RUMORS FROM AMERICA

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RUMORS FROM AMERICA

Zavtra, March 27, 2003, p. 1

According to reports from Philadelphia, the complete breakdown of America’s visions of “a Mideast blitzkrieg” and “victory by the weekend” has greatly exacerbated differences at the top levels of the Republican administration. At one of the numerous meetings which have taken place in recent days, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called for the immediate resignation of Secretary of State Colin Powell, blaming him for “an unjustifiable six-month delay in starting the military operation against Iraq”. In response, Powell said he was prepared to step down as head of the State Department immediately after the end of the military operation, “in order not to disrupt the essential consolidation of the nation’s political leadership” at such a critical time. Discussion of the “Russia factor” has been particularly prominent, since “the Kremlin has been either unable or unwilling to prevent its military from selling, via Belarus and Ukraine, a substantial quantity of modern anti-aircraft, anti-tank, and electronic systems – which have significantly strengthened Saddam Hussein’s defense capacities.” Moreover, the US leaders have been concerned by reports of a number of former Soviet officers fighting in the Iraqi army. These circumstances lay behind Colin Powell’s unprecedentely harsh statement directed at Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.

NO QUICK SURRENDER

Zavtra, March 27, 2003, p. 1

French analysts meeting at a private seminar in Paris concluded that the first days of the American invasion have already dispelled several myths which had been cultivated by the media around the world. The main one was that Arabs could be bought – and that they were neither able nor willing to fight for their country. It was noted that the Iraqi leader has outmaneuvered the Pentagon and CIA strategists who were counting on the Iraqi army surrendering en masse; this was done by a clever counter-intelligence game in which Iraqi generals appeared to convey the message that they would be prepared to “overthrow the dictator” as soon as the American invasion began. For Saddam Hussein, this was a form of revenge for Operation Desert Storm, when Washington let it be understood via the US ambassador that it would not object to the annexation of Kuwait – but subsequently declared Iraq an aggressor and organized the first anti-Iraq coalition, which consolidated US claims to the role of global leader.

THE REFERENDUM IN CHECHNYA

Zavtra, March 27, 2003, p. 1

Our analysts view Chechnya’s referendum and its outcome as a potential Khasavyurt II. This is primarily because one group was completedly excluded from participation: the ethnic Russians who made up 40% of Chechnya’s population in 1991, but were driven out by the separatists. It is also because power in Chechnya is still being handed over to “former” guerrilla fighters; they will make up the backbone of Chechnya’s security and law enforcement agencies, and they could do a 180-degree turnaround at any moment. At the same time, the attempt to “untie the Chechnya knot” in light of American aggression against Iraq may be evidence that the part of Russia’s elite which used to support Chechnya’s status as a “free zone” and the “black hole” of Russia’s economy has now reconsidered its position, given its “new direction of interests” and the need to withdraw assets from foreign investments which have become too high-risk, primarily those in the US and Britain.

CONTROLLING THE MEDIA

Zavtra, March 27, 2003, p. 1

Our sources from circles close to the government note that recent amendements to media laws, as well as state-controlled TV networks screening a spate of movies that laud the US and degrade Russia (such as Rambo, or Fifteen Minutes of Delight, with Russian actors to add “a touch of color”, and Robert de Niro), reflect the Kremlin’s aim “to avoid annoying Washington” and to fully control the media in Russia. This is also what lies behind the unprecedentedly hardline stand taken by Central Electoral Commission chairman Alexander Veshnyakov during Duma debates on the abovementioned media law amendments.

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