True heroism consists not in fighting under a flag but in not fighting at all. - Freidrich Nietzsche
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

Vol 1, No. 38, Part I, 26 May 1997


Vol 1, No. 38, Part I, 26 May 1997

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/

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Headlines, Part I

* YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV SPEAK OUT AGAINST NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR FORMER SOVIET
REPUBLICS

* RODIONOV BLAMES DEFENSE COUNCIL FOR HIS DISMISSAL

* TALIBAN TAKES NORTHERN AFGHAN PROVINCES

End Note : Integration as the Final Stage of Disintegration

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RUSSIA

YELTSIN, PRIMAKOV SPEAK OUT AGAINST NATO MEMBERSHIP FOR FORMER SOVIET
REPUBLICS. President Boris Yeltsin says that NATO would "fully undermine" its
relations with Russia if it expanded to include former Soviet republics,
ITAR-TASS reported on 26 May. Before departing for Paris to sign the
Russia-NATO Founding Act, Yeltsin restated Russia's continuing opposition to
NATO enlargement. He told ITAR-TASS that he hoped a "dialogue" with the Baltic
States and other countries would persuade them that joining NATO would not
improve their security. Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov told journalists on
24 May that Russia remains "categorically against" NATO expansion to include
former Soviet republics. He expressed concern that military infrastructure
built in former Soviet republics could be used against Russia. However,
Primakov stressed that Russia would not intervene militarily, "as in
Czechoslovakia in 1968," in response to NATO expansion. Primakov also ruled
out eventual Russian membership in NATO.

DUMA SAYS RUSSIA-NATO ACCORD SHOULD BE BINDING. The State Duma on 23 May
passed a resolution declaring that the Russia-NATO Founding Act should be
binding, Russian news agencies reported. The resolution also called on the
president and government to develop a national security program. The
resolution said Russia must take steps to prevent NATO's military forces from
advancing closer to Russia's borders, lest the Founding Act be interpreted as
a sign of Russia's "consent" to NATO enlargement.

PRIMAKOV ON FIRST-STRIKE POLICY. Appearing on Russian TV on 24 May, Primakov
confirmed that Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons first if it
faced conventional attack. He noted that Russia is reducing its conventional
forces and might not be able to repel aggression. However, Primakov stressed
that Russia's security doctrine does not allow the possibility of launching a
pre-emptive nuclear strike. Primakov's comments echo recent statements by
Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin and his deputy, Boris Berezovskii. They
have said Russia would use nuclear weapons first if it were "driven into a
corner" and had no other option.

RODIONOV BLAMES DEFENSE COUNCIL FOR HIS DISMISSAL. Former Defense Minister
Igor Rodionov told Russian Public TV (ORT) on 24 May that he was sacked
because his planned report on military reform did not suit people "in the
president's entourage." Rodionov was not allowed to deliver his report at the
22 May Defense Council meeting, at which he was sacked. He told ORT that his
report recommended that there be no "additional structure"--by which he meant
the Defense Council--between the president and the Defense Ministry. Rodionov
welcomed the creation of the Defense Council last July, but he and its
secretary, Yurii Baturin, have since been at odds over military reform plans.
Baturin told the same ORT program that Rodionov angered Yeltsin at the 22 May
meeting by insisting that he and Army Gen. Viktor Samsonov, then head of the
General Staff, needed an hour to deliver their reports.

MEDIA REACTION TO RUSSIAN-BELARUSIAN CHARTER. The Russian-Belarusian charter
signed on 23 May will please neither ardent supporters nor opponents of
Russian-Belarusian union, Izvestiya argued on 24 May. Among other things, the
charter foresees establishing common citizenship and coordinating foreign and
security policies. However, Izvestiya argued that it does little to advance
the economic integration of the two countries. According to Reuters, the
"basic principles and main obligations" of participants as stated in the
charter include ensuring press freedoms, guaranteeing free activities for
political parties and opposition organizations, and the inviolability of
private property. Nezavisimaya gazeta suggested on 23 May that the
presidential administration may seek to change the Russian constitution in
light of the charter. The current constitution limits the president to two
terms in office, but the paper said Yeltsin may seek to campaign for the
presidency of the Russian-Belarusian union in the year 2000.

PRIMAKOV SAYS NO NUKES ON BELARUSIAN TERRITORY IN PEACETIME. Russian Foreign
Minister Primakov says that despite plans to coordinate Russian and Belarusian
security policies, "nuclear weapons will never and under no circumstances
appear on the territory of Belarus" in peacetime, ITAR-TASS reported on 24
May. Primakov noted that Belarus has declared itself a non-nuclear state,
which is unchanged by the signing of the Russian-Belarusian charter.

DUMA DENOUNCES GOVERNMENT PERFORMANCE. The Duma on 23 May adopted the final
version of a resolution declaring the government's economic performance during
the first quarter of 1997 unsatisfactory, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported.
Deputies passed a preliminary version on 21 May. Two proposed additions to the
resolution backed by Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov failed to pass.
One of the motions, billed as a "vote of no confidence" in the president,
would have blamed Yeltsin's policies for the government's "non-execution of
the federal budget." However it gained only 204 votes, 22 short of a majority,
Interfax reported. The second Communist-backed motion would have urged Yeltsin
to reshuffle the cabinet and form "a government of truly national interests."
It was supported by 206 deputies.

DUMA OVERRIDES VETO OF LAW ON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROCEDURE. The Duma
voted by 312 to 29 with four abstentions to override Yeltsin's veto of a law
outlining the procedural details for adopting constitutional amendments,
ITAR-TASS reported on 23 May. Deputies had failed to override that veto last
month. Yeltsin's representative in the parliament, Aleksandr Kotenkov, said
the president might appeal the law to the Constitutional Court. Kotenkov also
noted that only 179 Duma deputies were present in the chamber at the time of
voting, which, he said, was unacceptable for a constitutional law. Proxy
voting, whereby deputies cast ballots on behalf of colleagues in the same
faction, is a common practice in the Duma. Constitutional amendments must be
approved by two-thirds of Duma deputies, three-fourths of Federation Council
deputies, and legislatures in two-thirds of Russia's 89 regions.

YELTSIN RESTRUCTURES FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE... Yeltsin issued a decree on 22
May restructuring the Federal Security Service (FSB), ITAR-TASS reported on 24
May, citing Aleksandr Zdanovich, the head of the FSB's public relations
center. Zdanovich said the decree did not grant the FSB any new powers or
functions but would combine FSB sections that have common functions into new
departments. The decree also says current FSB staff should not be removed,
Zdanovich noted. Citing unnamed sources, ITAR-TASS said the FSB leadership
welcomed the new presidential decree.

...ELIMINATES EIGHT PRESIDENTIAL COUNCILS. Yeltsin has also issued a decree
dissolving eight presidential councils, ITAR-TASS reported on 24 May. The
bodies to be eliminated include several advisory councils on legal and
political questions, the Council of Heads of Administration (which was
comprised of oblast and krai governors and republican presidents), the Council
on Science and Technology Policy, the Council on Cossack Affairs, and the
Council on the Russian Language.

RUSSIA RECEIVES IMF LOAN TRANCHE. Russia has received a $697 million quarterly
installment of the IMF's three-year, $10.1 billion loan, a Central Bank
official told Interfax on 23 May. It was the first disbursement of the IMF
loan since February (see RFE/RL Newsline, 19 May 1997). Before the next
quarterly disbursement will be released, an IMF mission will come to Moscow to
determine whether Russia is sticking to its economic targets for the second
quarter of 1997.

CIS STATES' DEBTS TO RUSSIA. CIS Affairs Minister Aman Tuleev has proposed
that Russia stop restructuring the debts of other former Soviet republics
which currently amount to $6 billion, according to Nezavisimaya gazeta on 23
May. This sum is half what the Russian government owes in pensions and other
benefits. The main debtors are Ukraine, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, Moldova,
Georgia, and Armenia. Tuleev advocated strict sanctions, including
appropriating industrial enterprises or cutting off energy supplies, to CIS
member states that are unable to repay their debts to Russia.

RUSSIAN-JAPANESE RELATIONS ON NEW FOOTING. During Japanese Foreign Minister
Yukihiko Ikeda's visit to Moscow on 23-24 May, the two sides agreed to open
Japanese and Russian consulates in Sakhalin Oblast and Hakodate, respectively,
Russian media reported. Previously, Japan had expressed its support for
Russia's entry into the G-7 (see RFE/RL Newsline, 23 May 1997). Russia, for
its part, invited Japan to participate in offshore oil and gas projects near
Sakhalin. But a Russian proposal to grant Japan fishing rights in the waters
around the Kuril Islands was rejected, with the Japanese side saying that
acceptance of the proposal would be tantamount to recognizing Russia's claim
to the islands. The former Soviet Union occupied the four islands at the end
of World War II. Talks on the islands are expected to continue when Boris
Nemtsov, Russian first deputy prime minister and co-chairman of the
intergovernmental Russian-Japanese commission on trade and economic
cooperation, visits Japan on 9-10 June.

RUSSIA, CHECHNYA SIGN AGREEMENT ON OIL TRANSIT. The Russian Fuel and Oil
Ministry and the Chechen national oil company Yunko signed a cooperation
agreement on 23 May whereby Grozny undertakes to "service and safeguard the
oil and gasoline pipelines crossing Chechnya," Russian agencies reported. A
separate agreement will be signed on reconstruction of the
Baku-Grozny-Tikhoretsk pipeline, which is estimated to cost $1.2 million.
Reconstruction is expected to be completed by October, which may delay yet
again the export via this pipeline of the first "early" oil from Azerbaijan's
Chirag field. Those exports are scheduled to begin on 28 August.

CHECHEN PRESIDENT OFFERS REWARD FOR RELEASE OF ABDUCTED JOURNALISTS. On 24
May, Aslan Maskhadov again offered a $100,000 reward for information leading
to the safe release of journalists from the Russian media who have been
abducted in Chechnya in recent months, Interfax reported. Speaking on local
television the same day, Chechen Interior Minister Kazbek Makhashev called on
the abductors to release the journalists immediately in order to avoid
incurring the death penalty. Makhashev said the Chechen leadership does not
have "authentic information" about the journalists' whereabouts, but security
service chief Luchi Khultygov told ITAR-TASS on 25 May that he has
"trustworthy information for optimistic forecasts."

SOLZHENITSYN RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL. Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has
been released from Moscow's Central Clinical Hospital, ITAR-TASS reported on
26 May. Solzhenitsyn spent about two weeks in the hospital, where he was
treated for heart problems.

TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA

TALIBAN TAKES NORTHERN AFGHAN PROVINCES. Aided by mutineers, Afghanistan's
Taliban movement on 24-25 May overran the northern provinces, which previously
were under the control of General Abdul Rashid Dostum. The Taliban now control
some 80-90% of the country's territory. Their success prompted a quick
response from neighboring countries. Uzbekistan reinforced its borders with
Afghanistan, and Tajikistan said it would do the same. Kyrgyzstan sent more
troops to its southern border with Tajikistan, fearing that refugees fleeing
the fighting may travel north along the Khorog-Osh highway. Russian Foreign
Minister Primakov said on 24 May that any incursion by Taliban forces into CIS
territory would prompt "very tough and effective measures." The same day,
Russia evacuated its consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, where Dostum's headquarters
were located. Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani has reportedly fled
to Tajikistan. And on 25 May, Pakistan became the first state to officially
recognize the Taliban government.

ABKHAZIA IMPOSES CURFEW. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba has issued a
decree imposing a curfew between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m., ITAR-TASS
reported on 25 May. The restrictions were said to be necessary to prevent
further violent clashes between rival clans and political groups but not to
preclude terrorist activities. Ardzinba has repeatedly accused Georgian
refugees from Abkhazia of perpetrating terrorist activities in southern
Abkhazia with the support of the Georgian security services.

GEORGIAN PREMIER IN TASHKENT. Niko Lekishvili held talks in the Uzbek capital
on 23 May with President Islam Karimov and other officials on cooperation in
transport, communications, and trade, Russian agencies reported. Karimov
expressed interest in the TRASECA transport corridor, which will facilitate
the export of Uzbek goods from the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti. Georgia
wants to receive natural gas from Uzbekistan. An agreement whereby Uzbekistan
will supply Georgia with cotton fiber has been delayed pending the approval of
the IMF.

FOUR KYRGYZ JOURNALISTS FOUND GUILTY OF SLANDER, LIBEL. Four Kyrgyz
journalists from the weekly newspaper Res Publica were found guilty of slander
and libel by a Bishkek district court, according to RFE/RL correspondents in
the Kyrgyz capital. Zamira Sydykova and Aleksandr Alyanchikov were sentenced
to 18 months in jail and Marina Sivasheva and Bektash Shamshiev were
prohibited from practicing journalism for the same period. All four were sued
by Dastan Sarygulov, the head of Kyrgyzstan's state gold company, for critical
articles published about him between 1993-96.

END NOTE

Integration as the Final Stage of Disintegration

by Paul Goble

        The new Russian-Belarusian union charter calling for closer integration
 of
those two countries makes the formation of a single federal state including
them or other former Soviet republics significantly less, rather than more,
likely.
        As signed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Alyaksandr Lukashenka on 23 Ma
 y,
the charter contains some impressive language about cooperation in a variety
of spheres, including foreign policy, economic reform, energy, and
transportation. It raises the possibility of a common currency and even common
citizenship in the future. And it creates a Supreme Council that is supposed
to increase cooperation between those two states and to prompt other former
Soviet republics to sign the charter.
        But like all previous efforts to promote integration in the former Sovie
 t
Union, this one does little to change the general situation. Instead, it
highlights just how far apart Moscow and Minsk now are--let alone Moscow and
any other former Soviet republic capital--on both the meaning or even the
desirability of closer ties.
        Despite his reputation of seeking unity with Russia at all costs, Lukash
 enka
himself made it very clear that there are limits to just how far even he is
prepared to go. Notably, he spoke out against any arrangement that might
threaten Belarusian independence or give Moscow a free hand or even an
expanded voice in Belarus itself. On 21 May, two days before signing the
charter, Lukashenka said that "setting up a federation with Russia would be
worse for Belarus than when it entered Stalin's Soviet Union." The next day,
he forced Yeltsin to drop a clause the Russian president had inserted in the
charter suggesting that the two countries should ultimately merge into just
such a federal state.
        And just prior to the signing ceremony at the Kremlin, Lukashenka dismis
 sed
the claims of some Russians that the charter was the first step toward the
re-establishment of a single, Moscow-led state on the territory of the former
Soviet Union. He told Ekho Moskvy that the new charter would do nothing more
than "confirm in law what has existed in fact for quite some time."
        Lukashenka's past statements, his transparent personal ambition for powe
 r in
Moscow, and his increasing authoritarianism at home have combined with
widespread assumptions about the supposed lack of any fundamental differences
between Russians and Belarusians to conceal the broader implications of what
this latest charter means. But it is precisely Lukashenka's personal approach
and how close Belarus and Russia are in certain respects that provide some
important clues on the more general issue of how Moscow and the non-Russian
countries are likely to relate to one another in the future.
        If Belarus and Lukashenka are not prepared to proceed toward total
reintegration with Russia, which many in Moscow want, then certainly no other
country in the region is likely to be willing to go even as far Minsk has.
Even less so than Belarus and Lukashenka, no other non-Russian country or
leader is willing to move toward closer integration with Russia in the absence
of Moscow's recognition of the independence and equality of that country and
the lack of willingness by Russia to commit to a specific set of rules that
will control Russian actions just as they control non-Russian actions.
        What is more, no Russian leader is willing to make such commitments to t
 he
equality of those countries vis-a-vis Russia or to tie Moscow's hands in its
actions toward its neighbors. Indeed, just as in the current case, Russian
leaders are the ones who have rejected any move toward a more precise
definition of the permissible.
        Such differences in understanding about what integration should mean are
becoming an ever greater obstacle to any agreement that might be freely
arrived at between Moscow and Minsk and between Moscow and the other former
Soviet republics. That is certainly how many of the leaders in this region
view the situation. As Kazak Deputy Foreign Minister Yerlan Idrisov commented,
the Russian-Belarusian accord is likely to share "the fate of many other
integration deals" within the CIS and remain "only on paper."
        Such an outcome, of course, would not be a tragedy for many of them. Ind
 eed,
it would confirm the victories of 1991. But unfortunately, the failure of
agreements like the one signed on 23 May could lead to another outcome. It
could prompt some in the region to conclude that re-integration should be
pursued by means other than democratic and voluntary ones. If that happens, it
would be a tragedy not only for the countries most directly involved but for
everyone else as well.



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