The whole idea of unilateral secessions, backed up by Germanyrnand the United States, is terrifying to a country that is only arnfragment of its former self, and even that fragment containsrnhostile Muslim nationalities.rnIn London I had drinks with a Soviet analyst who took a lookrnat my itinerary. The Gorbachev Foundation is a trip-wire. “Anrnunholy alliance between the KGB and the Esalen Foundation,”rnhe says, referring to the executive in the American branch whornused to be number two man at Esalen. I keep an open mind,rnwalking into the foundation’s Moscow headquarters, which isrnhome to Gorbachev’s top advisors. The question of the newrnforeign minister, Yevgeny Primakov, comes up. As a Muslimrnexpert, he might be expected to take the “Bosnian” side in thernBalkans. Alexander Galkin jokes about the difficulty of speakingrnfor Primakov—a close friend of 35 years. Primakov is not arnMuslim-lover, he insists; his only devotion is to the Russian interest.rnInevitably the Chechen problem comes up, and Galkinrnslips in describing Russia’s inability “to control problems outsidernour borders.” Have they already written it off, I wonder.rnOne of his colleagues explains that the current Americanrnpower monopoly is inherently unstable. The absence of arncounterpressure will lead to inevitable conflict. The DaytonrnAccord was basically a good thing, though, because it stoppedrnthe barbarization of Europe: “We in Europe still maintain arnhigh regard for human life that is not shared on other continents.”rnI hear this theme picked up several times: Russia is Europe,rnAmerica is not.rnFrom time to time I have doubts about our whole mission inrngoing to Russia. What separates me from all the other usefulrnidiots who have gone to Moscow in order to promote understanding?rnAre they even listening? The next morning our conferencernis reported on the morning news, somewhere betweenrnthe hostage crises and the weather report. (January 15: It’s arnsunny day in Moscow today—a real man-bites-dog story.)rnOur next stop is the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies,rnestablished by Boris Yeltsin in 1992 as his principal board of advisors.rnThe director, Yevgeny Kozhokin, is a pleasant, accommodatingrnman: “We can speak English today,” he says. “All myrncolleagues speak English.” It is then I notice their strange logo:rna circle (representing the globe?) scored and shaded like arncheckerboard, with Cyrillic letters RISI on one line and underneath,rnin a contrasting pattern of light and dark, RISS—for thernRussian Institute of Strategic Studies—intelligible only to English-rnspeakers.rnInevitably the Bosnia/Chechnya parallel is made, and we arerntold that the rebellion is not a secession movement or an ethnicrnliberation front but more like the war waged by the Cali cartelrnagainst Latin America and the United States: “If Dudayev doesrnsucceed in making himself dictator—or emir—it will be arnunique occasion on which criminals have created their ownrnstate.” He explains that the Chechen criminals have diversifiedrntheir activities and now have a vast network of internationalrngangs dealing in drugs and weapons, both in Eastern Europernand even in the West.rnIn general, the Russian policy wonks have the advantage overrntheir American counterparts. They are certainly better informedrnand better educated—despite the apparent Russianrnphobia of foreign languages, their English is a great deal betterrnthan our Russian—and they seem more intelligent. Forrnsmoothness the palm goes to the professionals at the UnitedrnStates-Canada Institute, for many years the home of disinformationrnin the guise of dissent.rnWe spend several hours discussing the general geopoliticalrnsituation. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, so we are told,rnRussia has been unable to reformulate an identity to replace thernold Soviet image. At the beginning, Russia made unilateralrnconcessions in the hope that she would be welcomed into thernWestern community as a reward for her part in ending the ColdrnWar. Kozyrev, the recently fired foreign minister who playedrnthe part of “Mr. Yes,” opposed Milosevic out of a desire to sidernwith the West, but Russia is no longer a superpower, and thererncan be no bipolar balance of power. On the other hand, thisrndoes not necessarily entail an American monopoly. There isrnthe possibility of a multipolar system developing as the UnitedrnStates finds herself competing with her closest allies, particularlyrnGermany and Japan.rnA glance at the various collective institutions reveals the naturernof the competition. In the G7 nations, the United States,rnalthough the strongest single party, is not predominant, whilernin the EU, where German interest prevails, the United States isrnnot even present. This leaves NATO as the primary vehicle ofrnAmerican hegemony, hence the need—from the Americanrnpoint of view—for enhanced NATO activity, as in the Balkans.rnBut Germany has actually got her way in Yugoslavia. The LlnitedrnStates, in its willingness to use its NATO clout, was drawnrninto Yugoslavia by the Germans, who also muscled Britain,rnRussia, and France into compliance, but then the Germansrntook a step backward leaving the Americans to do the onlyrnthing they can do, which is drop a few bombs.rnForeign policy decisions in Russia are no simple matter. Inrnaddition to the Chernomyrdin government and the Yeltsin administration,rnthere are also the so-called “power ministries”rnthat have independent authority, e.g.. Defense, ForeignrnAffairs. It was Yeltsin who made the decision to go along withrnNATO, saying “Twice in one century is enough for Russia to gornto war for the Serbs.” Once he decided this, there was norndebate: he simply imposed his will in the good old Soviet stylernof “the president knows best.”rnBut Yeltsin may not have the last word. As the institute’srnBalkans specialist explains, “Stalin, in April I94I, signed a mutualrndefense pact with Yugoslavia, even though he knew fullrnwell that the Germans were about to attack, and even thoughrnhe wanted, more than anything, to avoid war with Germany.rnWhen asked about the contradiction, he said: ‘The Russianrnpeople would never forgive me, if I betrayed the Serbs.'”rnGeneral Alexandr Lebed, “the hero of the Afghan War” asrnhe is inevitably called, may be the most impressive politicalrnfigure in Russia. Among the few Soviet officers to come outrnof Afghanistan with their reputation enhanced, he happened tornbe in Moldova when the region was breaking away. Lebed decisivelyrnintervened to protect the sizable Russian minority,rnwhile at the same time managing to avoid a bloodbath. In thernChechen crisis, it was Lebed who, in the parliament, blockedrnthe use of the regular army in what he called a “dirty business”rn—a police action against Russian citizens. According tornsome Russians, Lebed’s hatred of the KGB is characteristic ofrnRussian army officers who have always resented the interferencernof cops and spies in military affairs.rnFor our meeting with Lebed, it is easier to walk than try tornmaneuver our bus illegally into the restricted business center,rnwhere his office is located. The Hotel Belgrade—bugs, procurers,rnladies, and all—is right across from the great Stalinist-rnGothic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we walk down the (old)rnMAY 1996/9rnrnrn