News Release

Russian Elections and Chechnya

DAVID KOTZ
Co-author of “Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System” and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Kotz said Tuesday: “The war in Chechnya revived the political fortunes of pro-Yeltsin parties in the election to Russia’s relatively powerless Duma, as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ‘strong hand’ proved popular with voters. However, the real contest will be the June-July 2000 election to select a successor to President Yeltsin… By June the war might turn into one more political liability for the power bloc behind the Yeltsin regime, in addition to the economic and social disaster inflicted on Russia by eight years of neo-liberal policies.”

DAVID JOHNSON
Senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, Johnson edits a daily email list on Russia. He said: “It’s questionable that the pro-Kremlin regime of the oligarchs should be perceived as a vehicle for real ‘reform.’ The pro-Kremlin parties were successful in this election through their pursuit of the war in Chechnya and their control of most of the media… My view is that the war was manufactured to save the Yeltsin regime, and it worked. They deliberately fanned it so that most Russians believe that they’re just fighting terrorists.”
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LYNN NELSON
Co-author of “Radical Reform in Yeltsin’s Russia,” professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University and senior researcher at the Institute of Reform Studies in Moscow, Nelson said: “Russia’s fledgling democracy remains alive, although it is hardly thriving. Talk of a ‘reform’ victory paints an overly bright picture; Kremlin leaders have demonstrated again and again that economic reform which could strengthen normal market relations is the farthest thing from their minds. But the elections were taken seriously by candidates and voters alike. The fact that they happened at all is reason for hope.”
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FRED WEIR
Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and In These Times, Weir is co-author of “Revolution from Above: The Demise of the Soviet System.” He said: “Russia is a deeply polarized society — the pro-Kremlin party did well, but so did the Communists… The campaign did not debate any serious issue, so the country is headed blindly into what happens next… The war is horrific, I was there a month ago. The bombing campaign is making the Chechens hate the Russians for the next thousand years. If it hadn’t been for the NATO war in Yugoslavia, there wouldn’t be a Chechen war now. The Russian population is sick of the collapse of their country, and they’ve focused on Chechnya… The only existing pipeline from the Caspian runs through Chechnya, so the race for Caspian oil is definitely a factor.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020