Focus 580; Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution
In this hour of the show we will be talking about politics in Russia with two reporters for The Washington Post Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. They were the Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post from January 2001 to November 2000 and for and have coauthored a book that present some of their experiences what they saw when they were there and concentrates on the career of flight Amir put in the president the title of their book is Kremlin Rising Vladimir Putin's Russia and the end of revolution it's published by Scribner and the book is just recently out. The book takes a look at his career Mr. Putin's and his effort as the authors argue to transform Russia back into an authoritarian state. The to say that this is an ideal case study of some of the hazards of democracy building when the United States loses interest and turns the other way. The book is just recently out and you can find it in the bookstore. As we talked this morning questions are certainly welcome.
And all you have to do to be a part of conversation. If you're listening is to pick up the telephone and call. The only thing that we ask callers is that people are be brief and we ask that so that we can keep the program moving and get in as many different people as possible but listeners are welcome to call with questions. If you're here in Champaign-Urbana where we are the local number is 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We do also have a toll free line that means if you're listening around Illinois and Indiana and it would be a long distance call or if you were listening on the internet as long as you're in the United States or one of the way or the other you can use the toll free line. And that is eight hundred to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Again here in Champaign Urbana 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 and the toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Well Mr. Baker Hello. I Are you I'm fine thank you and Ms Glasser. Yes you. Well thank you too. To both of you and certainly we appreciate you giving us some of your time.
How unusual is it for a married couple to be co bureau chiefs. Somewhere I don't I can only think of one. One other case and I guess that's Nick Kristoff and his wife who covered China for The New York Times does this happen very often. Well that's a great case Picture If example for all sorts of couples out there. It's happening more and more are just because being a foreign correspondent is such a diff. Life's a difficult if I meant that. Frankly it helps to have your spouse doing the very same things out of post right now as several couples out there. Did you choose this assignment or did the Post say to you. Guess where you're going next. Well they didn't actually drag us into into going out to Savior and we were very interested in it when they floated the idea to us a few years ago so it turned out to work for both sides. And you before this you had been political reporters covering was at the White House or was it more generally covering Washington. Well I covered the White House and Susan was in fact my editor for a while and also
wrote about money in politics for the National sections. So we have a good deal of Washington background. So when when you're going now this would be so you would have been an experienced political reporters but this would be really different going in a situation where you were covering the politics of in the country how how difficult was it for you to settle into this new job and start to learn about how things work in Russia. Well it was a difference. Obviously they don't they don't have quite the same ethos of that Washington does on the other hand. And I think when you spoke to people there for the most part they weren't arguing with you about background this is an off the record that they pretty much just said what they wanted to say. It was a different environment. The other thing course we had to travel a lot. When you cover a country with 11 time zones and actually also the other 14 former Soviet republics it meant you're on the road a great deal of the time which is very different than Washington obviously. Well it sounds like overall the point that you're making here is that here this
particular period where where you were fortunate enough to be there and see what was going on is yet another critical kind of period in post Soviet Russia and that contrary to what people might think about the possibility that the country was moving in the direction of positive change. It sounds as if you're arguing that in fact in many ways rather than moving forward it was moving backward. I mean I think that it might not have seemed as dramatic as the early 1990s there have been tanks in the street there haven't been talks of coups and economic collapse is not the sort of thing but what we what we came to see was that over the last five years and Russia really has been a critical time for the country every bit as much as Boris Yeltsin's takeover was in the early 1990s and that what Vladimir Putin has done in office is really. And the democratic experiment that began with perestroika 15 years ago. You talk about a number of things the book it covers a lot of territory about Putin and how
he has reacted to and moved against anyone who would be terribly critical. He's moved against the media. He's moved against some of the most wealthy and powerful individuals of all of the people we come to know as the oligarchs in the country and has also moved to consolidate power in the Kremlin by weakening state governments and so forth. So we can talk about a lot of these things and certainly he's had a lot of difficult things to do to deal with during the time he's been president. But you begin your story with the story of the Beslan massacre where the Chechen terrorists took over this school. A lot of people were then killed when the Russian commandos then stormed the place. And I think a lot of people in Russia and elsewhere were very critical of the way that Mr. Putin and the Moscow government handled those do you think that this by looking at this story that this is really indicative of a lot of things that are going on now in Russia. Well Batman really captured a lot of things going on right exactly because it was
Russia right now is beset by terrorism. It's still mired in a very long and bloody and seemingly intractable war in Chechnya which Putin as in fact promoted and the consequences of Beslan spoke to the issues of democracy rule of law when the battle began in the school and the gunfire was going off and the bombs were going off. Russian television state television got no instructions from the Kremlin so they show a Brazilian soap operas you know. There was no genuine accountability afterwards for the lies of the government told during the see there are no you know 9/11 Commission equivalence there genuinely and and and in fact President Putin used the occasion to announce his plan to attack terrorism and his plan consisted of eliminating that the election of governors across the 89 regions of Russia. Imagine. If the present I stated that reacted to 9/11 by saying OK our answer to this is the castle the election of the governors of California and Texas
and Oklahoma and Nebraska and Illinois. So if you captured a lot of what was happening Russia all of wanted a terribly tragic event. How what kind of argument did he make or did he even have to make an argument justifying doing that and explaining what exactly that had to do with terrorism. Well the thing that's so striking about Russia today is the absence of competition in the political space and what that means is that even people who had every reason to object to either 89 governors themselves were for the most part afraid to say anything opposed to the proposal publicly so there was in effect no debate whatsoever about it which meant that it meant. I had to give very little in the way of reason for why he was canceling gubernatorial elections. Basically he said the unity of the state is threatened. Meaning by the separatist movement in Chechnya and by the terrorist acts in southern Russia. And therefore I am taking this move he never was forced in a political process to to explain what exactly he meant by
that. Putin was was first elected or he first ran in 2000. He was re-elected in 2000 and for he received 70 percent of the vote and that would seem to be a significant endorsement for Mr. Putin although then one might raise the question was what alternative do people have if they decide they want to vote for somebody else. What how do you a year to the extent that you're going to answer a question like this how does your average Russian feel about Vladimir Putin and what he's done during the time that he's been president. That. That's a very good question in many ways gets of the heart of the question about where Russia's headed because Putin is genuinely popular there's no question about it perhaps that 70 percent total is inflated somewhat by the absence of meaningful political competition by the heavy handed use of state television really to propagandize on Putin's behalf but at the same time people see in
Vladimir Putin really an antidote to that Yeltsin era of dislocation and chaos and up evil and. They find him to be a very appealing figure. Even his background in the KGB as surprising as that might seem to an American audience gets him some votes and a fair amount of support because the key to being was perceived to be one of the least corrupted institutions in Soviet society and and drawing on sort of an elite back in Soviet times it has a very different image and reputation than than you might think. Just not too long ago here we had the opportunity to talk with a woman who was a Russian journalist who was here visiting the campus there was a conference going on and she was here and she was on the program and we talked about a number of things about Russia about what it's like to be a journalist in Russia these days. And I asked her the question I said well if if we could go out and round up a representative group
of Russians young old rich poor city people or country people and ask them how do you think that you're doing and particularly is Russia better off do you think you are better off now than during Soviet times. And the answer that she gave me I think was very subtle and yet sort of unsatisfying because she said Well it depends. It depends on who they are how whether what they're going to say. Given that that's that I'm sure that that's true. I wonder what your take on that same question is if we went out and asked people Are you better off now than you were. What kind of answers you get in who and particularly who would say that they're doing better and who would say that they're not. Well it's a terrific question and it's very hard to define to me again remember it's a country of such vast proportions that you get different answers in different places if you live in Moscow. Your answer to the question are you doing better is almost invariably going to be yes and that's probably true in St. Petersburg and many some at least of the second tier cities
because to me has gotten better it's stabilized they don't have the ruble collapse that they you know they did in the 90s they don't worry about life saving they don't have the wage arrears that were common back then. But having said that there's still a very you know deep in intractable poverty in Russia a quarter of the country lives below the Russian poverty line and that's defined I think is something like 70 dollars a month. So you know it's still obviously have a very patchy situation and many people still romanticize the days of the Soviet Union even if they are better off economically many of them will tell you they're not because they sort of miss what they perceive as the stability and predictability and. You know tract of mess of their life before. Hard as it is for us to understand. Our guest in this hour focused 580 Peter Baker and Susan Glasser they work for The Washington Post and they were from January 2001 until November 2004
the Moscow bureau chief for the paper. They're now back in living and working in Washington D.C. continuing to work for the paper. Together they've written a book about some of what they saw in the reporting that they did in Russia the book is titled Kremlin Rising flood Amir Putin's Russia and the end of revolution. It's published by Scribner is relatively new here just out at the beginning of June should be in the bookstore if you want to read the book and questions here on the program are welcome. If you'd like to talk with them 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. Toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. When Vladimir Putin just first came on the scene or at least as far as you know people in the West and the Western media were concerned he first came on the scene when he came and came along to succeed Boris Yeltsin. A lot of people were saying Who is they say Vladimir Putin We never heard of Vladimir Putin who is this guy would tell us something about his background and and how one would answer that question well who has a lot of reporting.
Well I think you know really this was an extraordinary political project actually some of the people involved in it in the Kremlin called it Project Putin. They took an obscure basically completely unknown former mid-level KGB agent and they turned him into the leader of the Kremlin. The guy was literally 2 percent in the polls when he was plucked from obscurity to become the prime minister. And he had grown up in St. Petersburg at the time called Leningrad he was an admirer of the old time by propaganda movies and films that glorify the KGB in the fight against Germany. And he had as his ambition to join the KGB even from when he was a teenager actually tried to walk in and sign up. I think what with clear was why Putin was chosen for this and we did a lot of courting with some of his
colleagues with people who are familiar with with Yeltsin and those who are gone and a very interesting team emerge which was that they thought he would be loyal to Yeltsin and to be treated him. They thought that he would not and would make sure that they were not subject to prosecution when he came into office and they left and that's that's why they picked him with loyalty. What they didn't expect was that he would emerge as such an independent figure and his in his own right. So it's it is it is indeed the case that he is an independent figure and it's not that there's some sort of shadowy cult ball that's pulling this during his behind the scenes that he is in fact the man who is in power. Well they're there. They're shadowy Cobalt everywhere in Russia. The question is he's actually you know is he part of one and is he does it lead one in that fashion and that data that definitely seems to have been the case that in the last two years to quit since 2003 and his former colleagues in the KGB and the FSB
the SEC Sasser agency have come to the fore. They controlling Hammersley controlling them. You know I suspect more of the latter than the former. He seemed that when he was running and early on in his career he really at least as far as the West was concerned really tried to downplay the KGB connection. He as if he would he was trying to say well I was just kind of a minor functionary out there in the boonies and I was working at a desk and I never assassinate anybody and I wasn't involved in anything in a covert operation so it's ok you don't have to worry about me. How much is known about what he actually did do. Well it's an interesting question that is there still a lot of blank spots on the record as far as vitamin Putin's KGB record goes he he was posted abroad to the consulate in Dresden East Germany which is a real backwater posting. Basically he wasn't even in sort of the capital of Cold War spying Berlin he was he
was put in Dresden which was a second tier post and he was you know enlisted to you know spy on the locals there. One of his last acts as the wall was falling and Germany was being reunited. Putin was supposed to put aspiring back into place that would continue spying for the KGB even after the future of NASA were reunited and that firing fell apart within a few months of Putin's departure and returned. And then they you know they sort of turned pals and acknowledged how they'd been recruited by Putin so. He doesn't have a very good record as far as what's known publicly. He was only achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the KGB and you know this is a place where title inflation is rampant where everybody made general and in fact Putin came back to Russia and realized his career in the agency was basically over which is how he decided to come out of the shadow of what when. Let's talk a little bit more about Project Putin and then what it was that all of the
people who were involved in this were really going for particularly in terms of what kind of post-Soviet Russia they really wanted and when was this and it was this in fact motivated in in part or in large part by this feeling that what was once a superpower had been weakened and that what they were interested in was building was trying to build up the country again to something of its former power and glory. Yeah. No of course and then put a film about that's absolutely his has a PR you know a great Russia. Again that's not the Soviet Union. Exactly. Putin is smart to understand the modern world. He's not going to rebuild a military power that would compete with the United States and frankly given the experience in Chechnya you can't even have right now a military power that competes with with you know a few thousand terrorists in the southern border. So economics of the way he wants to build rebuild Russia and. That's been his sort of focus the same time he uses that to than
influence his neighbors Ukraine Bella ruse the caucuses in Central Asia and to flex his muscles if you will. So and to do this it appeals to that desire among the Russian to be important but the sense of the loss of identity and of the 90s is absolute profound. And they're still searching for that idea of what the Russian idea is today. I'm sure that one of the reasons that that what happened in Beslan was so damaging for Putin was that when he was running for office the first time he made a very strong pitch to Russians saying that I'm going to I'm going to clean up this Chechen thing and that he really projected this image of a tough guy and and that much in contrast I'm sure to to Boris Yeltsin that he was this hard as he was young he was hard as nails he was the former KGB guy that if anybody was going to be able to crack down on Chechen terrorists it was going to be him. And it doesn't really seem that
that has happened and certainly there have been a number of cases where that made him and the Russian government look really bad and that was one of them. In in how powerful is Chechnya and what's going on there in people's minds in Russia and to you know to to what extent does that contribute to their feeling that somehow Putin has has not been as strong or as effective a leader as they perhaps had hoped when he was standing for election the first time. No question the war in Chechnya is largely what helped bring mine repute into power it cemented his new popularity it created in him the image of of the tough guy as you mentioned. And it was it was extremely popular when he first came to office this idea that he was going to go in and clean up this mess that had been left festering by Boris Yeltsin. Of course he also said this was was a war he was going to go in and win in two weeks and continue to keep that promise over the next several years. And and now it's really
settled into a grinding long term and seemingly never ending war. But the thing about. That he's never stopped talking tough on Chechnya and even the public support for the conflict has long since disappeared two thirds of the public supports negotiations with the rebels in Chechnya. Putin has said he would never consider such a thing so there's a real impasse on the political side of things. But in fact after Beslan the lesson that uprooted drew from the tragedy was that he's been if anything not tough enough he said what he took away from that terrible terrorist act in which several hundred schoolchildren and their teachers and parents were killed in southern Russia. Was that the weak get beaten and we were weak and you know Putin has made it very clear that he has no interest whatsoever in a political solution to that. Well certainly that's a problem for them that he's in the Kremlin they see that as a problem because here in various places around Russia they have these little pockets of people who are
interested in greater autonomy and in some cases and in actual independence. And of course the Chechens have have felt like they were an independent nation for a long time and don't really want to have anything to do with Russia and the Russians are intent on after the Soviet Union comes apart their intent in seeing that the same thing doesn't happen with Russia. So I'm sure in the Kremlin they they think that Chechnya is an object lesson. And what we're going to do is we're going to be tough in Chechnya as a way of saying to anybody anywhere else in Russia if you would even think about breaking away from Russia. This is what's going to happen to you so you just better not even. You better not even consider the idea. So you know that makes it really makes it critical for them to be seen to be strong on this so they can deliver a message to anybody else that says if you think about this this is what's going to happen. Well I may. If that was the message it was certainly receiving received in Chechnya most Chechens that I interview are ordinary folks not not fighters are just fed up with the whole
thing they dont care independence or part of Russia what they've had over the last 10 years in particular has been unremitting bloodshed. Hundreds of thousands of people are dead wounded homeless and they just don't care about the politics of it anymore. It's been such a devastating decade for their society the city of Grozny the capital of Chechnya absolutely obliterated in effect I mean every city every building in the city if you drive around is a shell crumbled and hollowed out the way you see the old footage from World War 2. You know in the worst of Dresden for instance they dropped more tonnage of bombs on Grozny than any city in Europe is seen since World War 2. So yeah the idea of political aspirations this point don't really appeal very much to even Chechens much less to many other or ethnic groups around the Russian Federation. Our guest in this part of focus 580 are Peter. Baker and Susan Glasser their former Moscow bureau chief for The Washington Post they were there from the winter of
2001 through the fall of 2004 and still work for the paper now or are in Washington D.C. have written a book that's titled The Kremlin Rising flight Amir Putin's Russia and the end of revolution. It's been out now since early June so if you want to read the book look for it in the book store questions Welcome to 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 1 another sort of piece of Putin and the people surrounding him consolidating power has to do with their control over the media. And that's another one of these stories that you tell and takes us back to an earlier kind of crisis that Putin had to face and was there was similar sort of criticism as perhaps not as bad as Beslan but certainly it made the government look really bad and this is I'm sure perhaps people will remember the Kursk the submarine that sunk and the crew was lost as this and the way that this ties in with the media is that his conflict Mr. Putin's conflict with
the head of NTV not America since he really apparently goes back to there the way that NTV reported on the whole business of the course. Can you talk to. Right. Absolutely that's right he was absolutely fed up with that he called up the station at one point when they had widows of women who were in fact didn't know there yet widows but whose husbands were down in the deep dark sea worried about their fate. When they were shown on Russian television he called up the tellers angrily and said you put these whores on television just to you humiliate me you bought them for $100. And he didn't believe that these were real people everything to him was you know political provocation and no sympathy for the the actual people when he met with relatives behind closed doors. They say hold him for the government's slow reaction why didn't you accept help from foreign government. They said he said I did as soon as it was offered they said we know that's not true because television told us that wasn't true and he said television there just lying
lying lying. And that really sealed the fate you know it was never to let that happen again and that's why when you saw Beslan happen you are watching Brazilian soap operas on Russian television and if you wanted news in Russia you had to go to CNN or BBC. What know are there people there who are in a position the journalist that is who are in a position to be critical of the government or is this become so hazardous that most journalists just don't want to do it anymore. Well there's no question that the self-censorship has has kicked in Russia in a big way that people are very attuned they're not surprisingly after after seven decades of communist dictatorship they were very attuned to understanding and taking their cues from even subtle signals from the authorities. But it's also become much more overt every Friday in the Kremlin. According to our sources they would have a meeting with Putin's top political advisers and the directors of the major
television stations and they would come in and they would be given a written list of expected news topics for the next week along with the Kremlin's recommendations for what they should and should not cover it got to the point where in recent years there would be a topic Chechnya as in the entire war in Chechnya recommendation do not cover. And I think that tells you a lot about the very over process of controlling what people saw and heard on sensitive topics. Then it's sort of on the top end with the most widespread public media there must be. There must indeed be journalists though that are still feel take their mission as journalist strongly enough so that they're willing to criticize lewdly you just can't do it on national television anymore in Russia but in fact there's a whole host of Internet news sites of print newspapers in particular in Moscow where people are doing you know aggressive reporting investigative reporting political reporting.
There's that a very brave radio station that first grew out of the 1991 August coup in Moscow called echo of Moscow which continues to be a vital source of of political news and information and commentary in Russia so you know it's not that you can't get information now this is not the Soviet Union these tactics being used by Putin are are modernized versions and modernized take on the past rather than simply trying to restore an old and very unsuited to the present day communist era to cater to. That's not what's going on. Also something has happened during this period it has to do with with the Russian economy. And one of the things that happened after the fall of the Soviet Union and this move towards market capitalism was that industries that previously had been nationalized were actually up for grabs. And what happened was a handful of people that had the right kind of connections managed to snatch up
some of the country's largest most important most valuable industries at fire sale prices and a number of people became very very rich and that these are people that also became very powerful and apparently were decided that they should have some influence over government. And here was these are people that also have come into conflict with Putin he has taken them on and maybe that the big case study is Mikhail Khodorkovsky in Iran who was one time was said to be Russia's richest man. He was the head of Yukos big oil company. He was arrested he was put on trial. About Khodorkovsky and Yukos sure. Oh it's a fantastic and interesting case a fantastic for him but very intriguing for Russia watchers because it was an interesting tabula rasa Where where was Putin taking the country is he going to reign in corruption in these in these crooked oligarchs who took over state assets.
Or was he in fact going after a political rival somebody who was challenging the monopoly on power that Putin was creating in the Kremlin. The fact the matter is I mean how to quote scheme like many of the other all the guards you know became very rich through some very questionable auctions in the 1990s. But the question is did he do anything different than all the other ones he's the one who's behind jail right now. He's the one who's convicted the others are all perfectly free because they didn't challenge the Kremlin as one analyst put it an analyst who by the way hates sort of caustic Ian and is very sympathetic to Putin charging Iowa Guard with tax evasion is like you know issuing speeding tickets at the Indy 500. Certainly you know you could do that any Russian way and certainly the oligarchs. So it's a matter of choice who you choose to go after and that's where the politics comes into it. And certainly others of this group of individuals have felt threatened probably one of the most famous one is Boris Berezovsky who
who felt apparently so threatened that he decided to leave Russia and he. Living in London I believe he was told to leave the country too he just refused to do any sort of you know Russia is my home I want my children to grow up here I refused to do it I'm fighting for the future of my country now. Whether you credit him with noble aims or not he definitely had every opportunity to leave the country that's what they wanted him to do and he chose to stand fight. So he obviously thought maybe he was big enough so that he could take on. Well yeah I think that's right exactly I think there was some misapprehension I think perhaps on his part about how this would end up. Did you heard Susan drawing a breath there to ban the guy cut her off. No not at all and then I was going to say that it's an amazing saga because I think her close ski had the sense of himself as an independent political agent in a society that was not yet ready for that kind of businessman politician and you know Pridgen made it very clear that we I don't care how many billions of dollars you have in at one
point or close just a couple years ago was the richest man in the world under the age of 40. He had 15 billion dollars at his height. Now he's serving a nine year jail term so I think that the message was very clear about the relative virtues of money versus political power in today's Russia and the other member here too of this one is where it's not just that he's behind bars. Basically dismantle the company Yukos was the biggest oil producer in Russia and the most successful private company created since the end of Soviet Union it was it was building a reputation among Western investors and analysts the quarter called Ski whatever his crimes are or failures or what have you in the past was was making a very big show of cleaning up transparent books and doing things the right way by Western business matters and accounting standards. So then they took apart the company a company in effect put it into the hands of the state. So that's the bottom line there. Is there a possibility that that there will be similar kinds of prosecutions of other people
like him. Now that's been the big concern certainly and business in particular Western Digital have been very jittery about investing in Russia as a result of the controversy surrounding it of course. You know the Kremlin has repeatedly sought to insist that this was some sort of isolated case. You know but it's not entirely clear where that's headed I think the message certainly is when it comes to natural resources in particular oil like like you cause that the government wants to have a much bigger role in dividing up those resources than it did in the 1990s. How much is is there a deliberate sort of effort. In the Kremlin to gain once again gain control of these things that formerly had been state enterprises well particularly I didn't say I speak of the energy sector I think that the Kremlin is worried about because assets are the strategic heart of the country and in fact Russia is the largest oil producer in the world alongside Saudi Arabia. But every other large oil producer in the world by and large most of them
can the state controls the industry. Putin is and his guys believe that this was a mistake of the 90s to give that up and piece by piece they seem to be interested in consolidating at least some more control over it with the ones that they're not taking over directly. They're simply intimidating into following their direction. Another large oil company Lukoil which in fact is now the largest because of you causes you know dismemberment. One day came forward and started spending hundreds of millions of dollars in additional taxes to the state that the state hadn't even asked for. Saying well we just wanted to go ahead and do this. After the collapse of the. You know I know people in Washington D.C. The big question that they were all wrestling with was what now does Russia mean to the United States. And certainly there are people I think felt that it wasn't the kind of military threat that it was before but that it was important for the United States to have positive relations with Russia. That became perhaps more critical after September 11th and the United States was
looking for to build relationships and to how many allies they could count in in the war on terror. And it was interesting here that there was there was also a sort of a reciprocal relationship going because of Chechnya and the right you know on the Russians the Americans were saying to each other well you know we each of us have our wars on terror and and we'll support each other. And also we'll get out of each other's way which which put the United States in the position that if they wanted the Russians to back us then we pretty much had to back them which meant at the very least not CR. Sizing Russia and what they did in Chechnya or any place else. Let's talk about the relationship between President Bush and Mr. Putin. President Bush famously said well I looked in this man's eyes and looked into his soul and this is a guy we could do business order whatever it was that that he said. What exactly would you characterize the relationship mainly between the two countries but between the two men. Well this is probably a remark that that President Bush these days wishes that he
had made in the sense that it sort of boxed him in and certainly members of ministration have become considerably more concerned about the direction in which Putin is taking the country to them. Had that famous spinning back in 2001 and looked into each other's eyes and took the measure of their soul. At the same time I think you're right in pointing out that Bush and Putin have had generally gotten along very much in the post-September 11th environment. You know and they're mutually reinforcing the wars on terror have in a way given that common cause compared to even the rest rest of Europe I think. You know they. The Bush administration doesn't want Russia to be a problem it has too much already going on its agenda to put Russia back into the center of attention. And so in that sense I think they're there looking for what concessions is it willing to give them whether it's allowing U.S. military presence in Central Asia for the first time U.S.
military bases on former Soviet soil in the wake of September 11. A presence that continues to this day. It whether it's you know it helped in the war in Afghanistan or at least pass it you know agreement not to cause too much trouble in the continuing problems with Iraq. I think those things are important to the Bush administration when it comes to its dealings with Russia because it has enough going on its agenda already. Well what do you think that the United States would have done anything differently if it had not been concerned with maintaining Russian support for the United States war on terror after September 11th. Well it's hard to say which it was itching to go back and look at the record. In 1999 President Bush made a very very tough critique of Russia while he was running for president which he said you cannot look the other way at the brutality and what's going on in Chechnya and we have to be honest about that and we haven't heard about that since.
Condi Rice in an article in Foreign Affairs magazine which was meant as sort of a manifesto of the future Bush foreign policy said they were no longer going to be interested in Russia's internal affairs so much like the democracy and the economics and so forth they were going to deal with Russia as a as a great power in terms of strategic issues like ABM Treaty missile defense. Nate Oh these sorts of questions so that's all been turned on its head. You know 9/11 sort of reshuffled everything in the way they see things in the other thing they said we don't want to be happy talk a personalized relationship the way Clinton had with Yeltsin and of course we have now is a very personalized relationship between President Bush and President Putin. I think it's interesting too to go back and think about the administration and how it thought about foreign policy before September 11 that I think that some people would say that it was telling that they chose Conley's or rice to be the security advisor because she was a Soviet specialist. That was her thing and there and I suppose some people
would say even at that point they would have said look the Cold War is over. Yes Russia is important but do you really want. Do you really think that it's important for your top foreign policy person or your security adviser to be to be a Soviet to be a Soviet ologist which she was and and I suppose in some ways still is. Well I think that the most important factor for her with Bush was necessarily her particular specialty but the relationship she built with him she creates she had come up for her father's NSC staff and knew the younger boys and they therefore is a relation of trust and friendship there I mean they shared a passion for first sports and and she spent a lot of time with both the president and the first lady and they weren't present the first lady. So I think it was a matter of of trust and that she provided schooling for him if you will on foreign policy broadly not just about Russia. That he didn't have coming into the job. Well has she been particularly important in the. Crafting the kind of policy the
United States has had towards Russia. Absolutely she's been very personally involved in that and in fact has forged a personal relationship with Sergei Von of who's perhaps the most influential member of Putin's cabinet he's also like Putin a former KGB spy. He served undercover as a spy in Great Britain during the Cold War He's now the defense minister and you know is widely considered to be sort of the leader of the the stool if you keep faction inside the Kremlin in other words that the faction drawn from the former veterans of of the KGB and the Congolese Rice has preferred to deal directly with with him throughout the last three years and sort of forging this new relationship between the U.S. and Russia. So I think you can look to her and say she's the one who has set the policy. We have about 10 minutes left in this part of focus 580 our guest Susan Glasser and Peter Baker. They work for The Washington Post they were the Moscow bureau chief for the paper from January 2001 to November 2000 and four and they are the co-authors
of a book that is titled Kremlin Rising Vladimir Putin's Russia and the end of revolution came out in early June published by Scribner and questions are welcome. People who are listening want to call in. 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. That's for Champaign-Urbana listeners we do also have a toll free line good anywhere that you can hear us and that is eight hundred to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Now what sort of. Opposition is their opposition to put in and his circle and do they have much much potential for pushing policy one way or another. Well there is there is opposition to him but there's not very effective opposition. He succeeded in marginalizing all of the figures who stabbed something different and his society or he actually created opposition parties to suit his own interests. You know it's a very unique feature of Russia today that that the opposition party in the last Parliament elections that got the most
attention coming out of nowhere was actually a creation of the Kremlin and the ones who are left who are in genuine opposition are seen as responsible for the chaos if you will of the 1098 and therefore the public doesn't genuinely support them. Susan will often cite for instance polls that show that in Russia today perhaps only 30 percent of Russians even consider themselves to be democrat small D. And even then the two quote Democratic Party is on quote the last election could only manage 7 percent of the vote. We have a caller here to talk to let's do that someone listening this morning in Chicago on our toll free line. Line four right. I missed about five minutes of your talk just recently because of the phone call soliciting ribose. The sort of so I hope I'm not duplicating anything. The question I had was this sir. What do you think for those or any information to the effect that that
might be wanting to use the oil wells of Russia too. Bring the United States down a peg because of its weakness in the toilet. Right. That's a good question and you know they it they went after 9/11 there was a brief attempt to try to create what they called an energy dialogue between the United States and Russia between in effect the world's largest energy consumer that's us and the world one of the world's largest energy producers and of course that's Russia. It didn't go anywhere in part because of politics partly because of the fact that frankly it's hard to ship oil that's that's pumped out of Siberia all the way across an ocean. The United States but so right now Russia is looking a little bit more toward China China is going to be a very big customer of Russia because it's increasing its demand the need for oil. Quantitatively every year so does that directly affect the United States. No except in the sense that the Russian
probably will not be a major supplier for the United States in a direct sense. And so they are playing a part. The Prophet explicitly told essentially it was just not part of the game. They play politics politics with oil but. But it's not so much directed at us. It's directed for instance at its neighboring countries the former Soviet republics that it likes to keep in line. They do this with oil and gas in particular natural gas a big Russian product and from time to time Moscow will cut off the gas to some former Soviet republic that is behave badly in his view. But that but that's a little more distant from us. OK thank you two and other questions are certainly welcome. We have maybe about five minutes left in this part of the show 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 toll free 800 2 2 2 4 5 5. We talked a moment ago about the fact that once the Cold War was over that people in Washington were spent.
Well that's what I'm talking about. What should the relationship be between Russia and the United States and in what sense Russia still mattered and I don't think that there was anybody who were saying that it didn't matter at all but that it was that things definitely were different. So no though if if we asked that question to us here in the United States. In what sense does Russia matter. How do you answer that. Well I mean there's no question. Russia after all is the only country in the world besides the United States that can still blow up the entire world at the push of a button. It is not only a nuclear power. At a time when that matters both in terms of the Russian government policy but also their ability to secure their nuclear stockpiles for example against terrorists who have expressed interest in intervening weapons of mass destruction from the former Soviet Union stability and Russia matters because of its geographic position this is a country that's just too big and centrally located to ignore Russia it is for better or worse the major player in your region it borders on
all of the countries that you know President Bush has so memorably called the axis of evil and I think that you know in many ways Putin has tapped into a very important feeling in Russian psyche when he talks about restoring Russia to its rightful place as a great power in the world. And now I think it's good betting that Russia is always going to be a major player in the world. Because of its strategic location an incredible mineral and oil wealth. So the next presidential election in Russia would be two thousand eight. Is that right. That's right and Putin has sworn he's not going to run that because there's a term in the Russian constitution for two terms he's now in a second term. But the real question you know nobody really totally believes him he spent all his time accumulating power back in the Kremlin. So the idea that he would simply walk away from it in 2008 seems implausible to many people so right now it is a parlor game in Moscow going on trying to invent various ways that he will figure out to keep hold of power to change the Constitution perhaps allow a third
term maybe he'll rewrite it. So the prime minister is the real power and he'll become prime minister. There is many ideas for how to do it as there are brains thinking about it right now. He says he won't change the constitution but that's going to be a real test and that's certainly what the ICE's government is doing is a real test of his commitment to any semblance of democracy. Is there anyone who seems to be and perhaps this is would have to be someone already within his circle who what would seem to be a leading contender to succeed him if he was not if he actually abided by the term limits or whenever the day came when he decided that he wanted to retire from from. Active involvement in politics or maybe that it may be that they won't come for a long time that he'll be retiring for a lot of the college grad mean they have already shown their great success in a project like project that is inventing somebody. Keller Mead for the times in Russia so it's not necessarily a question of who what when and what are we looking at but right now there are several people mentioned you
know for example Sergei Ivanov who I talked about that the defense minister very close adviser to Putin also a former KGB spy he would be extremely controversial of course in the West who views him as the major hard liner if you will inside the Kremlin today. There are also some some out time outside pretenders to the throne but there's no one who really has the stature and that I think is part of why you see so much speculation about Putin himself. And will he remain in power. Well I think that that will have to stop because we have come to the end of the time for people who would like to read more about Russia on Russian politics I suggest you look for the book we've talked about here it's titled Kremlin Rising Vladimir Putin's Russia and the end of revolution published by Scribner by our guests Susan Glasser Peter Baker. They work for The Washington Post. And they were between January 2001 and November 2004 they were the Moscow bureau chiefs for the newspaper and to you I want to say thanks. Ms GLASSER Thank you. Thank you very much.
- Focus 580
- Producing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media
- Contributing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
- AAPB ID
- With Peter Baker (journalist and Moscow Bureau Chief for The Washington Post from January 2001 to November 2004), and , and Susan Glasser (journalist and Moscow Bureau Chief for The Washington Post from January 2001 to November 2004)
- Broadcast Date
- Talk Show
- Government; Foreign Policy-U.S.; Europe; International Affairs; Russia; Geography
- Media type
Guest: Baker, Peter
Guest: Glasser, Susan
Producer: Brighton, Jack
Producing Organization: WILL Illinois Public Media
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-d73e641fe31 (unknown)
Illinois Public Media (WILL)
Identifier: cpb-aacip-2f11047d300 (unknown)
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- Chicago: “Focus 580; Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution,” 2005-07-19, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-t43hx1692w.
- MLA: “Focus 580; Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution.” 2005-07-19. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-t43hx1692w>.
- APA: Focus 580; Kremlin Rising: Vladimir Putins Russia and the End of Revolution. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-16-t43hx1692w