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The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume VII Number 13 (21 August 2002)
 

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Michael Comstock
Security Services by Michael Donahue
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Luba Schwartzman
Foreign Relations by Ansel Thoreau Stein
Armed Forces by Steve Kwast and Dan Rozelle

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Nadja Kinsky
Caucasus by Tammy Lynch

Central Asia by David Montgomery

Baltic States by Michael Varuolo


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Volume XII
No.1 (27 January 2006)

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Volume IX
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Volume VII
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Volume VI
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Volume V
No. 19 (13 December 2000)
No. 18 (29 November 2000)
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Volume IV
No. 20 (20 December 1999)
No. 19 (6 December 1999)
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Volume III
No. 18 (9 December 1998)
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No. 3 (19 February 1998)
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No. 1 (22 January 1998)

 

Volume II
No. 22 (4 December 1997)
No. 21 (20 November 1997)
No. 20 (6 November 1997)
No. 19 (23 October 1997)
No. 18 (10 October 1997)
No. 17 (25 Sep 1997)
No. 16 (9 Sep 1997)
No. 15 (20 Aug 1997)
No. 14 (6 Aug 1997)
No. 13 (23 July 1997)
No. 12 (9 July 1997)
No. 11 (18 June 1997)
No. 10 (4 June 1997)
No. 9 (21 May 1997)
No. 8 (7 May 1997)
No. 7 (23 April 1997)
No. 6 (9 April 1997)
No. 5 (26 March 1997)
No. 4 (5 March 1997)
No. 3 (19 February 1997)
No. 2 (5 February 1997)
No. 1 (22 January 1997)

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

RUSSIAN FEDERATION
EXECUTIVE BRANCH
Slavneft scandal
In cash-strapped Russia, every penny counts. With the coming privatization of the last of the state gas corporations, Slavneft, a great many pennies have attracted the glaring eye of an interior ministry investigation. In effect, the Russian government alleges that Yury Sukhanov, the president of Slavneft, had hidden the amount of (virtual) income, causing the government to lose $600 million in the past year. The investigation was highly politicized since Sukhanov is an appointee of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, and had been opposed by an individual viewed as aligned with President Putin. (ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, 10 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Surprisingly, the charges against Sukhanov were dropped in mid-July for lack of evidence. (THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 16 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) This development hardly can be regarded as a victory for the usually unstoppable forces of President Vladimir Putin.

At the same time, the Kremlin has submitted a new amendment to the Natural Resources Law that would change the terminology of government-granted "oil licensing" to "oil concessions." This apparently minor change in fact would have a major impact on the flow of cash that is generated by the exploitation of natural resources: Any mineral extracted could become state property, and the extracting institution (an oil company, for instance) could be recompensed by the government, rather than through sale on the market. This amendment provides another battleground for the apparent contest between the Putin faction and the older Yel'tsin faction, as represented by Prime Minister Kasyanov. The Yel'tsin faction generally has been linked to the oil oligarchs, and these interests stand to lose by the change. Proposed by Dmitry Kozak, a deputy director in the Kremlin administration, the amendment would allow the federal government to benefit from (putatively) increased revenues. It appears that a compromise may be reached and that, in return for the withdrawal of this amendment, the gas giants, such as Slavneft, will be forced to divert more money to the government in the form of taxes. (ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) In sum, it seems that President Putin will have managed to achieve victory after all, albeit in a more roundabout fashion than usual.

Significantly, exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky has called the proposed amendment the third and final step in President Putin's quest to transform Russia into an autocracy: "The bill prepared by Kozak is the result of a direct order from President Putin; it essentially represents an attempt to carry out the final stage in creating a fully-fledged authoritarian state -- which is centralized in all its essential aspects, and is thus unconstitutional." (VEDOMOSTI, 7 Aug 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Cabinet reform and economic considerations
Currently there is a debate within the Council of Ministers about the timing and degree of economic reform proposed by the president. A radical approach requested by the "liberals" is opposed by a more evolutionary approach advocated by the more "conservative" apparatchiki. The Minister of Economic Development and Trade, German Gref, and the First Deputy Prime Minister, Alexei Kudrin, lead the "liberal" group, while Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and the Chief of Cabinet Staff, Igor Shuvalov, head the apparatchiki. Putin himself will decide the outcome, and it is in his interest to allow the debate to continue, which means a de facto victory for the gradual approach. Were he to settle for the radical way there would be no turning back, and a new cabinet would have a year or so to settle in; however, if he leaves the debate undecided, he can keep the current cabinet as a scapegoat for a rainy day. Should the Russian economy deteriorate rapidly, as some fear it may, Putin could deflect criticism to the current cabinet. (VREMYA NOVOSTEI, 8 Aug 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

President Putin also has attempted to allay the battle between the "liberals," championed by Gref's Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, who desire membership in the WTO, and the "oligarchs" who oppose it. In early July, Putin called on his Security Council to serve as an "admissions coordinator" for Russia's entrance to the WTO. Large-scale producers have hailed this development, since the Security Council under Vladimir Rushailo is expected to be heavily influenced by the "oligarchs." (VEDOMOSTI, 10 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) Putin also has appointed Colonel General Vladislav Putilin to the post of Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Putilin had to cope with conscription, as the General Staff's Chief of the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate, until his recent appointment. (EKHO MOSKVY, 11 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database) It would be a fair guess that he would favor the industrial giants with which the Russian military is involved, and hence the "oligarchs."


by J. Michael Comstock (jm-comstock@msn.com)


SECURITY SERVICES
Don't go away mad...just go away
While history will record the achievements of public figures, whether they are statesmen, scientists or athletes, it is left to each generation to decide why and how contemporary personalities, great and small, are to be remembered. There are times when even the most revered figure must step away from the spotlight voluntarily lest he forever scar his legacy by appearing too hungry for applause or publicity.That may be the case with the former FSB officer, Aleksandr Litvinenko.

Convicted (in absentia) in May of "abuse of office and stealing explosives," the former special services lieutenant colonel has been living in Britain for the past two years. Litvinenko fled Russia after allegedly refusing an FSB order to assassinate Boris Berezovsky. Subsequently he co-authored "The FSB Blows up Russia," which accuses the agency of masterminding the 1999 bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk that killed more than 300 persons, an atrocity for which the FSB always has blamed Chechen terrorists. The bombings constituted the catalyst for the second Chechan War, with which Putin's rise to power is associated. The FSB recently (with cooperation from Georgian security forces) apprehended and interrogated a leading figure in its investigation of the affair, Adam Dekkushev. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 26 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database, and INTERFAX, 1101 GMT, 16 Jul 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0716, via World News Connection)

Under interrogation, Dekkushev, in turn, supposedly fingered the (recently assassinated) Chechen warlord Khattab and Achemez Gochiyaev as being responsible for the attacks. Litvinenko claims to have been able somehow to contact Gochiyaev, the FSB's "most wanted man," and convince him to provide a video and written statement that Litvinenko read on his behalf. (THE MOSCOW TIMES, 26 Jul 02; via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Following the recent arrest of Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (also known as "the Taiwanese") for allegedly fixing the Olympic skating results in Salt Lake City, Utah, Litvinenko stated that he was "ready to testify" against Tokhtakhunov and prepared to prove that Russia's leadership knew that Tokhtakhunov had links to Russian criminal gangs. (EKHO MOSKVY NEWS AGENCY, 0230 GMT, 4 Aug 02; BBC Monitoring, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Without judging the authenticity of Litvinenko's claims concerning the Gochiyaev and Tokhtakhunov affairs, the problem is that by proliferating his public appearances on various issues linked to the FSB, Litvinenko detracts from the credibility of the very serious charges contained in "The FSB Blows up Russia."


by Michael Donahue


FOREIGN RELATIONS
A nuclear Iran
The biggest stumbling block in the US-Russian relationship is Russia's insistence on supplying Iran with nuclear reactors. Russia announced at the end of July that not only will it complete the first reactor at Bushehr, it will bid to supply the remaining three reactors at the site (INTERFAX, 29 Jul 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0729, via World News Connection). Bushehr-1 is slated to receive its nuclear material from Russia at the end of 2003 (INTERFAX, 5 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0805, via World News Connection). Earlier in July, the Russian government approved a resolution to sign a long-term program for trade, economic, industrial, scientific and technical cooperation with Iran that would stipulate Russia's possible involvement in building two 1,000-megawatt units in Ahwaz as well. The agreement remains a draft at this time, but the economic benefits for the Russians of remaining in the business are immense. Russia is to receive in excess of $800 million for Bushehr-1 and at least $1 billion for each reactor thereafter. The agreement is scheduled to be finalized this fall. (INTERFAX, 26 Jul 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0726, via World News Connection)

Most significant is that Russia appears to be deliberately following a course of action that brings it into conflict with the United States, despite recent pledges made at the G-7(8) Summit -- not to mention that Iran's intentions concerning these projects remain ambiguous. These Russian announcements, made just prior to the arrival of a high-level US delegation led by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, seem to have been timed to cause maximum damage. After his meeting with Russian officials "at the highest levels," Secretary Abraham stressed that the issue remained "of utmost concern" to the US, while Ambassador Vershbow expressed concern over "potential assistance" on chemical and biological weapons that Iran may be gaining from contacts with Russia.

The Putin doctrine places absolute priority on filling the coffers of the state. Iran has said essentially that it will buy whatever Moscow will sell. The United States has pledged funds to assist Russia in various undertakings, but nowhere near the estimated value of contracts with Iran.

Threat from the East, but from where?
Presidential Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, Konstantin Pulikovsky, stated in an interview with Izvestiya on 23 July that "in the Far East, like nowhere else, there are practically all possible threats to national security. We live in a unique region," he continued, "a sparsely populated krai with open expanses that is surrounded by the strongest powers in the world." Pulikovsky's thoughts seem somewhat offbeat given the currently cozy relationship Russia shares with China and North Korea and its warming relationship with Japan (see below). Perhaps his comments represent the growing recognition of the threat that China poses, at the very least demographically, to Russia's Asian hinterland. Given Russia's ongoing arms sell-off to China, however, it is doubtful whether this message has reached Moscow.

Improving relations with Japan
Pulikovsky is not the only Russian keeping an eye on the east, however. Gen. Konstantin Totsky, director of Russia's Federal Border Service, met in Tokyo with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on 15 July to discuss border issues to be included in an action plan the two countries are trying to develop. The plan focuses on greater cooperation in dealing with "unidentified" ships of suspected North Korean origin that are involved in smuggling and illegal fishing in the Sea of Japan. The action plan is to be concluded in time for Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's state visit to Russia expected in December or January. (KYODO NEWS SERVICE, 15 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis) (Totsky arrived in Japan on 14 July and met with Larissa Gamov, widow of Vitali Gamov, the former chief of the Russian Coast Guard for the Pacific region who died from the severe burns he received from a May arson attack in Sakhalin. Totsky told ITAR-TASS during his trip that he blames the fishing industry "mafia" in the Russian Far East for Gamov's assassination.) The plan of action already may have borne fruit during Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov's two-day visit to North Korea 29-30 July. Ivanov told journalists during the trip that the DPRK "is ready for a constructive dialogue with the United States and Japan without any preliminary conditions." (ITAR-TASS, 24 Jul 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0724, via World News Connection) Cooperation between Russia and Japan may lead to the resolution of some of the longer-standing issues between the two countries including the status of the disputed Kuril Islands.

Arms for oil
Meanwhile the largest Russian military exercises in the Caspian region since the collapse of the Soviet Union got underway on 1 August. The exercises involve more than 60 combat ships and 10,000 marines, as well as border guard and railroad units and detachments of the emergency situations ministry, the interior ministry, and the Federal Security Service (FSB). President Putin authorized the drills in April following a summit at which the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan failed to resolve problems related to dividing up the Caspian Sea resources. The demonstration of military might is, in effect, an indication of the importance Moscow places on settling the dispute in a manner favorable to Russia. (ITAR-TASS, 8 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0808, via World News Connection)


by Ansel Thoreau Stein (anseliscip@hotmail.com)


NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES
WESTERN REGION
UKRAINE
Words and actions: two roads diverged
During the last several months, much attention has been paid to Ukraine's announcement that it is ready to begin negotiations for admission to NATO. The move, some journalists and political pundits asserted, was a break with the country's neutral foreign policy orientation in favor of a Westward-leaning approach. "After a decade of independence and straddling the line between two worlds," The Washington Post said, "Ukraine has decided that it wants more from the West than television signals." The country, the paper explained, "has set its sights on finally integrating with the rest of Europe." (WASHINGTON POST, 5 Aug 02) Perhaps. Or perhaps that's just a wee bit of an exaggeration.

On 23 May, National Security and Defense Council Chairman Yevhen Marchuk announced, "The Council agreed that a long-term strategy must be worked out that would enable Ukraine to join the collective security system on which NATO is based." (INTERFAX, 23 May 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0523, via World News Connection) This was not a ringing endorsement of NATO, to say the least.

Later, in a letter to NATO Secretary-General George Robertson, President Leonid Kuchma suggested that the decision "is a logical continuation of Ukraine's policy of Euro-Atlantic integration given the current level of special partnership with NATO." (INTERFAX, 29 May 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0529, via World News Connection) And in fact, this is the case. The announcement actually signifies no change in policy with regard to the alliance. It is simply an articulation of the current situation, which has seen Ukraine in a close and steadily building relationship with NATO for a number of years. It was never a secret that the country eventually would seek membership. But, while Ukraine's desire to integrate more fully into NATO should be welcomed, the actions of its leaders demonstrate that they are not prepared to move toward Europe in any other way. "Integrating with the rest of Europe," as the Post stated, is a long way off. In fact, in many respects, the country today seems less Western-oriented than at any time in its short history.

Over the last year, following accusations that he was complicit in both the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze and alleged arms sales to Iraq, Kuchma has created his own special brand of post-Soviet authoritarianism. In fact, at the same time that the country was moving forward with its NATO plans, Kuchma and his supporters appeared to be stepping up their attempts forcibly to silence their critics and limit dissent.

Take, for example, the new tax investigations of 20 businesses connected to parliamentary deputies from Viktor Yushchenko's opposition Our Ukraine coalition. According to the Ukrayinska pravda newspaper, which is affiliated with the opposition, the investigations were all opened at the same time, and coincided with Our Ukraine's announcement that it may take part in public demonstrations calling for Kuchma's impeachment. (UKRAYINSKA PRAVDA, 2047 CET, 8 Aug 02) The demonstrations are to begin on 16 September, the anniversary of Gongadze's disappearance.

Meanwhile, Kuchma-appointed Prosecutor-General Svyatoslav Pyskun has filed new extortion and larceny charges against opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Just months ago Tymoshenko had similar charges dismissed by a Kyiv court; she suggests she is being targeted again because she is the organizer of the upcoming demonstrations. "These are old accusations," she said, "and the Kyiv Sviatoshyn district court ruled them null and void." This new case, she told reporters, is simply designed "to intimidate, ...and to persuade that this [protest action] is not worth undertaking." (UKRAYINSKA PRAVDA, 2013 CET, 2 Aug 02)

The prosecutor-general has also begun investigating Kyiv Mayor Oleksandr Omelchenko. The mayor, not coincidentally, is an independent-minded Our Ukraine supporter who may figure heavily in the planned protest action. It seems this protest has left Mr. Pyskun a very busy man.

In case these investigations don't work, however, the prosecutor-general's office has suggested that perhaps Gongadze was not murdered and is, in fact, alive. "Today, we do not know who's body that is," Deputy Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin suddenly announced recently. No doubt the US and German forensic examiners who conducted tests on the remains and conclusively identified the body as Gongadze will be surprised to hear this. (INTERFAX, 1728 CET, 10 Aug 02; via www.pravda.com.ua) But, since Ukraine continues to stand in the way of an American- and British-backed international commission to look into the murder, it seems unlikely that any new testing or investigating will be done soon.

This, of course, is fine with Kuchma. It does leave him in an awkward position, however, as he strives for attention from NATO. Unfortunately for Ukraine, Kuchma's actions mean that international political leaders will hesitate to embrace fully any of his proposals. Hence, the response to Ukraine's NATO overtures has been encouraging but subdued. "To those skeptical of Ukraine's commitment to the Euro-Atlantic community, now is the time to dispel the skepticism through Ukraine's own actions," US Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual said. (THE WASHINGTON TIMES, 18 Jul 02)

So far, that hasn't happened. In fact, not long after Pascual's statement, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it would not release the next tranche of an Extended Fund Facility loan to Ukraine. As privatization has stopped, oligarchs have taken over and the legislature has largely been made ineffectual, the economy has spiraled downward.

That is not to say that Kuchma has no friends. In recent months, the president has spent more and more time with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In fact, Kuchma recently spent his birthday with Putin in Moscow. While there, Kuchma signed a number of agreements dealing with, among other things, trade and nuclear power, and made plans to sign several more. The most important and controversial will be an agreement to set up an "international" consortium -- so far consisting only of Ukraine and Russia, with the possible addition of Germany -- to manage and upgrade Ukraine's gas pipeline system. The agreement could give Russia control of Ukraine's most important asset. Of course, should anyone object, they are likely to be met by police at their door. Prosecutor-General Pyskun appears to be quite adept at quickly opening investigations.

Given these factors, then, it is difficult to reconcile Ukraine's NATO aspirations and statements about European integration with its actions. Perhaps the country one day will be prepared to join the Western club, but President Kuchma and his supporters are ensuring that this is not that day.


by Tammy Lynch


CAUCASUS
GEORGIA
What is holding back the Russians?
For the last two weeks Russian officials have been threatening to invade Georgia, ostensibly to combat Chechen fighters who have taken refuge in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. Russia is testing the response from the international community and within Georgia. "The only way to resolve this problem is by force," said Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister. (WWW.STRANA.RU, 10 Aug 02)

Over the same two weeks the war rhetoric has been bolstered by aggression -- two instances have been registered of Russian aircraft bombing Georgian territory and two instances of soldiers landing in the Kodori Gorge. Most analysts are predicting an imminent Russian strike against the Pankisi Gorge (the region of Georgia that borders Chechnya and hosts several thousand Chechen refugees and, according to some sources, Chechen fighters) and possibly in the Kodori Gorge (the region of Georgia abutting the secessionist Abkhaz region).

The accusation that Georgia harbors terrorists hinges on the apparent incursion from Pankisi into the Itum Kale district of Chechnya, during which Chechen fighters engaged Russian forces in late July. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that the incursion amounted to an act of aggression against Russia. Sergei Mironov, the chairman of the Federation Council, said that Putin would obtain enthusiastic parliamentary approval for a military strike. (MOSCOW TIMES, 8 Aug 02) However, there is doubt that the incident took place at all since local administrators told Russian reporters that everything in the region was quiet. (CHECHNYA WEEKLY, 8 Aug 02) Similarly, no border violation was registered by the OSCE monitoring mission on the Georgian-Chechen border.

Vladimir Ustinov, the Russian prosecutor-general, flew to Tbilisi on 6 August to secure the extradition of 13 Chechen fighters who were arrested after crossing from Russia into Georgia. The Georgians rebuffed this request, saying that Ustinov did not present proper documentation to warrant the extradition. This prompted Putin again to accuse the Georgians of harboring terrorists. "We will judge the seriousness of the Georgian authorities' intentions to fight terrorism by how soon these criminals are sent to Lefortovo prison (in Moscow) " he said. (THE GUARDIAN, 7 Aug 02; via lexis-nexis)

Despite the bluster, Russia's legal case is very weak. As Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent defense analyst based in Moscow, points out, there is little ground for the charge of terrorism or harboring terrorists. "Under international law combatants of a separatist internal armed conflict can be interned if they cross over into a neutral country, but they cannot be sent back for punishment, " he writes. "Fighting the armed uniformed Russian troops does not make Chechen rebels terrorists or criminals under the Geneva Convention." (MOSCOW TIMES, 8 Aug 02)

Russian forces bolstering the rebel Abkhaz government have been activated as well. On 31 July, Russian soldiers staged incursions into the Kodori Gorge and on 12 August Abkhaz fighters entered the gorge. A similar incursion was repelled by Georgia in April. (WWW.CIVIL.GE)

The Georgian side has shown a united front and has not budged an inch despite mounting Russian aggression. President Eduard Shevardnadze steadfastly refuses to allow Russia to carry out ethnic cleansing in Pankisi. Instead the Georgians arrested three Russian MVD officers in the Pankisi Gorge. (WWW.CIVIL.GE, 10 Aug 02, and KOMMERSANT, 3 Aug 02) The three are charged with illegal border crossing and, if their identification does not check out, impersonating a police officer. Under these charges they run the risk of a one- to three-year jail sentences.

Valery Chkheidze, commander of Georgia's border guards, authored an articulate rebuttal in the 11 August issue of Moskovskiye novosti. He argued that the problem of the Pankisi Gorge is an internal issue of a criminal (hence not international) nature. He went on to say that Russia has failed to stabilize the conditions in any of the famous gorges in Chechnya and there is no reason to suppose it would prove more successful in Pankisi. Chkheidze accused Russian border guards stationed on the boundary and in South Ossetia and Abkhazia of allowing the Chechen fighters (estimated at 150) to cross into Georgia. He ended the article by pointing out that Russian bluster about operations in Georgia reminds him of former Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev's promise to take Grozny in two weeks with only two battalions.

Other measures undertaken by Georgia include forming a new tactical alert task force under National Security Council Secretary Tedo Japaridze to provide information and analyses directly to the president. (CAUCASUS PRESS, 11 Aug 02; BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, via lexis-nexis) Earlier, Georgia stopped Russian air traffic over its territory during daytime. Russian planes may overfly Georgian territory only between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m.. (FINANCIAL TIMES, 9 Aug 02; via lexis-nexis)

Most analysts are predicting imminent war. Yet it seems equally pertinent to ask why the war has not started already. What are the factors holding back the Russian war machine? The response of the international community has been muted at best. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has had two conversations with his US counterpart, Colin Powell, which broached the situation in Georgia. (WWW.CIVIL.GE, 10 Aug 02) The details of the conversations are not being disclosed. Despite mounting Russian aggression, there has been no public censure from the UN, the OSCE or other international institutions or European states. If the West is containing Russia at all, it is doing so very quietly.

The more serious checks on Russian behavior derive from the manifest unity of the Georgian public and the decrepit state of the Russian military. In the last two years there were two occasions when Russian pressure prompted internal unrest in Georgia. In January 2000, when Russia stopped the supply of electricity and gas, protestors in Tbilisi started calling for the government to step down. On that occasion the government survived, but in November 2001 mass rallies in Tbilisi did force a government resignation. At the peak of the crisis Shevardnadze's resignation was also mooted. This time, however, none of Shevardnadze's many rivals has stirred. The opposition's nationalist credentials would be destroyed if they came to power as the result of Russian aggression. This national cohesion is the most remarkable and surprising element of the current crisis. The absence of an internal pro-Russian opposition that could be installed as a puppet government is the biggest deterrent to Russian aggression.

With the Russian military already mired in Chechnya, Russian planners might be wary of trying their hand at another war against a nationalist-minded society. Officially, there are 80,000 Russian soldiers in Chechnya, but the real number is probably over 100,000. This means that Russia's most battle-ready forces are already committed. Moreover, these units have been unable to contend with an estimated 7,000 Chechen fighters over a period of three years. There is no reason to suppose that the miserable Russian military would perform better in Georgia than it has in Chechnya. In the absence of popular unrest or a coup d'état, Putin might not risk a military campaign.

CHECHNYA
Maskhadov and Basaev reconcile
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov recently appeared in a joint press conference with long-term rival Shamil Basaev. The tape showing the two men together was shot apparently in Chechnya in July and was broadcast on NTV on 23 July. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 23 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis) Maskhadov announced that a new Defense Council uniting all the Chechen forces has been formed. The president appointed Shamil Basaev to the position of deputy chief of this new structure -- in effect the deputy chief of staff of the Chechen armed forces. Concurrently, Akhmad Zakaev, formerly the president's representative, was made information minister overseeing all official publications. (WWW.CHECHENPRESS.COM, 22 Jul 02)

Some analysts, such as Nezavisimaya gazeta's Ilyas Masksakov, saw in this event a positive change. Chechen units, he reasoned, have consolidated and no one now can deny that Maskhadov is in command of all the Chechen forces. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 23 Jul 02) However, the new unity has more pertinent implications, namely that Maskhadov no longer can dissociate himself from the radical elements among the Chechen forces. Whereas in August 1999 Maskhadov condemned Shamil Basaev's raids into Dagestan which triggered the current war, now apparently he has reconsidered his opposition.

In the 1996-1999 period Maskhadov repeatedly miscalculated, choosing strategies that betrayed his weaknesses and only encouraged the rogue elements among Chechen factions. Among the oddities of his rule were bringing Shamil Basaev and Movladi Udugov into the government after they made a miserable showing in the January 1997 elections. In 1998 Maskhadov forgave an assassination attempt against himself after the odious Zelimkhan Yanderbiev and Arbi Baraev issued public apologies. Then in January 1999 Maskhadov instituted Shariah Law to outflank the radicals who were trying to oust him from power. The ill-considered maneuver robbed the president, the courts, the parliament and all other constitutional institutions of their legitimacy.

Maskhadov's tendency to placate criminal and radical figures does not stem from ideological inclinations, cynicism or corruption. Rather, Maskhadov seems to have a deep faith in coalitions. This is reminiscent of the unwavering belief in "coalition building" in the war against terrorism on the part of elements in the State Department and elsewhere. Unable or unwilling to lead decisively, Maskhadov was and is willing to make any concession to create an illusion of unity.

Sultygov's baby steps
In the Russian-dominated part of Chechnya, Abdul Khakim Sultygov, the newly appointed presidential representative for human rights, has announced two initiatives. First, his office intends to collect a database of missing persons, including their names and the circumstances of the disappearance. The database would be made available freely on the Internet. (WWW.STRANA.RU, 5 Aug 02) According to the official figures of the Chechen procuracy, 284 persons have disappeared in 2002 while the Chechen administration counts 110. Sultygov would be better served if he took as his starting place the lists gathered by Memorial, which posts the names of missing persons after each zachistka on its web page. A rough estimate of the total missing is 3,000 persons since the start of the war.

Sultygov's second initiative concerns earlier announced plans to develop a mechanism to control cleansings in order to eradicate abuses against the population. (See THE NIS OBSERVED, 22 Jul 02) Sultygov consulted with the newly appointed commander of the Joint Group of Forces in Chechnya, Sergei Makarov, who according to Sultygov has agreed that the Chechen MVD should play the primary role in the conduct of cleansings. On 8 August Sultygov voiced hopes that an edict transferring responsibility for cleansings to the Chechen MVD would be forthcoming in the next two weeks. (WWW.POLIT.RU, 8 Aug 02)

This concept is hardly new. President Putin and many other officials have supported such measures on several occasions but they have never been implemented. Makarov's predecessor, General Moltenskoi, who was dismissed unexpectedly two weeks ago, had issued in January the infamous order No. 80 which stipulated rules to govern the conduct of cleansings. Order No. 80 was honored exclusively in the breach.


by Miriam Lanskoy


CENTRAL ASIA
Religious persecution and extremism
As the crackdown on minority faiths and more extremist trends in Islam continues, groups complaining of religious persecution find cause to resist the established political order. While the focus of large-scale resistance has been Islamic extremism, which has a remarkably broad network, Christian and Jewish groups are being denied the opportunity of political expression. Together, the repression of religious expression fosters discontent with the governments in power and does little to yield stability to the existing political structures.

In Uzbekistan, some evangelical Christian churches have been closed for operating without permits. Independent Muslims have been imprisoned for alleged connections with Wahhabist groups. And the state has barred minority faiths (faiths with a minority of adherents in Central Asia) from preaching in Uzbek. (KESTON INSTITUTE NEWS SERVICE, 29 Jul 02, 22 Jul 02 and 27 May 02; via www.keston.org) Furthermore, anti-Semitism is advocated by fundamentalist Islamic groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HT). Though HT is watched closely by the Uzbek government, the reason for the monitoring is not its anti-Semitic agenda but the fact that HT poses a threat to the existing government.

While minority faiths are a nuisance to the government regimes, the small number of adherents makes them less threatening than groups such as HT, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Democratic Party in Kyrgyzstan (IDP) or the Islamic Revival Party in Tajikistan (IRP). The governments of Central Asia tend to justify the crackdown on Islamic extremist organizations by using bureaucratic tactics to keep opposition illegal.

In Kyrgyzstan, the newly established IDP predicted that it would be able to attract upwards of 100,000 members to challenge the current Akaev government. While the supporters predominately consist of the poor and oppressed, thus making them more likely to embrace radical means for change, it is assumed that IDP will have problems registering as a political party given the religious and confrontational bend of its ideology. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 29 Jul 02; via www.rferl.org)

In Tajikistan, groups such as the IRP are quick to distance themselves from any Islamic activities that threaten their voice within government, by claiming that the Tajik citizens who fought with the Taliban were not members of IRP. It is worth noting that the IRP was at one time part of the United Tajik Opposition and banned by the government. Since 1998, however, it has been registered and entered the political mainstream with a membership numbering 2,000 and representation in the Tajik parliament. (INTERFAX, 1137 GMT, 1 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0801, via World News Connection) Said Abdullo Nuri, leader of the IRP, even has gone so far as to claim that any political participation by Muslim clerics is inappropriate and that clergy should abide by the state laws. (ITAR-TASS, 0624 GMT, 2 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0802, via World News Connection)

Nuri's comments appear related to the Tajik government's Council on Religious Affairs and the Council of Islamic Scholars which was sent to the north of the country to determine the familiarity of the clerics with state laws. President Rakhmonov, who visited Sughd Oblast' in July, complained of militant activities by Islamists and criticized the construction of mosques (specific concerns included HT). The resulting visit of the investigatory councils was the banning of 10 clerics from the northern Isfara district. (RFE/RL NEWSLINE, 6 Aug 02, via www.rferl.org, and ITAR-TASS, 0624 GMT, 2 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0802; via World News Connection) While political regulations were used to control the clerics and content of their message, and while the labeling of a political opponent as a religious extremist (or Wahhabi) allows the oppression of political opposition, the banning of some clerics for political messages risks making them more popular with the population dissatisfied with the government.

The cells of the resistance movements are quite extensive and, without addressing the root causes of opposition, the discontent is likely to proliferate beyond the national borders. For example, a captured member of the IMU admitted to participating in resistance campaigns in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Furthermore, he spoke of an extensive network of persons responsible for transiting militant religious extremists. (INTERFAX, 1408 GMT, 2 Aug 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0802, via World News Connection) This network includes general provisions of food and health services as well as more elaborate arrangements such as the bogus marriage of Uzbek Makhmudzhon Satimov to a Russian woman (thus granting him Russian citizenship and affording him the opportunity to preach and gain support for his extreme religious views outside of Uzbekistan). (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 25 Jul 02; FBIS-SOV-2002-0725, via World News Connection)

The denial of an effective outlet for expressing political opposition, in conjunction with the denial of religious expression, has led to more radical resistance movements that are organized and unsatisfied. While no solution immediately presents itself, it is clear that the roots of discontent must be addressed and the simple squelching of opposition is not the answer.


by David Montgomery (dwm@bu.edu)


BALTIC STATES
Two strikes...one to come?
Like the dog that lives down the street and insists on barking whenever the wind blows, the Kaliningrad issue continues to annoy just about everyone familiar with the region. For months, Russia has been trying to use the enclave's existence to reassert its influence on Lithuanian affairs. Recently, these efforts have been intensified as Russian politicians and media seek to exploit opportunities provided by a couple of incidents. These revolve around the Russian desire to drill for oil in the Baltic Sea, as well as European Union (EU) involvement in negotiating an acceptable solution to transit concerns linked to Lithuanian's putative membership in the EU.

The underlying cause of friction is Lithuania's desire to join the EU and the corresponding compliance with the Acquis, which effectively prohibits unrestricted travel between non-EU and EU countries. Russia asserts that the Acquis would isolate Kaliningrad Oblast' (at least in terms of land travel); it is clear that EU membership would move Lithuania away irreversibly from Russia's sphere of influence. Having failed in its attempt to deter Lithuania from its EU objective, Russia has elevated the frequency of its international complaints concerning the "isolated" oblast' and is now forcing the issue through measured actions aimed at grabbing Europe's attention.

Strike 1 ...
Despite the fact that oil has never been found in massive quantities under the Baltic sea, Russia apparently now feels compelled to deploy the Baltic fleet to monitor and protect LUKoil assets in the region. According to a proclamation by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, issued during his visit to the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda, the Baltic Fleet is now responsible for ensuring the security of the Russian continental shelf in the vicinity of Kaliningrad. The LUKoil-Kaliningradmorneft company is prepared to commence oil exploration there and needs the protection afforded by the Baltic Fleet, Ivanov said. Moreover, the fleet will serve as a necessary shield against terrorist strikes aimed against the Russian Federation. Ivanov further tried to justify the move to his Lithuanian audience by declaring that "any oil rig could be a target for terrorists." (NOVYE IZVESTIA, 1 Aug 02; via lexis-nexis)

Perhaps the threat of a terrorist strike against a Russian oil rig is real. Even so, the positioning of a potentially hostile fleet floating only five kilometers away from the Lithuanian coast may add just enough "diplomatic" leverage to affect Russian-Lithuanian relations. Indeed, the size of the Russian Baltic Fleet, despite recent concerns about it combat preparedness, dwarfs the Lithuanian Navy and its total of seven ships. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE, 4 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis) Since the Baltic Fleet's headquarters is in the Kaliningrad Oblast', its new mission will not cause a drastic shift in its operations; however, it does represent a substantial investment of political capital by the Putin regime. Moscow has expended such capital in other areas already. "This is a normal process. Russia has been doing it in the Caspian Sea and in the Pacific, and begins it in the Baltic and Arctic," Ivanov said. (BALTIC NEWS SERVICE, 4 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis) Using a force of this size to prepare the region for the eventual division of the Baltic continental shelf would in fact provide for the assertion of Russian territorial claims, but would also serve to pressure Lithuania and the other Baltic states, a potent reminder of Russia's comparative relative power within the region.

Strike 2...
Russia's drive to maintain unrestricted travel through Lithuania for Russian military as well as civilian personnel and equipment has led to political friction over the cross-border transit of missile fuel. Recent legislation passed by Lithuania makes its transportation through that country illegal. The debate on the topic is getting considerable visibility in the Russian media, but is next to nonexistent in Baltic or other European outlets. This lack of Western media attention led Russia to assume a more aggressive attitude towards Lithuania and its transit policies involving Kaliningrad. Recently, Russia's assertion that the policy of restricted transit is fundamentally flawed has struck a chord in the EU.

Russian reports claim that some members of the European Union are beginning to view the Russian position as justified. France has come to view the issue as particularly sensitive and is starting to show signs of breaking away from official EU policy. French President Jacques Chirac has indicated support for the Russian perspective, calling the requirement for Russians traveling through Lithuania to need a visa "not acceptable"; he added that there is a need for "other technical solutions" which seek not to "humiliate Russia." (EUROPEAN REPORT, 27 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis) Despite attempts by the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, to downplay Chirac's comments and insist that France is not breaking ranks with the EU (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 29 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis), the damage was done.

Apparently the possibility of cracks in the EU position has caused Lithuanian President Valdus Adamkus to seek a politically acceptable solution to the issue which involves the establishment of better lines of communication between Lithuania and Kaliningrad. (BNS, 31 Jul 02, 1558 GMT; FBIS-SOV-2002-0801, via World News Connection) Unfortunately Adamkus' rapprochement was deemed by Moscow to be too little too late and Russia was able to bring the issue directly to Brussels for consultations and negotiations. The talks commenced on 24 July but have provided little in the form of progress to date. (AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE, 24 Jul 02; via lexis-nexis)

Lithuania now finds itself in the familiar historic position of having two large European powers negotiate between themselves for a mutually beneficial solution. The solution, apparently to be determined by a Russian-EU conference, may or may not take into consideration Lithuania's position on the matter. While, unlike 1939, the territorial integrity of Lithuania appears to be sacrosanct, the country's sovereignty in the arena of foreign policy and international relations once again is being disregarded by two European powers.

A solution to the Kaliningrad issue may be a long way off, but for the time being Russia, at Lithuania's expense, has refrained from Strike 3 and remains at the plate.


by Michael Varuolo (mlvaruolo@hotmail.com)
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