And now for the economy
President Vladimir Putins decree on the security services, signed on 15 August, indicates that, for the moment at least, formal restructuring of the Federal Security Service (FSB) is over. The Presidential Decree established a new command structure for the Security Service. According to the legislation, several new Deputy-Directorships will be created, and the FSB from now on will be governed by a Collegium of 19 members. [(ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 20 Aug 03; Financial Times via Lexis-Nexis) For further details see "Executive Branch" above]
Judging by recent events, however, the FSBs mission to increase its influence over Russian society will continue unabated. Not only is the FSB rumored effectively to have taken control of both the Interior Ministry and the GRU, but also, as of 1 September, the FSBs purview also extends into the private/economic sector: the new Vice-President of the Alrosa diamond company is FSB Colonel Yuri Ionov. There are conflicting explanations for Ionovs appointment. The Governments line is that Ionov has been appointed to protect the companys economic security. His job description is, in effect, to counter industrial espionage.
An unnamed source within the company, however, is quoted by Kommersant (PRIME-TASS News Wire, 20 August 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database) as having said that the Federal Government is seeking to gain control of the firms cashflow, by obtaining an 8 percent stake in the company, and that Ionov is to "act on behalf of the government" in order to attain this goal.
While the FSBs level of penetration of all levels of society is extremely disconcerting, there is some small encouragement to be gained from the fact that there have been two recent articles in the Russian press (both published by Nezavisimaya gazeta) addressing this issue. On 29 August, Nezavisimaya gazeta carried a story in which the author, Alexander Bovin, wrote that "Military and Security people in government are becoming a danger to the nation." Bovin noted that over half of the Security Council seats are occupied by former Security Service Officers, that five of seven supergovernors are Generals, and that some 6,000 ex-KGB/FSB officers "hold important positions in the State Apparatus." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 29 Aug 03 via What the Papers Say via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
At this point, Bovin halts his analysis. Rather than posing serious questions as to Putins motivation, Bovin prefers to assume that the President was simply misguided and perhaps naïve in placing his FSB cronies in positions of power:
"I dont know whether Putin understood that in promoting senior officers to serve as the pillar of the State, and surrounding himself with the military, he would have to satisfy their corporate interests, at least partially, sooner or later. Perhaps he failed to understand that." (Ibid.) The previous story, an interview with Olga Kryshtanovskaya, a faculty member at the Russian Academy of Sciences, reached the same conclusion about the presence of (former) security officers.
"Not everything Putin does is to their liking; but they view him as one of their own, and hope that the President will give them a chance to run the country. That is, they hope he will permit them to restore order as they understand it, and as they hope Putin understands it too." (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA Aug 20 03; WPS via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Based on the fact that much, if not all, of the FSBs power stems directly from the Presidential Apparatus, including Presidential decrees, which have the force of law, it is difficult to grant any credibility to Bovin and Kryshtanovskayas pretense of Presidential naivety. One can only conclude that the economic sector is simply the next target in the FSBs campaign forever increasing influence.
Anti-terrorist agencies gone AWOL?
Since the blast at the Mozdok Military hospital compound on August 1, there have been two further serious terrorist incidents in Russia. First, in Krasnodar (Southern Federal District) on August 25, three simultaneous explosions tore through the town. The blasts resulted in three deaths, and twenty persons were wounded. (RIA; Oreanda-Economic News from Regions, 25 Aug 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
The second, more serious, attack occurred on 3 September in the Stavropol region, where a commuter train traveling near Kislovodsk was blown up. Six people were killed in the blast. Investigators from the FSB and Interior Ministries discovered two craters along the tracks, which, they have claimed, are consistent with 5-KG charges of TNT, detonated remotely. (IZVESTIA PRESS DIGEST, 4 Sept 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
Blame for both acts has been placed squarely at the door of Chechen terrorists, with Nikolai Khazikov, Chief of the Caucasus Regional Prosecutor Generals Office, hinting that Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basaev were the instigators of the operation.
In the aftermath of the Mozdok bombing, it was easy to raise suspicion that some terrorist acts were being allowed to take place in order to strengthen the position of the Security Services. It is now almost impossible to avoid such a conclusion, based on Interior Minister Boris Gryzlovs statement in the wake of the first of these most recent attacks, that domestic legislation to enhance the authority of the security services in their efforts to counter terrorism is expected in September. (NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 26 Aug 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database)
It would seem the Security Services might not be satisfied with anything short of full control.
By Fabian Adami (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Iraq Is Russia jumping the fence or just walking it?
Last spring the Berlin-Paris-Moscow alliance made rough going for the U.S. in its bid for international unity against Iraq, but half a year later the partnership may have lost a member. Russia now appears ready to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq as evidenced by President Putin's statement that he "sees nothing bad" in sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq under a U.S. command. (RIA NOVOSTI, 30 Aug 03 via www.pravda.ru); although military officers have stated that these should not be combat troops. The main sticking point remains the revised resolution that the U.S. has submitted to the Security Council in draft form. Although Russias foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, stated that the draft resolution needs "serious work" before it could be considered acceptable, Moscow has not yet rejected it completely as Paris and Berlin have. (REUTERS, 5 Sep 03 via Johnson's Russia List (JRL) #7313, 7 Sep 03)
Though it may have been publicly impossible for Moscow to support the U.S. call for war in Iraq, now that it is a fait accompli, the Kremlin appears to be looking at the matter in more practical terms. There are genuine economic benefits to consider. These potential profits include oil deals and other trade agreements made prior to the collapse of the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein totaling nearly U.S. $40 billion. (NIS OBSERVED, Volume VIII, No. 12, 30 Jul 03) If Moscow resists American leadership and rejects participating in rebuilding Iraq, it could stand to lose not only money and prestige, but a role in Middle Eastern affairs as well.
Moscows circumscribed willingness to support Washington in its effort to gain UN support for reconstructing Iraq may be a handy piece of leverage as President Putin heads to the U.S. on 24 September to address the UN General Assembly and then to visit President Bush. Washington may appreciate the assistance of a Russian peacekeeping contingent a contribution that could inspire others, such as Turkey or India, who are on the fence about contributing troops (pending a new UN resolution and arrangements concerning the command of the peacekeeping forces).
It remains to be seen, however, if Moscow will remain so amenable to the idea of contributing forces and allowing them to be under direct American command. It wasnt long ago that very serious, complicated negotiations and special command arrangements were necessary before Russian forces participated as members of the Bosnian and Kosovo peacekeeping forces. Additionally, there are inherent dangers in getting personally involved with the peacekeeping efforts in Iraq. Moscow currently is trying to gain influence in the Muslim world by applying for membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which was just recently discussed with a visiting delegation from Saudi Arabia. (ITAR-TASS, 27 Aug 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0827 via World news Connection) Cooperating with the U.S. in the occupation of Iraq could be seen negatively by other Islamic states. Moreover, even though President Putins re-election bid is probably solid enough to weather almost any negative fallout, the possible loss of Russian lives in Iraq occupation operations could prove an untenable risk in the upcoming election season.
Timing is everything - Russia stays the course on Bushehr
Despite U.S. protests, Moscow continues to move forward in its nuclear relationship with Iran. In late August, the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, visited Moscow to discuss issues pertaining to Iran and North Korea. Mr. Bolton left Russia without significant results as Moscow is holding firm to its position despite public pressure from the U.S. State Department, which stressed that no country, including Russia, should engage in nuclear cooperation with Iran until Tehran addresses the questions posed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as the international community. (REUTERS, 27 Aug 03 via JRL #7304, 28 Aug 03) Despite indications to the contrary, Russia insists that its cooperation with Iran is completely transparent and directed solely towards peaceful, civilian purposes.
Unnamed Russian sources stated diplomatically that the meeting between Bolton and Russian officials, including the Minister of Atomic Energy Aleksandr Rumyantsev and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, confirmed that the U.S. and Russia have "a common understanding of the need to work for Irans greater openness in the nuclear sphere," (INTERFAX, 26 Aug 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0826 via World News Connection), however, Russia also countered U.S. complaints by claiming that certain Western nations may be contributing to the suspected Iranian nuclear weapons program. No further details were given. (Agent France Presse (AFP), 26 Aug 03 via JRL #7302, 27 Aug 03) Iranian press reports hailed Russias steadfastness and determination to continue the Russian-Iranian nuclear power project despite U.S. pressure. It viewed Russias resistance to the U.S. as evidence that the U.S. position lacks rational arguments. (VOICE OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN RADIO 1, 25 Aug 03; FBIS-NES-2003-0825 VIA World News Connection)
Russia and Iran apparently have addressed a major U.S. complaint concerning spent nuclear fuel produced at the Bushehr plant. The danger of such fuel is that it could be used to produce weapons grade plutonium. But on 27 August the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy stated that the Russian government had approved amendments to the Bushehr construction agreement that would obligate Iran to return the spent fuel to Russia. This amendment is expected to be signed by the two countries at the IAEA general session in Vienna 15-18 September 2003. (INTERFAX, 27 Aug 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0827 via World News Connection) Once signed, Russia could begin delivery of nuclear fuel to Bushehr. However, there is no indication of any willingness to accept international supervision of the amendment's implementation.
Iran, of course, has to face the latest report from the IAEA that traces of uranium (beyond what is needed for civilian purposes) were detected in an Iranian centrifuge, a device critical in the production of weapons grade material. This may cause even Russia to tread more cautiously until matters are ironed out. The 1518 September general session of the IAEA in Vienna may clarify where the agency stands with regard to Irans nuclear activities. However, Moscow has to deal also with a report on 22 August that Latvian customs officials in Riga had intercepted a Russian vessel bound for Iran loaded with 28 tons of military equipment including night vision devices and spare tank parts. The vessel has been detained on suspicion of smuggling strategic goods. (WWW.GAZETA.RU, 21 Aug 03 via RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol. 7, No. 160, Part II, 22 Aug 03)
Nevertheless, Moscow maintains the offensive on the Iran issue; following Boltons departure; Russian media reported a Russian plan to build a second reactor at Bushehr. So far Moscow reportedly has handed over a feasibility study to Tehran regarding the construction of such a second reactor. (ITAR-TASS, 26 Aug 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0826 via World News Connection) The timing of this move following discussions with Undersecretary Bolton appears to demonstrate Russian resolve to disregard US concerns over continuing Russian-Iranian nuclear cooperation.
However, Moscows decision to postpone a scheduled meeting between a visiting Iranian parliamentarian delegation and Russian parliamentarians on 2 September (ITAR-TASS, 2 Sep 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) could indicate that the Kremlin is choosing to maneuver more cautiously in light of the upcoming IAEAs board of governors meeting in Vienna on 8 September where, according to U.S. officials, the IAEA could take "various actions" regarding Iran. (WWW.CNN.COM, 5 Sep 03) Indeed Moscow may be hesitant to commit completely to its support of Iran until the timing is right, i.e., until the U.S. appears most vulnerable. Specifically, Russia might view the best opportunity to try to soften Washingtons opposition to its cooperation with Iran as the moment at which it can offer its support to the White House on the issue of a new UN resolution on Iraq. Putins visit with President Bush late in September may be just the occasion to test those waters.
By Scott C. Dullea (email@example.com)
DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Its my party, and Ill cry if I want to
Despite a pledge of good behavior signed by a little more than half (27 out of 43) of the parties involved in the upcoming parliamentary race, mud not to mention charges of interference and chicanery has begun to be slung.
Chief among the slingers is Gennadi Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party. Zyuganov, along with Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, has complained that their respective parties are facing an information blockade due to the lack of independent media in the country, a blockade each plans to attack through regional appearances by party representatives. (ITAR-TASS, 26 Aug 03; Global News Wire; World News Connection via Lexis-Nexis and NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, 27 Aug 03 via Lexis-Nexis)
Moreover, Zyuganov has complained, not without cause, of Kremlin-backed attempts to chip away support from the KPRF, which polls continuously at approximately the same level of support as "Putins party," United Russia. The latest endeavor, he says, is a move by Dmitri Rogozin, chairman of the Federation Council and Putins envoy on Kaliningrad-related matters, along with Sergei Glazyev, the leader of Russias Regions and a member of the Communist faction in the State Duma, to form an election bloc of nationalist groups groups previously aligned with the KPRF.
One is tempted to ascribe the blocs founding to a confluence of forces that includes ambition and a forward-looking attitude brought in by the younger politicians, with the power of Kremlin support. Glazyev had been considered a possible modernizing force for Russian communists, a transformation Zyuganov rigorously opposes. Indeed, in a text intended for Pravda (but distributed to other media outlets), Zyuganov wrote that his party remains closer to communisms "primordial principles" than similar parties in Europe that have taken a path unacceptable to Russians. (THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 22 Aug 03; Emerging Markets Datafile via Lexis-Nexis)
It is impossible, however, to overlook the insignificance of the parties that have joined the election bloc, as well as the haphazard manner of its formation. The bloc has no name, the rather hazy goal of uniting "all patriotic forces" to work on a program "of national interests," (RIA NEWS AGENCY, 1055 GMT, 24 Aug 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) and a fuzzy membership -- according to various reports, 15, 16 or17 parties have joined. There is also the logistical problem of the distribution of seats with no shared platform and so many members if (and its a big if) the bloc does manage to overcome the 5% minimum percentage of votes, who will have allocated the seats? If the statements made since the coalition was announced on 22 August provide any indication, the aim is to harness popular discontent and nostalgia for the "good old days" of Soviet domination. Parties that have joined the movement include the Congress of Russian Communities, Russias Regions, the Party of Labor, Native Fatherland Movement, For Holy Russia, Russia Traditional Party, Eurasia (not the better-known Eurasian Party), Peoples and Patriotic Union of Youth, Soyuz Movement, and the Social and Democratic Organization. (KOMMERSANT, 25 Aug 03; What the Papers Say (WPS) via Lexis-Nexis) Certainly, such a collection puts into doubt that this bloc is intended as a vehicle for Glazyev to modernize anything.
Subsequent efforts by the bloc have focused on attracting big names that solidify thoughts of nostalgia, such as the former chairman of the Central Bank, Viktor Gerashchenko, the Commander-in-Chief of the Airborne Troops, Colonel General Georgi Shpak, (KOMMERSANT, 26 Aug 03; WPS via Lexis-Nexis) and former Commander of the Soviet Ground Forces General Valentin Varennikov, Rogozins "idol in the early 1990s," who, as a member of the rebellious State Emergency Committee, refused an amnesty for the August 1991 attempted coup. (ARGUMENTY I FAKTY, 27 Aug 03; WPS via Lexis-Nexis)
To be sure, Rogozin is no stranger to rhetoric harkening back to the time when Russia successfully bulldozed its neighbors, ignoring notions of territorial sovereignty, but that tactic hasnt really worked in a while he saw that himself in Russias recent attempts to force Lithuania to back down over transit regulations concerning Kaliningrad. And, indeed, it seems that the Federation Council speaker hasnt overcome the disappointment of seeing the European Union side with Lithuania on the issue, as his statements demonstrate. "We will deal with the Kaliningrad problem until we feel that even those small restrictions which today exist for citizens transit travel and those restrictions which they are trying to impose on us regarding the transit of cargo... will be dully removed," Rogozin said. (RTR RUSSIA TV, 1600 GMT, 24 Aug 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)
It is this preoccupation with the past -- a well-trodden plank in the communist platform which makes the creation of the election bloc so suspect. Rogozin and Glazyev repeatedly have issued calls for the Communist Party to join, which Zyuganov and others (not surprisingly) have declined repeatedly. "We cant join this coalition!.. If we join it, we would betray our voters, because we suspect that this coalition was created on the Kremlins orders, for the purpose of holding back the [KPRF]," explained Yuri Petrakov, a party representative. (KOMMERSANT, 25 Aug 03; WPS via Lexis-Nexis)
It is not inconceivable that the Kremlin did have a hand in the creation of the bloc, but apparently Moscows willingness to intervene in the election process, at least to support United Russia, is not wholehearted. In the regions, the Kremlin is seen as having schemed to keep United Russia from becoming too comfortable with its position of most-favored party. A new regional movement called New Russia has emerged in Tula, led by a provincial MP, Aleksei Berezin. The movements platform explicitly includes the goal of luring away at least 20 percent of United Russias current membership, as payback for United Russias refusal to support Berezin in the upcoming State Duma elections. Where does the Kremlin fit in this tale of revenge? Despite Berezins statements that the movement is supported by owners of small- and medium-sized businesses, rumors are rampant that the chief sponsor is a large state-owned oil company. (RUSSKY KURYER, 22 Jul 03; The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, Vol. 55, No. 29 via Lexis-Nexis)
The Central Election Commission (CEC) is keeping its official eye on the election scene, though its effectiveness remains open to question. The commission certainly is devoting a substantial amount of time to media coverage; indeed, more attention seems to be spent on what is written about the process than on the process itself. To help earnest journalists navigate the tricky shoals of newly promulgated election-related legislation, the CEC is working on an informational brochure, "The Mass Media and the Elections; Questions and Answers." Touting such admirable principles as objective and accurate reporting, the publication assures the media that there is no prohibition on analyzing a candidates pre-election activity as they inform voters, although successfully influencing voters by "purposefully and systematically creat[ing] a positive or negative attitude... toward candidates" is unacceptable. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 21 Aug 03; Global News Wire; via World News Connection via Lexis-Nexis)
That is not the only training the CEC is offering, however. The Commissions Russian Center for the Study of Election Technologies recently sent some reporters to a region where a gubernatorial campaign is underway, to note the success of election laws. Yet, while the laws apparently worked on the surface, a closer look revealed the continued circumvention of regulations, by such means as media manipulation, dishonest signature collections and underhanded, premature advertising. "Everything was done the way people do. Or rather, the way candidates do people in fact are not paying nearly the close attention to what is happening that politicians would like," reporter Yekaterina Dobrynina explained. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 28 Aug 03; FBIS-2003-0828 via World News Connection)
Interestingly, all this activity is playing out against a backdrop of anticipated voter apathy. There has been a steady increase in the number of voters selecting "against all," and at least one Moscow-based newspaper warns that a potential increase in that number could "squeeze United Russia from second place." (VREMYA MN, 12 Aug 03; Global Newswire; World News Connection via Lexis-Nexis) Of course, such a scenario is unlikely, though not impossible, particularly if recent polls are to be believed. The Regional Politics Research Agency, a division of the ROMIR Monitoring agency, recently released the results of a poll of residents in 32 Russian regions. When asked who holds real power in the country, most respondents (37 percent) indicated their belief that oligarchs, not politicians, are in charge; only 4 percent responded that the Duma held the real power. (VEDOMOSTI, 27 Aug 03; WPS via Lexis-Nexis)
Its my party, and Ill try what I want to
The Constitutional Court recently demonstrated its own brand of independence from the Kremlin, by removing a powerful tool the federal government had used to keep rebellious (and, possibly, independence-leaning) regions in line. The court ruled that the attempts by the prosecutors office to seek decisions from general courts on the constitutionality of regional laws were themselves unconstitutional. Only the Constitutional Court gets to decide that (which is probably why its called the Constitutional Court). Still, the folks in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the most visible targets of the prosecutor-generals office in this regard, should not plan victory rallies anytime soon. The decision does not necessarily invalidate earlier general court rulings that, in the main, supported federal attempts to overhaul regional legislation which provided for any degree of autonomy. It does, however, offer those regions, and the rest of the Russian Federation, the opportunity to appeal the rulings. (KOMMERSANT, 19 Jul 03; Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press via Lexis-Nexis)
The prosecutors office had more success in another ruling, the conviction on charges of libel of journalist and politician German Galkin from Chelyabinsk. The ruling was most surprising in its sentence: While previously such convictions ended with a fine or, at most, a suspended sentence, Galkin faces one year of corrective labor in a prison colony. He was found guilty of libel for a series of articles which implied that Chelyabinsk Vice Governor Konstantin Bochkarev was a pedophile and that Bochkarev, as well as Vice Governor Andrei Kosilov, were guilty of professional criminal activity. "Galkin accused me and my colleague of having committed a whole range of especially serious crimes participation in an organized crime grouping, serving the interests of the narcotics mafia, embezzlement of budget funds, paying off officials, organizing murders for hire, creating financial pyramids...," Kosilov said. (IZVESTIYA, 20 Aug 03; Global News Wire; World News Connection via Lexis-Nexis) While Glakin denies he wrote the articles, evidence indicates he was, at least, one of the persons who edited the publication.
It may be premature, however, to assume that the Galkin sentence signals a hardening of judicial attitudes towards the media, given the political nature of the publication in question as well as the types of accusations contained in the articles. Still, the severity of the sentence and the charges brought against Galkin, for articles whose authorship cannot be proved, guarantee that the media, and media analysts, will be watching the situation carefully.
By Kate Martin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
next stop, Iraq?
Keeping his eye fixed firmly on the long-term goal of ensuring a Russian role as a major world player, President Putin may soon send Russian units to join the U.S., U.K., Poland and others in Iraq. (RFE/RL Security and Foreign Policy in Russia, 9 Sep 03)
Almost daily since late August, Russian officials have dropped hints about their willingness to reconsider the Iraqi issue and perhaps contribute an (as yet undefined) number of troops to the task of occupation and reconstruction. (AFP via Lexis-Nexis, 9 Sep 03; and various RFE/RL Newslines 27 Aug to 9 Sep 03) One condition mentioned consistently is the need for Russian elements to operate under a "UN mandate" depending on the outcome of negotiations sponsored by UN. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, this may be as modest as a new UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) for "cover" or, if France and Germany supported by Russia and China can prevail over the U.S. and U.K., it may mean an entirely new political and "peacekeeping" structure. (Reuters via RFE/RL, 5 Sep 03) In fact, US Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet this weekend with Annan and the foreign ministers from the five members of the UN Security Council to discuss the issue. (AFP via Lexis-Nexis, 9 Sep 03)
Russias consideration of these possibilities entails evolution of the previous opposition to the war, and may mean a Russian approach separate from that of Germany and France, its earlier partners. All three still want the UN to play a major role but, Russia is hinting that it may settle for a U.S. General in charge of military forces in Iraq, as well as the U.S.-appointed administrator and Governing Council. (AFP, 9 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis; and RFE/RL Newsline, 5 Sep 03) The adjustment in the Russian approach was signalled during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sardinia on 30 August, when President Vladimir Putin said he "sees nothing wrong if [a peacekeeping contingent] is under U.S. command." (RFE/RL Newsline, 8 Sep 03)
Russia may have picked up on a shift in U.S. thinking as policymakers began to explore the idea of expanding the number of multi-national troops on the ground, both to make the military presence more palatable to Iraqis and to reduce the strain on limited American military resources, allowing the armed services to regroup and prepare for future operations in the war on terror. (ITAR-TASS, 23 Aug 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-0823 via World News Connection) This adjustment of U.S. policy, includes a draft UNSCR that, irrespective of its final form, will allow the UN, i.e. the permanent members of the Security Council, a larger role. This adjustment was signaled in President Bushs speech to the nation on 7 Sep 03. (www.ap.org, 7 Sep 03)
In mid-August, Russian officials began to hedge their bets and start evaluating the benefits of joining the multi-national coalition in Iraq, as intimations of the possible adjustment in U.S. policy became known. The considerations involved in Russia's reevaluation may have included the desire for at least a portion of Russia's long-term influence in Iraq, including the ability to recover eventually part of the debt Iraq owes Moscow, and the hope of "scoring points" in Washington by adopting a line distinct from the approach of the Berlin-Paris Axis. Colonel General Vladimir Kulakov, a member of the Federation Council, referring to Russia's major political and commercial interests in Iraq and throughout the area pointed out that they could be best served by Russia contributing a large force to the stabilization and reconstruction effort in Iraq. He added, "Iraq owes us $8 billion. In addition, we have traditionally had strong economic ties to this country. Our oil and construction companies are hoping to resume them not in the distant, but in the very near, future." (emphasis added) Although he called for Russia to insist on a UN peacekeeping operation, the latest American draft UN Security Council Resolution may help to serve as political cover. (Trud, 27 Aug 03; FBIS-NES-2003-0827 via World News Connection)
What are the options?
In Bosnia (1995) and Kosovo (1999), the Russian Federation attempted to establish itself as a supporter both of its Slav "kin" in the Balkans and of the "new world order." At the time, economics and a seriously debilitated military (not to mention the fact that, in Kosovo, Russia's entry was unilateral and surreptitious), meant sending on a small force to each operation, and in both cases, the Russian forces proved competent, though not outstanding, at their task. Moreover, they established a reputation for not being entirely neutral.
If really willing, Russia could make a positive contribution in view of an improving economy. Russia may be able to dispatch a division-level headquarters element and at least one, possibly two, brigades of combat troops, plus a significant force of military police and engineers, medical and support troops. No doubt such a deployment would come at a cost in lives and money, but if done well, the Russian armed forces could gain from taking part in the rebuilding of Iraq and by working on a larger scale with western forces. However, given the current readiness and training of Russian troops, this may not be feasible and some sources have intimated an aversion to sending combat elements, even if some forces are sent.
The bottom line
The world has changed since the late 1990s and Russia's place in the world has shifted as well. Mr. Putin certainly has grand ambitions, specifically reestablishing Russia as a major power, and possibly a superpower. He has worked deliberately and systematically with many secondary powers to stymie US efforts around the world.
Certainly Russia recognizes the fact that most former Warsaw Pact members, notably Poland, as well as some former republics of the USSR, such as Ukraine, currently are members of the coalition, and reaping the benefits, both political and economic. Russia has gleaned all the political benefits it can from its anti-war stance and has much to gain now by moving beyond that posture and into a stance of engagement in Iraq, under the UN flag or not.
By Lt. Col. Kris Beasley, USAF (