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Security Watch: January 2, 2001

2 January 2001, Volume 2, Number 1
PUTIN SEEKS CLOSER TIES WITH IRAN, IRAQ... President Vladimir Putin said that Russia,"as a member of the G-8" should cooperate with the international community on Iran and Iraq but that it must not ever forget its "own national interests." In an interview published in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 26 December, Putin said he would pursue closer ties with both countries. Both are changing, he suggested, and Russia should not be "shy" in responding to those changes as other countries have been.

...AS DEFENSE MINISTER PUSHES WEAPONS SALES IN TEHRAN. Defense Minister Igor Sergeev met with the Iranian President Mokhammad Khatami and his defense minister, Ali Shamkhani, to discuss the possibility of Iranian purchases of Russian weapons systems, Interfax reported on 27 December. (A Russian official who accompanied Sergeev said that Tehran could eventually purchase some $4 billion of Russian weapons.) Sergeev dismissed American objections to such sales by saying that "of course, not everybody in the world agrees with our position, but we will pursue our own goals." At the same time, he said that he would urge Iran to join with Russia and the U.S. in containing the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. "Security and stability in Central Asia are in the interests of both Russia and Iran," he said.

SVR FOCUSING ON FOREIGN SUPPORT FOR CHECHENS... SVR chief Sergei Lebedev told "Izvestiya" on 20 December that his agency has given top priority to finding out what he said was "the powerful, and unfortunately very efficient" channel of foreign assistance to the Chechen resistance. He said that Chechnya represents a threat to Russia's territorial integrity and that it has become both a center of drug trafficking and terrorism and "an international school of banditry."

...AS ORT BLASTS BRITAIN FOR SUPPORTING CHECHENS. ORT on 28 December lashed out at the British government for "tolerating" the actions of what it called Islamic extremist groups who recruit and dispatch cadres to Chechnya. The Russian channel said that the extremists, who were also responsible for terrorist explosions in Kashmir, have more recently appeared in the North Caucasus. During his recent visit to London, Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov told British Prime Minister Tony Blair to use the UK's newly adopted law on terrorism and thereby "stop the open activities and fundraising by Islamic terrorists in the British Isles," ORT said.

EXPERT SAYS COOPERATION WITH POLAND WILL ISOLATE UKRAINE. Dmitri Danilov, an expert at the Moscow Institute of Europe, told "Vremya novostei" on 28 December that the Russian government should move from the current exchange of allegations with Warsaw to a more cooperative stance. He said that many Russian politicans continue to view Poland as "America's fifth column in Central Europe." But that status will soon change, Danilov said. First of all, Poland will become a major player in the Council of Europe with almost as many votes as Britain, France or Germany. Moreover, its negative trade balance with Russia seems likely to produce a softening in Poland's attitudes toward Moscow. And finally, with such a shift in Russian policy, Warsaw would be more likely to agree to back away from Ukraine and allow Russian gas pipelines to cross Poland to Europe.

IS RUSSIAN DEFENSE PROBE AIMED AT UKRAINE? The Russian military's investigation into bribery accusations against the former chief of the Defense Ministry's Main Budget Administration Georgy Oleinik appears to have a political dimension with regard to Ukraine. That is because Oleinik is accused of having taken a three-million-dollar bribe from Yulia Timoshenko, the Ukrainian vice prime minister. (See RFE/RL Security Watch, no. 23) Indeed, Timoshenko described the efforts of Russian prosecutors to get her to testify "a provocation" to which she would never agree. But reported on 26 December, that the case will show her heavily involved in the laundering of $500 million of Russian funds through Ukraine's energy sector. Undermining Timoshenko in this way, some in Moscow appear to believe, would further undermine those in Kyiv who are promoting a pro-Western orientation.

RUSSIA EXPANDS NUCLEAR COOPERATION WITH FRANCE. Russia's Rosenergoatom said in a press release on 26 December that it will expand its cooperation with France on 20 new projects. Among these will be creating national power-generating companies in the Russian Federation and the elaboration of new safety standards.

KOVALEV SACKED AS HEAD OF RUSSIAN PACE DELEGATION. "Vremya MN' reported on 28 December that veteran human rights campaigner Sergei Kovalev has lost his position as chairman of the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe because of Kremlin unhappiness at his outspoken statements on Chechnya. The Union of Right Forces, whom Kovalev represented in the delegation, has already selected another person as its main representative. As a result, Kovalev may no longer appear in Strasbourg, an absence that Moscow seems certain to explain in terms of money saving, since Russian officials have said they will fund only the main representatives of each of the factions.

DEFENSE MINISTER UNHAPPY WITH BUSH TEAM ON NMD. Defense Minister Sergeev said on 26 December that he is concerned by the impression given by several of U.S. President-elect George W. Bush's foreign policy advisors that NMD deployment is "a purely technical problem," ITAR-TASS reported. If the U.S. backs away from such a deployment, Moscow will be ready to cooperate, Sergeev said. But if it goes ahead, then Moscow will take adequate measures to defense its own national security, the marshal said.

MOSCOW EXPECTS ARMS EXPORTS TO FALL. Deputy Science and Technology Minister Leonid Sofronov told RIA-Novosti on 26 December that Moscow's arms exports could fall dramatically over the next five years because Russian producers will not be able to compete. That is because, he said, most exports now are of weapons systems developed 20 to 30 years ago rather than more modern types. Moreover, he added, there seems to be little room for expanding current sales in most market areas as production lines are running at capacity.

MISSILE FAILURE COSTS RUSSIA SIX SATELLITES. The failure of the Tsiklon missile booster prevented the launch of six satellites, ORT reported on 28 December. Three of these were Defense Ministry Gonets telecommunications birds. Because of this failure and an earlier one in November 2000, Russian space officials have now suspended plans for future Tsiklon launches.

ANOTHER SPY TRIAL BEGINS. The trial of former Institute of USA and Canada staffer Igor Sutyagin has opened in Kaluga, Interfax reported on 26 December. Sutyagin is accused of spying and providing secret information about Russian nuclear submarines to the United States and Britain. But his lawyers told Interfax that their client never had access to classified information. The Sutyagin trial is the latest in a series of such spy trials. Another Russian charged with espionage, former diplomat Valentin Moiseev, also faces trial in Moscow.

FSB REPORTS 'COUNTERESPIONAGE SUCCESS'... An FSB press release on 21 December said that during 2000, the agency had tracked more than 350 Russians working for foreign intelligence services, as well as 41 foreign spies, and neutralized their activities. It also claimed that the FSB had blocked a CIA effort to penetrate the Russian agency's computer network.

...BUT LOCAL COURT RULES AGAINST IT. A court in Primorskiskii Krai ruled against the FSB's handling of its charges againt Valery Soifer, an Academy of Sciences expert on radiation safety, that he had divulged state secrets, ITAR-TASS reported on 20 December. Earlier this year, the local office of the FSB had searched Soifer's hosue and discovered 15-year-old documents stamped "top secret". The FSB decided not to arrest the 70-year-old scientist, but instead "pardoned" him under an amnesty. Soifer appealed to the court and the charges have now been vacated.

PAST KGB SUCCESSES AGAINST WEST HIGHLIGHTED. reported on 27 December that the Soviet intelligence services had conducted a successful disinformation campaign against European countries from 1930 to 1945. Drawing on newly declassified documentation, the website describes the "Tarantella Dance" operation during which Chekists exploited trusted sources to plant false information about the Soviet Union. "Nezavisimoe voennoe obozrenie,",no. 52, said that the main purpose of this legend was to convince Western governments that the Soviet Union was stable and a good trading partner. The weekly said that the operation had been completely successful.

NEW DETAILS ABOUT STALIN'S ANTI-SEMITE CAMPAIGN. A new book entitled "King of the Illegals" by Theodor Gladkov (Moscow: GEYA-ITERUM, 2000) argues that a medical mistake gave dictator Joseph Stalin the pretext to launch his Doctors Plot campaign against Soviet Jews. The book, which is devoted to Soviet super-spy Aleksandr Korotkov, argues that Stalin unleashed this campaign after state security officers brought to his attention a letter from Dr. Lidiya Timoshuk. She reported that more senior Kremlin doctors, many of whom were Jewish, had intentionally used the wrong medications in order to try to kill top Soviet leaders. She cited the case of ideologist Andrei Zhdanov whom she had diagnosed as having suffered cardiac arrest. But other doctors at the Kremlin hospital said that he had only a small heart malfunction, she said. Zhdanov died within the month of a heart attack. Timoshuk also included in her letter the cardiogram she had taken of Zhdanov. Once Stalin saw that, he ordered the arrest of the Kremlin doctors, an event that sparked the last anti-Semitic campaign of Stalin's rule.

NEW WORDS FOR AN OLD SONG. Culture Minister Mikhail Shvidkoy said on 27 October that the state commission named by President Vladimir Putin has come up with new words for the recently restored soviet anthem, ORT reported. The new text was prepared by Sergei Mikhalkov, who wrote the original Stalain-era verses and then changed them later when Moscow decided to drop Stalin's name. Shvidkoy said that the final version has dropped the initial lines referring to the "tricolor banner" and the "two-headed eagle." He suggested that the new song will first be sung on New Year's Eve.

PUTIN PLANS RESTRUCTURING OF POLITICAL ARENA. President Vladimir Putin has sent to the Duma a draft bill on political parties that will radically change the existing political system by eliminating regional parties and introducing state funding for registered political parties, RIA-Novosti reported on 26 December. To be officially registered and eligible for funding, parties must have at least 10,000 members overall and 100 in each of half of the Russian Federation's territorial entities. The plan is intended to reduce the number of parties from 180 to perhaps a dozen, "Izvestiya" reported on 26 December. At the present time, only the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) would qualify for funding under the draft legislation.

ZYUGANOV TO COOPERATE WITH PUTIN. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov met for three hours with President Vladimir Putin on 28 December and said their talks were "very constructive and useful," ITAR-TASS reported. Zyuganov said he supports Putin's political parties bill, particularly because it incorporates ideas his party had suggested earlier. It also benefits his own party. (See above.) Zyuganov also expressed his support for Putin's hardline in Chechnya. But he said he differs with Putin on the question of reforming the UES power grid monopoly.

PUTIN WANTS A NATIONAL INVENTORY. According to Deputy Finance Minister Aleksei Ulyukaev, President Vladimir Putin will soon sign a decree calling for a national inventory of state assets and liabilities, Finmarket reported on 26 December. The listing will include Russian liabilities as well as property abroad and non-financial assets. Registering property may be relatively straightforward, but estimating its value will require foreign expertise, Ulyukaev said. Putin first promised such a national inventory in his first speech as acting president on 31 December 1999.

TIES THAT BIND. Several St. Petersburg newspapers, including the largest reformist weekly "Chas pik," have signed a cooperation agreement with the Media Union, an organization the Kremlin has pushed forward as a counterweight to the Union of Journalists of Russia, which is headed by Vsevlod Bogdanov. The latter has irrited the Kremlin's by its independence and commitment to press freedom, Western agencies reported. But this latest move may be the result simply of family ties: "Chas pik's" chief editor Nataliya Chaikina is the wife of Viktor Cherkesov, a longtime Putin confident, KGB colleague, and currently presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District.


by Paul Goble

Twenty-seven years ago this week, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago" was published in the West. And this three-volume study of the Soviet political prison camp system made it impossible for people in the Soviet Union and the West to continue to minimize or even deny the horrors of the Stalinist state.

Little in this enormous work had not been reported before, but Solzhenitsyn's immense literary and political authority both generated new interst in this theme and led many of his readers to devote more attention to historical issues they up until then had sought to ignore or whitewash.

For the first time, Solzhenitsyn's readers were led by the power of his prose to consider not only the process of the Stalinist camps, the denunciations, the interrogations, and the Gulag itself but also the implications for Soviet society of the existence of this largely unexamined aspect of its past. And they were thus impelled to ask new questions about a system that had to maintain itself not by respecting the truth but by insisting on a massive lie.

In the West, these three solid volumes became best sellers and sparked renewed interest in other reports about the Soviet camps and the Soviet system more generally. And in Soviet-bloc countries, they won an audience both through Western radio broadcasts -- Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty read Solzhenitsyn's work on the air -- and then via samizdat passed surreptitiously hand-to-hand throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Not surprisingly, the Soviet leaders at the time were outraged both by Solzhenitsyn's decision to publish anything on this subject and to publish abroad. The Soviet leadership under Leonid Brezhnev had retreated from even the limited openness under Nikita Khrushchev about Stalin's crimes, preferring instead to talk about the Soviet dictator's contributions during World War II.

But once "The Gulag Archipelago" was in the public domain, the Brezhnev regime reacted not only by arresting the writer after having been unable to stop his words, but also by declaring him a traitor to the fatherland and ultimately expelling him to the West.

As so often happened, these Soviet attacks had the clearly unintended consequence of increasing rather than reducing the attention both Soviet and Western readers paid to Solzhenitsyn and to his careful description of the Stalinist Gulag. Indeed, these attacks had the effect of transforming him into a kind of martyr and prophet whose every statement was parsed for meaning.

Now, a generation later, both Solzhenitsyn's warnings about the Soviet past and his own standing both at home and abroad have changed dramatically -- and not in ways that either he or many others are likely to find entirely welcome.

Solzhenitsyn's works, including "The Gulag Archipelago," are generally available in Russia. Solzhenitsyn himself has returned to a very different country. And he has even had conversations with the new Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Solzhenitsyn's often disparaging comments about the West during his long years of exile and his delay in returning to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union have cost him the unqualified respect and admiration that he enjoyed when his study of the Soviet past was first published.

Moreover, his arguments about the Soviet past seem increasingly dated in both the West and in Russia itself. In the West, the discussion of Stalin's crimes has largely degenerated into academic disputes about just how many people were in fact killed by the Soviet dictator and how the Gulag fit into the Soviet economy.

And in Russia itself, ever more people appear to be looking back to the Soviet period not with the horror that Solzhenitsyn expressed so dramatically a quarter of a century ago but almost with nostalgia. In recent weeks, this change in attitude has lead officials to make more positive comments about the Soviet secret police and prompted the revival of several Stalin-era symbols, including the Soviet anthem and the red battle flag for the Russian army.

More to the point, ever more Russians appear to want to restore something like the borders of what was the Soviet Union. According to poll results released this week, some 55 percent of Russians believe that it is Russia's "historical mission" to pull together the peoples and lands that formed the pre-1917 Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, a view that Solzhenitsyn's recent statements suggest that he now shares, at least in part.

Such shifts in attitudes simultaneously underscore the possibility of change. But they also underscore the power of the past if it is not confronted openly, as Solzhenitsyn did in "The Gulag Archipelago", to continue to cast a shadow on the present and the future as well.