January 27, 2000
RUSSIA: DUMA PACT, 'NUCLEAR DOCTRINE' PROMPT NEW QUESTIONS ON 'ENIGMATIC PUTIN'
As Russian Acting President Putin's first month in office nears an end, foreign commentators appeared no closer to answering the questions, "Who is Putin?" and, related to that, "Whither Russia?" under his reign. "Almost a month after his accession, Vladimir Putin remains a puzzle," said a leading Italian paper. Media efforts to decipher "Moscow's new strongman" took on new urgency as a result of two recent developments: Russia's unveiling of a "revamped national security concept" that inveighs against an expansionist West and lowers the threshold for nuclear weapons use, and the "curious alliance" struck by "the Communists and the Kremlin" to control the new Duma. Taken together, they provoked anxiety in several quarters, as writers worried that Vladimir Putin's stress on "the need to create a strong, centralized state which...stands up for its national interests against the West" may lead to a Russia unwilling to divest itself of its communist past, more "aggressively nationalistic," and increasingly intent on "closing its door to the West." At the same time, a significant number of editorialists continued to maintain a wait-and-see attitude about Russia's future and its relations vis-a-vis the West, holding that Mr. Putin's "long-term plans...for the country he aspires to rule may only start emerging after" the March presidential elections. London's conservative Times, for example, argued, "Some have cast him as an authoritarian child of the KGB--an enemy of press freedom at best and a nuclear saber-rattler at worst. He will probably prove far less alarming, but the truth is nobody knows." Moscow pundits took note of "Western media...forecasts" about the Kremlin leader, leaving Moscow's reformist Izvestiyato conclude, "Remarkably the Albrights, Talbotts and others speak a lot about Russia's reform, choice of strategy and new national security concept. We don't." Highlights follow:
PUTIN'S UNEXPECTED ALLIANCE WITH COMMUNISTS: The Duma power-sharing deal between the Kremlin-backed Unity Party and the Communists was judged by the majority of analysts in Moscow and elsewhere to be a "pragmatic" maneuver orchestrated by Mr. Putin to consolidate power, and that his methods, while "rough and cynical," do not reflect any ideological affinity for the Communists or a bent toward "dictatorship or Bolshevism." Said a Moscow paper, "It is a cynical and calculated move to shunt political rivals"--especially former Premier and Fatherland-All Russia head Primakov--"from decision-making." Others observed that by forging the alliance, candidate Putin has "silenced the Communists, and, at the same time, created a situation in which they will be the only ones able to compete with him."
RUSSIA'S 'NEW NUCLEAR DOCTRINE': Opinion was sharply divided on whether the Kremlin's issuance of a new national security strategy is cause for alarm. One segment of the media proclaimed that the document's language is "redolent of the past" and signals a shift back to "the thinking patterns of the Cold War." Moscow's nationalist, opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya saw "the revised role" for nuclear weapons as a "concern," arguing that "even in the coldest of Cold War days, the Soviet Union regarded nuclear weapons as a deterrent." Others shrugged off such worries, noting that it is "little more than chest-thumping to remind the world that Russia, though diminished, is still a great country." In this vein, a London paper cautioned against being "too alarmist," holding, "This doctrine is not a radical break with the past, just part of a slow cooldown since Russia's pro-Western honeymoon of the early 1990s."
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 61 reports from 25 countries, January 15-27. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "The New Duma"
St. Petersburg's liberal weekly Delo (1/27) published a long analysis of the Duma speaker selection and the ensuing Duma crisis: "It is easy to understand from a human standpoint the response of the 'Union of Right Forces'.... But what is the point of turning a disagreement about tactics into a scandal if you agree on strategy?... This business has very little to do with the issue of liberal reforms to which [the SPS] have made a commitment. The bells should be tolled if Putin starts to play games in support of reinforcing state regulation."
"President Putin Will Be Different Than Candidate Putin"
Liberal weekly Delo (1/27) offered its assessment of St. Petersburg's "favorite son," Vladimir Putin: "In the period of Putin's premiership (and now as acting president) Russians of an analytical bent have had a hard time forming a clear picture (of him).... The importance of ratings should not be overestimated.... Things are not that straightforward. The mood of the 'intelligent' part of population has started to change--and not in Putin's favor.... Today's Putin is as much a creation of our own chaotic present as his KGB past.... As soon as Putin gets out from under the influence of external challenges (elections) there will be a turn in his policy."
"Communists, Unity See Eye To Eye"
Neo-communist Slovo (1/26-27) front-paged this editorial: "The ideological kinship among the former members of the Soviet Communist Party and government bureaucracies, who make up the backbone of the Communist and Unity factions in the current Duma, is very much in evidence. Forming a strong 'party of power' that would include Communist partocrats, in the Kremlin's view, would help solve many problems. By dividing and neutralizing the opposition, the Kremlin could avoid the redistribution of property and ensure stability in post-Yeltsin Russia. Waxing 'pink' would make the administration more appealing to the bulk of the population which is nostalgic for the communist past. By the way, that does not scare the West, as long as it does not upset stability and peace in Russia."
"Putin: Former KGB Agent. What Else?"
Yevgeny Antonov stated on page one of reformist Vremya MN (1/24): "A former KGB agent is the only characteristic that goes along with the name of Vladimir Putin in the Western media. Until the acting president declares his program and acts on it, this is how it is going to be, with the outside world continuing to refer to his past to make forecasts and describe its attitude toward him."
Georgy Bovt of reformist Izvestiya (1/24): "Strobe Talbott does not know where Vladimir Putin's Russia will go.... Madeleine Albright recently discerned in Putin a reformer and guarantor of foreign investment in Russia.... Talbott, speaking at Oxford, Britain, last Friday, sounded far more pessimistic. He was a good deal more skeptical than at Stanford in 1997, when he said that Russia was about to make a breakthrough, and in 1998, when he called for patience, with the breakthrough still not coming. Remarkably, the Albrights, Talbotts and others speak a lot about Russia's reform, choice of strategy and new national security concept. We don't, and that includes our Acting President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. People are waiting."
Editor-in-Chief Vitaly Tretyakov of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1/22) wrote caustically on page one: "One should distinguish the rights of a sexual minority from that of a parliamentary minority. In parliament, a minority has only three rights: speak as it wishes, vote as it wishes, and become a majority in the next election, if it can. The megalomania of the Union of Right Forces, Yabloko and Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya shows in that they consider themselves the winners of the last general election and, for that reason, claim the speaker's position and nearly all key posts in the Duma. Hey you, rightists! You'll be just political criminals or zilches, not pros, unless you get back to the Duma by Monday with something constructive."
"Government Rough, Cynical"
Leonid Radzikhovsky commented in reformist Segodnya (1/21) in the wake of the latest row in the Duma: "Our government is rough and its methods cynical. That is the only certain thing about it. It dumps its political rivals rather than terrorists and relies on the openly venal media. Most of the people on its roster are ex-KGB and police officers or chance politicians of the kind of which there are many among Bear (Yedinstvo) members. Its leader is an absolutely inscrutable type who wouldn't have climbed so high and so quickly but for Yeltsin's whim."
"U.S. Reacts Calmly To Russia's New Security Concept"
Ilya Bulavinov said in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (1/21): "Washington's reaction to Russia's new national security concept was very calm and restrained. If anybody knows, Washington does, that the Russians forget about such concepts the next day after they sign them. Its reaction might have been rougher, though: Unlike the old concept, which said that the chief threats to Russia's national security were in non-military areas, the new one focuses on the military sphere, mentioning the United States in a quite uncomplimentary manner. But the U.S. State Department knows better than to take such documents very seriously.... Russia's new concept names neither its enemies and friends nor the geographic area of its interests. In short, it contains nothing specific. It couldn't have been otherwise. In Russia, it is the president, prime minister and deputies who make real policies. Concepts and doctrines don't."
Ivan Aleksandrov of official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (1/20) commented on a row in the Duma: "If the Kremlin and the acting president really encouraged an alliance between Yedinstvo and the Communists in the Duma and suggested Gennady Seleznev as a joint candidate for speaker, they made a strong move. Putin does not want to depend on parties. He wants to be free. Also, he wants to consolidate this troubled nation."
"Putin Is No Communist"
Sergei Chugayev argued in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (1/20): "Putin is certainly not a Communist. He just wants to come to power and keep it. He will use any method as long as it is effective. He has no use for the rightists who are divided and weakened. They are not a force to be reckoned with. For the rightists, this is a lesson and a chance at the same time. Snubbed, they have either to learn to live with that or rally. A right-wing bloc, as well as being committed to the electorate, would objectively be in the Kremlin's interest, too. It could be useful in helping to keep the Communists on a short leash."
Reformist Noviye Izvestiya (1/20) front-paged this comment by Igor Vandenko: "As predicted, pragmatism has prevailed. The liberals weren't meant to be hurt--they just happened to be there. The situation changes fast and so will the configuration of the majority in the Duma. The first test will come with voting on laws and political statements."
"Cynical, Calculated Move"
Svetlana Babayev and Georgy Bovt said on page one of reformist Izvestiya (1/20): "It is a cynical and calculated move to shunt political rivals from decision-making. It is easier to work this way.... This is no dictatorship or Bolshevism. Times change. Now is the time of cool-minded people.... This is politics. Even worse, it is democracy, in its pragmatic, even cynical form, if peculiar in the Russian sort of way. Democracy, alas, provides for compromises which do not exactly fit into everyday morality. It provides also for secret deals behind the screen of highfalutin words about welfare. Democracy is not always compatible with altruism. This is how it works everywhere else in the world--the winner gets it all. It may sound distasteful but it is more democratic than the Communist 'you have to share.' The former is more effective from the standpoint of management."
"It's Hardly An Asset"
Maksim Yusin judged on page one of reformist Izvestiya (1/20): "The new majority in the Duma will hardly enhance Russia's prestige abroad. With whom will foreign MPs hold a dialogue when the Duma is dominated by the Communists, Zhirinovsky's fans and mysterious novices like Lyubov Sliska? The new Duma elite clearly lacks professionals, which is bound to show. The new alignment of forces in the lower house of parliament will hardly contribute to normalizing relations with the United States."
"Kremlin Has To Pay A Price"
Denis Babichenko and Yevgeny Yuryev noted on page one of reformist Segodnya (1/20): "Members of the (presidential) administration admit that in spite of its formal victory in the battle of the Duma, the Kremlin has suffered, too. 'The price we've paid to stop an alliance between Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya and the Communists is too high.' With portfolios divided, the Duma must get down to its main job, law-making. As it does, the Communists and Yedinstvo will no longer be able to ignore the 'minorities.' Their ideological differences are so big, they can't hope to continue in the same vein. To keep things going, they will have to seek support from the hurt 'minorities.' The latter, rallied to Primakov, may give the 'majority' a hard time."
"The Kremlin Did That"
Svetlana Lolayeva remarked on page one of reformist Vremya MN (1/20), referring to the coalition of the Union of Right Forces, Yabloko and Otechestvo-Vsya Rossiya in the Duma: "Though unwanted, it is of the Kremlin's own doing. Those parties would never have come together, unless humiliated. But they can't really form a family, each eager for leadership. So a divorce is all but unavoidable."
"Time To Change Tactics"
Under this headline, centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1/20) published an article by Nikita Molchanov on page one: "Only the Chechens and their volunteer 'associates' can do away with terrorism. It is impossible that there should not be many people in Chechnya who would not want to fight against banditry and loot in their own land. It is impossible that there should not be many Chechens who would not be able to do away with Hattabs and Basayevs on their own."
"Communists Make No Mistakes"
Duma Deputy Yuri Nikiforenko asserted in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (1/20): "The Communists, with a good analysis of the new balance of forces, made no mistakes as they sought new allies in the Duma. They could not have gained more in hard--and at times dangerous--battles with their confused opponents. The Communist Party has won respect among the working people and made the powers that be reckon with the opposition. The Bear (Yedinstvo) did not follow the tiny parties and groups and their ambitious, hysterical leaders but sat down at the negotiating table instead."
"Cause For Concern"
Vasily Safronchuk pointed out in nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (1/18): "The latest amendments to the national security concept, particularly the revised role of nuclear weapons, cause concern, too. Even in the coldest of Cold War days, the Soviet Union regarded nuclear weapons as a deterrent to keep the enemy from using such weapons."
BRITAIN: Power Divided In Russia's Duma--Improbable Partners"
The independent weekly Economist judged (1/22): "The Communists and the Kremlin have struck up a curious alliance to control Russia's new parliament. It is a rum friendship: After ten years struggling against Boris Yeltsin and his friends, Russia's Communist Party has teamed up with the parties loyal to his anointed heir, Vladimir Putin, the acting president. At the first session this week of the newly elected Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, the two groups divided up the best jobs between themselves. The bitterly contested deal dents Mr Putin's cross-party appeal, but on balance it may improve his chances of securing his grip on the presidency in the election on March 26th. The Communists in the Duma did best. Their man, Gennady Seleznyev, the speaker in the previous Duma, keeps his post.... But pause before you cheer. Most of the rest of the Duma is furious.... The main opposition parties, Yabloko, the free-marketeers of the Union of Right-Wing Forces and the centrists of Fatherland-All Russia, have said that their deputies will boycott all further business, and are supported by some members of the more-or-less-neutral Russia's Regions group.... Whether the deal lasts is another story. It certainly makes Mr Putin's call for a new consensus in Duma politics, made just hours before the agreement, sound hollow.... And it keeps the colorless Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, as an ideal opponent for the presidential election: strong enough to get through the first round, but weak enough, even if the war in Chechnya goes wrong, to be beaten in the run-off."
The conservative Times opined (1/19): "Little is so far known about Russia's new acting president, Vladimir Putin, but the message he has been transmitting in recent days is clear enough. Russians of all persuasions are being invited to put aside the differences that have long divided them, swallow old discontents, and unite behind Mr. Putin. The idea that by doing so they can help create a stronger, more centralized state is proving popular with an electorate embarrassed by a decade of confused searching for a post-communist way ahead, and increasingly resentful of weakness at the top.... Yet the harsh tone of the specific ideas which Mr. Putin is advancing--and which Russians are turning to with visible relief--offer a cheerless first glimpse of the direction in which Russia may be moving.... Russia's new military doctrine, unveiled on Friday, is harsher in its outlook toward the West than its 1997 predecessor. It lowers the threshold for using nuclear weapons to counter what it presents as a growing threat from abroad; it accuses the United States of attempting to weaken Russia. It would be wrong to be too alarmist: This doctrine is not a radical break with the past, just part of a slow cooldown since Russia's pro-Western honeymoon in the early 1990s.
"With Russia's conventional armed forces in chaos, moreover, Mr. Putin has few other options for projecting strength than to talk up nuclear power. Nevertheless, his language grates.... Whether he can project himself as a strongman until the vote on March 26 without being undermined by reality--either in the shape of a worsening economy or of military reverses in Chechnya--is one of the multiple uncertainties of post-Soviet Russia. What his long-term plans are for the country he aspires to rule may only start emerging after March 27."
"The New Nationalism"
The liberal Guardian had this lead editorial (1/18): "Despite the appearance for the first time in Russian newspapers of criticism of the conduct of the war in Chechnya, Vladimir Putin continues to enjoy overwhelming public support for his ruthless line there. There are signs that Russians are also warming to his central campaign theme. This is the need to recreate a strong, centralized state which looks after its people at home and stands up for national interests against the West; which will crack down ruthlessly on terrorism, crime and corruption; and which will bring back Russia's sense of pride.... Perhaps more worrying even than the prospective absence of a genuine electoral contest is Mr. Putin's revamped 'national security concept,' unveiled last week. This appears to broaden the circumstances in which Russia might resort to nuclear weapons; it rejects the idea of a strategic partnership with the United States; and it takes a geopolitical world view which postulates growing tension between a hegemonistic America and its European allies and Russia, China, India and other emerging nations. This paranoid document detects a conspiracy to weaken Russia. We hope this, too, is merely electioneering. For if it reflects Mr. Putin's true opinions, there is trouble ahead."
The independent Financial Times opined (1/18): "It is perhaps not very surprising that the new national security doctrine published by Russia's powerful Security Council last week has inspired some alarmist headlines in the West. By spelling out a more permissive nuclear doctrine, allowing nuclear weapons to be used to repel armed aggression 'if everything else fails,' Russia seems to be adopting a more hostile attitude to the outside world. The doctrine refers frequently to growing threats in the military sphere, and singles out NATO enlargement as one example. It accuses 'a number of states' of trying to weaken and marginalize Russia. The rhetoric is redolent of the past. Yet it would be wrong to exaggerate the significance of the document, or its timing.... This is thinking strongly influenced by the Russian military, to whom Mr. Putin is currently beholden. He needs the generals to deliver victory in Chechnya, if he is to be elected president in March. He will not do anything to offend them. But he has yet to reveal very much of his own thinking. The chances are that he will try not to do that until after he has been safely elected."
"Putin: What Should We Know About Him?"
The conservative Times asked (1/19): "What gave this man his rocket fuel, and where will it take him and Russia? These are key questions for an entire cadre of diplomats and pundits who had barely heard of Putin four months ago but who now see his well-oiled campaign rolling towards near-certain election victory in March. Then the Chechen campaign, however bloody, will fade on Moscow's political radar and Putin will have to show whether he can keep Russia democratic while harnessing the nationalism the war has fanned.... Putin has never run for elective office, but he has a sure and ruthless politician's touch. Some have cast him as an authoritarian child of the KGB--an enemy of press freedom at best and a nuclear saber-rattler at worst. He will probably prove far less alarming, but the truth is nobody knows."
FRANCE: "Nostalgia Over A Lost Past"
Piotr Smolar observed in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/27): "For the past six months, reactions to a feeling of general defeat have been showing up (in Russia). This corresponds with Putin's arrival on the political scene and the start of the second war against Chechnya.... Putin has designated himself the savior of national unity and defender of the nation's fundamental interests.... In short, Russia will no longer allow itself to be attacked.... By heavily insisting on the importance of nuclear arms in its defense strategy, Russia is reminding everyone that on that particular issue it can deal on an equal footing with the United States.... At the same time, it implicitly acknowledges the poor condition of its conventional weapons."
"Speaking Frankly To Vladimir Putin"
Left-of-center Le Monde asked in its editorial (1/24), "Who is Putin? This is the question several foreign affairs ministers will try to answer as they visit Moscow's new strong man. Their curiosity is understandable. While Russia is no longer the major power, relations with Moscow are essential for international stability.... Will a few hours of meetings be enough for the Western representatives to learn about Putin and his intentions? The exercise is useful but insufficient. It certainly does not justify keeping quiet about Chechnya. According to Paris, France would have liked to be firm with Russia but claims to have been stopped by the United States. Paris often speaks up on certain issues it disagrees on. Why doesn't it do so about Chechnya? Reminding Russia that its membership in the Council of Europe is a commitment to human rights would not mean humiliating Russia."
"Putin Makes His First Mistake"
Laure Mandeville judged in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/20): "Putin has 'his' Duma. But has he won? The agreement sealed...is so undemocratic, that it provoked a parliamentary uprising.... The leaders of the new protest movement are former high-ranking politicians who were previously at war with each other.... Some consider this new emerging opposition movement as dangerous for Putin."
GERMANY: "What Is Russia Intending?"
Michael Stuermer opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/25): "A week ago, Putin's Duma delegates cooperated with...Zyuganov's Communists and sorted out who should be the next parliamentary president.... This could not have been orchestrated without Putin's knowledge and support.... These are bad signs for the future. Putin wants to get the presidential office with its abundance of power. First of all, he founded a party, and later got the money for it. Now he has found an agreement with the Communists. He has the support of the powerful ministries, the war in the Caucasus is part of the election campaign. The result will be more terrorism which will stir up Russian nationalism. And in the Duma, Putin removed democratic rules. These authoritarian scenarios reach far into the future."
"Sensible But Not Farsighted"
Werner Adam opined in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (1/20): "Instead of showing consideration for the end to the Communist dominance in the Duma, Putin has now forced the election of...Seleznyov as new parliamentary president. As far as a policy of power is concerned, this makes sense for Yeltsin's successor, since he is facing elections in a few weeks and the Communists will then hardly oppose him, despite having their own presidential candidate. But Putin is now putting off those parties that want to shake off Russia's Soviet past, and this does not signal farsightedness. It must also be worrying for his compatriots that the Communists owe their unexpected success in the Duma to the 'Unity' Party, the party which is the work of the billionaire, financial oligarch, and political wirepuller Boris Berezovsky."
"Putin Is Damaging Himself"
Mathias Brueggmann filed the following editorial for business Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (1/20): "Boris Yeltsin has hardly left the political stage thinking that the Communists could never return to power in Moscow, when the Kremlin is making [them] fashionable again.... But even in Russia things are never as bad as they look. Putin's arrangement hardly means that he will join forces again with the Communists. It is, rather, evidence of the fact that the Kremlin is willing to join forces with everybody as soon as power is involved. This will be detrimental to Putin since it opens the eyes of democratically thinking Russians about the cynical power policy character of the candidate for...the Kremlin. And it increases the pressure to form a uniform democratic opposition."
Left-of-center weekly Die Zeit judged (1/20): "The wording of the new Russian military doctrine may look more dramatic than the Soviet renunciation of a nuclear first strike...but the new Russian version is no more belligerent than NATO's doctrine of 'flexible response.' First, this is why we can state convergence. Second, the nuclear warning reveals the inability to defend oneself with conventional weapons. And we could have read this in the military doctrine of 1999, in the armed forces structure plan of 1998, and the security concept of 1997. This nuclear grumbling has a therapeutic effect for Russian politicians and generals. As long as they only talk about it, the West can sleep quietly."
"Putin Doctrine Stresses Nuclear Deterrence"
Frank Herold held in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (1/19): "In addition to the changes in the Kremlin, one of the first decisions which the new Acting President Vladimir Putin made was the adoption of a new security doctrine.... The year 2000 version only resembles its preceding versions in structure and in some phrases.... The first main phrase of the Putin doctrine is that, if Russia no longer knows what to do in a crisis situation, a nuclear first strike can no longer be ruled out.... The tougher language of this passage...is a reaction to the fact that Washington acted for years without acknowledging Russia's strategic interests in the Middle and Near East, in the Balkans, and also in the eastern part of Central Europe. In view of the open weakness of its armed forces in Chechnya, Moscow considers the reference to nuclear weapons as the only possibility to remind [the world] of its role as superpower.... This new military doctrine must be taken seriously, since it is based on a rational calculation.... During the Cold War, the United States was never willing to give up a first-strike option. Nuclear deterrence was supposed to compensate for the conventional superiority of the Warsaw Pact forces. The new Russian strategy is the exact reversal of this basis: Moscow threatens to use nuclear weapons because it is unable to balance the enormous superiority of the conventional forces of NATO that only recently expanded.... Back to the thinking patterns of the Cold War."
ITALY: "Putin Remains A Puzzle"
Antonella Scott opined in leading, business Il Sole-24 Ore (1/26): "Almost a month after his accession to the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin remains a puzzle.... 'We're doing our best', the CIA admits. What will Putin be like? Will he be the man who, with an iron fist, will be able to construct an economic miracle...or will he be just another authoritarian leader, and nothing more?... His debut in parliament, side by side with the Communists, is not encouraging.... On the economic side, there are no clear programs. But the framework in which Putin intends to manage the economy is one of a 'moderately free-market policy.'... As to the fight against corruption...Putin...is ambiguous."
"Putin The Communist"
Moscow correspondent Giulietto Chiesa's analysis in centrist, influential La Stampa (1/24): "Putin is showing his ability and unscrupulousness in his political maneuvers. His 'conquest of the Duma'--achieved through a secret agreement with the Communists--has caught everybody by surprise, both in Russia and abroad.... In this way, the Kremlin and the Duma will be able to proceed together, under the national-patriotic flags, toward the conquest of Chechnya and toward a formally harsher foreign policy regarding the West.... As a final result, Putin will have succeeded in silencing the Communists and, at the same time, in creating a situation in which they will be the only ones able to compete with him. At that point, he will launch the decisive cry of alarm--the same one that enabled Boris Yeltsin to win the 1996 presidential elections: either with me or with the Communists. Who will ever remain indifferent to such a cry? Certainly not Bill Clinton, who wants to end his mandate with the softest possible landing. After all, Washington has already let it be known that, whatever the outcome of the Chechen war, it will be considered acceptable--as long as Putin does not exaggerate and does not insist too much on the issue of the defense of Russian national interests."
"Vladimir Putin's Star And Moscow's 'Old Foxes'"
Sandro Viola had this analysis in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/23): "Vladimir Putin's past continues to be obscure...Yet over the last few days, the acting president...has begun a series of meetings with foreign leaders.... And even if these meetings are not enough to dispel all the mysteries surrounding Putin's personality, Western leaders are already drawing some useful indications from them.... The initial idea that they have formed about Putin can be termed reassuring.... (Notwithstanding) some anti-Western feelings in the country recently...the most important element, in fact, is that the Putin government and the two parties supporting it in parliament come from Yeltsin's area, i.e., they intend to maintain themselves as close as possible to the West.... In sum, at the present time, there does not seem to be a single reason to consider Putin an uncomfortable, or even quarrelsome, interlocutor for the West. There is the war in Chechnya, of course, but Western leaders know that there is very little they can do about that apart from a few vague appeals.... Russia appears less chaotic and shaky than it was during the last phase of the Yeltsin presidency.... And fears for an authoritarian slip by the Moscow government do not seem to be justified at this point."
"An Alternative To U.S. Hegemony"
Maurizio Ricci noted from Moscow in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/18): "The Western world can look at the Russian adventure in Chechnya very severely, but Moscow does not seem ready to be impressed by any rebukes...as Foreign Minister Ivanov let us understand at the end of a meeting with a delegation from the Council of Europe. Such an open sign of unhappiness...is a symptom of the new climate in Moscow and the new image of strength and authority that Putin's Russia wants to project.... In rapid sequence, Italian Foreign Minister Dini, then the German foreign minister, then the UN secretary-general and Secretary of State Albright will all land in Moscow.... The spate of talks in the coming days will help the guests not only to talk about Chechnya, but also to sound out the new Russian leadership's inspirations and plans. By signing a foreign policy document, already renamed the 'Putin doctrine,' Yeltsin's successor has placed the nuclear trump card back on the table.... Indeed, this is an indirect way of reminding everyone that Russia is the other nuclear power which counts on the international policy table. An alternative power to U.S. hegemony."
"Russia: The Risks Of The New Nuclear Doctrine"
Aldo Rizzo's commentary in centrist, influential La Stampa held (1/17): "The 'new nuclear doctrine'...means that Russia, in case of a crisis threatening its own survival as a sovereign state, might use nuclear weapons first....
"These great strategic moves are made for political reasons. If the United States wants to reaffirm its role of supreme grantor...Russia wants to regain its status as a power, put under test by the second Chechen war and by domestic difficulties. But the Russian case is also mixed with a nationalistic backlash. "
"Relying On The Nuclear Deterrent"
Fabrizio Dragosei filed from Moscow in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/15): "Impoverished and without tens of armored divisions ready to intervene in case of need, Russia is more and more ready to rely on the nuclear deterrent. Up until the day before yesterday, the atomic weapon was envisaged only in case of (a nuclear) attack...but now, according to a document signed by Putin, Russia will reply with atomic bombs to any form of attack.... The publication of the new doctrine arrives at a moment when military forces and the government are especially nervous about what is happening in Chechnya. Operations in the field are not going very well."
AUSTRIA: "Putin's New National Security Concept"
Foreign Editor Burkhard Bischof of conservative Die Presse (1/25) analyzed the document that outlines the new security document: "The damaged self-confidence of the former superpower and a feeling of inferiority vis-à-vis the United States are shining through. In the eyes of the Russian elite, Washington's foreign policy smacks of conspiracy again.... Moscow apparently wants to considerably strengthen its relationship with the former Soviet republics. It remains to be seen whether this means that they intend to regain control over their 'close neighbors.' In any case, they intend to counter the growing U.S. influence in Trans-Caucasus and Central Asia, but also in the Middle East as well as in the Asian-Pacific region, in a more offensive way."
BELGIUM: "Sped-Up Normalization Of Russian-Western Relations"
Noting the upcoming series of visits by Western leaders to Moscow, Pierre Lefevre observed in independent Le Soir (1/22): "Vladimir Putin has become someone one is willing to be associated with.... The West is hurrying up to redefine its relations with Russia, which have been damaged by the Kosovo and Chechnya wars. Of course, the West is still mistrustful of Vladimir Putin who, so far, has not displayed the qualities of a great democrat. But, because of political realism and convinced that he is now unavoidable, Western chanceries are in a hurry to get acquainted with the new Russian leader, to create new ties, and, from time to time, to exert discreet leverage. In spite of his very controversial offensive in Chechnya, the West--and the Americans in particular--have treated Mr. Putin tactfully.... Of course, they asked for a political solution in the Caucasus, but without ever contemplating any sanctions.... Without admitting it, many are not unhappy that a relatively strong and determined man will tidy up the political and economic mess in which Yeltsin left Russia.... The West would like to know very soon how the Kremlin plans to come out of the war in Chechnya, but also how the new Russian government will behave in the field of economic and political reforms, its relations with NATO and the WTO, disarmament, and complicity with countries which are hostile to the West. Mr. Putin has so far shown a relatively tough profile vis-à-vis the West, but without ever displaying genuine hostility. In the new Russian military doctrine which he just approved, the idea of a partnership with NATO has disappeared. In Russia, the government henceforth intends to be cautious and severe with the West.... Both sides will probably be more realistic. But for some time now, Mr. Putin has multiplied declarations indicating that he will abide by democratic principles. He knows that he cannot do without the economic and financial support of the rich countries. Each side is thus hurrying up to get back to normal relations."
BULGARIA: "Putin Did Communists A Favor"
Influential weekly Kapital maintained (1/ 22-28): "It's not the first time the Kremlin has cooperated with the Communists... It would be stupid for the Communists to be ostracized...but if the people at the Kremlin think that pragmatism of this sort will bring about democracy and prosperity to Russia they are gravely mistaken. And the people who thought that Putin is the long-awaited messiah should think again."
"Putin Plays A Rational Game"
Largest circulation Trud commented (1/20): "The Kremlin movement 'Unity' closed its first apparent deal with the Communists by electing Genady Seleznyov chairman of the new Duma.... What can Putin gain from this cooperation with the Communists? The short answer is: more votes in the upcoming presidential elections.... Also, by doing this Putin will disconcert the 'red attack' during the presidential campaign.... The loser in this game is...Yevgeny Primakov. He lost his chances for winning the presidential race as well as the race for the chair of the Duma."
DENMARK: "Russia's Distancing Act"
Center-right Berlingske Tidende asserted (1/19): "There is nothing wrong with the fact that Russia is attempting to...increase its influence in the international arena. But it appears to be in the process of...distancing itself from the West. As the result of this, Russia is seeking Chinese, Iranian, Iraqi, Serbian and Belarus allies. This will do nothing to increase Russia's international standing. The world needs Russia to be a constructive partner. But this requires that the Kremlin stop portraying the West as the enemy and start working towards promoting international peace and stability."
FINLAND: "Russia Seeking New Great Power Status"
Leading, independent Helsingin Sanomat opined (1/23): "The significance of the change should not be overestimated. Already during the Soviet era, the country's denunciation of the first-use option was more propaganda and less a serious commitment. For Moscow today, the nuclear deterrent is the last symbol of the otherwise deteriorated great power position. The army is in poor shape, which is clearly manifested by the drawn-out war in Chechnya. Stressing nuclear weapons is therefore justified both in terms on domestic and defense policies. When reading the document, one should keep in mind that it was signed by Acting President Putin, who seeks to establish his position as the leader of Russia in the March election. Therefore, the general tone of the text is strongly nationalist and simultaneously cautious. Putin demands that Russia be treated in accordance with its historical status. At the same time he is careful not to burn all bridges in relations with the West."
Independent, regional Savon Sanomat asked (1/21): "What does Russia's changed nuclear doctrine mean?... Most analysts say that...the change does not mean much. This is, for example, the official position of the United States.... Does the security policy change tell something about Putin's policies? Individual deeds and decisions should not be used to draw far-reaching conclusions. Instead, the change of doctrine should be seen in a wider context. The Chechnya war provides one backdrop for the doctrinal change.... What does Putin's surprising turn in the Duma mean? It is difficult to say if the alliance of Putin with the Communists is just a ruthless power policy operation, or if he is seeking longer-term cooperation. If the latter is true Russia is taking a big step backwards in its domestic policy; simultaneously, it is taking a big step away from the rest of Europe."
HUNGARY: "Big Russian Cheat"
Laszlo Daroczi wrote this opinion piece in conservative Napi Magyarorszag (1/20): "The marriage of the Kremlin and the Communists can, no doubt, be explained from the dirty politics point of view. Putin and his team are right to expect that Zyuganov and his Communists are not going to hinder the Putin cabinet in its endeavors. And it appears to be more important that the Communists will hardly act together with the Luzkov-Primakov team, a factor that might be of paramount importance as the March elections draw near."
THE NETHERLANDS: "Russia Increasingly Closing Door To West"
Influential, independent NRC Handelsblad judged (1/24): "Russia will increasingly close the door to the West. In the new geopolitical strategy, that theory is already accepted. The nuclear threshold, according to this concept, will be lowered, and every ambition of former Soviet republics to join the EU, for example, can count on a veto.... Even...Strobe Talbott, until recently always full of understanding for the Russian dilemmas, has no other answer than 'dialogue.'"
PORTUGAL: "The End Of The Post-Cold War"
Political analyst Vasco Rato held in rightist weekly O Independente (1/21): "The new security doctrine...constitutes a political and strategic about-face of the greatest importance.... [Putin] wanted to send a series of signals to the outside world. First signal: the affirmation of the primacy of national security over economic interests. For the United States and the EU, this change...invalidates the presuppositions of their foreign policy toward Russia.... Second signal: if the 'first use' of nuclear arms is improbable, the truth is that it is no longer impossible. As a result of this 'unforeseeability'...future enlargements of NATO or the EU will have a tough time taking place against [the will of] Moscow. Third signal: Putin's just-announced doctrine will condition U.S. policy toward Europe. For Washington, the cost of maintaining its security commitment to Europe has just gone up. Fourth signal: Russia aims to recover its international prestige and status as a great power. And will do so in opposition to the United States and the EU.... Putin has just buried the post-Cold War."
SPAIN: "Enigmatic Putin"
Barcelona's centrist La Vanguardia noted (1/24): "Various American officials have remarked that it was easier to figure out what former Soviet leaders were thinking than to predict which way Putin will jump next. One day, as Yeltsin's successor, he reaffirms his commitment to democracy, and the next, as the former head of the KGB's successor agency, he cuts a deal with the Communists for the distribution of Duma committee chairmanships.... The real Putin will only make himself known once he has won the elections that have been set up for him to succeed Yeltsin."
Yilmaz Oztuna wrote a front-page editorial in conservative/ religious Turkiye (1/19): "Russia does not have a tradition of democracy. But the current global situation is pushing Russia toward becoming a democratic, liberal country, which would be more similar to those within the European integration. Russia must realize that the more it fits these conditions, the better it will survive as a wealthy and prosperous nation. The bloodshed in Chechnya and former Soviet Union-style expansionist policies will do just the opposite."
CHINA: "Cold War Specter Unlikely To Recur"
Tang Jinxiu commented in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 1/26): "Some Western media's view that the U.S.-Russian relationship is moving towards all-round confrontation, or will even retrogress to the Cold War state, is really unconvincing. Today's Russia is not in any way strong enough to rival the United States.... Washington is also unwilling to see a second Cold War because Russia's participation and cooperation is still crucial in coping with some major international issues. If Putin is sworn into the presidency, he might adopt a slightly tougher U.S. policy and disputes might also increase between the two powers. But it is still impossible that their relationship could return to the Cold War state."
"Who Will Lead Russia?"
Xia Yishan, Dong Xiaoyang and Wang Lijiu wrote in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 1/20): "In order to contain American hegemony and power politics, Russia will choose to develop a strategic cooperative partnership with China, an inevitable diplomatic choice of Putin. It is believed that the future development of the Russian-U.S. relationship will not be smooth. Frictions and disputes will coexist with compromise and cooperation in the future U.S.-Russian ties."
JAPAN: "Russia Becomes More Cautious About The West"
An editorial in business-oriented Nihon Keizai judged (1/24): "Russia has adopted a new concept for national security, highlighting a growing sense of wariness toward the United States and Europe and greater possibilities of the use of nuclear arms. The 'security concept,' signed by acting President Putin on January 10...is a significant document for Russia's future national strategy. The new security concept, a revised edition of the old version adopted in 1997, has become noticeably critical of what it calls a Western attempt to dominate the international community, finding fault with NATO's use of force against Yugoslavia.... Russia also reacted strongly to Western criticism of military operations in Chechnya. Noteworthy is the fact that the new Russian security concept is supported not just by Putin alone but a considerable number of Russian parliamentarians. In the United States, presidential candidates also hold 'get tough' views toward Russia." Although new presidents will be elected in Russia...and the United States...it will not be easy to restructure U.S.-Russian relations."
THE PHILIPPINES: "A Result Of Moscow's Being Lectured And Hectored"
Publisher Max Soliven wrote in his column in the third-leading Philippine Star (1/16): "I hope the world, which has been dumping on Russia lately and deploring the war in Chechnya, doesn't miss the significance of what has just happened as a result of their constant scolding. Irritated at being lectured and hectored by the United States and Western Europe (the IMF, World Bank, NATO, creditor nations and creditor banks, human rights advocates, and a critical international media), Moscow has propagated a national security document which declares that Russia is ready to use nuclear weapons when and if it feels its borders and its existence threatened.... This means no more nuclear disarmament..... It means a build-up of the Russian armed forces and a return to the old idea...of Soviet power.... With that nuclear declaration, the Cold War has been resurrected.... The embattled Russian people have served notice they will defend their territory--and...their tattered pride."
SINGAPORE: "Putin's New Russia"
The pro-government Straits Times declared (1/20): "A decade after communism's collapse, Russia's new democrats are rediscovering that the West remains a potent threat to them after all, however well-meaning the post-Cold War détente has been. This terrible truth did not dawn upon them suddenly as a great revelation. Rather, the Russians are becoming wise to the fact they have indeed been outclassed by the Western democracies in virtually every department. In short, they have become more acutely aware of their own failings, and they are desperate for remedies.... All said, Russia is a big power fallen on hard times. No wonder it feels marginalized and belittled.... Mr. Putin has served notice that Russia wants to reassert its national identity and regain its lost status. To some, this is little more than chest-thumping to remind the world that Russia, though diminished, is still a great country with a nuclear arsenal, and that the United States is not the sole superpower. Is this all there is to it?... To be sure, Moscow wants parity with the West. It could become a superpower again, perhaps in 30 years' time. For now, the danger is this: If Russia's new [nuclear] doctrine leads to more East-West tension, higher defense spending and a new arms race, this hardly makes the world safer."
VIETNAM: "Is the West Testing Putin's Mettle?"
Thanh Tam commented in Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon-the mouthpiece of Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Party, 1/25): "To the West, the acting president of Russia seems still a mystery. A series of recent decisions by the Kremlin head have much concerned the West. According to analysts, it is this lack of understanding of the new Russian leader that makes the West 'invent' the [Polish] 'espionage crisis' in order to first test the mettle of the young leader and then map out their policies for Russia once Putin becomes president."
INDIA: "Russia, China Revise Nuclear Policy; India Waffles"
The centrist Times of India (1/18) had this analysis by senior editor M.D. Nalapat: "Russia has officially announced a shift in its nuclear weapons policy.... This sharply lowers the 'use' threshold for such weapons, and is in line with similar shifts in China's nuclear doctrine.... The hardening stance of both Moscow and Beijing can be traced to anxiety over Kosovo, where a sovereign nation--Yugoslavia--was attacked by NATO and forced to cede territory. The shift in NATO doctrine from defending its own frontiers to intervening militarily anywhere in the world has led to the near explicit signal from Russia and China that any bid to help provinces such as Chechnya and Tibet to break away may lead to nuclear war."
"Jingoism In Russia"
The nationalist Hindustan Times observed (1/18): "The enunciation of a new security doctrine...is in line with the acting president's growing appeal to aggressive nationalism.... Although Russia has now reduced the threshold for using nuclear weapons to counter a military threat, it is not clear who poses such a threat to Moscow.... Perhaps it is just a display of jingoism which is a politically correct move at the time of elections.... Putin has given enough hints that Russia should not be regarded as a soft state. He seems to be telling the world that the emperor may have no clothes, but he is still the emperor."
NEPAL: "Putin Still A Man Of Mystery"
Government-owned Gorkhapatra had this op piece (V/D, 1/15): "Putin is still a man of mystery to all.... Putin's future will depend on how he deals with those in the Kremlin who were having their way.... It is yet to be seen to what degree Putin's political moves will succeed in this compelling situation."
ARGENTINA: "New Russian World Strategy"
An editorial in leading Clarin insisted (1/21): "The new Russian strategic doctrine...critically reviews the approach of his predecessor to the West.... The softened voices of condemnation from the U.S. and European governments for Moscow's ferocious war may be explained...as an acknowledgment of this strategic reality.... This reappearance of the deterrent balance theory evokes the ruling criteria during the four decades of the Cold War. It even coincided with one of the prevailing trends in the United States, which pleads for...influencing...Russian policy and intervening in remote conflicts, like Chechnya's. But current reality cannot be compared with the bipolar world order.... Although it is true that Russia owns the world's second largest nuclear arsenal, it is also true that its territorial domain is far from the Soviet Union's."
BOLIVIA: "Russia Adopts A New Strategic Concept"
La Paz's centrist La Prensa (1/20) published a commentary by Alberto Zelada Castedo: "These changes in Putin's defense policy constitute a new strategy of 'extended nuclear contention,' which means a significant reduction of the margin in which Russia could resort to the use of nuclear weapons.... At the same time, this new strategy does not mention the concept of partnership with Western countries.... It is hard to disassociate this change...from Putin's objective...in the next presidential elections.... It is also not possible to separate...the crisis in Chechnya from the...new strategic concept. They are in reality, two faces of the same coin: to stimulate the recovery of self-esteem in the Russian people, and to offer a new image of trust in the nation, capable of winning the vote from the majority of the citizens."
JAMAICA: "Watching Russia"
Regular columnist David Jessop told readers of the business-oriented, centrist Sunday Observer (1/23): "The new Russian nuclear doctrine is based on a belief that there are two tendencies in the world. The first, according to Moscow, proceeds from the belief that Russia, together with India and China, should play a major role in global governance with the West. This...is set against a second tendency perceived by Russia. This is for the United States to seek to dominate the world through military and economic might. The more Mr. Putin strengthens his rule from the center using values very different from those prevailing in the West, the more he seems likely to appeal to many Russians.... In Russia itself, new alliances are forming which, if the war in Chechnya remains popular...will sweep Mr. Putin into power on the basis of the alliance between the successful new pro-Kremlin Unity Party and the Communists."
For more information, please contact:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Research
Telephone: (202) 619-6511
# # #
IIP Home | Foreign Media Reaction | Issue Focus Reports | Search the Issue Focus Archives