Publication: Prism Volume: 1 Issue: 20

Boris Fedorov promotes free markets and Russian nationalism

(On August 15, 1995, Boris Fedorov, a leading Russian reformerand ex-minister of finance, gave a press conference followinga convention of his political party, "Forward, Russia!" The following excerpts of that press briefing were recorded for"Prism" by Yevgeny Krasnolobov, a correspondent forMoscow’s" Open Radio" station.)

Fedorov: The convention of the Forward, Russia! movementtook place yesterday. We approved the Federal List… for themost part, these people are the deputies who founded both ourgroup "December 12" in the Duma and the "Forward,Russia!" movement. Some of you, perhaps, were surprised tosee on our list the Vice-President of the Russian Union of Industrialistsand Entrepreneurs and one of the former leaders of "CivicUnion," Aleksandr Vladislavlev. But I’ve known him for along time and now we agree on economic questions 80-90 percentof the time….

The conference showed that in spite of our being a veryyoung, the "Forward, Russia!" movement, nevertheless,is a reality. Our regional organizations are already up and running. We have about 120 candidates for deputy in single-mandate districts….Naturally,we won’t try to be represented in every district because we donot have strong enough organizations everywhere for that.

Q: Who will be your movements’ allies in the single-mandatedistricts?

Fedorov: Our Coordination Council gave all our regionalorganizations the authority, from the very beginning, to seekagreements with the existing democratic organizations in the localities. As a rule, we’re talking about "Russia’s Choice," Yabloko,and in certain instances smaller democratic organizations, suchas Gdlyan’s party, the Christian Democrats, the Beer Drinkers’Party….

On the national level, I think that the closest cooperationwill still take place with Yavlinsky. Our relations with himhave gotten better than they were three months ago.

Regarding official adversaries, I can name them once again. They are, undoubtedly, "Russia is Our Home," the CommunistParty or the Communist bloc however it shapes up, Mr. Zhirinovskyand his party and people like Rutskoi and Skokov. I do not considerthe Agrarians to be our adversaries, although they undoubtedlythink so.

Q: Don’t you have plans of creating a united democraticbloc with Yabloko and "Russia’s Democratic Choice"?

Fedorov: Why? Because combining two or three blocs willget us more votes? Why did we create parties and movements withdifferent programs in the first place–just to combine them later?

Presidential elections are another question. There, absolutely,in the present political situation, we need a single candidatefrom the democratic forces… We are still in that period ofdevelopment when the danger from extremists like Zyuganov or Zhirinovskyis very great. It will be gone in five to ten years; then, thepresidential elections will be a fight between democratic candidates.But today, I think that in January and February, the questionof a single candidate will be the key question for all democraticparties and movements.

Q: What do you have against Chernomyrdin, from an economicpoint of view?

Fedorov: Over the course of several years, the governmenthas not taken a single economic measure which has been implementedcompletely. Privileges have not been abolished, oil export quotasexist now just as they existed before, inflation is fought withvariable success, the budget, as always, is falling apart, becausethe inflation projections are too low, and they say that revenueis coming in, when they already need to recalculate the budgetat the real inflation rate and real spending. How long can thisgo on? I don’t think the government has an economic policy. It is obvious that the pits, in which the government resourcesare disappearing, are bottomless. It is obvious that state propertyis simply melting away. Again, they’re accumulating debts whichthey cannot pay. And the country will remain bankrupt for centuriesto come. They can’t normally manage the borders, and they haven’treally started tax reform. Everywhere you look, you see incompetenceand inaction.

Q: What is your evaluation of the proposed 1996 governmentbudget?

Fedorov: All we have now is the first draft. And, in myview, it bears no resemblance to reality. They simply took the’95 budget, recalculated a new inflation rate (I don’t remember,somewhere around 20 percent)–that’s all….

Q: What should be done to attract more foreign investorsto Russia ?

Fedorov: In my opinion, it’s the question of politicalstability. People will never invest real money when they are notsure of what will happen tomorrow. The rule of law means thateveryone is abiding by the law, not just common citizens, butalso the authorities. It’s a question of real economic reforms,financial stability, because you can’t really invest unless youare really ready to work on the ruble market. Today to work inrubles is very, very risky. So, I think that these three itemsare most important at this stage for real start of foreign investments. I don’t believe that real foreign investments will come beforethe end of presidential elections….

Q: Boris Grigorievich, would you tell us about your party’sposition or your personal position on the events in the formerYugoslavia or Chechnya?

Fedorov: It is clearly obvious that the double standard,which has existed for a long time with regards to Yugoslavia,clearly shows itself here. Because when hundreds of thousandsof people have been uprooted from the land where they were bornand had lived from time immemorial–it is a gigantic problem. But the double standard which existed in Russian foreign policyas well has led to Croatia’s deciding to finish it off quicklyby military means. Moreover, we know all too well certain statementsof Croatian leaders, and we have even seen those maps where Bosniawas divided in half, with half given to Croatia. The only thingthat Russia did that time was to say: "Let them come here–andwe’ll talk!" There you have your next foreign policy failure,when Russia was, in essence slapped in the face by Croatia. Andnothing was done about it.

Or, let us take a question of sanctions against Yugoslavia,on which I have even written an article in Izvestiya. I made a special trip to Belgrade to try to find out whether Yugoslaviawas participating in the war. Not a single Western diplomat,not a single specialist, could find any evidence; even the CIAcouldn’t find any. But the sanctions remain. I think that inthis situation Russian could well end the sanctions unilaterallyand try more actively to stop the events that are taking place. Because it will end up badly…. But in my view, Russia hasdisgraced herself once again. The West is saber-rattling again. So, what will happen? More bloodshed? Will a real war begin?

As regards Chechnya, I do not believe in such a peacefulsolution. In my view, the situation is getting stranger and stranger. When they talk about peace every day, and every day people arekilled. Civilians are killed, soldiers are killed. How longthis will last–no one knows. And no one knows where the Russianpolicy is either. And the fact that real criminals are walkingon the Russian soil and anyone who likes can interview them andnothing else happen– that is to spit on the whole country….

Q: Don’t you yourself employ such a double standard whenon one hand you condemn actions of the Croatian government againstseparatists in Croatia, but at the same time, support the Russiangovernment’s actions against Chechen separatists in Russia?

Fedorov: I do not think one can compare events in Chechnyaand Croatia. These are totally different issues. One can compareit with the situation in Transdniester because the situationsare similar. But the 14th Army’s stationed there, so nobody takesit in his head to send NATO there to bomb somebody. There’s noRussian 14th Army in Croatia or Bosnia, so people do. Moreover,we do not support Serbian separatists in Croatia–we’re talkingabout 200 thousand refugees, and this problem cannot qualify asCroatia’s internal affair. The "Forward, Russia!" movementhas never said that it supported Serbian war criminals, and, ofcourse, there are war criminals among the Serbs.

But no one can say that Russian troops are driving all Chechensinto Azerbaijan. I know of no such thing.

Q: And you know nothing about refugees, either?

Fedorov: I know that 200,000 Russian-speaking people oncelived there. They do not live there now. Every week, in MineralnyeVody, a plane leaves for Israel and carries off the last remnantsof Chechen Jews. I also know of Russian refugees in Moscow whowill never go back because they will be killed there. This isRussia after all. And in Russia, there must be law and order.I personally cannot sleep well while Shamil Basayev is still atlarge.

Q: You touched on the subject of patriotism. What is patriotismfor you? What do you think of the patriotism of other Russianpolitical parties?

Fedorov: The subject of patriotism really is becoming quitepopular….There’s no shame in being patriotic. Any normal humanbeing must be a patriot of his country. Because if people arenot proud of their country, and don’t respect its laws, don’ttry to make it better, then it’s not a country at all; it willfall apart. In this sense, we have a lot to learn from othercountries about how one ought to regard his country. I think thereis a lot of profiteering on this subject….We are not tryingto exploit patriotism for purely political goals to attract somebody’sattention. Simply put, in working out our movement’s ideology,we try to think all questions out for ourselves–you can see thiswhen your read our program.

We do not have a right to abandon the subject of patriotism tothose who want to fence themselves off with an "iron curtain;" to those who want to preserve stagnation masking it as a "nationaluniqueness." Good roads will not harm Russia. An effectiveeconomy will not harm Russia. And banks, stock exchanges, andeven Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola will not harm Russia. Patriotismis not our being "for" kvas and their being "for"Pepsi-Cola. We won’t have such slogans. True patriotism is notconstantly kneeling to beg for credits which we will only squanderin a month, without any benefit for the country. It is very obviousthat the richest country, perhaps, in the world, lives as if ithas nothing, constantly begging. That’s why we’re currently workingon a book entitled Patriotism and Democracy. We were surprisedto discover that everybody in Russia is scared to touch the subject. We are trying to explain this is not Russian patriotism (to beprecise, it is not "purely Russian patriotism"). BecauseRussia does not consist of just ethnic Russians. We are tryingto reconcile ethnic and religious questions. We are not saying:Orthodox Russia. We are not against Russian Orthodoxy; thereare many religious believers in our movement. But we also haveCatholics, we have Moslems, we have Jews.

We are trying to show what real, authentic patriotism is,as distinguished from slogans used to cover up the fact that youdon’t know what to do about the economy. When import duties areraised, it is not patriotism. Because you are ruining your countryand its agriculture will eventually rot completely. If our carsare of poor quality, they will not become better no matter howmuch the duties are raised on Fords or Chryslers. Only idiotsare afraid of foreign investment. We ought to be happy that somebodyis investing in us. If our bandits buy up acquired everything—is that all right? When Gazprom was distributed "just betweenus" is that wonderful? We must judge by the results: how people live, what their salaries are….