STEPASHIN AND RANGER WALKER
Izvestia, June 1, 2002, p.4
On Friday Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov was to attend the closing of the fifth EuroSAI congress at the State Auditing Commission (SAC). At first Kasianov was expected; then his deputy, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, was expected; but neither of them appeared. By the last EuroSAI working day in Moscow, all the G8 member states had assembled. They were the heads of State Auditing Commissions of Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the US, Canada, Japan and Russia. The results of the global summit of auditors will be presented as recommendations to the leaders of all eight countries.
The role of the monitoring agencies in the government’s setting of the annual budget was discussed at the summit. There was also discussion of organizational improvements in follow-up action on the budget. The result of the debate indicates that the SAC will have some influence on budget planning. The nature of this influence may take the form of meetings or consultations, but the methods of this interaction are obscure because of the long-standing opposition between the Finance Ministry and the SAC (that is, between Kasianov and Sergei Stepashin), especially after Putin’s statement that he did not agree with Stepashin’s proposal to strengthen and boost the status of the SAC.
Methods of countering the funding of terrorism were discussed at the summit, and it was decided to set up a special working group on countering money-laundering. Arrangements were also made for coordinated monitoring of big-budget projects which involve the interests of several countries. One agreement concerns auditing spending on destruction of Russian and American chemical weapons, which has already begun. Regarding another agreement, Stepashin requested his American counterpart, David Walker, to look into all the complaints of the Department of Agriculture connected with US poultry meat imports.
The system of Russian state financial monitoring is still at the formation stage, so the analogous systems in other countries have not found it to be striking. We are still only approaching international standards of monitoring. That is why the organizers of the conference went all out to draw up a cultural and entertainment program. In this field there were no problems; the guests were impressed by the Marble Hall of the Kremlin (where the congress opened), and by President Putin, who honored them with his presence, as well as the treasures of the Faceted Chamber and a ballet performance at the Bolshoi Theater.
SPECIFIC QUESTIONS FOR GREAT COMMISSION
Parlamentskaya Gazeta, June 6, 2002, p. 1
Tomorrow a Duma delegation will depart for Italy, to take part in the third session of the Russian-Italian Inter-parliamentary Commission. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev is heading the delegation.
This delegation has been assembled according to the Protocol on Cooperation between the Duma and the Italian House of Deputies, signed in June 1999. The commission is headed by representatives of the lower houses of parliament in both countries. It conducts scheduled annual meetings, at which the most important issues of inter-parliamentary cooperation are discussed. The specific feature of the commission’s activity is that its composition is not unchanging. This helps to bring into the commission precisely those lawmakers who are the most competent in this sphere for discussing specific issues.
There have been two meetings since the commission was created. The first was on June 26-28, 2000, and the second on February 4-7, 2001. The agendas included discussion of future prospects for creating a Greater Europe, inter-parliamentary cooperation on fighting corruption and organized crime, tax legislation, exchange of information about parliamentary regulations, and legislative foundations for investment activity, with the emphasis on foreign investments. At the forthcoming third meeting of the commission, in the capital of Italy, participants will discuss the role of the parliaments in fighting international terrorism, creation of a common European territory for economic development and stability in Europe, as well as fighting illegal immigration.
The members of the Duma delegation represent various factions: Nikolai Bezborodov (Russian Regions, or the Union of Independent Deputies), Vasily Galushkin (People’s Deputy), Alexander Gurov (Unity), Valery Dorogin (Russian Regions), Vasily Iver (Agrarians), Alexander Kulikov (Communist Party), Alexei Likhachev (Union of Right Forces), Andrei Nikolaev (People’s Deputy), Fandas Safiullin (Russian Regions), and Sergei Shishkarev (People’s Deputy).
The three-day visit to Italy is planned to include talks between Gennady Seleznev and Italian President Carlo Ciampi, and meetings between Russian lawmakers and Marcello Pera and Pier Cazini, leaders of the upper and lower house of the Italian parliament.
SERGEI IVANOV’S NEGOTIATIONS IN CHINA ARE SECRET
Komsomolskaya Pravda, June 1, 2002, p. 5
After the series of May summits in which President Vladimir Putin took part, it became clear that Russia is rapidly drawing closer to the United States. Apparently in order to deflect accusations of an overly pro-Western policy, the Kremlin has decided to turn eastward. Besides some active work with the Euro-Asian Economic Community and the Shanghai Five, Putin is also reported to intend to visit China by the end of the year.
To date, Putin’s subordinates have been developing Russia’s cooperation with the East. For instance, a Defense Ministry delegation led by Sergei Ivanov is visiting Beijing. According to the Defense Ministry, the aim of this visit is “to discuss issues of military-technical cooperation.” Sergei Ivanov has been received at the highest level, and is meeting with all the top leaders of China. Besides, Ivanov will participate in the meeting of the Russian-Chinese commission on military-technical cooperation. By the way, Ivanov was recently appointed co-chairman of this committee, replacing Ilya Klebanov.
All the negotiations are top secret. The Russian delegation attributes this to considerations of commercial secrecy rather than military secrecy. Ivanov has promised to tell the Chinese about agreements between Russia and the US, and Russia and NATO, and discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Kashmir.
Therefore, we can only assume that in the course of the visit, the delegation will try to continue promoting Russian-made weapons and military hardware in China. The extent of the arms trade turnover is impressive already: Russia gets over $1 billion a year from selling weapons to China. Extension of Russian-Chinese military-technical cooperation is said to call for a transition from arms trade to joint research and development of new models of weapons.
NEW MISSILE SHIELD
Argumenty i Fakty, May 29, 2002, p. 4
The agreement on nuclear arms cuts to 2012, recently signed by President Vladimir Putin and President George Bush, has drawn a highly ambivalent response in Russia. For instance, leaders of the left-wing opposition say the level of 1,700 to 2,200 nuclear warheads set in this agreement is not enough to maintain Russia’s defense capacity. According to them, this number of warheads could be neutralized by the US national missile defense. We requested comments from Andrei Kokoshin, Director of the Institute for International Security Issues at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Kokoshin believes 1,700 warheads are still too many. For instance, China has only 16 to 18 warheads. This is enough to keep the US from unnecessary action against China. The nuclear arsenals of Britain and France are also considerably smaller than Russia’s arsenals. In fact, we are unable to maintain nuclear arsenals of 2,500 to 3,000 warheads, for economic reasons. That is why mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals is favorable for Russia. It could be worse: without the agreement, by 2012 Russia would still have 1,700 warheads, while the United States would have 3,500 to 4,000 or more. As for the capacity of the US missile defense system, it should not be exaggerated. No “missile umbrella” is capable of neutralizing 1,700 nuclear warheads. The ABM treaty and START are mostly virtual, psychological concepts, trump cards in the political game. According to Kokoshin, Russia needs to develop not only nuclear containment but also “pre-nuclear strategic containment.” The latest generation of Russian cruise missiles is almost invulnerable to existing anti-missile systems. However, it is necessary to continue technological research in this area.
DEFENSE MINISTER IVANOV TO "WEED OUT" SOME GENERALS
Argumenty i Fakty, May 29, 2002, p. 5
Last week Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov sharply criticized the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces. He accused generals of lacking initiative, lack of goal-orientation, and incompetence. The minister was especially dissatisfied with poor discipline in the formerly elite Airborne Forces. In particular, last year 41 soldiers died in the Airborne Forces in various accidents. Over the first months of 2002, the Airborne Forces have lost 12 servicemen in accidents; the number of serious accidents and infringements of regulations has been rising considerably.
Large-scale fraud involving promotions to senior ranks has been revealed in the Black Fleet. From 1998 to 2002 over 500 officers received higher ranks unlawfully. “As a result of widespread manipulations, at present there are 515 first-class captains in the Black Fleet, although there should be only 260 captains in accordance with the list of staff,” said a senior Defense Ministry official. The defense minister has already signed orders for disciplinary action against about ten members of the Navy Command and the General Staff of the Black Fleet.
According to our forces, from June 1 there will be an extensive “purge” of senior commanders in the Army and Navy. Last year, over 300 generals’ positions were cut; this year, about a thousand top military commanders may be demoted.
STEPASHIN FINDS 300 MILLION RUBLES
Argumenty i Fakty, May 29, 2002, p. 5
According to European media reports, the Russian State Auditing Commission has held some unofficial talks in Switzerland. The topic was a sum of 300-500 million Swiss francs taken out of Russia in the 1990s. State Auditing Commission head Sergei Stepashin told us: “With the help of Swiss lawyers we have already returned to $1.5 million to Russia. This is the money of a certain entrepreneur who took it out of the country illegally. Over the past five months we have launched 50 criminal cases.” The State Auditing Commission is not revealing the names of the tycoons involved in these cases. However, according to unofficial sources, one of them is former deputy finance minister Vavilov, who negotiated in 1996 on Angola’s debt to Russia. To all appearances, Russian officials made some good commissions from that case, as the debt was $750 million. The State Auditing Commission also plans to address requests to Belgium and Luxembourg.
14 BILLION RUBLES LOST IN COURT
Vek, May 31, 2002, p. 3
First Deputy Justice Minister Yury Demin commented on the results of a recent meeting at the Justice Ministry, dedicated to the quality of work of judicial services of federal government bodies. According to Demin, “The result of analyses of court processes with participation of federal government bodies are rather disturbing. With each year, the number of cases lost is increasing greatly: in 1999 there were about 7,000 of them; in 2000 there were 32,500; and last year there were 49,000. As a result, the state is bearing considerable financial losses. Since 1999, federal government bodies have lost 14 billion rubles as a result of legal action.”
PUTIN’S POPULARITY FALLS
Inostranets, May 28, 2002, p. 3
According to an April poll done by the National Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 71% of respondents approve of Putin’s overall performance; 22% disapprove; and 36% of respondents trust the president.
These figures seem to show that Putin’s popularity remains high. However, pollsters say Putin has serious grounds for concern. The problem is that since November last year both “trust” and “approval” ratings have been falling, and the April results are the lowest since the start of 2001. Lately, views of the degree of the president’s influence have also changed: in January 2002, 16% of respondents described it as strong, while in April only 7% said so. The number of those who approve of the president is falling due to disappointment among those who expected him to be “a strong hand” and a sort of “serious rather than ludicrous Zhirinovsky”; now they think Putin is incapable of forcing the bureaucracy to implement his decisions.
The disappointed have started moving toward Vladimir Zhirinovsky, whose popularity is rising as Putin’s declines. According to April figures, there is already a trend toward falling support for the United Russia party. Only 18% of voters say they are willing to vote for the pro-government party, which is 12% less than in December and January; and only half of the figure for the Communist Party, 35%.
OPINIONS OF BUSH
Patriot, May 28, 2002, p. 2
The Public Opinion Foundation devoted its latest opinion poll to the popularity of President George Bush in Russia. Polls in the US indicate that Bush is considered the “dumbest” president in US history. The Russian poll asked: “Do you like George Bush as a politician?” In September 2001, 22% of respondents liked the US president and 43% disliked him. In May 2002, 25% of respondents said they liked the US president and 45% disliked him.