November 27, 1991 | Backgrounder on Russia
869 November 27,1991 BORIS WLTSINS FIRST lo0 DAYS INTRODUCTION Russian President Boris Yeltsins one-hundredth day in office since the failed communist coup of August 19-21 will be November
29. Although Yeltsin was elected President of Russia on June 13,1991, his position largely was symbolic until after the coup. Before that time his powers had been severely limited by the communist bureaucracy led by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev . As a result Yeltsins presidency did not really begin until August 21,1991, the day on which the hardline coup was defeated and Yeltsin, who played the key role in thwarting the coup, emerged as the most powerful and most popular man in Russia.
Yeltsins first hundred days in office are important. What the Russian President does then will set the course for the remainder of his five-year term as president.
Yeltsins policy decisions during this time also will shape the character of the worlds largest count ry for years, if not decades, to come. In this respect, Yeltsins first hundred days in power may be even more critical for Russia than were those of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan for the United States. Russia is at a crossroads in its hi story, and the actions of Yeltsin may very well decide whether the new Russia will emerge as a free market democracy or a dictatorship.
Radical Reforms. Since the August coup Yeltsin has made major policy decisions. He has launched a radical program of fre e market ref He has strengthened democracy in Russia by neutralizing the three key institutions of the Soviet totahmian state: the Communist Party, the KGB secret police, and the armed forces. And he has begun to change the direction of Soviet foreign pol i cy in such areas as relations with Afghanistan, Cuba, and Japan. All of this was done to advance the declared goal of the Yeltsin administration: the creation of a democratic and prosperous Russia committed to political freedom, free markets and friendly r elations with its neighbors At the same time, Yeltsin and his aides have made some incautious statements that unsettled the newly-independent republics and revived in the minds of their leaders the image of the old imperial Russia. Likewise, the Russian P residents use of farce in November to solve the nationalist crisis in the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Republic, located in southeastern Russia, further heightened the republics wariness of Russia.
As it evaluates the beginning of the Yeltsin administration, the U.S. should as sume the position of a true, but by no means uncritical, friend. After three years of diplomatically, politically and economically snubbing Yeltsin and Russia in favor of Gorbachev and the Soviet Union, the U.S. should demonstrate its s upport for Yeltsin and his long-overdue political and economic reforms. George Bush could do this by giving Yeltsin greater diplomatic recognition and publicly sup porting his free market and democratic reforms while reserving the right to criticize him i n private when necessary.
Bush should InviteYeltsin to make his first official state visit to the U.S. Yeltsin has made two visits to America. He came as a private citizen in September 19
89. He was invited in June 1991 by the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, George Mitchell, the Maine Democrat, and Robert Dole, the Republican from Kansas. An invitation by Bush would signal U.S. recognition of Russias growing inde pendence, demonstrate U.S. approval of Yeltsins free market and democratic policies, an d boost the Russian Presidents image at home Urge Congress to invite Yeltsin to address a joint session of Congress.
This would underscore to Russia and the world that not only the U.S. government but the American people support the revolutionary changes spearheaded by Yeltsin Create a U.S-Russian Consultative Commission on Arms Control.
This would involve the Russian government directly in negotiations on such key arms control agreements as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START the Anti-Ballistic Mis sile Treaty (ABM the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty NPT and the Conventional Farces in Europe (CFE) Treaty. As Russia gains control over most of the military potential of the former U.S.S.R., arms negotia tions should be conducted directly with Russia O p en direct negotiations with Russia on economic, trade, and cultural cooperation. As the power of the Soviet central government diminishes, political and economic agreements will have to be negotiated directly with the former Soviet republics. Russia, whic h is the largest, most powerful, and most populous of these republics, is the logical place for the U.S. to begin such negotiations Establish a U.S. consulate in Moscow accredited to Russia. This is necessary to accommodate the rapidly increasing volume of direct U.S.-Russian diplomatic contacts and to signal the recognition of Russias growing inde pendence 2 THE AUGUST REVOLUTION After the defeat of the hardline communist coup on August 21, the most urgent task before Yeltsin was to take control of the Sov iet state bureaucracy. Especial ly critical for the success of an anticommunist revolu tion was neutralizing the three pillars of Soviet totalitarianism: the Com munist Party, the KGB and the armed forces.
Dismantling the Party.
Yeltsin signed a decree on August 23 suspending the activities of the Communist Party of Russia. The next day, under pressure from Yeltsin, Gorbachev resigned his position as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and issued a decree ordering the property of the Party to be turned over to the local lected bodies in each public. On the same day Yeltsin transferred the Com nunist Party's archives to he jurisdiction of the Rus ian government, and iuspended major Party lirected newspapers, includ ng Pravdia, S o vetskaya Ros ia, Glasnost, Rabochaya Wbuna, Moskovskaya Prav la, and Leninskoye namia.l Finally, on August 1 Yeltsin rescinded the suspension decree on September 10, after all of these newspapers formally severed their ties with the Communist Party. All s ix newspapers have since resumed publication. 29, the Congress of Peoples Deputies of the U.S.S.R. suspended activities of the Communist Party- throughout the Soviet Union.
Yeltsins decrees suspending the Communist Party and its publications were justified. The reason: the Communist Party was not a voluntary political associa tion in a Western sense, but the most powerful and effective tool of political con trol employed by t he Soviet totalitarian state. Within two weeks of the abortive coup, the Communist Party collapsed as an effective political farce. It was deprived of state funding and its control over the economy, police, and the armed forces was ended. Although various leftist groups, such as the All-Russian Com munist Party of the Bolsheviks, were formed in all of the republics to replace the discredited Communist Party, they now no longer represent a monolithic political force directed from a single center.
Taming the KGB. Gorbachev on August 23 appointed Vadim Bakatin, a former Soviet pro-reform official, as the Chairman of the KGB, replacing Vladimir Kruchkov, a hardliner arrested for his role in the coup. Bakatin had served as Gorbachevs Minister of Internal Affair s from October 1988 to Novem ber 1990, but he was dismissed by Gorbachev because of pressure from com munist hardliners. The day after his appointment, Bakatin ordered the KGB to relinquish control of government communication networks. On the same day, the KGB archives were transferred to the jurisdiction of the Russian government.
Gorbachev announced on August 26 the transfer of the 250,000-strong KGB border guard to the Soviet Army. A month later, on September 24, Bakatin dis banded the infamous KGB Depar tment for the Preservation of Constitutional Order, responsible for spying on Soviet citizens coup, Yeltsin issued a decree on August 22 forbidding political activity in the armed forces. The reason: to eliminate the Partys control over the military. The n ext day, Gorbachev appointed the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force Colonel General Evgeny Shaposhnikov, as the Minister of Defense of the U.S.S.R. He replaced hardliner General Mikhail Moiseev whom Gorbachev had appointed only the day before. Yeltsin ov erruled Gorbachevs choice for this criti cal post and forced the weakened Soviet president to pick his candidate, Shaposh nikov.
Shaposhnikov had refused to support the coup. He called Yeltsin during the coup to tell him that he would not allow the Air Force to be used against the defenders of the White House, as the Russian Parliament building is known.
Gorbachev appointed the former Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Airborne Troops, Colonel General Pave1 Grachev, as Deputy Defense Minister also be cause of his opposition to the coup.
Two days after his appointment, Shaposhnikov announced his intention to replace 80 percent of the Collegium, the Defense Ministrys highest consultative body, which is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The majority of the Collegium were hardline communist generals. By September 16, according Drawing in the Reins on the Armed Forces. Moving quickly after the failed I 4 to Soviet press agency TASS, nine of the seventeen members of the Collegium had been ouste d took control of most of the Soviet Unions economic ministiies and agencies.
These included the Ministry of Economy and Forecasting, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, the Ministry of Trade, and the State Bank. Two days l ater, Yeltsin consolidated his hold on these institutions by appointing members of his cabinet to administer them.
Yeltsin took charge not only of Soviet economic ministries but of the Soviet media. The editor of the preform Moscow News, Egor Yakovlev, wa s ap pointed Chairman of the All-Union StateTelevision and Radio Broadcasting Com mittee on August 27, replacing the communist hardliner Leonid Kravchenko. The committee controls all Soviet TV and radio stations.
Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He fir ed Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandr Bessmertnykh on August 28 because of his passivity during the coup and replaced him with Boris Pankin, the Soviet Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, who had publicly denounced the coup on Czech television. Pankin promise d a serious reorganization of Soviet embassies abroad. Pankin announced on September 17 that the KGB staff in the embassies woul be reduced to the lowest possible min imum required by our security inmests. KGB personnel previously had made up an estimated 3 5 percent of Soviet Embassy staffers. Foreign Minister Pankin was replaced by former Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on November 19 Finally, on September 5, Yeltsin abolished the last key hardline institution of the Soviet Union, the U.S.S.R. Congres s of Peoples Deputies, which was the Soviet Unions highest representative body. Established in 1989, when the Com munist Party still maintained a stranglehold on Soviet politics, most of the Congresss Deputies were approved by the Party. The resuiting reac t ionary majority of the Congress was one of the major obstacles to radical political and economic reforms in the Soviet Union. After three days of heated debates, the Congress, in effect, abolished itself by voting to.transfer supreme power in the Soviet U n ion to a revamped Supreme Soviet whose members would be elected by the republics Seizing Control of the State Ministries and the Media. Yeltsin on August 24 Under Yeltsins pressure, Gorbachev also ordered personnel changes at the FORGING A NEW FOREIGN POL I CY Although Yeltsin has given higher priority to domestic affairs, he has launched several foreign policy initiatives that differ significantly from the pre-coup Soviet foreign policy of Gorbachev I 2 Report on the U.S.SR September 21,1991, p 32. J I 5 Af g hanistan. Long before the August coup, Yeltsin and his camp were critical of Soviet military and economic support for the communist regime of Afghan dic tator Najibullah. Subsidizing communism in Afghanistan is estimated by the U.S to cost the Soviet Unio n roughly $300 million per month. Largely because of Yeltsins opposition to aid to Afghanistan, the Soviet Union in September tem porarily stopped the shipment of weapons, food and fuel to Afghanistan. While Moscow did not promise to withhold aid permanent l y the suspension of supplies may have facilitated the September 13 joint U.S-Soviet statement pledging to end Soviet andU.S. military assistanceto Afghan clients by January 1,1992.This joint statement, announced by Secretary of State James Baker and Forei gn Mini ster Pankin in Moscow, will not by itself bring peace to Afghanistan-there still is no mechanism in place for the transfer of power from the Najibullah dictator ship to a successor democratic government-but it is a step in the right direction.
One reason for optimism in Afghanistan has been the favorable reaction of the moderate wing of the Afghan anti-communist resistance to the Soviet initiative. A delegation of moderate mujahideen Freedom Fighters met in Moscow with the Vice President of Russia, Alexandr Rutskoy, on November 11 to discuss a politi cal solution to the thirteen-year-old war in Afghanistan. Rutskoy, who served as a fighter pilot during the Soviet occupation-of Afghanistan, told the Afghans that it was the standpoint of Russian Presi d ent Boris Yeltsin to take all measures to bring about peace to the long-suffering land of Afghani~tan The moderate mujahideen delegation was received on November 12 by Pankin, who suggested that a permanent Soviet diplomatic delegation be stationed in Pes h awar, Pakistan to continue the dialogue Cuba. Speaking to an American audience during a joint television appearance with Gorbachev on September 6, Yeltsin stated that Soviet troops should be gradually withdrawn from Cuba.A A week later, on September 11, G orbachev followed up by promising to begin negotiations with Havana on the withdrawal of 1 1,OOO Soviet troops from Cuba. Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Nikolayev was dispatched to Havana on September 19 to begin the talks.
The Kurile Islands. The K urile Islands are a chain of small islands in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Soviet Union illegally seized four of them, known in Japan as the Northern Territories, from Japan at the end of World War II. Japanese outrage over the Soviet occupation of the Kuriles has been the major obstacle to the im provement of Soviet-Japanese relations. Hoping to reverse the decades of Japanese-Russian animosity, then acting Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Rus sia, Ruslan Khazbulatov, said on September 9 during a visit to Tok yo that Yeltsin does not want the problem [of the Kurile Islands] to drag on.5 Two days later 3 4 5 RFEIRL Daily Repor November 13,1991, p. 3.
The New York Times, September 7,199 1.
The Washington Post, September 10,1991 6 Yeltsin stated on Russian televi sion that the islands should be returned quickly and not in fifteen to twenty years RELATIONS WITH OTHER REPUBLICS The Second Russian Revolution of August 1991 transformed relations between the Yeltsin government and the other republics of the former Sovi e t Union. As a result of the sudden collapse of the Gorbachev-led central government in the after math of the coup, Russia inherited most of the military resources and police of the Soviet Union, including the huge nuclear arsenal, the 3.5 million armed fo r ces and the KGB. Yeltsins image in the eyes of the non-Russian peoples of the U.S.S.R. quickly was transformed from that of a trusted comrade-in-arms in the struggle against the imperial communist center to a ruler of a reemergent Rus sian state, which fo r centuries was an expanding imperial power that menaced its neighbors. This called for an especially sensitive treatment of the other republics the sort of sensitivity Yeltsin had displayed while he was in opposition to Gor bachev prior to the coup.
Such sensitivity, however, was lacking. In the exhilaration of victory after the defeat of the communist coup, theYeltsin camp did not demonstrate the necessary statesmanship and foresight in conducting relations with the newly-independent republics For e x ample, Yeltsins Press Secretary, Pave1 Voshchanov, stated on August 26 that Russia intended to raise frontier issues with the republics of Azerbaijan, Byelorussia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine6 Voshchanov used the term frontier issues as a code phrase for redrawing the U.S.S.R.s internal borders between the republics.
Exacerbating Anxieties. Gavriil Popov, the mayor of Moscow and one of Yeltsins closest allies, further exacerbated anxieties in the neighboring republics when he proclaimed in an August 2 7 interview on Soviet television that the recent declarations of independence by the republics were illegal. Popov insisted that if the republics intended to secede, the question of borders would have to be dis cussed? ~n this respect, ~opv specifically r e fed to the Ukrainian territories of mea: the Odessa area on the Black Sea, and the Dniester region in the south west. Finally, also on August 27, in his talks with President Nursultan Nazar bayev of Kazakhstan, Yeltsin reiterated Russias claim that it may have to redraw its borders with other republics 6 Yeltsin was reportedly furious that Ukraine declared independence on August 24 without consulting him first.
He was also alarmed by Ukraines intention to assume control over Soviet military assets on the Uluainian territory, including the Black Sea Fleet.
In addition to Ukraine, Popov probably was referring to Byelorussia and Moldavia, which declared independence on August 25 and August 27 respectively.
The Crimean peninsula was part of Russia until 1954 when it was transferred by the Kremlin u) Ukraine 7 8 7 These statements from Moscow caused alarm and anxiety in the other republics. Most of the internal Soviet borders between the republics were arbitrari ly drawn by Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. This w a s the case, for example, with the Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kirgizia, Tadzhikistan, Turkmenia, and Uzbekistan. To call for the renegotiation of these borders, therefore, was to threaten to open a Pandoras box of territorial claims and counter claims which quickly could esca late into violent confrontations.
Worse yet, the statements by Yeltsin, his aides and allies seemed to fit the stereotype of Rus sian imperialism, which for cen turies drove Moscow continuously to adjust Russias borders at its neighbors expense.
Independence-Minded Uk raine. The greatest damage was done to Russias relations with Uk raine, after Russia, the second most populous of the former Soviet republics. Ukraine has a huge eth nic Russian minority of 11.3 mil lion, or r oughly 22 percent of Ukraines total population. Thus Yeltsin has a keen interest in seeing Ukraine remain friendly and as sociated with Russia in some capacity. The Ukrainians, however seem bent on independence and they fear Russian designs on Uk raine. A Ukrainian Deputy to the All-Union Supreme Soviet, Serhiy Ryabchenko, accused Russia on August 27 of recreating imperial structures, but under different names, and he demanded that the Russian leadership retract the statement about redrawing borders9 On th e same day, the leading democratic nationalist organiza tion of Ukraine, Rukh, issued a statement deploring the high-handed rejection of Ukrainian independence by certain newly democratized leaders of Russia.
Rukh also accused Russia of harboring imperial aspirations regarding ones 9 ,Roman Solchanyb, Ukraine and Russia: Before and after the Coup, Report on the USSR, September 27,1991 p. 16 8 neighbors. The Chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet, Leonid Kravchuk warned on August 27, that temtorial claims [were] very dangerous.11 Fence-Mending in Kiev. Confronted with a brewing storm, the Russian leader ship belatedly launched a campaign to control the political damage caused by the statements on revising borders. On August 28, Vice President Alexandr Ruts k oy State Counsellor Sergei Stankevich and Leningrad mayor Anatoly Sobchak were dispatched by Yeltsin to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, to mend fences. They were met by huge crowds of angry protestors. The Russian delegation in Kiev did its best to defuse th e border issue by confirming, in the official communique, the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Sobchak called Voshchanovs August 26 state ment on the frontier issue a mistake and unfortunate, while Stankevich ar gued that the statement had no official for c e and that Yeltsin was not speaking for the Russian parliament. l2 A month later, Yeltsin tried to restore his reputation as an ally of the republics by arranging, together with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, peace talks between the Republics of Ar menia and Azerbaijan, which effectively have been at war for over two years. Thanks toYeltsins mediating efforts, Armenian Presi dent Levon Ter-Petrosian-and Azerbaijani leader Ayaz Mutalibov met in the southern Russian town of Zheleznovodsk on September
23. At that meeting the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders signed a preliminary agnxment on the condi tions for settling the conflict. Only the day before, Yeltsin had traveled to the dis puted Nagorno-Karabakh region in Western Azerbaijan, where most of th e fight ing between Armenia and Azerbaijan was taking place, to broker a deal between the two republics. This trip broke the deadlock in the Armenia-Azerbaijan con flict, paving the way for the Zheleznovodsk agreement the next day YELTSINS LOSS OF MOMENTUM 1 The Yeltsin-led democratic revolution began to lose momentum in the latter part of September. On September 24 Yeltsin left Moscow for a two-week vaca- tion at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. This vacation was extremely ill-timed: not 1 only did Yeltsins a bsence from Moscow slow the process of revolutionary change, but the Russian President failed to indicate to his top aides who would be 1 left in charge. Vice President Rutskoy later claimed that he had tried to telephone Yeltsin twelve times during his v acation but did not succeed in getting through to l him.
Predictably, the blurred lines of authority and the lack of direction from the top soon produced open political infighting within Yeltsins team, and his top lieutenants resorted to public recriminati ons. The acting Chairman of the Supreme 10 Ibid 11 Ibid 12 Ibid.,p. 17 9 Soviet of Russia, Ruslan Khazbulatov, for example, on October 5 accusedstate Secretary Gennady Burbulis and State Counselor Sergei Shakhrai of incom petence and demanded that they re s ign.13 On October 10, Vice President Rutskoy lambasted the chief of the Russian KGB Viktor Ivanenko, calling him lazy, in competent, and a danger to the state.i4 State Counselor Sergei Stankevich was quoted on October 2 by The Philadelphia Inquirer as say i ng that he was frustrated with Yeltsins inability to organize the Russian government and was prepared to resign rumored that he was working on a book about the August 19-August 21 coup for a Western publisher. Whether or not the rumor is true, the percept i on began to spread in Russia that fame abroad was more important to Yeltsin than the plight of his nation. Russian Supreme Soviet Deputy Anatoly Greshnevikov said in the October 1 1 Washington Post that, while Yeltsins book undoubtedly was an inter esting one, it was not what people expected from him at the time.
Although Yeltsins reputation suffered, the most damaging result of his absence from Moscow was the loss of revolutionary momentum. At a time when Russia faced its most difficult political and econ omic choices since the abdication of the Tzar in 1917, Yeltsins puzzling lapse in leadership left a disquieting sense of drift and indecisiveness Yeltsins ill-timed vacation also damaged his personal authority. It was YELTSINS ECONOMIC REFORM When he retu r ned from Sochi on October 10, Yeltsin badly needed to make up for lost time and to get Russia moving again. He accomplished this with his his toric October 28 address to the Congress of Peoples Deputies of Russia, in which he outlined a program for radica l free market reform. The key planks of Yeltsins reform included Price Liberalization Yeltsin calls the unfreezing of prices the most painful measure the Russian people will have to undergo. Nevertheless, he insists that without price liberaliza tion all t h e talk about reforms and market are empty blabber.15 Says Yeltsin No government bureaucrat can invent prices that are more just [than ones created by market]. The experience of world civilization shows that only the market can solve this problem.6 13 RFEI M Daily Report,October 7,1991, p. 2 14 RFEIM Daily Report, October 11.1991, p. 2 15 TASS, October 28,19
91. All quotations in this section are from this source 16 Yeltsins top advisor on economic reform, Egor Gaidar, later stipulated that the government wi ll continue to regulate prices of bread, milk and salt (Pravda, November 11,1991 Privatization The Russian President emphasizes small-scale privatization as a key element of his program. State-owned small and medium enterprises involved in services trade, industry, and transportation will be privatized. Yeltsin insists that there is a real possibility to privatize up to 10,OOO such enterprises, or 50 percent of the total number in Russia, within three months. Once the process begins, Yeltsin promises that a law will be passed to assure that privatization of individual enterprises takes no longer than five days. The state agencies in whose jurisdic tion enterprises are located will be ordered to lease them to their workers. If the workers refuse to lease the m, the enterprises will be auctioned to the public.
Privatization of large industrial enterprises will take longer. In the next several months shares of large-scale enterprises will be divided between the state and the workers.The states shares then will b e sold to anyone wishing to buy them at the market price. Adds Yeltsin: The main thing is a quick separation of [large enterprises from the state Private Farming Although Russia already has nearly 30,000 personally owned farms; Russian agriculture continu e s to be dominated by state-owned or state-subsidized collec tive farms. Even when private fanning was legally permitted in 1989, the com munist authorities in the countryside discriminated against private farmers, deny ing them adequate land and equipment . Yeltsin hopes to change this with his agricultural privatization program. Yeltsin has earmarked 6.5 billion rubles for the purchase of tractors, trucks, and other machinery for farmers in the next few months. During the same period, Russia will buy $100 m illion worth of agricul tural equipment from abroad. The Yeltsin program requires the transfer of land belonging to unprofitable collective faxms to local peasants or anyone else willing to work the land. Finally, Yeltsin promises to introduce legislation in the Russian Supreme Soviet to allow the buying and selling of land-a measure that a majority of Russian legislators so far has rejected State Budget Reductions Yeltsin plans to cut the budgets of unprofitable state enterprises and govern ment bureaucra cies. Russia stopped financing up to 70 Soviet ministries and agen cies on November
1. In a ddition, Yeltsin will terminate the Russian contribution to all aid and credits made by the Soviet Union to foreign countries. The Rus sian President also calls upon the Russian parliament to refrain from approving ex penditures for which there are no rea l sources of financing. All these measures are designed to eliminate the budget deficit by the end of 1992 and to lower the rate of inflation, which is now estimated to be 2 percent to 3 percent a week Banking Reform and Creating a Viable Currency Yeltsin p romises soon to prepare a packet of measures to curb the uncon trolled emission of banknotes and credits that cause hyperinflation. Unless Rus sia and the former Soviet republics reach an agreement on establishing a new in terstate bank, Yeltsin warns tha t Russia will establish its own control over the 11 printing of rubles and even may create a new Russian currency. His plan also in cludes creating a Russian hard currency reserve to strengthen the ruble.
On November 16 and 17, Yeltsin began to take steps toward creating a convert ible ruble that can be exchanged for foreign hard currencies. He issued a set of presidential decrees lifting state control over hard currency transactions, allowing the value of ruble to be set by the market, rather than by the g overnment. Both enterprises and private citizens inside Russia will be able to buy and sell rubles for hard currency. The decree takes effect on January 1,1992 Help for the Disadvantaged According to Yeltsin, 55 percent of families in Russia live below th e official poverty line. While a year ago this was 120 rubles a month it is close to 200 rubles today. Rather than mandating that salaries be raised to keep up with infla tion-a process called wage indexation-Yeltsin in his October 28 program proposes inst e ad to create a system of social protection for the poor through food stamps, soup kitchens, and access to subsidized goods. At the same time Yeltsin admits that the Russian government will not be able to protect everyone and claims the development of busi n ess and the creation of new jobs are the keys to raising the standard of living. He says: The main condition for the social protection of the population lies not so much in redistribution of what we have but in the speediest revival of production. It is o n this road that we will find the salvation of the economy of Russia Relations with other Republics Trying to repair the political damage caused by his statements about revising borders, Yeltsin goes out of his way in the October 28 program to allay the fe ars of Russias neighbors. In the preamble to the program, he states that the reforms in Russia paved the way to a democracy not an empire and that Russia would not allow an emergence of another center that would stand over the sovereign states.
Yeltsin als o insists that Russia will introduce its own banking system and cur rency only if it fails to secure an agreement with the other republics on a com mon ruble zone, which would make the ruble the dominant currency throughout the former U.S.S.R.The Russian P resident is equally circumspect on another sen sitive political issue: the creation of Russian armed forces. Yeltsin says he prefers a united armed forces of the commonwealth of the sovereign states under a single command. Russia would establish its own a rmed forces only if other republics proceeded with the creation of national armies. Adds Yeltsin: This however, is not our choice.
Likewise, in his discussion of the status of ethnic Russians living in other republics, Yeltsin carefully avoids mentioning t he need for frontier adjustments which earlier alarmed the republics bordering on Russia, especially Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Instead, the President claims he prefers to protect the Russian minorities in other republics by negotiating with them. Says Yelts in: We have an adequate opportunity to solve these problems on a legal, democratic basis.
Claiming that the depth of the crisis called for urgent measures, Yeltsin in his October 28 address requested that the Russian Supreme Soviet grant him emer gency pow ers to refom the economy. He also asked that he be allowed to serve as his own prime minister, which would make him not only head of state, but in charge of the government. Rather than a grab for personal power, this should be interpreted as a willingness on Yeltsins part to assume full responsibility for his program. This is a sign not of authoritarianism, but of political courage. The Rus sian legislature on November 1 granted his request by an overwhelming margin.
Except for the November 16 and 17 decrees on currency reforms, the October 28 program remains a plan only, awaiting concrete laws and decrees. Yeltsin will probably begin taking such steps on January 1,19
92. Although not much has hap pened yet, the October 28 program still is a bold plan. Aft er five and a half years of Gorbachevs half-measures it gives Russians a sense of direction and is build ing the confidence of the fledgling Russian private sector THE NATIONALITY CHALLENGE TO YELTSIN Along with the economic crisis, a major challenge to Y e ltsin and nascent Rus sian democracy arises from the demands for independence from non-Russian nationalities inside the Russian Rep~blic.~ Yeltsins reaction to the calls for inde pendence from the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Republic in southeastern Rus si a, precipitated perhaps the most serious crisis of his first 100 days in power.
Conquered by Russia after a protracted and bloody struggle in the 19th century the Muslim Chechens and Ingush were deported by Stalin to Central Asia in 1944 and allowed to return to their native land only in 19
57. Today the population of the Checheno-Ingush Autonomous Republic is 1,277,000, of which 48 percent are Chechens, 26 percent are ethnic Russians, 11 percent Ingush, and 15 percent other nationalities. The Chechens liv e predominantly in the eastern part of the republic, while the Ingush are settled mostly in its western part. On October 5 1991, the nationalist organization the National Congress of the Chechen People seized the key government buildings and declared itse l f the supreme power in the Chechen part of the republic, which includes the capital, Grozny. In the October 27 elections, called by the Congress, General Dzhokhar Dudaev was elected the Chechen President by 85 percent of the Chechens. The Chechens declare d their republics independence on November 2.
Emergency Decree. Dismissing the elections as illegal and accusing the Dudaev supporters of stirring up mass unrest through the use of violence Yeltsin decreed a state of emergency in the Autonomous Republic on November 8. The decree banned all meetings and demonstrations and ordered the confisca 17 There are sixteen secalled Autonomous Republics on the territory of Russia and fifteen smaller Autonomous Regions 13 RESTIVE AUTONOMOUS AREAS OF YELTSINS RUSSIAN RE P UBLIC Scale: a Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics (ASSR IEl Autonomous Regions (AR) 500 Miles H Note: Boundary representations are not necessarily authoritative tion of firearms. Two days later, the Russian President sent 630 special riot-con trol Mini stry of Internal Affairs troops to enforce the decree.
The Chechens responded with defiance. Dudaev called upon all men from ages 15 to 55 to come to the defense of the Republic, resulting in an army of 62,000 volunteers. At the same time, neighboring Geor gia and Azerbaijan declared their support for the Chechens. Dudaevs supporters surrounded the troops at the air port and destroyed railroads leading to the capital to prevent more Russian troops from arriving. On November 11, the Ministry of Internal Affa irs troops withdrew.
The Russian parliament dealt another blow to Yeltsins authority by voting over whelmingly on the same day to annul Yeltsins emergency decree. The parliament also decided to begin an investigation to bring to light people responsible fo r the insufficiently prepared political and military-technical decisions that let to the November 8 state of emergency decree THE U.S. AND YELTSINS RUSSIA Russia today faces a fundamental choice-one that it has not seen since the 1917 February Revolution. The country not only has to choose between a produc tive free-market economy and the moribund command economy, but between democracy and back-sliding toward authoritarian rule. As Yeltsin asserted in his October 28 speech, this is one of the most critical moments of Russian history when] it is being decided what Russia will be in years and decades to come 14 Peoples Trust. Yeltsin is the first democratically elected leader in Russias 1,OOO years of existence. Because of his personal courage and opposition t o Gorbachevs regime, Yeltsin more than any other political leader in Russia today possesses one political asset without which any radical economic and political reform would be doomed: the peoples trust. Whatever his errors, Yeltsin is likely to remain Ru ssias, and the Wests, best hope for a peaceful transition to a stable free market democracy.
If Yeltsin does not succeed in leading Russia through this transition, no one will do so any time soon. If he succeeds, the result is likely to be a peaceful democ ratic and economically viable Russia that would not pose a threat to its neighbors or to Americas interests. If he fails, the most likely result will be grind ing poverty for the majority of the Russian people and, possibly, the coming to power of an auth oritarian nationalist regime, which once again will make Russia a menace to its neighbors, the U.S d world peace.
The Bush Administration must adjust to the new reality in the Soviet Union.
The central government of Gorbachev b ecomes more impotent every day, while the republics are fast becoming the only governments that command authority from the people and the state institutions. Thus, Bush must begin to deal more with the increasingly independent Russia which Yeltsin leads. After Yeltsins Oc tober 28 speech, U.S. diplomatic, political, and economic support for Yeltsin means a U.S. endorsement of Russian democracy and free market economic reforms.
Practical Guidance. This support should not be unconditional. Like Russia Yeltsin will need considerable practical guidance and even constructive criticism.
For example, the Checheno-Ingush episode demonstrates that Yeltsin will over react when confronted with a troublesome nationalist challenge to the integrity of the Russian Republ ic. This is the same behavior for which Yeltsin, while in op position, so effectively criticized Gorbachev. The Chechen-Ingush crisis shows that Yeltsin has not yet adjusted fully to the limitations of power that democracy imposes on political leaders.
Ye t Yeltsin can learn from his mistakes. After all, he transformed himself from a Communist Party boss to the leader of Russias first democratic revolution. The Bush Administration should not be afraid to criticize the Russian leader, provided that it is no t personally offensive, as it was in the past, when unnamed senior ad ministration officials told the U.S. media that Yeltsin was uncouth, unstable boorish, or authoritarian.
Before the coup, the Bush Administration may have been partly justified in prefer ring to deal with Gorbachev rather than Yeltsin. At that time, Gorbachev controlled the Soviet armed forces and his cooperation was needed not only to reach arms control agreements, but for the Soviet army to withdraw from Eastern Europe. The situation is radically different today. Gorbachev and his center mat ter much less than before August 19-even in such national security matters as arms control and defense. At the same time, Russia is emerging as the largest Eurasian state and a military superpower in its own right 15 A basic rule in international relations is that if a nation refuses to get involved it will lose influence. U.S. engagement with Russia and the influence it would bring with it is more important today than ever before. The reason: Althoug h the fate of Russia will be decided by the Russians themselves, the U.S. can help Yeltsin stay on course with his democratic and free market reforms. To do this the Bush Administration should 4 4 Invite Yeltsin to make his first official state visit to th e U.S.
Yeltsin has visited the United States twice. On his first trip to the U.S. in Sep tember 1989, he came as a private citizen because he did not have an official in vitation from the U.S. government. This was in spite of the fact that Yeltsin was a re cognized leader of the democratic opposition to Gorbachev and one of the Co Chairmen of the Inter-Regional Group in the Congress of People Deputies of the U.S.S.R., the principal democratic organization in the Soviet Union at the time.
Reportedly afraid to offend Gorbachev, the White House snubbed Yeltsin and rejected his request for an official meeting with Bush. Instead Bush dropped by the office of National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft for a few minutes to greet Yeltsin.
Even when Yeltsin became th e first popularly elected chief executive in Rus sian history on June 13,1991, the White House again refused to extend an invita tion for a state visit. Instead, the Russian President arrived on June 18 at the in vitation of Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and the Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole. Although this time Yeltsin was received by Bush in the White House, this did not make up for the absence of an official invitation from the President.
Such an invitation is long overdue. A state visit by Yeltsin would signal the Bush Administrations acceptance of an independent democratic Russia and its leader. A White House invitation now would be especially helpful as Yeltsin prepares to press forward with difficult economic reforms. A state visit woul d offer a public and official endorsement of the Russian economic and political revolution unleashed by Yeltsin. Given the immense moral authority of the U.S in the eyes of millions of Russians, an official state visit would go a long way toward popular ac ceptance of Yeltsins policies 4 4 Urge Congress to invite Yeltsin to address a joint session of Congress.
An invitation to address a joint session of Congress must come from the Speaker of the House of Representatives after a consultation with the Senate a nd the White House. In the last two years, Congress thus has honod three leaders of victorious anti-Communist revolutions: Lech Walesa of Poland on November 15 1989, Vaclav Have1 of Czechoslovakia on February 21,1990, and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua on April 16,19
90. A de-facto leader of the democratic op position to Gorbachev since 1989, Yeltsin played the key role in the defeat of the hardline communist coup of August 19-August 21 and today he is the leader of the democratic revolution that followed. He undoubtedly deserves to address a joint session of Congress. Such an invitation would underscore to Russia and the 16 world that not only the U.S. government but the American people support the revolutionary changes spearheaded by Yeltsin Create a U.S- R ussian Consultative Commission on Arms Control As the heir to all Soviet nuclear weapons and most conventional forces, Russia becomes a party to all arms control agreements between the Soviet Union and the U.S. and its allies. Unless Russia approves, the G orbachev-led Soviet government is in no position to comply with existing agreements or to negotiate any new ones, such as the Defense and Space Talks concerning missile defenses. The Bush Administration should recognize the new reality of Russias paramoun t role in arms control and create a U.S.-Russian Consultative Commission on Arms Con trol. This would serve as a forum in which the Russian leadership could be briefed on the status of the existing arms control agreements and compliance is sues. It could a lso be used to explore new U.S.-Russian arms control initiatives.
To prepare for the first session of the Commission, U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Robert Strauss should begin consultations with top Russian national security policy makers. They inclu de: Deputy Prime Minister and State Secretary Gennady Burbulis who oversees the Russian Foreign Ministry, Armed Forces and the KGB; Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev; State Counsellor for Defense General Konstantin Kobets; Chairman of the Russian Re p ublic Defense Committee General Pave1 Grachev; Deputy Chairman of Russian Republic Defense Committee Vitaly Shlykov; Chairman of the Committee on International Relations of the Russian Supreme Soviet Vladimir Lukin; and Chairman of the Committee on Defens e and Security of the Russia Super Soviet Sergei Stepashin Open direct negotiations with Russia on economic, trade, and cultural cooperation.
As the central government of the U.S.S.R. looses political and economic power to the newly -independent republics, the control of the center over Soviet foreign policy is bound to diminish. Reflecting this process, former Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Pankin stated on November 15 that the republics, and not his Ministry, should be handling the i r own economic, cultural, scientific and humanitarian relations with the outside world.18 Although Pankin was replaced on November 19 by Eduard Shevardnadze, who resigned as Foreign Minister in December 1990, it is doubtful that Shevardnadze will be willi ng, or able, to change this aspect of his predecessors policy.
The Bush Administration should respond to the logic of events in the former Soviet Union by gradually shifting the entire range of negotiations on non military matters-to the republics. The nee d to do this was underscored by the Bush Administrations November 18 decision to channel most of the $1.5 billion in economic assistance directly to the republics. While the Administration should 18 The New YorkTims, November 16,1991. begin direct negotia t ions on economic, trade and cultural cooperation with all of the former Soviet republics, Russia, which is the largest and most populous of the republics, is the logical place to start Establish a U.S. consulate in Moscow accredited to Russia Russia alrea d y has ma& the first step toward achieving diplomatic repre sentation in the U.S. On November 20, the Russian government announced that Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Kolosovsky would represent Russia in Washington. He will serve as Minister-Counselor in t he Soviet Embassy in Washington, which is the second highest ranking position in the Embassy.
Until now, whenever American officials wished to consult with the Russian leadership, it was done by diplomats in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. The prob lem is that the U.S. Embassy there is accredited to the Soviet Union, not Russia.
For that reason it soon may become obsolete as a channel for direct US.-Russian consultations and negotiations diplomatic contacts and to signal the recognition of Russias growing dipl omatic independence, the U.S. should open in Moscow a consulate accredited to Russia.
In addition to facilitating direct negotiations and consultations with Russia, this would be a first step toward establishing a full-scale diplomatic representation in R ussia in the form of an embassy To accommodate the rapidly increasing volume of direct U.S.-Russian CONCLUSION Russia stands at an historical crossroad. As Yeltsin said on October 28 Today we need to make a decisive choice Your President has ma& such a ch o ice. This is the most important decision of my life. I have never looked for easy mads but I can see quite clearly that the next months will be the most difficult in my life. If I have your support and trust, I am prepared to travel this road with you to the very end.
If Yeltsin succeeds, and if he lives up to the standard of heroism and steadfast ness set during the August 19-21 resistance to the communist coup, he may enter history as the founding father of Russian democracy. But he will need all the hel p he can get to achieve that goal. Provided the Russian President does not waiver from the course he outlined on October 28, the U.S. should try to help him along the difficult path to a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Russia.
Chance for Free Market a nd Democracy. To encourage the growth of free market, and democratic institutions in Russia, the Bush Administration should in vite Yeltsin to make an official state visit to the U.S., arranging as well for an ad dress to a joint session of Congress. The U .S. also should not only open direct negotiations with Russia on economic trade and cultural cooperation, but estab lish a special arms control commission where American and Russian negotiators 18 can discuss disarmament. Finally, to signal the growing re cognition of Russias new power, the U.S. should open in Moscow a consulate accredited to Russia sia soon. The U.S. should do what it can to ensure that this opportunity is not missed.
Leon Aron, Ph.D This may be the only chance for free markets and democracy to emerge in Rus Salvatori Senior Policy Analyst in Soviet Studies 19