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Russia Report: May 22, 2002

22 May 2002, Volume 2, Number 17
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush will meet in Moscow this week for their third tete-a-tete in a year. Preceding Bush to that part of the world was a new group of U.S. military instructors, who arrived in Tbilisi on 19 May. Upon his arrival at Tbilisi's airport, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Waltemayer told reporters that there will be more than 150 American military personnel in Georgia at any one time, according to A first group arrived last month to launch training programs for Georgian army, border, and security services personnel (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 30 April 2002). While the subject of the U.S. military presence in Georgia and Central Asia will likely not be at the forefront of discussion between the two leaders, the presence of U.S. troops in what was traditionally considered Russia's sphere of interests highlights how much has changed in the international context since the first meeting between Putin and Bush and from U.S.-Russia summits of previous presidents.

At a pre-summit briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on 20 May, Stanford Professor Michael McFaul ventured that this summit may be the last of its kind because all of the outstanding big issues between the U.S. and Russia have essentially been resolved. In the future, the main issues in the U.S.-Russia relationship will be disputes like that over imported chicken parts and visas. However, his colleagues disagreed. The Carnegie Endowment's Rose Gottemoeller said that U.S. presidents find summits too valuable for their high visibility to give them up. Likewise, Martha Brill Olcott, also of the Carnegie Endowment, suggested that summits "are one of the payoffs we can give to an empire in decline."

Implicit in Olcott's and other presentations was the assumption that the U.S. must offer some concrete "deliverables" or rewards to Russia for its cooperation in areas of U.S. concern. But before the question what rewards are merited, the first question that might be asked is what costs has the U.S. military presence in Russia's traditional sphere of influence imposed. "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" asked a number of experts to enumerate the domestic political consequences for the Putin administration of the U.S. military presence in Central Asia and Georgia. (Julie A. Corwin)

Pavel Baev, International Peace Research Institute (Oslo): What is observable in Moscow is some curiosity, a little irritation and grumbling -- but these could hardly qualify as "impacts." The issue of the U.S. military presence near Russia's borders will certainly be raised at the Bush-Putin summit, but it will probably be reduced to a footnote to the broader strategic discussions. Afterwards, the Kremlin will only fine-tune its "this-is-not-a-tragedy" rhetoric -- essentially because it cannot find an answer to the larger question: What does it want to make out of the U.S. military presence?

The easiest thing would be to create a loud scandal, along the lines of the earlier hysterics over NATO enlargement. This would accompany nicely China's bitter criticism of the U.S.'s "imperialistic penetration" and would be applauded by Iran and, maybe, India as well. The motley crowd of 'patriotic Eurasianists' in Moscow would love to partake in such a show, but it would serve no practical purpose. And, therefore, it would be wrong to expect it.

The second easiest thing to do would be to make real trouble for the United States. Multiple small-scale deployments are stretching the U.S. military dangerously thin. The recent film, "Black Hawk Down," about a failed U.S. military mission in Somalia -- leaving aside its patriotic drumbeating -- is a timely reminder of how wrong things can go really fast. Russia's special services have enough "assets" in Georgia and Tajikistan to guide a few terrorist attacks at the exposed "enemy" -- and many in Moscow would gloat over U.S. casualties. If, however, Russia's "competent organs" would pause to make a basic risk assessment of the U.S.'s likely unrestrained and disproportional response, they would shelve this option forever.

A more difficult option would be to establish practical cooperation with the U.S. aimed at stabilizing the turbulent area along Russia's southern borders. That would require overcoming all of Russia's paranoid geopolitical fears of "encirclement" and U.S. domination of the oil-rich Caspian area. Indeed, how could the U.S. ever be able to dominate Kazakhstan, if it has so embarrassingly failed to get rid of President [Hugo] Chavez in Venezuela? Russia has a pretty decent record of cooperation with NATO in Bosnia and Kosovo, there is no good reason why such cooperation would be less possible in the Ferghana Valley or Pankisi Gorge. Putin is measuring carefully every step in this direction. This is smart tactics but poor strategy.

Russia's interests in stabilizing Central Asia and the Caucasus go much deeper than the U.S. interests related to the war against terrorism and oil. Washington, at least for now, is quite satisfied with securing support from the ruling regimes and accepts their consolidation as sufficient stabilization. Moscow should know better. It should recognize that [Georgian President Eduard] Shevardnadze is much more of a problem for Georgia's stability than a solution. But Moscow fails to formulate an engagement strategy for this region -- not only due to a lack of "big thinking." This failure is also part of Putin's larger dilemma: how to combine the rapprochement with the West with strengthening his "executive vertical?" The goals of moving towards Europe and building an Oriental despotic state are fundamentally incompatible, and Putin cannot avoid a choice for very long.

Celeste Wallander, Center for Strategic and International Studies (Washington, D.C.): I have two points. The first one is that Putin hasn't suffered dramatically in that it looks like the U.S. has done something that is counter to Russia's interests. There is a plausible argument that the U.S. presence in Central Asia and the decision to train Georgian soldiers to deal with problems in Pankisi [Gorge] is in Russia's security interests. That is what the Russian government has been arguing for for some time. I don't think [the U.S. military presence] is a negative [for Putin] right now. But I don't think it is a big positive either. He can't really claim to be in partnership with the United States on this. He can't claim that this was part of his security strategy. But I don't think there's any particular damage at this point.

The second point I would make is that there now has to be more attention within Russian military and security circles to what the United States is doing in Central Asia and Georgia. There are some elements in the military -- the loudest elements of which are those who are retired but I think the retired folks are speaking for some people who are still in active service and are not free to express their opinions -- as well as some conservative members of the State Duma, who argue for a more assertive definition of the Russian national interest, who are saying we are not in partnership with the United States. The United States may have another agenda. The U.S. is squeezing us out. Because of those voices, I wonder if there isn't a kind of reinforcement of the Russian intelligence presence and attention to these regions as a way of assessing what the United States in the region is doing in the region and who we are talking to. It might have the effect of not reinforcing certain skeptics of the military and security services. After all, Putin needs to demonstrate that he is willing to keep an eye on what the United States is up to in these regions.

Martha Brill Olcott, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Washington, D.C.): It is very difficult to say what the domestic costs have been for Putin because his popularity is still so high. I think that the people [in Russia] who are most concerned [about the U.S. military presence] are probably the ones who would be the least supportive of him to begin with. They probably come from that 30 percent [that doesn't support him.] The disenchanted intellectuals have really been disenchanted with him all along. They voted for him in the second round because there was no one else to vote for. But they basically don't approve of him. I'm thinking of people like [Russia Foreign Policy Association Vice President Sergei] Kortunov and [Politika Foundation head Vyacheslav] Nikonov. Putin kind of offends the basic intellectual because of his background and because he doesn't need them. He is a security person made good. That is not someone who will appeal to intellectuals at all.

Putin is making a series of tactical moves [in Central Asia], but there is no overall strategy that Putin could pursue. That is the vacuousness of both the left and liberal [intellectuals'] critique -- there is no strategy that Russia could realistically pursue. Putin talks a lot about the continued vitality of Russian policy in the Central Asia region, but signs of this are really more virtual than real. Russia doesn't have any choice but to cooperate with the U.S. in Central Asia. Russia was really being pushed out of Central Asia before the U.S. arrived. Russia doesn't have the tools to give the Central Asians what they need. In a sense, this was a fait accompli of what was already a trend. Russia had already rolled up the carpet. And with the arrival of the U.S. military, Putin was able to get chips for what Russia had already lost. I think the issue of how long the U.S. will remain in Central Asia will be explicitly raised at the summit. And the Russians will get the same answers that they got before: "We don't plan to stay indefinitely, but we have created the structures to stay indefinitely."

But the situation in the Caucasus is really different. There, you could argue that Russia stayed and fought. It's hard to talk about these two things in the same breath. The Central Asian case is different than the Georgian. The U.S. presence in Georgia is a lightning rod for other kinds of emotions, because of the history [of the region] and war in Chechnya. Georgia was part of the empire longer than Central Asia and is much more closely integrated.

Margot Light, London School of Economics: Although reportedly there was strong military opposition to President Putin's decision to ally himself with the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, it has had little domestic political impact. He claimed that the Central Asian presidents had sought Russian support before offering the use of their airfields to launch the attack on Afghanistan. In fact, the evidence suggests that he merely acquiesced to a decision he could not prevent, but the Russian public chose to believe his version of events. A number of politicians have warned intermittently of the danger to Russian interests of a permanent U.S. presence in Central Asia, but their apprehension has not aroused public alarm. Nor is there much public awareness of the fact that an earlier attempt by President Putin to create an antiterrorist coalition in Central Asia remained a paper exercise, while President Bush got instant cooperation after 11 September.

It seemed inconceivable that the U.S. offer to send military advisors to Georgia to equip and train local battalions for security operations in the Pankisi Gorge would similarly evoke little Russian protest. But again, there were early muted objections, for example, by Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, but no public protest. Even the Duma resolution on the subject simply warned that the U.S. presence might "complicate the already difficult situation in the region." The mild language stands in stark contrast to earlier Duma foreign policy resolutions on issues in which the Duma objected to Western policy.

The absence of a strong response should not be interpreted to mean that the Russian government and public approve of the U.S. presence -- here as in other aspects of foreign policy, President Putin has simply learnt that when he cannot prevent an action occurring, empty bluster shows up Russia's weakness and detracts from its international stature. For the moment, he has public support for, and Duma acquiescence to, his foreign policy. The danger will come when and if he loses support more generally -- when the fact that he presided over Russia's loss of influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus will be added to the grievances against him.

The domestic critics of Putin's foreign policy constitute a fairly broad group. Putin skeptics, according to Wallender, are not just "the very hostile hard-line security types" but includes people who "actually are pretty savvy in Western terms, who travel to the West, who go to a lot of European conferences, and who write articulately." Some representatives of the latter group are Vyacheslav Nikonov and Sergei Kortunov but also State Duma Deputy Defense Committee Chairman (Yabloko) Aleksei Arbatov.

In a number of interviews and articles that he has authored, Kortunov has expressed criticism of the Kremlin's foreign policy. For example, at a press conference in Moscow last March, Kortunov concluded that Russia's current leadership "lacks a strategic vision for the development of international relations." And as a result, Russia, according to Kortunov, "is destined to play the role of a minor partner, the role of one that is led." On the subject of Iraq, Kortunov declared that the U.S.'s "unilateral actions to overthrow Saddam Hussein without consultations with the international community" cannot be welcomed by Russia and "must not be."

A few months earlier, during a discussion of the Experts' Club in Moscow in January, Kortunov, a former adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, declared that Russia "bungled the talks on the fate of the ABM Treaty. Specifically, this is evidenced by the uncoordinated declarations made by our government. Putin went to Washington with a clear position that the treaty is a cornerstone of strategic stability. But before his trip, literally one day before his arrival in Washington, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov issued a declaration admitting that the treaty is a holdover from the Cold War." In March, Kortunov argued that after the terrorist acts of 11 September, Russia should have been more persistent in pressing for the use of the mechanism of the UN Security Council.

Kortunov also suggested that the antiterrorist coalition should not be thought of as a very tight alliance: "It seems to me that only countries with similar political systems can be allies. We are currently only moving toward the model designed by the West. When we build a truly mature democracy...then we would probably be able to talk about a strategic alliance with the West and the United States."

Like Kortunov, Nikonov has also set a contrasting note to the one sounded by the presidential administration and Foreign Ministry. Following the announcement of the new Russia-NATO Council, Nikonov told reporters in Moscow on 21 May that he is confident that after its November summit in Prague, NATO "will become more anti-Russian" because of its new members. "Accession of the Baltic states will widen the anti-Russian front within NATO, which will do nothing to enhance Russia's relations with this organization," Nikonov said. Earlier, in an interview with "Nezavisimaya gazeta" in January, Nikonov predicted that a crisis may occur at a Putin-Bush summit, when the question of "does the U.S. need Russia" is inevitably raised.

In an interview with "Moskovskii komsomolets" last February, Arbatov predicted that the U.S. "will stay in Central Asia for some years at least -- perhaps longer." He continued that "for the time being, this state of affairs does not pose a direct military threat to Russia. It is not necessary to threaten Russia from these bases since the United States can reach our territory from many other directions -- from Turkey, for example, the distance is even shorter." Arbatov laments Russia's "eventual loss of clout and influence," noting that Russia no longer has a "monopoly in Central Asia": "Another player is surfacing, and what a player! A superpower." Arbatov concludes that "compared to what it was like before 11 September, security in the region has improved immeasurably." However, he noted that "if Russian-American relations deteriorate, it will mean trouble for Russia, economic trouble included...."

Nikonov, Kortunov, and Arbatov are hardly the only analysts to have criticized Putin's foreign policy, nor are they the most vituperative; on the contrary, they may be among the most reasonable. And it is therefore likely that not only the Russian Foreign Ministry but also the U.S. State Department are taking their views into account. (Julie A. Corwin)

State Duma deputies approved on 16 May in its first reading the government version of a bill regulating the buying and selling of agricultural land. The vote was 256 in favor with 143 against and one abstention, according to Interfax. Six other versions of the bill were offered, but the Fatherland-All Russia faction withdrew its bill before the vote, as did Deputy Adrian Puzanovskii (People's Deputy), and the government bill won the most support. As expected, the Communist Party faction and Agro-Industrial group voted against the legislation after unsuccessfully trying to persuade their colleagues that agricultural land should be leased, but never bought and sold, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 17 May. First Deputy Property Relations Minister Dmitrii Aratskii argued that ownership rather than leasing will bring in more money for regional budgets. He also argued that it is necessary to create "civilized conditions" regarding land in order to attract investment. Under the bill, it is forbidden to buy agricultural land and then use it for another purpose. In addition, foreign citizens are prohibited from buying agricultural land near border areas. This limitation is already stipulated in the Land Code, according to "Kommersant-Daily." In addition, regions cannot set a limit of less than 35 percent on the amount of total agricultural land in a given area that can be owned by a single person or entity. JAC

State Duma deputies adopted in its first reading on 17 June a Code for the Conduct of the Civil Service, which was authored by members of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), Yabloko, Russian Regions, and Fatherland-All Russia, according to "Kommersant-Daily" on 20 May. The vote was 269 in favor with one against and one abstention, according to Interfax. According to ITAR-TASS, both the government and the presidential administration opposed the measure. Aleksandr Kotenkov, presidential representative to the Duma, recommended that deputies wait for the introduction of a presidential package of legislation on organizing state service. During discussion of the bill, the Unity faction did not express a position, according to Interfax. The code prohibits state officials from having private interests that interfere with their official work. In an interview with RFE/RL's Moscow bureau on 18 May, one of the authors of the bill, Vladimir Yuzhakov (SPS), said that most serious sanction the bill imposes in cases of such conflict is dismissal. SPS leader Boris Nemtsov said that if the bill were already adopted, then at least 10 cabinet ministers would have to be dismissed, according to However, "Vedomosti" reported on 18 May that the new code does not stipulate any new punishment for infractions of conflicts of interest. Government representative to the Duma Andrei Loginov countered that the level of corruption is no higher in the government than in the Duma, and recommended the passage of a similar code for deputies. A second reading is not expected before September, according to JAC

On the same day, deputies also adopted a government-sponsored bill in its third and final reading that makes all war veterans, not just veterans of World War II, eligible for a certain level of pension, ITAR-TASS reported. For example, under the bill, all veterans' pensions will be raised by 100 percent and certain categories of invalids who have reached the age of 80 will receive a pension that is 200 percent higher. More than 10,000 veterans will be affected by the bill if it becomes law, according to the agency. Also approved was a bill amending the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Code, reducing the punishment for burglary. The vote was 389 in favor, with one against, and one abstention, according to ITAR-TASS. Illegal entry to a home causing significant damage will carry of punishment of five rather than six years. JAC


Name of law_______________Date approved_________# of reading

On the trade of agricultural______16 May______________1st

On the provision of____________17 May______________3rd
of pensions to individuals who served in the armed
forces, Interior Ministry organs or law-enforcement
system and their families

Code of Conduct for State_______17 May_______________1st

Criminal Code________________17 May_______________1st
(Article 158)

IN: On 16 May, the Omsk Oblast legislature selected Valentin Chernyavskii to represent it in the upper legislative chamber, Interfax-Eurasia reported. Chernyavskii was a deputy interior minister under former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, according to Omsk's "Kommercheskie vesti" on 6 May.

IN: Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has appointed Vladimir Milov as a deputy energy minister, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 May. Milov previously headed the department for economic analysis at the Federal Energy Commission.

SHIFTED: Economist Vladimir Mau has been dismissed from his duties as director of the Center for Economic Reform, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 20 May. Mau was earlier chosen as rector of the Academy for the People's Economy of the Russian government.

23-26 May: U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Russia

23 May: State Duma will hold an additional unscheduled plenary meeting

26-27 May: Finnish Prime Minister Tarja Halonen to visit St. Petersburg

27 May: NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson will visit Moscow to open NATO's first permanent military mission there

28 May: World Bank's Board of Directors to discuss its Russia strategy

29 May: Russia-EU summit to be held in Moscow

29 May: Federation Council will consider amendments to law on elections if passed by the State Duma, according to Central Election Commission Chairman Aleksandr Veshnyakov on 13 May

First half of June: Communist Party will hold a party plenum, according to Interfax on 19 April.

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

June: Baltic Sea 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

1 June: New oil-export duty rate set to rise to $20.70 per ton compared to the earlier rate of $9.20 per ton

2 June: NTV's broadcasting license is set to expire, according to Ekho Moskvy on 23 April

4-6 June: United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan will visit Moscow, Interfax reported on 18 May

6 June: Government will consider the basic parameters of the 2003 federal budget, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 16 May

9 June: Repeat elections for legislature of Primorskii Krai

10-11 June: The European Foundation for the Sustainable Development of Regions (FEDRE) of the Council of Europe will host an international forum on energy and sustainable development in Omsk

14 June: START-II treaty expires, according to Interfax on 14 May

14 June: State Duma will consider the presidential bill on preventing extremist activities in its first reading and the law on alternative military service in its second, according to First Deputy Speaker Lyubov Sliska on 20 May

17 June: Trial of former Aeroflot executives on charges of embezzlement to resume, according to ITAR-TASS on 25 April

17 June: Informal session of the working group on Russian entry to the WTO will be held in Geneva

17-21 June: The Chamber for Industry and Trade will hold the second stage of its fourth congress

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

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

1 July: Russia will complete its withdrawal from the military base at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam

1 July: New Criminal Procedure Code comes into effect

1 August: Russia's first full-scale facility for the destruction of chemical weapons will be launched in Gorny in Saratov Oblast, according to presidential envoy Sergei Kirienko

12 August: Second anniversary of the sinking of the "Kursk" submarine

September: Symposium and investment fair for atomic power plants to take place in Vladivostok

10-11 September: The fourth annual conference of the regional administrations of countries in Northeast Asia will take place in Khabarovsk

14-23 September: The World Association of Female-Entrepreneurs will hold its 50th international congress in St. Petersburg

24-25 September: An international conference, Women for a Clean Planet, will be held in Khabarovsk, according to Interfax-Eurasia on 18 May

26-27 September: An international conference entitled, "The Socialist and Social-Democratic Parties of Central, Eastern Europe and Central Asia for a Safe World," will be held in Moscow

7 October: CIS summit to be held in Chisinau, Moldova, according to Interfax on 13 May

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.