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Security Watch: March 26, 2001

26 March 2001, Volume 2, Number 12
WASHINGTON SAID TO VIEW MOSCOW AS EVIL, FOOLISH. Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said that the tit-for-tat spy scandal will put an end for some time to "fruitful cooperation" between the Russian and American security services, ITAR-TASS reported. In an additional comment, Ivanov said he was concerned by what he called a trend in U.S. policy to view Moscow as "a nuclear bogeyman" and then suggest that the Russians would be so stupid as to use 50 diplomats in the Hanssen case.

MOSCOW URGED TO EXPEL EVEN MORE AMERICANS. Yuri Drozdev, the former chief of the KGB's S Directorate for Illegals, said that Washington's expulsion of 50 Russian embassy employees is "a stupid act aimed at undermining Russia's renewed assertiveness in foreign affairs," "Vremya novostei" reported on 23 March. He said that Moscow should retaliate by expelling far more Americans, including those working at the NATO information center and in joint ventures.

SERGEI IVANOV SAYS MOSCOW WILL IGNORE WASHINGTON ON TRADE. On his return from Washington, Russian Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov said in an interview published in "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 17 March that he had made it clear in the U.S. capital that "Russia is not going to lose markets just because the United States does not like a particular country." Ivanov said that Moscow has its own list of "rogue states," which includes U.S. allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In other comments, he said that he had not brought up the issue of the "spy tunnel" said to be under the Russian embassy in Washington but that he felt himself completely secure in that building.

MIGRANYAN AGREES... Writing in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 15 March, Andrannik Migranyan said that Moscow should end any "linkage" to the U.S. in its international activities. Moreover, the commentator suggested, no one in Russia should have any illusions about integrating into the international community now dominated by the United States. And because Washington only takes seriously those countries which pose a threat to its national interests, Moscow must strive to act as an independent force "beyond American control," less in order to damage U.S. interests than in order to save itself from arbitrary American actions.

MOSCOW SEEKS END TO EMBARGO ON IRAQ. Duma Speaker Gennadii Seleznyev lead a parliamentary delegation to Baghdad in order to push for an end to the international embargo against Iraq and to seek new contracts for Russian oil companies, Interfax reported on 17 March.

NIKOLAEV OUTLINES MOSCOW'S PLANS IF BALTICS JOIN NATO. Andrei Nikolaev, the chairman of the Duma defense committee, said Russia is ready to divert the flow of goods now going through the Baltic states to Finland and to shift energy exports as well if NATO takes in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as members. He also said that if the three become member states of the alliance, Moscow will consider reopening the question of its borders with the Baltic countries in general and with Lithuania in particular.

RUSSIANS LOOK TO EUROPE, NOT U.S. According to the Public Opinion Foundation, nearly half of all Russians -- 46 percent -- believe that ties with Europe are the most important for their country, "Segodnya" reported on 23 March. Only 10 percent think ties with the U.S. should be of primary concern.

A RUSSIAN BRZEZINSKI? According to Aleksandr Oslon, the head of the Public Opinion Foundation, Kremlin ideological adviser Gleb Pavlovskii is a Russian "Zbigniew Brzezinski upside down," "Segodnya" reported on 23 March. Pavlovskii believes, Oslon said, that the current globalism of American foreign policy is "an archaic reaction" to the end of the Soviet Union and that from this perspective, "the United States is the main heir to the USSR in the modern world."

RUSSIANS INFURIATED BY U.S. PLANS TO MEET CHECHEN REPRESENTATIVE. Russian officials and politicians reacted harshly to media reports that the U.S. government will now meet Chechen Foreign Minister Ilyas Akhmatov at the official rather than informational level. Duma speaker Gennadii Seleznev was quoted by "Vremya novostei" on 22 March as saying that he will seek Akhmatov's extradition to Russia to face unspecified charges. Duma Foreign Relations Committee chief Dmitri Rogozin said that such contacts mean that "the U.S. supports terrorism." And Kremlin information chief Sergei Yastrzhembskii said that Akhmatov's name is on an Interpol list, although he acknowledged that he is not certain that the one in Washington is the same man.

RUSSIA PLAYS ON SPANISH FEELINGS IN GUSINSKY CASE. In seeking the extradition of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky to Russia, Moscow is skillfully playing domestic Spanish politics, "Moskovskiy komsomolets" reported on 22 March. Because the Spanish have always sought the extradition of Basque terrorists, the Kremlin calculated that Madrid will be unlikely to oppose Gusinsky's extradition, the paper said.

STEPASHIN: LEGAL SHORTCOMINGS IN PRIVATIZATION SHOULDN'T BE PUNISHED. Nearly 90 percent of Russian privatizations included some violation of existing legislation, Audit Chamber chief Sergei Stepashin said on Ekho Moskvy on 21 March, but in almost all cases, he said, no legal action should be taken lest that ruin the entire Russian economy. He said that the privatization effort was a political rather than an economic one, because it intended to create a new middle class.

KREMLIN GETS NEW INFO DIRECTORATE. President Vladimir Putin on 19 March named Sergei Yastrzhembskii to head the new Kremlin Information Directorate, "Segodnya" reported the following day. The papers said that the new body will be responsible for "the coordination of official information and the image of the Russian government abroad." Yastrzhembskii made his reputation as Boris Yeltsin's press secretary, during which time he worked hard to conceal the true state of Yeltsin's health. More recently, he has served as the Kremlin's spokesman on Chechnya.

PUTIN ACKNOWLEDGES LITTLE PROGRESS IN CHECHNYA. In an interview with four Moscow newspapers which have been loyal to him -- "Trud," "Izvestiya," "Komsomolskaya pravda," and "Moskovskiy Komsomolets" -- President Vladimir Putin said that even though Russian troops control the territory of Chechnya, the end of that war is not in sight. In other remarks, he criticized Boris Yeltsin for assuming the Soviet debt. But he said that he was happy with the way in which Washington now defines Russia -- "neither friend nor foe." Putin said that is how we are going to relate to the U.S. as well.

DUMA MOVES TO LIBERALIZE CAPITAL EXPORTS. Over the objections of both the government and the Kremlin, the Duma voted on a second reading to allow more cross-border currency operations to take place without government control and to permit Russians to transfer up to $75,000 abroad for investment in stocks, "Kommersant" reported on 22 March. Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin told "Izvestiya" that he supports an economic amnesty on capital exports. Moreover, he has submitted the international money-laundering convention to the Duma, RIA-Novosti reported on 22 March.

DUMA PUTS OFF NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORT BILL. Under pressure from environmental and human rights groups, the Duma on 22 March decided to delay consideration of a measure that would allow Russia to import and permanently store nuclear waste from other countries, NTV reported on 22 March. The government expects to earn as much as $20 billion over the next decade in doing this. Deputy Nuclear Power Minister Valerii Lebedev, who was a former deputy chairman of the KGB, said that the nuclear imports could even help to provide funds for protecting the environment.

RUSSIAN CORRUPTION COSTS $15 BILLION A YEAR... Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said that Russia is currently losing $15 billion a year, reported on 23 March. That is on top of the $20-25 billion a year that is leaving the country without proper documentation. More than one-third of all Russian banks are involved in money-laundering, he said, adding that the much-anticipated law on corruption won't reverse this trend anytime soon.

...AND ESPECIALLY INFECTS LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES. Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasilii Kolmogorov was quoted in "Rossiiskie vesti" on 22 March as saying that police and the courts are especially hard hit by corruption as evidenced by their falsification of documents about the number of crimes and the rate at which crimes are solved. He said that trend has some unusual consequences. The reported 45 percent growth in crime in the Russian capital in 2000 is not as much a reflection of a surge in criminal activity as it is due to a federal probe that forced the police to report crimes more accurately.

...BUT KARAGANOV DOESN'T. Writing in "Moskovskie novosti" on 20 March, Sergei Karaganov, who heads the influential Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, argued that recent actions by Moscow give the impression that the Russian government has decided that it has failed at reform and therefore must simultaneously present itself to the world as a threat and divert public attention by creating international crises. Such an approach, Karaganov wrote, detracts the leadership from keeping the focus on national revival.


By Paul Goble

A spate of articles in the Moscow press this week have suggested that the current political crisis in Kyiv is already increasing regional tensions in Ukraine and could lead to the disintegration of the Ukrainian state.

But like similar reports just before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, these commentaries appear less a genuine prognostication of what is likely to occur than an obvious effort to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to turn to Moscow for its security needs.

As the political crisis in Ukraine has deepened over the last few weeks, the Russian media have been full of ever more items concerning the challenges President Leonid Kuchma faces in trying to quiet demands that he resign because of his alleged involvement in the murder of independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze last fall. Moscow outlets have given extensive coverage both to the Gongadze case and to demonstrations against Kuchma.

This week, however, the Russian media have contained some more apocalyptic predictions. Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta," for example, on 21 March featured an interview with the president of the ethnic Russian community in Ukraine who said that Russians there are angry at the Ukrainian authorities and now seek to develop closer ties with the Russian Federation in order to promote the creation of a new union state.

The next day, Russian wire services carried the results of a poll in Ukraine showing that the citizens of that country have ever less trust in the central Ukrainian government and ever more trust in regional authorities. And earlier this week, another Russian article explicitly suggested what many had talked about a decade ago but which has seldom been discussed in recent years: the possibility that Ukraine could in fact disintegrate into three sections.

The article in question argued that not only was there the possibility that Ukraine could split between the ethnic Russian eastern portion and the ethnic Ukrainian central portion, but also that the six western oblasts of Ukraine, the most nationalistic region of all, might break away as well, given its orientation toward Rome rather than toward the Orthodox east.

Such articles inevitably attract attention by their apocalyptic quality, and indeed some of their authors may be making these predictions for no other reason than that. But the appearance of so many such articles all at once, together with increasingly explicit Russian government calls for working with the ethnic Russian population in Ukraine and elsewhere, suggests that more may be at work than the desire of some journalists for attention.

Indeed, in many ways, this current upsurge of such predictions inevitably recalls two earlier periods when Russian media carried similar suggestions. Just before the end of the Soviet Union, journalists around President Mikhail Gorbachev suggested that an independent Ukraine would inevitably break apart along ethnic lines, with a significant portion of the republic choosing to join Moscow.

A second media upsurge on this subject took place in 1992 and 1993 when Russian analysts routinely suggested that Ukraine, a compound country of Ukrainian-speaking Ukrainians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, and Russian-speaking Russians, was unlikely to be able to sustain itself as an independent country.

In both of these earlier cases, it now appears, these predictions were intended to be less a description of some future reality than a means of intimidating the Ukrainian government and even the Ukrainian people to follow Moscow's line lest they lose even more. But for most of the last decade, most observers in Russia and elsewhere have become convinced that Ukraine's multinational population is among the least of the challenges Kyiv faces.

Indeed, these analysts and commentators have suggested, Ukraine's simultaneous efforts at nation and state building have been far more successful than many had expected. The problems Kyiv faces have arisen not from ethnic or regional divisions but have been largely self-inflicted by a Ukrainian political leadership that has remained divided, corrupt, and uncertain in its goals.

Now, as almost a decade ago, Moscow appears to be invoking again the threat of Ukrainian disintegration not so much to warn of what is likely to happen but rather to put pressure on embattled President Kuchma to conclude that close ties with Moscow are his and his country's only salvation.

Some people around Kuchma may in fact be convinced, but the experience of a decade ago suggests that many Ukrainians are likely to see through this new specter of disintegration and to become more -- not less -- committed to the defense of the independence of their country. If that happens, then this specter may acquire a reality but one directly opposite to what its creators appear to intend.