The NIS Observed: An Analytical Review
Volume VIII Number 19 (21 November 2003)
 

Russian Federation

Executive Branch by Susan J. Cavan
Security Services by Fabian Adami
Foreign Relations by Scott C. Dullea
Domestic Issues & Legislative Branch by Kate Martin
Armed Forces by Lt Col Kris Beasley and Paul J. Lyons

Newly Independent States

Western Region by Elena Selyuk
Caucasus by Ariela Shapiro

Central Asia by David W. Montgomery


Links will not function until page is completely loaded.
 
Search Back Issues    Subscribe to NIS Observed
 

RUSSIAN FEDERATION

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Medvedev moves in

For the biographical record, President Putin's new Chief of Staff, Dmitri Medvedev, is a graduate of Leningrad State University with a Ph.D. in law. He was an assistant professor at St. Petersburg University throughout the 1990s, during which time he also served as a foreign policy adviser to then-St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoli Sobchak. In 1999, he moved to Moscow, becoming a deputy head of the Government Staff, serving Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister and moving to the Kremlin as a Deputy Head of Putin's administration with Putin's election to the Presidency. In June 2000, Medvedev became First Deputy Head of the Administration. As a shining example of corporate synergy, he is also Chairman of Gazprom. (ITAR-TASS, 2023 GMT, 30 Oct 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)

On November 10, Medvedev issued a resolution outlining the new "distribution of commitments" among the upper echelon of the Kremlin Apparat. According to the resolution (Text of the Resolution from ITAR-TASS, 0802 GMT, 10 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis), Dmitri Kozak, former Deputy Head of the Administration, will move into the post of First Deputy and substitute for Medvedev in the event of his absence. Kozak will also have general responsibility for apparat appointments at the level of deputy department head, main adviser, adviser, consultant, expert and etc.; authority to conclude labor contracts; and he will serve as liaison with the Government Staff. Kozak will retain his oversight of Judicial reforms and of the courts and procuracy in general, as well as his authority in the realm of regional reform (several apparatchiki have some degree of sway in regional relations, suggesting either competition among various offices or, perhaps, unofficial demarcations staked out by individuals). Interestingly, Kozak was also tasked with managing the "financial affairs" of the Administration, a task reminiscent of the role Pavel Borodin once played in the Kremlin, and the department from which Putin launched his Kremlin career.

The duties of the deputy heads of the Presidential Administration also reveal overlapping spheres of authority, but few changes from the structure set in place by Medvedev's predecessor, Aleksandr Voloshin:

  • Aleksandr Abramov is slotted to oversee regional policy for the president, including the work of the State Council and the President's Main Territorial Directorate;
  • Viktor Ivanov will draft decrees on key areas of pardons, citizenship and personnel policy. His continued role in personnel decisions may result in a further influx of siloviki into the Presidential Apparat;
  • Yevgeni Lisov is in charge of decree implementation. He will, correspondingly, head the Main Monitoring Directorate, and have oversight of the territorial monitoring departments within each regional plenipotentiary representative's staff;
  • Sergei Prikhodko will continue as Head of the President's Foreign Policy Directorate, advising on foreign policy initiatives; he will also draft presidential decisions on international relations and areas of military and technical cooperation;
  • Dzakhan Polyyeva supervises the speechwriting staff and the preparation of key addresses and gets the education, science and culture portfolio;
  • Igor Sechin heads the President's Chancellery, as well as the Information and Documentation Directorate. He is an information specialist who keeps track of the paperwork and record keeping in the Kremlin. He is also tasked with protecting state secrets and with vetting Kremlin staff. His is a typically crucial, yet overlooked role in the presidential bureaucracy;
  • Vladislav Surkov retains his role as Domestic Policy "Tsar." He coordinates the actions of the legislative bodies with the President and advises on issues of political parties, elections and the media;
  • Igor Shuvalov is tasked with overseeing "national projects" and the Economic Directorate. His work for the Kremlin most closely mirrors that of the Government's domain, which is unsurprising given that Shuvalov is one of the more recent Government Staff refugees to set up tent in the Kremlin;
  • Aleksei Gromov continues to supervise the work of the president's press service;
  • Igor Shchegolev heads the president's Protocol Department;
  • and Sergei Yastrzhembsky heads up the President's Information Directorate. Yastrzhembsky, who was a teammate on the Yel'tsin Family, only fell out with those key players over the choice of a Prime Minister after the devaluation debacle. His long-term closeness to Voloshin may suggest a short-lived Kremlin career under a 2nd term Putin presidency.

Medvedev retains direct "operational management" of the following departments for himself as Chief of Staff: The Secretariat; the President's Main State Law Directorate; Plenipotentiary Representatives in the regions; Press Secretary; aides and advisers; and, oddly, the President's Representative to the European Court of Human Rights. (Ibid.)

Most analysts see few changes between this new resolution and the status quo from the Apparat regime established by Voloshin. (See, for example, KOMMERSANT, No. 205; Russian Press Digest, 11 Nov 03 via Lexis-Nexis) They warn however, that following the presidential elections in the spring, major changes may be in the offing (including a solidification, even dramatic upsurge, of gains by the siloviki). The spring elections, of course, could mean dramatic changes on a number of fronts (the Constitution first and foremost).

By Susan J. Cavan (sjcavan@bu.edu)

 

~~~~~

 

SECURITY SERVICES

True Colors Revealed

The arrest of Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky earlier this month continues to result in widespread fallout. Since the storming of Khodorkovsky’s jet in Siberia, several commentaries have appeared in the Russian media, which provide an insight into a darker aspect of the situation, as well as an indication of what may be President Putin’s true motives.

First, the St. Petersburg Times carried a story that first appeared in the Financial Times. Written by Vladimir Gusinsky (who admittedly has a serious axe to grind), the article, headlined, "Putin’s Reign of Fear," argued that Putin’s only goal since attaining the Russian Presidency in 1999, has been to rule the country by dictatorship. Gusinsky described how Putin brought the country’s media to heel by "shamelessly using the FSB, the general prosecutor and obedient courts." (THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 11 November 03 via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Gusinsky further argued that Putin’s Kremlin has a "political monopoly" over the country, and submits that Chubais’ Union of Right Forces and Yavlinsky’s Yabloko bear direct responsibility for Putin’s authoritarianism, because they "did not resist Putin’s attack on the Constitution." (Ibid.)

The crux of Gusinsky’s piece is his assertion that the Russian elites must overcome their fear of the President, and find a viable alternative to him. Unless an alternative appears, Gusinsky argues, Putin’s dictatorship will deepen, and may continue for years. (Ibid.)

Although Gusinsky’s statements on Putin’s true goal may be obvious to observers of the Russian political scene, the importance of the article should not be underestimated. In stark contrast to his colleague Boris Berezovsky, Vladimir Gusinsky has been conspicuous during his exile by his silence and his staunch refusal thus far to speak out against Putin’s regime. It is a measure of the seriousness of the Yukos affair that that he has chosen this moment to break his silence.

While Gusinsky’s commentary certainly is important, it is far less chilling than the interview with an FSB officer, carried in Novaya Gazeta on 14 November. According to the editor’s introduction, the officer spoke on condition of strict anonymity, revealing only that he had been deeply involved in the Yukos investigation. Extrapolating from the details given in several of his answers, it seems apparent that the officer is of relatively senior rank.

First, the interview makes it extremely clear that Khodorkovsky’s arrest is intended as a final warning to Russia’s remaining oligarchs. The officer revealed that a deal has been reached whereby Roman Abramovich will leave Russia upon completion of his governorship, and that the FSB has only to receive the order, before Chubais would be arrested: "Lots of our guys are itching to get Chubais. A mountain of evidence has been collected. But let’s not talk about that." (Ibid.) The remaining oligarchs will be allowed to remain if they "prove their loyalty" to Russia.

Secondly, the interview raises an extremely disturbing specter of anti-Semitism. Asked which oligarchs will be left alone, the officer indicated that only those who were oriented toward the "national interest" would not be touched. Specifically, he alleged that Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky had both been working for Israel, and that "all Jews are traitors; they’re oriented toward the West." He further added that "Zionist Capital cannot be tolerated under any circumstances." (Ibid.) It should be noted at this point that there is no evidence that the anti-Semitic rhetoric used by the officer reflects the views of his service.

As to the question of Putin’s aims, the officer stated that the aim is the establishment of a form of "Capitalist Totalitarianism," whereby "order in Russia" will be reestablished, and property will be "redistributed for services to the state."

Most importantly, the interview finally puts to rest the illusion harbored in some quarters that the FSB is acting on its own accord, without direct orders from President Putin.

When asked by the reporter where the orders for Khodorkovsky’s arrest came from, the officer replied: "It’s all decided at the very top;"

Q: "At the very, very top?"

A: "But of course."

(NOVAYA GAZETA, 14 November 2003, via WPS RUSSIAN POLITICAL MONITOR, via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

by Fabian Adami (fabs@bu.edu)

~~~~~

 

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Japan and Russia — Is a peace treaty on the horizon?

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov will visit Japan 15—17 December. In preparation for the trip, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Losyukov met with the Japanese Ambassador to Moscow, Issei Nomura. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release stressed that the upcoming visit would focus on "strengthening the trade-and-economic [sic] component of bilateral relations." (www.mid.ru in English, 4 Nov 03)

The following day, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov spoke on the telephone with his Japanese counterpart Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi. ITAR-TASS reported that the conversation included a suggestion by the Japanese foreign minister to intensify the dialogue regarding construction of a pipeline to supply Russian oil to Japan. Russia has put the project on hold indefinitely. (See NIS Observed, Vol. VIII, No. 13, 22) The foreign ministers also discussed establishing a joint organization to promote Japanese trade and investment with Russia. (ITAR-TASS, 5 Nov 03, BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The report underscored the foreign ministers’ pleasure over the 30% growth of bilateral trade in the first six months of 2003. The Russian State Statistics Committee reported this month that Japan ranks in the top 10% of foreign investment in Russia with a 2.9% stake. (PRIME-TASS, 17 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database). Ivanov and Kawaguchi also jointly expressed the need for the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue to continue.

The Japanese press noted that phone conversations between the two ministers covered additional topics. Kawaguchi was quoted as telling Ivanov that it would be a serious international problem if Iraq collapsed, and she urged Russia to make a monetary pledge as soon as possible. Furthermore, it was reported in Japan that Ivanov "invited Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi to visit Russia for talks to resolve a longstanding dispute that would pave the way for a peace treaty to be concluded between the two countries." (KYODO, 4 Nov 03, BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) However, no mention of plans to discuss a peace treaty with Japan appeared on the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) daily news bulletins on the MFA official website; nor was any reference to such an invitation obvious in the Russian media.

Domestic political concerns may be behind the Kremlin’s caution in not publicizing any moves toward a peace treaty with Japan. Both countries are understandably interested in maintaining a solid economic relationship, and Moscow may be attempting to balance the two issues. If a visit from Kawaguchi to Russia, as the Japanese press reported, does indeed materialize, it may provide indication as to new Kremlin flexibility over the Kuril Islands dispute, which continues to taint Russian-Japanese relations. Kasianov’s visit in December and President Putin’s visit to Japan in the spring of 2004 may provide the proper platforms to announce any major changes on this issue.

Latvia and Estonia eye Russia cautiously

Russia continues to express concern about the status of ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia. Following President Putin’s return from the European Union (E.U.) Summit in Rome this month, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Yakovenko stated that Russia is seeking improvement in the treatment of Russians in Latvia and Estonia before those countries join the E.U. Yakovenko seemed to be attempting to warn Estonia and Latvia that they, as the newest E.U. members, could be held responsible for tarnishing the E.U.’s relationship with Moscow. (RIA NEWS AGENCY, 11 Nov 02; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

Russia’s most recent objections again include the two Baltic republics’ moves towards bilingual education for ethnic minorities in secondary schools and Estonia’s treatment of Russian military retirees. According to a 30 October RIA News Agency report, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Estonian Ambassador Karin Jaani to express its displeasure with Estonia’s moves to deport Russian military pensioners. (BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) In the report, an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry representative stated that Estonia would be held responsible for whatever damage the issue causes to a Russian-Estonian dialogue.

It is clear, however, that the Latvian and Estonian sides see Russia obstructing relations. In a 10 November newspaper interview, the Latvian Foreign Minister Sandra Kalniete stressed that Moscow does not seem to be ready for constructive dialogue and that Russian foreign policy is hindering bilateral relations by splitting Latvian society. (TELEGRAF, 10 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Database) Specifically, Kalniete pointed to President Putin’s statements that Russia may not automatically extend its cooperation agreement with the E.U. to all incoming members. Kalniete also addressed the five agreements that remain unsigned between Moscow and Riga on air transport, double taxation, cooperation in the sphere of rail transport, cooperation in tourism and the border agreement (also involving Estonia). She stressed that Riga is ready to sign and that Moscow is the side preventing further progress. Kalniete expressed hope that after the Kremlin has completed its Duma and presidential elections, perhaps it will stop using its relations with the Baltics for what she described as domestic political purposes and will rather make room for further dialogue.

 

A recent article in the Latvian daily Diena drew attention to Moscow’s recent announcements regarding its right of preemptive military actions to protect Russian speakers abroad; the article’s author tied these concerns to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov’s statements that Russia is concerned with "instability in neighboring countries as the result of weak central governments" and assesses that Russia could easily create an incident in Latvia as a pretext to send in Russian armed forces. (31 Oct 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database) The premise of the article, taken along with Foreign Minister Kalniete’s statements, illustrates why Latvians are expressing hope that their upcoming membership in the E.U. and NATO will help resolve the country's problems with Russia.

 

Estonia, too, shares concerns about the Russian threat, which were perhaps aroused by a statement from the Russian General Staff, that, while admitting it would have no chance in a war with NATO, stated "[i]t is not possible to fully rule out the possibility of a war with a NATO Country…." (INTERFAX-AVN, 31 Oct 03 via Johnson’s Russia List (JRL) #7395, 1 Nov 03) Estonia’s former Prime Minister Siim Kallas recently contended that a provocation could easily be invented to give Moscow pretext, based on its recently proclaimed military policies, to deploy troops to Estonia. Although other Estonian politicians downplayed the current military threat from Russia, they also expressed concern over Russia’s designs to establish individual agreements with E.U. members rather than maintaining a common policy. (ESTONIAN TELEVISION, 8 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via ISI Emerging Markets Database)

 

Latvia and Estonia appear to be clinging to the hope that as members of E.U. and NATO their positions vis-à-vis Moscow will be strengthened. However, Russia’s moves at the E.U. Summit, such as the preparation to sign bilateral visa regimes with Germany, Italy and France, coupled with Moscow’s demands over ethnic Russian issues in the Baltics, are cause for concern that Russia may be trying to develop different standards in its relationship with old and new members of the two organizations.

By Scott C. Dullea (dulleas@bu.edu)

 

~~~~~

 

DOMESTIC ISSUES AND LEGISLATIVE BRANCH

ELECTIONS

Ballots, bombs and bullies

The battle for the "power vertical" has moved to the electoral arena, as the Central Election Commission (CEC) asserts federal primacy over claims of regional independence. So far, the center has not backed down from a fight, even if its responses are, at times, tepid. However, regional commissions have a significant weapon at their disposal—time—and they’re not afraid to use it, stalling over accepting CEC declarations and forcing the center to go through the complicated process of overruling decisions. With only a month-long campaign season, a couple of territorial authorities are making matters difficult for opposition candidates. And it may be a case where the CEC wins the battle, but the regions win the war, as the time for campaigning draws to a close.

Bashkortostan seems to be one of the tougher places to become, and remain, a candidate, particularly for those seeking to unseat incumbent President Murtaza Rakhimov, although Duma candidates also face obstacles. Both elections are scheduled to take place on 7 December. Several decisions of the territorial election commission have prompted a series of appeals to the CEC, the responses of which can be summed up in a word: "reconsider." Such is the command that Moscow is sending to the region. Among the decisions to be reconsidered: the refusal to register Eduard Khusnutdinov, a journalist from Ufa, as a Duma candidate for the single-seat constituency No. 6, and presidential candidate Sergei Veremeyenko. The CEC ruled that the territorial commission’s blocking of Khusnutdinov’s registration was illegal and unfounded. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1104 via World News Connection) The federal commission also determined that the territorial commission had no proof to back up its ruling to keep Veremeyenko off the ballot for the presidential race. Veremeyenko charged, in turn, that Rakhimov had instigated the rejection of his registration. (VEDOMOSTI, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1107 via World News Connection)

Charges of presidential misconduct in Bashkortostan continue to be aired. In fact, the administration is blaming its political opponents for a 5 November bombing that killed two persons, leading those opponents to call for an independent federal investigation of the attack. "The republic leadership wants to destabilize the situation and blame this on the opposition," Veremeyenko said. Such a politicization of terrorist activity is dangerous, opponents asserted. "It has become unsafe to live in Bashkortostan," said Khasan Idiyatullin, another presidential candidate. State Duma Deputy Valentin Nikitin, concurred, warning that the administration is attempting to depict the terrorist act as a political tactic of the opposition rather than conducting a thorough investigation. Nikitin noted that, instead of investigating the explosion, police went to the independent radio station and removed the aerial antenna. (IZVESTIYA, 12 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1112 via World News Connection)

Indeed, Aleksandr Veshnyakov, the chairman of the CEC, indicated that the commission may visit Bashkortostan during the election season to investigate the situation on the ground. (ITAR-TASS, 1855 GMT, 3 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1103 via World News Connection) All in all, the CEC has overturned several appeals against Bashkir commission rulings, most recently the latter's decision to deny Idiyatullin’s registration, a second appeal by Veremeyenko, and an appeal by yet another presidential contender, Ralif Safin, who is battling the local commission’s cancellation of his registration.

In the face of such reversals, one member of the Bashkir election commission declared that the "presidential election in Bashkortostan is a prerogative of the republic, so the decree by Russia’s Central Election Commission has no force." Veshnyakov subsequently asked the CEC to initiate legal action against the local commission and dissolve it. He said that Bashkortostan was "a record holder with regard to the number of complaints," and added that the CEC had supported all appeals by candidates in the republic. (ITAR-TASS, 1715 GMT, 12 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1112 via World News Connection) However, whatever action the CEC takes to enforce its rulings is unlikely to have a significant impact on the next month’s results; a dissolution of the Bashkir commission would not occur before the 7 December elections. (MAYAK RADIO, 1000 GMT, 13 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1113 via World News Connection)

Of course, while Bashkortostan is getting an inordinate amount of attention, it is not the only region being scrutinized by the CEC. Nor is it the only regional authority resisting federal control. The federal agency rescinded a ruling by the local electoral commission of the Buryat single-seat constituency No. 9, which had refused to register former prosecutor-general Yuri Skuratov, as a Duma candidate on the grounds that his documentation was faulty. (ITAR-TASS, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1104 via World News Connection) Having been told to reconsider its ruling, the territorial commission declared that it had no grounds to revise its earlier decision. Skuratov reportedly plans another appeal to the CEC. (ITAR-TASS, 0755 GMT, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111 via World News Connection) Of course, each territorial commission ruling, and the subsequent appeal to the CEC, erodes further the time available for candidates to campaign.

The CEC itself can register candidates, as it has done in a few single-seat constituencies. (ITAR-TASS, 5 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1105, and ITAR-TASS, 13 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1114 via World News Connection) But it appears bound by procedure to allow regional commissions to flex their muscles, and waste time, with other candidates, before ultimately asserting its own will.

Maintaining a civilized and organized campaign also appears difficult on the national front. The recent ruling by the Constitutional Court on the amended Law on Elections is deemed to have opened the way for live televised debates between political parties. (IZVESTIYA, 31 Oct 03; FBIS-SOV-1106 via World News Connection) However, the likelihood of invigorating and informational debates is small, as the front runner, United Russia, has opted out of participating in any debate. (TRUD, 3 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1106 via World News Connection) That leaves the other 22 parties and election blocs to argue among themselves, and to rail against the frontrunner’s decision. It’s not just the parties that are disgruntled: Veshnyakov has questioned the right of a party to participate in the political process while not informing the voters of its positions. (VEDOMOSTI, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1107 via World News Connection)

United Russia’s stand is that there is no need for participation in debates because the electorate can look at the party’s record this far. The plan seems to be working: Recent polling by VTsIOM-A of 1,600 Russians indicates that United Russia has a strong lead (29%) in the race at the moment, followed by the Communist Party (23%) and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (8%). (INTERFAX, 17 Nov 03 via Johnson’s Russia List #7423) Indeed, the party is known as the "party of power" for good reason: It now includes 151 State Duma deputies, 46 senators, 1,148 deputies in legislative assemblies, and a substantial number of representatives in municipal organs. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1112 via World News Connection) Its opponents, on the other hand, have been stunned by and are furious at the party’s debatable decision; there even was a parliamentary attempt to make participation in debates mandatory. (ITAR-TASS, 1424 GMT, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111 via World News Connection) Boris Gryzlov, chairman of United Russia’s supreme council, characterized the protests as "hysterics." (ITAR-TASS, 8 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1108 via World News Connection)

In other election news, the order of appearance on the ballot for parties and blocs in federal electoral districts was determined through a lottery. The order, beginning with the number one spot, is as follows: Unification, Union of Right Forces, Russian Pensioners’ Party and the Social Justice Party electoral bloc, YABLOKO, For Holy Rus, United Russian Party "Rus," New Course-Motorists’ Russia electoral bloc, People’s Republican Party of Russia, Russian Ecology Party "Greens," Agrarian Party of Russia, True Patriots of Russia, People’s Party of the Russian Federation, Democratic Party of Russia, Great Russia-Eurasian Union electoral bloc, Union of People for Science and Education (SLON), Homeland (people’s patriotic union) electoral bloc, Party of Peace and Unity, Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, Party for the Rebirth of Russia-Russian Party of Life electoral bloc, United Russia Political Party, Russian Constitutional Democratic Party, Development of Entrepreneurship, and the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 5 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1105 via World News Connection)

A total of 2,027 candidates have been registered for single-seat constituencies, Veshnyakov reported. At least two candidates are contending for each seat; the fewest candidates (2) are in the Evenki Electoral District, while 25 are competing in the Karachay-Cherkessia Electoral District. (IZVESTIYA, 6 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1106 via World News Connection)

Meanwhile, a new survey seems to demonstrate that voter apathy is coupled with voter cynicism. Research carried out by the Institute for the Development of Electoral Systems indicated that only six to nine percent of the population believe that their participation in Russia’s political process may be effective. The majority of citizens, according to the institute, perceive that shadowy structures will determine the results of the elections. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1104 via World News Connection)

REGIONS

Drip, drip, drip

Problems with the aging, and often obsolete, heat supply infrastructure already have been discussed in earlier editions. (THE NIS OBSERVED, 5 Nov 03 and 22 Jan 03) Yet the difficulties continue. Yuri Golenishchev, mayor of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, is facing loss of parliamentary immunity and prosecution on charges of negligence and misuse of budget funds that have caused a delay in providing heat this winter. (ITAR-TASS, 0731 GMT, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111 via World News Connection)

However, all pipes do not contain heating supplies. Some carry another substance critical for survival: water. And, apparently, the water pipes are in the same shape as all others. Homes in Vladivostok, for example, are connected to the region’s water sources via worn-out pipes that are causing a substantial loss of resources. Indeed, up to 35 percent of the water pumped into the city doesn’t reach its final destination and is instead lost through cracks and holes in the pipe. The situation is such that fresh water is available in homes for four to five hours every other day; moreover, the reservoir that supplies water to the city is only 35 percent full. Unfortunately, local and regional authorities are spending more energy trying to cast the responsibility for the problem, and the repairs, on each other rather than working in a cooperative manner to seek a solution. (ITAR-TASS, 0750 GMT, 3 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1103 via World News Connection)

 

By Kate Martin (kmmartin@bu.edu)

 

~~~~~

 

ARMED FORCES

Another Dismal Draft

Twice each year, in the spring and fall, the Russian armed forces continue to induct hundreds of thousands of young men into a military still known more for its brutal hazing and corruption than for its combat prowess. While some young men in the Russian Federation show up at their induction centers willing and ready to serve, many more avoid conscription through legal exemptions and a significant number evade conscription by any means, fair or foul (their number is estimated officially at over 27,800 in Oct 03 and over 20,000 during the Spring 2003 draft). (WWW.RUSSIAJOURNAL.COM, 17 Oct 03 & CHANNEL ONE TV, 1100 GMT, 1 Oct 03; BBC Monitoring Service via Lexis-Nexis) Parents all over Russia, both of those who show up willingly and those who are escorted to the barracks by police, worry about their sons. The brutal hazing, poverty level wages and generally atrocious living conditions of the conscripts, along with the small matter of serving in Chechnya (with a higher potential to be maimed or killed because of incompetent or corrupt leadership), strikes fear into conscripts and families alike (more than 1200 conscripts have died this year in non-combat incidents; more than 3,500 die in an average year). (WWW.JAMESTOWN.ORG, "This Time We Really Mean It…," Stephen Blank, 7 Jan 03) Even after induction, many flee from the chaotic mess by deserting. Russian authorities currently are looking for over 1800 deserters. (AFP, 30 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis)

Additional statistics reveal the full measure of the problem: On 30 September, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree authorizing the induction of Russian men, between the ages of 18 and 27, into military service between 1 October and 31 December (the same decree authorized the discharge of those privates, sailors, sergeants and petty officers who have completed their terms of service). (BBC Monitoring Service, 30 Sep 03 via Lexis-Nexis) The first sign of trouble: the Russian Federal General Staff planned to draft over 213,000 men to replace those released into the reserves, but in the first weeks of the draft it was obvious that "…just 175,000 men will be joining the troops," according to Major General Viktor Kozhushko, Chief of the draft section of the General Staff’s Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate. (ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA, 16 Oct 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1017 via World News Connection) Thus the military (primarily the Army ground forces and the Navy, which rely heavily on conscripts) will be about 38,000 men, or about 18%, short of its induction goals. As an example, the heavily-populated Leningrad Military District recently completed its conscription efforts and stretched to reach 85% of its goal. (INTERFAX, 17 Nov 03 via www.militarynews.ru) Several sources have pointed out that during the early and mid-1990s, many units were even more severely understaffed. But, during that time, the military was drawing down (from 2.75 million to 1.6 million between 1992 and 1996 and down to 1.16 million as of 1 Aug 03), so a shortage of draftees was lost in the huge exodus of persons from the services. In today’s tightly-manned force, which is set to lose another 160,000 men between Aug 2003 and 2005, an 18% shortfall has a significant impact on the training and combat effectiveness of each and every unit. (RIA NOVOSTI, 2 Oct 03 via CDI Russia Weekly, #276, 3 Oct 03) Especially hard hit will be general purpose ground and naval forces, since the Space, Air Force, Airborne, Border, Security Service, and, to a lesser extent, MVD (Interior) uniformed troops tend to get the best and brightest and to be manned at the highest levels.

And if this year’s low numbers aren't bad enough, the situation is likely to deteriorate; demographic changes in the male population suggest Russia needs to make serious adjustments to the composition of its armed forces. Although many militaries in the developed world face the same challenge of declining male births, it is especially severe in Russia. While the Red Army had access to the entire Soviet population, the Russian Federation, after the USSR dissolved, retained about three-fifths of the approximately 250 million people. Many of the now independent states have populations that are growing, while Russia’s was and still is, shrinking (for many reasons including poor health care, routine abortions, a rise in AIDS, and generally poor living conditions). In fact, the ebb tide hasn’t even hit yet: in 1988, 1.25 million males were born; in 1995, the number was 700,000 and in 1999, only 600,000. Thus, beginning in 2006, the Russian military, assuming it does not adjust, will face an even greater shortage of draftees than today. (WWW.RUSSIAJOURNAL.COM, 17 Oct 03)

Another reason for the relatively small proportion of draftees is the huge number of young men who qualify for the 22 different legal deferments or waivers. There are roughly four areas for exemptions: health, family, school and jobs. The health category contains such clauses as "a temporary inability to serve" and a first or second-class disability. Family issues include: the need to take care of relatives who do not have full government support; the need to care for relatives past retirement age or those under 18; rearing a child under three; having two or more children; or being a single parent. School deferments apply for all technical and college students. And work-related deferments are numerous: teachers and doctors in rural areas; many (but not all) of those serving in the police, state fire fighting service, drug control agencies and customs agency; and college graduates who have taken full-time jobs (in their specific area of study) at any state-run organization on a special list determined by the Russian government. Each of these exemption categories may seem reasonable, but taken together, continue dramatically to reduce the manpower pool each year. (ITAR-TASS, 1 Oct 03, via Lexis-Nexis)

A third problem for the Russian military’s conscription efforts is the reduction of men available for military service due to the introduction of alternate civil service options. The Defense Ministry expects that starting in 2004, it will lose between 3,000 and 20,000 men a year to the alternative areas. (BBC Monitoring Service, 1 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis)

To complicate matters further, many of those men who are drafted and show up for service are not exactly the cream of their generation. According to Col-General Vasili Smirnov, Chief of the Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate and Deputy Chief of the General Staff, "The share of citizens with minor health problems, but fit for military service…[is] 53.4% in 2003. Last year the share was 51.2 per cent." He pointed out that those with "minor" health issues could not be sent to the Special Forces, Airborne Troops, border guard troops, Navy, or other more demanding units. Besides, he noted, 7% of the conscripts were illiterate and 22% had only a primary (elementary) or general secondary (high school) education and could not be sent to specialist or junior commander training. And, in numbers roughly similar to the past, 5% had criminal records, 2% are on a police register and 21% were brought up without parents or in single parent families. (ITAR-TASS, 0752GMT, 1 Oct 03; BBC Monitoring Service via Lexis-Nexis & WWW.RUSSIAJOURNAL.COM, 17 Oct 02)

Overall, the decline in military manpower is obvious when one realizes that only 10.3% of Russian citizens eligible for the draft will be conscripted, compared to 11.2% in 2002 and 27% in 1994. (Interfax-AVN military news web site; BBC Monitoring Service, 1 Oct 03 via Lexis-Nexis) The decline in quality is equally striking when one looks at the dearth of men who are healthy, well-educated and have no criminal record. One can readily see how a poorly-led force manned with such troops has had so much trouble in Chechnya. The question is: have the Russian military and/or government stood still or are they working on solutions?

 

By Lt Col Kris Beasley, USAF (beaz@bu.edu)

The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Dept of Defense or the United States government.

~~~~~

 

NAVY

Arms sales, cooperation...alliance or reliance?

As the long-standing cash crop of the former Soviet Union and of Russia today, arms sales continue to function as a cornerstone of the foreign policy apparatus. So much so that, at a meeting of a military commission in the Kremlin on 04 November, President Putin boasted that "Russia sold more than $3 billion in arms during the first seven months of the year." (RFE/RL Newsline Vol. 7, No. 210, Part 1 05 November 2002). Reminiscent of Soviet expansionist movements into the Third World during the Khrushchev/Brezhnev regimes, Russia continues to view the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a ready market for Russian military hardware and personnel. Some feel that the bolstering of arms sales in the CIS can be rationalized on purely economic grounds. Others may argue that arms sales paint a more complex picture; one that not only forges alliances within the CIS but also creates long-standing relationships of dependence on Russia, providing Moscow with leverage. For the proponents of dependency relationships, Russian history has proven time and time again that regional influence can be wielded with the injection of weaponry if diplomacy or ideology fail to supply the requisite outcome.

However, these considerations are equally relevant for traditional Soviet dependencies beyond the CIS. As reported in recent issues of the NIS OBSERVED, an amalgam of efforts to regain "lost ground" within the former Soviet sphere of influence is taking shape. Increased naval deployments to the Indian Ocean and to the Mediterranean, port visits, the multi-national Pacific Fleet military exercise, military exercises with the French submarine fleet and with regional "partners" within the CIS, as well as the formation of Russian bases within the CIS clearly attest to resurgent forces within the Kremlin to resurrect Russian regional influence. In addition, economic and infrastructure initiatives to monopolize electrical power distribution to/within Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan further strengthen Russian hegemony. Components of the new military doctrine once again emphatically assert Russia's right to use military force to protect "state interests" within the former Soviet republics. Complicating Russian aims of expanding its sphere of influence within the CIS are pan-European entities, E.U. expansion and the presence of U.S. forces operating in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov recently stated that "next year, Russia will start to deliver military products to member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) at preferential domestic prices [and] Russian military products cannot be re-exported from CSTO members to third countries, while Russia retains the right to check without prior notification the presence of military products delivered under the preferential regime." (KABAR NEWS AGENCY, 13 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1113 via World News Connection) The preferential price is not new but the explicit stipulation that arms sales to CIS states contain elements of Russian control constitutes a departure.

Similarly, recent contacts between Defense Minister Ivanov and his Armenian counterpart, Serge Sarkisian, have resulted in a package of signed agreements to enhance Russia's 102nd military base at Gyumri as well as future military cooperation and exercises. Ivanov noted that "Armenia is Russia's strategic partner in the Caucasus and the sole country affiliated with the Collective Security Treaty Organization that has a common border with a NATO member country." (ITAR-TASS, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111 via World News Connection). With 3,000 troops already present in Armenia (and reported to be expanding to 5,000), Russia has developed a strong alliance with Armenia. As Ivanov noted, "Russian military presence in Armenia, the number of Russian troops and modern weapons rule out any threat to Armenia whoever may pose it." (MEDIAMAX, 22 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111)

Reflecting on the stark language contained in Russia's new military doctrine and Russian claims that NATO's doctrine is "offensive" in nature (and warrants, therefore, a more "offensive" response from Russia), it's unclear whether the growing presence and entrenchment of Russian troops in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan (as well as other CIS republics) can be understood best within a purely "alliance" framework or spills over into the broader, more dependent "reliance" framework whereby Armenia and other CSTO member states do not venture to explore possibilities presented by the E.U. and NATO (just across the border).

 

By Paul J. Lyons (pjlyons@bu.edu)

 

NEWLY INDEPENDENT STATES

WESTERN REGIONS

BELARUS

Time to change strategy

Belarussian President Alexandr Lukashenka has not ruled out the possibility of participating in the next presidential elections, which are scheduled for 2006. (INTERFAX-UKRAINE 7 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) Indeed, it seems that he has already started preparing for them. It would be wrong to assume that the President has attempted to build a strategy aimed at winning the support of the Belarussian electorate by, for example, presenting a forward-looking plan to improve the country's economic performance and standard of living. Nor is it likely he would take the more certain route of appealing to the population's nationalistic sentiments by, for example, putting even more effort into encouraging anti-Russian sentiment.

No. The President resorted instead to attacking those he perceives as foes, or as roadblocks to his own election: Opposition forces, such as they are; NGOs; and even the mass media. The Belarussian authorities closed down more than a dozen non-governmental organizations in the past couple of months, most of them concerned with promoting democracy in Belarus and monitoring human rights violations. Among the eliminated organizations were Youth Christian Social Union, Ratusha, Vyasna, Civil Initiatives, the Association for Legal Assistance to the Population and many others. (RFE/RL, 4 Nov 03) The pretext for liquidating these organizations often consists of a cosmetic and insignificant technical violation, such as a wrong address, an incorrect stamp or a wrong letterhead.

Control of the media ranks high on Lukashenka's agenda. The last possibility to obtain some objective information, the internet, now is also under the governmental control. The recent draft media law has classified the internet as a mass-media source and the rule of "two violations" (all that is needed to close an organization down) now applies to internet publications as well as other traditional outlets.

Attacking the opposition is yet another way in which Lukashenka is hoping to smooth his way to Presidential victory. The Belarussian opposition has been weak for several years. Opposition parties have no seats in parliament because of a boycott of the last general elections. Their support in rural areas also is weak as they have no forum through which to establish a presence. "Rural districts are barely covered at all," said the UCP leader Anatoli Lebedko, "And in many cases, these [opposition] people are not able to put any real competition to the candidates put forward by the authorities." (IWPR BELARUS REPORTING SERVICE, 5 Nov 03)

Recently, however, there has been an attempt to unite the opposition parties in order to better their chances of winning seats at the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for October 2004. They have formed a new pro-European alliance, the European Coalition Free Belarus, led by Mikhail Stankevich, the leader of the Belarussian Social Democratic party. In addition to Stankevich's party, the coalition will include the Belarussian Women's Party Hope, the Youth Front and over 20 other organizations. "The goal of this coalition is very noble, to give a European future to our people," said Stankevich. (RFE/RL, 4 Nov 03)

If the opposition manages to get its message through to the population and if the next parliamentary elections are conducted fairly, Belarus might have a small chance to rid itself of Lukashenka's dictatorial regime. But with his all-embracing power, it will be extremely difficult for the opposition to win on its own. There has to be strong support from the West in general and from the European Union, to which the new coalition is aspiring, in particular. A change of strategy needs to take place in the West's relations with Belarus. It is becoming clear that Western tactics of isolating Belarus have been fruitless. On the contrary, Lukashenka has been able to paint the E.U., U.S., NATO and the West in general as enemies. The closure of mass-media sources and NGOs often are projected as part of a war against Western propaganda.

After Lukashenka embarked on his route to authoritarian rule by reforming the 1994 constitution, concentrating power heavily in the Presidency, E.U.-Belarussian relations greatly deteriorated. The European Union has halted all member states' technical assistance to Belarus. Belarus is the only European successor state of the former Soviet Union without a ratified Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The E.U.'s efforts in promoting democracy in Belarus have concentrated largely on pressuring the current authorities to cede some power rather than to give substantial support to the opposition.

By continuing to isolate Belarus and by recognizing Lukashenka's likely 'victory' in the next Presidential elections, the West is both forsaking Belarussians and also endangering itself: It will, after all, have common borders with this dictatorship when new members join in 2004 (Poland, Lithuania, Latvia). The question of how to balance cooperation with Belarus and simultaneous condemnation of Lukashenka's regime presents difficulties, but the E.U. needs to develop a more flexible policy, before Lukashenka's reelection restricts its options further.

UKRAINE

Assault on the opposition

Ukrainian authorities are wasting no time in dealing with the potential opposition threat in the October 2004 presidential election. Two recent attacks in particular have evoked strong reactions both from the European Union and the U.S.

On October 31, Yushchenko's opposition party, Our Ukraine, was prevented from holding its congress in the city of Donates allegedly because of specific orders by the authorities to prevent the congress from taking place. Yushchenko was met in Donetsk with billboards depicting him in a Nazi uniform and giving a Nazi salute. The anti-Yushchenko protesters consisted primarily of young people, who were allegedly provided by street venders with free beer and vodka. The vendors, in turn, were threatened with the loss of their prime locations had they failed to appear at the anti-Yushchenko rally.

Another disruption of opposition activities took place in Sumy (northeastern Ukraine) on November 9, 2003. The Our Ukraine block was forced to hold its convention on Independence Square, since the party had not been provided with a venue for its meeting. During Yushchenko's speech, some persons started throwing firecrackers at the speaker. The police, of course, made no effort to restrain them. (INTERFAX-UKRAINE NEWS AGENCY, 9 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis)

The source of the disruptions is still disputed. The authorities continue to deny their involvement in these incidents, explaining them as the predictable hostility of predominantly Russian-speaking crowds in the eastern regions of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk, etc. to the "Ukrainian nationalists." The opposition, however, says that this was not spontaneous and involves the presidential administration in Kiev, which planned and ordered the disruptions. (SVOBODA, 4 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) Yushchenko announced that he had been given copies of secret Presidential instructions to the heads of local administrations, which outlined proposed actions for authorities at Our Ukraine gatherings. Some of these directions were: "Participation in the forum of famous regional political and public figures…should be prevented;" "When determining a site for the forum, preference should be given to venues with fewer seats and to venues far from the city center;" "…form a group made up of active citizen-opponents of Yushchenko and his block and critical journalists;" " Prepare questions for the forum to be addressed to Yushchenko (a tentative list was attached) and instruct the persons who will ask the questions accordingly." (SVOBODA, 4 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) In addition to the disruption of his political rallies, Yushchenko and his family have received numerous death threats, which, he claims, were ordered by the authorities.

Presidential concern over the strength of the opposition may be well-founded. Yushchenko's block is the most popular political organization in the country. According to a recent poll conducted by the Ukrainian Institute for Social Studies (with a sample of 2,053 persons), if the election were held at the time of the poll, 21 percent of Ukrainians would have voted for Yushchenko, and 14 percent for the Communist party of Ukraine. If Yushchenko and the Community Party leader Yanukovich were to go through to the second round, 40 percent would vote for Yushchenko and 21 for the latter. (INTERFAX-UKRAINE 5 Nov 03; BBC Monitoring via Lexis-Nexis) Needless to say, it is not in Kuchma's interest to welcome an heir who would not assure him a comfortable life after his time in office is over. Hence, all the effort….

 

 

By Elena Selyuk (eselyuk@bu.edu)

 

~~~~~

 

CAUCASUS

GEORGIA

Shevardnadze’s juggling act

The recent crisis in Georgia over the 2 November parliamentary election results has polarized the political arena into the pro-presidential New Georgia bloc, now allied with Adjarian leader Aslan Abashidze, and a motley oppositional coalition comprised of the National Movement and the Burdjanadze-Democrats, led by Mikhail Saakashvili, Nino Burdjanadze and Zurab Zhvania. The recent controversy arose from the markedly disparate preliminary vote tabulations calculated by the Georgian Central Election Commission (CEC), the Georgian NGO Fair Elections, and Global Strategy, a U.S. firm. According to CEC tabulations, the pro-government For a New Georgia bloc received 26.7 percent of the vote, while the Fair Elections count says the bloc received 18.9 percent. The difference is crucial in determining whether political allies of President Eduard Shevardnadze can retain control of parliament. However, there are many polling stations throughout the country in which results have been nullified and where repeat voting is to be held on 16 November. Additionally, the CEC has decided that the second round of voting in Georgia's parliamentary elections is to be held on 23 November. The first round poll results, confirmed on 21 November, show Shevardnadze's bloc winning with a 21% share; the Revival party at 18.8%; and the opposition National Movement with 18%. Protests continue despite the electoral decision. (newsrote.bbc.co.uk, 21 Nov 03)

The opposition parties have managed to combine popular anger over both the incompetent, and likely fraudulent, electoral process and the growing civil unrest due to the depressed economic situation so as to create a political standoff with President Shevardnadze. As a result, non-violent protests over the past two weeks threaten to cripple Georgia's infrastructure as hospital workers, teachers and school administrators plan to strike as of 15 November, and teachers, garbage collectors, janitors, and doctors threaten to strike as of 17 November. (SARKE-DAILY News, 10 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases) In the resulting political chaos, the U.S. gave little aid to Shevardnadze’s government as indicated by Ambassador Richard Miles’ lack of willingness or ability to act as a mediator. (BBC Monitoring, 11 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases) Russian sentiments, although potentially duplicitous, were more congenial when President Putin called Shevardnadze on 9 November and pledged "his support" for the continuation of Shevardnadze’s government. (SARKE-DAILY, 9 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases)

In an attempt to remain true to his aim of preserving Georgian independence while avoiding regime change, which would likely create greater political chaos, Shevardnadze aligned the pro-presidential For a New Georgia bloc with the pro-Moscow Adjarian party, led by Aslan Abashidze on 10 November. (BBC Monitoring, 10 Nov 03 via Lexis-Nexis) Through this union, Shevardnadze has, thus far, avoided total political isolation, taken steps to forge a future working parliamentary structure, and also indicated to Moscow a slight shift in Georgia’s formerly frigid stance toward Moscow. Through Abashidze, operating in the capacity of Shevardnadze’s envoy, Shevardnadze’s political integrity, and hence Georgian territorial integrity, has been acknowledged, thus far, by Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani governments. This is evidenced by Abashidze’s recent shuttle diplomacy meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev of 12 November (ITAR-TASS, 14 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases), followed by a visit with Armenian President Robert Kocharyan on 13 November (BBC Monitoring, 14 Nov 03 via Lexis-Nexis), and finally a personal meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on 14 November (FINANCIAL TIMES, 15 Nov 03 via Lexis-Nexis); all of which culminated in direct verbal reassurances to President Shevardnadze from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia for the maintenance of Georgian territorial cohesion and stability- at least temporarily. (BBC Monitoring, 11 Nov 03 via LexisNexisLexis-Nexis; and SARKE-DAILY, 12 Nov 03; What the Papers Say via ISI Emerging Databases; and BBC Monitoring, 15 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases)

Ironically, Moscow's stated intentions to respect Georgian integrity may have robbed Georgia of full territorial reunification with the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia. It is ominous to juxtapose statements by both Russia's First Deputy Foreign Minister Valeri Loshchinin and Aslan Abashidze, immediately following Abashidze’s conference with Foreign Minster Ivanov. Loshchinin gave assurances that a solution to the Abkhaz situation "would occur in the very near future," while Abashidze stated that Abkhazia had been discussed and that the political chaos in Georgia had not provided a strong negotiating stance for any Georgian parliament as far as the Abkhaz controversy was concerned. (BBC Monitoring, 15 Nov 03 via Lexis-Nexis)

Indeed, Shevardnadze knows not to take seriously Russian assurances of Georgian territorial integrity. In a recent statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian and Georgian military experts on 12-13 November in Moscow had finally confirmed Russian readiness to withdraw from Russian military bases in Akhalkalaki (Samtskhe-Javakheti region) and Batumi (Adjaria region). (BBC Monitoring, 14 Nov 03 via ISI Emerging Databases) At present, Moscow also operates the Gudauta base in Abkhazia and is in the process of negotiating its shutdown process with Georgia as ordered by the 1999 OSCE accords. (Sarke-Daily, 14 Nov, 03; via ISI Emerging Databases) Unfortunately, as far as the Batumi and Akhalkalaki bases are concerned, Georgia will have to be satisfied with assurances of Russian stated intentions to withdraw from Georgian soil, without the force of an OSCE agreement to ensure implementation.

In the midst of these domestic and external pressures, Shevardnadze has attempted to steer Georgia on a course that may guarantee that it retains a degree of independence in a region marked by growing Russian influence and an international scene of faltering U.S. support. As of yet, Shevardnadze has not dropped the ball but his is a juggling act becoming increasingly difficult to maintain.

 

By Ariela Shapiro (ariels@bu.edu)

 

CENTRAL ASIA

Indian Influence and Censorship

The Indian subcontinent has long been an actor in Central Asia. The prosperity of the old Silk Road was due in part to trade between the two regions, and during the Great Game it was the staging area from which Britain sought to trump Russia's influence in Central Asia. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan have been quick with business initiatives there. India, however, has sought only recently to engage itself in Central Asia; high level visits of representatives from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan indicate an interest in developing trade and defense cooperation between the regions.

Prior to his visit to Tajikistan, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee expressed his desire to work more comprehensively with Central Asia on the economic front. Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev met with Vajpayee and Indian President Abdul Kalam on a recent visit to India, wherein ways to bolster cooperation were discussed. Specific areas of cooperation included tourism, information technology, business development, mining and processing industries, as well as regional cooperation against terrorism. (KABAR, 1232 GMT, 10 Nov 03; FBIS-NES-2003-1108 via World News Connection)

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha spoke in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, of India’s desire to capitalize on the energy resources of the region. Commenting on ongoing Indian projects, ranging from fruit processing plants in Tajikistan to industrial training centers in Turkmenistan, Sinha said that India wanted to "participate and develop the energy infrastructure in the region," including the construction of new pipelines and oil refineries. (THE PIONEER, 8 Nov 03; FBIS-NES-2003-1108 via World News Connection)

But India’s interest in the region focuses not only on the exploitation of the energy market. During his visit to Uzbekistan, Sinha also met with Uzbek Defense Minister Qodir Ghulomov to discuss India’s possible purchase of Uzbek manufactured Il-76M military transport planes. (ITAR-TASS, 0414 GMT, 6 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1106 via World News Connection) Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes led a delegation to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, partially for purposes of weapons procurement and discussing joint training initiatives as well as research and development related to naval armaments and thermal torpedoes, but the main purpose was strategic. As one Indian defense ministry official put it, "The visit is not that significant in terms of defense procurements.… The accent is on building strategic space for India in that region and to encircle Pakistan." (THE PIONEER, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-NES-2003-1111; THE ASIAN AGE, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-NES-2003-1104 via World News Connection) India is well aware of Pakistan’s influence in the region and any form of outreach clearly has both direct and indirect implications for relations with Pakistan.

Over the past fortnight, India has been joined by other countries aiming to win favor in Central Asia. Iran and Kyrgyzstan have agreed to raise annual trade exchanges to $200 million and next month Kyrgyz President Akayev will visit Iran to discuss political, economic and cultural areas of cooperation. (IRNA, 1046 GMT, 9 Nov 03; FIBS-NES-2003-1109 via World News Connection) And while Greek and Kyrgyz parliamentarians discussed areas of beneficial cooperation, government ministers from Egypt and Uzbekistan met to discuss economic, scientific and technical cooperation. (ATHENS NEWS AGENCY, 1809 GMT, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-WEU-2003-1104; MENA, 1627 GMT, 4 Nov 03; FBIS-NES-2003-1104 via World News Connection)

While the governments of Central Asia strive to make favorable impressions on countries with an interest in the region, efforts to control media and the image of the state continue unabated. Despite the official abolition of media censorship, Uzbekistan continues actively to monitor its mass media. (ITAR-TASS, 1017 GMT, 11 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1111 via World News Connection) Kazakhstan’s parliament is considering a draft of legislation that some opponents view as the legitimation of the state’s crackdown on free speech. (RFE/RL CENTRAL ASIA REPORT, 7 Nov 03 via www.rferl.org)

In addition to the crackdown on media, freedom of religion and religious expression have also suffered. The Turkmen parliament recently passed a law that recognizes the historical importance of Islam to the Turkmen people but bans "any form of religious fanaticism, extremism and any actions aimed at confrontation and aggravation of relations that may spark hostility between different religious organizations in the country." (ITAR-TASS, 1451 GMT, 10 Nov 03; FBIS-SOV-2003-1110 via World News Connection) And while Kyrgyzstan has not formally taken up legislation impeding the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of faith, government policies are seen to privilege Islam and Orthodox Christianity while at the same time create barriers to worshipers of other religious movements. (TIMES OF CENTRAL ASIA, 31 Oct 03 via www.times.kg)

All of this is aimed at controlling both the population and the image of the country. In the end, however, it has little impact on countries seeking to gain influence and preferential trade deals in Central Asia. Rather, relations between countries are more pragmatically associated with trade economics and regional security.

By David W. Montgomery (dwm@bu.edu)

~~~~~


 About Us Staff Contact Boston University
&E