Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 131

As an apparently weakened Boris Yeltsin stayed out of the public eye yesterday, Aleksandr Lebed, the Kremlin’s recently arrived security dynamo, placed a mind-boggling array of Russia’s most intractable problems under his national security purview and suggested that the president would give him carte-blanche to tackle them all. Although Yeltsin’s national security aide and Security Council secretary denied that he seeks "power for power’s sake," his performance yesterday prompted one leading Russian political analyst to observe that he couldn’t imagine a president "who would voluntarily pass such authority into someone else’s hands and sleep safely." As Yeltsin’s office maintained silence on the retired general’s remarks, other commentators wondered if Lebed’s star would continue to rise after tomorrow’s election.

But that possibility appeared to be the last thing on Lebed’s mind yesterday. During a Moscow news conference devoted to his policies and priorities as Security Council secretary, Lebed repeated his call for tighter visa requirements for foreigners and a crackdown on foreign religions, urged an escalation in the battle against crime, said he would tackle both corruption in Russia’s vast bureaucracy and wage and pension arrears, and charged that the budget was too large, the outflow of Russian capital too great, and efforts to attract foreign investment too feeble. "The main threat to national security is the lack of an economic strategy and rational state regulation of the economy," he declared. If that was not enough, Lebed charged that foreign food imports "had reached a level of food aggression" and that Western companies were warping Russians’ minds. Lebed also warned that 20 percent of all Russians lived in ecologically unsafe conditions and that "some countries want to turn Russia into a global dump of waste, including radioactive waste." He described himself as a "semi-" rather than a "full democrat," and said that parliamentary democracy was not right for Russia. (Reuter, AP, & Russian TV, RTR, July 2)

On issues more commonly associated with national security, Lebed said he would work to improve living conditions for military personnel, including retired officers, and urged greater support for Russia’s defense industrial complex. He also suggested that there would be no wholesale purge of the military leadership, and proposed some broad structural reforms in the armed forces. (Interfax, July 2)

Mass Media Ignore Yeltsin Illness.