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Security Watch: June 19, 2001

19 June 2001, Volume 2, Number 24
IS THE U.S. IN FAVOR OF WRITING OFF RUSSIA'S SOVIET-ERA DEBT? Interfax reported on 14 June that Richard Perle, the head of the policy planning group at the U.S. Defense Department, told a meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Lisbon that Washington will insist on writing off Moscow's Soviet-era debt in order to facilitate Russia's economic development. According to the news agency, Perle said Washington would go ahead even if its European allies were against this step. In an interview published in "Vedomosti" on 15 June, Perle in fact said that "under certain conditions, the U.S. could talk about writing off such debt." But both and noted, 14 June that the U.S. has relatively little to lose if this information is indeed correct: The U.S. now holds less than 10 percent of Moscow's Soviet-era debt, while European countries and Japan hold most of the remainder.

DOES THE U.S. NEED RUSSIA AGAINST CHINA? The recent softening of the Bush Administration position towards Russia is dictated by American national interests, political analyst Vitalii Tsipichko wrote in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 9 June. That is because, he said, both Washington and Moscow have to be concerned about China.

SHANAI FIVE IS EXTENDED AND RENAMED... The leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and China decided in Shanghai to rename their political association the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and accepted a new full member -- Uzbekistan, Russian, and Western agencies reported on 14 June.

�AS PUTIN AND JIANG SIGN ANTI-TERRORIST PACT WITH CENTRAL ASIAN STATES. Briefing journalists in Shanghai, Vladimir Rushailo, the Russian Security Council secretary, said that President Vladimir Putin, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, and the presidents of four Central Asia states are "fully united on the issues of security and strategic and regional stability," ITAR-TASS reported on 14 June.

MOSCOW MAKES A GESTURE TO CHINA IN VIETNAM. According to an analysis in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 10 June, Moscow's decision to stop using the naval base in Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay has less to do with the higher rents that Hanoi seeks than with a desire by the Russian government to make a gesture toward Beijing. Moscow began renting the base in 1979 during a period of high tension with China.

MOSCOW TOUGHENS DUAL TECHNOLOGY EXPORT RULES. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has approved regulations that will increase Moscow's control over the export of dual use technologies, RIA-Novosti reported on 9 June. The new rules deal with licensing, transfer, and custom control of dual use items and require that the recipient of the exported technology undertake obligations concerning its use.

GOVERNMENT APPROVES ARCTIC STRATEGY. The government adopted new strategic policy on the Arctic stressing "the economic, ecological, geopolitical, and defense" significance of the region for Russian national security. The 12-page document stresses that all human activities in the region have security implications. And it calls for the creation of a Russian government commission on the defense of national interests in the Arctic.

POLAND AGREES ON RUSSIAN PIPELINE. Burhard Bergmann, the spokesman for the international consortium working on the gas pipeline project from Western Europe through Belarus, Poland, and Slovakia, said that the Polish government has given its consent for a route bypassing Ukraine, "Vremya novostei" reported on 15 June. The Polish government had refused to do so out of concerns for Ukraine, but, according to "Russkaya mysl" on 14 June, the EU had made clear to Warsaw that there are "broader interests" involved and not only Ukrainian ones. In addition, Warsaw has a $3.8 billion trade deficit and needs the transit fees.

GAZPROM MAY SEEK FOREIGN INVESTMENTS. According to the German journal "Wirtschaftswoche," No. 23, new Gazprom head Aleksei Miller is prepared to allow foreign investors to purchase up to 20 percent of his company's shares. His goal, the economic weekly said, is to create a powerful market counterweight to the major international petroleum companies. Miller reportedly hopes that Royal Dutch/Shell will purchase a 5 percent stake in Gazprom. But the weekly said that Royal Dutch/Shell officials are concerned about taking any such step because of corruption within Gazprom.

PUTIN SAYS MILITARY AID A POLITICAL TOOL. At a meeting with the heads of security agencies, Putin said he approved a new concept of military-technical cooperation with foreign countries until 2010, RIA-novosti reported on 9 June. He noted that "the new regional centers of power and security are forming and military-technical cooperation is a tool of influence on these processes."

PUTIN OPPOSED TO WESTERN AID FOR RUSSIAN NGO GROUPS. President Putin said on Russia's national day that he is against Russian non-governmental organizations receiving assistance from abroad even though he believes they need to grow and assume more responsibility in the life of the country, reported on 12 June. He noted that there are currently 300,000 NGOs in Russia, but "many of them are living on Western grants and that is not a good foundation for our civil society," he said.

STROEV SAYS PUTIN HAS ENDED RUSSIA'S 'TIME OF TROUBLES.' Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev told the St. Petersburg Economic Forum that Putin's policies have brought an end to Russia's "time of troubles," RIA-Novosti reported on 13 June. Stroev described the last decade in Russia as "a time of mindless destruction and revolutionary ideas." But Stroev added that despite the progress made so far, the future of Russia and of the Commonwealth of Independent States will depend "on which takes place more quickly" -- the introduction of new technology or the exhaustion of natural resources.

PROTESTS AGAINST PAPAL VISIT A 'SLAVIC INTIFADA,' PAPER SAYS. According to an article in "Nezavisimaya gazeta" on 14 June, the protests organized by the Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine against the upcoming visit there by Pope John Paul II are nothing other than "a peaceful Slavic intifada." The paper claims that the visit represents a Catholic assault on Orthodoxy and has been instigated by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski as part of a plan to replace Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma with a pro-U.S. politician.

KREMLIN PRESSES GOVERNMENT ON WEAPONS EXPORT. "Vremya Novostei" reported on 14 June that the Kremlin has pressed the government to accelerate the elaboration of a program on military-technical cooperation with CIS countries so that Moscow can play a dominant role in rearming them.

ABRAMOVICH PLEDGES TO RESCUE CHUKOTKA FROM CRISIS. Roman Abramovich, the oligarch who is the governor of the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, said his region is effectively bankrupt but that he will gradually pull it out of its crisis, reported on 13 June. Abramovich said the total amount that the regional government now owes commercial banks is greater than the district's annual budget.

YELTSIN DISMISSES REPORTS OF HIS FAMILY'S INFLUENCE AS MEDIA INVENTIONS. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin said on ORT television on 12 June that reports about his family having broad influence over the state and society are "lies and myths" created by the media and his political opponents.

GOVERNMENT PLANS TO RAISE DUTY ON USED CARS. Officials at the State Customs Committee on 11 June told Interfax that the government plans to impose new and higher tariffs on used cars more than seven years old. The increase appears to be part of Putin's plan to encourage Russians to purchase domestically produced cars and also to make Russia a less attractive market for cars stolen elsewhere.

LESIN SAYS HE'LL SUPPORT MEDIA UNION EFFORTS. On his arrival in St. Petersburg on 12 June to take part in the Russia Media Forum 2001 meeting, Media Minister Mikhail Lesin said that his agency "intends to support any undertakings of groups like the Media Union which will help to promote the self-regulation of the information marketplace," Interfax-Northwest reported. He said that Moscow wants to allow the media market to regulate itself to the maximum extent possible.

ROSTOV REGION REFUSES TO BECOME A NUCLEAR DUMP. The administration in Dubovskii Raion in Rostov Oblast has refused to allow its territory to be the site of a nuclear waste repository, RosBusinessConsulting reported on 11 June. The local officials said they do not believe that the management of the Rostov nuclear power plant demonstrated sufficient concern for the environment or the population living nearby. Meanwhile, German Environment Minister Juergen Tritten said that Berlin has no plans to send nuclear waste for permanent storage in Russia, NTV reported on 10 June.

FSB ACCUSES U.S. TEACHER OF SPYING... The Omsk regional office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused Elizabeth Sweet, a U.S. citizen who has been teaching English at a university there, of espionage and ordered her to leave the country, reported on 11 June, citing "Vremya Novostei." FSB officials said that sweet organized her students into a group to collect information about the Russian defense industry.

...AND THEN ISSUES A CORRECTION. A spokesman for the Federal Security Service (FSB) said that the mass media "distorted" information about the expulsion of U.S. citizen Elizabeth Sweet, reported on 13 June. He said that the data Sweet collected was not for espionage but to "create a negative image of local industry," and he said that rather than expel her from Russia, the FSB "strongly recommended to the local university [where Sweet has been working as an English teacher] not to extend her contract."

EGYPTIAN COURT SAYS RUSSIAN SPIED FOR ISRAEL. A Cairo court has sentenced in absentia Grigorii Sevets, a Russian citizen, to life in prison after finding him guilty of spying for Israel, the BBC reported on 13 June. At the same time, the court dismissed charges against an Egyptian national whom Sevets recruited, citing the Egyptian's mental condition as the rationale for that decision.

RUSSIAN-INDIAN ANTISHIP MISSILE TESTED. Russia and India have tested a jointly produced surface-to-surface, antiship missile, RIA-novosti reported on 12 June. Launched from a facility in India's Orissa state, the missile has a range of 280 kilometers.

PROGRAM FOR DESTRUCTION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia lacks the funds to destroy its 40,000 ton stockpile of chemical weapons by 2007 and would need until 2012 to do so, Russian agencies reported. That delay means that Moscow will have to build only three and not seven destruction centers.

PROSECUTORS WANT COURTS TO SEIZE ASSETS THAT OWNERS CANNOT PROVE ARE LEGITIMATE. Issa Kostoev, the head of the international law department of the Prosecutor-General's Office, said that the parliament should give courts the right to seize assets if their owners cannot prove that they have been acquired legitimately, RIA-Novosti reported on 14 June. Kostoev said that such an arrangement, which already exists in several European countries, would help the fight against money laundering.

RUSSIA MAY IGNORE VERDICTS OF FOREIGN COURTS. The Duma Committee on Legislation is preparing legislation that will abolish an existing law that requires Russian officials to accept the verdicts of foreign courts, RBK reported on 14 June. The law was adopted in 1987 under then-CPSU Central Committee General-Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to allow foreigners the opportunity to sue Russian companies. Committee members indicated that they are also working on legislation that will prohibit foreigners from launching bankruptcy proceedings against Russian firms.

BORDER GUARDS COMBAT CAVIAR MAFIA. The Russian Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) has seized 200 tons of caviar-bearing fish in the Caspian, RIA-Novosti reported on 11 June. The illegal production of black caviar over the last year, the FPS spokesman said, is more than 10 times the licensed amount. This situation has arisen because the caviar Mafia has more power than state agencies in this region, the agency said, quoting the regional newspaper "Volga."

ANTIBUREAUCRACY COMMISSION NAMED. Prime Minister Kasyanov on 13 June set up a governmental commission to reduce bureaucratic restrictions on business and cut administrative overhead, ITAR-TASS reported on 13 June. Kasyanov named Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin to head the group, which will meet at least once every three months.

DOES PUTIN SUPPORT THE DEATH PENALTY? SPS Duma deputies Dmitrii Savelev and Vera Lekareva say that Putin supports their bill calling for the introduction of the death penalty for drug trafficking and other crimes, "Izvestiya" reported on 14 June. Lekareva said that Putin told her that "we will probably be forced to reintroduce capital punishment" to deal with drug trafficking. But the two parliamentarians want the death penalty extended to cover such crimes as child molestation and trafficking in women, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 14 June. SPS leaders have indicated that they do not support the measure.


By Paul Goble

Estonian President Lennart Meri has called on his country's parliament to declare "equally criminal" totalitarianisms of the right and totalitarianisms of the left, an appeal that seems certain to renew the debate about the nature of the crimes of Hitler and Stalin.

In a statement released to the press on 14 June, Meri said that taking this step "proceeds from the historical experience of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians." People in all three countries, he pointed out "lost their lives, freedom, families, [and] property during the communist and Nazi occupations," and they are thus in a position to call attention to the nature of the crimes committed by both.

The international community, Meri noted, has already registered its judgment on the Nazi regime at Nuremburg. But "so far," he continued, that community has not passed judgment on the criminal behavior of the Soviet system. To do so, the Estonian leader said, would represent "a valuable addition to the legal system of the European Union" and promote the development "of the democratic world."

Meri's comments come at the completion of his tour throughout Estonia during which he presented Estonian awards to 10,000 survivors of totalitarian oppression. Meri said that this experience proved once again to him that "the people of Estonia can forgive but are not prepared to forget crimes against humanity." To do so, he said, would open the door to the possibility that "crimes against humanity can recur in Europe."

Meri stressed that labeling a totalitarian regime criminal does not mean that all those who participated in its organizations are criminals. Such individuals, he said, must be judged by an open court on the basis of what they personally may have done. But denouncing totalitarianism as such, he insisted, represents a reaffirmation of the moral foundations of democratic societies.

In the debate that Meri's appeal will inevitably provoke, there are likely to be three major sets of objections to his argument. First, many will argue that the evil represented by Hitler was unique, that the Holocaust was of such horrific dimensions that nothing can compare with it. Second, many will note that the finding of moral and legal equivalency between the two forms of totalitarianism will only stir up more anger and even risk provoking new outrages.

And third, many people will certainly point out that labeling Stalinist totalitarianism the equivalent of Nazi fascism has immediate consequences because some of the products of the former are still in positions of power in post-communist governments.

Each of these objections certainly deserves to be taken seriously. The Holocaust was and remains a unique moral horror in the history of humankind. No one can challenge that. But to say that in no way diminishes the millions of deaths among citizens of the Baltic countries, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union under Stalinist totalitarianism.

Moreover, some will indeed be upset by this finding of equivalency between the two forms of totalitarianism because it ignores their different ideologies. This is summed up in the phrase sometimes invoked in the West that "Hitler did evil but Stalin did evil so that good might come of it." But actions are at least as important as ideologies -- and for those who are their victims, far more so.

And it is certainly true that many people raised in the Soviet system are still in positions of power in the post-communist countries. But most of them have explicitly broken with the past and denounced it as something to which they do not want to see their countries return.

But these objections notwithstanding, Meri's call for declaring all forms of totalitarianism "equally criminal" is likely to find support. After the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's studies of the Gulag, as well as the "The Black Book of Communism," and after the findings of various international commissions in the Baltic countries and elsewhere, no one is in a position to deny the criminal nature of Stalinist totalitarianism.

Consequently, as Meri suggests, denouncing all forms of totalitarianism as criminal represents a natural next step for Europe, a necessary kind of innoculation against the reappearance of such forms of rule in the future. No one seriously talks about restoring totalitarianism of the right any more in Europe, but some do look back with nostalgia to the totalitarianism of the left.

Many who are committed to the democratic project are thus likely to conclude that such nostalgia is sufficiently dangerous that Meri's appeal deserves support not only in Estonia but in other countries as well.