A US diplomat caused an uproar when his analysis of Russia's political clans was published in a Moscow newspaperby Thomas Graham / January 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
Published in January 1996 issue of Prospect Magazine
On November 23rd, a 5,000 word article appeared in the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta which caused a diplomatic scandal between Russia and the US. Written by Thomas Graham, first secretary at the US embassy, the article is an intriguing account of Russia’s political brutalities which reads as if written by one of President Yeltsin’s sharpest critics. The political class, including foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev, was outraged: the US embassy, clearly embarrassed, pointed to the standard disclaimer at the end of the article, saying that the writer’s views were his own. The fact that it had been passed for publication at all may be an indicator of how little the US cares about Russian opinion-this, at any rate, is the Moscow view. The article (in edited form) is reproduced here for the first time in the west. It argues that Russian reforms are close to an end, and have left in their wake a corrupt and potentially authoritarian social order. This is a view recognisable by anyone who observes the Russian scene after the Duma elections. The enclosed nature of the political system, the often deadly struggle for control of property, the opaque nature of most decisions, the powerlessness and irresponsibility of many politicians-all of these are reflected in Graham’s trenchant analysis. This view, however, fails to provide any account of the groups benefiting from the reforms, and dismisses the “New Russians”-the new rich-as a crudely avaricious pimple on society’s backside. Graham even comes close to dismissing the reforms after four years: an impatiently short time. JOHN LLOYD
The new elite perceives its power based not on popular support, but on control of the political and economic institutions of the state. And for the first time since the Soviet Union began to crack up, this elite is certain that it has the right to rule.
It is too soon to call the new elite monolithic, but its fissures are quite different from those which divided the factions betwee…