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GENNADY GATILOV: Moscow has changed considerably. The people have changed. They became more open. They are very much interested in what is going [on] in their country and they want to be participants of all international relations and of all international efforts.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the new and troubled Russia.
FRANK JUDD: The way that the Russian Federation is treating Chechnya and the people of Chechnya is almost designed to guarantee that there will be a festering sore there of bitterness, of hatred, resentment, for decades to come.
KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It's produced by the Stanley Foundation. I'm Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Vladimir Putin is ushering in a new era in Russian politics. But with the ongoing conflict in Chechnya and recent attacks on the Russian media, many in the West are still unsure of his motives. Gennady Gatilov is the First Deputy Representative of Russia to the United Nations. He says Vladimir Putin represents a fresh start in Russian politics, a new beginning that a majority of Russians enthusiastically support.
GENNADY GATILOV: In general he has wide support of our people. Because, I think, because of several reasons. First of all he is a leader of a new generation. He is a very pragmatic and capable politician who served before being elected to the president post, in various governmental and official structures. So he knows how the system should function to be effective. And it is very important. The second point is a political one. And he is devoted to democratic reforms. I think it is very important for our country to continue the course which our people chose several years ago, during Yeltsin period. And he is very much determined to continue this course for democracy, for democratic reforms, and for a market economy. Which is very important because unfortunately we cannot say that now the economy in our country is in good shape. And in general people link their hopes with the presidency of Mr. Putin for the better. We have reached now a certain level of living and people understood the advantages of the open market economy, the advantages of a democratic society, and they don't want to go back. And they want to continue in this direction. So I think these are the main reasons why Putin has very wide support in our country.
MCHUGH: What makes him different than Boris Yeltsin?
GATILOV: Boris Yeltsin, of course, he was the first one to start all this processes in our country. But Putin, of course he is younger, he is more energetic, and maybe he has new, constructive ideas how to reform our country. That makes him different. Another characteristic feature, I think that he is very pragmatic and this is very important, especially at this particular juncture in our history.
MCHUGH: And you mentioned the market economy and the move, the continuous move towards democracy in Russia. What are some of the other major priorities of Vladimir Putin?
GATILOV: As I can see them, this is the strengthening of the economy, to give possibilities to people to continue in private business, but with the governmental regulations. And, of course, what is very important, to strengthen the defensive capabilities of our country. He is going to put much attention to the strengthening of the army, but in a defensive way, to make it more professional, to make it capable to defend our national interests on international arena. Of course, he will pay attention to the strengthening of the social sector, which is not in very good shape now. And the strengthening of the educational sector and scientific sector, cultural. So all these will be his priorities.
MCHUGH: The United States is, of course, talking quite a bit about a national missile defense system. And Russia has expressed some concerns. What are those concerns?
GATILOV: Our concerns are that we strongly believe that the ABM Treaty should continue to be the fundamental basis for all further steps and efforts in the direction of disarmament. We are in favor of disarmament but we believe that this process should be continued on a basis of agreements which are capable to give equal security to all states, especially for the United States and the Russian Federation. And we consider that ABM Treaty is the one that gives such a level of security to our countries. We are determined to negotiate with the United States on further steps, but on the basis of this treaty. And I think last General Assembly session very clearly showed that majority of the countries support this idea. And they also consider this treaty as being a fundamental one. We initiated a resolution last General Assembly session which was supported by majority of the delegations. And we think this is very important. This is very indicative. And it shows that all other steps should be agreeable for all countries, for all states, and this is the only way on which we can build the security for all countries.
MCHUGH: Vladimir Putin recently talked about his own proposal for a national missile defense system for Russia. How is that different than the one on the table from the US?
GATILOV: The difference is that the US is trying to build something to protect only the territory of the United States. What Putin is suggesting is just to take common efforts, common steps, to establish a security system, anti-missile security system, for all countries, including Europeans, European ones. And you know that Europeans are very much concerned also about the situation which may emerge after the United States establishes their own national anti-missile system. What we are suggesting is just to take common efforts and common steps to establish something that could protect all nations against this missile threat.
MCHUGH: Where does Russia see its biggest security threats right now?
GATILOV: In general we believe that the most dangerous thing now is the terrorist danger. We know that in our country—and you know that we are combating terrorist activities in our country—and we are very much concerned about this spread of the terrorist activities in the world. Because what is going [on] in our country clearly shows that terrorism is not the—what is going on in our country, it has a wider scale. And now terrorism has the international dimension. And to combat this threat we have to unite our efforts, efforts of all countries concerned. We are being criticized for our actions in the northern Caucuses, but we believe that we are doing the right thing because, of course, there are negative effects of this fight against terrorism, and we acknowledge it, and we are trying to do our best. But still we believe that the main goal is to protect all nation and all peoples from the spread of terrorism around the world.
MCHUGH: Chechnya certainly is garnering a great deal of attention in the West. And not all of it is good attention for Russia. Is Russia concerned about the image that is being portrayed in the West about the situation in Chechnya?
GATILOV: Yes, of course, we are concerned. And you know that we are trying to do our best to explain to the international community what we are doing in the northern Caucuses. We have invited quite a number of international delegations and missions from different international organizations to visit the northern Caucuses. We are trying to show them the real situation on the ground. We are not hiding our problems. And we are very much grateful when we get assistance from these organizations in humanitarian field. Because we want to establish constructive cooperations with all those who are willing to help us to resolve all these problems. But what we cannot accept is just purely politicized criticism to what we are doing in the northern Caucuses. And I believe that all those who visited Chechnya and the northern Caucuses, all those international delegations and missions, after they saw what is happening on the ground they have a more clear vision of the real situation, of the real picture.
MCHUGH: Russia is one of the permanent members of the Security Council at the UN. And there has been a great deal of talk about reforming the Security Council in recent years. How does Russia feel about reforming not only the UN but also the Security Council in general?
GATILOV: We are actually participating in this process. In the United Nations we are working in the framework of the Open-Ended Working Group, which is discussing all these problems. We, as other states, believe—strongly believe—that the United Nations in general needs reform. And, of course, the Security Council also needs reforms due to the changed situation in the world, both in general and in the United Nations. But we also believe that all the changes should be based on a general agreement between all countries. Because only on this basis we can reach, we can take decisions which will really lead to the constructive reform of the United Nations, constructive reform of the Security Council. So the consensus is very necessary when we are talking about reforming the Security Council. First of all it concerns the membership of the reformed Security Council. The Council should be balanced in its membership and all regional groups, all regions, should be equally represented. So this process is not going very easy and discussions are still continuing. I don't think that we will be in a position to take speedy decisions. And, of course, this process will take some time.
MCHUGH: I spent three weeks in Russia, ten years ago, so Gorbachev was still in power. If I was to go back today, what are the major changes that I would see?
GATILOV: Well, I think you will notice a lot of changes. First of all, you will notice changes in general in the cities. Moscow has changed considerably. We have a lot of new buildings. The people have changed. They became more open. They are very much interested in what is going [on] in their country and they want to be participants of all international relations and of all international efforts. We have no restrictions now on travel for our people abroad. They go abroad, they bring constructive ideas back to their country. They are applying these ideas. And I think that, in general, that it helps us to be one of the active and important partners for all other countries. And I hope that this tendency will strengthen in the future.
MCHUGH: That is Genady Gatilov, Russia's First Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN.
PORTER: Coming up, the Chechnya conflict.
FRANK JUDD: … That in the center of Groszny we went absolutely silent. We were just so appalled by what we saw. The systematic destruction of a city.
MCHUGH: Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details, or visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
PORTER: As the armed conflict in Chechnya drags on, the US and European nations are struggling with how to address humanitarian needs in the northern Caucuses without alienating Russia and its new president, Vladimir Putin. But nearly all are in agreement that something needs to happen, and happen quickly. Frank Judd is a member of Great Britain's House of Lords. He chairs an ad hoc committee on Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Kristin McHugh recently spoke with Lord Judd about his travels to Chechnya and his impression of Russia's new president.
FRANK JUDD: I was at Chechnya the end of January, and I was in Chechnya again in March. And both times, of course, I was in Daghastan and in Guchetya; the second time I was in North Assytya as well. And both times, of course, we was in Moscow before I went to Chechnya and in Moscow when I came back. So technically four times in Moscow, but twice really.
MCHUGH: And what were some of your observations on the ground in Chechnya?
JUDD: It's a very complicated situation in Chechnya. It's, first of all there is no monopoly of wrongdoing in this extraordinarily bitter civil war. And it would be very foolish to pretend there was a monopoly of wrongdoing. I think we were one of the first groups of people like ourselves to get into Groszny that way. As we traveled through Chechnya—indeed, as we traveled through Daghastan and in Guchetya and North Assytya as well, and in Moscow, there was a lot of animated discussion between us about what we were seeing, and a lot of animated analysis of what we were seeing. We all remarked afterwards that in the center of Groszny we went absolutely silent. We were just so appalled by what we saw. The systematic destruction of a city. What that meant in disproportionate response, in indiscriminate response—because many innocent people must have suffered. And, of course, there were the issues—we went and saw people in detention. We were concerned about their access to legal advice. We were concerned about the reports of treatment of people in prison. We saw old people in terribly inadequate hospital accommodation. Elderly, frail people who had been forced to flee from Groszny, for example, in appalling, disorientated situation. We went into the refugee camps. But then I'd been in refugee camps all over the world, particularly during my time as Director of Oxfam-United Kingdom. And refugee camps are always sad places to be.
MCHUGH: In the West, what's going on in Chechnya, it's viewed as an atrocity. And I'm curious, it sounds to me as if from your first-hand accounts that, in fact, what's going on in Chechnya is being portrayed rather appropriately in the Western media?
JUDD: I sometimes think the media oversimplifies a little. I don't think it helps to suggest that there have been no profligation by Chechnyan elements or no totally despicable, horrific action by some elements in Chechnya. There has been. But that's not the issue. The issue is the conduct expected of those of us who are committed to something better. But can I just say that I do think the, one of the exciting things in Russia now is the burgeoning press. I mean, there are a lot of arguments about who owns the press and the role it plays in politics and the rest. But there's a lot of potential there. There are a lot of Russian journalists who feel that they would listen to journalists more in the West if there were a more balanced account of what was going on. And therefore what I've always tried to do in my reports is stress that there has not been a monopoly of evil, wrongdoing. But then to emphasize that one cannot be a member of the Council of Europe and take action disproportionately, indiscriminately, to see the kind of abuses of human rights that have been alleged, to see the kind of mass murder that has been alleged, and to let that go unscathed.
MCHUGH: Do the people in Russia understand the seriousness of the conflict?
JUDD: Ha! There's no question that the war in Chechnya has been popular with the Russian people. The majority of Russian people. I'm fairly certain that President Putin saw his hard line on the war in Chechnya as an asset in his election campaign. But there are brave people in Russia who share all the anxieties that we share in the Council of Europe. And there are other people who are a bit more ambivalent. I think there would be more people who would be at least ambivalent, if not actually share our views, if we were more ready to recognize the complexity of the situation. But I think the majority of the people are still behind the government in the hard line, and that's a challenge. But it's a challenge. We've got to accept that challenge and try and bring them on board.
MCHUGH: Do you think that that might happen in the sense that this is a war that was going to last days, if not just a few weeks. And certainly it has dragged on much longer than anticipated.
JUDD: This war goes right back in history. I mean, to understand the war one has to remember what happened under Stalin, one has to remember what has happened in previous centuries. And that is terribly important. But you see what I find very interesting is that while my mandate is about the human rights issue—and I don't believe we can compromise—but in all this I, my own view is that we have to, of course, understand the history and we've got, of course, to understand the background. We've got to use the language of reason, but we've also got to use the language of firmness. We cannot—we will not—build good, healthy, positive relations with Russia, which for me is a very high priority—on the basis of prevarication and fudging. We've got to be honest. And I feel sometimes that there are quite a lot of Russians who actually, while they don't agree with us, and may even in a way resent what we're saying, at the same time respect a hard line.
MCHUGH: Is the West doing enough to resolve the conflict with Chechnya?
JUDD: It's very difficult to make an informed judgment, 'cause one's not present at these meetings. But we always hear from our leaders that in the context of their very good discussions with President Putin, they left him in no doubt about Chechnya, and the anxieties on Chechnya. I hope that's the case. I have to. I wasn't there. I don't know. But I hope it's the case.
MCHUGH: President Clinton recently visited Moscow and had some discussions with Putin. But Chechnya really took a back seat to the anti-ballistic missile issue that currently the US is very interested in. Does that disappoint you?
JUDD: Yes. I have, I always have high hopes of the United States. I love your country. I have visited many times. I always say there's no country in which I feel more at home outside my own than your country. I have very, very many good American friends. I think that the, in the United States, and I think in Europe too, and I think in the United Kingdom—because if I'm talking about Europe I must start with the country of which I'm a part—either we believe in human rights or we don't.
MCHUGH: I understand that you actually had a three-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin.
JUDD: When our delegation was there in January we had the President of the Parliamentary Assembly with us on that occasion. We had three hours with President Putin in Moscow at the end of January.
MCHUGH: And what are your impressions of him?
JUDD: I would say that he is obviously a single-minded person. I think he is technocratic. He comes from that technocratic management culture. He's obviously a highly intelligent man. He obviously has high hopes for Russia. He certainly put out, in my view, quite soon after he became acting president, a very honest statement about just how bad the situation in Russia still was economically, socially, politically, and what needed to be done. I think that was a courageous thing to do and he did that. And I am full of admiration. I'm not quite sure that I'm convinced yet that for one of the most significant and influential politicians in the world he is demonstrating as much vision and lateral thinking, and thinking in perspective, as I would hope to see. But that may come. And after all, how many other leaders in the world demonstrate that? How much are they preoccupied with tactics rather than strategy? Because, of course, the point that is very interesting as we've been talking about human rights—and as I said earlier, that's my mandate—but what I get exasperated by is that the way that the Russian Federation is treating Chechnya and the people of Chechnya is almost designed to guarantee that there will be a festering sore there of bitterness, of hatred, resentment, for decades to come. The next generation is being poisoned by this. The failure to be discriminate, the failure to show that Russia is going to be absolutely committed to the higher standards of human rights in its own performance, plays right into the hands of the manipulatist extremists, who are certainly there in Chechnya. That almost makes me more angry than the human rights point.
MCHUGH: Can you, putting Chechnya aside, do you foresee Russia having a better relationship with Europe in the next several years?
JUDD: I don't think that you can put Chechnya aside. I can't because it would be like building a very important construction on rotten foundations. We've got to have candor, we've got to have honesty, we've got to sort this thing out. Then we can build together in confidence. I'm sure that if we can sort this out—and it's a matter of showing that the commitment to the culture is there and is advancing and that the things are being done that need to be done, not just bits of machinery put there that can be interpreted as window dressing, but the action being taken—I'm sure there's going to be far closer cooperation. But I think we all agree on that score—and this is the paradox—because I feel as strongly about this as I do about all the other things I've been talking about, at least as strongly—we've also got to show a lot more determined, ongoing, consistency in saying that “Of course, in the future management of the world Russia is a key player and must be central to the international arrangements. If I've learned anything in my political life—and I've learnt a lot of things—but if I've learned anything, one thing I've learned is that perceptions become political realities. And there is a perception that there has been a drive to manage the world without Russia, while talking about the importance, of course, of relations with Russia. That in my view is an absolute disaster for the future of humanity.
MCHUGH: That is Lord Frank Judd. He chairs an ad hoc committee on Chechnya for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. For Common Ground, I'm Kristin McHugh.
PORTER: And I'm Keith Porter. Cassettes and transcripts of this program are available. The transcripts are free; cassettes cost $5.00. To place an order or to share your thoughts about the program, write to us at: The Stanley Foundation, 209 Iowa Avenue, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. Please refer to Program Number 0033. That's Program Number 0033. To order by credit card you can call us at 319-264-1500. That's 319-264-1500.
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