A PREDICTION FOR THE PARLIAMENT

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A PREDICTION FOR THE PARLIAMENT

Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 7, 2000, p. 2

Governor Dmitry Ayatskov of the Saratov region has predicted what the Russian government will be like when Vladimir Putin’s term in office approaches its end.

According to Ayatskov, the Federation Council will gradually “die out” and the State Council will become a constitutional body. However, “it’s a lengthy process which will require amendments to the Constitution.” As soon as these amendments have been passed, “the State Council will be able veto decrees and laws and appoint general prosecutors and ministers.” The parliament will consist of one house only, in time, and will be called the State Council.

UNITY SEEMS TO HAVE FALLEN VICTIM TO BEREZOVSKY’S PLOY

Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 7, 2000, p. 2

The presidium meeting promised to be just another boring formality. It was supposed to discuss the party’s program (nobody ever bothers to read it in nomenclatural organizations like Unity), and the location of the next congress. Unexpectedly, a scandal broke out. The Executive Committee chaired by Sergei Popov harshly criticized and rejected all the proposals of Shoigu and Boris Gryzlov. And vice versa. Many nasty things were said. The Executive Committee, for example, accused the Duma faction of having virtually split from the movement. Shoigu and Gryzlov, in turn, implied that the Executive Committee was trying to split the movement. Some prominent members of the movement believe that this scandal is a direct corollary of the Berezovsky-Kremlin war…

When Shoigu became Unity leader in autumn 1999, he demanded that Berezovsky must go. Berezovsky swallowed this, and agreed to move into the background.

An actual split of the movement in the near future is unlikely. The presidential administration wields enough influence, and controls enough levers, to prevent it from happening. But all problems in Unity play into Berezovsky’s hands and improve the chances of his pitiful “oppositionist party” developing into something more serious. By opening this second front, Berezovsky is showing his strength to the Kremlin and making it clear that he will not give up without a fight.

THE DUMA PREPARES TO DEBATE THE NEW BUDGET

Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 7, 2000, p. 2

Duma deputies officially came back from vacation on September 6. A meeting of the Budget Committee became the first post-vacation function. Deputies were immediately besieged by journalists, who wanted to know why the budget items on subsidies to the media had been classified top secret. No comments or answers were offered.

At its very first meeting this Friday, the Duma is supposed to adopt the schedule for debates on the 2001 draft budget. The first reading is planned for September 22, but many deputies have their doubts. Mikhail Zadornov, for example, says that the matter is too serious to be rushed. The budget is the nation’s main financial document, and its discussion should be postponed until October, particularly since in October the Central Bank is supposed to submit its major indicators on financial policy to the Duma. Zadornov thinks that the first reading should be held only after that, because both specialists and ordinary Russians should know the financial policy planned by the Central Bank and the government.

Specifically, Zadornov has some questions concerning the structure of defense spending. He believes that defense spending in 2001 will turn into “spending to maintain men in uniform” and the Defense Ministry will turn into another social welfare department.

Macroeconomic indicators of the draft federal budget were responsible for a lot of the questions deputies were asking yesterday. For example, why is the government so confident that the inflation rate will be lower than in 2000? This April, prices went up – and even the government was forced to admit that the inflation rate would be 34% by the end of the year, and that the exchange rate would be about 30 rubles to the dollar. That is why the predicted inflation rate of 12% looks rather odd.

In any case, the very first meeting provided more questions than answers. There are no doubts, of course, that the current Duma will pass the draft budget anyway, but some vicious battles on the subject are bound to take place.

TALKS ON RESTORING THE OIL SECTOR IN CHECHNYA

Izvestia, September 7, 2000, p. 2

Another round of talks between leaders of the Chechen Republic and the federal Energy Ministry ended in the city of Rostov-on-Don on September 5. Restoration of the oil and gas sector in Chechnya was discussed.

The meeting was attended by Viktor Kazantsev, presidential envoy for the southern federal district, head of the Chechen administration Akhmed Kadyrov, and Energy Minister Alexander Gavrin; it lasted over nine hours. According to Gavrin, the Rosneft company will be entrusted with restoring the Chechen oil and gas sector. Splitting the stock was the major point of dissent at the meeting.

It goes without saying that Chechen leaders want as much control over the future Grozneft as they can lay their hands on (it is this company that will be extracting oil in Chechnya). A great deal of oil has already been extracted, but a lot is still there. This assumption is confirmed by regular reports on destruction of private refineries in Chechnya.

Representatives of the federal center are confident that the controlling interest should be in the hands of whoever invests money. That means the state, via Rosneft. This situation would raise hopes that the money will not disappear without a trace, as has already happened to subsidies channelled into restoration of social services and the economy in Chechnya. Kazantsev says that some progress at the talks has been made, but the final decision will be made after consultations with the president and the prime minister.

Kadyrov says he is scheduled to meet with President Putin soon.

POLITICAL COUNCILS OF UNITY AND FATHERLAND

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 7, 2000

Two structures vying for the privilege of being called the “power party” have held meetings of their political councils.

The meeting of the Unity Political Council was closed, as usual. It took place at the Research Institute of the Emergency Ministry and was mostly dedicated to preparations for the second congress of the party, scheduled for late October. The congress will finally adopt the program which leader Sergei Shoigu says “lists major goals and objectives of the organization for the near future and lists our main ideological principles.” Inaugural conferences of local branches of Unity have been held in 13 Russian regions. Some more are scheduled for September. Regional branches are needed for participation in upcoming elections.

The meeting also discussed the initiative of the Unity faction to set up a working panel for adoption of anti-crisis laws. According to faction leader Boris Gryzlov, the matter concerns economic and political dangers which Russia may encounter in the near future. By way of example, Gryzlov cited the state debt; Russia will have to pay out $17 billion in 2003. President Vladimir Putin and Secretary of the Security Council Sergei Ivanov were already acquainted with the initiative. Gryzlov does not rule out the possibility that in this light the president may “express the desire to hold talks with leaders of Duma factions”, particularly since not all of them may support the initiative.

As for the Fatherland movement, its Political Council handled less global problems. It discussed the proposal of the Labor Union (a collective member of the movement) to hold a nationwide referendum on raising the minimum wage and pension to at least the level of the poverty line from the next financial year.

FORTHCOMING FOREIGN VISITS

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 7, 2000

According to what information is available at this point, in early October President Vladimir Putin will visit India, while Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov will fly to China to discuss trade and economic cooperation.

On his return from Brunei, Putin will receive Italian President Carlo Adzeglio Ciampi in Moscow in mid-November.

Vietnamese Prime minister Phan Van Khai is expected in Moscow in September. On September 25-27, Swedish Prime Mminister Joran Persson will come to Russia to discuss Russia’s cooperation with the European Union, which Sweden will chair from January 2001.

KURIL ISLANDS A STIMULUS FOR ENERGETIC RUSSIAN-JAPANESE COOPERATION

Trud-7, September 7, 2000, p. 3

Actually, the Soviet Union and Japan could have signed the treaty in 1951. The Potsdam Declaration (July 1945) clearly stated that Japan’s post-war sovereignty was to be limited to the four largest islands of the archipelago and “the islands we will indicate.”

There was another chill in Soviet-Japanese relations. It was followed by outright stagnation.

These days, President Putin’s legacy in the sphere of Russian-Japanese relations is nothing to be envied. The emotional momentum of their development, generated by perestroika, is exhausted – and we do not have anything to use as a foundation to revive them. That is why the Krasnoyarsk declaration turned out to be unrealistic. Moscow and Tokyo have already admitted as much.

However, Putin’s statements during his recent visit to Tokyo do give rise to some optimism. At his meeting with Japanese business leaders, Putin was informed about what potential investors view as conditions favorable for development of Russian-Japanese economic cooperation. All these proposals met with understanding from Putin.

It seems that the period of battles of ideologies and ambitions in Russian-Japanese relations is passing; to be replaced by constructive work on their improvement and facilitation. This may be a lengthy process, but one that guarantees results. In any case, Moscow and Tokyo seem to be realizing that the peace treaty (and resolution of the territorial dispute) should become a corollary of close relations between our countries and peoples, not a precondition.

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