It is easier to love humanity than to love one's neighbor. - Eric Hoffer
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 31, Part I, 15 May1997


Vol 1, No. 31, Part I, 15 May1997

This is Part I of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Newsline.
Part I is a compilation of news concerning Russia, Transcaucasia and
Central Asia. Part II, covering Central, Eastern, and Southeastern
Europe, is distributed simultaneously as a second document.  Back
issues of RFE/RL NewsLine are available through RFE/RL's WWW
pages: http://www.rferl.org/newsline/search/

Back  issues of the OMRI Daily Digest are available through OMRI's
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Headlines, Part I

* DETAILS OF RUSSIAN-NATO AGREEMENT

* CHECHEN GOVERNMENT APPROVES PEACE TREATY

* ECO SUMMIT ENDS IN ASHGABAT

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RUSSIA

DETAILS OF RUSSIAN-NATO AGREEMENT. The Founding
Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between
NATO and the Russian Federation, agreed yesterday by
NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Russian Foreign
Minister Yevgenii Primakov, will apparently not be legally
binding, Reuters reported. The act creates a Russian-NATO
joint council that will meet twice a year to consider
common problems. It also calls for strengthening the OSCE
and further revision of the CFE treaty. In addition, it
contains a pledge, but not a guarantee that NATO, will not
deploy sizable conventional forces or nuclear weapons on
the territory of new member states. The act also states
that Russia does not have a veto over NATO's actions just
as NATO does not have a veto over Russian ones. Russian
and Western leaders have disagreed over their
interpretations of the document (see "End Note" below).

CHECHEN GOVERNMENT APPROVES PEACE TREATY. The
Chechen government yesterday approved the treaty
signed on 12 May by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and
Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov on the principles of
relations between Moscow and Grozny, NTV reported.
Russian Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin chaired a
session of the Russian Federal Commission on Chechnya to
discuss implementation of the economic agreements
signed the same day as the treaty. Also yesterday, the
State Duma adopted a resolution calling on Yeltsin to
instruct Rybkin to explain the treaty to the Duma . It also
asked its Security Committee to assess the treaty. The
Duma wants to determine whether the treaty was
concluded with a subject of the federation, whether the
Chechen Republic is a constituent part of Russia, whether
Russia was at war with Chechnya, and whether the status of
Chechnya's internal borders with the rest of the Russian
Federation remains unchanged, ITAR-TASS reported.

FEDERATION COUNCIL APPROVES LAW ON
GOVERNMENT... The Federation Council has voted by 140
to 14 with 16 abstentions to approve the federal
constitutional law on the government, ITAR-TASS reported
yesterday. The law, passed last month by the State Duma,
would force the whole government to step down if the
prime minister resigned or was sacked. It also would
require government ministers to submit yearly income and
property declarations. The Council rejected an earlier
version of the measure in December. Federal constitutional
laws must be passed by a two-thirds majority in the Duma
and a three-quarters majority in the Council.

...REJECTS CHANGE IN DEPUTIES' STATUS. The upper
house rejected an amendment to the law on the status of
Duma and Council deputies, which was passed by the Duma
last month, ITAR-TASS reported yesterday. The
amendment would have guaranteed that if the Duma was
disbanded, its deputies would receive a lump-sum payment
equivalent to their total salaries for the duration of the
Duma's scheduled term. The current Duma is scheduled to
serve through 1999, but opposition leaders have
frequently accused Yeltsin of planning to dissolve the
lower house. Valerii Borodaev, chairman of the Federation
Council's Rules Committee, said the Duma had violated
procedural rules by passing the amendment before seeking
the opinion of the government, as it is supposed to do
before passing measures that affect budget expenditures.

BORDER AGREEMENTS RATIFIED. The Federation Council
also ratified several border agreements yesterday, ITAR-
TASS reported. The most important is the troop reduction
treaty signed last month by the presidents of Russia,
China, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Other accords
ratified yesterday are a multinational protocol on
protection of the Antarctic, an agreement with Armenia on
Russia's use of military bases there, an agreement with
Azerbaijan simplifying cooperation between the two
countries' border guards, and an accord with Kazakstan and
Kyrgyzstan on obtaining citizenship.

LAW ON ROAD FUNDS APPROVED OVER OBJECTIONS
FROM MOSCOW, ST. PETERSBURG. In addition, the
Federation Council approved a new version of a law
outlining how road funds will be distributed by federal
authorities, ITAR-TASS reported. Under the law, regions
would contribute half of the road taxes collected on their
territory to a federal fund, which would then allocate
revenues among all the regions. The law gives Moscow and
St. Petersburg more access to road funds than an earlier
version, which would have required the two cities to divert
all their road taxes to federal coffers. Nevertheless,
Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov and St. Petersburg Governor
Vladimir Yakovlev argued against the law, saying regions
should be allowed to keep all the road taxes collected on
their territory for their own road construction.

DUMA REJECTS MORATORIUM ON PENSION
INCREASES...The Duma yesterday rejected a draft law that
would have imposed a moratorium on all laws demanding
increased state spending on pensions, ITAR-TASS
reported. The government had proposed the measure,
saying it lacked the funds to increase the Pension Fund's
1997 budget. The government's representative in
parliament also argued that the law was needed if the
government is to keep its promise to pay all pension
arrears by 1 July. During the last year, the Duma has passed
legislation to increase pensions on several occasions, most
recently in March, only to be blocked by the Federation
Council or a presidential veto.

...DEMANDS BETTER BORDER CONTROL. The lower house
also passed a resolution calling on President Boris Yeltsin
to take the necessary action for "timely and full financing"
of customs services on the Kazak and Mongolian borders,
ITAR-TASS reported. The resolution claims that those
borders are "transparent" and allow easy passage of drugs,
weapons, and illegal immigrants into Russia. The Duma
plans to devote special attention to legislation defining
the status of border areas.

TATAR PRESIDENT OPPOSES RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN
UNIFICATION. Mintimer Shaimiev says Tatarstan may
abrogate its 1994 bilateral treaty on relations with the
Russian Federation if the union between Russia and Belarus
results in the formation of a new state, Russian media
reported. Shaimiev warned that Belarus "will never agree
to join the Russian Federation as just another federation
subject" and "will demand more independence that
Tatarstan and even more than Chechnya." Meanwhile,
representatives of several tiny Armenian left-wing
opposition parties convened in Yerevan on 12 May to
assess the advantages to Armenia of joining the Russian-
Belarusian union, Noyan Tapan reported.

ZYUGANOV SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH SYRIAN RULING
PARTY. Communist Party (KPRF) leader Gennadii Zyuganov
has signed a cooperation agreement between the KPRF and
Syria's ruling Baathist socialist party, ITAR-TASS and dpa
reported yesterday. The agreement foresees exchanges of
official visits and information between the two parties.
Zyuganov put his signature to the document after holding
talks with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and other high
officials during a three-day visit to Damascus.

EMERGENCY POWER SUPPLIES REACH PRIMORE. Two
power plants in Primorskii Krai have received enough coal
from Amur Oblast to run an emergency regime, and power
lines from the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) have
transmitted some electricity, RFE/RL's correspondent in
Vladivostok reports today. Vladivostok residents now
have electricity for about five hours in the morning and
three hours in the evening. However, the emergency fuel
supplies are expected to last only for five days. Governor
Yevgenii Nazdratenko continues to appeal to Primore's
miners not to hold krai residents "hostage" to the dispute
over wage arrears. However, the miners refuse to resume
coal shipments. RFE/RL's correspondent reported
yesterday that the miners issued a statement asking the
public to understand their protest against six months of
wage delays. The statement likened the current situation
to 1989, when deprivation prompted coal miners to carry
out massive protests against the Soviet authorities.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

ARMENIAN DEFENSE MINISTER COMMENTS ON RUSSIAN
ARMS SUPPLIES. Vazgen Sarkisyan has admitted that
Armenia received arms from Russia but insists that "we
only received our share, [which was} less than we should
have gotten. We did not do anything clandestine or illegal."
In an interview published in Nezavisimaya gazeta on 14
May, Sarkisyan said Azerbaijan appropriated "enviable"
amounts of military hardware when the Soviet Union
collapsed. He added "it is not our fault" that Azerbaijan
subsequently abandoned such large quantities in Nagorno-
Karabakh that the Karabakh armed forces "could now
continue fighting for another few years if anyone decided
to resume hostilities." Sarkisyan termed the Russian press
revelations of alleged clandestine armed shipments to
Armenia as a "preventive ideological blow by Azerbaijan."

ECO SUMMIT ENDS... Leaders from the 10 member nations
of the Economic Cooperation Organization ended their
"extraordinary" meeting in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat,
by signing a declaration on developing transportation and
communications networks and several tentative
agreements on fuel pipeline routes. Heads of state from
Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan met with the prime
ministers of Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. Afghanistan's ousted
President Burhanuddin Rabanni also attended. The
presidents of Iran, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan signed a
memorandum on constructing a pipeline from Turkmenistan
to Europe via Iran and Turkey. ITAR-TASS reported that the
Turkmen president, the Pakistani prime minister, and
heads of the U.S. Unocal company and Saudi Arabia's Delta
Corp. signed a protocol on the Turkmen-Afghan-Pakistani
pipeline.

...FOLLOWING DISCUSSIONS ON AFHGANISTAN. The
Taliban sent a message to the participants in which they
complained about not receiving an invitation to the summit
and accused both Iran and Tajikistan of interfering in
Afghanistan's internal affairs, according to an RFE/RL
correspondent in Ashgabat. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif sought support for the Muslims of India, and Uzbek
President Islam Karimov asked him to publicly state that
Islamabad will no longer support the Taliban. Later at a
press conference, Karimov said the problems in
Afghanistan will not cease until outside interference "by a
number of foreign governments" stops. When asked which
governments he meant, Karimov said "the prime minister
of Pakistan...should answer that question."

STORMS WREAK HAVOC ON UZBEK COTTON CROP.
Recent storms in Uzbekistan have damaged more than 60%
of this year's cotton crop, RFE/RL correspondents in
Tashkent report. Of the 1.5 million hectares sown, 982,000
have been damaged in storms that over ten days dumped
as much as double the annual average rainfall. Nearly
300,000 hectares will have to be replanted, but officials
remain optimistic that Uzbekistan will reach its target of 4
million tons of cotton this year. Cotton accounted for 40%
of Uzbek exports last year.

END NOTE

"A Big Victory for Reason"

by Paul Goble

        Like the 1975 Helsinki Final Act to which it is already
being compared, the new Russia-NATO "founding act" is
likely to prove to be both less and more than its
signatories now claim and expect.
        On the one hand, comments about the agreement by
Russian and NATO leaders show that the two sides have not
resolved all their differences and do not even agree on the
meaning of certain key provisions in the agreement which
the two sides have signed. These differences will
inevitably spark new disputes and make future rounds of
negotiations every bit as difficult as the one that produced
this accord.
        But on the other hand, this "founding act" -- just like
the Helsinki accords -- is far more significant than the sum
of the provisions it includes. The existence of such an
agreement transforms the existing geopolitical landscape
by generating expectations with which both sides will have
to cope even as they seek to advance their own very
different positions. This combination of expectations and
institutions almost certainly will have an impact on both
Russia and NATO in ways that perhaps neither now intends
or expects.
        On 14 May, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana and
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov announced in
Moscow that they had reached agreement on a Russia-
NATO accord, a step that Primakov described as "a big
victory for reason" and "a big victory for Russia." Called a
"founding act" rather than a binding treaty, as Moscow had
earlier insisted, the accord creates a Russia-NATO joint
council that is to meet twice a year in Brussels to discuss
common concerns. It calls for the strengthening of the
OSCE and additional revisions in the CFE treaty, both
provisions Moscow had sought. And it also contains a
pledge, but not a guarantee, from NATO that the Western
alliance will not place nuclear weapons on the territory of
any new member states.
        As such, the accord is a series of important
compromises, with each side being able to claim some kind
of victory. But the statements of Russian President Boris
Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton suggest that the two
sides remain much further apart than either would like to
admit.
        Acknowledging that Moscow had been unable to block
the eastern expansion of the Western alliance, Yeltsin
argued on Wednesday that the agreement will at least
"minimize the risk for Russia" of a step NATO has long been
pledged to take. But the Russian president then made a
claim that the accord gives Russia an effective veto over
NATO's actions through its participation in the new joint
council, something NATO countries -- both individually and
collectively --have repeatedly pledged not to do.
"Decisions there can be taken only by consensus. If Russia
is against some decision, it means this decision will not go
through," Yeltsin commented.
        President Clinton, however, made it very clear in his
remarks welcoming the accord that Russia would not have
that kind of power: "Russia will work closely with NATO but
not in NATO, giving Russia a voice but not a veto."
Paradoxically, both leaders may prove correct. President
Clinton is certainly right in asserting that Russia will not
have a veto over NATO decisions. Even if Moscow has a
voice in the new joint council, it will not have a voice, much
less a veto, over most NATO decisions taken elsewhere.
        But President Yeltsin may also prove to be correct in
asserting that Russia will have some kind of veto, even if
not the absolute one he claims. The creation of the new
council means that all NATO members will be thinking
about the implications there of any decisions they make in
other venues. And such reflections will inevitably have an
impact on alliance decision-making.
        When the Helsinki Final Act was signed in 1975, few
could see the way in which its provisions, especially those
concerning human rights, would transform the world,
helping to bring down communism and the Soviet system.
Now, 22 years later, another accord has been signed
between East and West, one that Yeltsin has already
compared to Helsinki. It would be foolish to assume that
this breakthrough agreement will not have consequences
far beyond its specific language, even if some of its
provisions are never implemented.

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                     All rights reserved.
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