all charges
against him. Whether that will be the end of the case is the question,
of course, but it is doubtful.
Throughout this latest media affair, the prosecutor-general's office
seemed unconcerned about the negative responses being generated by its continuing
harassment of Lyashko. Clearly, the office -- now under the control of
former Potebenko deputy Olexiy Baganets -- has little regard for either
domestic or international opinion. But then, why should it? No official
from the prosecutor's office has ever been held responsible for his actions.
The Kuchma administration's sense of impunity has been well earned. Consequently,
today in Ukraine, the Gongadze murder remains unsolved, Oleh Lyashko must
always look over his shoulder, and the rest of the journalists in the country
-- who normally lose two colleagues to unsolved homicide each year -- remain
at the mercy of the prosecutor-general. Unfortunately, there seems little
possibility that this will change -- at least before the 2004 presidential
by Tammy M. Lynch
The FSB and Chechen websites are reporting that Khattab was given a poisoned
letter on 18 March, the vapors of which killed him; he was buried in secrecy
in the mountains in Chechnya. The burial was filmed to show his family
that the proper rites had been observed. The FSB came into possession of
the tape when one of Khattab's bodyguards, Esli Ryzhyi, was killed by the
federal forces during a cleansing. (KOMMERSANT, 29 Apr 02) These details
seem to confirm FSB Spokesman Alexander Zdanovich's 25 April contention
that Khattab had been killed.
Initially many experts approached with caution the Moscow news broadcast
that Khattab had been killed. No one has seen Khattab's body. He had been
dead for over a month, yet no one in Chechnya, in the Russian military or
among the Chechen resistance, noticed.
So when Alexander Zdanovich announced on 25 April that Khattab had been
killed in a special operation, even the Russian president sounded skeptical.
"If he was really destroyed, this certainly is another blow for the
terrorists," Vladimir Putin said. "At least, I believe that such
will be the fate of all those terrorists. I have no doubt of that."
(ORT, 25 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
On 18 March Russian wire services reported that Khattab's communications
had not been detected in four months and he was presumed dead and buried
in a cave. The propaganda organ linked to Khattab, kavkaz.org, explained
that he had simply upgraded his communications technology. Then, on 11 April,
anonymous sources in the FSB were quoted as saying Khattab "apparently
has been liquidated." (KOMMERSANT, 26 Apr 02)
Chechen OMON members were not persuaded by Zdanovich but also could not
be certain about Khattab's whereabouts. According to OMON Commander Musa
Gazimagomadov, for a long time neither Basaev nor Khattab has been in Chechnya.
They are represented by "naibs" or lieutenants. The head of the
Chechen special forces, Dzhabrail Yamadaev, has a different opinion: "Khattab
is probably in Chechnya, all our information points in that direction.
But if he was killed, it would be this way, by accident. To mount an operation
to kill him is virtually impossible." (KOMMERSANT, 26 Apr 02)
Aslan Maskhadov's representative, Mairbek Vachagaev, puts forward another
possibility: "In my view, the Federal Security Service is unable to
find out his whereabouts and is trying to force him to appear on air. This
is the only way to explain the diligence with which the FSB is trying to
prove that Khattab is dead." (EKHO MOSKVY, 25 Apr 02; via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) Another possibility is that the false news and perhaps
a doctored tape allowed Khattab to slip away. As Kommersant commented on
29 April, several of his lieutenants have been killed recently. Khattab
must have felt a noose tightening, and "death and with it an end to
investigations seemed to him the best option." (KOMMERSANT, 29 Apr
but Abu Valid lives
On 17 April the director of the Border Guards, Konstantin Totsky, acknowledged
that the wreckage of one of the helicopters, the Mi-24 that had been lost
over Chechnya on 3 February, had been found. However, the federals found
no bodies. Chechen intermediaries reported the identification of some crew
members and sought to trade the bodies for Chechen civilians held in detention.
Totsky said that he was ready to begin negotiations but could not reach
Abu Valid, Khattab's naib -- now, apparently, his successor. (gazeta.ru,
17 Apr 02)
Georgia braces for more blows
Since Russia's incursion into the Kodori Gorge on 11-14 April, the situation
has not stabilized. The Russian "peacekeepers" insist on the
right to "patrol" the Kodori Gorge on their own, without so much
as the minimal presence of the UN observers (UNOMIG). Some Georgian leaders,
such as Nodar Natadze, the head of the Georgian National Front, say that
two divisions of the Russian 58th army have arrived in Abkhazia. (NEZAVISIMAYA
GAZETA, 25 Apr 02)
President Eduard Shevardnadze sought to allay fears of escalation at
a 19 April press conference, addressing his remarks to those Abkhaz who
might be watching: "We want all this to end peacefully. I would like
to tell them unambiguously that we have no plans to carry out an attack
and we have no plans to launch new operations." (GEORGIAN TELEVISION,
19 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Russian spokesmen claim that the troop movements in Abkhazia constitute
rotation, not escalation. Two armored personnel carriers arrived, and two
will be removed. Similarly, the paratroopers are being replaced by motorized
riflemen. "Peacekeeping" operations had been carried out by paratroopers
but are now the duty of regular army, and similar rotations did indeed occur
in Kosovo along with other relocations of Russian peacekeepers. (AVN, 19
Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The UN military observers
certified after a patrol that no unusual troop buildup was occurring. (KAVKASSIA
PRESS, 19 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
This was contradicted a day later by two Georgian officials. The deputy
secretary of the Security Council, Jemal Gakhokidze, characterized the position
of the Russian "peacekeepers" as "radical" and repeated
that a buildup had been observed. (RUSTAVI-2, 20 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging
Markets Database) The chairman of the parliamentary defense committee,
Gia Baramidze, speaking on state television, went further. "I had
a conversation with Dieter Boden [chief UN representative] and I asked him
to send a UN patrol to the lower zone of the Kodori Gorge [controlled by
Abkhazia] and the Tqvarcheli district [in Abkhazia] where separatists and
the Russians, as well as mercenaries, have been amassing. They are heavily
armed and have armored vehicles and other hardware, including artillery,
with them. They are engaged in serious preparations," Baramidze said.
The goals of this buildup transcend the Kodori Gorge. "The principal
aim is to destabilize the situation throughout Georgia and even, if you
will, the overthrow of the existing authorities, which obviously will cause
chaos. We may or may not like the authorities but when an outside enemy
is the issue, the whole of Georgia should unite," Baramidze added.
(GEORGIAN TELEVISION, 20 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The possibility of making the peacekeepers in Abkhazia a truly CIS force,
i.e., including contingents from other CIS countries, has been broached
repeatedly in recent years. Current instability makes such initiatives more
urgent. The possibility of including Ukrainian peacekeepers was discussed
at a meeting in Kyiv during the 23 April visit of Georgian parliamentary
speaker Nino Burjanadze. Burjanadze emphasized that Ukraine has been a
reliable friend to Georgia and could participate in the peacekeeping. His
Ukrainian counterpart, Ivan Plyushch, expressed the hope that the CIS would
initiate roundtables or other diplomatic avenues for settling the conflict.
(UKRAINE FIRST TELEVISION, 23 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
According to ITAR-TASS, the Ukrainian foreign minister, Anatoly Zlenko,
sounded slightly more enthusiastic, saying Ukraine would consider this request.
(ITAR-TASS, 25 Apr 02; BBC, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
by Miriam Lanskoy
At the (Silk) Crossroads of history
While the Bush administration has been carefully setting the conditions
for prolonged presence in Central Asia since 11 September, Russia and China
have been attempting to counter, or at least to temper, the growing American
influence in the region. Kazakhstan, with its significant energy reserves,
important strategic location, more favorable demographics, and relatively
low Islamic fundamentalist population, seems the logical target for American
statesmen in crafting mutually beneficial bilateral agreements. The United
States, however, is not alone in the competition for Central Asian hegemony;
it has Russia, China, and now Iran with which to contend.
For more than a half-century Central Asia served as the southern doormat
for Russia and the Soviet Union. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and
the subsequent collapse of the socio-economic farce that was Communism,
however, many Central Asian states, such as Kazakhstan, have sought to distance
themselves from Moscow and its influence. The war on terror and the region's
newfound geopolitical influence have provided Kazakhstan and others with
just that opportunity.
In the midst of a veritable influence vacuum, Kazakhstan finds itself
courted not just by America, but by a newly revived Sino-Iranian relationship.
In an attempt to counter America's growing presence in Central Asia, Chinese
President Jiang Zemin visited Iran last week, pledging cooperation in a
number of areas and reminiscing about the cordial Sino-Iranian relations
of the "Silk Road" that bound the two, through Central Asia, more
than 2,000 years ago. While the visit did include the signing of a cooperative
agreement on a broad range of issues, including oil, trade and transportation,
more than anything else it demonstrated that each is very concerned about
the growing influence of the US in the area separating the two states.
(MIDDLE EAST, 1301 GMT, 20 Apr 02; BBC World Service, via www.bbc.co.uk)
It cannot be a coincidence that less than six days after President Zemin
visited Tehran, and a few days before US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
was due to arrive in Kazakhstan, Iranian President Mohammed Khatami traveled
to the country to voice his concern over the presence of US troops in Central
Asia, calling it a "humiliation." The US ought to be concerned
about Tehran's increased muscle-flexing in Kazakhstan. (EURASIA INSIGHT,
26 Apr 02; via Eurasianet) Already President Nursultan Nazarbaev has entertained
the idea of building an oil pipeline through Turkmenistan to Iran, which
would be in direct competition with the planned Baku-Ceyhan pipeline and
(presumably) exclude the possibility of American investment and profit.
The plan itself, however, is likely little more than a pipe dream (no pun
intended) without major American or European investment and construction.
Considering that the US and the EU are deeply involved with Baku-Ceyhan,
and with the Caspian Oil Consortium to a lesser extent, the discussion is
more important as a symbol of Iranian discontent than a true alternative.
America, for its part, seems intent on solidifying it relations with
Almaty quickly. According to the US State Department, US Ambassador to
Kazakhstan Larry Napper recently presented representatives from the Committee
for National Security (KNB) with five crates of equipment as a substantive
sign of America's commitment to the State Department's Anti-Terrorism Assistance
(ATA) Program. More important than the symbolic transfer of assistance,
however, Kazakhstan also has sent over 200 security force members to the
United States to participate in ATA training, in exercises ranging from
five days to five weeks. (US PRESS STATEMENT, 11 Apr 02; via www.state.gov)
Furthermore, the US officially declared that Kazakhstan is now a "market
economy," which, despite the admitted presence of corruption, opens
the door for increased US investment and trade, and possibly acceptance
into the World Trade Organization. (ECONOMY, 26 Mar 02; via www.globe.kz)
If one accepts the fact that Russia, China, and Iran have joined American
in a zero-sum "Great Game" for Central Asia, then, given the substantive
support that the US has provided Nazarbaev's regime -- including raising
the country's economic status and essentially giving it a pass in the State
Department's Annual Report on Human Rights -- one must conclude that America
is in the game to win and the others are simply playing catch-up. Is a
theoretical Kazakh-Turkmen-Iranian pipeline, thus far devoid of details,
a true alternative to either Baku-Ceyhan or an expanded Caspian Pipeline
Consortium? Can China, which is sparsely populated along its Central Asian
borders and still building up military or economic power projection, limit
Kazakh westernization through rhetoric alone? Thus far the answers to both
questions seems to be "no."
by Michael Donahue <email@example.com>
NATO-Russian relations do not deter the Baltics
There has always been the possibility that NATO's sensitivity to Russian
concerns would cause the Baltic states to be excluded from the next round
of alliance membership expansion. Given the size and power of the Russian
military, not to mention the historical enmity of Russia, the very idea
of being excluded from NATO membership because of geographic location has
irritated many Baltic politicians. Estonian MP Toomas Hendrick Ilves once
noted that leaving countries out of NATO due to Russian concerns is "flawed
both morally and intellectually. Morally, because it gives what I would
call vampire status to one of the most despicable and repugnant regimes
ever, the Soviet Union. Vampire, because it is dead, yet it lives on in
the form of its erstwhile and unrecognized borders." (MINISTRY OF FOREIGN
AFFAIRS, 7 May 99; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) That frustration
among Baltic politicians continues.
With the impending formation of the NATO-Russia Council, fear of potential
NATO-Russian animosity developing over the Baltic region has been greatly
diminished. Instead, cooperation rather than animosity may empty NATO expansion
of its purpose: Given the proposed changes, the Baltic states may find
themselves about to join an alliance that no longer provides the firm territorial
guarantees of collective defense but rather the obscure protection of a
collective security organization.
The particulars of the new NATO-Russia council will not be finalized
until the May Reykjavik Summit but the working draft includes a broad swath
of issues ranging from crisis management and peace support operations to
joint management of airspace. (THE NEW YORK TIMES, 23 Apr 02; via lexis-nexis)
Although the proposed arrangement does not afford Russia a veto on enlargement
or a role in the collective defense aspect of NATO, the proposed changes
cannot be encouraging for the Baltic states, which have viewed NATO as a
shield against a possible resurgent Russia.
The Baltic states have long been concerned about Russia's intentions.
According to former Estonian President Lennart Meri, although each country
is free to choose its own security organizations and structures, "the
small Baltic States still fear the might of their former Russian rulers."
(DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR, 1157 CET, 26 Jul 01; via lexis-nexis) Given
Russia's haphazard commitment to democratic reform, the eastern borders
of the Baltic states remain open to renewed Russian imperialism.
Since achieving independence in 1991, the Baltic states have sought security
guarantees from NATO in order to reduce that vulnerability. Because details
of the impending NATO-Russia Council have not been finalized, the Baltic
leaders have declined to comment extensively on the topic. Instead they
have chosen to focus on reducing future uncertainty by improving military
preparedness and reiterating their willingness to join the alliance.
After Estonia submitted its Membership Action Plan (MAP) to NATO, Prime
Minister Siim Kallas noted the continued development of the Estonian Rapid
Reaction Battalion (ESBAT), which is expected to be ready for service in
2005. (MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS PRESS RELEASE, 8 Apr 02) ESBAT would
form a core for Estonian assistance to NATO in a variety of operations ranging
from peace support to territorial defense in accordance with NATO's Article
V. By developing ESBAT as a rapid reaction unit, Estonia is ensuring that
its military development conforms to the new strategic concept for NATO,
which emphasizes rapid deployment forces over large, standing armies that
would take time to mobilize.
Lithuania, like Estonia, also presented its review of the Membership
Action Plan to NATO. In preparation for the presentation, Vilnius rushed
to pass its National Security Strategy so that the Lithuanian representatives
meeting in Brussels could show that all domestic legal obstacles had been
overcome. (BNS, 1459 GMT, 22 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0422, via World News
Connection) Now all criteria for membership have been met. Defense Minister
Linas Linkevicius subsequently hinted at the inevitability of accession
when he noted that it had been suggested that Lithuania should begin to
consider possible areas of specialization after admittance. (FINANCIAL TIMES
INFORMATION, 25 Apr 02; BBC Monitoring, via lexis-nexis). He did not specify
who had made the suggestion. In fact, Linkevicius is driving Lithuania
toward specialization sooner rather than later.
For the time being, the Baltic states seem to accept the premise that,
although NATO is changing, its core function of collective defense will
remain, and with it the protection of the members' territorial integrity.
At a recent conference between the Baltic defense ministers and their German
counterpart, Rudolf Scharping, they were reassured that, despite political
maneuvering, NATO will not lose sight of its primary purpose: maintaining
the military capacity to provide Europe's security guarantee. (BNS, 0805
GMT, 16 Apr 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0416, via World News Connection)
by Michael Varuolo <firstname.lastname@example.org>