1 I use the “Kremlin” in this book as a shorthand term for the colossal concentration of political, bureaucratic, legal and economic power, mainly among KGB veterans, over which Mr Putin presides. The Kremlin is not monolithic. It includes clans whose rivalry is based on competing commercial interests (for example between the gas giant Gazprom and its oil counterpart Rossneft) and on their personal allegiances, for example to the (supposedly) more liberal-minded ideology chief Vladislav Surkov, and the ex-military spy Igor Sechin. Though these conflicts are fluid and fast-changing, the central features of Kremlin power remain constant: opacity, wealth and ruthlessness.
2 I use the “Mr” title only for people who are still alive. No disrespect is intended to the dead.
3 Her books included A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (2003), Putin’ s Russia (2004) and A Russian Diary: A Journalist’s Final Account of Life, Corruption, and Death in Putin’s Russia (2007)
4 In an interview with Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung Mr Putin said
“A murder is a very serious crime both with respect to society and with respect to God. The criminals must be found out and correspondingly punished. Unfortunately, this is not the only such crime in Russia. And we will do everything we can to bring the criminals to justice.
And now, with respect to the political aspect of this affair. The investigation is looking at all possible variants. And of course, one of them, one of the most probable, is related to her work as a journalist. She really was a critic of the present authorities—something that is common to all media representatives—but she often adopted radical positions. And recently she mainly concentrated her attention on criticising the authorities in the Chechen Republic. I must say—and I think that experts would agree with me—that her political influence inside of Russia was negligible and that she was probably better known among human rights organisations and in the western media. In connection with this I think that one of our newspapers was correct when it stated today that Anna Politkovskaya’s murder has caused much more damage to the current authorities in general, and to the Chechen authorities in particular, than her reporting did. In any case, I repeat that what has happened is absolutely inadmissible. This horrendous crime is damaging for Russia and must be solved. It causes both moral and political damage and is damaging for the political system that we are building, a system which must have places for all people, independently of their points of view. On the contrary, we must ensure that people receive the possibility to expose their points of view, including in the media.
In a speech at a meeting in Munich, Mr Putin expressed himself in similar vein:
“Perhaps because Ms Politkovskaia held very radical views she did not have a serious influence on the political mood in our country. But she was very well-known in journalistic circles and in human rights circles. And in my opinion murdering such a person certainly does much greater damage from the authorities’ point of view, authorities that she strongly criticized, than her publications ever did. Moreover, we have reliable, consistent information that many people who are hiding from Russian justice have been harbouring the idea that they will use somebody as a victim to create a wave of anti-Russian sentiment in the world. I do not know who has carried out this crime. But whoever they were and whatever their motives, they are criminals. They must be found, brought to justice and punished. The Russian authorities will do everything they can to ensure that this takes place.” http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2006/10/10/2138_type82914type84779_112411.shtml
5 I use “Western” and the “West” as a shorthand for the advanced industrialised countries of the world, chiefly in Europe, America, east Asia and Australasia. A common feature is membership of the Paris-based OECD.
6 Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti [Federal Security Service]
7 The full statement is on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6180262.stm
8 At the price charged by a western commercial supplier for the tiny quantities used in industry, the large dose used against Litvinenko would have cost $10m (£5m)
9 Extradition is illegal under the Russian constitution. But what really riled British officials was the attitude on the Russian side that they were fussing about nothing. Other countries such as Israel also do not extradite their citizens—but close cooperation with foreign criminal justice systems mean that wrongdoers rarely go unpunished.
10 After its unsuccessful intervention in the Russian civil war from 1917-20, nearly three decades of communist rule in Russia proved little worry for the west, which largely ignored the terror imposed by Lenin and Stalin. Under Herbert Hoover, the American taxpayer even helped Soviet Russia fend off starvation. Outside investment poured in. Many believed that Stalin stood for tough modernisation of a backward country, not mass murder and enslavement fuelled by his personal paranoia. Not until 1946, nearly three decades after the Bolshevik revolution, did Winston Churchill coin his fateful phrase, the “Iron Curtain”. The Cold War lasted for the next 30 years, until the Helsinki agreement of 1975, at the then Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which marked the beginning of the Soviet Union’s ideological surrender. The West accepted the division of Europe on its current frontiers (with some countries slightly reserving their position on the Baltic states). In return, the Soviet block signed up for universal human rights. The Soviet leadership mistakenly thought this would be merely a paper concession. In fact, it allowed dissidents behind the iron curtain to complain that their governments were violating their international commitments—something that became a potent propaganda weapon.
11 I use “Communist” when referring to a specific party, and “communist” for the general ideology and sentiment.
12 From Nomenclatura, a Latin word meaning literally a list of names. In the Soviet Union it meant the upper reaches of the Communist Party who were entitled to an array of personal and professional privileges.
13 However the authorities have tightened control over the internet (see Chapter Two). Even before Mr Putin took power, service providers had to install a device that allows the authorities to track all incoming and outgoing information. During his first week as president, Mr Putin gave seven other federal agencies access to the intelligence gathered.
14 http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/006682.html is one of many such examples. Members of the ill-named British Helsinki Human Rights Group and the Guardian journalist Jonathan Steele have also made similar arguments, along with many Russian commentators. However, arguing foreign policy by analogy is usually mistaken: New England was not forcibly incorporated into the United States by a totalitarian regime that imposed an alien language and culture and deported the brightest and best to slave labour camps in Alaska.
15 On March 11th 1990, the Lithuanian parliament declared independence. The West was alarmed, and painfully timid. Few countries had formally recognised the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states. A handful of elderly exiled diplomats still staffed dusty embassies in America, Britain and Italy. But the idea that these historical curios might suddenly mean something practical was deeply unsettling to a generation of western diplomats and policymakers who were still whistling with relief that the Soviet leadership had suddenly become so amenable. I decided, with the help of my London-based colleague Steve Crawshaw, to offer some symbolic support. I took the only direct route to Lithuania (a weekly Aeroflot flight from east Berlin), managing to check in and board the plane without a Soviet visa. British citizens had required no visa before 1940, we reasoned, so why should I need one now?
At the airport in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius a grim-faced Soviet border guard confiscated my passport. But minutes later I was met by a delegation led by the new Lithuanian foreign minister, Algirdas Saudargas. “What if I don’t get my passport back?” I asked, as we sat nervously on the red velvet sofas of the VIP lounge. “Then we climb out of that window. You can get another passport. But we cannot get another you,” said the biochemist-turned-politician, in stilted but heartfelt English. For a brief moment, I was a symbol of the Lithuania’s perilously fragile status. If they could get at least one foreigner into their country across a Soviet-controlled border, then it was a sign to the rest of the world that their independence was more than a brave declaration. When the border guard returned, Mr Saudargas produced a stamp from his pocket and gave me Lithuanian visa 0001.
16 From the Greek word meaning rule by a few. The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia by David Hoffman explores their origins as power, as does Sale of the Century: Russia’s Wild Ride from Communism to Capitalism by Chrystia Freeland.
17 See Peter Duncan: “Contemporary Russian identity between East and West” Historical Journal (2005), 48: pp. 277-294, Cambridge University Press
18 After the financial crash of August 1998, when Russia seemed mired in chaos and incompetence, I wrote an article in The Economist entitled “The Western man’s Burden”, in ironic reference to Kipling’s famous (or notorious) poem “The White Man’s Burden”.
When a country habitually lacks people or governments capable of keeping essential services going, outsiders sooner or later begin to fill the gap. One word for this is colonisation. It is early days, but something of the kind may be starting to happen in Russia.
I could hardly have been more wrong.
19 Literally so, given the way in which senior spooks began gaining lucrative positions in industry.
20 Lithuania’s Mažeikiai refinery and Latvia’s Ventspils oil terminal are both prime takeover targets for Russia’s energy giants. The sale of Mažeikiai to a Polish energy company, PKN Orlen, in 2006 infuriated Russia’s energy companies. Shortly afterwards Russia cut off supplies from the pipeline feeding the refinery, saying that it needed to be repaired. The issue has been extensively discussed in the Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor http://www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2372212
21 Covered by many western media including The Economist http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9116990
22 Their combined population of around 7m is slightly smaller than Austria or New Jersey; Estonia has 1.3m people, Latvia 2.4m and Lithuania 3.6m.
1 The weak but reform-friendly Sergei Kiriyenko left after the August financial crash. The Duma rejected the man Yeltsin tried for two weeks to reinstall as his successor, Viktor Chernomyrdin, who had been prime minister for much of the 1990s. Russia then had eight months under Yevgeny Primakov, a steely career spy-turned-foreign minister. But his growing alliances with powerful regional chiefs made him too powerful in Kremlin eyes, and he allowed the prosecutor-general’s investigations into the Yeltsin family’s financial dealings to reach a dangerous pitch. He was replaced from May 12th to August 9th 1999 by Sergei Stepashin, a former interior minister, who then gave way to Mr Putin.
2 Often described as “fluent” and “native-level”, Mr Putin’s German grammatically correct but heavily accented and would be better described as “passable” or “comprehensible”. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMifzZehatE for an edited sequence in which he clumsily berates a protestor at a press conference. It may have been better in his days as a spy.
3 Then still known by its Soviet-era name, Leningrad.
4 “He [Putin] is credited by his successors with having brought Coca-Cola, Dresdner Bank, and Crédit Lyonnais to St. Petersburg. He was also responsible for creating two economic-development zones on the outskirts of the city that ended up attracting firms such as Gillette and Wrigley.” The Petersburg Experience: Putin’s Political Career and Russian Foreign Policy Samuel Charap Problems of Post- Communism vol. 51, no. 1 (January-February 2004)
5 The KGB was supposedly dissolved after the failed hardline coup of August 1991. In fact, it was relabelled. The notorious Fifth Directorate, responsible for persecuting dissidents, became the core of the new tax police. Many other functions transferred to the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service, known by its Russian initials FSK; a law passed in April 1995 renamed this body the FSB.
6 The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS / Ministry for State Security).
8 Olga Kryshtanovskaya and Stephen White, Putin’s Militocracy, Post-Soviet Affairs, Vol. 19, No. 4, October-December 2003, pp. 289-306
9 Another handy term for them was “securocrat” first coined by the South African liberal politician Frederik van Zyl Slabbert to describe apartheid-era security and military chiefs.
10 He repeated this in a speech on Chekists’ Day in 2005.
11 Komsomolskaya Pravda, December 29th 2004, “Moda na KGB? Nevedomstvennye razmyshlenia o professii”. [The KGB in fashion? Unconscious thoughts about the profession]
12 Judo: History, Theory, Practice. North Atlantic Books 2004. ISBN 1-55643-445-6
13 The Chechens had been deported en masse to central Asia by Stalin in 1944, as a punishment for their presumed Nazi sympathies. Czarist imperial expeditions had found them the hardest nut to crack in the 19th century, and many Chechens hoped that the collapse of the Soviet Union would mean independence for them, just as it had for the Baltic states. But an accident of history meant that Chechnya’s status was not a Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR), like its neighbour Georgia, but an “Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic”, a lesser status and one that was within the Russian federation. When the Soviet Union collapsed the 15 SSRs regained statehood whether they wanted it or not. For Chechnya to leave Russia was going to be much harder. For three years, the republic enjoyed (or rather suffered) an uneasy semi-independence. The clan-based Chechen society was even less suitable for building the institutions of good government than that of Russia. Banditry flourished, and Russians came to loathe the Chechen “mafia”, whose ruthlessness and impenetrable mutual loyalties fitted them ideally for running protection rackets. In 1994, in an effort to distract attention from his political problems, Yeltsin had been persuaded to mount what was supposed to be a “short victorious war” against the pint-sized autonomous republic, in which around half of Russia’s 1.36m Chechen population lived. The war was neither short, not victorious and turned a mess into a disaster. The Russian army’s lumbering tanks and raw conscripts were beaten back by the well-led, lightly-armed separatists. In 1996 Russia signed a ceasefire with Chechnya, offering roughly a return to the status quo: independence, but not quite. That was a chance for stability and freedom, but it was woefully mismanaged. Part of the blame rests with Russia, which continued to destabilise the republic, but much of it lay with the Chechens themselves. Inside Chechnya, alarming banditry turned into atrocious warlordism. Their leaders, such as Shamil Basayev, were ruthless warriors but hopeless politicians. Kidnappings were rife, sometimes ending in gruesome beheadings. Foreigners, including those linked to Al-Qaeda, used Chechnya as a base for training camps—and, some said, as a toehold for Islamic rule in the whole of Russia’s impoverished and ill-governed southern fringe. That theory was supported by the raid on Dagestan, one of many such provocations, and led by Basayev, a Kremlin ally-turned-foe whom most Russians regarded as the country’s top terrorist. Russia responded by bombing some villages in Dagestan occupied by Islamist radicals. Few took notice: low-intensity warfare in the northern Caucasus, sadly, was nothing new.
14 Another example of Mr Putin’s foul-mouthed turn of phrase came in a meeting with prime minister Ehud Olmert of Israel in October 2006, when he praised the Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who was facing accusations of multiple sexual assaults against employees. “Say hello to your president…he really surprised us,” said Mr Putin approvingly. “We did not know he could deal with 10 women.”.
15 And no bombings of such scale and sophistication have been organised since.
16 Новосёлов can also be transcribed Novosyelov
17 He cast doubt on the nature of the “bomb”, saying only that FSB laboratories in Moscow would have to investigate further.
18 Broadcast on the Vesti evening news. Translation from Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within by Yuri Felshtinsky and Alexander Litvinenko. Gibson Square Books, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1903933954.
19 Felshtinsky and Litvinenko, ibid.
20 A detailed investigation of the Ryazan “bombing” can be found in David Satter’s book Darkness at Dawn, the Rise of the Russian Criminal State. (New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press, 2003)
21Furthermore, if Ryazan was truly a dummy run, it broke all the rules. In bureaucracy-bound Russia, such exercises involve extensive planning and paperwork. Official observers must be nominated, every detail of the “plot” written down, and the whole thing approved by senior officers. The start and finish are minuted and the conduct of all participants assessed. In particular, the head of the local FSB must be informed.
The Ryazan exercise breached all these, and some other rules too. Most signally, in Russia as in most other countries with serious armed forces, conducting exercises that involve “active duty” armed personnel is strictly forbidden: in other words, a military base cannot test its readiness by having one lot of soldiers “attack” somewhere guarded by real sentries armed with live ammunition. The reason is simple: those taking part in the exercise risk being maimed or killed. The sentries might end up shooting fellow-soldiers. So such an exercise could not have been planned for Ryazan, which was already on high alert because of the previous bombings in Moscow: the FSB officers planting the “sugar” risked being shot if caught by a trigger-happy policeman. If it was truly an exercise, it was an almost insane risk for its planners.
22 Even odder was a story that emerged from a special-forces base near Ryazan. Novaya Gazeta reported that a paratrooper called Alexei Pinyaev, while guarding a warehouse, noticed some sacks labelled “sugar” and had opened one with a bayonet in the hope of using some of the contents to sweeten his tea. The result had tasted nasty. He informed his commanding officer who, remembering news reports of the sacks found in the basement of Novosyolov St, informed the local FSB. Experts identified the contents as hexogen. The authorities reacted sharply. First they claimed that Novaya Gazeta had invented the story. Mysteriously, the paper’s next issue failed to come out, after someone hacked into its computer network and deleted the files that were due to be sent to the printer. Then Pinyaev’s unit commander and fellow- soldiers were dispatched to Chechnya, while he made a public retraction, and was then disciplined for breaching state secrets and stealing state property—in the form of sugar.
That might have seemed absurd enough, but in March 2000, his regiment sued Novaya Gazeta. Its commander, Colonel Oleg Churilov, said Pinayev did not exist and no one with his supposed duties would have had access to an ammunition warehouse anyway. If that was supposed to squash the story, it certainly failed.
23 In March 2000, for example, a motion to ask the general prosecutor to answer to outstanding questions about the incident passed by 197 to 137, but failed to reach the absolute majority needed in the 450-strong body because the pro-Kremlin party (which at the time was called “Unity”) voted unanimously against it.
24 Shchekochikhin died suddenly on July 3, 2003 after a sudden illness. The authorities refused to release his medical records to his relatives or to supply tissue specimens for independent analysis. They did manage to send a skin sample to a London toxicologist, who made a tentative diagnosis of poisoning by radioactive thallium, a toxin used by the KGB during the Cold War. They and his colleagues believe his investigative work brought him a death sentence.
Yushenkov was shot dead by an unknown assassin near his Moscow home in April 2003. Four people were convicted of his murder in a controversial verdict denounced by friends and relatives. Those convicted include a colleague from his opposition Liberal Russia party who strenuously protests his innocence.
25 Sometimes known as Latsis, which is how the Russian spelling of his (Latvian) surname would be rendered in English.
26 The 15 Soviet Socialist Republics were the constituent parts of the Soviet Union (though some outsiders regarded the three Baltic states as being occupied terrritories because of their contested legal status). Russia was by far the largest of the 15, and itself a federation, hence its full name, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Its constituent parts included ethnic Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSRs) such as Chechnya and Tatarstan, which are now, along with cities such as Moscow and regions such as Novgorod, are among the 89 “federal subjects” of the post-communist Russian Federation.
27 From the West’s point of view, Mr Gorbachev had been an improvement on any of his predecessors. He saw that the Soviet system was not only unworkable but abhorrent. Whereas Andropov had tried to fix it by toughening up, he decided to try liberalisation. That meant freedom of speech, contested elections, modest decentralisation, and some limited economic reforms. In 1987 he allowed state enterprises to trade their surplus production freely. In 1988 he permitted the establishment of cooperatives, outside the planned economy. He allowed some foreign investment. Censorship slackened and disappeared. In May 1989 the first partially free election in Soviet history produced a lively legislature: the Congress of People’s Deputies. In the space of a few months, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union gave up its “leading role” (ie monopoly of power); the media began exposing the lies and crimes of the past. Outside Europe Mr Gorbachev briskly closed down a series of Soviet-stoked conflicts in Southern Africa, Afghanistan and Latin America. It was welcome, but doomed. The Soviet system was so ramshackle and unstable that once the binding threads of command and control were loosened, the economy, and the whole Kremlin empire, started a rapid collapse. The satellite countries of central Europe, and the peoples of the Soviet Union, realised that the Kremlin would no longer kill to keep control. They took their chance. In quick succession Hungary, Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia ripped up the Warsaw Pact rule book and regained their sovereignty. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania did the same, making modest suggestions for autonomy that soon catalysed into forthright demands for restoration of independence.
The gratitude in the West was immense. For all Mr Gorbachev’s muddle and wobbles he had done the world a great service. He had allowed Communism to collapse with astonishingly little blood being shed. By the standards of other European empires, that was a praiseworthy feat.
28 Interview with the author, 1994.
29 Yeltsin’s second volume of memoirs brought him $3m, largely thanks to the intervention of Mr Berezovsky and others. The monthly interest on this was deposited in cash in Yeltsin’s office safe. He apparently regarded this as a solid nest egg. By the standards of the provincial Soviet Union it was indeed a fortune. But by the standards of those around him, it was chicken feed.
30 Mr Putin also benefited from the economy’s recovery from the 1998 crash. Though the boom in oil and gas prices was yet to come, a cheap rouble stoked demand for Russian-made goods. Imports had suddenly become four times more expensive and Russian manufacturers seized their chance, producing properly packaged food and consumer goods at competitive prices. Russian-made beer, soap, juice and detergent, once shunned by all but the poor, began appearing on the shelves of the smartest supermarkets.
31 It is interesting to speculate what hold they had on him, in order to be so sure that he would honour his side of the bargain.
1 One featured the “Napoleon” cake, which contains a large dose of egg custard. A man goes into a shop and asks for a “Putin” cake. “What’s that?” asks the sales assistant. “It’s like a Napoleon, but without eggs” comes the reply. [Yaitse, literally “eggs” in Russian, is also the common slang term for “balls”.]
3 Since Estonia introduced a “flat” (non-progressive) tax on incomes in 1994, this has become a popular and successful policy across much of the ex-communist world. Although it involves a large tax cut for high earners, it has so far always resulted in higher tax revenues, because it becomes attractive to repatriate earnings and end tax-dodging scams. It is particularly well-suited to countries with large black economies where tax might otherwise go uncollected, and where administrative weaknesses put a premium on simplicity and transparency. As well as Russia, flat-tax countries include Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, the three Baltic states, Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia Slovakia and Ukraine. No ex- communist country that has introduced a flat tax has yet reversed it.
4 Mr Naryshin’s rapid ascent to power suggests he may be a contender for the presidency or other high office. He is deputy prime minister for foreign economic relations, and has been an adviser at Gazprom, head of investment at Promstroibank and on the board at several military shipbuilding companies. Although he has worked with all the important factions and clans in the Kremlin, he has so far remained neutral between them; if he maintains that, it may be a powerful recommendation in the president’s eyes.
5 Some of the connections are almost comically nepotistic. Andrei Patrushev, the 26-year old son of the FSB chief, was seconded from the FSB to Rosneft where he is now advising Mr Sechin. The lucky Mr Patrushev Jr received a Kremlin medal from Mr Putin after only a few months, citing his “many years of conscientious work”.
Even those officials without a visible KGB background enjoy close ties to the business world. Dmitri Medvedev, a first deputy prime minister, is the chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom; Victor Khristenko, the minister of industry and energy, is the chairman of the board of directors of Transneft; the science and education minister, Andrei Fursenko has been appointed head a new state nanotechnology corporation, Alexei Gordeev, the minister of agriculture, is the chairman of the board of directors of Rosagroleasing; Anatoly Serdukov, the defence minister, is the chairman of the board of directors of Chimprom, a chemicals giant. German Gref, the minister of economic development and trade, is the chairman of the board of the Russia Venture Company; Igor Levitin, the transport minister, is the chairman of the board of directors of the company running Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport”; Igor Shuvalov, a foreign-policy adviser to the president, is the chairman of the board of directors of Russian Railways; his colleague Sergei Prichodko is the chairman of the board of directors of Tactical Missile Weapons. The issue is disussed in a Hudson Institute colloquium, “US–Russian Relations: Is Conflict Inevitable?”, available at http://hudson.org/files/publications/HudsonRussianGroupJun26_2007.pdf
6 The Captive Mind, (1953) is a classic account of the intellectual compromises forced by communist rule.
7 The most dedicated blackmarketeers were from a distinct criminal caste, known as Vory v zakone [Thieves-in-Law]. Set up for mutual support among criminals in the prison camps of the Stalin era, the “Law” was a mixture of rituals, solidarity and hierarchy enforced by death or mutilation. It forbade any cooperation with the Soviet system in any way, whether in prison or outside it. Members were allowed to live solely by criminal activity, and had to cut ties with existing friends and family. Marriage was forbidden. Rank was indicated by a graduated system of tattoos; communication was in Fenya, an impenetrable argot originally developed by pre-revolutionary peddlers.
8In a hotel lobby in 1991 I encountered a professor carrying a metal container filled with three kilos of bee venom; he hoped to sell it to a western pharmaceutical company for “some thousands of dollars”. My fax machine, in an office previously occupied by a fly-by-night metals trader, used to spit out offers of kilos of rare metals such as osmium and scandium. A suitcase full of that would go for many thousands of dollars in Europe.
9 Websites run by opposition groups and Chechen separatists are sometimes blocked, how far this is on explicit official instructions is unclear. Bloggers have been running foul of extremism and other laws too. In August 2007 a 21-year-old blogger called Savva Terentyev from Syktyvkar was charged with inciting hatred towards the police after a post appeared on his blog saying that corrupt policemen should be publicly incinerated.
10 The BBC has lost its FM frequencies, apparently for political reasons.
11 The OECD says of Russia’s goal of reaching a standard of public administration similar to the G-7: “Russia will find it extremely difficult to reach that goal, even over the very long term, if the
reform of public administration is approached in a narrow, technocratic fashion rather than proceeding in tandem with improvements in the in the institutional environment within which the state bureaucracy operates. In this respect, the greatest dangers may arise from the apparent disjuncture between, on the one hand, a reform approach that aims to empower citizens vis-à-vis the bureaucracy and to make public bodies more transparent, responsive and accountable to them, and, on the other hand, a political system that appears to be moving in the direction of less transparency and accountability. From “Clientelism” to a “Client-entred Orientation”? The Challenge of Public Administration Reform in Russia. OECD 2007.
12 In the form of the British 1980s series “Spitting Images”, the show used grotesque but highly recognisable puppets. In the early weeks of his presidency it portrayed Mr Putin variously as an impotent young king on his wedding night, a monarch dithering over his coronation robes, and as an ignorant literary censor. By 2003, when it was finally taken off air, Mr Putin was appearing as a hideous and malevolent dwarf.
13 On almost my last day in Moscow in 2002, I reluctantly apologised to Mr Khodorkovsky for the negative coverage of the past years, which included an article in 1998 called “Oily Charm” mocking his clean-up efforts. That had prompted an angry and rather scary threat of a lawsuit for defamation. But the Yukos share price had risen tenfold since my article. At least in The Economist’s moral universe, in which market capitalisation is the purest representation of outsiders’ trust, Mr Khodorkovsky had been vindicated. I had therefore been mistaken. He accepted my rather qualified apology with surprised graciousness.
14 The demand had first been made on December 30th of the previous year, and was still being challenged by Yukos.
15 Cut to eight years on appeal.
16 A breach, incidentally, of a Russian law that says prisoners should serve their sentence close to home.
17 At the time of the Soviet Union’s breakup, these numbered 89. After some mergers, there are now 85, comprising 47 oblasts (provinces), 21 republics, eight krais (broadly the same as oblasts), six okrugs (autonomous districts with slightly lesser status), two federal cities (Moscow and St. Petersburg) and the Jewish Autonomous Oblast.
19 Though ehnic Russians make up 75% of the population in the country as a whole, in some parts they are barely a plurality, and the birthrate among the Muslim minorities is much higher than among ethnic Russians.
20 It is interesting to imagine the furious way Russia would have reacted, by contrast, if one of the Baltic states had suggested writing Russian in the Roman alphabet.
1 Although not fully teetotal, his abstemious habits certainly make him a “non-drinker” in a country where drinking half a litre of vodka in an evening is considered unremarkable.
2 When the Russian leader caught a 20-inch sea bass from President George Bush’s boat during a fishing trip in 2007, two of the three main television news channels in fishing-mad Russia referred to it sardonically as “not too big”—though the third, NTV, inflated the modest catch to “many” fish.
3 Though plenty of jokes suggest that this will eventually change: that the first town on the moon will be called Putinsk, for example.
4 Among those who spent years wrongly incarcerated in psychiatric hospitals was Vladimir Bukovsky, who now lives in the British university city of Cambridge; at the time of writing he was planning to stand in the presidential election due on March 2nd, 2008.
5 Yezhednevniy Zhurnal (Daily Journal) reported this case in detail on June 22nd, 2007. The article, in Russian, is on http://ej.ru/?a=note&id=7182 (accessed September 9th 2007)
6 He is held in harsh conditions and recently wrote me an anguished personal letter, saying that his eyesight was failing and that he feared he would die in prison, forgotten by the outside world.
7Certainly his trial was a sham; the looting of Yukos by the Kremlin’s business cronies counts as one of the most scandalous abuses of property rights Russia has seen since the Bolsheviks expropriated industrialists after the Russian Revolution. The truth is that almost all Russian businesses break the law, because the laws are so vague and contradictory. Khodorkovsky’s early business career makes it hard to count him as saintly or blameless. But he was clearly singled out for prosecution because of the political challenge that he presented to the Kremlin. His lawyer Yuri Schmidt says: “When Khodorkovsky was arrested, I determined at once that this is my case – a political case, a case related to the advocacy of human rights, a law-forming case. This is a case concerning the crucial challenges of our society and our common survival – not physical, but human and intellectual. […] The issue of the Khodorkovsky case will determine a further development of Russia.”
8 Known as Gorky in the Soviet era. Andrei Sakharov, Russia’s greatest dissident, was exiled there under Brezhnev in 1981 and triumphantly returned at the personal invitation of Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1986. Nizhny Novgorod became known as a cradle of economic and political reforms. A full account of the demonstration can be found at www.opendemocracy.net/globalization- institutions_government/iceberg_report_4558.jsp and (in Russian) www.newizv.ru/news/2007-03- 26/66305/
9 Some of the harassment was more bizarre than thuggish: according to Tatyana Lokshina of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one organiser found his front door glued shut from the outside. He climbed out of his window and joined the march anyway.
10 The extremism law can cut both ways, squashing not opposition causes but discussion that the Kremlin finds too inflammatory, In September the newspaper Izvestia received an official warning from Rossvyazokhrankultury [whose full name is the Orwellian “Federal Service for Supervision in Mass Communications, Communications and Preservation of Cultural Heritage”] for an article it published in May about discrimination against ethnic Russians in Sakha, a vast, thinly populated territory in the east of the country. In a classic example of bureaucratic intimidation, Rossvyazokhrankultury said it had discovered “signs of extremism” in the article after an “commission of linguistics specialists” (unnamed) had examined the article. In a protest against the move, Izvestiya wrote: “The ‘signs of extremism’, in our opinion, are contained not in the words in which we described what we saw […] The ‘signs of extremism are contained in what actually happened there.” www.izvestia.ru/opinion/article3107705/
11 In November 2005 the management dismissed Olga Romanova, presenter of its flagship rpogramme, after she told Radio Liberty that the channel had declined to some important stories for political reasons. One involved an accident involving a car driven by the son of the then defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, in which a woman died. Several fellow-journalists resigned soon thereafter.
12 Novaya Gazeta’s independence is thanks to its proprietor, a KGB officer-turned-banker, Aleksander Lebedev. Originally a supporter of Mr Putin, he has become and increasingly outspoken critic of the Kremlin, saying that the current lack of press freedom is is “completely unacceptable” and comparing it to the Brezhnev era. www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,503609,00.html
13 The magazine appears under the English version of its title, though the publishing house uses the Russian equivalent, Novoye Vremya. Its website is www.newtimes.ru.
14 Hoping to help, I featured New Times in a column. I urged everyone interested in the future of Russian press freedom to subscribe. Mischievously, I also suggested that businesses in countries that suffer Kremlin-imposed economic sanctions, such as Georgia and Estonia, should take out advertisements to fill the gap left by the browbeaten Russian businesses. The result, Yevgenia Albats told me sadly, was to scare potential advertisers even more.
15 Published in Novaya Gazeta, June 2nd 2003, available on www.novayagazeta.ru/data/2003/39/00.html
16 The murder of journalists is nothing new in Russia. Even in the Yeltsin era, when the media was considerably more pluralistic, brave reporters risked being killed. Dmitry Kholodov, a young reporter investigating corruption in the military, died after picking up a booby-trapped briefcase at a Moscow railway station in October 1994. His newspaper accused the military leadership of ordering the contract killing. Six men were acquitted after an investigation denounced by his parents. The difference is that Kholodov’s murder caused a national outcry—albeit not one fully shared in the Kremlin.
17 In September 2007 Russian prosecutors arrested 11 people, including figures with alleged connections to the Chechen criminal underworld, and an FSB colonel. Senior Russian figures said that those arrested had been working on behalf of a foreign enemy of the Kremlin’s—taken as a reference to Mr Berezovsky, who has always denied all involvement in the case. Politkovskaya’s family and colleagues said they feared that political interference would derail the investigation, and criticised the authorities for sidelining Pyotr Gabriyan, one of Moscow’s most competent prosecutors, who had previously had charge of the case.
18 The public is unconvinced. An FOM poll conducted in June 2006 showed that 31% of respondents thought television was objective. http://bd.english.fom.ru/report/map/az/0-9/edomt0625_1/ed062521
A Levada Centre poll on Chechnya in March 2007 showed 49 % saying that coverage is superficial; 28% said it concealed problems, Only 11 % pronounced themselves satisfied.
19 A further amendment in December 2006 enlarged the list of citizens ineligible to participate in elections to include those convicteed of “extremism”.
21 By one account, it started with a hotel in Turku, Finland, acquired when he was in charge of the city of St Petersburg’s foreign economic ties. Certainly St Petersburg companies with shadowy ownership structures have flourished under his rule. A mobile phone company linked to his wife acquired a coveted licence with remarkable ease. Western intelligence services say his personal fortune is $11 billion; a well-informed Swedish source puts it at several times that. A colossal yacht is being built in Finland for an unknown Russian customer; other shipyards have been told that no Russian now wants anything over 180 metres in order not to give offence to Mr Putin. And what of Mr Putin’s relationship with Mr Abramovich? The multi-billionaire tycoon used to be the Yeltsin family’s closest financial confidant, and now divides his time between London (where he owns Chelsea football club) and Moscow. See “Mr Putin becomes the richest candidate” Kommersant February 4th 2004 http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?docsid=446423
22 Dirty tricks are not always so spectacular. But they are endemic in Russian politics. Kompromat [compromising material] is the main political currency. It can be real, or invented. During an election in the Siberian town of Tomsk in 2007, opponents of the small liberal-conservative Union of Right Forces (SPS in its Russian acronym), produced leaflet purporting to offer AIDS patients lucrative work on the campaign, plus the chance to shake hands with voters: an effective smear in a country deeply prejudiced against both homosexuals and those infected with HIV. In Krasnoyarsk, slogans on SPS placards reading Za Dostroyku [To complete construction] were neatly replaced with ones reading Za Dovoruyku [To complete the looting]—an effective jibe at the party’s unpopular business backers.
23 Rossiiskaya Gazeta, 13th July 2007 “The Other Russia And The Others” by Valery Zyzhutovich. http://www.rg.ru/2007/07/13/vyzhutovitch.html
However foreign scholars have come to different conclusions.
24 According to Transparency International, a lobby group, in 2006 Russia came 121st out of 163 countries surveyed, jointly with Benin, Gambia, Guiana, Honduras, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Swaziland. In 2007 it was in 143rd place out of 179, jointly with Gambia, Indonesia and Togo. http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2007 http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2006/11/07/business/EU_FIN_Russia_Corruption.php and http://www.rg.ru/2006/11/07/buksman.html
25 Though “democracy” is usually treated as being synonymous with political freedom and pluralism, representative government, the rule of law and other good things, I have tried to avoid using in this book. It is worth remembering that “democracy” came into common usage during the 1930s as a way of highlighting the weakness of the authoritarian regimes in Germany, Italy and elsewhere. Before that it was more often regarded as having connotation of “mob rule”. Since then it has been so debased by its use as a figleaf for dictators who claim popular backing that it has become almost useless, as in the “German Democratic Republic”, (as the Soviet zone of Germany became called) or the grotesquely authoritarian Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
26 Even using the English word “judiciary” to describe it is misleading. It would be better termed the “Office of Penal Affairs”, or perhaps simply the “Inquisition”. The International Bar Association’s 2005 report Striving for Judicial Independence: A Report into Proposed Changes to the Judiciary in Russia provides a detailed account of shortcomings in the Russian system. It is available at http://www.ibanet.org/images/downloads/2005_06_June_Report_Russia_Striving%20for%20Judicial%20I ndependence_Final_English.pdf
27 Reuters Russia Investment Summit, September 10th 2007.
28 It is overly romantic to see Russian criminal justice as portrayed by Martin Cruz Smith, author of Gorky Park (1983) and its sequels: as the same world-weary but ultimately well-meaning affair as its counterparts in Western countries.
29 Yuri Kostanov, a member of the Independent Council of Legal Experts in Moscow and vice chairman of the Moscow bar, commented to the Washington Post on June 3rd 2007: “She’s a brilliant and professional lawyer, and everyone understands very well that if they can disbar her, they can disbar anyone.” He added “I believe this is all the work of the special services. They are doing it to make everyone dance to their music and tell everyone: ‘We are the power’.” www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/02/AR2007060201135.html
30 With only 18% of the population covered by the court, Russia makes up 23% of the cases heard.
31 In 2007, Russia’s top judge went further, saying that citizens should be allowed to turn to the court only after they had exhausted every legal avenue inside the country, rather than after simply losing an appeal as at present.
32 “Public-spirited” is what people call activists they approve of. Self-appointed do-gooders and busybodies are harsher but sometimes more accurate descriptions.
33 Two well-worn Soviet-era sayings are telling. “Initiative is punishable” and “If I’m the boss, you’re an idiot. And if you’re the boss, I’m an idiot”.
34 Though in remarks to editors in August 2007 he seemed to signal that Ms Aslyamzan should not be prosecuted. “Yes, I am well familiar with this case. But it is not worth a pin. She can return to her home country without any worry. Of course, no one will release her from administrative responsibility for her mistake, but one should not confuse a mistake with a crime”. He also added: “While I am president, she absolutely does not need to worry.”
35 Still known in some international English media by its Russian name, Kiev.
36 Though Ukraine has become a much freer country, it is not a better-governed one. Mr Yushchenko proved a chronically indecisive president, and Ukraine’s politics have remained in acrimonious and bewildering stalemate.
37 The British government, spinelessly, chose not to make a big fuss about this for fear of jeopardising British investments in Russia.
38 One of the charms of life in Moscow is that you can find a “Gipsy taxi” simply by standing on the street. The resulting ride may well be without insurance, brakes or road sense, but the conversation is fascinating and the price—negotiated on the spot—almost invariably low. The drivers come from all ethnic backgrounds, in nondescript cars that escape the notice of the ubiquitous and predatory traffic police. This utterly deregulated market is one of the last relics of the anarchic life of the Russian capital in the 1990s. It is also a way in which ordinary people of all backgrounds can earn extra roubles.
39 http://www.newizv.ru/news/2007-07-17/72924/ estimates that these number over 140.
40 The Putin Generation: The Political Views of Russian Youth, Sarah Mendelson and Ted Gerber, 2007. Available on http://www.csis.org/images/stories/mendelson_carnegie_moscow_corrected.pdf
41 So far, the Kremlin’s own phoney mass movements have been remarkably docile and have stayed focussed on the intended targets. Anti-Semitism, for example, which is ingrained in Russian nationalist circles, is surprisingly absent in the rhetoric of all the Kremlin-sponsored youth groups. (Mr Putin has excellent relations with the hand-picked leaders of Russia’s surviving Jewish community). But what happens, for example, if the generals try to switch off some campaign they have launched, but the troops disagree? The danger of teaching people to organise demonstrations, print leaflets, and raise public awareness is that they may decide to do it on their own.
42 The two families became neighbours in north London.
43 This allegation, vehemently denied by Russian officials on Mr Putin’s behalf, was based on the flimsiest of evidence: an occasion during a walkabout in the grounds of the Kremlin, when the Russian president was chatting to a family and kissed their small boy on the stomach.
44 “Blowing up Russia: Terror from within” by Yuri Felshtinsky, Alexander Litvinenko, and Geoffrey Andrews. Gibson Square Books, London, 2007. ISBN 978-1903933954.
45 Like many such operations, it was botched. The Qatari authorities arrested three men, who turned out to be GRU agents. After intense diplomatic pressure they were released, and returned home to a hero’s welcome. Russia argues that it is just eliminating terrorists and that there is no difference between their attempts to destroy the leadership of the Chechen separatists, who have wrought mayhem in Russia for years, and the American hunt for Osama bin Laden. One difference is that most of the Chechen leadership—at least in the early years of the war—consistently denounced the killing of civilians and repeatedly called for talks with Russia on a peaceful resolution to the conflict. By killing the only Chechen leaders willing to talk peace, the Kremlin has also killed the best chance of ending the war.
46 The latter did not help his public profile with an ill-advised media interview in which he said he supported the overthrow of the Russian regime “by force”. British officials let it be known that they would be delighted if their unwelcome guest would move elsewhere.
47 The Guardian, July 18th 2007 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/russia/article/0,,2128844,00.html
48 The Daily Telegraph, July 19th 2007 – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/07/18/cnrussia118.xml&DCMP=ILC- traffdrv07053100
49 The HUMINT Offensive from Putin’ s Chekist State by Julie Anderson. International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, Volume 20, Issue 2, June 2007.
1 Such averages can be misleading; they are flattered by some very rich Russians declaring their income.
3 The Kremlin wants to revive Russia’s hi-tech fortunes. In April 2007 Mr Putin announced a $7 billion program to promote nanotechnology; another $1.2 billion is going into a state-backed technology fund. But past experience suggests that this will be at best stolen, or else wasted. The Russian state has proved an extremely poor steward of the national wealth. The chief recipient of the largesse is the Kurchatov institute in Moscow, which just happens to be run by a close colleague of Mr Putin’s, Mikhail Kovalchuk. If the Kremlin really wanted to improve the fortunes of the IT sector, it could try modernising the rudimentary levels of computerisation in the Russian public sector, and introducing and enforcing strong intellectual- property laws.
5 http://www.cato.org/realaudio/illarionov-2006-03-07.ppt and www.iea.ru/article/present/pres060307.ppt
6 It is easy to see the attractions. In 2006 a Swiss court ruled that the then communications minister, Leonid Reiman, a close personal friend of Mr Putin’s, owned telecommunications assets in Russia worth more than a billion dollars. This caused no difficulty for Mr Reiman, who simply issued a denial and continued in his post.
9Such as 3,500 research institutes, and universities that turn out 200,000 science and engineering graduates every year.
10 Galina Stolyarova in Transitions Online, 12 July 2007 – http://www.ceeol.com/aspx/issuedetails.aspx?issueid=a791f8d8-778c-40aa-8907- 024c97095276&articleId=474a662c-7893-4d2f-8eb3-8142ccb7aa23
11 The Russian population has been falling by 0.5% annually since the end of the Soviet Union, from nearly 149m in 1992 to 142m now. Some of that was masked by migration of ethnic Russians from other parts of the former Soviet Union, a reservoir that has largely been exhausted. Now the decline is accelerating. There are some slightly encouraging signs. Infant mortality has fallen by a fifth in the past two years, and maternal mortality by 8%. The birthrate has risen from 8.27 per 1,000 in 1999 to 9.95 per 1000 in 2006 (By comparison the American birth rate in that year was 14.14 and the UK’s was 10.71.) Some of this may be to do with Mr Putin’s exhortations, falling poverty and better state benefits for mothers. But mostly it is a statistical fluke: the birthrate in the Soviet Union in the early 1980s was high, and that cohort of women are now at prime child-bearing age.
12 Abortions number at least 1.5 million annually. Surveys suggest 10-15% of all abortions are not recorded. Mr Putin defined the population crisis as Russia’s biggest problem; and has asked parliament to increase to $166 per month the stipend given to families that adopt children.
1 However much they hated western materialism and hypocrisy, even the most naïve and idealistic foreigners soon found Soviet communism boring. If they stayed interested in left-wing ideas at all, they drifted off to Trotskyism or even mainstream socialist parties. Only in trades unions in a handful of west European countries did orthodox communism retain a foothold. And that owed as much to secret Kremlin subsidies as to any usefulness of communist ideology.
2 This was set up by the then prime minister, Mr Chernomyrdin, in 1995; it described itself as “liberal” and “centrist”. When he left power it morphed into the equally blandly named Unity, to rival the Fatherland party of Yeltsin’s main regional challengers.
4 A Soviet icon, he was the first man in space on April 12th 1961.
5Yeltsin replaced that with the (wordless) Patriotic Song by the Russian composer Glinka. Mr Putin wanted the old anthem restored, but settled for the old tune and new words. These drop any Soviet allusions but keep the notion of ancient Russian “brotherhood” (which in the eyes of the non-Russian peoples of the country may sound pretty much like imperialism).
Russia—our sacred state,
Russia—our beloved country.
A mighty will, a great glory
Are yours forever for all time!
Be glorious, our free Fatherland,
Ancient union of brotherly peoples,
Ancestor-given wisdom of the people!
Be glorious, country! We are proud of you!
6 Penguin Classics edition, 1977 p260.
7 Geschichtsaufarbeitung or the “Working out of history” is a broadly synonymous but less commonly used
8 The money was stolen or misappropriated by the communist rulers and mostly never reached the intended
9 That would be as if Russia would elect as its leader a veteran Cold-War critic of the Soviet Union such as
the British-based Vladimir Bukovsky.
10 Japan, of course, is another story altogether.
11 “Butterfly-Polka” (Babochka-Polka) is, incidentally, an unusual choice of phrase straight from the
Stalinist propaganda lexicon, when it was used to indicate something utterly alien.
12 Prosveshcheniye, Moscow, 2007. ISBN 978-5-09-017249-3
13 The accusation “u vas negrov linchuyut” [and you are lynching negroes] became a catchphrase
epitomising Soviet propaganda based on this principle.
14 On August 25th 1968 Tatiana Baeva, Konstantin Babtsky, Larisa Bogoraz, Vadim Delaunay, Vladimir
Dremluga, Viktor Fainberg, Natalya Gorbanevskaya and Pavel Litvinov assembled in Red Square with a
Czechoslovak flag and banners bearing slogans including “For your freedom and ours” and “Glory to free
and independent Czechoslovakia”. They were almost instantly arrested. Encouraged by the others, Ms
Baeva claimed to have been there by accident and was released. Bogoraz was sentenced to four years in
Siberia and became Chairman of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1989. She died in 2004. Delaunay was
sentenced to two years in a labour camp. He emigrated to France in 1975 and died in 1983. Mr Litvinov
was sentenced to five years exile in Chita. He emigrated to America in 1973 and still lives there. Ms
Gorbanevskaya was not tried, as she had recently given birth. Viktor Fainberg was prounced insane and
spent five years in psychiatric hospital. The Tom Stoppard play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is
dedicated to him. 15
16 http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1939pact.html has the text of the pact, and the secret protocol. http://www.regnum.ru/news/411620.html (in Russian) gives a good account of Kremlin thinking about it now.
17 Estonia is almost the only country to have made inroads into the post-communist world’s biggest outstanding problem: reforming public administration. Unlike almost any other country, Estonia built its most important institutions from scratch, shunning the temptation to use “experienced” communist-era leftovers. The result is that the country has by some way the region’s most modern and effective organs of state, ranging from a highly effective foreign ministry to security and intelligence services deeply trusted by their western counterparts. Its heavyweight president increasingly speaks for the whole post-communist region.
18 To be fair, some Americans thought the same of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, and still do about communist Cuba.
19 The journal in question was described, quite wrongly, in the Soviet ultimatum as an “Organ of the Baltic Military Entente”. Fired by this historical example, I set up an English language weekly in Tallinn in 1992. Intentionally provocative, it carried a column called “Troopwatch” that monitored the occupation forces’ misbehaviour.
20 Born in 1920, his best-known work in English is probably The Czar’ s Madman (English translation 1992)
21 Quoted in www.jamestown.org/edm/article.php?article_id=2369743
22 The Baltic States: the Years of Dependence, 1940-90 by Romuald Misiunas and Rein Taagepera gives the full story. I have focussed on Estonia here because this country is at the time of writing the main target of Kremlin displeasure.
23 I am indebted to Robert Gellately’s “Lenin, Hitler, Stalin” (2007), p389 for this remarkable fact.
24 “Hang the Kaiser” was a popular post-war slogan in Britain.
25 It also stresses that Russia should not be dictated to from outside, celebrates the campaign to bankrupt Yukos, justifies Russia’s disastrous intervention in the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution”, and says that the exigencies of the war on terror have forced both Russia and America to limit civil liberties in a similar way. 26 Lilia Shevtsova: Anti-Westernism is the New National Idea www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19480
27 Such snide and sometimes strident commentary is still mixed with an almost fawning official desire on occasion to talk up the relationship with America. Mr Putin has invited Mr Bush to his dacha and let him drive his prized 1956 Volga; at the Victory Day parade in Red Square marking 50 years since the end of World War Two, Mr Putin ostentatiously put his American counterpart in the best seat, and described him as a guest of “special importance”.
28 Shevtsova, ibid
29 By contrast, 21% said they were superstitious, 9% admitted to believing in horoscopes, 8% in magic, and 6% in UFOs
30 Coupled with the authorities’ own suspicion of both foreign organisations and minority rights, the result has been a dismal decline in religious freedom. Non-orthodox churches find it hard to register; their foreign clergy find it hard to get visas and residence permits.
31 The idea that Russia, like every country, is nothing more than a historical accident is not considered.
32 Had he wanted to give a more conventional spin to his ideas about legality. Mr Putin could have spoken of the vlast’ [rule] or verkhovenstvo [supremacy] zakona. But he didn’t.
33 This centralising approach is questionable. Common sense suggests tightly controlled rule from the centre may pose problems in the world’s largest country by land area. Even China finds it expedient to give local rulers some flexibility. America and Brazil flourish as federations.
35 As much as Mr Putin preaches the virtues of tight control, he and other senior figures are only too willing to shirk responsibility when they need. In the case of the Litvinenko poisoning, for example, the Russian line was that the state could not possibly be held accountable for the theft of a large quantity of a lethal radioactive substance from a supposedly tightly-guarded nuclear research institute, or for the way in which a security-service veteran left trails of it on his journey to London and back. The line was, in effect: “It’s Russia. These things happen. Get used to it.”
36 What Russia really needs is a vlastnaya gorizontal [literally, a power horizontal] in which the state is accountable both to its own institutions and to society. But Mr Putin’s solution, supposedly fitting Russian political culture, is not joined-up government and public accountability, but stern top-down pressure. What makes the state work is fear, not conscience.
37 Komsomolskaya Pravda, November 6, 2004.
38 Limbus Press, Moscow, 2006 (in Russian only)
39 Quoted by Reuben F. Johnson in the Weekly Standard “President Putin’s Third Term: Russia is a democracy in name only”. 08/20/2007, Volume 012, Issue 46
41 These relativist ideas can could easily have a wider appeal. Millions of people in the west dislike the harsh realities of the enlightenment legacy. If Russia really starts riding the horse of irrationalism, it will find a ready audience of people who hanker for mysticism, faux spirituality, and a refuge from the uncomfortably hard facts and arguments of real life.
42 Interviewed in Vedomosti July 5th 2007
1 The German-speaking border regions of Czechoslovakia, claimed by Hitler.
2 A body set up after the collapse of the Soviet Union that brought together 12 of the constituent Soviet republics in a loose alliance. The three Baltic states declined to join.
3 Igor Rodionov, “Approaches to Russian Military Doctrine,” Speech given at General Staff Academy conference May 27-30, 1992, reprinted in Voyennaya mysl [Military Thinking] July 1992,
4 The Baltic states and their more pedantic friends insist that they were not “Soviet Republics” but occupied territories. Most western countries never recognised their annexation by the Soviet Union, and refused to have formal or high-level contact with the officials of the local administrations in the “Soviet Baltic Republics”.
5 Romualdas Ozolas interviewed by Timothy Garton Ash, quoted in the New York Review of Books Number 12 · June 23, 1994 “Journey to the Post-Communist East”.
6 Russia flirted with the idea of keeping residual forces in the Baltic states, for example, supposedly to “protect” the rights of Russian colonists left stranded there by the empire’s collapse. Once Mr Primakov became foreign minister in 1996, Russia’s interference and bullying abroad increased. It would be “impermissible”, he said, for the Baltic states to join NATO. As war loomed in Yugoslavia, Mr Primakov authorised the secret shipment of advanced air defence systems to the Kremlin’s protégé Slobodan Milosevic. Had they arrived, that could have sharply raised the price of NATO’s planned bombing campaign. But the missiles and radars never arrived. In a neatly-planned intelligence operation, the trucks carrying the missiles were stopped and the contents seized on what the Kremlin thought was a safe route to Yugoslavia. That should have been an international scandal. But it was hushed up to spare Yeltsin’s blushes.
7 A somewhat chastened Mr Mečiar has now returned as junior partner in the coalition government formed after the June 2006 elections.
8 He died in a jail cell in the Netherlands in 2006, while on trial for war crimes.
9 Strongly supported by Turkey, Azerbaijan believes that Armenia is illegally occupying its territory of Nagorno-Karabagh. Armenia says that history, demography and conquest give it the strongest title. Peace negotiations have got nowhere, and Armenia is the grateful host to a Russian military base, while also quietly improving ties with Iran. In the event of a peace deal with Azerbaijan and rapprochement with Turkey, few doubt that Armenia would soon be an enthusiastic member of the Euroatlantic camp.
10 As his name would be transcribed from the Belarusan language; in Russian it would be Aleksandr Lukashenko.
11 Dmitry Zavadsky, a journalist; Yury Zakharenko and Viktor Gonchar, politicians, and Anatoly Krasovsky, a businessman. From Belarusan their names would be transliterated as Zmitser Zavadsky, Viktar Hanchar, Yuri Zakharanka and Anatol Krasousky.
12 It is run by Mr Borodin, formerly of the Kremlin’s property department and is thus one of Mr Putin’s former bosses.
13 When I was trying to get a residence permit to live in Czechoslovakia, I timed my application to coincide with a CSCE session on media accreditation. If the Czechoslovak authorities adopted their usual stonewalling tactics in my case, a friendly British diplomat explained, they would immediately present an “open goal” to their western critics. I got the necessary papers within a couple of weeks.
14 Though some western countries, notably America, insisted that this did not affect their non-recognition policy towards the occupation of the Baltic states.
15 Even Belarus enjoyed a few months of independence in 1918. A government-in-exile descended from those few months of statehood maintains an exiguous presence to this day. See Home Thoughts from Abroad, The Economist, December 20th 2001. And The Sorrows of Belarus (online only) Europe View November 16th, 2006.
16 I went to visit a new finance minister once, who was being energetically promoted by the ever-optimistic American embassy. His office was bright, modern and computerised. We had an enjoyable chat about e- government and zero-based budgetting. It was pretty clear that his talents were not matched by political clout. As I left, I used an old journalist’s trick and asked to use the restroom, saying that I would find my own way out. Not only was the toilet worse than a midden, but my detour to some of the other offices produced a much more convincing picture: a warren of ill-lit and dingy offices, each filled with rickety wooden furniture. Dumpy little men in ill-fitting brown suits were engaged in chain-smoking conversation with thickset men in leather jackets. Not a computer was in sight, and bare light-bulbs dangled from the ceilings.
17 Known as Borjomi, Georgia’s pungent sulphurated mineral water is an acquired taste. It was one of the best-selling bottled drinks in the Soviet Union
18 The same happened with the Baltic states in the early 1990s. Russian economic sanctions and energy blockages simply accelerated the reorientation towards other markets.
19 Robert L. Larsson, Russia’s Energy Policy: Security Dimensions and Russia’s Reliability as an Energy Supplier (Stockholm: FOI, 2006), www.foi.se.
20The same twisted logic was used in the aftermath of the Litvinenko poisoning, when the Russian embassy in London blamed Mr Berezovsky.
21 The CIS election monitors found no evidence of the massive fraud reported by outsiders from the OSCE; Mr Putin hurried to congratulate Viktor Yanukovych as the “winner” even before the official result had been declared.
22 Neftegazovaia Diplomatia kak Ugroza Marginalizatsii”, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 28 December 2004
23 Their most powerful weapon was defending the status of the Russian language, which under Soviet rule had driven Ukrainian out of public life, to the point that even speaking it in Kyiv was a strong political statement. Since independence, Ukrainian has made a strong comeback in central Ukraine, but remains a minority language in the russified east of the country. Although the two languages are closely related (more so than Spanish and Portuguese, for example) older and less educated Russian-speakers fear that a “nationalist” government may somehow penalise them for a failure to speak Ukrainian. After all, say pro- Russian propagandists, that is exactly what happened in the Baltic states.
24 Adolf by Pip Utton www.pip-utton.com/putton/adolf.htm
25 See An old friend comes back and Covering tracks (web only) in The Economist August 3rd, 2006.
26 Under international law, it is prohibited for the occupying power to settle its population in the territories concerned. The Soviet Union, of course, did not regard the Baltic republics as occupied.
27 In the borders of the current Estonia the figure was still higher, around 96%. the 8% prewar Russian minority lived largely in the areas transferred to the Russian Federation in 1945.
28 Trying to buy some stamps in the main post office in Tallinn in early 1990, a clerk told me to “talk like a human being” when I spoke Estonian—in theory an official language.
29 By applying for citizenship to the Congress of Estonia, a parallel parliament set up as Soviet rule crumbled.
30 Certainly more could be done to speed integration. The big efforts made in the 1990s have tailed off. The current Estonian government is so focussed on economic growth it tends to ignore social issues. But Russia is not interested in the practicalities of integration. It does nothing to encourage non-citizens in Estonia to learn the language. In fact it barely supports them at all. What the Kremlin does do is stoke ethnic disharmony, in the hope of undermining the Estonian government.
31 Author’s translation: The full version in Russian is at http://www.kp.ru/daily/23896.3/66766
32 The Sluzhba Vneshnei Razvedky is the renamed First Chief Directorate of the KGB, Mr Putin’s old employer.
33 Such influence is not confined to the ex-Soviet region, however. Russia also hopes to use its former satellites membership of Euroatlantic institutions to plant its agents there too. Even if they are then exposed, it serves another Kremlin aim: to discredit these countries in the eyes of their western allies.
34 http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/15-09/ff_estonia has an extensive account of the incident
35 The northern half of the former German province of East Prussia, the Kaliningrad enclave is one of Russia’s remaining wartime trophies. Although it could provide a commercial and cultural bridge between Russia and the EU, it has so far failed to fulful this potential, partly because of boneheaded local leaders, but mostly because of Kremlin paranoia, which sees the country’s periphery as a source of threat, not opportunity.
36 Another possible flashpoint is eastern Ukraine. Russian-speakers there have so far proved hard to ignite. But with a really serious political crisis in Kyiv, that might change: for example, Russia might covertly back an ultra-nationalist party in order to stoke separatist sentiment in the eastern part of the country.
1 Vladimir Putin, Strategicheskoye planirovaniye vosproizvodstva mineralno-syryevoy bazy regiona v usloviyakh formirovaniya rynochnykh otnosheniy (St. Petersburg: State Mining Institute, 1997). The American scholar Clifford Gaddy has produced interesting evidence that suggests the book is in fact heavily plagiarised. http://www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2006-78-3a.cfm
3 Quoted in Gazprom in Crisis, Michael Fredholm, CSRC October 2006
4 LNG is compressed gas that can be carried by tanker. Though the compression and decompression are expensive, it can be traded freely, unlike pipeline gas which is almost always delivered under a long-term contract.
6 The American software giant has been engaged in a lengthy wrangle with the EU over allegedly monopolistic features of its Windows software.
7 Though Russia’s embassy in the heart of Stockholm is probably a more effective listening station than anything that could be built at sea.
8 Germany lobbied hard to ensure that Poland, despite its evident unreadiness in some respects, was included in the first wave of EU enlargement in 2004.
9 At the request of the previous German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, America was planning to base Cruise and Pershing nuclear missiles in Europe. By putting part of America’s nuclear arsenal in Europe, the idea was to make the NATO nuclear deterrent more credible, and the Warsaw Pact’s overwhelming superiority in conventional forces less threatening. But by the time the missiles were actually deployed, in the early 1980s German public opinion was far more worried about the dangers of nuclear weapons than the threat from the east.
10 In May 2007, Mr Deripaska acquired a US $1.5 billion stake in Magna, a Canadian car parts manufacturer. He is rumoured to have a 5 % stake in America’s General Motors. 11http://www.aktuell.ru/russland/wirtschaft/putin_schroeder_und_russland_auf_der_hannover_messe_1096. html
12 A striking example of this came in July 2007 when the Bavarian leader Edmund Stoiber visited Mr Putin. Mr Stoiber is leader of the Christian Social Union, a sister party to Ms Merkel’s CDU that has in the past been a reliably Atlanticist and staunchly anti-communist force in German politics. But Mr Stoiber, after a lavish official reception including unprecedented ceremony and hospitality, seemed to throw his party’s traditions to the winds. He described Russia as Germany’s “strategic partner”, denounced America’s missile-defence plans, and also called for a Russian-EU free trade zone. He either did not know or did not care that the latter move was a hefty snub to Ukraine, which has long been seeking better trade relations with the EU. Some wondered if Mr Putin was looking for a replacement for the now widely ridiculed Mr Schröder as his favourite politician in Germany.
13 Weeks later Rosneft tried a similar deal, offering Royal Dutch Shell access to the Severo-Komsomolsk onshore oil field in return for the western company’s stake in Germany’s largest oil-industry complex, MIRO, to Russia’s Rosneft. If that goes ahead, it will mark the first big investment by a Kremlin firm in Europe’s private-sector oil industry.
14 http://europe.eu.int/comm/energy/electricity/publications/doc/ten_e_en.pdf Energising Europe’s Infrastructure
15 The move was little surprise to those who remember Austria’s chummy relations with the Soviet Union during the cold war, when Vienna was a playground for eastern bloc intelligence agents. After the collapse of communism, the Austrian capital offered a warm welcome to Russians wanting to polish their legitimate credentials—Austria, almost alone in Europe, offered anonymous bank accounts. The Austrian state, which still owns a 31% stake in OMV, was the first capitalist country to buy gas from the Soviet Union.
16 Some senior foreign business executives’ behaviour towards Russia is barely explicable except in terms of the expectation of future rewards. For an oil company boss, a decision has only to be defensible, rather than correct, in order to get past shareholders’ scrutiny now, and open the way to a lucrative consulting contract with a Russian company once the brief stint at the top is over.
2 Perspective Vol. XVII, No. 4 Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy, Boston University, July-August 2007
3 As a retired Russian officer, Major General Vladimir Dvorkin, put it: “The Americans decided to buy a double-barrelled shotgun, and we offered them a telescope instead.” Russia’s radars are aimed at detecting missile launches, in order to give the Kremlin time to launch a retaliatory strike; the Americans need a radar that would guide interceptor rockets to destroy the missiles once launched.
4 The Lourdes eavesdropping post in Cuba, and the Cam Ranh naval base in Vietnam. Russia retains bases in the CIS, including two in Belarus (a radio station for communicating with its submarine fleet and an anti- missile radar). It is now restoring a semi-derelict naval base in Syria.
6 In September 2007, Russia abstained in a UN Security Council vote on extending the NATO-led and UN- backed International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. On the same day the CSTO suggested extending its role in promoting security in Afghanistan.
2 That would automatically exclude companies such as Itera and Rosukrenergo.
3 The natural organisation to deal with this is the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This has already developed from being a thinktank that mainly produces statistics to become a global guardian of good economic policy in the widest sense. It includes all the world’s advanced economies and, crucially, Russia is not a member. The OECD is therefore in a perfect position to set new tough rules on corporate governance and access to global financial markets, and then monitor their observance. Just as gangsters cannot expect to use the global financial system to launder cash, the kleptocrats of the Kremlin should not be able to use it to launder assets.
4 That does not mean making visa applications harder for ordinary Russians. But it should be harder for those connected with the Kremlin and other branches of lawbreaking Russian officialdom and business. Gazprom and Rosneft would find their access to international capital markets much less easy if their senior executives were unable to visit America, Britain, or Germany.
5 It is important not to be too sentimental. The Cold War may have been the struggle of good against evil at a global level, but the West had plenty to be ashamed of in the details: the support for corrupt and authoritarian dictators in the third world, bully-boy tactics against leftwingers in Europe and America, and the cynical conflation of Western economic interests with the wider cause of freedom were among the most salient shortcomings.
6 Leftwingers protesting against martial law in Poland in 1981 used the slogan “Russian tanks, Western banks, Hands off Poland!” which equated the western bankers, admittedly greedy and naïve, who were trying to recover the $20 billion they had ill-advisedly lent the regime with a communist dictatorship responsible for the deaths of many tens of thousands of people. A more recent example is the way that such commentators treat Mr Putin’s career in the KGB. It would be unthinkable for a post-war German politician, let alone a head of state, to have had a career in the SS or the Gestapo. Instead Mr Putin’s career is commonly equated with George Bush Sr’s stint as head of the CIA in 1976-77. One of many such commentators is Eric Margolis http://www.ericmargolis.com/archives/2001/06/son_of_cia_meet.php Yet the two are not comparable. Mr Bush was a political appointment, just as he was in his previous job as America’s top diplomat to China. A possible comparison might be Mr Putin’s year as head of the FSB in 1998-99. But even that is stretching the facts. The FSB is an unreformed part of the old KGB, which was the terrifying and bloody weapon of a totalitarian secret-police state. For all its faults and blunders, than cannot be said of the CIA.
The New Cold War Endnotes
1 I use the “Kremlin” in this book as a shorthand term for the colossal concentration of political, bureaucratic, legal and economic power, mainly among KGB veterans, over which Mr Putin presides. The Kremlin is not monolithic. It includes clans whose rivalry is based on competing commercial interests (for example between the gas giant Gazprom and its oil counterpart Rossneft) and on their personal allegiances, for example to the (supposedly) more liberal-minded ideology chief Vladislav Surkov, and the ex-military spy Igor Sechin. Though these conflicts are fluid and fast-changing, the central features of Kremlin power remain constant: opacity, wealth and ruthlessness.