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Security Watch: April 23, 2001

23 April 2001, Volume 2, Number 16
SERGEI IVANOV WARNS WASHINGTON... New Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said that American withdrawal from the ABM treaty regime would entail "unpredictable consequences," ITAR-TASS reported on 16 April. He said that Washington must clearly define its position in full recognition of what NMD might mean for the world. In the meantime, Ivanov said, Moscow will continue to seek a dialogue on the matter.

...BUT WARMS TO MINSK. Despite suggestions by "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 17 April that Russian-Belarusian military cooperation "will have no impact on the correlation of forces in the world," Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov went to Minsk to promote precisely that kind of cooperation through the adoption of a common military doctrine and agreement on the eventual unification of the armies of the two countries, Interfax reported on 17 April. Meanwhile, "Belorusskaya delovaya gazeta" on 13 April noted that Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka had followed Moscow's lead by replacing Aleksandr Chumakov with Leonid Maltsev at the same time Ivanov became defense minister in Russia.

MOSCOW SEEKS A PROFITABLE OUTCOME WITH IRAQ. Iraqi Vice President Takha Yassin Ramadan became the first senior Iraqi official to visit the Russian capital in more than a decade, the BBC reported on 17 April. His goal was to push Moscow to step up the Russian campaign to end the international sanctions regime against Baghdad, and he used the carrot of possibly greater Russian access to Iraqi oil should those sanctions be lifted. The Russian government for its part made it clear that Moscow hopes for economic benefits from Iraq -- not only access to oil but also the repayment of Baghdad's debt -- and that as a result it will continue to seek an end to sanctions.

MOLDOVAN PRESIDENT, A FORMER MVD GENERAL, COMES TO MOSCOW. New Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin said in Moscow that his country, which he called "the poorest and most corrupt" in the post-Soviet space, needs Russian help to avoid being crushed, "Izvestiya" reported on 17 April. For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he was pleased that Voronin, a former general in the Soviet and then Russian interior ministries, had made Moscow his first destination as president. Voronin told reporters that he felt himself "quite comfortable" in Putin's Moscow.

LUZHKOV, PRIMAKOV ALLY WITH FORMER OPPONENTS... Unity leader Sergei Shoigu and Fatherland head Yuri Luzhkov announced on 12 April the formation of a pro-Kremlin bloc in the Duma, Russian and Western agencies reported. Luzhkov pointed out that his co-chairman Yevgeny Primakov "totally supports" this idea as well, a move that by itself gave the group at least 132 seats in the parliament, ahead of the Communist-Agrarian alliance's 127. Later, two other groups joined the new pro-Kremlin body to yield a pro-Kremlin majority in the parliament for the first time.

...AND COMPETE IN SHOWING LOYALTY TO PUTIN. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that the new bloc represents the beginning of "a new era in Russian history," while Yevgeny Primakov said that he does "not see why he should be in opposition to Putin since he agrees with him on most issues," "Moskovskii komsomolets" reported on 18 April. Primakov said that it would be a good thing if all the parties involved would dissolve and form a completely new, "centrist" party.

DUMA TO FOCUS ON INSIDER INFORMATION ABUSES. Duma Audit Subcommittee Chairman Ivan Grachev said that he has introduced a new bill to impose criminal penalties on those who abuse insider information, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 April. He said that this was a necessary first step toward improving corporate governance and restoring confidence in the largely unregulated behavior of many business leaders.

DUMA BACKS IMPORTING NUCLEAR WASTE. After being lobbied by the government to support the measure and by ecologists and many regional leaders to oppose it, the Duma approved on second reading amendments that will allow Moscow to import spent nuclear fuel for permanent storage, RIA-Novosti reported. Each side accused the other of spending money "like crazy" to advance its cause. Ecology activists said they hoped the Federation Council would block the measure. And Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinsky whose group together with SPS voted against the measure said that its backers had "exchanged Russian ecological security for their own kickbacks and privileges."

COMMUNISTS PUSH 'LIBERALIZATION' OF CURRENCY REGIME. The Duma approved in final reading a bill that once approved will give Russians more flexibility in using foreign currency accounts and eliminate official scrutiny over most Russian financial activities abroad, "Kommersant" reported on 18 April. The bill was introduced by Duma Economic Policy Committee head (Communist) Sergei Glaziyev. Both the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank opposed the measure because of concerns that it may lead to more money laundering.

PUTIN SAYS INFLATION CAN PRODUCE INSTABILITY. President Vladimir Putin warned on 16 April that higher than predicted inflation so far this year could threaten economic growth and even stability, RIA-Novosti reported. But he told the Finance Ministry officials that the introduction of the flat tax had contributed to enhanced revenue collections.

FSB SETTLES ACCOUNTS WITH TURKISH INTELLIGENCE... Aleksandr Khinstein, a journalist noted for his close ties to Russian intelligence agencies, wrote in "Moskovskii komsomolets" on 17 April that Turkish intelligence agencies had been involved in the hijacking of a Russian airline to Saudi Arabia in March. He said that the Russian FSB had identified one of the hijackers as an agent of Turkey's MIT, and he said that Turkey hopes to expand its influence in the Turkic areas of the former Soviet Union.

...AND ACCUSES ANOTHER SCIENTIST OF SPYING. The Krasnoyarsk branch of the FSB has indicted physicist Valentin Danilov on charges of spying for China, RIA-Novosti reported on 18 April. Danilov, who in the name of his university had indeed signed a contract to cooperate with a Chinese corporation, was arrested a month ago when he was handing over information the authorities say is classified but that he and his colleagues argue is open source. A group of his colleagues published an open letter saying that recent FSB actions mean that in Russia today "any physicist can be a spy," regardless of what he does.

PUTIN GOES TO CHECHNYA AS NTV TAKEN OVER... Vladimir Putin made a quick trip to Chechnya even as Gazprom-Media was seizing control of NTV. Putin said that he will ensure that soldiers there are paid more and on time and pledged that "Russia will keep as many troops in the republic as it needs to," "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 16 April. He said that FSB director Nikolai Patrushev will have the final say on just how many troops are needed.

...ORDERS CAPTURE OF CHECHEN FIELD COMMANDERS. For his part, Patrushev said that Putin had ordered his agency to "take Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basaev and Khattab alive" so that they can be tried in court, reported on 18 April. The FSB director said that his agency has restored "operational positions in the republic which had been lost a decade ago" and that its chances of catching the leaders of the Chechen resistance were now "realistic."

FSB SAYS KHATTAB AIDE 'A CIA AGENT.' FSB spokesman General Aleksandr Zdanovich said on ORT television on 17 April that his agency considers Rezvan Chitigov, a close associate of Chechen field commander Khattab to be "a CIA agent." Chitigov lived in the U.S. for long time, Zdanovich said, and he became chief of Khattab's security service only after receiving "professional training" in America.

PUTIN REFOCUSES MILITARY ELECTRONICS EFFORT. "Rossiiskaya gazeta" on 17 April said that President Vladimir Putin has ordered the Russian electronics industry to be reorganized in order to support five to seven key military areas. Vladimir Simon, the director of the Russian Agency for Control Systems, told the paper that RASU now united 800 radio-electronics enterprises and is concentrating on developing super-high-frequency equipment for the military.

GERASHCHENKO PRONOUNCES MOST-BANK DEAD. Russian Central Bank President Viktor Gerashchenko says that his bank will soon withdraw the license of the Most-Bank, which belongs to embattled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 17 April. The CBR head said that there would not be any effort to save the bank and that its asserts will pass to the Vneshtorgbank.

RUSSIAN ALUMINIUM TAKES OVER GUINEAN SUPPLIER. Russian Aluminum, one of the largest Russian monopolies, has signed a 25-year access agreement with the Guinean state bauxite company Kindia, RBK reported. Russian aluminum producers can make a profit via the importation of African bauxite because they pay relatively little for the massive amounts of energy they use to convert bauxite into aluminum.

MEDIA BATTLES SAID TO MIRROR AMERICAN POLITICS. Divisions between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. are playing themselves out in the fights over control of Russian media outlets, "Ekonomicheskaya gazeta," no. 15, reported. The newspaper's editor, Peter Proskurin, said that it was no accident that Ted Turner, who is closely allied with the Democrats, was on one side of the NTV battle and that the group of Vladimir Potanin and Boris Jordan had closer links with the Republicans.

KREMLIN NEEDS MEDIA CHANGES BEFORE MAKING SHIFTS IN THE GOVERNMENT. "Argumenty i fakty," no. 16, argued that the Russian authorities had moved so quickly and brutally to take control of NTV in order that there would not be any media opposition or even commentary on Kremlin plans for shifts in the government itself.

STATE'S SHARE ON TELEVISION MARKET WILL BE NOT INCREASED. VGRTK head Oleg Dobrodeev said in an interview published in "Argumenty i fakty," no. 15, that the Kremlin has no plans to increase its present share in the market and has not allocated any funds to do so. He insisted that the trend toward privately owned media will continue and predicted that NTV will emerge as the best nongovernment channel in about six months.

NEW BOROVIK AWARD FOR JOURNALISTIC COURAGE. CBS, "U.S. News and World Report", and the American Foreign Press Club have established the Artyom Borovik Award to be presented annually for journalists who show "personal courage" in covering political and social developments in Russia, "Izvestiya" reported on 18 April. Borovik, a prominent investigative journalist and the publisher of "Top Secret" and "Versiya," died in a still unexplained air crash last year.

LIMONOV IN LEFORTOVO. The FSB arrested the leader of the National Bolshevik Party and nonconformist writer Eduard Limonov on charges that he was illegally acquiring weapons to prepare for armed actions, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 18 April. Limonov often lampooned Russian leaders, and despite his extravagances, even those who found his ideas obnoxious view his arrest as yet another attack on freedom of the press in Russia.


By Paul Goble

Six years ago last Friday (20 April), Milovan Djilas, the man who coined the term "new class" which helped to explain both the nature of communism and also the reasons for its largely nonviolent collapse, died in Belgrade at the age of 84.

Born in a Montenegrin village in 1911, Djilas joined the Communist Party and rose to become a close associate of Yugoslav partisan leader and later President Josip Broz Tito. But the latter's break with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in 1949 set Djilas on a very different course, one that would lead not only to prison but to the elaboration of one of the most significant critiques of the communist system.

The Soviet-Yugoslav split led Djilas to three major conclusions: first, that communism in the Soviet bloc had become little more than Russian imperialism under an ideological cover; second, that he could exploit ties with the Western press to criticize communism from within; and third, that communism as actually practiced had led to the rise of "a new class" of rulers, people more interested in their own privileges than in the ideals they professed to believe in.

Djilas' understanding of the nature of the Soviet bloc did not put him at odds with Tito. Indeed, in many ways Djilas simply expressed in more intellectual language the tensions between Belgrade and Moscow. But precisely because he was an intellectual, Djilas pushed this idea to its logical conclusion and argued that national independence and a unique national approach to socialism were absolutely necessary for progress.

That idea was not only dangerous in multinational Yugoslavia but a direct threat to the power of Tito and his entourage. As a result, in 1954, Tito accused Djilas of factionalism, and Djilas in turn semi-apologized and turned in his Communist Party card and became a lifelong dissident.

In that role, Djilas pioneered a technique which was to be used by others who found themselves trapped within communist regimes. Under attack at home, Djilas did something few had ever had the courage to do before: he gave an interview to "The New York Times" both in order to get his own ideas out and also to use the Western press as an ally against his own government.

Such a strategy did not keep him from mistreatment at the hands of that government -- he later spent nine years in prison -- but it did give him time to elaborate the ideas which became his most important book, "The New Class," which was published abroad in 1957.

In that study, Djilas argued that the communist regimes had degenerated from the ideologically committed into a group of greedy individuals concerned only about their own privileges and status. Djilas' conception built on the earlier ideas of Jan Machajski and James Burnham, but his invention of the term "new class" caught the imagination of many in both communist countries and the West.

Djilas' basic point became part of the critique of the system by dissidents across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and it generated such later studies as Michael Voslensky's 1980 classic, "Nomenklatura," which described in greater detail the nature of the new and ever less ideologically committed power elite in the USSR.

Because Djilas understood the nature of communist regimes so well and was not blinded by their ideological protestations, he recognized that the ruling classes of these countries would ultimately understand that to survive and prosper they would have to shed their ideological shackles. In one of his last essays, Djilas wrote that the end of communism in Europe had been so quiet precisely because "communism had overthrown itself."

Like many prophets, Djilas saw the details of his argument ignored both when he made his predictions and when they came true, and most analysts in both East and West have forgotten what he said about the nature of the new class. Were they to pay more attention to his words of four decades ago, they would almost certainly understand far better why many members of the new class have continued in power, albeit without the ideological verbiage of communism.

And they would also, on this anniversary of Djilas' death, understand better why the greed of the new class has become even less constrained now that its members no longer have to give even lip service to the ideals of justice and equality.