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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 WWW pages: http://www.omri.cz/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I * DETAILS OF RUSSIAN-NATO AGREEMENT * CHECHEN GOVERNMENT APPROVES PEACE TREATY * ECO SUMMIT ENDS IN ASHGABAT xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 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. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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