Publication: Prism Volume: 2 Issue: 17

Lebed Looks to the Future

By Andrei Fedorov

The fact that Aleksandr Lebed has been expelled from the Kremlindoes not mean that he is no longer a part of the political lifeof the country. On the contrary, he is now free to return to theopen fight for votes. And he will not be limited in his choiceof tactics or allies.

Lebed understands the importance of creating a broad based organization.Dmitri Rogozin, who was the only one of the general’s advisorswho had enough experience and broad enough connections, was madepersonally responsible for this. Lebed proceeded from the assumptionthat it must be a "union of gosudarstvenniki [moderate nationalists,advocates of Russia as a great power in the traditional, geopoliticalsense]" without any clear ideological tint.

At first, the plan was that such a structure would be createdin the second half of October, but the course of events (aboveall, the condition of the president’s health) forced their hand,and as a result, on September 5, Russian society got a new politicalunion, "For Truth and Order," which some pundits jokingly(but with a certain share of seriousness) call the "SwanLake" in which each claimant to power will have to swim.

How can we assess its position today and its chances in the future?

This union of three parties is made up of very unequal parts.The Congress of Russian Communities is, more or less, strong andactive. It has an infrastructure, name recognition, and personnelpotential. But in the last few months, several regional KRO organizationshave fallen on hard times and have become almost completely inactive.

The Democratic Party of Russia is clearly in decline today, andis in danger of becoming a dwarf party, a mere shell of its gloriouspast. In large part this is because Sergei Glazyev, due to hisstyle of work, cannot be a proper party leader, and his presentwork on the Security Council staff limits his already slim chancesto improve the party’s situation.

Lebed’s own "party," the "Honor and Dignity"organization, is the weakest of all, for it has nothing real behindit but the general’s image. It will be almost impossible to turnit into an independent force.

As regards its chances, there are quite a few interesting factorsto consider. Insofar as Lebed is a rather attractive figure, onemay expect that the growth of the new union will follow the classicalRussian scheme — each week, we will find out that new organizations,such as the "Young Pathfinders," have joined the bloc,and in the end, Lebed will be able to speak with pride of how"200 organizations" stand behind him. But for Lebed,all this is simply for "decor," and he intends to attractserious people by serious means.

He doesn’t have many possibilities, but there are some. The first,which is already being explored, is the Russian Popular Union[ROS], led by Sergei Baburin. In the beginning of August, an agreementwas reached between Lebed’s and Baburin’s representatives, thatthe ROS, while formally remaining independent, will begin theprocess of rapprochement with the "Lebed bloc" withthe aim of forming a future "non-Communist opposition."Baburin’s opinion that an opposition headed by the Communistshas no future suits Lebed very well.

By doing this, Lebed is beginning the process of winning oversome of the organizations which were part of the bloc supportingGennady Zyuganov in the last presidential elections. Naturally,this is not an "altruistic" process; the ROS’s difficultfinancial situation is beginning to set itself right, not withoutthe participation of its "strategic partner."

Complications could still arise in the relations between them,however, taking into account the ROS’s negative attitude towardsLebed’s agreement with the Chechen separatists.

On a regional level, attempts are beginning to influence a numberof LDPR organizations, whose leaders, in the southern regionsof Russia in particular, are trying to suggest that Zhirinovskyhas already exhausted his political potential while Lebed stillhas a historical future. These conversations are also being backedup by promises to offer more substantial financial assistancethan that which the local Liberal Democrats received from theirleader after the elections. This tactic can be explained aboveall by the fact that "at the highest level," there canas yet be no talk of any mutual understanding between the twoparties. Although it is interesting that the LDPR leader instructedhis party, including his party’s deputies to the State Duma, thatthey need to take a moderate tone when criticizing some of Lebed’sactions.

Lebed has vague hopes of capturing some of the Communist electorate,but they are not very high. As the general admitted to one ofhis friends, he was shocked by the results of the voting in Novocherkassk,where he had hoped to defeat Zyuganov. And he drew conclusionsfrom this.

If you pay close attention, especially to the last two weeks beforethe first round of the presidential elections, Lebed, at times,was more of an anti-Communist than Boris Yeltsin himself. Butfor the last two months, he has been noticeably restrained towardsthe KPRF and its leader. The reason is simple: foreseeing thepossibility of early presidential elections, Lebed does not wantto irritate that portion of the electorate. On the other hand,the situation could change at any moment, in view of the criticismwhich the KPRF and the NPSR [Popular-Patriotic Union of Russia]unleashed against Lebed’s actions in Chechnya.

The public criticism of the "democrats" uttered by Lebedat the beginning of September, is, in fact, not so much directedat them as it is a signal to the "Popular-Patriotic Bloc’s"electorate. One may expect that this line will become more noticeablein the near future.

The general’s recent statement that cooperation on a regionallevel, and under certain circumstances, on a national level aswell, is even possible with "Russia is Our Home" isa new factor, the reaction to which has been ambiguous even withinthe general’s own entourage. The goal is the same: to try to winover "nationalistically inclined" bureaucrats (whichform the backbone of the local branches of "Russia is OurHome") and, if there are early presidential elections, todeprive Viktor Chernomyrdin of their support in the localitiesand to sow disorder in the Moscow bureaucracy.

In his attempt to enlist the support of various groups, Lebedhas been forced to reexamine his views with respect to certainpoliticians. This applies, above all, to the possibility of astrategic alliance with Aleksandr Korzhakov. The general recognizesthat Anatoly Chubais exploited him brilliantly in the well-knownmaneuver which led to the removal of Korzhakov but is now readyto look at things with different eyes.

In the first few days of August, a working meeting of representativesof the "two Aleksandrs" took place in Moscow. At thismeeting, a mechanism for possible cooperation, and the lines alongwhich this cooperation would take place in the near future, werediscussed. In particular, agreements were reached on the followingpoints:

* that the two sides would coordinate their actions and guaranteethe mutual exchange of information;

* that Korzhakov would run for Lebed’s seat in the State Dumafrom Tula, and that Lebed would make a statement supporting thepresident’s former security chief;

* that Korzhakov and his people would join Lebed’s campaign staffif there are early presidential elections; and

* that Korzhakov and the structures close to him would take partin financing Lebed’s campaign.

It is absolutely obvious that there is a very serious reason forsuch an alliance. And it is not simply that they have a commonenemy — Chubais (although that brought the two together). Itis much more important that Korzhakov has placed his bets on Lebedas the politician who best reflects the interests of that groupof "new government patriots," whom the president recentlyaccused of "taking a lot, but giving little back." Andbesides, Korzhakov didn’t have much of a choice — it wasn’t asif he could go to Zyuganov or Yavlinsky.

Lebed gets a lot out of this alliance and therefore, at his personalmeeting with Korzhakov which followed these negotiations, theywere able to reach a mutual understanding.

His main rival at the present moment is Anatoly Chubais, who isable to block the activity of Lebed and his people on a numberof fronts.

Lebed sees Gennady Zyuganov as a much more serious rival, understandingthe potential of his electorate, and the fact that, in many cases,they "play on the same field." While doing all he canto attract Russians who support the KPRF, all the same Lebed hasunequivocally decided that he will not be forming any alliancewith Zyuganov at the present time. As regards the future, thesituation is more complicated, and much may depend on what thepolitical situation is if there are early presidential elections.Zyuganov, on his part, quite justly fears that Lebed, if he wereelected president, would prove to be even more authoritarian thanYeltsin. It suffices to recall his statement that "runningthe country with the help of parliament is nothing but a madhouse."

His relations with his other political rival, Viktor Chernomyrdin,who is the second most powerful man in the country, and clearlyhas no desire to part with that position for the theoretical chanceof becoming the first, are more complicated. The last month hasshown that Chernomyrdin has clearly outplayed Lebed in the bureaucraticgame, and that his team has much more potential than the general’steam. A weakening of the premier’s position, which could ariseas the result of the growing number of strikes would objectivelybenefit Lebed today.

Money Decides Quite a Bit*

Another conclusion that Lebed drew from the results of the electionswas that without a serious financial base, no amount of charismacan guarantee victory. If it were not for the political wisdomof Anatoly Chubais, who gave the order to finance the last stageof Lebed’s campaign liberally, and to open up access for him toall the mass media, the general’s results would have been a littlemore modest. Lebed addressed the question of financing his futurepresidential campaign immediately after coming to the Kremlin.

Lebed’s team’s financial position today can be called mediocre.He has money in the bank, which is earning a high rate of interest.According to various sources, this amounts to approximately sixto seven million dollars.

And then there is money whose roots lead to the 14th Army. Thismoney is located outside the country and is controlled by peopleclose to Lebed. One of them now lives in Serbia and is activelyinvolved in various financial operations.

And there is so-called "potential money," i.e., sumswhich certain banking, financial, and industrial structures saythey are ready to allocate to the general’s campaign. But here,Lebed is being rather choosy and deliberate, in view of the factthat there are quite a few firms offering their financial services.

His main "horse" is the well-known Moscow bank "Inkombank,"whose leader [Vladimir Vinogradov] was singled out not so longago, without any special reason, by Lebed while speaking to theFederation Council. Despite the fact that this institution’s financialsituation is not all that good at the present time, it has highpotential, and it could improve noticeably.

Characteristically, Mr. Vinogradov, on his recent visit to Primorye,conducted rather active "explanatory" work with certainMoscow and regional colleagues on the theme of "you knowwho."

But in such games, there has to be more than one "horse,"and therefore, Logovaz has been added as "insurance"(although here, the information possibilities which arise fromcooperating with this structure are much more important).

It is interesting that a giant of the Russian financial worldlike Most Bank has had its informal offer of assistance refused.There are several reasons for this, and they are well-known tothose who follow this process from the inside. First of all, Lebeddoes not want to be linked publicly with financiers who couldharm his reputation as a "different kind of Russian politician."Second, he knows that if, in the future presidential race, hispaths cross with those of [Moscow mayor] Yuri Luzhkov, that Mostwill give objective preference to the latter. The only way towork with this bank would be the formula "Lebed for president,Luzhkov for premier." It is quite possible that informalcontacts have already begun on this theme. But another seriesof appeals made by several prominent bankers to Sergei Glazyevand Dmitri Rogozin have so far remained unanswered.

At the same time, the process of attracting new "potentialmoney" from regional banking structures has begun. In thelast month, Lebed’s representatives have met with businessmenand bankers in Stavropol, Krasnodar, Volgograd, and St. Petersburg.This doesn’t represent all that much money, but for the possiblepresidential elections, it is important to have such channels.

There is another reserve, which one may speak of, with certainreservations. This is Chechnya. During my recent meeting withone of Aslan Maskhadov’s assistants, he said something like this:"If everything turns out as Lebed has promised us, therecan be no doubt that his presidential campaign will be well-financed."I have no doubt about that either.

Moreover, if the alliance with Korzhakov still becomes a politicalreality, Lebed will have at his disposal enormous sums of money,coming from a number of organizations under Korzhakov’s control,above all, the well-known National Sports Fund.

No matter what Lebed says, now it is obvious that he has begunhis presidential campaign. How can we forget his words of fivemonths ago: "My ambitions are higher than ministerial. Iam sick of carrying out idiotic orders. Now, I’ll be the one doingthe commanding."

He had begun earlier than others for obvious reasons. If the otherserious candidates — Chernomyrdin, Luzhkov, and Zyuganov — donot have Lebed’s charisma, they have something else: more substantialstructures, people, and much more money than the general. Lebedfears that the race may start unexpectedly quickly, and underconditions which are unfavorable to him. To take third place asecond time and become, once again, a "card to be played"does not suit him. Therefore, he is getting himself ready forthe fight for first place.

* An allusion to Stalin’s famous slogan that "Cadres decideeverything."

Translated by Mark Eckert