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Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Gailyn Goes to Town
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast
Too Cold to Care!
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
The Hungry Duck
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
The Banking Implosion
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, December 21, 1998

The Reality of Irrelevance

The Reality of Irrelevance is hard for the Kremlin to accept

The ultimate in ground zero, Moscow
What we were aiming for
Where the second nuke would land
Snow sure makes it pretty!
Don't forget who beat the Mongols, Neopolean, and Hitler

Thrice Victorious

All the tourists!
Chicago Tribune 21 December 1998

Russian Anger Grounded in Faded Influence but Don't Write us off Yet, Ex-Foes Caution

By Michael McGuire, Tribune Staff Writer.

MOSCOW - On a gray October evening in 1973, a U.S. Air Force attache and his family sat down to dinner in the Moscow apartment of an American news correspondent. Quickly the conversation turned to war.

Egypt had blitzkrieged Israeli troops across the Suez Canal, but the Israelis soon chased their foe back into Egypt. When the Israelis encircled the Egyptian Third Army and sent a column driving toward Cairo, the Kremlin delivered a frightening ultimatum: stop in your tracks or face crack Soviet paratrooper divisions standing by for flights into Egypt. Both superpowers put their strategic missile systems on high alert, and Henry Kissinger, then U.S. secretary of state, was winging to Moscow in what would be a successful effort to defuse the crisis.

'This could be it, nuclear Armageddon,' the Air Force attache told his host in Moscow. 'And I'd rather be here than in Washington. The U.S. could explode a missile 10 feet above the roof of this building, but Soviet technology would land a warhead 25 miles outside (Washington), D.C., and everyone would die a slow death of leukemia.' The event was a grim scene from the Cold War, a four-decade era of superpower hostility.

Flashbacks of the Cold War flared last week when Russia recalled its ambassador from Washington--a first since World War II--and Britain in outrage over the decision to attack Iraq. Politicians across Russia's political spectrum competed with one another in condemning the U.S. and calling for an increase in defense spending.

Two top Russian military officers alluded to a new Cold War when they spoke of damaged relations between Washington and Moscow and a need for the Kremlin to change its security strategy. Demonstrators paraded in front of the U.S. Embassy and burned an American flag and a caricature of President Clinton.

'It looks like relations between Moscow and Washington are entering a period of very serious crisis,' said the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta. 'The next step after recalling ambassadors can be only a break or freezing of diplomatic relations. No one would want to believe in that happening, but the Americans are doing business in just that way.' Russians on the street and veteran policymakers echoed the fear. 'God save us from the Cold War period,' said Georgi Shakhnazarov, a top aid to former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. 'My hope is that (the American- British strike) will not reverse the march of history.'

By Monday, it seemed clear that the roar was little more than an expression of anger over Moscow's lost ability to influence world events and fear that one of these days Russia or one of its territories might be the victim of an American attack. 'My friends are worried; first you did it in Yugoslavia, then Iraq,' a young professional said. 'What's to say that you won't bomb here when something happens that you don't like?'

Interviews with Russian foreign policy experts and comments from Moscow's streets indicated that a new era of world polarization and superpower hostility is unlikely but that a blur has appeared after years of Russian- American progress. It appeared to end a Russian dream of partnership with the United States in solving the world's problems.

Most agreed that the once-powerful country and its military, seriously disabled by a devastated economy, could do little but roar with indignation. It couldn't even afford to offend the United States too much. Moscow, after all, remains dependent on Washington for food and other assistance.

Perhaps the biggest blow to Russia's dignity came from being left out of the decision to bomb Iraq. Insiders said President Boris Yeltsin first learned of the bombing raids from the French. Washington's decision not to seek approval from the UN Security Council left Russia unable to use its veto as one of the five permanent members. 'We're sick and tired of the way we are treated these days by the world,' said Edward Alexandrovich Ivanian, editor in chief of the academic journal USA-Canada Economics, Politics and Culture.

'Everyone considers that Russia's strength, power and authority is a thing of the past,' Ivanian said. 'We simply have to reaffirm that we are a nation to be taken into consideration. Let me paraphrase Mark Twain: Rumors of our demise are premature. We had to reaffirm that we still are alive and kicking.'

'It's a tragedy when a big power loses its status,' said Shakhnazarov, director of a think tank founded by Gorbachev. 'Still, it would be a big mistake for anyone to neglect Russia's international role. It still remains a superpower, even though cornered, and it still requires a serious and delicate attitude.'

The substance behind that opinion appeared to register with President Clinton, who sent Yeltsin a letter explaining his decision to bomb Iraq. The U.S. State Department also announced that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would visit Moscow next month. Viktor Alexandrovich Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute for USA and Canadian Studies, said it is crucial for Russia to feel itself a major power capable of asserting its influence.

'This fits the desire of many people that Russia should be there,' he said. 'Take for example the Palestinians: They want Russia to be a player in the Middle East. The Iranians want Russia to be there. Indians want Russia to be there, and even China wants Russia to be a presence in the Far East.'

The Independent (UK) 20 December 1998

Attack on Iraq - Impotent Russia rails against the West Moscow's anger.

By Phil Reeves

Here, ladies and gentlemen, are the headlines. Bong! Iraqi children are suffering because of Bill Clinton's love affair with Monica Lewinsky. Bong! The Americans are attacking Iraq to enrich their petroleum giants, by pushing up the oil price. Bong! As this scandal unfolds, Russia is powerless to do anything about it.

Thus, in anger and sadness, and with universal disapproval, has the Russian media covered the American and British attack on Baghdad. 'Russia is no longer a superpower,' mourned Izvestia on its front page yesterday.

Russia is upset not only because its membership of the UN Security Council has counted for nothing, or because the assault cuts across Moscow's policy of pushing for a political solution. What hurts as much as anything else is the impression that the United States, the world's only superpower, no longer appears to care a jot about what Russians think. Rarely has the aftertaste of Cold War defeat seemed so bitter.

This is not only a matter of the Russian government. The official response has, in fact, had a ritualistic air, not least because Moscow desperately needs western assistance if it is to stand any chance of reversing the country's steady downward slide. At the same time as the Kremlin was angrily hurrumphing about the bombardment and pulling back its ambassadors, plaintive officials were also stressing that an $850m (more than ?500m) food aid package with the US should not be affected, and nor would relations with the International Monetary Fund.

It is also a question of public opinion. In bombing Iraq, the US and Britain have shown no regard for the reaction of a Russian electorate which can be expected to play a significant role in determining just what kind of leader succeeds Boris Yeltsin (whose term expires in 2000).

In the past seven years, Russia's relationship with the West has, from the public's perspective, yielded almost nothing good. Russians have watched a parade of slick young economists come and go from office, flourishing western remedies from Harvard textbooks.

But the results have been hyperinflation, the rise and fall of hundreds of dodgy banks, the most corrupt mass privatisation of state assets in history and a plethora of crooked pyramid schemes - all of which have contrived to rob millions of people of their savings, their pensions and their monthly pay packets.

The final blow came in August when a rescue package crafted by the IMF failed and the rouble crashed to a third of its value, wiping out yet more savings and wages and sending the country into a full-blown economic crisis.

Russians have watched with equal gloom as NATO has hurriedly expanded to Russia's western edge at a time when a broken-down army represents no serious threat. Add to this the spectacle of US and British planes bombarding an old Soviet friend in the Arab world, it is not hard to see why anti-westernism is on the rise.

For evidence of that trend one need look no further than the State Duma. Crackpot extremists have long flourished within its doors. But the Communists, parliament's largest party, have a new air of confidence about them. What could be dismissed as the utterances of the loony left a year ago, are now more significant. Some of these utterances are deeply alarming, such as a rash of anti-Semitic diatribes - a hallmark of anti-westernism, as Israel is assumed to be permanently plotting with the Americans.

The best weathercock of anti-westernism is the Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, runner-up in the last presidential elections. At a recent congress of his coalition of Communist and nationalist forces, he identified Stalin as one of the great national heroes - an opinion he knows antagonises his democratic foes, and alarms western opinion. That he feels able to utter it is a measure of the current climate.

Politics are a mysterious business in Russia. The Communists have long had trouble expanding their base, despite the country's malaise, and the electorate are given to abrupt mood swings. It is too soon to say whether today's anti-western sentiments will translate into tomorrow's successes at the ballot box. But the fact that the world's last superpower no longer seems to care one way or another is good cause for concern.

Dec 19 (AFP) via Johnson's Russia List

Press laments Russia's passage from superpower to Third World impotence

MOSCOW - Washington's decision to launch massive air strikes against Iraq despite Moscow's vehement opposition sounded the death knell of Russia as a superpower, newspapers here said Saturday. Despite its permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the latest Gulf crisis had shown Russia to be as impotent as any Third World state, commentators said, while some evoked the spectre of a new era of 'Cold Peace.'

'Russia is already a superpower no more,' ran the banner headline in the moderate reform daily Izvestia, while Sevodnya titled its front page article on the Iraq crisis: 'Moscow doesn't matter any more.' 'Russia has the same influence on world affairs as any Third World country,' the liberal Sevodnya said, accusing President Boris Yeltsin of trying to reassert his waning domestic authority by talking tough on Iraq. But it warned that risked only further humiliation: 'Either (Yeltsin must) follow the logic of escalating any conflict, and pass from diplomatic to military action, or back down and recognize that what has gone on is a farce.'

Moscow has led vociferous international condemnation of strikes, launched by the United States and Britain to punish Baghdad's hampering of efforts by UN weapons inspectors to root out proscribed weapons of mass destruction. The Kremlin upped the ante on Friday by recalling its ambassador to London for consultations, a day after it did likewise with its ambassador to Washington, and pulled its defence minister out of talks with NATO counterparts in Brussels.

Russia, a long-standing Iraq ally, has led efforts to stymie US punishment attacks on Baghdad, vowing to veto in the Security Council any attempts to secure UN approval for military action. Britain and the United States went ahead regardless, saying no fresh mandate was needed.

Izvestia noted that Yeltsin's 'an unprecedented anti-western diplomatic offensive' came at a sensitive time for Russia, which was making headway in attempts to secure IMF financial aid next year, renegotiate its debt morass with foreign creditors and still hope to receive substantial US food aid. And the paper lamented that 'anti-Americanism' appeared to be the only force capable of uniting Russia's fractious political class, asking: 'Is the situation where an idea which starts with the prefix 'anti' becomes the uniting force of the country, in Russia's interests?'

The respected business daily Kommersant meanwhile said that even if Russia wanted to counter US military might, its cash-starved armed forces were in no position to offer Iraq concrete support. Moscow has no operational information coming from the Gulf because its solitary electronic surveillance satellite over the region updates its information once every 24 hours, Kommersant reported. Russia's radar post in Azerbaijan can only track incoming or outgoing Iraqi Scuds or ballistic missiles, not US cruise missiles used in the air raids, it said. Any Russian warships despatched to the zone would need three to six weeks to arrive on station, and would be powerless to act given the size of US forces present in the region, the paper argued.

Significantly, the defence ministry backtracked on its announcement that some units had increased their state of readiness over the Iraq crisis, saying it was 'practice' to do so 'in the event of a deterioration of the situation in some regions of the world,' Interfax reported. Kommersant noted that the last time the country's armed forces had been placed on alert was June 1982, for military manoeuvres based on a scenario for World War III.

As a result, 'Moscow was forced to get involved in the Star Wars arms race, whose expense was a determining factor in the economic and political collapse of the Soviet Union,' the paper concluded.

New York Times 19 December 1998

Russia: Public Anger in Moscow Is Tempered in Private

By Steven Erlanger

WASHINGTON -- Despite Russia's anger over the bombing of Iraq and the recall of its ambassador from Washington, Moscow's private conversations with U.S. officials reflect a desire to preserve and protect the U.S.-Russian relationship, senior American officials said Friday. Russian fury has been leveling off from its peak on Wednesday, the officials said, noting that the most positive conversation yet occurred Friday morning between Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Ivanov repeated an invitation for Albright to come to Moscow, and she expects to go there toward the end of January, said her spokesman, James Rubin. The conversation Friday, which lasted half an hour with some translation, was 'an extremely important exchange,' Rubin said, and Ivanov emphasized 'that the Russians understand the importance of maintaining a broad-based relationship with the United States.' A senior U.S. official said later: 'The Russians recognize that they need to keep good political and economic ties to the West, even if they are angry and embarrassed. And they won't risk all that for the sake of Iraq.'

Ivanov also passed on a relatively conciliatory message from President Boris Yeltsin to President Clinton, officials said. On Thursday, Clinton sent a letter to Yeltsin explaining the U.S. and British decision to bomb Iraq and asking the Russians to work to manage their differences with Washington and concentrate on vital areas of common interest, including Moscow's financial difficulties.

Also on Thursday, Vice President Al Gore telephoned Russia's prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, to explain the U.S. position. When Primakov asked Gore to stop the bombing, Gore responded that the attacks would continue. Hours later, the Russians recalled Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, who was due to retire and return to Moscow soon in any event. Vorontsov left Washington Friday. The Russians simultaneously recalled their ambassador from London.

The recall was believed to be the first since 1979, when Washington recalled its ambassador from Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Soviets recalled their ambassador from Washington. But given the tensions of the nuclear-tipped Cold War, both sides considered it more important to retain diplomats in each other's capitals than to give vent to pique.

Discussions with Moscow about its budget and possible new loans from the International Monetary Fund are proceeding on a separate track, the officials said. U.S. officials do not want the Russians to think there is a crude economic or political price to pay for their opposition on Iraq, an official said. The Russians will keep up loud, public criticism of American and British actions so long as the bombing continues over Iraq, a senior U.S. official said. 'No one should be surprised by that, and we shouldn't overblow it,' he said. 'Both sides are mindful of the importance of bilateral relations, there will be more meetings between officials next week and life will go on.'

The official identified three reasons for Russian anger. First, Moscow and Primakov personally have tried to be key players in resolving the Iraq crisis, but their efforts have failed, producing frustration.

Primakov is an Iraq expert and knows its leaders well, including Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz, Iraq's deputy prime minister. In November 1997, Primakov, then foreign minister, personally arranged a deal with Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions and work with U.N. weapons inspectors that short- circuited American plans to bomb Iraq. But Saddam broke his promises to Primakov then, as he broke similar promises made last February to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Second, the Russians felt insulted that they were not consulted, as Security Council members, before the bombing began, and that the bombing in fact began in the middle of a Security Council debate on Iraq. While Washington says it consults Moscow, Russian officials often complain that such consultations often have the humiliating feel of lectures or briefings. The Chinese and French sometimes complain of the same feeling, U.S. officials admit.

Third, Russian domestic politics essentially demands a tough reaction to the U.S. superpower taking nearly unilateral action against Russian wishes, whether it be in Iraq or in Bosnia. 'People and bureaucrats in the Russian system itself are frustrated by many factors, by the poor economy and Russia's reduced status, and they want to vent,' an official said. 'Events like this one can become a way for Russians to vent their frustrations about everything.'

Washington Post March 7, 1999

Russia's Relevance

By Fred Hiatt, a member of the editorial page staff.

So loose nukes may be rolling through the taiga, the ruble may be in ruins, tuberculosis flares in Siberia. Who cares?

Not so long ago it was assumed that Russia's health was essential to world stability. Then Russia's troubles slid from bad to worse, and the rest of the world hardly seemed to notice. Now some in Washington are suggesting that maybe Russia didn't matter so much after all.

Certainly many Russian politicians believe that the United States has written them off. (Most of the rest believe the United States is out to destroy them.) Proof, for them, is everywhere. When President Clinton launched Desert Fox on the eve of his impeachment, for example, Republicans in Congress smelled one rat, Russians another. It was also the eve of a scheduled Duma vote on the START II arms control treaty. The U.S. military action doomed the vote. So if Clinton really cared about relations with Russia, many Russians reasoned, he would have postponed his bombing campaign.

But it's not just Russians who suspect the Clinton administration has given up. 'The U.S.-Russian relationship has, in the last eight years, gone from a strategic partnership,' Republican Sen. Dick Lugar said recently, 'to a pragmatic one, to a relationship of benign neglect, to one that is lurching toward malign neglect.'

Administration officials feed this perception when they advocate, in Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott's words, a policy of 'strategic patience and persistence,' or when Clinton visits Moscow and seems to have no idea what to do once he arrives. In fact, most administration officials have not concluded that Russia doesn't matter. They still believe, as Talbott also said, that 'the stakes, for us, are huge.' They just aren't sure what to do about it.

Here's one way to look at their dilemma. As Russia's post-Communist transition has stalled, the nation in fact has lost much of its ability to influence the world -- at least in a positive way. Its economy now accounts for something like one percent of world output. Russia remains the world's biggest country, but territory has long since ceased to be a key indicator of power. It holds vast stores of oil and mineral wealth, but in a global economy based increasingly on knowledge and technology, those, too, are of dwindling value.

Russia's declining population of 150 million is too impoverished to tempt many companies as a consumer market. And despite a high level of education, its value as a labor pool is dimmed by the crime and uncertain laws and taxes that keep most foreign companies away.

So Russia's potential influence is mostly negative. It can scare the world with the consequences of collapse: untended nuclear weapons, degraded missile-launch computers, the export of crime and pollution and contagious disease. U.S. policy has evolved in two ways as a result. Not surprisingly, most of its aid is aimed at averting the bad, not promoting the good. Three-quarters of U.S. assistance dollars, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said last fall, 'are devoted to programs that diminish the threat of nuclear war and the danger that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the wrong hands.'

And, as Russia has moved 'from the core of the international system to the periphery,' as the Carnegie Endowment's Michael McFaul said, it has also moved to the periphery of U.S. foreign policy. On issue after issue -- Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, NATO expansion, anti-missile defense -- the message from the administration is that Russia matters, but not enough to derail U.S. policy.

Excluded from policymaking, Russia then emphasizes even more its spoiler role: shipping dangerous technology to Iran, encouraging Serbian aggression, tweaking the United States wherever possible. And so the two nations find themselves in an unhealthy downward cycle -- a long way from the strategic partnership envisioned at the opening of this decade.

This, it should be stressed, is mostly Russia's fault. Until Russia gets its reforms on track, its influence will continue to diminish. A foreign policy that indulges Russian nostalgia and wishful thinking, as the United States did with its great-power summitry and its premature transformation of the G-7 into a G-8, can't change the reality. It's more likely, in fact, to bruise feelings and delay reform by convincing Russia that normal rules won't apply to it.

Yet 'strategic patience' isn't sufficient either. Russia does matter. If it takes its place as a democratic, free-market economy, pulling its neighbors in the same direction through force of successful example, one kind of world will result. If it implodes or grows hostile, the world will be very different, and far more dangerous.

That understanding motivates those who continue to search for a U.S. policy that will speak to Russia's potential and not just its pathologies. U.S.-Russian relations need 'a new and dramatic high-profile program,' Lugar says. His proposal: a U.S. commitment to help Russia produce 10,000 masters of business administration and 10,000 certified public accountants.

Inside the administration, some officials seek ways to turn ballistic-missile defense, at the moment one of the greatest irritants in the relationship, into something positive by proposing a cooperative undertaking. And many arms control specialists continue to urge unilateral U.S. steps to reduce the nuclear arsenal and take it off trigger alert. This could encourage Russia to follow suit but would be free of the coercion and preaching that seem counterproductive these days.

Some say all of this must wait -- until a spent Boris Yeltsin and a U.S. administration identified with failed policies both pass from the scene. Perhaps so. But two years in modern Russian history is a long time. The next U.S. administration may find itself with even fewer, and less attractive, options than those available today.

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