Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'No Justifiable Reason' for Yugoslav Federation

In response to "Ends Do Not Justify the Means," an editorial, July 3.

To Our Readers

Has something you've read here startled you? Are you angry, excited, puzzled or pleased? Do you have ideas to improve our coverage?
Then please write to us.
All we ask is that you include your full name, the name of the city from which you are writing and a contact telephone number in case we need to get in touch.
We look forward to hearing from you.

Email the Opinion Page Editor

As a Yugoslav citizen, I feel compelled to comment on your editorial. The impression is that you haven't fully grasped the intricacies that led to the extradition of Slobodan Milosevic.

Readers should bear in mind that Yugoslavia is a federation made up of two constituent republics: Serbia and Montenegro. Vojislav Kostunica is the president of the federation, whilst republics have their own constitutions, presidents and governments. (By the way, the current president of Serbia is a close friend of Milosevic and his possible future cellmate.) The federal constitution and the republics' constitutions are not harmonized in some parts. This structure was inherited from Tito's era and preserved with some modifications to this day mainly because Milosevic wanted it so.

There is no justifiable reason for such a federation. Montenegro is heading toward full independence; Serbia is proposing a redefinition of the federation. What will prevail, time — and the West, I suspect — will tell.

Thanks to this awkward state of affairs, the latest government was formed by coalition partners from Serbia and one political party from Montenegro that represents a minority of voters dedicated to the preservation of Yugoslavia. The strongest Montenegrin party, led by Milo Djukanovic, did not bother to participate.

It has been clear from the start that the Montenegrin partner in the federal government is opposed to extradition. On the same issue, Kostunica was always dillydallying — even before he was elected — refusing to take a firm position for or against it. Unfortunately for him, the West, which does hold huge leverage over Serbia, got fed up with the foot-dragging president and turned to the Serbian government instead, which eventually delivered.

Kostunica is a proponent of strict adherence to law. This is laudable in principle, but on numerous occasions minor players on the current political scene took advantage of him and of the Serbian democratic coalition, stating breaches of trivial formalities and challenging Kostunica to keep his legalistic word. He would usually oblige, forgetting in the process that this is real life, not some legal textbook case. In any case, adhering to laws mainly written by the communists for their own purposes and at the same time not pushing for legal and other reforms does not do credit to Kostunica. But there is a twist in this legalism.

Back to your editorial, "Instead of allowing Serbia to come around to its own decision on Milosevic …" Well, Serbia, in the form of its government, did come to a decision. It was Yugoslavia, the federal institution, that needed, "its own time and accord." Did anybody in the anti-extradition and legalistic lobbies think about the consequences of wasting time? I'm afraid not. These people live in some other time.

In substantiating its decision, the Serbian government made good use of a clause in the republican constitution, which — following a close interpretation — gives precedence to republican legislation over federal when the interests of Serbia are in jeopardy. Farcical but true. And guess who included this clause? It was Milosevic himself, during the last days of the former Yugoslavia, to protect his fiefdom from federal institutions. So, the legal facade is preserved. Now, if Kostunica is so devoted to legalism, why does he ignore the fact that on paper everything was legal? Or he thinks it is ungentlemanly to beat Milosevic and his cronies with their own dirty weaponry?

You are right, "it has reopened deep divisions in Yugoslav society." The fact of extradition is actually not so important; divisions go much deeper (an analogy with Russian divisions is not out of place). They will hopefully disappear with economic recovery. If not, Yugoslavia — or Serbia and Montenegro — faces the danger of becoming what, with all due respect, Georgia and Armenia are today: an unfulfilled hope.

Our president is a living example of our divisions. His head is pro-Western, his heart against. It would not bother me if he was a private person, but now that he has taken official responsibility, he is supposed to lead the country, not complain about injustices in the world. Unfortunately, Kostunica failed on that task. That's why "the West has pulled the rug out from under him." The best thing he can do for our nation is to retire and be remembered as a man who slayed the dragon.

Vojin Sevic


Patriarch vs. Pope

In response to "Is the Pope the East's Friend or Foe?" a comment by Sergei Chapnin, June 25.

The comment is miserably one-sided. Did Chapnin protest against the pope's visit to Greece and the Ukraine?

I am beginning to believe that "peace on Earth, goodwill to men" is not in the Orthodox Bible.

Rich in spirituality, they are not so for charity. Patriarch Alexy ll and his bishops are hardly even gentlemen. These men in Moscow will never feel any comfort with the Catholic church until the pope stops kissing the blessed soils of other lands and starts kissing their feet.

Who knows, Pope John Paul ll just may do this. Should this occur, the cold-hearted of the Russian church will continue to remain unmoved. Their holy canons and hatreds will rule but their hearts will crumble.

What a pity. I am convinced that the Orthodox feel more holy and more Orthodox the more they are anti-Catholic. It is so ingrained in them that it has become their theology.

Max L. Castillo
Englewood, New Jersey

Yukos' Management

In response to "OMZ Sets Minority Shareholder Precedent," an article by Torrey Clark, June 29.

We are delighted that positive events connected with the improvement of the standards of Russian corporate governance such as at OMZ are being reported.

As you know, and as has been widely reported, we at Yukos have been at the forefront in the fight to improve the level of corporate governance in our own company and in Russia in general. As has also been widely reported, a Yukos-sponsored level-1 American Depositary Receipts program in respect of its common shares was declared effective by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in early March 2001.

While developing our ADR program, the question of discretionary proxy, widely discussed in the community and among experts, NGOs and governmental watchdogs, was consciously considered by Yukos' management. Yukos' management was unanimous in its view that discretionary proxy in respect of unvoted shares underlying outstanding ADRs not be granted to Yukos' management.

This decision was made in an effort to further foster high standards of corporate governance within Yukos and clearly and publicly demonstrate this to the investor community. Such a decision, however, stood in stark contradiction to most if not all of the other Russian companies that had previously sponsored ADR facilities, pursuant to which, discretionary proxy was in fact granted to management of those companies.

Although the above-referenced article does not appear per se inaccurate, we are concerned that it might lead even a sophisticated reader to the conclusion that the ADR program sponsored by Yukos granted discretionary proxy in respect of unvoted shares underlying outstanding ADRs to Yukos's management, which the Yukos program intentionally did not do.

Hugo Erikssen
Director of the International Information Department

America's Interest

In response to "Calling Russia's Bluff," a comment by R. James Woolsey, June 28.

Your article is right. No one is to blame but ourselves. It seems that even though the Cold War is over, the lingering perceptions of the Cold War are still present and they still treat Russia as a beaten enemy.

Billions are still spent on weapons. Why spend when the Cold War is over? There are still suspicions between the two countries.

The United States should have a different attitude toward Russia. It had a chance when Gorbachev was leader, but the United States did not provide any Marshall Plan II to help Russia.

What the United State should do is to revive a Marshall Plan II, not just for Russia but for those countries that want to create a stable economy and not give economic aid to countries with fragile economies. That would foster and encourage corruption with those who are in power.

When Ronald Reagan was president, dictators became more corrupt and abusive. But during the Marshall Plan of 1948, they built the economies of Western Europe and gave the people in those countries hope.

There should be a similar plan to the one in 1948, the tools, not the money, for them to work for themselves. As the saying goes, teach a man how to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime. Give a man a fish, and you have fed him for only today.

If Russia becomes another totalitarian state, it is because the United States failed to recognize the problem properly. It is also in the interest of the United States to see Russia become a stable country both politically and economically and not when the United States needs help for its self-interest.

Jim Eusebio

Clear Look at History

In response to "History Is a Teacher, Not a Therapist," a column by Boris Kagarlitsky, June 29.

The concept of "cliotherapy" reminds me of the 19th-century Italian thinker Benedetto Croce's infamous injunction that historians should not sacrifice the "beautiful myths" of nationalism for the sake of objectivity. In fact, Croce had little to worry about because many historians in his day saw their professional ethos as inextricably linked to promoting the national idea, whether Italian, German, American, or Russian.

Now the (mis)uses of history have come full circle. Let us hope that more fine scholars like Boris Kagarlitsky will continue to warn the public that history viewed through rose-colored spectacles only serves governmental interests.

Joseph Robert White, Ph.D.

Lukashenko's Morals

In response to "Lukashenko Leaves Kremlin Empty-Handed" an article by Simon Saradzhyan, June 25.

I am writing this in response to an article about the accusations of President Lukashenko of Belarus that Western forces are pulling Europe into a new conflict.

NATO action in Yugoslavia was well justified. People were dying, children murdered, women raped and there was also ethnic cleansing.

If Lukashenko had any morals, Belarus would have been right along with the countries that helped end this tragedy, and his value as a world leader would have risen to new heights.

I can see why Russia is dragging its feet about forming a union with Belarus. President Vladimir Putin is no fool. With Belarus located right on the Russian border, he knows that if Russia does not go through with the union, Lukashenko could pull a dramatic stunt: applying for membership in NATO, for example.

Lukashenko is insecure and nutty enough to do this if rejected by Russia. And NATO would jump at the chance to have a country right on Russia's border.

And as far as blaming the West for many problems, I as an American feel that the U.S. government thinks that it should lead the way in everything all over the world. There are many things that the United States should keep out of.

But Lukashenko should not blame the West for trying to put Europe into another conflict, especially the United States — one of the Soviet allies during World War II. America has done nothing to Belarus, and we do not want to do any harm to Belarus.

The major problem that America has with Lukashenko is that he added extra time onto his term as president. Only someone who fears losing control would do such a thing.

And when control does begin to slip away only bad things happen, and Lukashenko has no difficulty doing what it takes to remain in control. No world leader should be able to do that without a majority approval from his country's citizens.

But what is most important, do not blame the West for the problems of Europe. Lukashenko has no business blaming anyone for anything. I just hope, for the sake of Belarus, that he does not turn into another man like the one that is on trial at The Hague. The good citizens of Belarus deserve better.

Mark Phipps

Airing Dirty PR

In response to "Russian Journalism's Dirty Little Secret," an article by Alla Startseva, June 9.

The editorial staff of the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper read with interest your article "Russian Journalism's Dirty Little Secret." Of particular interest was the theme of "bought articles" in the post-Soviet Russian press. The problem does indeed exist in the Russian press and needs to be discussed. However, it is disturbing to note an absence of any deep analysis of the problem and the presence of inaccurate information that is harmful to Komsomolskaya Pravda's reputation.

For example, your author writes that Komsomolskaya Pravda is the champion of "black PR," that it comprises 70 percent of bought materials, and in April of this year an allegedly huge quantity of paid material appeared on its pages (for $540,000). Forgive our asking, but where exactly did this information come from? From our accounting department or from an independent auditing company that services the paper? Or is this merely the fruit of the idle minds of certain analysts who have calculated our area and materials and decided that the articles might be paid for?

And assertions that only two or three journalists remain at "Komsomolka" while the rest are allegedly "advertising agents trying to sell bought articles" sound completely inaccurate.

Out of interest, would you ascribe such stars of the journalistic firmament as V. Peskov, I. Rudenko, Y. Golovanov, L. Repin to this list, as well as the many other talented writers of whom there are more than 200 working at our paper?

We hope that the grounds of our complaint are understood.

V.N. Sungorkin
Komsomolskaya Pravda