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RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 1, No. 71, Part I, 11 July 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/ xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Headlines, Part I *YELTSIN BLAMES FACTORY MANAGERS FOR ECONOMIC WOES *CONFUSION OVER RESIGNATIONS OF CHECHEN OFFICIALS *RUSSIAN SPOKESMAN DENIES REPORTS OF ABKHAZ FIGHTING End Note How Much Will NATO Enlargement Cost? xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx RUSSIA YELTSIN BLAMES FACTORY MANAGERS FOR ECONOMIC WOES. In his weekly nationwide radio address, President Boris Yeltsin has blamed much of the country's economic crisis on unscrupulous and incompetent factory directors, Russian media reported on 11 July. Yeltsin said many bosses were either incapable of coping with new market conditions or were siphoning off profits for their own enrichment. The Russian president noted that 80 percent of overdue wages were owed by inefficient enterprises, not by the state, and he urged workers and shareholders to use their newly acquired stakes to get rid of incompetent directors. Yeltsin said he had ordered First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov to prepare a government program to select 5,000 new, senior-level managers and 25,000- 30,000 middle managers annually. The most talented would be sent to study in the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, according to Yeltsin. GOVERNMENT WILL NOT BORROW TO PAY WAGE ARREARS. Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, who is attending the annual Central and Eastern European Economic Summit in Salzburg, Austria, says Russia will not borrow more money to pay public-sector wage arrears by the end of the year. Urinson told reporters on 10 July that improved tax collection and better cooperation with regional leaders are expected to make up the shortfall. Yeltsin has ordered all overdue salaries paid by 1 January 1998 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 July 1997). First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov said this week that the government will pay off 5.4 trillion rubles ($ 940 million) in back wages by September and another 25 trillion rubles ($4.3 billion) in other public-sector arrears by the end of the year. CHERNOMYRDIN DECLARES INCOME. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has declared his personal assets at $46,000, Russian media reported on 10 July. According to a statement submitted to the Tax Inspectorate, Chernomyrdin declared 46.4 million rubles ($8,000) in income for 1996. His assets include a small country house, valued at 156 million rubles ($27,000), and a Chevrolet Blazer utility vehicle, valued at 112 million rubles ($19,000). "Perhaps this is not in keeping with the spirit of the times, but I do not have any stock holdings. And I have no property abroad," Chernomyrdin told Interfax. RUSSIAN BANK SELLS GOLD INGOTS. Rossiiskii Kredit has become the first Russian bank to sell gold ingot bars to private buyers, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 June. The sale follows the government's June decision to allow Russian citizens to purchase gold ingots at commercial banks. At least three other Russian banks--Inkombank, SBS-AGRO, and Gold-Platinum Bank--say they will follow suit. RUSSIA IMPORTED BRITISH BEEF. Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun confirmed on 10 July that Russia has imported 730 tons of British beef, Russian media reported. The imports violate a worldwide ban imposed over fears of BSE, or "mad cow disease." Khlystun said the meat posed a danger to public health, but he added that the shipments would be hard to trace since they were officially marked as coming from Belgium. The European Commission recently said that 1,600 tons of British beef was illegally exported with Belgian help to Holland, Egypt, Russia, and Equatorial Guinea. FSB CHIEF SAYS HOT LINE FOR SPIES YIELDS "FANTASTIC" RESULTS. Federal Security Service (FSB) director Nikolai Kovalev announced on 9 July that the "hot line" opened to allow Russian spies for foreign intelligence services to offer to become double agents has yielded "fantastic" results, ITAR-TASS reported. Kovalev said 298 confessed spies had called the FSB's hot line, and he described 80 of those calls as "very serious." He added, "We had feared that there would be a lot of calls from mentally ill people, but that did not happen." INDONESIAN OFFICIAL IN RUSSIA. Indonesian Science and Technology Minister Yusuf Habibi failed to reach agreement on buying Russian warplanes during his recent nine-day visit to Russia, Western media reported. Habibi said at the end of his visit on 9 July that any final decision on buying planes would have to made in Jakarta. But according to Interfax the next day, Russia will help Indonesia develop its civilian nuclear power facilities. Russian Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov said he reached an understanding with Habibi whereby Russia will help build two reactors in Indonesia. He was confident that an agreement would be signed before the end of 1997 but noted that Russia still faces competition for the contract with firms from the U.S., Canada, and Japan. CONFUSION OVER RESIGNATIONS OF CHECHEN OFFICIALS. Former radical field commander and defeated presidential candidate Shamil Basaev submitted his resignation as first deputy prime minister for industry on 10 July, Russian media reported. Basaev told Reuters in a telephone interview that he was resigning voluntarily. Speaking on Chechen television last month, Basaev had rejected rumors of his impending resignation and said his absence from cabinet sessions was due to ill health. AFP quoted Chechen Vice President Vakha Arsanov as saying that President Aslan Maskhahdov will not accept Basaev's resignation. Meanwhile, ITAR-TASS reported on 10 July that Chechen Security Service head Abu Movsaev, said to be a close associate of Basaev's, has resigned "for family reasons." The next day, however, the agency reported that Movsaev has contacted the office of the Russian presidential representative in Grozny to deny he has resigned. CHECHEN-RUSSIAN ECONOMIC AGREEMENTS SIGNED. Russian and Chechen representatives have finally signed a agreement on opening an account for the Chechen National Bank at Russia's Central Bank, Russian media reported on 11 July. The accord also allows Chechen banks to open branches abroad and foreign banks to open branches in Chechnya. The Chechen delegation brought back from Grozny the Russian-Chechen customs agreement, to which Maskhadov had added his signature. That document had been signed earlier by Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. The signing of the two agreements removes the last obstacle to an accord between Russian, Chechen, and Azerbaijani oil companies on the transit of Azerbaijan's Caspian oil via Chechnya. VOLGOGRAD'S MOTHER RUSSIA STATUE IN DANGER OF COLLAPSE. The Mother Russia Statue in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), the most impressive World War II memorial to have been erected in the Soviet Union, is in danger of collapsing due to neglect, Russian media reported on 10 July. The 70-meter-high statue was erected some 30 years ago to mark the battle of Stalingrad, one of the turning points of World War II. But the gigantic concrete monument is now riddled with cracks, particularly on the head and along the 33-meter-long sword it holds aloft. The memorial's manager says only a complete restoration will save the statute from collapse but added that no money has been forthcoming so far. TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILROAD TRAFFIC HALTED. Traffic along a 650-kilometer stretch of the Trans-Siberian railroad stopped for six hours on 10 July after a regional power company cut off electricity supplies, ITAR-TASS reported. The Chitaenergo company said the railroad owes it more than 30 billion rubles ($5.3 million). Railroad officials say the Trans-Siberian line is owed much more by government ministries and coal-mining companies. Service was resumed after a railroad official warned that coal shipments to heating and power stations in Chita Oblast would be imperiled by the cut. TRANSCAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA RUSSIAN SPOKESMAN DENIES REPORTS OF ABKHAZ FIGHTING. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Valerii Nesterushkin on 10 July denied media reports that up to 20 guerrillas have been killed in fighting in the Kodori gorge, Interfax reported. Nesterushkin rejected as "libelous" claims that Abkhaz militants were transported to the region in a helicopter belonging to the CIS peacekeeping force. Abkhaz Defense Minister Vladimir Mikanba similarly dismissed as "fabrication" claims of increased tensions in the Kodori gorge region. Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told AFP on 10 July that the situation is "critical" and that if the protocol outlining measures for resolving the conflict is not signed soon, there will be "serious consequences." Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba blamed Tbilisi for the delay, saying each time the Abkhaz were ready to sign the draft, the Georgian side insisted on new additions to the text. ARMENIAN, TURKISH FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET. Alexander Arzoumanian and Ismail Cem discussed bilateral relations in Madrid on 9 July within the framework of the NATO summit, according to the "Turkish Daily News" on 11 July. Arzoumanian denied media reports that Armenia has supplied anti-aircraft missiles to the PKK and said his government is ready to cooperate to investigate those allegations. Cem said that Ankara cannot agree to the Armenian proposal to economic cooperation with Turkey until a solution is reached to the Karabakh conflict. ARMENIAN OPPOSITION PAPER SUSPENDS PUBLICATION. Publication of "Ayzhm," the weekly paper of Vazgen Manukyan's opposition National Democratic Union, has been suspended indefinitely, according to Noyan Tapan on 10 July, quoting the paper's editor, Vigen Sargssian. Sargssian said the paper's owners have no funds to buy newsprint. Publication of "Ayzhm" was temporarily suspended last September following the attack on the Armenian National Assembly building in the wake of the disputed presidential elections. GEORGIAN COMMUNIST SENTENCED. Vazha Khachapuridze, a former regional governor and one of the leaders of the United Communist Party of Georgia, was sentenced to five years in prison on 9 July for abuse of his official position and illegally creating a team of 15 bodyguards, "Akhali taoba" reported on 10 July. The Georgian Supreme Court rejected charges of treason and calling for the overthrow of the country's leadership, according to Interfax. TAJIK COMMISSION SIGNS FIRST AGREEMENTS. The National Reconciliation Commission, which was officially set up following the signing of the 27 June peace treaty by the Tajik government and United Tajik Opposition, concluded its first session in Moscow on 10 July, RFE/RL correspondents in the Russian capital reported. The commission agreed on a "general forgiveness," meaning past enmities are to be forgotten, and signed an accord on a general amnesty that will allow members of the UTO to legally return to Tajikistan. Those opposition members who were imprisoned for political reasons or captured in military actions since 1992 are to be released. Excluded from the amnesty are those guilty of violent crimes and crimes against society. Those prisoners who believe they were found guilty of such crimes as a pretext to imprison them for their political actions have the right to request that their trial and the charges brought against them be reviewed. PREPARATIONS FOR CHANGES IN POST-WAR TAJIKISTAN. The Tajik government and CIS border guards are preparing for the changes foreseen in the 27 June peace treaty for post-war Tajikistan, RFE/RL corespondents in Dushanbe reported. Border guards are making preparations for the return of refugees from Afghanistan, who will re-enter Tajikistan via two check points along the Tajik-Afghan border. Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov has ordered medical workers to prepare for the influx, which may total up to 22,000 refugees from Afghanistan. Rakhmonov also announced that his country's armed forces are to be cut by 30 percent from their estimated current strength of 17,000. The money saved will be used to pay teachers and medical personnel, he said. UZBEKISTAN ESTABLISHES STATE CUSTOMS COMMITTEE. President Islam Karimov has signed a decree ordering the creation of a State Customs Committee, Interfax reported on 10 July. The aim of the new body is to "improve customs policy" and "increase the role played by the customs services in stepping up the country's economic security." The committee is considered a law enforcement body directly subordinate to the government. It will be empowered to sign international agreements and treaties on customs, impose penalties for offenses against customs regulations, and provide evidence of offenses to the judicial organs. The decree cites the "unsatisfactory state of and irresponsible attitudes toward the maintenance and increase of working capital, which disrupt business links, facilitate non-payment of taxes, and are therefore likely to increase social tensions." END NOTE How Much Will NATO Enlargement Cost? by Michael Mihalka A number of reports have appeared recently in the Western media asserting that the cost of NATO enlargement could exceed $100 billion. Such assertions are based on several fallacies. First, it is frequently claimed that new members must replace their Soviet-era equipment with modern Western weaponry. In fact, new members need only make their current forces interoperable with NATO, meaning providing English-language courses, changing air defense and command-and-control procedures, and perhaps purchasing communication equipment. German Defense Minister Volker Ruehe has called claims that new members must buy Western equipment "pure drivel." He noted that "it is perverse to say that modern tanks and aircraft are necessary in the new member states. We are not talking about EU agriculture. The purchase of tanks can wait." Second, it is often maintained that requirements drive defense budgets. In fact, politics drive those budgets. Many studies of the costs of NATO enlargement specify tasks that would need to be performed by new members. Costs are then associated with those tasks. The higher estimates are based on a scenario of hedging against a large-scale short-warning attack such as NATO was prepared for during the Cold War. According to that scenario, NATO would deploy forward, large air and ground combat forces in the new member states. NATO has already decided that it does not need to pursue that option. A third fallacy is that NATO dictates the terms of membership. In fact, while the alliance says what it expects membership candidates to do, those countries can they can do as they please once they become members. Some NATO countries, such as Iceland and Luxembourg, have no or only notional armed forces. Others, such as Norway, refuse to have foreign troops or nuclear weapons stationed on their territories. Still others, such as Spain, Greece, and France, have sometimes refused to participate in the integrated military structure. Finally, it is frequently claimed that joining an alliance increases military expenditures. But, in fact, countries are more likely to spend less on defense in the long run if they belong to an alliance rather than having to deal with security concerns on their own. Most policy-makers in Central and Eastern Europe believe that the costs associated with NATO enlargement would be small and manageable. They also realize that they needed to modernize their forces regardless of whether they join. Cost assessments by the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland fall far short of those carried out in the West. Peter Necas, the former Czech deputy defense minister, said in an April 1997 interview (when he was chairman of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee) that modernizing the army was essential unless troops were simply to be used as a castle guard in handsome uniforms for parades. He also pointed out the direct costs to ensure interoperability with NATO were already being paid so that Czech units could participate in exercises with NATO members and in the Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Bosnia- Herzegovina. He estimated that another part of the direct costs--the contribution to NATO's budget--would total 300- 400 million crowns annually (about $10-12 million). A Polish study group that included officials from the Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries estimated that the essential costs of joining NATO--integrating the command system with NATO, ensuring the compatibility of the telecommunications and air defense systems, and modernizing airfields--would total some $1.5 billion. The group assumed that Poland would need to contribute $35- 40 million annually to the alliance's joint budget. According to those estimates, the Polish defense budget would increase by no more than 4 percent. Janusz Onyskiewicz, former defense minister and currently chairman of the parliamentary Defense Committee, noted that the cost of NATO enlargement presents no major difficulty to either new or current members. Imre Mecs, the chairman of the Hungarian parliament's Defense Committee, said in March 1997 that defense expenditures might increase by 15-20 percent but that most of the increase would be needed to modernize a military that had not been upgraded in 15 years. Joining NATO would not pose an economic burden for the Hungarian people, he argued. The May 1996 Congressional Budget Office study, which contains the highest estimates of the costs of NATO enlargement, defined the worst-case scenario so that U.S. legislators would know the highest amount the U.S. might have to contribute. Even that study concluded it would cost only $21.2 billion for training and exercises and for upgrading air defense and command as well as control and communications equipment in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia. Of that amount, those four countries would have paid 70 percent, while the U.S. would have needed to contribute $1.9 billion and its European allies $3.7 billion over several years. That amount does not differ significantly from the one given in the February 1997 State Department study of the costs of NATO enlargement. According to that study, the U.S. would need to pay about $150-200 million a year--or less than 0.1 percent of the annual U.S. defense budget. The author teaches at the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Copyright (c) 1997 RFE/RL, Inc. 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