Russians angry at article written by U.S. diplomat Magazine piece paints unflattering picture

November 25, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

MOSCOW -- Violating a long-recognized if unspoken diplomatic tradition, a senior U.S. Embassy official has published a lengthy and unflattering article that portrays the Kremlin as a warren of rival cliques struggling to hang on to their power and privileges.

The Russian government lodged an official protest with the embassy yesterday and demanded a public explanation.

In characterizing the interest groups vying for power within the Russian state, Thomas E. Graham, a senior political officer, wrote, "One should note that these clans contain few staunch supporters of democracy, and none of the clans are devoted to democratic ideals, despite public assurances to the contrary."

The article appeared Thursday in Russian in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, a daily newspaper fiercely critical of the government of President Boris N. Yeltsin. It carried a small disclaimer that Mr. Graham's views "were not necessarily shared by the United States embassy or the United States government."

"It's not the content," said a Russian official. "It's the fact that the author is an accredited American diplomat in Moscow. This is just not done. We didn't run around Washington writing about Whitewater, not ever."

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering said in an interview that Mr. Graham had cleared the article with him and the State Department but that it represented Mr. Graham's thinking, not the government's.

"I assure you there was no design to upset the Russians," Mr. Pickering said. "But in a free society, people have to distinguish between personal and official views."

Mr. Graham suggested that he is not alone in his thinking.

"It is important that Russians have some idea of what individuals who work in the U.S. Embassy think about the processes in their country," he said yesterday. "Not everything that is said at senior government levels is what government analysts think day-to-day."

Mr. Graham delineates the new power structures of Russia that replaced the old Soviet order and the ways these new "elites" appear to be out of touch with voters.

"The elections present a danger to the elite," he wrote, "because even though they retain the levers of power, they understand less and less what is going on in society."

The page-long article depicts an amorphous Russian state ruled by warring cliques that include Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin and a cluster of oil and gas industrialists; a "Moscow group" led by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and banking and real estate interests; and an inner-Kremlin cabal led by Alexander Korzhakov, Mr. Yeltsin's close adviser and security chief; Mikhail Barsukov, head of federal security forces; and Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, in charge of military industries.

Mr. Graham also notes the "agrarians," who still control the mostly unreformed Soviet-style farm sector, and "Westerners," including senior aides such as Sergei Filatov and Anatoly Chubais, whose power stems from their hold on privatization and their ties to international financial institutions like the World Bank.

He describes in detail the various crises and intrigues played out between these groups and suggests that despite their rivalries, they are all struggling uneasily to engineer a political stability that would ensure their hold on power and the country's financial resources.

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