[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]
Ekho Moskvi radio station, September 16, 2004

Alexei Arbatov questions sense in Putin's reform plans

Russian President Vladimir Putin's government reform plans have a questionable link to fighting terrorism, Professor Alexei Arbatov, a member of the Carnegie Moscow Centre's research committee, told Ekho Moskvi radio on September 16, 2004. Arbatov praised some of Putin's proposals but poured scorn on others. He said that Russia needed to increase society's control over security structures and hold them to account and warned that regional government reform could play into the hands of religious extremists.

Positive steps against terror

Arbatov said that some of Putin's recent plans were genuinely connected to fighting terrorism but others were not. For example, he said that closing Russia's southern borders was a priority and that this would cost only R100m. He said that the borders could be closed over a three year period, beginning with the most dangerous sections. He added that this was essential if other antiterrorist measures were to be successful.

Arbatov also welcomed the removal of Vladimir Yakovlev from the post of presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District and his replacement with Dmitri Kozak. "This is an entirely correct step. He is an extremely businesslike, capable and honest man. He has repeatedly shown himself to be a man who is able to do what he has been asked to do," he said. Arbatov added that it was important that Kozak was given power over military and civilian structures.

Questionable steps against terror

Arbatov said that other proposed changes were irrelevant with regard to terrorism. He questioned the need for electoral changes and said it would be better to make it easier to set up independent public organizations "if we want to stimulate civil society". Arbatov said that the formation of a new "public chamber" had "nothing to do with fighting terrorism". He questioned how this chamber would be assembled, saying that its members would probably be appointed from above, and said that Russia already had a parliament and other organs to exert public control over government and security bodies. Arbatov said that parliament should be given the controlling powers it needs, such as "parliamentary commissions that could summon any official".

Arbatov criticized the increased centralization of power at the expense of other branches of government. He said that Russia had been following "this path for the last four years and the terrorism situation has been getting worse and worse and worse". Arbatov said that Russia should go in the other direction and increase control over security structures. "If we want the security structures to be effective, we mustn't give them immunity from criticism, from parliamentary control, from accountability for their work,"he said. Arbatov added that society should make its views on this clear by speaking out.

Panic must be overcome

Arbatov played down the possibility of a new Cold War as Russia and the West are too closely tied in economic terms and in their fight against terrorism. However, he said that cooperation could become less effective over disputes or disagreements.

Arbatov said that attempts to find scapegoats for Russia's problems abroad and at home was "a sign of helplessness and even panic, rather than a real analysis of one's mistakes". He said that following the Beslan crisis the Kremlin had been in a state of bewilderment from such a great shock but cautioned that "bewilderment can be understood, but only if it doesn't turn into a long-term policy".

Playing into the hands of extremists

Arbatov said that "open dictatorship is impossible" in Russia because society has changed and "people are not afraid to express their opinion". He noted that many people had spoken out against Putin's reform plans. Arbatov himself criticized Putin's plans for regional reform, saying that "the de facto appointment of governors by the president will relieve them of having to answer to their regions". He added that in national republics this would reduce governors' control over society "including groups that could accept the ideas of Wahhabism". He said that this would play into the hands of Islamic fundamentalists.

Based on BBC monitoring


See also:

International Anti-terror Coalition

Ekho Moskvi radio station, September 16, 2004

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru