RUSSIA IS PREPARED TO ATTACK AFGHANISTAN
Izvestia, May 25, 2000, p. 1
Russia intends to put an end to global terrorism. Afghanistan is the first target.
On Wednesday all news agencies quoted the Russian General Staff as saying that “all matters concerning preventive strikes at terrorist and guerrilla bases in Afghanistan have been thoroughly worked out by the Defense Ministry.”
A military source explains that “monitoring of the southern borders of the CIS is proceeding as usual”, meaning that for the time being nobody intends to plan air strikes against any specific enemy. All the same, all agreements within the framework of the CIS, specifically the CIS Collective Security Treaty and the recent military cooperation treaty with Uzbekistan, entitle Russia to be ready to repel any aggression from Afghanistan, and to launch preventive strikes at the bases of Islamic guerrillas there.
The General Staff has drawn up several possible options. They will be used when the corresponding political decision is made.
ARMS DEALERS ARRESTED IN IZHEVSK
Izvestia, May 25, 2000, p. 2
A criminal gang involved in illegal assembly and sale of firearms (Kalashnikov submachine guns, Dragunov rifles, Makarov and Margolin handguns) has been arrested in the city of Izhevsk. All firearms were equipped with silencers, optical equipment, and even laser targeters.
A source in the PR department of the Udmurtian Republican Directorate of the Federal Security Service says that the criminals were caught during transportation of a shipment meant for the underworld in Novosibirsk.
FIVE CIS PRESIDENTS FORM A NEW INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION
Izvestia, May 25, 2000, p. 3
After their meeting in Minsk, Belarus, presidents of five CIS countries announced their intention to form a new organization. As before, it will be called the Customs Union. Vladimir Putin supports the decision to attach a new status to the Five (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan), and believes that this step will expedite the processes of bringing laws into harmony with each other and establishing a common customs territory.
Leaders of the Five believe that the new Customs Union has a real prospect of successful economic integration, just like the European Union – taxes and duties within the Customs Union are 63% unified (against 80% in the European Union) and 85% of decisions are implemented (against 25-30 per cent for the CIS in general).
Customs Union members admit that Moscow has played a key role in creating this organization. Apparently, specific economic steps toward the partners are expected from the new Russian leadership now.
Putin shows that he is aware of the situation in other Customs Union countries and attaches considerable importance to the international status of the organization. Nursultan Nazarbayev says that Customs Union members plan to advance establishment of a real and powerful alliance through economic, political, and defense cooperation.
FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV IN ITALY
Izvestia, May 25, 2000, p. 3
Russia-NATO relations will gradually improve again, provided the UN Charter and all clauses of the Russia-NATO Pact are observed, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov announced on his arrival in Italy, where he is supposed to attend a meeting of the Russia-NATO Permanent Consultative Council.
According to Ivanov, in making the decision to re-establish its contacts with NATO, Russia was “thinking primarily of European security.”
Ivanov flew to Italy from Minsk, where he had accompanied President Vladimir Putin.
Commenting on the words of Presidential Advisor Sergei Yastrzhembsky about the possibility of preventive strikes at terrorist bases in Afghanistan, Ivanov said that Yastrzhembsky had been speaking “in general terms”.
ACTING LEGISLATION WILL HAVE TO BE AMENDED
Izvestia, May 25, 2000, p. 3
On the morning of May 24 the General Prosecutor’s Office announced that its leader Vladimir Ustinov had ordered prosecutor’s offices to be established in the federal administrative districts. An hour or two later an explanation was made available – Ustinov had merely ordered “a re-organization of the operation prosecutor’s offices in the federal districts.”
Sources in the Kremlin say that virtually all security structures will have to change the structure of their territorial directorates in light of the presidential decree on federal zones. The General Prosecutor’s Office does not report directly to the president, but Ustinov must have decided to beat all the rest and become the first to report implementation of the decree.
Ustinov’s order says it is necessary to prepare documents on the structure and composition of prosecutor’s offices in the federal zones “as soon as possible”. They are supposed to be managed by deputy general prosecutors. Journalists were informed; but the General Prosecutor’s Office backtracked on second thought, probably deciding that Ustinov’s order was not exactly in line with the acting legislation.
This whole saga is fairly revealing. It shows the problems which will surely be encountered en route to ruling Russia through a system of federal administrative districts. The federal center’s eagerness to put all security structures and law enforcement agencies above governors is quite understandable. On the other hand, if all security structures are going to reorganize their territorial directorates, more legal acts than just the law “On the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation” will have to be amended.
Of course, a tame and meek Duma will pass virtually all amendments to the legislation without so much as a murmur, but amendments to the Constitution are a different matter altogether, particularly those which concern the status of ethnic republics (amendment of these clauses is virtually impossible).
PUTIN ADVOCATES EASING TAX PRESSURE
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, May 25, 2000, p. 1
President Vladimir Putin has written to Duma Chairman Gennadi Seleznev emphasizing that the lower house of parliament is now discussing some amendments to tax legislation aimed at implementing radical tax reform.
According to Putin, several objectives should be achieved in the reforms.
Firstly, the tax burden should be eased. This is supposed to be accomplished through abolition of ineffective taxes that unfavorably affect the economy. At first, the reform will have a negative effect on the state treasury, but this is something which cannot be helped.
KLEBANOV REVEALS PLANS FOR MILITARY-TECHNICAL COOPERATION
Rossiiskaya Gazeta, May 25, 2000, pp. 1-2
According to Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, reorganization of the Cabinet will not affect the conservative area of military-technical cooperation. This field will be controlled by the Ministry of Industry, Science, and Technology. In 1999, military-technical cooperation earned Russia almost $3.4 billion. There are plans to earn $4.3 billion in 2000. Over the next few years, Russia plans to boost its arms exports to $5.5-6 billion a year.
How can we hope to increase profitable high-tech exports? In the wake of the Yugoslavian war, the demand for anti-aircraft weapons and naval equipment soared. Klebanov says that we are about to start establishing joint design enterprises with out strategic partners, primarily China and India. The aircraft-carrier “Admiral Gorshkov” will be upgraded for the Indian Navy.
Klebanov also spoke about Project Air Launch: spacecraft will be launched from an AN-124 cargo plane.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAVIER SOLANA, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION COUNCIL
Tribuna, May 25, 2000, p. 3
Question: The Moscow summit will apparently differ from the previous forums…
Answer: This will be the first meeting attended by Mr. Putin as the Russian president. Moreover, considerable changes have taken place in the European Union. I mean its expansion and its policy on defense and security.
The European Union expects to learn what Mr. Putin views as political and economic priorities.
Question: And the problem of Chechnya will surely be discussed, right?
Answer: Naturally. The European Union attaches considerable importance to the subject. This is an issue on which our views dramatically differ from Russia’s. We insist on the priority of a political settlement of the conflict.