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Russia Report: May 30, 2002

30 May 2002, Volume 2, Number 18

Because of the Russia-U.S. summit, the regional edition of "RFE/RL Political Weekly" will appear next week rather than this week.
As the meeting between U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to a close on 25 May, there were a number of concrete documents signed that both sides could point to once the last aide had flown home and the good feelings had faded. First, there is the new strategic arms-reduction treaty. And there is a declaration on U.S.-Russian strategic cooperation, a joint statement on the Middle East, a joint declaration on U.S.-Russia energy cooperation, two agreements on the delivery of Russian steel imports to the U.S., and a joint statement on U.S.-Russian economic relations (see also "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 May 2002). And a couple of new groups were formed: the Russian-American Working-level Group on Energy Cooperation and the Russian-American Working Group on Trade and Aerospace Cooperation, according to Reuters. The Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions were not repealed in time for the summit as some analysts had predicted, nor did the U.S. Commerce Department extend to Russia recognition as a market economy, which it had recently done for Kazakhstan. Nevertheless, there was enough good will generated for both leaders to declare the visit a success. Bush noted that he and Putin had opened "a new chapter" in U.S.-Russian relations and that they had signed a "landmark" arms treaty. Putin was less effusive, but nevertheless declared that "all of the goals of the Russia-U.S. summit have been achieved."

This week, "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly" turned to one of its own in-house experts to get his lowdown on the summit, Associate Director of Broadcasting Don Jensen. Jensen is also a former foreign service officer, who served in the Political Internal Section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He becomes head of the RFE/RL Communications Division on 1 June. (Julie A. Corwin)

RFE/RL: The question I really want to have answered is why every time there is a summit, it has to mark some kind of historical turning point, such as the Cold War being over. Is it because they don't meet that often? Is it because of the hype the presidents themselves and their administrations want to encourage? Why is that?

JENSEN: I think to some extent Russia and the United States have trouble letting go of the past and the old ways of thinking about each other. As one Russian commentator stated last week, dealing with strategic-arms agreements today is like examining the light of a star that was extinguished 10 years ago. It is no longer the central issue in the relationship. But the two presidents earn some political capital at home by being seen cavorting on the world stage, especially with a former adversary. We won't know if it's the end of history -- or, to put it better, if Russia has made a strategic turn toward the West -- unless we see that a permanently closer relationship between the two countries comes into being and, on the Russian side, is supported by more than just a narrow section of the elite. That means it is likely over the short term that there will be cooperation when it is in both countries' interests and that they will have to manage the inevitable disagreements that will occur.

But for the time being, there has certainly been a closing of some differences. There were structures created, as you say. But whether or not they will prove to be important 10 years from now is not clear. It's much too early to tell. In arms control, the two sides established a framework on strategic weapons that codified much of what they were going to do anyway. The U.S. is still going ahead with missile defense, we're still going to develop new weapons. Nonetheless, such framework agreements create a momentum that can lead to progress in other areas.

RFE/RL: That's interesting That's the opposite of some commentators have been arguing. They say that the U.S. needs Russia more than Russia needs the U.S. because the U.S. needs allies.

JENSEN: I don't fully agree with that. As I said, I think the arms-control agreement largely codifies what the sides would have done anyway, including giving the U.S. wide latitude to go ahead with research and development of a missile-defense system. I think the jury is still out on the extent to which the U.S. "needs" Russia in the war on terrorism. I haven't seen a great deal that the Russians have done, other than some intelligence sharing. Overall Moscow has played a secondary role.

RFE/RL: What about allowing the U.S. to have a military presence in Georgia or Central Asia?

JENSEN: That probably would have happened anyway. The Russians did not "allow" the U.S. in Central Asia in any case, since it could not stop it. If [Yevgenii] Primakov had been prime minister, Moscow probably would have screamed loudly, but could not have stopped it. What's noteworthy is not that, given the circumstances, it happened. What's remarkable is that the Kremlin didn't scream as in the past.

There's another issue related to all of this. It is, does Russia matter? The U.S. administration has been described as being split between those who think that the U.S. can derive significant benefits from a partnership with Russia and those who think it does not matter. When you look at the U.S. policymakers one-by-one, I am sure that is one way to divide them. Despite the administration's initial reluctance to engage with the Kremlin, however, there is a middle ground on which they now all seem to agree: Russia matters, though less than in the past and only on certain issues. That, it seems to me, is more or less the current position of the Bush administration.

RFE/RL: On which issues does it matter?

JENSEN: It really doesn't matter on strategic issues, for example. As Bush said last week, what does he care whom they [Russia] target? Russia matters more in Central Asia and on terrorism. Most of all on Iran, Iraq, and proliferation.

The fact is that U.S. policy towards Russia at present is in many ways more interesting than the Russian policy towards the U.S.

RFE/RL: Why is that?

JENSEN: The Bush administration has actually accomplished a lot in a very short time. And the administration has taken a remarkably different approach than the one pursued under the Clinton administration. Remarkably different. There have been some costs to this policy, that is, we are ignoring the defects of Russian democracy and violations of human rights in Chechnya in favor of progress toward a clear set of U.S. policy priorities, largely concerned with security issues. That is quite a big difference from the way the Clinton administration proceeded. It focused on trying to micromanage Russian domestic policies by siding with certain Russian leaders.

An unanswered question remains, however, about the relationship between Russian domestic and foreign policies. I think there is a close connection that should be taken into account. Much has been written about Putin "strengthening the state." I think this assessment of him is somewhat exaggerated. On the one hand, Putin has certainly increased the coercive powers of the state. But they work in a rather arbitrary way, and often in the service of certain parts of the elite. But that is not what many in the West, with our belief in limited government and the rule of law, understand as the idea of a state. On the other hand, there are many quasi-state actors such as Gazprom and commercialized government ministries who play a significant foreign policy role. It is not clear to me the extent to which Putin can control their behavior. The U.S. must remember they play a key role, especially in areas such as nonproliferation, and deal with them as well.

RFE/RL: How do you think things are looking viewed from Moscow?

JENSEN: On the Russian side, a number of questions are still unanswered. Is this really an integration of Russia with the West or is this just Putin's way of trying to buy time in order to focus on rebuilding Russia? As I mentioned earlier, it's too early to tell. The second question is how strong is the domestic opposition to Putin's move toward the U.S., especially in the armed forces. Clearly, it was not strong enough to stop the agreements signed at the summit. But we have a lot of issues with the military approaching, including reform and reconfiguring the Russian strategic forces. The arms-control agreement essentially gives Moscow a decade to resolve these questions. Finally, what happens if the new relationship with Washington carries little benefits for Russia? An article by a Duma staffer the other day argued that it was insulting to suggest that Russia expects some immediate payoff, that, on the contrary, Putin is doing this for Russia. That may be true but there are people in the Russian elite who are anti-U.S. and expect some payoff, especially in the economy. That is why the prospects for issues such as the writing off of Russia's debt, access to the World Trade Organization, and the chances for Jackson-Vanik bear close watching.

Despite the predictions of many politicians and experts, including those who actually helped draft the law on political parties, the number of political parties has not dwindled to less than a dozen (see "RFE/RL Russian Political Weekly," 29 January and 10 December 2001). As the table below shows, almost 20 parties have managed to register with the Justice Ministry. And, according to "Vremya MN" on 24 May, the total number of parties is expected to grow to 30 by the end of the fall. The parties are listed in order of their date of registration with the ministry, the most recent registrants listed last. JAC

Registered Political Parties as of May 2002

Name of Party_______________# of Members_______Participation in 1999
_____________________________________________Duma elections

People's Party__________________39,293_______________no
Leader: Gennadii Raikov

Democratic Party of Russia________12,086________________no
Leader: Mikhail Prusak

Unity and Fatherland/____________19,579________________yes*
Unified Russia
Leader: Aleksandr Bespalov (chairman of General Council)

Conservative Party of Russia______10,630________________yes
Leader: Lev Ubozhko

Party of Peace and Unity_________16,465_______________yes
Leader: Sazhki Umalatova

National Patriotic Forces_________11,038_______________no
of the Russian Federation
Leader: Shmidt Dzoblaev

Constitutional Party of___________10,286_______________no
of the Russian Federation
Leader: Yaroslav Ternovskii

Development of Entpreneurship____10,771_______________no
Leader: Ivan Grachev

Communist Party_______________19,013_______________yes*
of the Russian Federation
Leader: Gennadii Zyuganov

Russian Party of Peace___________12,701_______________no
Leader: Iosif Kobzon

Union of Rightist Forces__________14,646______________yes*
Leader: Boris Nemtsov

Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia___19,098______________yes*
Leader: Vladimir Zhirinovsky

All-National Russian Party, "Union"___10,984______________no

Leader: Grigorii Yavlinsky

Russian Party of Workers'_________13,996______________yes
Self-Government Leader: Levon Chakhmakhchyan

Russian Party of Labor____________10,759______________no
Leader: Sergei Khramov

Russian Party of Stability___________11,780_______________no
Leader: Vladimir Sokolov

Russian Party of Pensioners_________18,415_______________yes
Leader: Sergei Atroshenko

Social-Democratic Party of Russia_____30,000______________no
Leader: Mikhail Gorbachev

*parties that gathered enough votes to have seats in State Duma

Sources: "Vremya MN," 24 May 2002, Ministry of Justice website (

State Duma legislators approved in its first reading amendments to the second part of the Tax Code on 24 May, reported, citing RIA-Novosti. The vote was 265 in favor. The bill is one of the priority pieces of legislation that the government asked the Duma to consider before recessing, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the bill, the existing road-users' tax will be replaced by a special transport tax as of 1 January 2003. To compensate regional governments for lost tax revenue, the federal government plans to transfer to the regions 4 percent of the tax on the profits of organizations, according to the agency. In addition, the land tax would be increased 1.8 times and regional governments would also get revenue from the new transport tax, the rates for which will be discussed before the second reading, according to JAC

On 22 May, deputies voted to approve in its third reading a new version of the law on the main guarantees of electoral rights and the right to take part in referenda. The vote was 369 in favor, zero against, and two abstentions, according to RIA-Novosti. Under the bill, political parties will be able to nominate candidates without seeking signatures and they will not have to pay an election deposit, according to ITAR-TASS. In addition, if the bill is enacted, there will be fewer grounds for stripping candidates of their registration and such an action must now be made at least five days before the election -- as opposed to three days under current rules. Governors or presidents of republics will have to be elected in no fewer than two rounds, and elections to regional legislatures will proceed in the same way as in the State Duma, with half the legislators being elected from party lists. Even if the Federation Council vetoes the bill -- which is not expected -- the Duma would still have enough votes for the bill to become law, according to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau. JAC

Also on 22 May, deputies voted to approve in the second reading a new version of the law on the Central Bank. The vote was 378 in favor with two against and one abstention, ITAR-TASS reported. According to RFE/RL's Moscow bureau, the presidential administration dropped its insistence that the bank be subordinated to the federal government because this opened up the possibility that Western creditors could seize Central Bank assets located abroad. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin criticized the amendments to the law that the deputies approved, according to RIA-Novosti. According to Kudrin, the law in its present form violates the principles laid out by the Basel, Switzerland, Committee for Bank Monitoring, which were adopted by central banks of various countries in 1975. According to Kudrin, deputies rejected the government's suggestions regarding two amendments to the laws, ITAR-TASS reported. JAC

On 23 May, Duma legislators approved in its first reading a government-sponsored bill on supporting defense-complex enterprises, ITAR-TASS reported. The vote was 360 in favor, one against, and no abstentions. The legislation restructures enterprises' federal tax debt. Deputies also approved in the first reading a bill lowering the retirement age for indigenous people of the Arctic North by five years for both men and women to 45 and 50 respectively, ITAR-TASS reported. Federation Council representative (Evenk Autonomous Okrug) Nikolai Anisimov had proposed the bill because only 2 percent of such people live to the current retirement age of 50 for men and 55 for women. JAC

A new version of the Arbitration Procedure Code was approved in its second reading on 23 May. The vote was 402 in favor with three abstentions. The bill is part of the larger effort by the government and presidential administration to overhaul the legal system. According to "Izvestiya" on 23 May, the bill's overall concept does not differ greatly from the 1995 code in effect now. The main changes it would introduce are in the role of prosecutors in arbitration matters and in increasing opportunities to resolve disputes outside of the courtroom. JAC


Name of law________________Date approved________# of reading

Tax Code, 2nd Part_____________24 May______________1st
(road user's tax)

On the chief guarantees__________23 May_____________3rd
of electoral rights and the right
to take part in referenda

On the Central Bank_____________23 May_____________2nd

Arbitration Procedures Code______23 May______________2nd

On changes and amendments______23 May_______________1st
to 2002 federal budget
(support for defense enterprises)

OUT: State Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznev, Committee on Culture and Tourism Chairman Nikolai Gubenko, and Committee on Women's Issues, Families, and Youth Chairwoman Svetlana Goryacheva were expelled from the Communist Party on 25 May for their failure to relinquish their leadership posts in the Duma. On 27 May, Nizhnii Novgorod Oblast Governor Gennadii Khodyrev resigned from the party in protest. Three other Communist committee and commission chairs -- Viktor Zorkaltsev, Valentin Nikitin, and Vitalii Sevastyanov -- were not expelled, because they have not withdrawn their earlier statements pledging to give up their posts.

IN: A new consultative group, the Council of Legislators, was created at a 21 May meeting of the heads of a local legislatures and members of the Federation Council, RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 May 2002). According to "Parlamentskaya gazeta" on 23 May, 11 members were elected to the presidium of the new council, eight of whom are legislative speakers. Federation Council Chairman Sergei Mironov will head the group, Lyubov Sliska, who is a first deputy speaker in the Duma, will be his deputy. Federation Council Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Torshin will be the group secretary. Included in the list of eight legislative chairmen were Nikolai Voronin (Sverdlovsk), Valerii Kechkin (Mordovia), Oleg Lukichev (Tula), Aleksandr Nazarchuk (Altai), Aleksandr Popov (Rostov), Pavel Sazhinov (Murmansk), Vasilii Filippov (Sakha), and Farid Mukhametshin (Tatarstan).

IN: Unity deputy Vladimir Tarachev will head the State Duma's Commission on the Problems of Restructuring, Bankruptcy, and Liquidation of Credit Organizations, replacing Martin Shakkum (Russian Regions), who has been relieved of his duties, reported on 22 May.

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 Mikhail 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: Russia-NATO Council will hold its first meeting in Brussels, according to Interfax on 28 May

6 June: Trial of Media-MOST executive Anton Titov on fraud and money-laundering charges will resume in Moscow

7 June: Shanghai Cooperation Organization will meet in St. Petersburg

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

13 June: Government will consider the basic parameters of the 2003 federal budget, according to Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin on 23 May

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

20 June: Deadline by which the Russian government will decide how much oil exports will increase, according to Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko on 27 May

23 June: Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Buryatia

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

30 June: State Duma will hold its last plenary meeting of fall session

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

13 July: The presidium of the political council of Gennadii Seleznev's Rossiya movement will meet to consider its future strategy

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

18 September: First plenary meeting of State Duma's fall session

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.