CANDIDATE NO. 1
Novoe Vremya, September 1, 2002, p. 11
In a recent poll, the overwhelming majority of respondents said the idea of creating the Commonwealth of Independent States “had not lived up to expectations”; only 12% said it had lived up to expectations, and 17% were uncertain.
Very few believe it is possible to restore a fully-fledged Soviet Union; only 16% of respondents say they “believe it is possible to restore the USSR”, while 71% say it is not, and 13% are uncertain. However, three-quarters of respondents consider it necessary to “seek new forms of cooperation between former Soviet republics”: 76% of respondents agreed with this, while only 11% disagreed, and 13% were uncertain.
While a new all-inclusive union is considered unrealistic and not really necessary, there is steady support for a bilateral union. Polls in recent years have constantly identified Belarus as the top candidate for this. Belarus and Ukraine are considered equally close to Russia: 16% of respondents name Belarus as “a nation whose traditions are close in spirit to Russia”, and 15% name Ukraine.
Polls indicate that there is majority support for unification in both Belarus and Russia, although the degree of it varies. There is more interest among Belarussians: 78% of Belarussian respondents “are interested in information about creating the union”, while 68% of Russian respondents are interested. Correspondingly, 18% of Belarussian respondents and 26% of Russian respondents say they are not interested in this issue.
A FLAWED BUDGET
Zavtra, August 29, 2002, p. 1
According to our insider sources, the process of submitting the draft budget for 2003 to the Duma is a huge deception, since the document has been based on completely unreliable figures for virtually all its economic indicators – from economic growth to next year’s average exchange rate. The tax reforms under the overall slogan of “Time to come out of the shadows” have failed completely; and there is a huge gap in the current year’s budget, resulting in growing wage arrears and another contraction of the Russian consumer market (by around 10%), which leads to rising inflation. It is particularly noteworthy that the Finance Ministry is planning to plug the gap in 2003 by using the Central Bank’s gold and currency reserves, since the government simply has no other sources of extra revenue – it wasted the bonus revenues of 2000-01 on repaying foreign creditors.
DEAD MAN TALKING
Rossiiskie Vesti, August 29, 2002, p. 2
Murdered Duma member Vladimir Golovlev had repeatedly said that if he were put on trial, he would divulge information about some highly-placed patrons who had given his actions their blessing and issued direct instructions to him. In other words, this was a reference to Golovlev’s direct superior, the central organizer of all privatization in Russia: Anatoly Chubais.
The prospect of Golovlev speaking out in public, in a courtroom – with the Liberal Russia party certain to make the most of his statements – was apparently extremely dangerous and disadvantageous for Chubais, especially since he has been showing great ambition recently, obviously aiming for the post of prime minister (or even president). A crime scandal, with specific testimony and evidence, would have been fatal for him. Chubais has secured the support of democrats in the West for his ambitious plans; and Westerners can be so squeamish about such matters.
THE ARMS TRADE
Kontinent, August 27, 2002, p. 2
Andrei Belianinov, general director of Rosoboronexport (Russian Arms Exports), says the company expects to supply arms worth a total of $3.5 billion to foreign clients in 2002.
According to Belianinov, Russian arms exports have shown steady growth in recent years. Foreign currency revenues from the arms trade came to $4.2 billion, with $3.2 billion worth of goods delivered. Rosoboronexport’s foreign currency revenues for the first half of this year came to over $2 billion. This year’s deliveries are expected to be worth $3.5 billion. Rosoboronexport’s orders portfolio currently stands at over $13 billion, which indicates that high delivery figures will be maintained over the next few years.
Russia’s leading export items are aircraft and space launch services. Aircraft make up around 65-70% of deliveries. Among Russia’s most competitive arms exports, Belianinov named Su-27, Su-30 MKI, and Su-30 MKK fighters, as well as Mi-24 and Mi-17 helicopters. More specifically, orders for Mi series helicopters are coming in not only from Russia’s traditional arms trade partners – India and China – but also from Latin America, Africa, and South-East Asia, which are seen as promising markets for Russian arms exports.
STANISLAV GOVORUKHIN MAY BECOME RUSSIA’S LE PEN
Versiya, August 26, 2002, pp. 12-13
Rumor has it that Alexei Koshmarov, a prominent political consultant in St. Petersburg, has been given an important assignment by the government: to create a party similar to Le Pen’s party in France – part-nationalist, part-bourgeois. Koshmarov spent all of July working out the party’s ideological plaform, but the clients rejected his draft, requesting “more nationalism”. It is believed that Stanislav Govorukhin will become the new party’s leader. The “Russian Le Pen party” will not limit itself to Moscow; it will start operating in St. Petersburg as soon as September, setting up a branch there. It is also interesting to note that this new political project is being funded by one of St. Petersburg’s major banks.
SHOOTING ON THE BORDER
Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, August 30, 2002, p. 2
Eight bodies of Russian border guards from the Nazran border guards detachment were discovered on August 24, along the Ingushetian sector of the Russia-Georgia border. Two others from the same detachment – privates Nikolai Bozhkov from Chelyabinsk and Oleg Khismatulin from Bashkortostan – were initially listed as MIA; but they were apprehended on August 28, and immediately confessed to killing their eight comrades, in revenge for cruelty in the barracks.
However, the Federal Border Guards Service has been extremely reticent about the true causes of this tragedy. What happened in the Dzheirakh gorge has been surrounded by a cloud of incomplete information. Even the names of those killed weren’t released until August 27, although the first reports about the incident had started coming in on August 24.
Undoubtedly, the picture of what happened was clear at once to commanders of the border guards. In any case, whether it’s a matter of a sudden guerrilla attack, or yet another shooting on the grounds of barracks cruelty, or even a simulation of such a shooting, reasonably qualified specialists can reach a conclusion about what happened as soon as they examine the scene of the incident.
One gets the impression that in the event of serious incidents in the Armed Forces, other troops, formations, or agencies, the representatives of the security and enforcement bodies are still following the same well-worn path – just as in the Kursk submarine disaster, the first reports of an incident have little in common with reality.
It is disconcerting to see that shootings on the grounds of barracks cruelty in the Russian military are becoming such a run-of-the-mill event that whenever deaths are reported, the first theory involves fighting among soldiers – not action against the enemy, even in a conflict zone.