Accessibility links

Security Watch: March 19, 2001

19 March 2001, Volume 2, Number 11
IVASHOV STEPS UP ANTI-AMERICAN RHETORIC. Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, the head of the main directorate for international cooperation at the Defense Ministry, said on RTR television on 13 March that if the U.S. even begins to break with the ABM treaty, Moscow will respond and "we will return to the situation of the Cold War, with a new arms race in both offensive and defense weapons." Moreover, he said, Russia will seek an "asymmetric response," implying but not saying that Russia would attempt to gain the upper hand should such a race begin. In other comments, Ivashov said he is pleased that Moscow has abandoned the Gore-Chernomyrdin understandings concerning restrictions on Russian arms sales to Iran: "It was a document imposed on us, the most humiliating such imposition since Russia signed its capitulation in the Russo-Japanese war in 1904."

IVANOV FAILS TO ORGANIZE PUTIN-BUSH SUMMIT... Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov tried but failed during his visit to Washington to schedule an early meeting between the Russian and American presidents, and ITAR-TASS reported on 14 March. Both U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice made it clear to Ivanov that George W. Bush does not intend to meet with Vladimir Putin before the G-7 plus Russia summit in Genoa this summer.

�AS VISIT HIGHLIGHTS U.S.-RUSSIAN DISCORD. Ivanov's visit -- instead of smoothing relations between Moscow and Washington -- in fact highlighted the increasing number of areas in which the two countries disagree. Ivanov tried to put the best face on things by saying that Moscow "understands" Western human rights concerns on Chechnya but will not change its course and suggesting that Moscow would welcome discussions on all the other areas -- NATO and NMD (national missile defense), in particular -- where there is obvious disagreement, reported.

RUSSIANS BELIEVE THEY HAVE MORE ENEMIES THAN FRIENDS. According to a poll reported by "Segodnya" on 15 March, 34 percent of Russians believe that the U.S. is the main threat to Russia, up from 27 percent who believed that a year ago. Five percent listed China as the main threat, with Russians viewing others as negligible. Only 15 percent said Russia has no threats from abroad. Meanwhile, only a few Russians felt their country had many friends: 15 percent said Belarus was a friend, 4 percent listed Germany, 2 percent pointed to China and India. Thirty-five percent said Russia has no friends abroad at all.

WEAPONS SALE TO IRAN SEEN BACKFIRING. Even as President Vladimir Putin was arranging to sell more weapons to visiting Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, Russian commentators were suggesting that these weapons sales may backfire by offending the United States and Israel and even creating direct risks to Russian national security. An article in "Izvestiya" noted that those who are promoting cooperating with Iran do not appear to realize that they are creating political problems for the country, not only because of American opposition but also because many in Iran want to work against Russia as well.

RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS ADMIT AIDING MOLDOVAN COMRADES. Mordovian leader Nikolai Sapozhnikov, the leader of the Russian Communist Party branch in Mordovia, said that "the Communist Party of the Russian Federation provided significant support for its comrades in Moldova during the recent elections there," the Udmurtia agency reported on 11 March. He said that this could not be mentioned publicly until now, but he added that "the Moldovan comrades have now made a breach through which others will proceed."

ANOTHER RUSSIAN DIPLOMAT DEFECTS. The Russian Embassy in Panama said that it had told local officials about the disappearance of its cultural attache, Igor Dereichuk, two weeks ago, ITAR-TASS reported on 15 March. But Dereichuk's relatives in Kyiv said that he has told them that he simply does not want to work for the Russian Foreign Ministry any longer. Dereichuk is the third Russian diplomat to break with Moscow in this way in the last six months, following Sergei Tretyakov's departure from the United Nations and a still unnamed officer who left his post in Ottawa.

PUTIN REDUCES STATUS OF STATE COUNCIL. President Vladimir Putin has replaced seven strong regional leaders who had been on the presidium of the State Council with seven much less significant ones, thus guaranteeing greater Kremlin control over the State Council, "Segodnya" suggested on 14 March. Among those going off the presidium are Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiev, as well as the heads of Daghestan, Tyumen, Tomsk, and Khabarovsk. Of those coming on, most have already demonstrated their loyalty to Putin, including Bashkortostan President Murtaza Rakhimov.

A LOYALTY TEST IN THE FEDERATION COUNCIL. The Russian press suggested last week that the creation of the "Federation" group in the upper chamber of parliament will not only serve the same purpose as Unity does in the lower house but also become a test of the loyalty of Council members to the Kremllin. Almost 100 of the 178 members have signed on so far, even though Council speaker Yegor Stroev, Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov, and others have come out against the creation of the group.

WILL RUSSIA FINALLY HAVE AN ANTI-INSIDER TRADING LAW? The Duma banking committee has proposed a new draft law that would make the use of insider information illegal, Ekho Moskvy reported on 13 March. Up to now, Russia has not had any restrictions on such activities and that has become one of the most serious obstacles to attracting outside investment. The consequences of not having such legislation on the books were especially evident in the aftermath of the August 1998 default when it became clear that insiders had profited at the expense of outside investors.

OLIGARCH CALLS FOR MORE STATE CONTROL. Lev Chornoi, who until recently had controlled a major part of Russia's metal exports, has called for more state control over the industry, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 13 March. Chornoi's comments came in the introduction to a book of essays about the economy.

BUSINESS ACADEMY HEAD ARRESTED FOR CORRUPTION. Interior Ministry economic crimes agents arrested Ivan Pusin, the rector of the Moscow City Business Academy, on charges of embezzlement and abuse of office, RIA-Novosti reproted on 14 March. A search of Pusin's house uncovered funds and assets estimated to be worth $2 million which he could not explain. lamented on 15 March that "the training of the Moscow business elite thus appears to have been entrusted to a professional swindler."

INTERIOR MINISTER DOWNPLAYS CORRUPTION. Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo said that reports that 70 percent of Russian officials are corrupt are exaggerated because there is no agreed-upon definition of corruption, reported on 13 March. He suggested that only officials with direct links to organized criminal groups can be considered corrupt.

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE EXPERT SKEPTICAL ABOUT SPY TUNNEL� FSB officer Andrei Kostromin said that the reported construction of a tunnel under the Russian embassy in Washington might have been worthwhile 30 or 40 years ago but that advanced technology makes such an enterprise useless, overly expensive, or even counterproductive, "Rossiya" weekly, no. 11, reported. Kostromin added that Russian counterintelligence had discovered a tunnel under the Soviet consulate in San Francisco in 1983 as a result of the analysis of information made public during a court hearing on a suit by then-FBI agent David Kalsberry against his employer.

...BUT ANOTHER SAID IT MIGHT BE GOOD INVESTMENT. Sergei Kondrashov, the former deputy chief of KGB foreign intelligence, told "Kommersant-Vlast" that the construction of a spy tunnel in Washington might be worthwhile if it could provide access to information before it was encyphered. He suggested that Moscow should now seek compensation and that everyone should recognize that such a tunnel could not be constructed without the sanction of the U.S. president and his national security advisor. In other remarks, Kondrashov said that the $2 million supplied to former FBI officer Richard P. Hanssen was "money well-spent."

FSB SUSPECTS FULBRIGHT PROGRAM OF INVOLVEMENT IN SPYING. Voronezh FSB officers continue to pursue possible spy charges against Fullbright scholar John Tobbin, who is being held on drug charges, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 14 March. But meanwhile, one of the investigators told the paper that his agency believes that the Fulbright exchange program may be serving as a cover for American espionage activities in Russia more generally and must be investigated.

GOVERNMENT VIEWS MONEY-LAUNDERING BILL AS TOO SEVERE... Officials within the government are against the current draft of the money-laundering bill being considered by the Duma, Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Ignatiev told Interfax on 14 March. They believe the bill, which he helped to draft, is too tough on the business community and gives too much power to law enforcement agencies. The government will now redraft the legislation under the direct supervision of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, he said.

...BUT SHOKHIN WARNS AGAINST DELAY� The chairman of the Duma Committee for Credit Organizations and Financial Markets, Aleksandr Shokhin, said, however that Russia must adopt an anti-money-laundering measure by the summer lest it be included again in the list of countries failing to take such measures, RTR television reported on 13 March. If it is on the list again, Shokhin warned, Russia could face additional economic sanctions.

...AND URGES NEW INTERNET LAWS. Shokhin at the same time said that his committee has drafted legislation that will for the first time codify Russian actions in electronic commerce. These include bills on electronic and digital signature authority, on e-trading, and on electronic financial services.


By Paul Goble

For the third time since the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Moscow is engaged in the massive political rehabilitation of the victims of Soviet repression. And like the two previous efforts -- in the 1950s and 1980s -- the current campaign calls attention to the extraordinary extent of that repression and raises questions about the ability of Russian society to cope with this past.

Aleksei Pavlov, a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry, said on 13 March that his ministry over the last 10 years had reviewed 3,559,131 requests for rehabilitation from victims of political repression in the past or their families. The ministry had issued 1.6 million formal rehabilitations and another 300,000 certificates to those who had been repressed unjustly. In addition, the ministry has provided some compensation to the victims.

The number of requests is staggering. It represents one for every 40 current Russian citizens. When combined with earlier rehabilitations under Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev and Mikhail Gorbachev, this figure suggests that almost every extended family would have been touched by one or another form of political repression under Soviet power.

Indeed, Pavlov continued, the number of applicants is so large that the ministry has had to set up special structures both in Moscow and in the regions to handle the influx. A rough calculation suggests that there have been almost 1,500 applications coming in every working day during the past decade, and Pavlov indicated that the stream shows little sign of letting up.

Indeed, he said, during the year 2000, the ministry had reviewed some 5,000 applications from Chechens alone and had granted rehabilitation to 300 of them.

In other comments, the Interior Ministry spokesman provided some additional details which also suggest the extent of the human tragedy involved. He said that 48 percent of the requests for rehabilitation came from those who had been branded as rich peasants ("kulaks") during Stalin's collectivization campaign in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Another 37 percent of the requests came from those subject to repression on the basis of their nationality. Among them are not only members of the 11 nations Stalin deported en masse during and after World War II, but also members of an additional 48 national groups who, the Russian Interior Ministry admits, "were subject to partial political repression."

The Interior Ministry spokesman did not give any details about the remaining 15 percent of those now seeking rehabilitation, but this group almost certainly includes those imprisoned or otherwise persecuted for their religious affiliations or on trumped-up charges of being spies, "wreckers," or members of anti-Soviet groups.

The enormity of the crimes involved that require such a process a half century after most of these persecutions took place calls into question both the assertions of those in Russia and the West who have sought to minimize the costs of the Soviet system and the nostalgia many Russians now feel for the Soviet past, a nostalgia that some Russian political figures are seeking to exploit.

More than that, the process of political and legal rehabilitation itself raises serious questions about how any society can address the most difficult and painful chapters of its past. Failure to address these issues, as the American philosopher George Santayana observed, may condemn a society or an individual to repeat them.

At the same time, however, the assumption that granting rehabilitations of this kind posthumous or otherwise addresses the problem may be equally dangerous. Clearly, the act of recognizing the victims and the crimes they were subject to is clearly essential to the healing process and to gaining the kind of perspective that any society needs in order to be able to sort out its past.

But handing out certificates to those who suffered or to those who survived them may have some unintended consequences. For those who did not suffer, it may seem enough; but for those who did, even with some monetary compensation, it is unlikely to be entirely satisfactory.

Consequently, those who have been rehabilitated in this way may begin to ask even larger questions about what happened and why and also about who is responsible. Given the remarkable continuity of Russian elites between the Soviet period and its Russian successor, such questions almost certainly are going to be difficult for many to answer and could prove explosive.