1 April 2003, Volume
PUTIN SAYS IRAQ CRISIS MOST SERIOUS CONFLICT SINCE END OF COLD WAR.
Speaking at a gathering of Duma-faction heads in the Kremlin on 28 March, President Vladimir Putin said the crisis in Iraq has developed into the most serious global conflict since the end of the Cold War and that it has shaken the foundations of global stability and international law, the presidential website (http://www.president.kremlin.ru) reported. The crisis has already developed beyond being merely a local conflict and has taken on a protracted and intractable nature, Putin added. He said that, although Russia has economic interests in the conflict, its political position is not determined by those interests or by potential economic benefits. He repeated Moscow's insistence that military operations be halted immediately and that the responsibility for seeking a solution to the crisis be returned to the UN Security Council. He emphasized that Russia is ready for "constructive cooperation with all parties involved in the conflict, including, of course, the United States." He stressed that relations between Russia and the United States have reached a level that would permit a "frank dialogue" on Iraq.FOREIGN MINISTER BACKS ARAB LEAGUE CALL FOR END TO IRAQ WAR...
Addressing the Federation Council on 26 March, Igor Ivanov said that, at a special session of the UN Security Council to be convened at the initiative of the Arab League later that day, Russia would back the league's call for an immediate halt to the military operation against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, RTR reported. Ivanov also said that the conflict in Iraq has already grown from a regional one to one of international significance. In addition, Ivanov repeated the Kremlin's dismissal of U.S. allegations that Russian companies transferred military equipment to Iraq in violation of UN-imposed sanctions (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 and 25 March 2003). "The United States has presented no evidence of this," Ivanov said. He added somewhat sarcastically that "we should expect that very soon the United States will 'find' some weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Finally, he said he supports a Federation Council proposal to create a "national consensus" committee on Iraq (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 March 2003), where legislators, government officials, diplomats, and businesspeople will work out a coordinated Russian approach to postwar Iraq. Federation Council International Affairs Committee Chairman Mikhail Margelov has said that such a committee would consider Russian policy not just for Iraq but for the entire Middle East. "For us, Iraqi oil and Iraqi debts are not the most important things; political stability in the region is," Margelov said, according to nns.ru on 26 March....AND MAKES THE CASE FOR COLLECTIVE SECURITY.
Writing in "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 25 March, Foreign Minister Ivanov said that the end of the Cold War eliminated the threat of global nuclear war but that the new century has brought new threats to international security that are more daunting than the old ones. These threats are international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, international financial crises, ecological catastrophes, and epidemics, Ivanov wrote. He added that the processes of globalization threaten to turn any regional crisis into a threat to global security because of increased global interconnectedness and wealth imbalances. Ivanov argued that such challenges can only be met through the collective and persistent efforts of the international community, and he pointed to the global coalition against terrorism as an example. The strategy of combating terrorism should combine military, economic, social, and political measures, Ivanov argued, and it should be centralized under the coordination of the United Nations. He added that the conflict in Iraq has put the unity of the international antiterrorism coalition to the test and has forced the international community to consider what the future system of global security will look like.DEFENSE MINISTER COMMENTS ON MILITARY OPERATION IN IRAQ...
Sergei Ivanov said in an interview posted on the website of "Komsomolskaya pravda" (http://www.kp.ru) on 31 March that the Russian military is carefully tracking the U.S.-led military operation in Iraq bearing in mind its own mission of defending the largest country in the world. Ivanov said that the operation is not proceeding "without mishaps and miscalculations" and that Iraq has successfully challenged the coalition both militarily and in terms of propaganda. Developments do not depend on Iraq, however, but on U.S. decisions, Ivanov said. For instance, if U.S. planners resorted to carpet bombing, Iraq would be unable to resist for long, Ivanov said. The political cost of such a decision for the United States would be enormous, he added. If, on the other hand, the United States continues to use tactics designed to minimize casualties and avoid major engagements, the operation could be problematic, since "Iraq still has a formidable army that has not yet begun to fight," Ivanov said. He added that coalition commanders do not need to take major cities such as Basra. "The goal is to get [Iraqi President Saddam] Hussein," Ivanov said. Ivanov said it is possible that the Soviet Union supplied Iraq with 200 Grad multiple rocket launchers in the 1980s but emphasized that Russia has scrupulously observed all international sanctions against Iraq and that Russia's presence in the country "has been minimal" over the last decade. "Purely hypothetically, it can be supposed that some of those weapons probably still exist," Ivanov said. "These weapons do not fall under any bans."...AND ON POLITICAL ASPECTS OF THE CRISIS.
In the same interview, Defense Minister Ivanov said he does not believe that President Hussein will go into exile. He emphasized that Russia is not overly concerned with Hussein's fate. "Speaking frankly, Saddam is not our friend and brother, and he will never repay his debts to us," Ivanov said, adding that the Kremlin is more concerned about setting a precedent for resolving similar disputes. Ivanov said that the international-security system has been "shaken to its foundations" and expressed doubt that the UN Security Council would be able to resume its previous role in international affairs. He said that Moscow believes the U.S. administration wants to make sure that the Security Council is no longer in a position to block or play a key role in international affairs. "We have no need of such a UN," Ivanov added. However, he said that Moscow is bolstering direct ties with U.S. officials and confirmed that he is in personal contact with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and U.S. national-security adviser Condoleezza Rice. "They knew our position on Iraq in advance, and our open declarations do not surprise them," Ivanov said. He said he does not believe that U.S. officials have changed their attitude toward Russia noticeably since the crisis began.DUMA OFFICIAL WARNS AGAINST UNDERESTIMATING RUSSIA...
Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dmitrii Rogozin (People's Deputy) said on 29 March that, due to an intelligence failure, the U.S. administration seriously underestimated the ability and willingness of the Iraqi armed forces to resist the U.S.-led coalition, TV-Tsentr reported. "The United States thought its troops would be welcomed by flowers, but instead Saddam Hussein can celebrate every day with champagne. He divided NATO [and] the European Union and split the United Nations Security Council," Rogozin said. He said that Washington might make an even bigger error of judgment concerning Russia and its intentions. Noting that Washington has accused Moscow of providing military equipment to Iraq, Rogozin quipped that soon the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush will be saying that Moscow is providing the sand for Iraqi sandstorms. He added that the United States is mistaken if it thinks that Russia is not willing to stand up to Washington. "We are reacting to the Iraq campaign as we promised to react. We are a large and powerful country, which no one can isolate [economically], and we should behave in an appropriate way," Rogozin said. He blamed Russian politicians for sending the United States the wrong signals in recent years, creating the impression in Washington that Russia is weak and "an international beggar" instead of making it clear "what mood dominates here."...AND SAYS MOSCOW WILL STAND UP FOR ITS INTERESTS.
In the same TV-Tsentr interview, Rogozin said that President Putin has clearly expressed his position on the Iraq crisis. He said that most Russians agree with Putin, which is why there have been no large demonstrations in Russia as there have been in the United States and Europe, "where people disagree with their governments." Discussing the Russian political elite, Rogozin said that most of it believes that there would be no serious consequences of a major falling-out with the United States, while a minority believes the Russian economy could not weather such a split. "I take a third position," Rogozin said. "I think our interests coincide with those of the United States, as they did [regarding] the antiterrorism coalition, and it is important [for Russia] to have such a powerful and militarily strong ally. However, if our interests diverge from the real, as opposed to the declared, U.S. course, we should openly say so."RUSSIAN POLITICIANS PONDER IRAQ CAMPAIGN...
The Iraq war will be prolonged and will last at least several months, including the initial military phase followed by a partisan-warfare period of pacification, Council for Foreign and Defense Policy Chairman Sergei Karaganov said on ORT on 30 March. Russia should use this time to review its positions on many international issues, since some of them might change as a result of the conflict, Karaganov urged. One possible consequence of the Iraq war might be progress in the Arab-Israeli conflict, as the United States will likely give more support to the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state in order to counterbalance the effect of the Iraq war in the Arab world, Karaganov said. On the same ORT program, Deputy Duma Speaker Vladimir Lukin (Yabloko) said, "This war is not Russia's war, and Russia must distance itself from it, including from the issue of the postwar political order in Iraq." It is in Russia's interests, however, if the war "is long and problematic for those who unleashed it." Lukin said this might beget another "Vietnam syndrome" in the United States and "prevent it from launching further wars."...BUT POLITICAL SCIENTISTS CRITICIZE MOSCOW'S POSITION ON IRAQ.
A statement issued by leading Moscow political scientists warns that "the military defeat of the United States that is so badly desired by the majority of Russians" could cost Russia much more than the demise of the regime of Iraqi President Hussein, "Izvestiya" reported on 31 March. The experts support neither the official position articulated by President Putin and the Foreign Ministry nor the statements of some politicians celebrating the U.S.-led coalition's reported setbacks. The Kremlin's position -- that the military operation should be halted immediately, that coalition forces should be withdrawn, and that the process of resolving the conflict should be returned to the UN Security Council -- is impractical, said Institute of Applied International Research Director Vladimir Razumovskii. "They will never withdraw because that would mean their withdrawal from global politics," Strategic Research Center Director Andrei Piontkovskii said. Moscow's hope that the process of resolving the crisis will be returned to the UN Security Council is also a delusion. The United Nations will never be the same as it was before the crisis, and Moscow should develop a proposal for its profound reformation, the experts argued. They added that Russia should also initiate a summit of the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and Germany with the goal of articulating a unified position on Iraq before the G-8 summit to be held this summer.
RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE WORKING OVERTIME IN BAGHDAD...
Agents of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and Russian military intelligence (GRU) are meeting daily with high-ranking members of President Hussein's intelligence agencies to discuss the developing situation in Iraq, "Nezavisimaya gazeta" reported on 27 March. It reported that two Zaslon (shield) special-purpose SVR detachments have been sent to Iraq and noted that the security of Russian diplomatic missions is the responsibility of the Federal Border Guard Service, which was recently merged into the Federal Security Service (FSB)....AS HUNT FOR HUSSEIN'S ARCHIVES STARTS.
"Nezavisimaya gazeta" speculates that the Russian intelligence stations in Baghdad have been ordered to evacuate the archives of the Iraqi secret services to Russia prior to the fall of Hussein's regime. The topic might have been discussed last month when Hussein met with former Prime Minister Yevgenii Primakov, who is also a former SVR head (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 February 2003), the paper commented. If Moscow is able to acquire Hussein's secret-service archives, it will gain access to the Iraqi intelligence network and thereby get control of a crucial lever of influence in postwar Iraq. Moreover, these archives may contain information about possible weapons of mass destruction. However, the newspaper notes that experts believe Hussein would have ordered such documents destroyed when it became clear that the U.S.-led coalition would attack. According to the paper, the CIA and Britain's MI-6, which are already active in Iraq, are also bent on acquiring these records. However, while Western agents are working secretly and in a hostile environment, Russian intelligence agents have the advantage of working more or less openly from the Russian Embassy, the daily noted. It is possible that the archives could end up at the embassy, which is protected by extraterritoriality, the newspaper concluded.
MILITARY ANALYSTS CRITIQUE COALITION'S IRAQ CAMPAIGN TO DATE...
A panel of five retired senior military commanders -- former Soviet ground-forces commander Army General Valentin Varennikov, former Deputy Defense Ministers Colonel General Georgii Kondratev and Colonel General Valerii Manilov, Academy of Military Sciences President General Makhmut Gareev, and Duma Defense Committee Deputy Chairman Colonel General Eduard Vorobev -- have analyzed the difficulties faced by the U.S.-led coalition, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 March. The generals concluded, first, that the coalition seriously underestimated the ability and willingness of the Iraqi Army to resist. In addition, coalition planners relied too much on their high-precision weaponry and neglected the basic techniques of close combat. Further, the coalition has had to cope with the extremely harsh climate and natural conditions of the desert environment. Finally, the generals pointed to the U.S. and British troops' lack of experience conducting large-scale ground-combat operations and to a lack of coordination among members of the anti-Iraq coalition. They particularly noted Turkey's refusal to allow the coalition to open a second front in northern Iraq from its territory....AS EXPERTS ANALYZE WASHINGTON'S FAILURE TO WIN THE INFORMATION WAR...
Participants in a roundtable discussion of the military campaign in Iraq broadcast on ORT on 26 March concluded that the United States so far has failed to win the "information war" against Iraqi President Hussein, in part because Iraqi "propagandists" have learned from their mistakes during the 1991 Gulf War. In addition, Iraq has enjoyed both covert and overt media and public support from Germany, France, Russia, and China, noted Major General Aleksandr Sharavin, director of the Moscow Institute of Military and Political Analysis. Moreover, political scientist Aleksandr Tsypko said the official line of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has come under strong partisan criticism from U.S. media outlets that he alleged are sympathetic to the Democratic Party....AND ANALYST WARNS OF GROWING THREAT OF WAR.
Andrei Kokoshin, the newly appointed chairman of the Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs, a former secretary of the Security Council, a former deputy defense minister, and director of the International Security Institute, said on 25 March that he is worried by the significant growth of the threat of military conflict in many regions of the world and by the beginnings of new regional arms races, TV-Tsentr reported on 25 March. Kokoshin said he is worried by the growing number of countries attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, particularly North Korea, which he said either already has such weapons or could develop them in a matter of months. He said that this development would almost certainly push Japan to join the nuclear club. Few have commented on the fact that Tokyo has already altered its legislation to allow it to develop such weapons, and it possesses the technological know-how to do so within weeks. India and Pakistan are also a source of concern, Kokoshin said. He said that the leaders of these countries treat these weapons much more cavalierly than the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union did during the Cold War. If present trends continue, Russia will find itself surrounded by a host of nuclear countries, including Japan, North Korea, China, India, and Pakistan, Kokoshin noted.
RUSSIA TO REINTRODUCE SMALLPOX VACCINATIONS.
State Health Inspectorate spokesman Yurii Fedorov said on 31 March that Russia intends to reinstate its system of mandatory smallpox vaccinations, nns.ru reported. The Health Ministry plans to phase in vaccinations for high-risk population groups in the near future. Fedorov said the first group to be vaccinated will be medical workers. "Argumenty i fakty," No. 13, reported that the plan is connected with the perceived increase in the threat of bioterrorism. The Soviet smallpox vaccination program was ended in 1980, and currently the only legitimate stocks of the smallpox virus are kept at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, and at a research facility in Novosibirsk.RUSSIA STILL SEEKING TRANSFER OF TALIBAN MEMBERS.
The Prosecutor-General's Office expects to receive an official answer from the United States regarding its request for the extradition of eight alleged Taliban members who are Russian citizens, regions.ru reported on 27 March. Deputy Prosecutor-General Sergei Fridinskii reported that Russia has sent three letters about the eight Russian prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. According to Fridinskii, Russian officials have let their U.S. counterparts know the inquiry is not just a friendly letter but an official document that requires a response. According to the agency, the eight prisoners are Shamil Khadzhiev and Ravil Gumarov from Bashkortostan, Rasul Kudaev and Ruslan Odigov from Kabardino-Balkaria, Ravil Mingazov and Airat Vakhitov from Tatarstan, Rustam Akmerov from Chelyabinsk, and Timur Ishmuradov from Tyumen Oblast.
AUTOMAKER WILL DEAL WITH ANY IRAQI REGIME.
Aleksei Barantsev, general director of the Gorkii Automobile Plant in Nizhnii Novgorod, said on 31 March that his company will fulfill a contract with Iraq to supply 5,000 cars even if the regime of Iraqi President Hussein is removed, Russian media reported. The $45 million contract was signed as part of the UN's oil-for-food program, Barantsev said, and is enforceable under international law.FOREIGN DEBT INCREASED SLIGHTLY IN 2002.
Russia's foreign debt rose by $2.7 billion in 2002, RBK reported on 1 April, citing statistics released by the Central Bank. As of 1 January, the country's foreign debt totaled $153.5 billion, of which $55.3 billion is Soviet-era debt, $48.4 billion is post-Soviet debt, and the rest comprises various bonds and obligations.
PROSECUTOR AGAIN WARNS CULTURE MINISTER AGAINST RETURNING TROPHY ART.
Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi was summoned to the office of Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov on 25 March and formally warned that he will be prosecuted if he attempts to return the so-called Baldin collection of World War II-era trophy art to Germany (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 and 19 March 2003), RTR reported. Earlier, prosecutors sent a written warning informing Shvydkoi that they consider the proposed transfer of the 364 artworks to be a violation of Russian legislation. Asked what will happen if the Culture Ministry proceeds with the handover, which is scheduled for 29 March, an unidentified spokesman for the prosecutor's office was quoted by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 25 March as saying: "It will never happen. The pictures will stay in Russia." The Prosecutor-General's Office has argued that the Culture Ministry has violated the law by failing officially to assess the value of the collection before authorizing its transfer to Germany, "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 25 March.NO CRIMINAL CASE TO BE FILED IN ST. PETERSBURG HAZING CASE.
The Leningrad Military District Military Prosecutor's Office has decided not to open a criminal inquiry into allegations of hazing by the parents of two cadets at the prestigious Nakhimov Naval Academy (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 March 2003), RosBalt reported on 24 March. The office ruled that, following a preliminary investigation at the insistence of the local branch of the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers, investigators found "conflicting relations" among academy cadets but "not enough [evidence] to initiate a criminal case."
EURASIA PARTY HEAD ISSUES ANTI-U.S. MANIFESTO.
Aleksandr Dugin, a controversial politician known for his staunchly anti-Western views, published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 25 March an essay noting that "nothing is as popular in Russia today as disliking America." Dugin argued that Russian conservatives hate the United States for its perceived liberalism and its "globalist" values. The Russian left hates the United States for being the bulwark of "world capitalism" and market economics. He noted that the left's hostility is not only a holdover from the Soviet era but a reaction to Russia's botched economic reforms in the 1990s, which were actively supported by the United States. In general, Dugin argued, a majority of Russians hold anti-American sentiments and that is why "anti-Americanism could be a reliable platform for the consolidation of the entire Russian society." Dugin's essay was entitled "Why We Dislike the States," a clear reference to the well-known anti-Semitic pamphlet "Why We Dislike Them," which was published in the 1920s by Russian monarchist Vasilii Shulgin.