Testimony - BCSIA

Transcript of Graham Allison Interview on 'Talk of the Nation' (National Public Radio)

| March 27, 2000

c 2000 National Public Radio ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to National Public Radio. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or part without prior written permission. For further information please contact NPR''s Permissions Coordinator at (202) 414-2000. Transcript produced by Burrelle''s Information Services, Box 7, Livingston, NJ 07039.


SHOW: Talk of the Nation

DATE: March 27, 2000


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I''m Juan Williams.

Yesterday Russia elected a new president, Vladimir Putin. The former KGB agent is just 47 and is best known for his harsh tactics in dealing with rebels in Chechnya. Putin has been acting president since January, when Boris Yeltsin resigned. He got 52 percent of the vote yesterday, and in a surprise, a Communist candidate received nearly 30 percent of the vote in the former Communist nation. In a midnight press conference Putin interpreted the sizable Communist vote as a protest by the Russian people. He said they are displeased by the current state of life in Russia. In his campaign, Putin made no promises about what he will do to improve their lives, but the nation''s social welfare system is in trauma, with high levels of alcoholism, prostitution, and a very high death rate. The nation''s banking and judicial systems are dysfunctional and corruption is widespread.

Russian leaders have been painting technicolor pictures of a brighter future for Russia since Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in 1985. Here''s Gorbachev in 1987.

(Soundbite from 1987)

President MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (Russia): (Through Translator) The Soviet people are getting down to work in the new year with an awareness of their great responsibility for the present and for the future. There will be profound changes in our country along the lines of continued perestroika, democratization and radical economical reform.

WILLIAMS: Gorbachev''s words were followed with promises from Russia''s first democratically elected president, Boris Yeltsin, in 1991.

(Soundbite from 1991)

President BORIS YELTSIN (Russia): (Through Translator) Two or three months ago, there were still reasons to doubt which will be the way that Russia will go, whether it will go the true way of democracy or the way of half-hearted measures, half-hearted reform, semi-democracy. Now we can be assured that the choice has been made.

WILLIAMS: And now, in a strange turn, Vladimir Putin has made no promises, and yet the Russian people have given him the keys to the Kremlin. So today on TALK OF THE NATION: Are critics right when they charge that Putin is a new dictator for Russia? Or is Putin, at 47, young enough to be in touch with Western economic development, and was he likely now to refuse to ever turn back? And can he, or anyone else, cut out the cancer of corruption that is threatening democracy''s growth in Russia?

What do you think? We''ll begin this hour with Michele Kelemen, NPR bureau chief in Moscow. She''ll bring us up to date on the latest news.

Michele, how are you?


I''m fine. How are you?

WILLIAMS: What are the results, final results, of yesterday''s election?

KELEMEN: Well, as you said in your introduction there, Putin garnered just about 53 percent, actually; a little over 52 percent now. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov came in second, just over 29 percent. The third-place winner was, as expected, Grigory Yavlinsky, who''s a liberal lawmaker, and he got about 6 percent. And there were eight others who were far below those levels.

WILLIAMS: Now Yavlinsky was the one who was attacked on television for having the support, it was said, of the homosexual Jews and others. What ever came of the idea that Putin might have been behind that attack?

KELEMEN: Well, he hasn''t said anything publicly on that, obviously. The idea was that the Kremlin was getting concerned about Yavlinsky because he could possibly take some votes away from Putin in the last week. Grigory Yavlinsky was never a serious threat, just in the past week he''s been— he was campaigning more actively against Putin and trying to grab a few more of the liberal votes away from him. And I think the Kremlin saw that as a threat, whether or not it was Putin behind it or basically media moguls who were in close with the Kremlin and who were promoting Putin. It was probably more likely them.

WILLIAMS: OK. Michele, what about the 30 percent showing by the Communist? What does that mean for Putin?

KELEMEN: Well, they did make a much stronger showing than we expected, I think. Putin portrayed himself throughout this campaign as this great consolidator. He can consolidate all of society. He talked about restoring dignity. And he touched on a lot of the same issues that Communists would normally like to hear; pride in Russia and again this dignity in your lifestyle. But that initially did appeal to a lot of voters, I think, including Communists. But Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov does still have a good support base— I think he showed that with this— and very disciplined voters. Putin acknowledged this. When he met last night with journalists he said he got the message that people are satisfied with falling living standards. And remember, he is going to have to deal with the Communists, because they are still a big force in parliament.

WILLIAMS: Michele, was the electoral process fair, or were there any appearances of fraud, corruption in any way?

KELEMEN: Well, there were observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe at a lot of polling stations, and they declared today the vote free and fair. They did raise some concerns, of course, about the media coverage in this campaign, which was very pro-Putin. I mean, Putin was on television constantly, everywhere he went, followed by cameras. So the media bias was one of their concerns today. The other concern that they mention was about voting in Chechnya. They actually had voting in Chechnya for these elections. There were no OSCE observers, mainly out of security reasons, but also they complained that Chechens wouldn''t have had any access to campaigning— they couldn''t watch television, get newspapers so that their conditions, obviously, weren''t conducive to voting. Putin praised the fact that elections took place there. He saw this as a sign that things are returning to normal.

WILLIAMS: Now since the victory, President Putin had a press conference, a midnight press conference, at which he spoke. Did he give any clear indications of what his priorities for Russia might be?

KELEMEN: He remains very evasive. He also had a whole series of meetings today with his Security Council, and he talked about `We need to get to work now that we have this strong mandate.'' I don''t really think we can expect very dramatic moves in the near future. He''s not going to be inaugurated until early May, and members of his Cabinet said that they''re going to step down after his inauguration so that he can— that can clear the way for him to name a new Cabinet. I think before then we won''t hear very strong signals. There is some speculation we might have a shakeup in the Defense Ministry, but other than that, no big changes in the Cabinet expected.

And as for the economy, Putin has set up this institute where economists are drawing up his program, and I went there recently. It''s this very swank building in central Moscow, and the people there are talking about very broad-picture issues, not about solid legislation. We''ll see what comes out of it.

WILLIAMS: Is there much fare, Michele— I''ve read where some liberal journalists have talked about Russia returning to an authoritarian regime, where others have complained that the possibility exists of a modernized Stalin. Do you sense any of that concern in the Russian people?

KELEMEN: I think you hear it more in Moscow and more among political analysts and journalists than average people. In some ways, his KGB past sort of has a different image for— not for all Russians, obviously, but for a lot of Russians they see this as a person— he may be an honest person, honest law enforcement official in the KGB. It just has a different connotation, I think, for the average Russians.

WILLIAMS: Thanks very much. NPR''s Moscow bureau chief, Michele Kelemen.

My guests for the rest of the hour to talk about the changes in Russia, Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University and a former assistant secretary of Defense. He''s at our member station WBUR in Boston.

Welcome to the show.

Mr. GRAHAM ALLISON (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs): Thanks for having me.

WILLIAMS: Also joining us is Yevgenia M. Albats, journalist and author of the "The State Within the State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia— Past, Present, and Future." She''s joining us from Moscow.


Ms. YEVGENIA M. ALBATS (Author, "The State Within the State"): Thank you.

WILLIAMS: If you want to join the conversation, our number here in Washington is 1 (800) 989-8255. That''s 1 (800) 989-TALK. To send an e-mail, you can write to us at totn@npr.org. Please include at least your first name and where it is you''re writing from.

Graham Allison, let me start with you. Let me ask if you think that, in fact, Putin is the symbol of Russia''s future or a return to its past.

Mr. ALLISON: Well, again, so far he''s, other than as an outstanding political candidate, largely unknown. But I would bet that he''s the future, not the past. I think that the chances of a return to Stalinism or communism are essentially zero. I think as you look forward, at least for what you can see, from what he''s said, if you read carefully the statements that he''s made and watch his campaign, you find a person who''s very realistic— indeed brutally realistic— who''s very pragmatic, showing no evidence of ideology or principle in trying to achieve his objectives, and whose ambitions for Russia are essentially modern and moderate, namely that Russia not fall into collapse and not fall into the third rank of poor powers. And he feels that in order to do that, Russia''s got to join the world and join the world economy. So if that''s the philosophy that comes through in his administration, I think he will indeed prove a man with whom the West can do business.

WILLIAMS: Yevgenia Albats, let me ask, what is your sense of the man, Vladimir Putin? Do you sense that he is a former KGB agent and still about spy craft and maybe even cracking down on the rebels in Chechnya, or is he someone now who is turning his gaze to the West and trying to embrace the notion of democracy and capitalism?

Ms. ALBATS: Now, Juan, I always hesitate to judge anyone by association with these or that organization. Therefore, I don''t think that we should judge Putin just because he had a career in the KGB. Having said what I said, I wouldn''t say that Vladimir Putin is a sort of guy with a strong vision, a democrat who''s going to lead Russia to the liberal democracy. I think that he will be more preoccupied with economy issues. Probably the outcomes of yesterday''s voting won''t allow him for strong steps in terms of the economy right away. But I don''t expect him to be a great defender of the liberal values of Russia as well. Or I don''t think that democracy is an end for him, uh-uh.

So I would expect him to be quite an authoritarian leader who knows— and whose experience showed to him that market economy is much more efficient way of ruling economy— ruling the country, rather, than planned, Soviet-type economy.

WILLIAMS: Let''s take a call from Roger.

Mr. ALLISON: I agree with what...

WILLIAMS: Oh, just a moment, Mr. Allison.

Mr. ALLISON: Juan...

WILLIAMS: I just wanted to go to the phones here...

Mr. ALLISON: Sure.

WILLIAMS: ...for a second.

Mr. ALLISON: Sure.

WILLIAMS: Roger in Los Angeles, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

ROGER (Caller): Yes, Juan, I wanted to ask your guests about this. You know, here the media and also some of the government officials, the Republicans, they''re— you know, because Putin came up through the KGB ranks, they are critical of that. But then we had— Bush was vice president from ''80 to ''88, he was the CIA chief and he was also president. So it''s like, you know, when we have somebody from CIA it''s OK, but when they have somebody from KGB, it''s not OK. What''s up— no, we— the CIA does the same thing as KGB does all over the world. CIA was waging wars during the ''80s in El Salvador to Guatemala to...

WILLIAMS: All right, thanks for your call, Roger. Graham Allison.

Mr. ALLISON: I''d say— if I pick up just one thing, I''d say I agree very much with Yevgenia''s take that, you know, he''ll focus on the economy and that the questions arise with respect to democracy. On the questioner''s question, it''s a good question, but actually the striking difference between President Bush on the one hand and Putin on the other is that Bush, being a politician, was appointed to serve as head of CIA. He didn''t grow up in CIA. He wasn''t a CIA agent. Putin— actually, his first and formative job was as a KGB agent.

WILLIAMS: Agent, that''s right.

Mr. ALLISON: And that''s how he learned to...

WILLIAMS: Just a moment, Mr. Allison.

Mr. ALLISON: That''s how he learned his business.

WILLIAMS: You''re listening to TALK OF THE NATION. I''m Juan Williams.

We''re going to take a short break right now. When we return, we''ll continue talking about Russia and the newly elected president, Vladimir Putin, a former KGB agent. What shape will democracy take under his leadership. We''ll also take more of your calls at (800) 989-8255. If you''d like to comment on the program, the address is TALK OF THE NATION, 635 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20001.

At 21 minutes past the hour, it''s TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION. I''m Juan Williams.

Today we''re talking about Vladimir Putin and what his election yesterday as president of Russia means for democracy and the prospect of reform in that country. My guests are Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, and a former assistant secretary of Defense. He''s at member station WBUR in Boston. And Yevgenia M. Albats, journalist and author of "The State Within the State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia— Past, Present, and Future." She''s joining us from Moscow.

If you''d like to join our conversation, the number here is 1 (800) 989-8255.
That''s (800) 989-TALK.

Ms. Albats, I wanted to ask you about the caller''s notion that really the American media is making too much of the idea that Mr. Putin is a former KGB agent, and the caller puts him on par with the American president, George Bush, who was the head of the CIA. Would you do the same thing?

Ms. ALBATS: No, I wouldn''t do the same thing, because there is a huge difference between the CIA and the KGB. I mean, both— you know, any secret service violates the human rights. However, KGB, unlike its Western counterparts, was in great— in large, was a political polit whose main agenda was to suppress any thoughts other than the official way of thinking. So that''s why it''s very different. Secondary, KGB had a history of bloody past when millions of Soviet people were killed in the Gulag. So that''s— I mean, it''s wrong comparison.

Also, you know, we have to have in mind that only people with certain backgrounds and with certain aspirations were able to join KGB. KGB had a very sufficient training, and it wasn''t just training in communism, but it developed a certain type of psychology, and that was a psychology of statism. And, in fact, that''s exactly what we see, due to the last several months when Mr. Putin was an active president. His rhetoric, as well as his deeds, especially in Chechnya, present him as an extreme statist who has lack of knowledge and appreciation of the human rights. For him personal liberties, so far nothing, therefore I think that partially concern of the Western media is right, and I have the same sort of concern living in Moscow.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask why...

Ms. ALBATS: But I wouldn''t...


Ms. ALBATS: Yes?

WILLIAMS: Why would the Soviet people— why would the Russian people vote for a former KGB agent given what you have said. In addition to which, I might add, he has not made any promises about what he plans to do to help the Russian people, so why did they vote for him?

Ms. ALBATS: Because he presents a notion of a strong hand. He''s a sort of a man for whom Russians were looking during all this nine years of very painful reforms. Russian people feel themselves very humiliated by what has happened to the Soviet Union. They lost their country, they lost their (unintelligible) and they lost welfare state. Therefore— and it was— it is extremely difficult for the majority of people to get accustomed to the new way of life. Therefore, they are looking for someone who will help them to go through all this pain and kind of to adjust to the new situation. In fact, one of the Russian prominent pollsters asked Russian people a week before the elections whether they concerned about Putin''s KGB past, and we were quite surprised to learn that 70 percent answered, `No, we''re not concerned about his past.''

WILLIAMS: Mr. Allison, why do you think the Russian people voted, more than 50 percent we heard today, for this man? Do you have any sense of what his great appeal is?

Mr. ALLISON: Well, I think, again from a distance, it looks to me like he effectively wagged the Russian dog, if you remember that movie script.


Mr. ALLISON: And he was an actually quite extraordinary candidate who managed to hold up a magic mirror to every major constituency in which it imagined that it saw its own aspirations. Now how did he manage to do this, given his first career as a KGB spy? And I think it''s worth considering what skills a KGB spy acquires and how those are adaptable in modern electoral politics. You learn skills in deception, disinformation, cover, seduction of agents. And so I think, in effect, he seduced the Russian people in a campaign in which he ruthlessly suppressed his opponents, which he managed to suppress very effectively and which, as Yevgenia said, he managed to strike the responsive chords, as a pollster would find in the Russian people, for recovery, for economic improvement, for a stronger hand for a Russia that could feel more proud of itself.

WILLIAMS: All right, let''s go to Edward in Little Rock, Arkansas. Edward, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

EDWARD (Caller): Yes. How can the West overlook the murder of thousands of Chechens, and then at the same time trying to prosecute Slobodan Milosevic for his massacre of Bosnians, Slovenians, Croatians and now Kosovars? Where is the, quote, unquote, "morality" in foreign policy that our so-called leaders were promoting last year around this time in Yugoslavia?

WILLIAMS: All right, thanks for our call, Edward.

Ms. Albats, how would you respond?

Ms. ALBATS: You know, I probably have the same question. I mean, I don''t understand, in fact, the difference between the situation in Kosovo and in Chechnya, since they call it both wars. And it''s also true that during the last three years before the second war in Chechnya, Chechnya became a very unlawful state, let me put it this way. However, the war— both wars in Chechnya and the one that is current under way are conducted in such a savage way, that I really was kind of surprised to hear Mr. Clinton during his talk on the Internet, with praise of the war. But, you know, it''s probably politics. Probably Mr. Clinton has his reason to justify whatever was done in Russia, because otherwise his foreign policy looks pretty bleak.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Allison, is it possible that Russia''s continued holding of nuclear weapons is the reason for the difference in US policy?

Mr. ALLISON: I think you''re on target. I remember a famous quotation that says, "A narrow consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." So politics is frequently about noticing the difference between the things that are more important and the things that are less. And horrific and murderous as the Russian campaign against the Chechens has been, and there''s no denying that, in terms of the US interest, more important concerns are what happens, for example, to Russian nuclear weapons.

WILLIAMS: Let''s go to Nick in Indianapolis. Nick, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

NICK (Caller): Yes. I''d just like to say that I understand the reasons why the American government might be, in public at least, just a bit more sanguine about Mr. Putin''s succession to power than is justified by the facts, but I''m kind of appalled by all the Putin worship that seems to be going on in the press in this country: He''s so mysterious, he''s so sophisticated, he''s so this and that. Here''s a man that didn''t hesitate to run an extremely anti-Semitic campaign. As someone has pointed out earlier in the program, he''s caused great loss of life and devastation in Chechnya. What is it about this man that we think is anything other than a reincarnation and modern version of Stalin?

WILLIAMS: Well, thanks very much for your call, Nick.

Graham Allison, do you think that any kind of allusions to Stalin are legitimate or is this simply undeserved worry on the part of some Americans?

Mr. ALLISON: I think that these are substantially exaggerated, and I think that the questioner''s point, that it''s hard to tell about a person who''s unknown, is correct. But I think if one looks at this person, in terms of what they said and what they did in the campaign— I mentioned before three attributes that I think stand out above all others. First, this realism. For example, in his New Year''s Eve statement to the Russian people, he compared Russia not to US, not to Germany, not to other great powers, but to Portugal, and said that if Russia is to achieve the level of income of Portugal, it''s gonna have to grow for 15 years at 8 percent a year. Have a happy New Year. So that''s a degree of realism that a person like Stalin never showed.

Second, pragmatism. He basically has shown himself to be very pragmatic with respect to whatever needs to be done. Now there, the absence of principle as well as the absence of ideology has some resonance, but this is not a man that appears to be attached to any grand idea about Russia.

Thirdly, in terms of his agenda as he states it, it is to keep Russia from collapsing as a state and to keep it from falling into poverty as a state and being left behind in the world and global economy. So if that should be his agenda, while I share Yevgenia''s concerns that he''s not anything more than instrumentally attached to democracy or to the freedoms, these are not things that are deeply ingrained in any substantial way, and one''s got to be concerned about those. I think the thought of a Stalin seems simply out of the picture.

And finally, most important, Russia''s objective conditions today. Russia is generally genuinely poor, very poor, poorer than Turkey. Russia is generally sick, genuinely sick, deeply sick. Russia''s actually at the risk of falling apart, as Mr. Putin says. So I think the objective conditions for Russia today are quite different than those during the period of Stalin.

WILLIAMS: Yevgenia, let me ask: What do you think about Mr. Putin''s chances of rooting out the corruption, especially as you go out into the provinces? Is it likely that he will take a strong hand against the corruption that has damaged so much of Russian society?

Ms. ALBATS: I think he has no chance but to do this, because otherwise it will be impossible to run any reforms in Russia. In fact, his first agenda should be not economy. His first economy should be the reform of the Russian bureaucratic structure. That''s the most important thing. He has to separate bureaucracy from business, and that will be extremely difficult to achieve, having in mind the power of Russian oligarchs.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask...

Ms. ALBATS: On the other hand...

WILLIAMS: Let me ask a quick question here. He was named to succeed Boris Yeltsin by Boris Yeltsin and, in fact, much of the corruption has been linked to Boris Yeltsin. So is he in position to now begin to remove some of Yeltsin''s operatives from around the nation?

Ms. ALBATS: I don''t think that it will happen quickly. He''s not the sort of a guy who makes hard steps immediately. But I have no doubt that he will replace Yeltsin''s people with one of his own. But sure as— you know, in everything there are pluses and negatives in that, because Putin doesn''t have any command of his own. Basically, the kind of people he brought into Kremlin right now from St. Petersburg, they''re the people from the KGB who are now these FSB at large. And therefore, my concern: that on one hand we definitely need to fight the corruption, we definitely need to make the reforms of the government. However, I''m afraid that those who will come to replace those corrupted bureaucrats, they will be probably a bit less corrupt, but even though, you know, KGB, or nowadays FSB, was strongly involved in the corruption affairs during the last years, but those who replace old ones, they will give a lip service to the creation of personal freedom.

WILLIAMS: All right. I''m Juan Williams. You''re...

Ms. ALBATS: You know how it happens.

WILLIAMS: I''m Juan Williams. You''re listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Let''s go to Ken in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Ken, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

KEN (Caller): Thank you. I think Mr. Putin is gonna be the man. I think he''s just about the only person that can help Russia. And when you look at Russian history and the type of people and what kind of people they are, I think he was a very logical choice for the Russian people. I think as Westerners we get so paranoid when we look at Russia, and I think it''s because we see the potential power that they have. But Mr. Putin, I think he''s bright. I think they''re gonna need his background to get rid of the corruption there. It''s gonna take a bit of an iron hand. He''s strong, and it''s gonna take his strength. It''s gonna take his strength and it''s gonna take a lot of tenacity and determination to put Russia on a good track. But I think he''s the guy that can do it.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for your call, Ken.

KEN: Tha...

WILLIAMS: Mr. Allison, do you think that, in fact, there''s reason to think that if he turns a strong hand to rooting out corruption he''s the right choice?

Mr. ALLISON: Well, I think that Yevgenia did the right balance here, because on the one hand, if you were gonna be serious about rooting out corruption, this requires a strong hand and a strong group of associates. And the place where he''ll find those is in the KGB. On the other hand, does one want the KGB and former KGB folks to be the predominant force? And if they are even effective at rooting out corruption, won''t they have other ideas, like limiting the press'' ability to criticize them and maybe even becoming to be involved in corruption themselves?

If you look at the story of this problem of corruption and the attempt to overcome corruption in other countries, frequently a more authoritarian leader— for example, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore— has been required, but it''s also been required absolute personal non-corrupt integrity for the person and their family— again, we''ll have to see how that turns out with Mr. Putin— and then the ability to assemble a team of associates who are similarly committed. I think this is gonna be a great challenge for Russia, and even if it was simply overcoming corruption, doing so in such a way that does not unduly constrict the freedoms that have been the only fruit, really, of the Yeltsin period that Russians enjoyed, is a challenge to watch.

WILLIAMS: Well, we just have about 30 seconds before we take a break, Mr. Allison, but I wanted to ask you, what about the economy? Any hope that he could rebuild Russia''s banking system?

Mr. ALLISON: Well, I think on the economic front I''m relatively optimistic. It seems to me that he''s got a serious diagnosis of Russia''s problems. In fact, after the ''98 crash, Russia grew about 3 percent last year. It''s growing at a rate that Goldman Sachs predicts will be about 5 percent this year, and if he sits the environment right, that''s a business-friendly environment and is looking to international investment, I can imagine Russia on an upward path there.

WILLIAMS: You''re listening to TALK OF THE NATION. I''m Juan Williams. My guests are Yevgenia Albats and Graham Allison. We''re gonna take a short break right now. When we return, we''ll continue talking about the newly elected Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and whether as president he will push forward or reverse Russia''s progress in democratic and market reform. And we''ll take more of your calls at (800) 989-8255. If you''d like to comment on the program, the address is TALK OF THE NATION, 635 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC. The ZIP code, 20001.

At 40 minutes past the hour, it''s TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back to TALK OF THE NATION. I''m Juan Williams. Tune in at this time tomorrow for a look at the rising incidence of hazing among teens and high schools, and why hazing persists despite all the efforts to ban it.

Today we''re talking about Russia and how its newly elected president, Vladimir Putin, will use his newfound authority. My guests are Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard and a former assistant secretary of Defense. He''s at member station WBUR in Boston. And Yevgenia M. Albats, journalist and the author of "The State Within the State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia— Past, Present and Future." She''s joining us from Moscow.

If you''d like to join the conversation, our number here is (800) 989-8255. That''s (800) 989-TALK.

Let''s go to Al in Hampton, Virginia. Al, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

AL (Caller): Thank you. I just wanted to say that one must agree with your commentators and the last caller. The commentator described whether disaster is going on in Russia, and the last caller said, well, they need a strong band. Well, I think certainly the Russians thought so. And I would like to say that I''m surprised that nobody comments on the fact that it was United States policy which sent some Harvard economist there who said, `You must leap across a chasm in one leap, and therefore we must bring democracy, free enterprise and free trade to Russia all at one time,'' which anyone who thought about it would say is ridiculous, including somebody like Thomas Jefferson or any of the Founding Fathers. Certainly a gradual approach would have been much more, probably, successful.

WILLIAMS: Al, hang on a second, because I want to hear what Ms. Albats and Mr. Allison have to say in response to you, and then you can get back in the conversation. So hang on just for a second.

Ms. Albats, how would you respond to the notion that the US put too much pressure too quickly on the emerging Soviet nation?

Ms. ALBATS: I don''t think that it was too quickly. You know, it''s nice to talk about a strong band when you have a US passport. It''s much more, you know, difficult to appreciate this notion when you sit in Moscow and you happen to be a journalist. I think that there were definitely mistakes. I think that the attention should have been given more to the establishment of democratic institutions rather than to just economy. I think that foreign advisers and Harvard-based advisers, they were more preoccupied with idea of, you know, money to ripen the economy rather that democratization of— creating the democratic institutions in Russia. But I definitely appreciate that it happened quicker rather than longer.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Allison?

Mr. ALLISON: Well, Harvard has many sins for which to be penitent, and I think in this case, if I understand the caller''s point, it is the case that some people at Harvard, not all and not the majority, I think, but some who were advisers, encouraged some Russians, who, I think, made these decisions themselves in any case, to try to do too much too quickly and all at the same time. And I think, as Yevgenia said, paying little attention, insufficient attention, to the institutionalization of both the competence in government to do the things they were trying to do and to the democratic system that they were trying to build.

So I think if you look back at the story of ''92 and the hope of jumping the whole chasm in a single leap, given Soviet history and the horrible 70-year experiment that they had been the victims of, this was mistaken. And if you compare it, for example, with the Chinese story, which I think is gonna look somewhat more like what Mr. Putin''s likely to do, as the Chinese say, they try to get across the stream stepping rock by rock. I think that would have been a better approach then, given the circumstances that they faced in ''92. I was in favor in ''91 of a grand bargain, which I proposed with Grigory Yavlinsky, the candidate who came in third in this race, which would have been Marshall Plan-level assistance and involvement by the West in helping Russia make this transition, again not in one year but over five years. But the West decided against that, and given the circumstances that Russia then had to deal with, a more Chinese-like strategy, I think, would have been more effective.

WILLIAMS: Al in Hampton, Virginia, I just wanted to come back to you and say that Ms. Albats said she preferred quicker to slower. Do you think that is a reasonable justification for US policy with regard to Russia?

AL: No, everyone would prefer quicker to slower. But think about the facts of the matter, what democrac— democracy is such a complex form of government. Every one of our Founding Fathers knew that it had to develop over many, many years, decades, centuries even. Now free enterprise is even worse. I mean, just think about the complex necessities and organizations you need to bring oranges from California, from Peru, from South America and so forth— to bring them here, all the intermediaries, all the transportation, all the system needed. This has to grow gradually. You can''t just suddenly create it. And what happens is you get a criminal society, everybody grabbing what they want.

WILLIAMS: All right.

AL: Anyway, I don''t want to pose as an expert.

WILLIAMS: Well, Al, thanks for your call. We appreciate it very much.

AL: You''re very welcome.

WILLIAMS: Let''s go to Leslie in Philadelphia. Leslie, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

LESLIE (Caller): Yes, Juan. Hello to you and your guests.


LESLIE: This rebounds off Al''s, actually. I''m wondering whether, because Russia is in such financial difficulty economically and because it has been pushed to make strides very quickly, whether we''re likely to see in Russia a develop of a transglobal capitalism rather than a free market. And I use those definitions as Noam Chomsky would, meaning your private industry or your transglobal private holdings will quickly take root there, which will not allow a free market and a free, open economy to develop, because it''s diminished the free market in the United States because of the transglobal building. Do your guests see this as a problem coming to Russia?

WILLIAMS: So you think that the global economy, given the state of the world economy at the moment— that the global economy would supercede the growth of a Russian economy?

LESLIE: I think the corporate global economy, which is a private economy but which has world roots and is not necessarily rooted in free market— it''s rooted in capitalism, which means pay to the shareholders. And I''m thinking that— is Russia likely to go that way, corporate economy?

WILLIAMS: All right. All right. Well, thanks for your call, Leslie.


WILLIAMS: Let''s ask Yevgenia Albats. What do you think, Ms. Albats? Do you think that the world economy is so mature that it''s going to simply take over Russia, the corporate giants will step in there and crush growing local economic efforts and efforts of entrepreneurial spirit?

Ms. ALBATS: So far I haven''t noticed that in Moscow or in Russia. In fact, I will be glad to see more corporations here in Russia. However, we have quite few direct investments. So so far it''s not a problem for us.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Allison?

Mr. ALLISON: I think it''s not the— not only, as Yevgenia said, it''s not a problem, I''d say it''s the hope. I think the best thing that could happen for Russia is that it join the global economy, with all of the negatives that that implies, because the positives are so much larger. The global economy has been growing, in terms of the global trading economy, at 7, 8 percent a year now over a period of almost 50 years, creating, you know, the most increase in world GNP ever experienced throughout history. I think, as the caller said, there are a lot of negative aspects of this, but the overall consequence is quite positive, and it seems to me that''s a hope for pulling Russia into the global economy and into a higher level of income and a higher level of well-being for Russian citizens, rather than the opposite, if we have to, you know, pose it as stark alternatives.

WILLIAMS: Mike in Long Island, New York, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

MIKE (Caller): Good afternoon. Two quick points. One, Putin was only involved in foreign intelligence as opposed to domestic intelligence, so he was never professionally involved in cracking down. Two, regarding Michele Kelemen''s earlier analysis, Russian media bias is no greater than American media bias. Case in point: the Chechen coverage. Russia should be criticized for not having acted sooner and more decisively to prevent a terrorist buildup there. Moreover, it''s a humanitarian necessity for Russia to improve its military in training in weaponry so that they can fight more cleanly these sort of wars.

Now the reason why this thought is being censored in the American mainstream media is because the Anglo-American NATO chauvinists, they want to monopolize military power. And you know what? Contrary to the propaganda, Kosovo action was not more just in Chechnya, and the Kosovo action has not been clean. We have repackaged a terrorist organization that is carrying out ethnic cleansing with NATO troops on the soil, and the KLA has had decades of buildup by Albanian chauvinists who were encouraged by Croat chauvinists and Bosnian Muslim chauvinists, which came before Milosevic.

WILLIAMS: Well, thank...

MIKE: Milosevic was just Serb reaction.

WILLIAMS: Thanks for your call, Mike. I''m Juan Williams. You''re listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Let''s go now to Terrence in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Terrence, you''re on TALK OF THE NATION.

TERRENCE (Caller): Hi. My question is: What do you think the likelihood is of President Putin being able to influence the Russian Parliament to ratify the START II arms reduction treaty, which would cut the Russian long-range nuclear arsenal from 6,000 to about 3,000 nuclear warheads, if the United States proceeds as planned by congressional Republicans and Democrats to deploy a national anti-missile defense system, a junior Star Wars system, which would obviously violate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty?

WILLIAMS: Thanks for your call, Terrence. Let me ask Mr. Allison to respond.

Mr. ALLISON: I think the chances are very good that Putin will urge and be successful in urging the Duma to ratify START II, but I think the questioner''s question is right to the heart of the matter. I think that ratification will include conditions of the kind that American Congress has generally put on its ratification, and I think among the conditions will be a fulfillment of the whole arms-control regime, including the ABM Treaty— that is, no violation of it— which the Russians now believe and which, I think not unreasonably, would be violated if the US proceeded with the national missile defense system that''s being discussed. There''ll be very active conversations now between the American and Russian governments about trying to find ways to make modest amendments to the ABM Treaty that allow the US to go forward with both the research and the deployment that the American government seeks, without undermining the ABM Treaty, and this is the most likely train wreck on the security agenda that I see.

WILLIAMS: Yevgenia Albats, let me ask you, if you would, to take the listeners of TALK OF THE NATION onto the streets of Moscow or anyplace in Russia. What would we see? Is it hard to get a job? Is it hard to feed your family, to find food in the supermarkets? Is it hard to get health care? What are conditions like for the average Russian?

Ms. ALBATS: Even now?


Ms. ALBATS: No, no. You know, unlike it was 10 years ago, when there was no food at all, now we don''t have these problems. And now it doesn''t matter whether you''re in Moscow or in Russian provinces. Another question that for some people who live below the poverty line, they''re lacking money to enjoy all these, you know, what seem to us as luxuries of life. It means, you know, to have normal diet. So Moscow is, I would say— you know, I travel quite a lot. I would say that Moscow is a purely European city now. It''s not like that all across Russia, definitely. But I think that huge changes happened to the country during the last nine years.

WILLIAMS: All right.

Ms. ALBATS: ...(Unintelligible).

WILLIAMS: That''s all the time we have for today. I''d like to thank all of you who called this hour, and especially my guests. Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard and a former assistant secretary of Defense. He spoke to us from member station WBUR in Boston. And Yevgenia M. Albats, journalist and author of "The State Within the State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia— Past, Present and Future." She joined us by phone from Moscow. Earlier we spoke with Michele Kelemen, NPR bureau chief.

I''m Juan Williams, NPR News, Washington

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Allison, Graham T.. “Transcript of Graham Allison Interview on 'Talk of the Nation' (National Public Radio).” March 27, 2000.