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Security Watch: December 25, 2000

25 December 2000, Volume 1, Number 23
PUTIN SEEKS TO PLAY CANADA AGAINST THE U.S. President Vladimir Putin said on 19 December that his talks with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien had shown that Ottawa shares "the Russian goal of preserving and strengthening the ABM treaty and its concern about efforts to change it, ITAR-TASS reporte don 19 December. He thus appears to believe that he can enlist Canada into an international coalition against Washington's plans to modify the ABM and deploy NMD. "Izvestiya" commented that Canada may be sympathetic to Moscow's position on these issues but that "it is too close to the United States politically and economically to confront it."

PUTIN SEES ISRAEL AS ALLY AGAINST TERRORISM. Receiving Likud bloc leader Benyamin Natanyahu who was in Moscow to celebrate Hannukah, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia and Israel share a common approach to international terrorism. The two met at the Moscow Jewish Cultural Center. Russian commentators suggested that Natanyahu's real purpose in coming to Moscow was to mobilize support among the Russian Jewish community for his candidacy in the upcoming prime ministerial elections in Israel.

MOSCOW UPGRADES BORDER TALKS WITH UKRAINE. "Vremya novostei" reported on 20 December that the Kremlin has replaced Ambassador Dmitrii Cherkashin with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov at border demarcation talks with Ukraine. Trubnikov, who until last May served as chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service, likely will take a far harder line in the negotiations. As one Moscow newspaper put it, the Kremlin sends Trubnikov in when it thinks it faces a major threat or has a major opportunity for a breakthrough. Indeed, he has just had one such major achievement: he chaired the Russian-American working group on Afghanistan which led to the UN resolution sanctioning the Taliban.

US, RUSSIA CO-AUTHORS OF ANTI-TALEBAN RESOLUTION. The United States and Russia coauthored the latest UN Security Council resolution imposing new sanctions on Afghanistan's Taliban government, "an example of bilateral cooperation to combat international terrorism," according to Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Sergei Lavrov. But according to a report on ORT, this joint sponsorship of the resolution does not point to joint US-Russian military action in the event that the Taliban violate its provisions.

IS KUCHMA SEEKING MOSCOW'S SUPPORT? Following a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on 21 December, Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma said that the two countries will sign an accord "proposed by Vladimir Putin" to have Russia help modernize Ukraine's nuclear power plants, ITAR-TASS reported. But the timing of Kuchma's visit on an issue that might have been handled by more junior officials suggests that Kuchma, weakened at home by charges that he was involved in the murder of a journalists, may be looking to the Kremlin for political support.

NEW ECONOMIC ACCORDS WITH FRANCE... Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed new economic agreements with France during a visit to Paris, RIA-Novosti and ITAR-TASS reported on 18 December. The accords call for joint launching of commercial satellites, the design of a new global navigation system, and the purchase of 30 additional passember planes from Airbus, including possible Russian participation in the development of the European superjumbo A380. But while there were declarative words in these government to government agreements, a spoksman for Airbus told Interfax on 19 December that Russia had signed no agreement with his company.

...BUT PARIS REMAINS CAUTIOUS ON "DEBTS-FOR-SHARES" PLAN. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said that his government does not object in principle to a Russian plan to reduce Russian debts through a share swap but that it will agree to this only with the consent of the Paris Club of donors, "Izvestiya" reported on 20 December. Jospin said that Paris would also require that Russia remain in compliance with IMF provisions. Meanwhile, Germany's chief negotiator on Russian debts, Caio Koch Weser told German Gref that Berlin believes Moscow can pay off its debts to the donor countries in a normal way, Interfax reported on 19 December. If the economy should sour, Koch-Weser said, Berlin might reconsider its position, but "under the present favorable economic conditions, Russia can repay."

CONVERSION OF FOREIGN DEBT MIGHT INCREASE IT. Dmitri Lvov told on 19 December that converting Russian debts to the Paris Club through a share swap might in fact increase the country's foreign indebtedness rather than reduce it. He said that such a swap was absurd because Russia has a large shadow and criminalized economy, a situation that means much of its assets are extremely undervalued. When conditions return to normal, he said, a share swap would mean that Moscow might discover that it owes three times more than it thinks it does now.

IS RUSSIA ABOUT TO GROW LARGER? The Duma Committee on Federation and Regional Policy has drafted a bill defining how the Russian Federation could take in new members, "Mayak" reported on 20 December. According to the bill's provisions "a foreign state or part of its territory can join the Russian Federation on the basis of international law and mutual consent even if such a state has no common border with Russia." The bill appears to be tailed for some former Soviet republics like Armenia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan who have pro-Moscow governments, but it could also be used as an implied threat to portions of Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

NEW SHADOW CABINETS GROW IN NUMBER. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's "Otechestvo" movement has announced its own shadow cabinet including Anatoly Adamishin at foreign affairs, Anatoly Kulikov at interior, as well as a host of other former officials. A day earlier, Gennady Zyuganov announced that his Communist Party plans to create a shadow cabinet of its own. This proliferation of governments in waiting is likely to mean that they spend more time fighting each other than criticizing the government.

MINATOM BACKS IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTE. Under pressure from the Ministry of Atomic Energy, the Duma adopted on first reading amendments reducing or eliminating most restrictions on the import and export of nuclear wastes, reported on 21 December. Minatom's Robert Nigmatullin told the deputies that the new rules will help Russia to earn up to $20 billion on waste processing. He said that it will also help Moscow expand nuclear cooperation with Taiwan, India, China and Ukraine. Former Soviet Prime Minister Nikolay Ryzhkov, who backed amendments, described Yabloko and Russian ecological groups which objected to them, "an American mafia" which wants to deprive Russia of advanced technology.

ANOTHER CALL FOR APPOINTING GOVERNORS. First deputy speaker of the duma, Lyubov Sliska, said that Russian governors should be appointed by the president rather than elected by the people, reported on 19 December. Sliska said that such a move would not represent "a retgreat from democratic principles but rather be a means to discipline the governors and make them more accountable to central power." Sliska stressed that she was only giving her personal opinion, but as a member of the pro-Kremlin Yedinstvo faction, she is known to be close to President Vladimir Putin.

INVESTORS GROUP NAMES BEST, WORST RUSSIAN MANAGERS. The Association for Protection of Investors announced on 21 December that it had named LUKoil President Vakhit Alekperov the best mannager of the year and UES head Anatoly Chubais the worst, "Vremya MN" reported. Mathias Westman, the head of this group which unites 23 Western and Russian investment companies, said that Chubais was rated lowest because of the lack of transparency and efficiency in his company.

PATRIARCH WARNS OF "AMERICAN CULTURAL THREAT." Patriarch Aleksii II on 14 December called on the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church to recognize that "a well-planned war" has been unleashed by the U.S. and the West against the Russian people and their culture, reported. He said that Western industries were exporting to Russia "the products of depravity" in order to encourage the development of "a huge market within Russia for drugs, alcohol, contraceptives, and pornography." Aleksii called for "national resistance" to this threat in order to prevent the degradation of the younger generation. In another public speech on 18 December, the patriarch said that Russia must reject "the American way of life" as morally unacceptable and that the Russian people must return to their national traditions and experiences.

ORTHODOX CHURCH SUPPORTS NEW FEDERAL DISTRICTS. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have signed a cooperation agreement with the presidential envoy in the Ural super-district, Petr Latyshev, RIA-Novosti reported on 18 December. Such accords require the dioceses in that district "to work jointly with the government for the restoration of the Russian state."

LUZHKOV WANTS TO TAX BLACK MARKET PRODUCTS. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has ordered the closure of Moscow's "Gorbuska," the largest market of pirated software and other computer-related products, "Vedomosti" reported on 19 December. But the paper said that Luzhkov was not so much interested in eliminating the black market as creating conditions under which sales there would be taxed.

FOREFATHER OF RUSSIAN CAPITALISM SHOT. Moscow Deputy Mayor Iosef Ordzhonikide was shot in Moscow, RTR television reported on 19 December. His driver was killed, and he remains hospitalized. While little known outside official circles, Ordzhonikidze has been one of the key figures in the rise of Russian capitalism and capitalists for many years. In 1988, he became the Komsomol secretary in charge of promoting the "youth economy." His work there launched the careers of numerous businessmen and oligarchs. Since 1992, he took on an even greater role, controlling hard currency flows and construction projects in the Russian capitalOrdzhonikidze was heavy wounded and his driver was killed as his armoured car was shot by the killers near the office of Moscow mayor. The attack on Ordzhonikidze was the tenth assassination attempt against Moscow city officials in 2000.

CABINET APPROVES TELECOMMUNICATIONS PLAN. The Russian government has approved a concept paper for restructuring the country's telecommunications infrastructure, "Segodnya" reported on 21 December. Prepared by Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, the paper calls for imposing "restrictions on the direct access of foreigners to the telecommunications market in order to defend national security." It also calls for the gradual introduction of time-related tariffs for telephone services rather than the fixed payment system in use now. Such a system could seriously limit Internet use by Russian citizens.

SECURITY COMMUNITY CELEBRATES CHEKIST JUBILEE. Speaking in the Kremlin at a celebration of the Day of the Security Services Worker, President Vladimir Putin noted that in the past, "Chekists have been blamed for the mistakes and crime of those who were at power." But now, he said, the secret agencies are serving "not individuals but the country as a whole," ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. On the same day, virtually all Russian media outlets featured stories about and interview with present and past secret service leaders. FSB chief Nikolay Patrushev said that the entrance of former KGB cadres into the government reflects the need to introduce "fresh blood" into the political system, "Izvestiya" reported. And former SVR chief Sergei Lebedev told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" that in the course of the twentieth century, "there has not been any place on the planet where a KGB officer has not been."

FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE CELEBRATES TWICE... The SVR celebrated 20 December not only as the anniversary of the formation of the Cheka but also as the anniversary of the creation of its immediate predecessor, the foreign department of the OGPU which was set up in 1920. President Vladimir Putin came to SVR headquarters at Yasenevo for the celebrations, reported. Others taking part in the commemoration were former chiefrs of the services, Vladimir Kryuchkov, Leonid Shebarshin, Yevgenii Primakov and Vyacheslav Trubnikov as well as some of its most famous agents and spies, including British defector George Blake.

...AND GOES ONLINE. To mark its 80-anniversary,the SVR opened its own Internet site at It reports briefly about its current activities and more extensively about the past glories of the KGB, including special pages on Pavel Sudoplatov and the activities of Kim Philby and the Cambridge Five.

UTILITY OF MONEY LAUNDERING LAW QUESTIONED. Duma Security Committee member Anatoly Kulikov has questioned whether Russia should adopt a moneylaundering law, pointing out that not all illegal incomes are in fact criminal, RIA-Novosti reported on 19 December. He argued that a balance must be struck between the needs of business and the importance of fighting crime.

RUSSIA NOW HAS SIXTH LARGEST SHADOW ECONOMY. Aleksandr Movsesyan of Moscow's Financial Academy told "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 19 December that Russia now has the sixth largest shadow economy in the world, exceeded only by those of Nigeria, Egypt, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Macedonia. He said Russia's shadow economy embraces approximately 40 percent of the country's GDP. Because of its size, Movsesyan said, it cannot be reined in by law but must be legalized through the introduction of universal financial controls over capital flight, moneylaundering and tax evasion. But even efforts to take these steps, he warned, could simply be transformed into yet another lever in the struggle for political power.

The Days of the Chekists

By Paul Goble

December 20th is the 83rd anniversary of the formation of the Soviet secret police. How Moscow celebrates that event may provide important clues as to the direction the Russian government is heading.

Six weeks after the October 1917 revolution, Vladimir Lenin created the first Soviet secret police, the Extraordinary Commission or Cheka. Under Joseph Stalin, that day became a holiday called "the Day of the Chekist." And throughout the Soviet period, officers in Moscow's variously named intelligence agencies proudly called themselves "Chekists" in honor of that first name.

But after the fall of the Soviet Union, fewer people did so openly and officials did little or nothing to mark that anniversary -- until last year, when then-Prime Minister and now President Vladimir Putin took part, telling the Chekists they should be proud of their work. Later, he went even further and said that no government, let alone his own, could get along without secret agents.

Since last year's commemoration of the creation of an institution Lenin said was bound by no law except the defense of the revolution, Putin, himself a former KGB intelligence officer, has chosen many people with intelligence backgrounds to work for him as aides, as representatives to the regions, and as his preferred candidates for governorships and other senior positions.

Indeed, Putin's suggestion that his own promotion reflected "a successful penetration operation" of the Russian government by the country's security services frightened many Russian democrats and others involved in the defense of human rights in that country.

Such groups have been particularly concerned because of their conviction that Putin has selected precisely those former intelligence officers who at the end of the Soviet period worked to stifle dissent and human rights.

Writing in the current issue of the "Moscow Times," sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky argues that the interaction between the KGB at the end of the Soviet period and democrats who failed to understand the distinction between necessary intelligence functions and security activities that threaten society has left Russia with "a security apparatus that is worse than the one [Russia] had under Brezhnev."

Kagarlitsky suggests that the antipathy between the intelligence operatives and the democrats led not to the depoliticization of an agency that advertised itself as "the sword and shield" of the Communist Party but rather to the proliferation of special security services public and private most of which remain the tools of the powerful and are unconstrained by legal regulation.

With the KGB itself in shambles at the end of Mikhail Gorbachev's reign in office, "every agency of government felt the need to create its own armed security organization," Kagarlitsky says. "It became a status symbol." At the same time, he notes, "former KGB officers opened a host of private security agencies, most of which then formed their own close ties with various parts of the state structure."

These two developments combined with the intense hostility of many democratic reformers to any intelligence operation to produce a disaster. Because "the generation of KGB agents who experienced Gorbachev's reforms moved to the private sector," Kagarlitsky says, "their places were filled by newcomers" who lacked the experiences of the reform period and had no one to guide them in their work.

As a result, he argues, "the 'psychological type' of this newcomer is closer to the NKVD standard of the 1930s than to the Western image of an intelligence professional," a pattern that by itself invites the kinds of abuses that post-Stalinist leaders worked so hard to contain lest they themselves fall victim to them."

If Russia had "a political structure or any working democratic institutions," Kagarlitsky continues, they might prove "capable of controlling the secret police [and] protecting society from political repression." But in the absence of such structures and institutions, he insists, Russian society and Russia's fragile democracy remain at risk on this "Day of the Chekist" as on other such days in the past.

Given the restoration of other Soviet-era symbols in recent weeks, how the Russian government marks this holiday is likely to serve as a litmus test for the prospects of democracy and freedom in a country where the Cheka in the past regularly worked to suppress both.