Russia's New Elite Bodes Ill for Democracy

By Perlmutter, Amos | Insight on the News, November 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

Russia's New Elite Bodes Ill for Democracy


Perlmutter, Amos, Insight on the News


The abrupt firing of Gen. Aleksandr Lebed, Russian President Boris Yeltsin's former national security adviser, tells us much about Yeltsin, his rule and his camarilla. It reveals the corporate, capitalist, anti-democratic authoritarianism that is represented in the name of Yeltsin. The facts on the ground speak for themselves. Lebed certainly is not one's favorite character - military, brash and seemingly racist. Yet, he is one of the few leaders in the government who is untarnished, honest and uncorrupt. He certainly succeeded better than all Yeltsin's advisers - liberals and nonliberals - in bringing an end to the war in Chechnya. His ouster is not an act of democratic liberalism, but itself a coup.

Yeltsin's camarilla - comprising industrial corporate leaders, television barons, bankers and capitalists who, among others, are linked to the different economic mafias so prevalent in post-Communist Russia - are not advancing Russian democracy by ousting a general they portrayed as an authoritarian coup-maker and racist.

In fact, Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, an old rival and foe of Lebed, went on television with unsubstantiated charges against Lebed. The ouster of Lebed demonstrates that Russia, after Yeltsin's second election, is entering into an era of corporate financial authoritarianism, an era in which a free press has been trampled by so-called independent television companies owned by bankers and former Communist apparatchiks.

And relatively unnoticed by the print media is the fact that Gen. Mikhail Kolesnikov was replaced by Gen. Viktor Samsonov. It is no coincidence that Kolesnikov, with no links to Lebed, was replaced by the general who currently is in charge of "coordinating military cooperation among ex-Soviet republics."

What does this coordinating military cooperation office do? The function of this office is to dominate and manipulate ex-Soviet republics. In the name of defending so-called Russian minorities in central Asiatic Muslim states, Russia uses the military to establish Russian military political presence in the former Soviet republics. In Belarus and Ukraine, they have been relatively successful. But the danger comes from Russia "coordinating" the former Soviet states of Central Asia.

A most-revealing article by Nancy deWolf Smith, "Russia's Battle for Central Asia," in the Oct. 16 Wall Street Journal, tells us exactly what stands behind this so-called coordination. "More than five years after the collapse of the Soviet empire, Russian troops are on duty in almost every former Soviet republic. How did Moscow do it? Only in the sad cases of Belarus and Armenia are the Russians wanted. When the empire broke up, the Central Asians found themselves without their own border guards and were with some 30,000 Russian military personnel who refused to leave, including the naval forces with the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol. …

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