Russia, March 29, 1999
Safety is high on the minds of everyone these dayz
The US Embassy in Moscow is fine. Unlike the wild press reports in America, the reaction of the average Russian to the bombing in Kosovo is not to beat every NATO national (and Americans in particular) to a bloody pulp. Now, don't get me wrong, the Russians are livid that we are bombing their Serbian 'brothers' without a clear cause, and there have been a few tense moments, but I more scared of the crazy taxi drivers than bands of vigilantes.
Russia considers all the Yugoslavians as brother Slavs, born from the same Old Rus of Kiev, Ukraine. As brothers, the Slavs love to fight each other, but don't like outside intervention in what they consider family quarrels. Russians also see the NATO bombs falling on Serbia and wonder how long before NATO, which now includes such close Russian neighbors as Poland and the Czech Republic, starts to consider internal Russian politics its business too. Are Serbian actions in Kosovo so far removed from Russia's dealings with Chechnya?
On Sunday, two Russians pulled up in front of the US Embassy in a SUV, and one jumped out with a LAW (a small rocket grenade used against tanks), and attempted to fire it at the Embassy. When it didn't work (he forgot to take off the safety!), and the Russian police opened fire, he dropped the rocket and jumped into the truck as his accomplice shot back at the cops while speeding away.
While this scared a few of the Embassy staff, it is exactly why I feel as safe in Moscow as I did in DC. See the men were not taking actions against Americans, who are quite easy to spot in Moscow, or against American owned cars, which are obvious with their yellow license plates, but against a symbol of the US Government.
Russians, after living for 70 years with a government that lied to them constantly, and was inhumane to everybody, especially its own people (read Gulag Archipelago for a clue), easily separate the actions of the US government from individual Americans. When the bombing first happened, my staff asked me, 'Why does your government do this?!' Note the phrasing of the sentence. They did not accuse me of taking part, or even supporting the bombings (which I don't), but asked why my government would do this action.
On the streets of Moscow, life moves in the endless cycles every city experiences. Today is the fifth straight day of warm sunshine and clear skies. We are all too busy rejoicing in the springtime to hate each other. This is not to say that there is no trouble in Russia because of the NATO airstrikes.
Those who dislike America, those who desire a Slavic reunification, and especially those who smart from the disintegration of the USSR and it's superpower status, find a good cause in Kosovo. They can be patriotic, militaristic, and nostalgic, all at the same time, without actually getting shot at or loosing their homes to falling bombs. All across Russia, ultra-nationalistic groups are signing up recruits to fight in Serbia.
Don't get scared about an army marching from Moscow though. Many are old patriots, who fought in WWII, or disillusioned Afghan/Chechen vets who returned home to a jobless existence, and plenty of random teenagers looking for excitement. Also, once the bombings stop, and Russians get a good laugh when whatever NATO tries to implement in Kosovo fails (and I'm sure it will), Russia will return to what it does best in the summer, eat, drink, and dacha.
Moscow Times April 1, 1999
Expatriates Wonder If Moscow Is Safe
By Oksana Yablokova Staff Writer
Fearful of angry confrontations with leather-jacketed youths or maybe even Stalinist babushki, foreigners in Moscow are looking over their shoulders and keeping their voices down. But while rumors of attacks on foreigners and foreign-owned businesses have flourished, diplomats, police and business associations say there hasn't been any real upsurge in harassment of citizens from NATO countries.
Russians from the Kremlin to the corner store are outraged at NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia - outrage that can be seen in the broken windows and splashes of paint on the U.S. Embassy. Concerned talk is making the rounds of an expatriate community that had grown comfortable in Moscow, but is suddenly wondering whether it is again dangerous to be here.
Certainly Sunday's failed grenade attack and machine gun firefight outside the U.S. Embassy would give anyone pause for thought. And the violence has not been confined to the embassies.
The Uncle Sam's Cafe on Myasnitskaya Ulitsa in central Moscow, for example, was attacked at around 6 p.m. on Saturday by a group of teenagers chanting 'war on America.' Cafe director Yelena Ugarova said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the teenagers smashed the cafe's windows and its neon sign with bricks they had picked up at a nearby construction site. 'They quickly ran away. It was so unexpected, we could not even think of detaining any of them,' Ugarova said. She said glass from the windows damaged dining tables and ruined the cafe's pool table.
Some foreigners also tell of frightening run-ins with angry protesters. Eva, a British citizen, responded to a query on the Expat List, an e-mail forum for foreigners in Moscow, that she and her two daughters were harassed by a gang of skinheads near Manezh shopping mall last weekend. 'As we hailed the car, I spoke loudly to my daughters so they could hear over the noise. This drew the attention of a gang of skinheads, who immediately surrounded us chanting 'Yankees go home.' Not an appropriate time to point out we are Brits,' she wrote. But Eva and her daughters were rescued by a cab driver who drove them home and 'refused to take any money at all, saying that the skinheads did not represent Russians.'
However, from these and a few other isolated incidents, a host of rumors has been born. Some talk of an invasion of MacDonald's or of the popular Starlite Diner by toughs seeking to avenge their Slav brothers in Serbia. Others recount how this or that particular expatriate was beaten up or harassed for looking American, or for speaking English, or even for reading The Moscow Times on the metro. But managers of those restaurants deny all such reports, and in most cases investigated by The Moscow Times, alleged victims turn out to have suffered little more than a few harsh words critical of the war their nation happens to be waging in Europe.
A driver for the U.S. Embassy who was allegedly run off the road by another driver who objected to his diplomatic license plates, contacted by telephone, denied the report. Still, the U.S. Embassy has advised employees to think twice before driving cars with plates that identify them as part of the American diplomatic mission, and several foreigners interviewed over the past two days said they were laying lower than usual.
American Daniel Wolfe, chief operations officer at Troika Dialog investment company, said he tries to avoid staying out late at night or speaking English on the street. 'There are people who just enjoy violence and extremist behavior,' Wolfe said, adding that usually such people don't have many political motives for such actions. 'I noticed a couple of dark looks in transport but it could be my imagination, ' said Daniel Rothstein, an American lawyer with a British law firm.
The British Embassy recommends its citizens take reasonable precautions, but it doesn't expect political violence against individuals. The U.S. State Department has not seen a need to update its web site's travel advisory page for Russia, which already contains the usual safety advisories. 'Our assessment of the situation is that we don't expect incidents of abuse to be directed at individuals. There may be isolated spontaneous cases, but we don't expect them to happen a lot,' a British Embassy spokesman said.
The spokesman said the embassy had registered no cases of violence against British citizens in Moscow. So far, he said he has only heard of a few cases of verbal abuse where people have asked questions like 'Why are you bombing?' 'We take the situation seriously but don't want to arouse panic,' he added.
'None of our members have reported anything so far,' said Scott Blacklin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow. 'We are aware of anti-American sentiments and we are monitoring the issue closely. But we are just at the beginning of our survey.'
Moscow police said they had noticed no surge of crimes against foreigners. Police are still seeking two men with whom they exchanged gunfire in front of the U.S. Embassy on the Garden Ring on Sunday, after one of the men pointed a grenade launcher at the building but apparently could not get it to fire. On Wednesday, a group of demonstrators was turned away before it could reach the embassy, where police have barred protests following Sunday's incident. Instead, the demonstrators marched through Moscow.
The U.S. Embassy did not return phone calls Wednesday. Officials at the U.S. Consulate in St. Petersburg have issued a safety warning urging people to avoid demonstrations and to refrain from speaking English loudly in the street.
5 April 1999 Johnson's Russia List
Russia and Kosovo
By Dale R Herspring
There has been a lot of talk about Panslavism as a motivating factor behind Russia's concern with and potential involvement in Kosovo. While all of us recognize the importance of that factor, I believe it its importance is greatly exaggerated. From my perspective, there are two other factors that are of much greater significance. The first is Russia's fall from grace, and the second is the internal disaster facing the country.
Russia is not the first country to see its standing in the international community plumment. The British have been going through it since the end of the World War II, and even the French will be the last to recognize it, they have been going through the same process. There is a problem in comparing the Russian case with what happened in France and Britain, however. London and Paris have had forty years to adjust to their new situation in the world. For Russia, the collapse came almost over night.
Then there is the internal situation. The Brits never had to face such a situation. Many people,this writer included, worry that Russia could be on the very of breaking up. I hope this does not happen, but the feeling of frustration on the part of most Russians is obvious.
What I am suggesting is that Russian concern with Serbia has less to do with the human dimension and more to do with their loss of power. The fact is that they cannot do much about what is going on. They send an eves-dropping or intelligence ship to the Adriatic. And there are suggestions that they will send 6 more ships.
First, I would like to make it clear that I have great respect for Russians as sailors. I have been on their warships and seen them perform. They are first class. The problem is that the equipment they have to work with is out-dated and in horrible condition. It doesn't work half of the time. I only hope that if they send these ships to the Adriatic they won't break-down thereby forcing NATO ships to tow or repair them. Russia's humiliation would be even greater.
Finally, I think it is important for us to get through our head that Russia is much higher on the vital interest list than is the case with Serbia. The latter will be resolved in on way or another, but Russia is critical to us. Brent Scowcroft is right in suggesting that we should not isolate Russia They will act in a sometimes silly and infantile manner, but I think we should over look as much as possible their comments.
In fact, I suspect that Primakov is among the most 'pissed off' of all of the world's negotiators. Indeed, he has clearly been stuffed by Milosevic and cannot be happy about it. At the same time, he could be critical later on once a peace settlement becomes a possibility.
April 4, 1999
A Russian Reaction to Kosovo
By Elena in Pennslyvania
It is amazing how America has a combination of two approaches: to 'introduce a democracy' and 'fairness' everywhere in the world and a total indifference and/or ignorance of many people, or a 'unanimous support' which certainly does not require any effort of critical or any thinking. It reminds me a True/False or a more 'sophisticated' multiple choice problem, and everyone is proud that guessed the 'right' answer.
It also reminds me a communist party organization/Komsomol meeting at some Soviet place in my days, when everyone raises hand to finish with the voting and to go home as soon as possible. The only difference is that in the Soviet Union everyone was doing it absolutely knowing that they were playing in a 'pretend game' with maybe a couple 'koo-koo's, but here so many people are quite serious here, there is a couple of 'koo-koos' who play the pretend game. A couple of comparisons come to my mind when I think about Kosovo.
It is like a many years long conflict between husband and wife who have been doing a lot of nasty and cruel things to each other, and then not a neighbor from the next apartment/house, but from Texas or Mongolia or Africa comes over, beats up husband (or wife) and installs the Mongolian or Texas laws in the house under a threat of setting the house on fire, so everyone is supposed to wear a big hat or sleep on the floor. And when one of the conflicting parties put on a baseball cap, the 'neighbor' sets the house on fire. How is about that?
I am shocked with the international ignorance of this very professional and resourceful country towards Russia and other nations. It seems that everyone here expects Russia immediately follow the US Zeus rules because of US loans and aid to Russia.
Getting back to my 'family oriented' comparison, if a wife who is really smart, educated, professional etc. and earns a lot of money, the husband shows respect and does not dare do anything without her approval, but as soon as she happens to earn less for any reasons he shows no respect, does not ask her opinion on anything, threatens not to feed her or to allow to use telephone, and really does not care and shows that he does not care. And also hints that if you do not obey, I will beat you. And then he is surprised about her rebellious behavior? Possibly, there are some nations who would show the obedience, but NOT RUSSIA!
The Russian guys also are stupid enough to jump into the fighting mode. They have this INSTINCT to have power, to control, and have no sense of the reality. I also think many people here do not understand that Russians get into fighting not because they approve Serbs but because the threat of a powerful stranger is so frightening and requires people unite and stand up for the community. I watch the Serb and Moscow news on CSPAN at 11 p.m. (how many Americans would tune on this cable station, if they have it, so late?). The Serb and Moscow news, especially the Serb news are another 'fruit' of propaganda. So it really takes a Russian born skill to take an effort and to sort out facts and 'imagination for manipulation'. I love how both CNN and Serbs can show one moment many times as if it happened many times. I guess, it is within international journalistic ethics...
5 April 1999 Itar-Tass
RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS NOT BEING SENT TO YUGOSLAVIA
MOSCOW, - Lieutenant General Viktor Isaichenkov, deputy head of the Spiritual Heritage movement, refuted on Monday in an interview with Tass the reports of some mass media organs on the alleged sending of volunteers to Yugoslavia by their movement and on their arrival in Belgrade.
'This is somebody's joke. Of course, we neither sent anybody to Yugoslavia, nor intend to do anything of the sort,' Isaichenkov said. He explained that Yugoslavia had not appealed to Russia, or 'to some specific organisations which can make decisions' to help them by sending volunteers. This is why no one is going to send people there, especially those without special training.
The movement believes that at present Yugoslavia needs moral, humanitarian and military-technical assistance, and not Russian volunteers, most of whom, not being professional military men, will become just 'cannon fodder.' 'Only adventurists can assume responsibility for sending people there, who have not passed a proper check-up from the point of view of their mental health, physical condition and morale, and our organisation will never do anything like that,' Isaichenkov said.
He admitted at the same time, that the central headquarters of the Yugoslavia Defence Committee headed by him, which was created within the framework of the left-wing patriotically-minded People's Patriotic Union of Russia, is 'registering the volunteers.' This is the last of the spheres of work for the assistance to Yugoslavia, he said. The most important thing for them now is 'moral support for the Yugoslav nation, as well as the organisation of humanitarian assistance and denunciation of the NATO aggression,' he said.
6 April 1999, Johnson's Russia List
Offering from Helen Womack
By Helen Womack in Moscow
My Russian husband Costya's rock and fashion firm sells flags: football team pennants, Russian tricolours, British and American flags. Last week, one of the junior staff took a Stars and Stripes and burnt it outside the US embassy to protest against the bombing of Yugoslavia. 'Why don't you take a Union Jack and burn it under Helen's window?' said Costya. At this the warehouse worker, whose name is Pavel, paused for thought. Instead, he came home to us and we drank tea and talked about his feelings. 'I hate the Americans. America is the embodiment of evil. Today they are bombing the Serbs. Tomorrow it could be us,' he said.
In the course of the conversation, it emerged that Pavel thought the waves of refugees pouring from Kosovo were fleeing from Nato air strikes rather than the Serb secret police, who have intensified their 'ethnic cleansing' since Belgrade was bombed. Pavel, 18 and poorly educated, may be wrong but the fact that he and millions of Russians like him perceive the Balkan crisis in this way means that the West has, to say the least, a serious public relations problem.
That Russia's Communists and nationalists should make political capital out of the war comes as no surprise. (The utterly cynical Vladimir Zhirinovsky, now wearing a uniform to parliament, is encouraging Russian youths to enlist as volunteers to help the 'Slav brothers' in Serbia.) That the Kremlin, while pushing a diplomatic solution, meddles at the edges, for example by sending a reconnaissance ship to the Adriatic, is also par for the course.
What is stunning -- and should worry the West -- is the extent of genuinely felt outrage at Nato's behaviour among ordinary, decent Russians in all walks of life. For this portends a new cold war with a major nation we had come to regard as a friend. The media here has given balanced coverage of the war from intrepid correspondents both in Belgrade and the valley of despair on the Kosovo-Macedonia border. The full facts are available to those Russians who wish to know them. And opinion polls show that 92 per cent of Russians oppose the bombing.
It is impossible to meet a Russian now without talking about Yugoslavia. I went to see my tax adviser this week and we talked about the war. Alexander's objections to the air strikes were twofold: that Nato had set a dangerous precedent by riding roughshod over the UN and attacking a sovereign country over an internal ethnic dispute; and that the Balkan problem was far two tangled to be solved by crude bombing, which was only making matters worse.
'Tito settled the Albanians in Kosovo, rather as Stalin moved populations in the Soviet Union,' he said. 'The Albanians had bigger families than the Serbs, so that they came to outnumber them in the historic heart of Serbia. There is a Serb point of view here too. Why are you taking sides in a complicated issue you know too little about? Why don't you listen to Russia? Do you think because we are economically weak, our opinion does not count?'
Nobody here is defending Slobodan Milosevic. Indeed, the Russians pity the Albanians and a convoy of humanitarian aid from Moscow will go not only to Serb civilians but also to the refugees in Macedonia and Montenegro. It is just that Russians are appalled at the chaos the West has unwittingly unleashed. 'Now you have got all these refugees you did not bargain for,' said Yulia, an unemployed scientist and friend. 'Do you honestly want them in your comfortable European countries? And if we Russians end up with a hardline, anti-Western regime instead of the normal society we wanted for our children, that will be partly thanks to Nato too.'
People in the West may not realise this but, after the fall of Communism, many Russians invested in the ideals of democracy and human rights, believing us with a childlike trust they would never give their own corrupt leaders. Now they see what looks to them like our aggression and they feel betrayed.
Mitya, a 16-year-old to whom I give English lessons, asked me some questions I found hard to answer: 'When we were talking about Chechnya, you said violence never solved anything. So why are you bombing now? You said Britain is different from America. So why do you always do what the Americans say?'
Mitya's intelligent, once Western-leaning father said he had come to the conclusion that real democracy did not exist anywhere, an unutterably depressing thought for all those, like me, who have devoted years to interpreting Russia for the West and the West for Russia.
Now the thaw is over and the chill has set in again. The US embassy in Moscow is advising foreigners not to speak English on the streets. A Russian military officer with whom I am friendly because of our shared experience in Afghanistan rang me to say that if anybody hurt me, I could rely on his physical protection.
Dear God, it has come to that.
12 April 1999 Johnson's Russia List
THE CLINTON DOCTRINE
By Boris Kagarlitsky
MOSCOW - In 1968, when Soviet forces invaded Czechoslovakia, Western journalists began speaking of a "Brezhnev Doctrine". Its essence was simple: the sovereignty of the Warsaw Pact states was limited. If something went amiss, the Soviet "big brother" would decide who would be punished and how.
Since then, an enormous amount has changed, but the desire of big brother to poke his nose into other people's business remains unaltered. Now that there is only one superpower in the world, the right to judge and punish sovereign states has been taken over by the president of the United States.
In place of the Brezhnev Doctrine, we now have the Clinton Doctrine. When the bombing of Yugoslavia began, it became clear that what was involved was not just an attempt by a luckless womaniser to restore the nation's respect for him by killing a few hundred or a few thousand people. No, we were confronted with a developed political concept, one that would be consistently put into effect. So what is the Clinton Doctrine all about?
If Louis XIV declared, "The state? I am the state!", American leaders are now declaring, "The world community? That's the US!" How other peoples, and even their governments, might react to this means nothing. The US, acting alone, decides on behalf of everyone. Any need for the United Nations Organisation disappears.
Democratic procedures in the countries of the West are also superfluous. The second rule of the Clinton Doctrine can be set out in this fashion: if the views of the people contradict those of the US president, any genuinely democratic government will tell the people to go to hell, and will act in line with its duty as an ally. If a government pays any regard to the views of its citizens, then it is not a truly democratic government.
The third rule runs as follows: the US acts simultaneously as accomplice, prosecutor, judge and executioner. The world leader is not bound by any legal formalities. It is for the US president alone to decide what is "moral" and what is not.
US leaders constantly declare their determination to punish evil dictators. But starting with Panama's General Noriega, whom the Americans overthrew and put in jail on drug-trafficking charges, a strange principle has applied. All the foreign leaders whom the US has publicly punished have at one stage or another in their careers been political sidekicks of the US. Noriega defended US interests in Latin America, Saddam Hussein was supported as a counter-weight to Islamic Iran, and the US relied on Milosevic when it needed to force the Bosnian Serbs to accept the US-formulated Dayton accords.
Naturally, everyone the US punishes is an evil human rights violator. The trouble is - so are those the US supports. No-one was upset by Serbian policies in Kosova when the need was to strengthen the West's positions in Bosnia. Turkey can carry out ethnic cleansing, since Turkey is a NATO member. The US government can bomb whoever it likes without having to answer morally, politically or legally for its actions, so long as the victims are not American taxpayers. The less logic here, the stronger the position of the US as the leading world power, since everyone must feel constantly under threat.
Finally, the last rule of the Clinton doctrine: the technological and military superiority of the US as the leading world power allows it to do whatever it likes with total impunity. This final principle underpins all the others. Victors, as we all know, are not put on trial. Allies know that it is better to share in the triumph of force than to attract suspicions of disloyalty. The victims understand that resistance is useless.
Victory wipes the slate clean. The human catastrophe in Kosova can be put down to the evil deeds of the Serbs, especially since the actions of the Serbian authorities in the region have indeed been shocking. The hospitals and schools damaged by NATO's "pinpoint" bombing can be categorised as military targets, and the complaints of the victims can be described as hostile propaganda. But all this works only so long as the victory of the super-power is not in doubt. What if doubts arise?
The Clinton Doctrine suffers from the same problem as the Brezhnev Doctrine before it. Such doctrines corrupt and lead into error the people who proclaim them. Now that American bombs are falling on Yugoslavia, and NATO is preparing to send ground forces, pessimists are warning that for America, the Balkans could become a second Vietnam. The pessimists are wrong. The Balkans will not be a second Vietnam, but a European Afghanistan.
The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan resulted from the complete certainty of the Brezhnev Politburo, confirmed by its experience with Czechoslovakia in 1968, that it could act with impunity. But unlike the civilised Czechs, who knew it was pointless to fight against a superpower, the Afghans had little grasp of geopolitics. Consequently, they fought back, and the superpower turned out to be strikingly weak. The USSR was incapable of waging a drawn-out struggle, and as soon as this became apparent, its psychological and "moral" superiority vanished.
In Clinton's response to the conflict in Kosova, there has been a good deal to recall the mental habits of Brezhnev and his colleagues. The destabilisation of the situation in the Balkans gave the United States an opportunity to demonstrate once again the invincible power of the Clinton Doctrine. NATO never tried to settle the conflict. Its aim was quite different - to occupy the region. This was why the West sought to bind both sides in Kosova to terms that were clearly unacceptable, and which the Albanians as well as the Serbs tried to resist; the Albanians agreed to sign the peace agreement only after becoming convinced that the Serbs would not do so.
US policy in the Balkans is justified on the basis that the wicked Serbs have to be punished. But the Serbs now have their own justification, in the need to stop the high-handed Americans. To any normal human being, it is clear that Milosevic's policies in Kosova have been monstrous. But the experience of recent years shows that for a superpower to be able to act with impunity on a global scale is far more dangerous. This is understood even by the Kosova Albanian leader Ibrahim Rogova, who in a vain attempt to stop the NATO bombing signed an agreement with his long-time foe Milosevic. But when the US government has set itself up as the moral standard for the entire world, it cannot take account of the views of Serbs, Arabs, Somalis, or even of its own citizens, trying perplexedly to find Kosova on the map.
The Clinton Doctrine is suffering the same fate in Yugoslavia as the Brezhnev Doctrine suffered in Afghanistan. The resistance put up by the Serbs is totally changing the rules of the game. The string of NATO military failures is turning into a crisis of the whole system. Once the US ceases to seem invulnerable, its special position in the world, which allows it to ignore international law, also becomes subject to doubt. Then everyone remembers their rights, and starts putting up resistance.
The growing military resistance of the Serbs, and the disillusionment of many Kosova Albanians with their NATO "protectors", are part of a far more powerful shift whose symptoms are apparent not only in the Balkans. The facade of loyalty mounted by America's allies, like that of Brezhnev's allies in the Warsaw Pact, overlies an enormous potential for popular revolt. During the period of the Warsaw Pact, anti-Sovietism gradually became a general ideology, uniting the profoundly dissimilar Poles, Hungarians, Romanians and Afghans. There is nothing to bring people together like the existence of a common enemy.
NATO has survived the Warsaw Pact by a whole ten years. But there are no eternal empires. The Pax Americana may turn out to be no more durable than the "fraternal alliance" headed by the Soviet Politburo.