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Security Watch: September 18, 2000

18 September 2000, Volume 1, Number 9
SPECIAL REPORT: Russia's New Information Security Doctrine -- A Threat To Freedom And Democracy By Victor Yasmann

Russia's new security doctrine--signed by President Vladimir Putin on 9 September and released to the public on 13 September--appears even more threatening to freedom of information than earlier reports about this first-ever such document in Russian history. (For details on what was being said about the document as it evolved earlier this year, see "RFE/RL Security Watch," no. 3, 7 August 2000.)

The 46-page document contains an ideological agenda at odds with preservation of media freedom and the free flow of information. Its provisions are couched in ideological language rather than being in legal form, a pattern that makes it even more threatening than would otherwise be the case. The document's very first section, for example, talks about "achieving and maintaining public concord" and "the spiritual renewal of Russia" by "preserving traditions of patriotism and humanism" and "strengthening the moral values of society." Being so vague, the document's defenders can maintain that it is not really that bad--but they can deploy these ideological weapons in ways that threaten freedom more generally.

That its authors plan to use it in the most threatening way is suggested by the enumeration of an extensive list of foreign and domestic "threats" to Russia's information environment. Among the dangers listed are "the exclusion of Russian information agencies and the mass media from the domestic information market, the increasing dependence of Russia's spiritual, economic, and political life on foreign information structures, [and] the blocking of the activities of the state-owned mass media from reaching domestic and foreign audiences." Such language makes it very clear that the document's authors and its signer continue to view the world in terms of enemies and that they now have the power to pursue these "enemies" and try to exclude them from the media scene. But the most immediately ominous aspect of the document is its call for new legislation to regulate the information sphere, including "the clarification of the status of foreign information agencies, the mass media and journalists," and "the definition of the status of organizations providing global telecommunications networks on the territory of the Russian Federation. There is nothing in the new doctrinal statement which suggests that such legislation will provide any real protections to these institutions.

Instead, the entire document reflects the kind of ambiguous obscurantism which typified the communist totalitarian approach to the media in the past and the all too obvious attempts of its authors to reimpose such a system in the 21st century. Russia's journalists and citizens are now under threat. They will need all the international support they can muster if this attack is to be repulsed.

GUSINSKY INVESTIGATION TO CONTINUE. Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov told "Literaturnaya gazeta" on 13 September that the authorities plan to continue to investigate media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky. Ustinov told the weekly that courts could find no evidence of a violation of a law after Gusinsky's first arrest in July but that prosecutors will continue to look into his activities. Echoing President Vladimir Putin's words during his interview with CNN's Larry King, Ustinov said that "if any property was acquired in an illegal way, it must be returned to its original owner, in this case, the state."

KUDRIN ACKNOWLEDGES PREDECESSORS LIED TO DONORS. Deputy Prime Minister for Finance Aleksei Kudrin told "Vremya MN" on 13 September that previous Russian governments had deceived international financial organizations about the country's economic situation in order to gain more loans. He said that the current government will not do this and that it has agreed with the IMF to make public the results of an audit. Kudrin added that he hopes Moscow's new standard of behavior, along with the adoption of new tax, customs, and land use codes, will make Russia attractive to investors.

PUTIN SEEKS TO END REGIONAL FOREIGN TRADE CONTACTS. President Vladimir Putin has sent to the Duma legislation that would abolish the current right of regions to enter into international trade accords, ORT television reported on 13 September. Putin said that this practice violates the constitution, and an ORT commentator predicted that the legislature would approve the measure even though it will face serious opposition from the Moscow and St. Petersburg mayors, among others.

MOSCOW WANTS TO USE GEOGRAPHY TO ADVANCE ITS POWER. The Russian government on 7 September adopted a document calling for the development of international transit corridors through Russian territory in order to enhance Russia's economic and political weight in the world. The eight-page document says that Russia will seek UN and international support for establishing two major inter-Eurasian transit corridors--the first proceeding from Northern Europe through Russia, Central Asia, Iran, and ultimately to India; and the second from Western Europe through Russia to Korea and Japan. Such structures would give Moscow even more leverage over the former Soviet republics than it has now. Indeed, speaking at a transportation conference in St. Petersburg, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on 11 September pointedly noted that Russia is "losing $1.5 billion annually because of the defection of cargo flows" through the Baltics and Ukraine, according to Interfax.

MOSCOW TO DEFEND ETHNIC RUSSIANS ABROAD. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told the All-Russia Cadet Corps near Montreal on 12 September that restoring "a positive image" of Russia abroad and protecting the rights and interests of Russian ethnic groups in other countries were top priorities for Moscow's foreign policy. But he rejected a proposal from ethnic Russians in the audience to create an "All-Slavic popular front" to challenge the threats Russia faces "from destabilizing forces and international terrorism," Voice of Russia reported on 12 September. The Cadet Corps, which exited prior to the 1917 revolution, reemerged in 1991 as a group uniting survivors of the pre-revolutionary army and the alumni of Soviet military academies.

THE POLITICS OF ARMY DOWNS1ZING. Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev's announcement on 7 September that the Russian army will be reduced in size by 350,000 soldiers over the next several years had two obvious political messages. On the one hand, it was clearly timed to support President Vladimir Putin's efforts in New York to portray himself as a man of peace. Positive Western reaction suggested it achieved this goal. As reported on 8 September, "The West accepted the news on reduction with optimism and even euphoria." And on the other, the announcement drew almost no comment in Russia from the strongest supporters of the military, suggesting that they may now expect to get additional resources in order to equip the new smaller force.

WHERE THE CUTS WILL BE. According to the Defense Ministry as reported by the Military News Agency on 7 September, the reductions Sergeyev has announced will take place over the next three years in the following ways. Ground forces will be cut by 180,000, the air force by 40,000, and the strategic rocket forces will be cut from 19 to 10 divisions and then will be absorbed into the air force by 2005. Meanwhile, troops of the Interior Ministry will be reduced by 20,000; federal border troops by 5,000, and railroad troops by 10,000. Other power agencies with troops, including the FSB and FAPSI, will see their contingents reduced by a total of 20,000. But there will be no cuts in the 25,000 soldiers now controlled by the Emergency Situations Ministry.

THIEVES--THE ENEMY OF THE RUSSIAN MILITARY. Officers of the Western Siberian Regional Directorate for Combating Organized Crime have detained several servicemen for stealing control panels containing precious metals from Russia's most advanced air defense missile, the S-300, RIA Novosti reported on 11 September. The servicemen stole so much that they converted these missiles into worthless junk, the agency said. Meanwhile, the military procuracy in Nizhny Tagil opened a criminal case against another group of soldiers who stole control equipment from two MiG-29s, "Segodnya" reported on 6 September.

MOSCOW, BEIJING PLAN FOR FRIENDSHIP TREATY. During Chinese parliamentary leader Li Peng's visit to Moscow, the two sides announced that China and the Russian Federation will sign "a comprehensive friendship treaty" at the start of 2001, Russian agencies reported on 12 September. Li Peng met with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. According to Putin's foreign policy adviser, Sergei Prikhodkov, the two leaders focused on promoting bilateral economic and military cooperation, combating "extremism," and "joint opposition to U.S. plans to develop defenses against missile defense."

MOSCOW WANTS TO SETTLE DEBT ISSUE WITH VIETNAM. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told his visiting Vietnamese counterpart Phan Van Khai that Moscow is seeking to find a way to adjust downward Hanoi's $359 million debt to the Russian Federation, RIA Novosti reported on 12 September. No details were given, but Hanoi is now one of the top purchasers of Russian-produced military goods. Moscow, for its part, retains its military base at Cam Ranh Bay.

WHAT CAUSED BOROVIK'S JET TO CRASH? Even as Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and American author Norman Mailer set up a memorial fund in the name of Russian publisher and journalist Artem Borovik, who died in a mysterious jet crash in March 2000, journalists in Moscow's "Top Secret" magazine--which was founded by Borovik--told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 12 September that they believe that Borovik was the victim of a contract murder because of his revelations about corruption in the upper reaches of the Moscow power pyramid. "Top Secret," in its no. 8 issue this year, published the results of its own investigation. According to the magazine, the killers used a special secret substance invented by the KGB to support its operations. This substance, the magazine said, temporarily changes the molecular structure of metal or aviation fuel without leaving any trace.

ATOMIC MINISTRY TO SUE UES. Atomic energy minister Yevgeny Adamov said his agency plans to sue UES head Anatoly Chubais to recover unpaid debts, "Kommersant" reported on 13 September. Chubais has cut off energy supplies to those who have not paid his company, but he has not always paid his debts, Adamov said. Chubais' failure to pay led to the shutting down of nuclear installations such as the Beloyarsk nuclear power station and fissile materials combine in Mayak on 8-9 September, the minister said. Adamov added that he would seek damages from Chubais for this as well as explore the possibility of handling the direct export of Minatom-produced electric power.

FSB PREPARES ANOTHER SPY CASE. The FSB has completed its investigation of the former deputy chief of the military department in the Institute of the USA and Canada, Igor Sutyagin, and handed his case to the court, "Vremya novostei" reported on 6 September. Sutyagin was arrested by the FSB almost a year ago and accused of spying for the United States. At that time, the FSB also searched the Moscow residence of Princeton Professor Joshua Handler, a colleague of Sutyagin, but the agency did not detain him. Sutyagin met openly with U.S. diplomats in Moscow, and the FSB insists that he passed classified information to them. According to the Russian intelligence service, his open behavior suggests that the United States spy agencies may have adopted "a new tactic."

MINISTER PLAYS OFF MOBILE PHONE: OPERATORS FOR PROFIT? The regulatory arm of the Communications Ministry, the Main State Communications Inspectorate, has demanded that two major mobile phone operators, Vympelkom and MTS, vacate frequency channels in the range of 900 MHz, RBK reported on 14 September. A spokesman for Vympelkom said the government decision reflected the personal interests of Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, who has close business ties with a third operator, GSM, which hopes to obtain the frequencies involved.

MOSCOW DENIES TIES TO COLUMBIA DRUG SUB. The Russian Foreign Ministry on 11 September denied that any Russian official or citizen was involved in the construction of a Russian-built submarine found in Columbia and believed destined to be used for drug trafficking. Meanwhile, Colombian police official Luis Ernesto Filiberto announced that the unfinished vessel was marked up in Russian and that documents found on it were also in that language.