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Russia Report: January 7, 2002

7 January 2002, Volume 2, Number 1
Carol R. Saivetz of Harvard University's Davis Center for Russian Studies spoke at a recent RFE/RL-organized briefing on Capitol Hill on Afghanistan and the surrounding region. Saivetz is executive director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies and author of the upcoming book, "Explaining Russian Foreign Policy, Domestic Politics, and International Relations." The following is the text of her remarks:

Since 11 September, Russian policy towards Afghanistan has been crafted with an eye toward three sets of policies: first, policy toward Afghanistan, itself; second, policy toward the NIS -- and specifically Uzbekistan; and third, policy toward the U.S. In this context, though, it is clear that a subset of U.S.-Russian relations is the Sino-Russian relationship. I would argue that these sets of policies will continue to inform Russian policy in the short to medium term.

Let me deal with Afghanistan first. Russia has a long and tortured history with Afghanistan, one that may well constrain future action. In the meantime, we of course must take note of the Russians' "mad dash" to Kabul. President Vladimir Putin announced on 26 November that 12 Russian transport planes had arrived in the Afghan capital. The move reminded many observers of the secret movement of Russian troops to Prishtina airport during the Kosovo crisis. Russian actions raised several concerns: Was this intended as implicit recognition of the Rabbani government? Would facts on the ground affect the then-ongoing negotiations in Bonn?

I would argue that Russia is looking to create a security zone in northern Afghanistan so that any instability in the country doesn't approach the borders of the old USSR. It is, additionally, very clear to me that Russia wants to have a major role and a "say" in what happens in Afghanistan.

In terms of Uzbekistan, it is apparent that Moscow and Tashkent have had an on-again, off-again relationship over the past 10 years. Most recently, until 11 September, the relationship was "on." This past summer, Uzbekistan joined what had been the Shanghai Five organization, thus becoming a part of an organization designed to balance against U.S. unilateralism. In the days immediately following 11 September, Uzbekistan was well ahead of Moscow in offering support to the U.S.-led antiterror coalition. In return, President Islam Karimov wanted help against the Islamist IMU (which parenthetically he got with the death of Namangani). He also wanted to lessen his dependence on Moscow and to make Uzbekistan the major power in Central Asia. Putin was forced to acquiesce in Uzbek policy.

As for the U.S., Russian-U.S. relations are obviously quite complicated. The amelioration in U.S.-Russian relations began before September, but certainly accelerated after the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. It seemed last spring as if both Bush and Putin had decided that the downward trajectory of relations was dangerous. If I had been giving this talk in July, I would have enumerated the long list of irritants in the U.S.-Russian relationship. It's interesting to look now to see where there has been movement and where there has been none.

On Iraq, Russia and the U.S. have agreed to extend the oil-for-food program for the next six months. At the same time, we've concurred on the need to clarify further the list of sanctioned items. On energy cooperation, Russia has been trying to position itself as an alternate supplier to the Middle Eastern states. In addition, there seems to be some cooperation on Caspian energy resources. LUKoil has indicated that it would be interested in investing in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and has even suggested that Russia export some of its oil through BTC. And, of course, CPC -- the pipeline from the Tengiz field in Kazakhstan to the Russian port of Novorossiisk -- has just opened. This is clearly a joint U.S.-Russian venture.

Since 1994, the issue of NATO expansion has been a definite irritant to U.S.-Russian relations. However, in the aftermath of 11 September and Russian support for the U.S. war against terrorism, we've seen the recent agreements to create a new NATO council in which Russia would have a major role. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has called this a profound change in Russia's relationship with the Western defense organization; and Secretary of State Colin Powell has labeled this "Joint Action at 20." These agreements envision giving Russia a major say in decisions on terrorism, civil emergencies, arms control, and nuclear proliferation. Interestingly, these decisions have apparently sparked infighting within the Bush administration that may have an impact the eventual shape of the new Russia-NATO relationship.

There are two issues on which there has been little or no movement. The first is missile defense and the fate of the ABM Treaty (I will say more about this in a minute) and the second is Iran and specifically Russian arms sales to Teheran. When the Iranian defense minister traveled to Moscow this fall, he signed a major new arms sales agreement said to total $7 billion. While we know the amount of the sales, we do not know what is included in the agreement. The transfer of certain weapons could easily tip the military balances in the Gulf. It has always been argued that the rationale for deals such as this is Russian financial need. This raises the serious question of whether the incentive to sell even more expensive and technologically sophisticated equipment would deepen if oil prices continue to fall.

So what does all this mean for the future? First, the Taliban regime obviously collapsed much faster than anyone anticipated. According to Russian media accounts, this left the Russian military and other policy planners without a clearly defined policy. Nonetheless, officials in Moscow were seriously concerned about the efforts of the Taliban regime to spread Islamism in Central Asia and even Russia itself and, therefore, one could also make the argument that the U.S. did what Russia needed in Afghanistan. Yet, in the face of the U.S. successes, the Russians exhibit fears of being left on the sidelines in the post-Taliban period.

Second, I have argued that Vladimir Putin came into power determined to restore Russia's great-power status. One of my concerns prior to September was that Russia, because of what I would call its "inferiority complex," would be tempted to act in order to make its presence known. This could include actions designed to make U.S. policies more difficult to implement. The Russian commentator Aleksandr Golts has pushed this line of argument further: he has written that Russia now might be tempted to raise its international prestige by "doing its own thing." The dash to Kabul and the desire to be present on the ground are definitely indicative of the need to assert Russia's position in Afghanistan.

The problem for Russia now is that the role for outside powers in the postwar period is not military, but one of being a provider of humanitarian assistance -- which Russia cannot afford. Russia has set up the field hospital in Kabul, is working to reopen the Salang Tunnel, and is helping to de-mine certain areas. My concern is that if the UN agreement doesn't hold and Afghanistan reverts to factional fighting, the U.S. and Russia could well wind up backing different factions and pursuing policies at odds with the other's.

Third, in terms of the Russian-Uzbek relationship, there is a very clear consensus among the foreign policy elites in Moscow that the "near abroad" is a major priority. They, therefore, are very concerned about a long-term U.S. presence in the region. So the question is "how long is too long?" Another important question is what happens if the U.S. overstays its tentative welcome from Russia? On this score, there is a community of interests between Russia and Iran in limiting the duration of the U.S. military presence. We already know that the Russian military is not happy about even the short-term deployment of U.S. troops in Central Asia.

Fourth, I am also concerned about the impact of the war and the U.S. presence in Central Asia on Russian domestic politics. There have been any number of commentaries in the Russian press about how far ahead of the foreign policy elite President Putin is. These same commentators draw comparisons to former Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev or to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The implication is that Putin has given up a lot in return for nothing. Thus the question is can President Putin sustain his current popularity and maintain his influence over the elites?

Finally, it seems to me that the U.S.-Russian relationship is crucial for the future. In this regard, I think that the Bush administration's decision to withdraw from the ABM Treaty is not wise, to put it mildly, and the timing was terrible. Putin has been trying to downplay the U.S. decision. In light of my views about Russia's "inferiority complex" and its determination to create a place for itself in the world, I would argue that post-11 September, Putin made a decision to enhance Russian prestige by siding with the U.S. and to give up -- at least temporarily -- balancing with China against the U.S. The desire to be treated as a major power resonates with the elites and with the masses. Putin needs to convince the military and others that he has made the correct decision.

In conclusion, the U.S. needs to keep the Russians engaged in Afghanistan in a positive way. We need to ensure that they help where and by what means they can. We want to prevent them from slipping into the temptation of acting contrary to U.S. interests just to make a point. It is most important that Russia is convinced of the need for the new coalition to take hold. We should also utilize and learn from the Soviet Union's experience in Afghanistan. Primarily this means establishing a strong peacekeeping force. Perhaps we could invite Russia to provide logistical support or limited number of troops, much in line with the Bosnian model of Russian participation. In addition, it is important that we remain sensitive to, but not give in to, Russian concerns about the U.S. presence in Uzbekistan. Finally, Washington and Moscow should be working toward the establishment of some kind of overarching framework for U.S.-Russian relations, so that when there are disagreements, they don't disrupt the whole process of amelioration of relations.

Russian foreign policy, with its alternating shifts toward and then away from the West, has often been described using a pendulum metaphor. That same metaphor might now be used to describe the recent relationship between the legislative and executive branches in Russia. During the era of former President Boris Yeltsin, the Duma and presidential administration had an extremely combative relationship. Now, under Putin, the relationship between the Duma and the executive branch hasn't just ceased being dysfunctional but has instead become quite cozy. As Aleksandr Sadchikov, writing in "Izvestiya" on 28 December, noted, "during the past year not a single legislative initiative passed which went against the presidential [policy] line." State Duma deputies, according to Sadchikov, have deviated from their traditional pattern at this stage of the election cycle of looking for populist measures to push through. Instead, deputies appear to be concentrating more of their efforts on obtaining the favorable opinion of the head of state than their electorate. And Kremlin and White House officials are not just shaping the legislative agenda, they are even crafting more of the legislation than their predecessors. According to Sadchikov, of the 86 bills passed in their final reading during the fall session, 40 were introduced by the White House and Kremlin -- compared to 40 by Duma deputies.

Quantitatively, this fall's session was not as productive as the last session or the session before that, but qualitatively, the presidential administration scored some impressive victories by pushing through a number of landmark bills, such as the new Land Code, Labor Code, Criminal Procedure Code, and Administrative Code (see table below). In addition, three bills from the presidential administration's judicial reform package and three from its pension reform package and more elements of the tax reform were passed. And last but not least, the 2002 budget was adopted before the end of the year. In previous years' fall sessions, so much of the Duma's time was spent on the budget that other legislation was pushed off the agenda.

In terms of legislative goals articulated by the government and Duma leaders before the fall session began, only the government and Unity seemed to come close to fulfilling their plan. Of a list of the government's priority legislation published in "Vremya novostei" on 9 August, the only major initiatives delayed was introduction of a new Housing Code and law on housing policy. Also delayed were draft bills on alternative military service and preventing political extremism. Overall, though, the government got through more than half of the bills it targeted as priority legislation.

Less lucky was the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), which seemed to strike out completely. In interviews given last August, SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that the group would seek a reduction of the mandatory term of military service from two years to six months and abolition of the death penalty. It also said that it would seek to promote education reforms and maintain the current leadership of the Presidential Pardons Commission. The commission's head, Anatolii Pristavkin, was sacked last month (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 31 December 2001). Although it has a smaller presence in the Duma than SPS, Yabloko fared a little better, but only because it linked some of its goals with the Kremlin's, such as the passage of pension and tax reforms. The so-called presidential bloc consisting of Unity, Fatherland-All Russia (OVR), People's Deputy, and Russian Regions, also fared well, but all those projects which they supported and the Kremlin did not, faltered. For example, OVR's leadership, back in August, had hoped to see the passage of the draft legislation on the Constitutional Assembly.

Of course, applying the pendulum metaphor to the relationship between the Duma and Kremlin implies that while the relationship may be extremely close now, it will eventually swing back toward the kind of conflicts witnessed during Yeltsin's time. At present, it is difficult to imagine President Putin and his able assistants, deputy presidential administration head Vladislav Surkov and administration head Aleksandr Voloshin, losing their deft touch with the Duma. But in 2003 -- if not earlier -- things might be different, as the Kremlin and the rest of the country are forced to cope with the so-called 2003 crisis. That crisis has likely been excessively hyped -- in much the same way as the 2000 computer bug problem was; Russia is unlikely to experience the simultaneous meltdown of its economy and infrastructure. Nevertheless, it is likely that the Russian government will face an additional set of pressures.

But if through it all Putin somehow manages to maintain his high personal popularity ratings and continue his artful management of parliamentary politics, then the cozy relationship between the Kremlin and Duma may continue. And the proper metaphor will not be that of a pendulum but perhaps that of a muzzled hound on a short leash. (Julie A. Corwin)


Number of laws
examined by Duma_______248__739__312___475___370____622

Number of laws
approved only in first

Number of laws
approved only in
second reading____________7___10____7_____2_____9______9

Number of laws
approved in third
and final reading__________88__158___74____94___158____225

Number of laws signed by
president of those approved
during given period________44__126___50___81____44____157

Source: State Duma via as of 28 December

OUT: Railways Minister Nikolai Aksenenko was dismissed on 3 January by a presidential decree, Russian agencies reported. On the same day, Aksenenko tendered his resignation and acknowledged his "moral responsibility" for the current situation in the ministry. According to the presidential press service, Putin's move was initiated by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who presented the president with material released that day by Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov related to an ongoing corruption investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2002). On 4 January, Putin appointed Gennadii Fedaev to replace Aksenenko. Fedaev was most recently first deputy railways minister and himself headed the ministry from 1992-96, according to Interfax.

IN: President Putin appointed on 30 December Andrei Denisov, who was most recently Russian ambassador to Egypt, as deputy foreign minister in charge of international economic cooperation. The previous day, Putin made Anatolii Pristavkin, who was most recently the head of the Presidential Pardons Commission, one of his advisers (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 31 December 2001).

SHIFTED: On 29 December, Putin dismissed Vladimir Rakhmanin as chief of presidential protocol and named him Russian ambassador to Ireland. Rakhmanin will be replaced by Igor Shchogolev, who was head of the presidential press service.

7 January: Foreign Minister Ivanov to attend extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Beijing

8-12 January: State Duma Chairman Gennadii Seleznev will visit Kazakhstan and Tajikistan

9 January: Supreme Court will meet to consider appeal of former diplomat Valentin Moiseev, who was earlier found guilty of high treason

11-15 January: Three auctions for the rights to acquire marine bio-resources will be held in Moscow

13 January: Presidential elections in Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya, second round of presidential elections in Sakha Republic

13-16 January: Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to visit Russia, according to Interfax on 29 December

14 January: Prime Minister Kasyanov and Deputy Prime Ministers Valentina Matvienko and Aleksei Gordeev to return from vacation

14 January: Extraordinary shareholders meeting for the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation, the proprietor of TV-6

15 January: Audit Chamber to present its findings of investigation into the use of housing funds in Sakha Republic

15 January: Russia will start to withdraw its equipment from radar base in Lourdes, Cuba, according to Interfax on 29 December

16 January: State Duma will hold its first session of the year

16-18 January: President Putin to visit Poland

17 January: First cabinet session of the year will be held

Second half of January: Foreign Minister Ivanov to visit Japan, ITAR-TASS reported on 28 November

19 January: Communist Party extraordinary congress to take place in Moscow, according to TV-6 on 1 December

20 January: Team from Emergency Situations Ministry is scheduled to complete the first phase of restoration of the Salang Tunnel in Afghanistan, according to Interfax on 3 January

22-24 January: Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev will visit Moscow, according to Turan on 4 January

23 January: Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan will visit Moscow

25 January: Unified Energy Systems board of directors to meet and discuss the restructuring of the company

27 January: Presidential elections in North Ossetia

February: Newly established committee for financial monitoring will begin work, according to Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 1 November

February: Spain's Crown Prince Felipe will visit Moscow

February: New president of the Alrosa company will be named in the event of the successful election of current president Vyacheslav Shtyrov to head Sakha (Yakutia) Republic

1 February: Deadline by which government will have prepared its strategy for cooperation with the World Bank

1 February: Fast-track, three-day visas for entry into Russia for citizens of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Britain, Switzerland, and Japan will become available, according to "The Moscow Times" on 19 December

13 February: Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien will visit Moscow

23 February: New state holiday honoring "Defenders of the Fatherland"

26 February: All-Russia conference on the Russian Regions and the WTO to be held in Moscow

8 March: International Women's Day

March-April: Russia will issue up to $2 billion in Eurobonds, according to Vneshekonombank head Andrei Kostin on 15 November

end of March: CIS Interparliamentary Assembly will hold its 19th plenary session

April: Unified party of Unity and Fatherland to officially register as a political party

April: The St. Petersburg Dialogue, a Russian-German forum, will hold its second conference in Weimar, Germany, according to ITAR-TASS

April: Gubernatorial elections in Penza Oblast

May: Foreign ministers of NATO countries and Russia will meet in Reykjavik

28 May: Russia-EU summit to be held

31 May: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova

June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit to take place in St. Petersburg, ITAR-TASS reported

June: Baltic State Council meeting to be held in St. Petersburg

June: Government will have drafted a federal program for putting Russia's armed forces on a professional basis, according to Prime Minister Kasyanov on 7 December

June: Russia and the U.S. will have drafted an agreement on radical cuts in strategic offensive weapons, according to Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov on 18 December

9 June: Repeat elections for legislature of Primorskii Krai

26-28 June: Group of Seven summit to be held in Canada

9-16 October: All-Russia census

26-27 October: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in Las Cabos, Mexico

7 November: Day of Reconciliation and Agreement.