COMMUNISTS PUSH FOR VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, March 3, 2001, p. 1
On March 2, the Communist faction submitted 111 signatures to the Duma Board on its motion for a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet. Faction leader Gennady Zyuganov told journalists that on Monday, March 5, a number of other Duma deputies who will have returned from their districts by that time will add their signatures in support of this motion.
HOW THE WEST TREATS RUSSIA
Versty, March 3, 2001, p. 1
Media Minister Mikhail Lesin has launched an unprecedented PR campaign aimed at changing stereotypes connected with Russia among ordinary citizens in the West. According to Lesin, the main propaganda strike will be directed at the US, since it was the US that started the current bout of anti-Russian hysteria.
Americans are unaware of the surprise Moscow is preparing for them. Therefore, their attitude toward Russia and its people is still positive. According to a Gallup poll in February, 52% of Americans have a positive attitude toward Russia. According to a poll done by the NBC network, 55% of Americans think the US should continue financial aid to Russia.
According to the National Public Opinion Research Center, 70% of Russians view the US positively as a nation, and 78% view the American people positively. It is hardly possible that their friendly feelings can be ascribed to “ideological efforts.”
In fact, it is not worth returning to reciprocal propaganda attacks. Instead, it is necessary to seek new mutual interests. Besides, the upcoming PR campaign may cost Russia a great deal, since the media minister has announced, “We won’t spare any expense!” According to our sources, the government intends to spend $50-100 million on this campaign.
YELTSIN IS RECOVERING WELL
Novye Izvestia, March 3, 2001, p. 1
Boris Yeltsin’s aide Vladimir Shevchenko has denied Western media reports that Yeltsin’s physical state has deteriorated.
According to Shevchenko, Yeltsin is in the Central Clinical Hospital at the moment, and he is steadily recovering.
Our medical sources have confirmed that Yeltsin’s condition “does not cause concern.”
Yeltsin was admitted to hospital on January 30 with a fever. Doctors stated that he had the flu. Since then he has been confined to bed.
At the start of this week Shevchenko told journalists that the process of Yeltsin’s recovery was proceeding normally, although not very quickly.
RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION HAS ITS OWN BUDGET
Izvestia, March 3, 2001, p. 2
On March 2, the 17th session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Russia-Belarus Union was held at the Duma hall in Moscow. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev reported that Pavel Borodin will retain the post of state secretary of the union. The session passed the budget of the union for 2001, amounting to 2.3 billion rubles (1.5 billion rubles have been allocated by Russia and 800 million rubles by Belarus). Vladimir Nikitin, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly Budget Committeee, said that over 90% of the money will be spent on joint programs. The primary fields will be development of customs infrastructure and strengthening borders.
$18 A BARREL OF OIL IS ENOUGH FOR RUSSIA
Segodnya, March 3, 2001, p. 3
At a meeting on March 16, OPEC may decide to reducle daily oil output by one million barrels (143,000 tons).
According to Gennady Krasovsky, an analyst with the NIKOIL investment company, the cut is needed by the gradual slowdown in the US economy, and the warmer spring weather in North America and Europe. If oil prices continue to fall, it is likely to impact budget revenues of oil exporters, since most of them have budgeted for a price of $20 a barrel. As for Russia’s budget, which estimates the price of oil in 2001 at $21 a barrel, Krasovsky believes that if world oil prices fall $20 a barrel this will not affect Russia’s budget very greatly.
Krasovsky has said that the critical figure for the Russian government will be $18 a barrel. In this case, the government will have to reduce customs duties from 48 euros per ton of oil to 2-5 euros. This, budget revenues per ton will be reduced several-fold.
RUSSIA CONTINUES TALKS ON JOINING WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION
Segodnya, March 3, 2001, p. 3
The Russian delegation led by Deputy Economic Development Minister Maxim Medvedkov has finished another round of talks in Geneva on Russia joining the World Trade Organization (WTO), where it came up with proposals on the most difficult issue, agriculture.
According to these proposals, Russia says its total spending on domestic subsidies (including state funding and price subsidies in terms of the difference between world prices and prices on the domestic market) has amounted to $16 billion. These subsidies now total $2 billion. However, the Agriculture Minister’s aide Sergei Kiselev said, “It is necessary for Russia to reserve the right to spend this money on support for agriculture.”
It is also planned to increase the share of participation by foreign banks in the Russian banking sector up to 20% of total banking capital. In the insurance sector, the number of 100% foreign-owned companies is reduced to 15%, and these companies are forbidden to deal in life insurance. As for the telecommunications sector, foreign companies will be limited to 25% of the mobile phone market.
To the surprise of WTO representatives, the Russian Cabinet has postponed consideration of five bills aimed at bringing Russian law into compliance with the WTO’s requirements in the field of intellectual property. The Ministry of Economic Development has appealed to the Cabinet to reconsider this decision.
KURSK CANNOT BE RAISED WITHOUT FOREIGN FINANCIAL AID
Kommersant, March 3, 2001, p. 1
The Kursk Foundation has appealed to leaders of the European Union, Japan, the US, Canada, and Norway to grant Russia money for raising the submarine Kursk. The foundation asks each of the countries to give 1.9 million euros ($1.7 million). The appeal was signed by co-chairmen of the foundation: former foreign minister of the USSR Alexander Bessmertnykh and former Defense Minister of the Netherlands Willem van Eckelen. They asked leaders of the aforementioned countries not to delay. If the submarine is not raised this year, this operation will be much more dangerous next year, if it is possible at all.
This appeal is a desperate gesture. The Russian government has not allocated $25 million to the fund. Without this money, the American-Dutch-Norwegian consortium refuses to start preparations for the operation. If these preparations are not started in March, the submarine will not be raised this year, since weather conditions only make it possible to make the attempt in summer.
MINISTRY FOR TAXES AND DUTIES EXCEEDS TARGETS
Kommersant, March 3, 2001, p. 1
The adoption of the second part of the new Tax Code on January 1, 2001 did not bode any good for tax collectors. The Ministry for Taxes and Duties did not have enough time to prepare for the new rules of operation. Tax agencies began to collect the uniform social tax only on January 16. Therefore, the Cabinet feared that the ministry might fail to meet tax collection targets.
However, in February, the ministry exceeded planned tax collection by 3%.
As for collection of the uniform social tax, this was the real triumph of tax collectors, since they exceeded planned collection levels by 30%.
PANIC SURROUNDING ROSTOV NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Vremya MN, March 3, 2001, p. 2
The government of the Rostov Region, the regional department of the Emergencies Ministry, the Civilian Defense Headquarters for Rostov-on-the-Don, and the PR department of the Rostov nuclear power plant have all been inundated by phone calls.
The panic was caused by reports on local radio about a radioactive discharge from the Rostov nuclear power plant, with advice to wear hats to keep off the likely radioactive fallout.
The PR department of the Rostov nuclear power plant has issued an official announcement denying that any serious incident occurred. The announcement states that on February 18, before the power plant was activated, a micro-puncture was noticed in the steam unit, which led to an outflow of five kilograms of heavy water. According to the announcement, the defect was soon repaired and did not influence the further course of operations. Yelena Kovaleva, a spokeswoman for the Rostov nuclear power plant, said that according the international scale of nuclear events, this incident rates zero points.
ANDREI NIKOLAEV: DEFENSE MINISTER WILL BE A MILITARY MAN
Vremya MN, March 3, 2001, p. 3
We have interviewed Andrei Nikolaev, Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee.
Question: Is the current military doctrine of the Russian Federation appropriate to its potential challenges and threats?
Andrei Nikolaev: As a matter of fact, this question should be addressed to the president, the secretary of the Security Council, and the prime minister, to some extent. In my opinion, the current military doctrine is not fully in line with potential threats to Russia, and needs to be corrected.
The military doctrine is supposed to be the official statement of views on the readiness of Russia and its people for a possible war, and ways of preventing it. But Russia’s doctrine does not even contain the concept of war. Of course, Russia is not a supporter of resolving conflicts by military methods. But the Armed Forces are not only a means of waging war – they are also a means of preventing a war.
Why isn’t the US afraid to announce that it faces threats, including Russia? Doesn’t Russia face any threats? Aren’t there any states which covet Russia’s territories and resources? Haven’t there been any attempts to disintegrate the country from within by means of terrorism? What about the drug mafia and terrorists? These threats may accumulate at a certain stage, and become a real military threat.
Question: What is your attitude to civilian service as an alternative to the draft?
Nikolaev: I’m all for it. I’m convinced that the sooner Parliament passed the bill on alternative civilian service, the better it will be for the Armed Forces and society in general. I’m also sure that after this bill is passed, the number of young men wishing to serve in the Armed Forces will rise. What would a young man prefer: military servie for two years, or building roads or working at a health resort for three to four years?
Question: What is your opinion of rumors that a civilian may be appointed as defense minister of the Russian Federation?
Nikolaev: This is just a dream of modern politicians. I’m perfectly sure that the defense minister of the Russian Federation will remain a military man until the present structure of administration of the Armed Forces is changed. If the government wants to separate military-political and military-administrative functions from administration of the Armed Forces proper, it should separate the functions of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff.
In my opinion, this process should take two to three years. The administration of the Armed Forces is a complex mechanism. Its links should be managed by a person with the precision of a neurosurgeon. I think that is why the president is discussing details of this reform in the Security Council, seeking better ways of handling the situation.