Russian Civil Society: Publishing and the Public ChamberIn this Chapter, Stone goes to Russia in 2004 to kick off the publication in Russian of his 1999 book “Every Man Should Try”. At the Sakharov Museum, he summarizes parts of his life’s work and receives some comments. And he talks to people about the problems of publishing and of human rights in Russia.
Later, in January 2005, he returns to Russia and addresses a new creation of the Putin Administration: the Public Chamber. The Public Chamber, a conglomeration of public interest groups, was the Kremlin’s attempt to control the public interest sector. Stone tried to find some useful function for it. Its Secretary-General made an effort to urge the Public Chamber to work with Stone, but this failed due to rising anti-American attitudes in Russia.
On March 8, 2004, I visited Moscow to give a speech at the Andrei Sakharov Museum on the occasion of the publication in Russian of my life-memoir, Every Man Should Try. The visit turned out to be–as most such visits do–unexpectedly successful. Useful conversations were held on human rights and on North Korea. And on arms control, a potentially important new project was started. Further, an interesting formulation was invented, and presented, relating weapons and arms control on the one hand and human rights on the other; it appears in my speech.
At this time, the economic situation in Russia has gone from “horrible” to “bad,” as one commentator put it. Putin had balanced the budget, given people their back wages, got the oligarchs under control and was getting things done. This was possible partly because of higher oil prices. He goes to church, which enthralls the believers (including 40% of the population), and he provides the sense of strong leadership and state security that the Russian people have always wanted. In a poll of the greatest politicians of the 20th century, Putin got 60%, Stalin 20%, Gorbachev 2%. Lenin was nowhere. It looks like Putin will be running Russia for a very long time.
In the process, however, freedom to speak is going backward, as is freedom of the press and the TV media is under tight control. One of my translators admitted to me, after a conversation in the restaurant, that–for the first time in ten years–she had hesitated to translate something until the waiter moved out of earshot. And she was shocked to realize that she had acted in this way. Those who care about such things are worried. But most don’t care. They go to the polls by habit and out of fear that their absence might be noticed.
In the countryside, development is very uneven. If a town has a good mayor who figures out how to bring in outside investment, the town may prosper. In the alternative, it may be filled with beggars who run after any car that turns up. Some places look as they did after World War II.
The Run Up To the Book Release
I prepared a speech to kick off the publication of the book. Human Rights Press had sent out 500 invitations, and I was not sure how many people would attend. I summarized my achievements in human rights (especially the defense of Sakharov) and on arms control.
On the way to the airport in Washington, I suddenly realized that a formulation of the linkage between human rights and arms control that, in a way, won Andrei Sakharov the Nobel Prize was now outdated. But it could be usefully “reversed.”
Sakharov had taught that human rights were a critical adjunct to the control of nuclear weapons. In an age of fears of nuclear war, human rights were necessary to control the nuclear weapons.
Today, in an age of terrorism, the control of weapons was essential to the maintenance of human rights, especially civil liberties. This is especially clear in Russia and in America, where terrorism is giving security advocates the upper hand over advocates of civil liberties.
Over breakfast in Moscow, an old friend told me that Russia was not particularly concerned about the China threat and was ambivalent toward close ties with Europe–which would require changes in the situation in Russia. It was true that there was a shift backwards from the freedoms of the 1990s, but it had not gone too far. He did not believe the KGB had been behind a grenade attack–that failed–on a woman journalist because that would have been too “unclever”. The concerns about American encirclement were passive. I did not agree with much of this.
The Andrei Sakharov Museum
The Andrei Sakharov Museum, backed by one of the oligarchs, is sited near the apartment where Andrei and Elena Bonner lived. It has an impressive display contrasting socialism realism in the Soviet Union (parades, etc.) with the reality of socialism in Russia (the concentration camps). About 50 people filled the room for my speech.
After starting to speak, I turned over the floor to B.J., who had prepared a short speech in Russian saying:
I am glad to have been able to share in some of Jeremy’s Russian adventures. Forty years ago, Vassily Emelyanov suggested that Jeremy learn Russian. Instead, at Jeremy’s urging, I studied Russian over a period of several years in order to be of some help to him. I achieved only modest success, and I have forgotten much of what I learned, but it gave me great pleasure to become acquainted with your beautiful language. We were privileged to be able to work on the greatest danger that mankind has ever faced….At this point, the poignancy of the situation overcame B.J. and she broke up. She was warmly applauded.
(Later at home, describing this moment to several acquaintances in America, I discovered, to my horror, that they often said: “Very interesting, Jeremy, but what was that ‘greatest danger’?” How quickly they forget!!!)
In the speech, which can be found in its entirety in (Appendix), I observed that Academician Velikhov’s introduction had asked the question how:
. . . Jeremy could compete—in influencing the political life of his own country and of the whole world—with the most powerful entities and with non-governmental organizations whose budgets were many times higher than his own.The answer, Evgeny had said, lay in my belonging to a network of highly intelligent and well-placed, and well-intentioned, people. Evgeny was certainly one. He was the only scientist inside the Soviet system that we could find who had the political courage and skills to make the politically sensitive decisions needed for the best of our suggestions.
I mentioned the many famous people and dangerous situations in which I had been involved—one reviewer had called me Zelig. Besides the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, I had become involved with Premier Zhou En Lai’s illness; President Nixon’s Watergate; China’s effort to reunify with Taiwan; the threat posed by two super Maoist groups–the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Sendero Luminoso in Peru; the struggle for freedom of the Albanians in Kosovo; free press in America; false alarms of an earthquake; Reagan’s interest in astrology; stopping an illegal CIA operation; and the World Court’s decision on nuclear weapons.
But, above all, I had had the honor to work, for 40 years, on the greatest danger to mankind the world has ever seen–the U.S.-Soviet arms race, with its related threat to destroy the planet if nuclear war were unleashed... And as part of that campaign, I worked on human rights in Russia and strove to improve common understanding between the leaders of the two sides.
In the speech, I reviewed the four international ABM crises and what I had tried to do about them—as noted in earlier chapters (or in “Every Man Should Try”)—but emphasizing aspects of special interest to the Russian audience:
a). The beginnings of the ABM campaign in 1963, with a letter my superiors sent to Secretary McNamara about it;
b). The presentation of the ABM Treaty idea by invitation, forty years before, in 1964, to a very senior private group of American and Russian officials–including Henry Kissinger and Academician Millionshikov. At the meeting, Vasily Emelyanov compared me to a Texas sheriff who hated Communists so much that he beat not only communists but even “anti-communists”. He said I was beating “missiles and anti-missiles alike”. He was right.
c). The 1985 trip to Moscow to try to resolve the Star Wars threat to the ABM Treaty with a “bear-hug” strategy, i.e., Moscow would agree to begin disarmament in START II so long as the United States did not violate the ABM Treaty. This would hold the ABM Treaty hostage to disarmament. When, with the help of Academician Velikhov, I briefed forty famous people about this in Moscow in April 1985, Academician Georgi Arbatov told me that Moscow could not accept the bear-hug because there would be “blood all over the floor”–so alarmed was Moscow about Star Wars.
But Andrei Sakharov calmed Moscow down. In February 1987, after we discussed this idea in his apartment, Andrei Sakharov set forth, in a Moscow forum, his own more scientific—but less political—version of the bear-hug strategy, in which the Soviet Union would agree to disarmament even longer than I suggested. It would continue so long as the United States did not begin to deploy an ABM. Over the subsequent months, Sakharov’s great scientific authority persuaded Moscow that the ABM was not as dangerous as it feared. And, working through the State Department official Paul Nitze, especially, I promoted the bear-hug in Washington.
In the end, Moscow and Washington accepted the bear-hug strategy. It accepted the more political form and not Andrei’s more scientific form. Nevertheless, it was correctly said, at Sakharov’s funeral, that Sakharov’s efforts to promote the so-called “Sakharov Finesse” had made START II ratification possible. In any case, in this way, I had the honor of working in parallel with Andrei Sakharov on the world’s most important missile disarmament treaty–START II.
d). The effort, in the spring of 1999, to turn an ABM crisis into a disarmament opportunity with the slogan: “Truncate the Sword and the Shield Becomes Harmless”;
e). The 9/11/2001 effort entitled: “Mothball the ABM Treaty: The Reagan and Sakharov Plan”.
I had these conclusions.
Some Ingredients of Success
Taking Roads Less Traveled: Looking back, one ingredient of success was taking unpopular roads. In particular, while hundreds of analysts and experts talked to one another in Washington, I began going to Moscow in 1966 and talking to Russians.
Benign Strategic Infection: In 1966 my book “Strategic Persuasion: Arms Control through Dialogue” developed the idea that organizations of all kinds–institutions, bureaucracies, political parties, governments, international institutions–could not be influenced very successfully from the outside. All these institutions had defense mechanisms. They repelled outside ideas much the way your skin repels foreign particles.
Instead, the study argued, one should find some person inside the organization who was generally sympathetic, infect him with the idea at issue and let him move the levers of power inside the organization. This notion, which might be called “benign strategic infection”, has served me very well in producing change in a number of arenas.
The Power of Ideas Conveyed in Simple Terms: In retrospect, much of such success as was achieved was secured by generating political solutions to problems and reducing these solutions to slogans, metaphors and analogies that could be put on buttons or bumper stickers or explained in a paragraph. I was often described as a scientist–indeed, for thirty years, described as a President of a very distinguished group of scientists. In fact, I rarely used a scientific formula and normally used the kind of public relations human skills we can all develop.
Every Successful Idea Needs An Activist Carrier: But ideas, even reduced to simple explanations, are not, by themselves, normally sufficient to achieve change. A university professor who writes a learned article or a newspaper column will not normally secure acceptance of his or her idea by a government. On the contrary, the idea has to be driven home, developed, explained, managed and/or placed in the system by some activist who desperately wants to get it accepted. And an idea published rapidly becomes everyone’s idea and, hence, no one’s idea.
Of special importance, in U.S.-Soviet arms control, activists were in short supply. And this is one reason the activists involved had room for success.
Establishing Warm Friendships: In general, people will work with you if they like you and they will not work with you if they don’t. And since you can’t make change entirely by yourself, you have to develop the necessary friendships. In this, it is important to remember that there are good people within all organizations, even within very bad organizations.
Security and Human Rights: During the active phase of the U.S.-Soviet arms race, Andrei Sakharov’s writings taught us that weapons of mass destruction could not be controlled unless the countries possessing them had a certain level of human rights. In other words, arms controllers needed help from human rights campaigners.
Today, however, the opposite is true. Human rights advocates need help from arms controllers. Without the control of weapons, the threat of terrorism will undermine civil liberties everywhere.
Therefore I want to conclude this speech by drawing attention to a conclusion for our time that is parallel to, but different from, that of Andrei.
Today, no country can be assured of having civil liberties until all countries have them. And the general achievement of civil liberties will require the security gained from the control of weapons.
In sum, all countries are now tied together in their security and their civil liberties, all must help each other and none must be abandoned.
After the talk, one commentator, the editor of a human rights publication, said: “We really lack such people” as Jeremy. He said that before the 19th century, the role of personality in shaping history was well understood.
Roy Medevev then spoke. Now 80 years old, he was one of two identical twins, both of whom we had befriended in Moscow in the bad days. Roy had been thrown out of the Communist Party for writing a history of Stalin that was too advanced for its time. He had subsisted for years on foreign commissions and on writing books. His brother Zhores, exiled in London, was a famous expert on the theory of aging.
Roy said my book had a lot of “eye-opening” things and he planned to reread it many times. It was interesting to see someone trying to protect Andrei. Most people had not understood how important all this was. When he had reviewed the archives, he himself was astonished to see how often the bimonthly meetings of the Politburo had discussed Sakharov, Solzhenitsyn, Elena Bonner and even smaller dissidents. Wasn’t it strange to have them discussing whether Solzhenitsyn should be registered as a voter in Moscow or Elena Bonner given a visa to go to Italy? This was, he felt, because American politics were involved. When Senator Kennedy had come to Moscow, the first thing he had said was: “Give us Sakharov”. (Of course, this idea was suggested by me, and worked on for two years, and is discussed in a chapter of my book.)
Roy felt that Russian politics had been heavily influenced by scientists. It wasn’t Brezhnev alone who did things. Indeed, Brezhnev was a fool. Once he picked up his red phone—the one designed to give the signal for nuclear war—and asked the person on the other end, what is this phone for? When told by the contact on the other end, he said: “I never knew why it never rang.” The role of scientists was very high and Sakharov had said: “Nobody can make his decisions without us.” Roy said: “History flows like a river, historians think. But at some critical points, when things are broken, one person can do a lot.”
After my speech, and the comments, I asked for questions. In fact, there were none. People are not accustomed to standing up and exposing their thoughts. In the back, one person was filming the talks and grinning in a way that suggested he was KGB.
Don’t Forget That Russia and America are Neighbors
In the evening, I met with a well-informed diplomat. China was keeping Russia on a rather “short leash” with regard to Taiwan–complaining by diplomatic note if Russian officials met with Taiwanese officials at parties, etc. Accordingly, my plans to involve Russia in Taiwan-Mainland peace efforts will require the agreement of China (which I think I can get).
There is a kind of working group between the upper chamber of the Russian parliament and the U.S. Senate. I gave this official an old idea that I had generated in the '80s when I was working on parliamentary exchange. It was to use the fact that Russia and America had a common border at the Bering Strait. This was important because the U.S. Senate and House take the view that they want standing committees on exchanges only with Mexico and Canada on the grounds that these two countries have common borders and other countries do not.
But in my effort to get “equal time” spent on Russia, I once remarked that Russia has this common border. And I seemed to recall that Reagan had been persuaded to mention this in a speech. The official thought this interesting and so I am now trying to find the speech.
Human Rights and Arms Control
In the morning, I met with Valentin Gefter, director of the Human Rights Institute, to discuss what, if anything, I could do for the Russian human rights movement at this time. His biggest problem, he felt, was the ambiguity of his position vis-a-vis the authorities. Sometimes he would protect what an official was doing in one of the official’s capacities while appealing to the same official in some other of the official’s capacities.
The human rights movement was not now in “confrontation” with the authorities, and the dialogue with them was “uneven”. They were talking about prisons, socioeconomic issues, orphanages, public control of certain activities. A major issue involved immigrants and internally displaced peoples. A lot of Afghans have moved into Russia and there were many children without parents. They had no rights. And it was not just a problem of ethnic minorities; Russians in the surrounding CIS countries had limited rights.
There were about 30,000 human rights groups of different kinds, functioning, really, often like unpaid social workers. Sometimes they needed Western support. After 9/11, the pressure from Western countries decreased and public opinion about this subsided. But the Russian government is more sophisticated now and violations are not as bad, numerically.
Another problem involved the victims of political persecution: oligarchs, researchers. Another problem involved public apathy. The public considered all Russian authority figures to be the same–in or out of government. Accordingly, they really did not trust the human rights groups either.
I asked if he could secure information from the public–through some kind of poll–and use the information to encourage change and, then, use the change to encourage public interest. I talked of how to get factory workers to believe in union activity.
He said the people thought they needed these groups only when they got into trouble. The distrust of the public for the groups is even greater than it is between the groups and the Government. Nobody believes in law and justice. They look at human rights experts as if they were from a different planet. They hope Putin will help them and don’t think much about rules and democracy. Many still believe in Stalin. Asked how I could be helpful, he said the “level of influence from outside is less now”. Another problem was that, if anything did happen, the groups would not get the credit but the Government would.
I suggested he needed people of an organizing mentality and that he should find a topic that would encourage public protest but not be something that Putin would oppose. Later, a friend in Russia suggested “conscription” and the issue of a volunteer army would be good. I have passed this along. As for corruption, people are so used to it, they don’t have to be asked for bribes, and they just pay.
Lunch with Roy Medvedev
I asked Roy to have lunch with me. He had just completed a biography of President Putin and presented me with a copy. (The Embassy in Moscow has translated it, but I am trying to get a translation.) He viewed the future positively and said things had been getting better quickly during the last three years. In terms of civil liberties, things were better than ten years ago. [I don’t believe this for a minute.] He said, “We feel very free and this period is better than any other period.” He even said that public speech was freer here than in Britain. [This is absurd, of course.] He had sent copies of an article of his that was critical of America to many publications. But it was only printed in the Washington Post, through the help of Bob Kaiser, his friend. This proved, he said, that the Europeans were afraid to print criticism of the U.S. [Under the present circumstances, this is a fantastically silly assertion.] The failure of the article to be printed in Britain confirmed to him that “there was strict control of articles in Britain, at least among major newspapers. [This is also absurd.] Still more astonishing was his comment that I had treated Sakharov and Elena Bonner “on the same level” in my book. How he reached this conclusion, I do not know.
In Russia, he said there was no direct censorship now but only non-direct control. Putin takes with him on trips only reporters he likes. All TV channels are loyal. The state budget for these news activities makes for more control.
Roy likes Putin. And he thinks he will stay in control beyond his second term, perhaps by becoming head of the political party that puts up the next candidate. Gorbachev expresses support for Putin, Roy says. Roy is not worried about the “KGB mentality” in so many of the people around Putin. We “don’t have better people”, he said, than “the ones that Putin is choosing.”
Roy is not worried about China or about problems with America. He says America interferes too much abroad. Russian students were not interested in politics but were passive.
Following this conversation, I passed by Russia’s General Accounting Office, run by former Prime Minister Stepashin. I left off a copy of my book in Russian. He is having his problems. Most of Russia’s high-level bureaucracy is handing their resignations as part of Putin’s reorganization. So he may lose his position. And, according to reports, many people are calling him for help even though he may not be able to help himself. Worse, Putin evidently holds Stepashin responsible–along with a former Defense Minister–for saying that the Army’s invasion of Chechnya would be quick and easy.
At Carnegie, I spent an hour with Alexei Arbatov, son of Georgi Arbatov, who figures so much in my book. Alexei was Chairman of the Duma Defense Committee, but his Yabloko party was defeated in the polls and he left the Parliament. We reviewed issues such as reducing the danger of inadvertent nuclear war. I raised one old possibility–putting U.S. and Russian military observers in each other’s command posts. But this seemed not too fruitful.
I remembered an idea of Mort Halperin’s called “stand-down,” which was his effort to improve on approaches used by Frank von Hippel and Bruce Blair in their approach to selling “de-alerting”. I pitched this to Alexei. After some prolonged discussion, he seemed open to the idea of tacitly coordinated bilateral stand-downs, so I proposed that we both work on this. [But nothing came of it.]
Publishing in Russia
B.J. and I toured a new cathedral and went to an art fair and had dinner with a friend. Later, I met with my Russian publisher to sign an agreement in which I paid for 1,000 extra copies (twice his print run) and he agreed to send them to a menu of places: human rights organizations, libraries related to science, military officers, arms controllers and political scientists, etc.
I asked the publisher what I could do for him and his Human Rights Press. He is supported 80% by grants and sells books at far below the marginal costs of producing them because the market will not stand more. He wants to start a new magazine publication called Civic Society, but the U.S. Government-funded National Endowment for Democracy–which subsidizes such things–says his existing publication is enough for him. For this he needs $40,000 a year to send the magazine to 2,000 libraries. He also wants $20,000 to republish Sakharov’s memoirs at $10 a set. Elena Bonner, a usual source for finding money for this, seems uninterested except to say that, if it is republished, she wants royalties.