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Russia Report: May 5, 2004

5 May 2004, Volume 4, Number 17
By Victor Yasmann

The 1 May expansion of the EU to include 10 new members -- eight of which are either former Soviet republics or former Soviet satellite states -- opens a new era in Russia's relations with the rest of greater Europe. Naturally, Russians do not share the Euro-enthusiasm of the Central and Eastern Europeans, both those who have already become citizens of a united Europe and those that aspire to do so.

This represents something of a shift in Russian attitudes. Back in the 1990s, when Russia first signed its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the EU, the general implication was that Russia would slowly but steadily move toward greater integration with Europe. Now, both the public and the Russian political elite seem to have changed their minds about Europe. A national ROMIR-Monitoring poll of 1,600 Russians conducted last month found that 43 percent of respondents said they do not care about EU expansion, even about the fact that the Baltic states were scheduled to become EU members, RIA-Novosti reported on 29 April. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they viewed EU expansion negatively, while 24 percent viewed it positively. By comparison, about 60 percent of those surveyed had a negative view of NATO expansion.

The Russian political elite has even more definite views about the EU, clearly feeling that eventual Russian membership of the organization is neither possible nor desirable. "The consensus is that the present political course of [President] Vladimir Putin, which is supported by a majority of the population, excludes the possibility of integration into the EU, because Russia is not prepared to sacrifice part of its sovereignty, adopt European legislation, or make human rights a priority," "Russia In Global Policy" Editor in Chief Fedor Lukyanov told "Izvestiya" on 27 April.

Both Moscow and Brussels feel that the model of relations between Russia and the EU that emerged a decade ago must be re-envisioned. "Now it is obvious that the two sides represent two different political and economic systems, and the vector of Russia's development is not the one that was expected at the dawn of Russian democracy," Lukyanov said.

Lukyanov outlines at least two areas of potential conflict that could emerge as a result of EU enlargement. First, Lukyanov noted that the EU takes seriously concepts such as the rule of law, human rights, and social justice and, therefore, it cannot help but react negatively to some antidemocratic developments in Russia's emerging "authoritarian modernization." Even if EU officials were willing to turn a blind eye to such things as Chechnya and various espionage and oligarch trials, European public opinion and legislatures would not allow them to do so for long. The EU membership of the Baltic states and the former Soviet satellites -- which are still particularly sensitive to Russia's behavior -- would only make it more difficult for the organization to ignore such issues.

The second area of potential conflict, according to Lukyanov, is the increased interest of the enlarged EU in such countries as Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, which the EU has begun calling its "new neighbors." Moscow has more or less openly stated its intention of restoring its dominance of the territory of the former Soviet Union, excluding the Baltic states. One such conflict already emerged last November, when Russia unilaterally proposed a settlement of the Transdniester conflict in Moldova, to which the EU objected. Further conflicts seem inevitable as Russia turns its attention to Ukraine's November presidential election (see and as the Kremlin proceeds with the implementation of the Single Economic Space.

Lukyanov also emphasized that the problems associated with the EU's absorption of the new members and other issues will prevent the organization from concentrating on its relations with Russia. Moreover, as Moscow Center for Political Studies analyst Dmitrii Yevstafev noted, Moscow and the EU do not have any shared experience resolving serious conflicts, such as Russia and the United States developed over the decades of the Cold War and during the post-Soviet period, "Ekspert," No. 17, reported. Moscow and Washington, he argued, managed to develop a unique political culture that was generally even tempered and restrained.

Moscow and Brussels have no such culture. "Today, even American Russophobes do not say about Russia even 10 percent [of the negative remarks] made by European moderates," Yevstafev said. "The problem is that we are responding in kind and saying the same things about Europe."

In addition to the bilateral issues mentioned above, it cannot be forgotten that there is a vast economic disparity between Russia and the EU. The union is now the largest free market in the world, while Russia's unstable economy remains heavily dependent on oil exports and other external factors. Before enlargement, trade with the EU accounted for 46 percent of Russia's foreign-trade turnover, "Izvestiya" reported on 24 February. After enlargement, that figure will be 54 percent. By comparison, Russia's share of the EU's total trade volume -- excluding energy -- is just 4 percent. In political terms, this disproportion gives the EU considerable leverage in its dealings with Moscow.

Perhaps as a means of compensating for its weak position vis a vis Brussels, the Kremlin has been cultivating its bilateral ties with the key countries of "old Europe" in recent years. Putin enjoys "special personal relations" with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac.

Russia's relationships with European countries are usually more pragmatic than ideological. In the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March, Moscow sided with Berlin and Paris in opposing military action. However, this came precisely when Moscow needed German and French support in its long negotiations with the EU over the status of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad Oblast, and the United States rightly recognized this factor and did not unnecessarily antagonize Moscow over Iraq.

Russia's various flirtations with old Europe irritate the European Commission, which is concerned with the unity of the EU. Lukyanov referred to the words of Frits Bolkenstein, EU commissioner for Internal Markets, Taxation, and Customs Union issues, who criticized Berlusconi for "promising Putin EU membership on his own initiative." "This is shortsighted," Bolkenstein said. "We should not be shy about saying that there are borders to the EU and that we should not encourage hopes that we can never meet." On 3 May, European Commission President Romano Prodi said virtually the same thing, stressing that although the EU wants to cooperate with Russia and other CIS members, they will never become EU members, Russian and Western media reported.

Yevstafev also raised another point regarding Russia's relations with the EU. The union's joint projects and plans with Russia were all developed when Russia was economically weak and politically diminished. At that time, Russia was viewed -- at best -- as a market for agricultural goods. Now, the EU is struggling to come to terms with a politically ambitious and economically recovering Russia because the union simply has nothing of interest to offer Moscow, Yevstafev said.

It is remarkable that Yevstafev's commentary was published by "Ekspert," an upscale weekly that maintains a somewhat liberal, but ultimately Kremlin-friendly editorial line. The weekly is part of the financial-industrial empire of Interros holding company CEO Vladimir Potanin, who is a Putin loyalist. Yevstafiev's views are more in line with those of the nationalist-statist camp, which once had the dream of forming a pan-European bloc embracing Russia and old Europe to counterbalance the United States. Author Maksim Kalashnikov is a representative of the so-called national-revanche school who is known as "the Russian Tom Clancy" and who has long advocated the restoration of Russia's military might.

In his best-selling 2003 book, "The Wrath of Ork," Kalashnikov wrote that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the purveyors of Eurasianism -- particularly Eurasia party leader Aleksandr Dugin (see -- believed that it would be possible to manipulate rising anti-American sentiment in Europe, particularly in Germany. They argued that Russia and Europe could form a transcontinental bloc to counter the naval power of the United States and the United Kingdom.

Under this scenario, Europe should actively invest in Russia in order to unite its technological advantages and capital with Russia's natural resources, its remaining military-industrial complex, and its space technology. But now these dreams seem almost quaint. "Europe simply does not need Russia as it is now," Kalashnikov wrote. Even investment in Russia's energy sector is much less attractive than opportunities in Kazakhstan, Libya, Iraq, or Vietnam, he added. In addition, Europe -- mainly Germany -- gave huge state and commercial loans to the modernize the Soviet economy, but that money was largely wasted, and now Russia owes Germany billions of dollars. Obviously, all the earlier illusions are gone.

Taking into consideration Russia's enormous size and the difficulties that have been encountered in Germany's incorporation of the former East Germany, German politicians and bankers are convinced that Russia could bankrupt the country. "They don't give a damn about Eurasianism and continental brotherhood," Kalashnikov wrote.

"Previously, Europe saw Russia as a terrible bear, whose existence enabled Europe to get some benefits from the United States. Now that bear is feeble, but it still wants to eat and that poses a serious problem for Europe," he concluded.

The actual situation is not as dramatic as Kalashnikov depicts it. However the new cohabitation of Russia and the EU has so far produced more questions than answers, and the future seems problematic.

In a year when Russian politics have been characterized more by public ritual than open struggle, the Agrarian Party congress held this week presented a sharp contrast: Party leader Mikhail Lapshin was actually unseated after more than a decade at the helm. The Communist Party's congress scheduled for June promises to be equally stormy, as leader Gennadii Zyuganov might well be ousted too.

The future for the Agrarian Party is likely to offer less drama, as it is now expected to toe a line more congenial to the Kremlin.

Lapshin's ouster had been predicted for some weeks before the 28 April congress, but Lapshin, 69, promised not go without a fight. Prior to the congress, he publicly blamed party Deputy Chairman and chief financial sponsor Aleksei Chepa for the party's appalling financial state (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 April 2004).

In his address to the congress, Lapshin took full responsibility for the party's poor performance in the 7 December State Duma elections, in which the party received only 3.6 percent of the vote, "Vremya novostei" reported on 29 April. But he swept aside accusations that the party had spent vast sums of money -- some $20 million -- during the campaign. "If we had had such money, we would not only have entered the Duma, but would have flown to outer space," Lapshin said. He argued that his successor should be selected from among worthy people, not from "those who have no relationship to the party other than financial" -- an obvious slap at Chepa. He offered to remain in his post until December so that the candidates to succeed him could be exhaustively vetted.

Lapshin's arguments failed to win the day. Two hundred twenty-six delegates voted to elect State Duma Deputy Vladimir Plotnikov (Unified Russia) as their new leader, while only 185 supported Lapshin. Plotnikov is deputy chairman of the Duma's Agriculture Committee, and he managed to win because both Chepa and State Duma Deputy Nikolai Kharitonov (Communist), a longtime rival of Lapshin's, refrained from entering the race and endorsed Plotnikov, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 29 April. Plotnikov was also supported by Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeev, who was a member of the Agrarian Party's Central Committee until May 2003.

The conflict between Lapshin and Kharitonov first flared openly in 1999, when the party's Central Committee voted to join an election bloc with Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov's Fatherland-All Russia, instead of with its traditional partner, the Communist Party (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 November 2003). In May 2003, Kharitonov, who was then party co-chairman, was ousted, and Gordeev was removed from the party's leadership. At that time, Gordeev was already a member of Unified Russia's Supreme Council, and in December 2003, Kharitonov ran in the No. 3 slot on the Communist Party's party list in the Duma race.

At a 29 April press conference, newly installed Agrarian Party leader Plotnikov pledged to cooperate with other agrarian movements, such as the Agro-Industrial Union headed by Communist Governor of Tula Oblast Vasilii Starodubtsev, and the Russian Agrarian Movement, which is headed by Gordeev. The Russian Agrarian Movement is considered moderate and pro-Kremlin. Chepa expressed the opinion that Plotnikov's election is the first step along the path of "consolidating Russia's agrarian movements."

While consolidation might help mend the divisions in the movement that contributed to the decline in the party's influence since its peak in the early 1990s, the party also has some work to do to persuade the public that it represents the interests of farmers. A survey of 800 rural households conducted during 2001 in five regions of Russia -- Belgorod, Krasnodar, Volgograd, and Novgorod oblasts, and the Chavash Republic -- asked, "Which party best represents your interests?" The overwhelming response was that no party does (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 27 November 2003).

Meanwhile, the Agrarian Party's competitors can capitalize on the impression that the party represents the interests of new, large landowners rather than those of farmers. In an interview with "Kommersant-Daily" on 27 April, Aleksandr Prokhanov, editor in chief of "Zavtra" and a leading leftist ideologist, told the daily that the Agrarians "do not defend the interests of farmers, whose situation is worsening." "Some farmers are located outside of the social [hierarchy]," Prokhanov said, "but others have been turned into slaves of the new latifundistas. The new latifundistas are [part of] the elite of the party, and such a party should simply die."

Former Duma Deputy and Republican Party co-Chairman Vladimir Lysenko echoed Prokhanov's assessment. "A peasants' party will always exist in Russia, and I believe that the Agrarian Party has a right to exist," Lysenko said. "And their credo, in my opinion, should be 'land for the peasants.' But this party now cannot [uphold] such a credo, because it expresses the interests not of farmers, but of latifundistas." (Julie A. Corwin)

The Duma approved on 29 April a bill on the management of the military, Russian media reported. The bill amending the law on defense was approved in its first reading, with 424 votes in favor and one against, Interfax reported. If adopted, the bill will significantly reduce the role of the General Staff in managing the operations of the Russian armed forces. The draft stipulates that the defense minister, working through the Defense Ministry, exercises control over the armed forces. According to, under Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov's plan for reforming military administration, the General Staff will become the "brain" of the army, an "intellectual center for the military-administration system." The website also reported that Ivanov has clashed repeatedly with General Staff chief General Anatolii Kvashnin since Ivanov took over the Defense Ministry. Kvashnin, who was a close associate of former President Boris Yeltsin, also had public conflicts with former Defense Minister Igor Sergeev. JAC

Also on 29 April, legislators approved in their first reading amendments to the law on government, Russian media reported. The bill, which was sponsored by the presidential administration, was supported by 425 legislators, with one vote against, RIA-Novosti reported. Presidential envoy to the State Duma Aleksandr Kosopkin explained that the bill gives the government the right to redistribute functions within executive bodies during reforms of government structure. It also updates legislation to reflect the new names of various federal agencies. The Duma's next plenary session will be on 12 May. JAC

A 15-member commission to investigate corruption within the Duma will begin work soon, "Rossiiskaya gazeta" reported on 29 April (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 April 2004). Among the issues the commission is expected to probe is lobbying by large corporations that have allegedly purchased influence by financing legislators' election campaigns. The case of former Duma Deputy Leonid Maevskii (Communist), who purchased a 25.1 percent stake in the mobile-phone company Megafon while he was chairman of the Duma Communications and Information Subcommittee, is one example of the activities the commission will examine, according to the daily. Unified Russia faction deputy head Mikhail Bugera recently sent an inquiry about Maevskii to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the daily reported. Maevskii was expelled from the Communist Party faction last year after charging that self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii was financing the party in full (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 November 2003). JAC

IN: Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov appointed 10 assistants on 28 April. They are former Labor Minister Aleksandr Pochinok, former Education Minister Vladimir Filippov, former Transportation Minister Sergei Frank, former Tax Minister Gennadii Bukaev, former director of the government secretariat Aleksandr Rybas, former State Statistics Committee Deputy Chairman Sergei Kolesnikov, former prime minister's secretariat official Sergei Vinokurov, government Financial Markets Department Director Vladimir Milovidov, Army General Andrei Nikolaev, and former deputy director of the prime minister's secretariat Boris Frenkel.

PROMOTED: Sergei Chemezov, former Rosoboroneksport deputy general director, has been named general director of the state-controlled weapons-export agency, Russian media reported on 28 April. Former Rosoboronoeksport General Director Andrei Belyaninov was named director of the Federal Defense Procurement Service last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 April 2004).

SHIFTED: Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma has signed an order appointing former Russian Security Council Secretary and former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo as CIS executive secretary, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 29 April. Kuchma is currently the head of the CIS Heads of States Council. Rushailo replaces Yurii Yarov, who was named executive secretary after then-President Boris Yeltsin dismissed Boris Berezovskii in 1999 from his position as Security Council deputy secretary and CIS executive secretary.

OUT: Prime Minister Fradkov signed an order on 27 April dismissing more members of the government, RIA-Novosti reported. Nine deputy ministers were relieved of their posts: Deputy Transportation and Communications Ministers Karl Ruppel and Aleksandr Kolik, Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Ministers Vladimir Malyshev and Valerii Govorukhin, First Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Minister Aleksandr Golutva, Deputy Agriculture Ministers Belan Khamchiev and Aleksandr Antonets, Deputy Culture and Mass Communications Minister Andrei Romanchenko, and Deputy Natural Resources Minister Kirill Yankov, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 28 April.

OUT: Federation Council representative Ivan Starikov has been hospitalized in serious condition after a heart attack, RIA-Novosti reported on 27 April. Starikov had been planning to hold a press conference on 27 April to announce his resignation from the Federation Council to protest agricultural policies, according to the agency. Starikov, who is a member of the Union of Rightist Forces, represents the administration of Kostroma Oblast Governor Viktor Shershunov, who reportedly wanted to replace Starikov with a former agriculture minister.

9 May: Date by which a decree elaborating functions of newly restructured ministries will be adopted and departmental statutes will be ratified, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zhukov on 16 March

10 May: Victory Day holiday observed

12 May: Six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear-weapons program will be held in Beijing

12-13 May: Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick in Paris for bilateral talks on Russian accession to the World Trade Organization

13 May: The Naro-Fominskii court will reopen hearings of the trial of Tamara Rokhlina, who is accused of the 1998 murder of her husband, State Duma Deputy Lev Rokhlin

14-28 May: Metropolitan Lazarus, head of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad, will visit Russia, according to Interfax

19 May: President Putin will meet with the leaders of business associations, such as the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Opora Russii, and Delovaya Rossiya

19 May: Agrarian Party must settle its financial accounts with the Central Election Commission or face a ban on political activity

20-21 May: Conference of mayors of European and Russian mining towns to be held in Rostov

21 May: Russia-EU summit will be held in Moscow

21 May: Women's world chess championship will be held in Elista, Kalmykia

30 May: Date by which prosecutors must either complete their criminal investigation of former Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii or ask a Moscow court to extend his period of pretrial detention

June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization will meet in Tashkent

June: Tentatively scheduled for President Putin to give his annual address to the Federal Assembly, RosBalt reported on 30 April

1 June: New deadline for exchanging Soviet-era passports for new Russian passports

1 June: The armed forces will begin forming a permanent peacekeeping brigade based in the Volga-Urals Military District

2 June: Prime Minister Fradkov invited to speak to the Duma on the topic of wage arrears

7 June: President Putin will visit Mexico

14-18 June: Eighth annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be held

20 June: Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney will perform a concert in St. Petersburg's Palace Square

20 June: Union of Rightist Forces will hold party congress

28-29 June: President Putin expected to attend NATO summit in Istanbul

1 July: First anniversary of the creation of Federal Antinarcotics Agency

2 July: End of State Duma's spring session

3 July: Communist Party will hold congress to hear reports and elect new party officials

4 July: Vladivostok will hold mayoral election

September: St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum plans to open the Hermitage Center, which will exhibit works from the Hermitage's collection, in the city of Kazan

15-18 September: The third international Conference of Mayors of World Cities will be held in Moscow

October: President Putin will visit China

31 October: Presidential elections in Ukraine

November: Gubernatorial election in Pskov Oblast

22 November: President Putin to visit Brazil

December: A draft law on toll roads will be submitted to the Russian government, according to the Federal Highways Agency's Construction Department on 6 April

December: Gubernatorial elections in Bryansk, Kamchatka, and Ivanovo oblasts.