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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

An Outrageous Intrigue

The deep level of ignorance on the part of many American specialists on Russia is often astonishing. Here is a fresh example. Last Monday, one of the most widely respected elders from the Sovietological guild commented on Radio Liberty about the well-known letter by 13 leaders of Russia's largest businesses calling for compromise between the country's opposing political forces. He spoke with great emotion and almost a tremble in his voice about the powerful brave act of the Russian capitalists, their unshakable decisiveness in not allowing a communist revenge and their firm support of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. "Don't they realize the risks they are taking if [Communist Party leader] Gennady Zyuganov wins the elections," the host of the show asked anxiously. "Yes, but they understand that if Zyuganov wins, they won't have a future anyway," the famous U.S. expert explained with indulgence.


In fact, the letter of Boris Berezovsky, head of the LogoVAZ industrial concern -- without a doubt the one who inspired the document -- and his colleagues are proving precisely the opposite.


The leaders of Russia's biggest firms have invested enormous sums in Yeltsin's pre-election campaign. They have repeatedly and unambiguously announced their support for his candidacy. The news media, over which they have had control for more than the past two months, can constantly be heard reciting, "Yel-tsin, Yel-tsin," and reporting on the growth in their candidate's ratings.


There is nothing surprising about this. Most of these businessmen, and above all Berezovsky, acquired their fantastic wealth during the stormy period of dividing up state property not so much through their entrepreneurial skills as their ties to the regime and its most prominent representatives.


What is surprising is that in the heat of the campaign, at its most critical moment, they invited the leading and most talented ideologists in Zyuganov's camp, Alexander Prokhanov and Valentin Chikin, and ceremoniously handed them the document.


Prokhanov and Chikin took it into consideration and coldly remarked that it cannot be the "instrument of blocking the people's will, and the elections must take place on June 16 without fail."


It is hard to imagine that Berezovsky -- who has always publicly boasted, as a means of self-promotion, of the protection he enjoys from the chief of the president's security service, Alexander Korzhakov -- would decide to take such a responsible step without his Kremlin protectors.


It seems that members of Yeltsin's close circle have come to the fateful conclusion that their chief will not be re-elected or, in any case, the risk of his being defeated is too great. The options of cancelling the elections, dissolving the State Duma or banning the Communist Party have already been formulated by Yeltsin's team, when the Communist-led Duma denounced the Belovezhskaya Pushcha agreement. But such actions would require much public support and the loyalty of the armed forces. Both conditions are lacking. The Communists have traditionally had influence in the armed forces, which is only growing stronger.


Yeltsin's close circle was thus left with no choice but to come to an understanding with the Communists. What possible ideological or moral obstacles could there be to such an agreement?


What are the ideals, convictions, economic views that distinguish, for example, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Nikolai Yegorov, head of the presidential administration, Mikhail Barsukov, director of the Federal Security Service, Viktor Ilyushin, the chief presidential aide, on the one hand, from generals Vladislav Achalov and Albert Makashov or chairman of the State Duma Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, on the other? These are kith and kin. This is the collective face of the present and future regime of the new Russia.


Therefore, for all the incomprehensible, mischievous and provincial pompousness of Berezovsky's rhetoric, only two simple ideas emerge: either "the elections are not necessary" or "I will steal under any regime."


But one essential detail has been forgotten, namely Zyuganov and the Communist Party as a whole. The Communist Party now has open to it a spectrum of possibilities that will bring it to power.


It could agree to the proposed deal and get the maximal benefit from it by setting strict conditions. It is possible but not necessary. The communists would in any case never agree to it. They clearly need not only a simple victory but one that is absolutely fair, constitutional and meets the highest standards of European democracy. Only such a victory would allow the party to dispel the opprobrium of the shootings, deportations and falsifications that are associated with it.


They need such a victory not only in the political but in the metaphysical sense. Once and for all. For past and for future generations of Communist Party leaders. A victory would be enough for them for a long time. And they are fully capable of reaching one this summer. Or they never will.


Thus would they really give up their historical chance for the sake of Korzhakov or Berezovsky? Zyuganov can either reject the deal with indignation. Or he can play a cat-and-mouse game in which he holds sluggish and drawn out negotiations. I believe that Zyuganov will choose both options in his interrelations with Yeltsin's circle and at the right moment simply use them to his advantage.


As for the bankers, a similar meeting already occurred in Germany in 1932 a few months before the country's last elections to the Reichstag. There was also much talk of stability, the state system and patriotism. The only difference now is that, at this meeting, bankers "born of mixed marriages," to use Berezovsky's words, were absent. (This euphemism recalls another famous one about the "lawyer's son," Vladimir Zhirinovsky.) Such bankers, apparently, have a sober enough view of the near future.





Andrei Piontkowsky is director of the Center for Strategic Studies. He contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.