Accessibility links

Breaking News

Security Watch: April 9, 2001

9 April 2001, Volume 2, Number 14
MOSCOW SEEKS TO PLAY EUROPE AGAINST U.S. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told the EU's defense chief Javier Solana during the latter's visit to Moscow that Russia seeks to expand cooperation between Russia and the EU in military and security areas, reported on 5 April. President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Moscow's orientation toward Europe rather than the U.S. in his address to the Federal Assembly on 3 April.

MOSCOW READIES STRATEGIC 'FRIENDSHIP' TREATY WITH CHINA. Aleksandr Losyukov, the deputy foreign minister, told Interfax on 4 April that Moscow and Beijing have agreed on the main provisions of a strategic 10-year "friendship" treaty between the two countries. The treaty is to be signed in Moscow in July when Chinese leader Jiang Zemin meets with President Putin.

WEAPONS, DEBT DOMINATE RUSSIAN-ALGERIAN TALKS. President Vladimir Putin and visiting Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika discussed Algeria's $4 billion debt from Soviet times and Algerian interest in purchasing additional Russian weapons and spare parts for its military, 80 percent of whose equipment is Soviet, "Izvestiya" reported on 4 April. Bouteflika agreed to give Gazprom access to gas projects in his country in exchange for the restructuring of Algeria's debt.

MOSCOW SAYS U.S. CARES ABOUT MARKETS, NOT PROLIFERATION. Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Bulat Nigmatullin said that U.S. objections to Russian sales of nuclear equipment to Iran were over markets rather than proliferation, RIA-Novosti reported on 4 April. "It is our market, and if we pull out, the U.S. might rush in to exploit that opportunity," Nigmatullin said.

MOSCOW TELLS NATO IT IS LOOKING TOWARD EUROPE. Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov told NATO parliamentarians that Moscow's priorities include "maximum integration into Europe in compliance with our national interests," RIA-Novosti reported on 6 April. Gusarov said that Moscow's relations with NATO will depend both on Moscow's European approach and NATO's future actions. But he repeated that Moscow will never accept NATO as the final arbiter of European security.

RUSSIA RETALIATES AGAINST U.S. ON TRANSIT VISAS. Because the U.S. has introduced mandatory transit visas for Russian travelers, Moscow will do the same for Americans transiting Russia as of 6 April, Ekho Moskvy reported.

PETERSBURGERS TAKE CHARGE OF INTERIOR MINISTRY... President Vladimir Putin appointed two members of the so-called "St. Petersburg chekist gang" to help new Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov to run that body, reported. The former chief of the FSB Personnel Department, Colonel General Yevgenii Soloviev, will now head the ministry's Department of Cadres and Organizational Work, and the former head of the St. Petersburg Special Procuracy for State Security Matters, Vitalii Merzlyakov, has been installed as the head of the ministry's Investigative Committee. In addition, they will be joined by yet another deputy minister, Vladimir Vasiliev, an Interior Ministry functionary who was ousted by former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo.

...AS SERGEI IVANOV CHANGES LEADERSHIP AT DEFENSE... "Itogi" on 3 April said that Vladimir Putin's shifting of Sergei Ivanov from the Security Council to the Defense Ministry will mean that the Defense Ministry will now become the center of foreign-policy making. Ivanov, too, apparently plans a clean sweep: according to on 5 April, most senior Defense Ministry officials have offered to resign even before Ivanov asked. The current chief of the general staff, Anatolii Kvashnin, will likely join Rushailo at the Security Council, and two Yeltsin holdovers, Deputy Defense Minister Valerii Manilov and Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, will follow, the site reported.

...AND IN THE GRU. New Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov also plans to reshuffle the leadership of the GRU and replace its current director, Valentin Korabelnikov, with someone from the SVR, "Versiya" reported on 2 April and "Zhizn" on 4 April. The GRU is the portion of Moscow's intelligence that is the least changed since Soviet times, and while Ivanov is known to have great respect for it, he wants his own man in charge, "Versiya" said.

MORE RUSSIANS FAVOR CENSORSHIP. A polling organization controlled by Kremlin ideological advisor Gleb Pavlovskii reported on its website,, on 22 March that 57 percent of Russians favor reimposing some kind of censorship over the media, up from 48 percent in November 2000. Equally significant, the number of those opposed to censorship dropped from 38 to 33 percent during the same interval.

PUTIN HAS PARLIAMENTARIANS SHOW SUPPORT FOR CHECHEN CAMPAIGN. During his address to the Federal Assembly, President Vladimir Putin called on everyone to rise in support of those he called "the heroes of the Chechen war," reported on 5 April. No one refused to stand, the website reported.

DUMA ACTS ON EMERGENCY SITUATIONS LAW. On its second reading, the Duma approved a bill that will allow the president to introduce a state of emergency to protect "the constitutional order or the rights and freedoms of citizens," Interfax reported on 5 April. One part of the bill specifies that "the purpose of the introduction of a state of emergency may be the elimination of the circumstances caused by its imposition." Such a state of emergency cannot last longer than 30 days for the country as a whole or for more than 60 days in any particular region, but during that period, the president can overrule all government bodies.

PUTIN WANTS MORE RUSSIAN FILMS. Via decrees creating a national film distribution company, President Vladimir Putin hopes to increase the number of Russian-made films in the national market from 7 percent today to 30 percent in 2004, Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi told Interfax on 4 April. Putin said that Russian studios should produce no fewer than 55 films this year.

NORWEGIANS SUGGEST 'KURSK' HAD ATOMIC WEAPON ON BOARD. Harald Ramfijord, the chief scientist of the Norwegian company Global Tool Management, which is involved in recovering the sunken "Kursk" submarine, has asserted that there is evidence that there were two nuclear charges on that vessel, "Komsomolskaya pravda" reported on 5 April. Ramfijord added his company will withdraw from the salvage operation if the reports in his possession prove true. Meanwhile, however, a spokesman for the Russian Northern Fleet said that such reports were "nonsense."

RUSSIA PLANS DEFENSE AGAINST TERRORIST ONSLAUGHT IN CENTRAL ASIA. Russian and CIS militaries are making plans to block any effort by "international terrorists" to move against the Central Asian states, General Viktor Prudnikov told RIA-Novosti on 6 April. He was speaking at the conclusion of a military field game "South Shield," which involved commanders from Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Ukraine sent observers, but Turkmenistan did not take part in the maneuvers.

MOSCOW APPROVES MORE MILITARY SATELLITES. The governmental Military-Industrial Commission under Prime Minister Mikhail Kasayanov has decided to increase the number of military satellites, ITAR-TASS reported on 5 April. At present, there are 110 Russian satellites in orbit, of which 60 belong to the military. The new generation military satellites will have a life span of 10 years. Their boosting into orbit will be paid for by the simultaneous launching of West European satellites.

DEATH PENALTY PROPOSED FOR DRUG TRAFFICKERS. Duma deputy Dmitrii Saveliev plans to introduce a bill calling for the introduction of capital punishment for those convicted of drug dealing, the web agency All Russia reported on 4 April. He said that in his district the number of drug addicts is so high that it threatens the region's demographic future.

BORODIN SAYS SWISS HAVE NO CASE. Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary and former Kremlin property office chief Pavel Borodin told ITAR-TASS on 4 April that he is prepared for extradition to Switzerland because the Swiss will never be able to prove that he was involved in money laundering and bribe-taking. His name is not on any of the accounts, and the deals in question always were made by a committee. But, as in the past, Borodin failed to explain why it is that he has been unwilling to voluntarily appear before a Swiss court before now.


By Paul Goble

A senior Russian Duma deputy argues that Moscow cannot achieve its ends in Chechnya through a counterterrorist action alone but only if it ends human rights abuses there and succeeds in persuading the Chechens that they will be better off as part of Russia.

In an article published in Moscow's "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 3 April, Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy chairman of the Duma Foreign Affairs Committee and the deputy leader of the Fatherland-All Russia faction, argues that Moscow has been making a fundamental mistake in how it addresses Chechnya and must change course before it is too late.

According to Kosachev, who recently visited the North Caucasus, Moscow has had two choices at each point throughout the 1990s in how to respond to those Chechens who seek independence. It could seek to "physically destroy" Chechen leaders who want independence or it could persuade people there that "it is better for Chechnya to remain part of Russia than to strive for independence."

Unfortunately, Kosachev continues, Moscow has at each point "preferred to send in the troops," adding that "this method failed us in 1995 and 1996, and God forbid it should fail us again now." He suggests further that "glowing reports about the military and its triumphant march across Chechnya are just wishful thinking." Consequently, he argues, the Russian government must reexamine its approach.

To do so, Kosachev says, requires that Moscow recognize that "the people of Chechnya have serious grievances against federal troops." And the Russian government must also recognize that "lack of central command and coordinated effort as well as lack of personal accountability have affected the effectiveness of the regular army in Chechnya."

But even putting the security services in charge has done little to improve the situation because officials there are rotated so often that they do not develop the contacts and expertise needed to do their jobs. And as a result, Kosachev continues, "the counterterrorist operation in its present form is pointless."

Many people, including Union of Right Forces leader Boris Nemtsov, are advocating new tactics, Kosachev says, but all of their plans have the same basic flaw, that is, they are designed to be "forced on the people of Chechnya" by Moscow rather than being the expression of what the Chechens themselves want. He further says that Moscow can only count on the Chechens wanting to remain inside Russia if Moscow changes its approach.

To win over the hearts and minds of the Chechens, Kosachev argues, Moscow must devote more attention to what he called "the process of post-war restoration," centralizing Russian control over aid distribution and providing dramatically more assistance to the Chechen people.

The Chechen people, he says, "will start siding with the federal government when it sees that new schools and hospitals are built in place of the destroyed ones, when it sees that all this is not the result of lobbyist efforts but a deliberate choice and a sincere intention on the part of the political leadership in Moscow."

Kosachev's analysis flows from both criticism this week by an international human rights group concerning human rights violations by Russian forces and a statement last week by President Vladimir Putin that the Russian reconstruction effort in the North Caucasus is not going well.

But it goes significantly beyond both. And as a result, Kosachev's argument is likely to be challenged by some because it appears to rest on three implicit assumptions, all of which are likely to be viewed by many as highly problematic.

First, to succeed, Kosachev's proposal requires that Moscow be willing to admit its own past mistakes, to address rather than deny charges of human rights abuses by its own forces, and to provide significantly more assistance to the Chechens with whom it has been locked in a battle for most of the last decade. None of those things now appears to be much in evidence.

Second, his proposal can succeed only if sufficient number of Chechens are in fact prepared to accept such a shift in Moscow's approach as genuine. The record of the last decade suggests that even the most war-weary Chechens are likely to be skeptical.

And third, his proposal also assumes that those Chechens who have been fighting for their independence over the last decade will be willing to view such a shift as something more than a recognition by Moscow that it has been losing the conflict on the ground. If the Chechens do not do so, they may simply redouble their efforts.

If even one of these assumptions proves false, Kosachev's call for a new realism about Chechnya could have just the opposite impact he intends, sparking a wider war rather than bringing that conflict closer to resolution.