Lev Semeiko (military strategist), 1991

Lev Semeiko Interview in Toronto Sept. 19, 1991
Interviewer — Metta Spencer

SEMEIKO: As to my scientific biography, from the beginning of the sixties, I worked at the Academy of Frunze, one of the second of importance in the Soviet Union. The first is the Academy of the General Staff and the second is the Academy of Frunze, which prepares the officers for the ground forces of the Soviet Union. I defended the thesis there concerning nuclear weapons — about the specific kind of weapons which was not present in the Soviet armed forces, but I just insisted them to elaborate. They were elaborated afterwards. They were not yet created technically, but I just created the concept of its creation of of its employment — whether it is needed for us or not. And if needed, which weapons should be the ones, and for different kinds of armed forces, and how they would be employed, and what to do if we have no such weapons but United States has — how to wage war. ____

Your second question was about the development of Soviet military doctrine, and the third was about New Political Thinking.

What about Soviet military doctrine? At first, it was erroneous, mistaken, because the only kind of war we justified was general nuclear war and we just tried to find some ways for war-waging to win the war. It was adventuristic because there is no capability to win the war, but we tried. It was just vague because officially we denied the first strike on our side, but practically we tried just to be ready to repulse the strike on our border. What does it mean to repulse in the absence of anti-ballistic missiles? It means to strike first! To inflict missiles on the others’ ground and naval bases, and so on. So it was vague about the very beginning of war — whether to wait to strike, or to strike by yourself. Then too it was inconsistent, because our over-emphasis on nuclear weapons led us to the conclusion of the diminishing role of conventional forces, as under Khrushchev. That was undertaken and was a mistake. Only after Khrushchev did we begin to re-establish the might and power of conventional forces. So that gives me a ground to say that it was inconsistent. We denied the possibility of conventional war in the nuclear age, but in the second half of the sixties we recognized such a possibility. Of course, it’s not the best point for the characterization of our strategy.
Then to some extent our strategy was backward. We were not the first in the development of military thought. What do I mean? NATO and American theorists were the first to talk about the possibility of limited nuclear war — about the possibility of conventional war. They were the first to introduce the term “strategic stability,” for example. We were second. They were the first to introduce the term “assured destruction capability.” We were second. And many other terms. So I look at the past nowadays very skeptically. I did so earlier too, but it was not so clear as it is now — the backwardness of our strategy. But nevertheless, the might of Soviet military power was great. We were prepared to fight vigorously — to perish, but to achieve the fall of our opponent.
Was the Soviet military strategy aggressive? That is an interesting question. We were accused all the time of being potential aggressors. They (the Americans, I mean ) told too how our military strategy foresaw conducting an offensive during war. They said, “Look, they are going to conduct offensive operations. That means that they are aggressive! They prepare aggression and then the capturing of Europe!” My opinion was that our strategy was never aggressive. It was defensive — but the method of defence was offensive. It is possible. If you are being robbed, you can just strike and kill the robber. That is a form of defence! Another form is just running away. That is purely defensive! We were ready to strike if we were attacked. There are many justifications of the absurdity of unleashing nuclear war. Why should we unleash nuclear war in which millions of rank-and-file people perish? There was ground for not striking first and not unleashing nuclear war.
But we forgot about this ideology when we were preparing for the waging of war. Those peasants should die! And of course we would die.
Okay, nowadays we have quite another military strategy. It’s serious. And I adopt it completely. I may boast that I was one of the first who proclaimed this strategy in my classified writings — that it is no threat to defend by [de]fensive methods. I wrote that if we are attacked we will strive to strike the aggressor by offensive preparation, it will lead to our advance into Europe. Aftewards NATO will just strike tactically. This limited nuclear war will lead to general nuclear war, in which we’ll be destroyed. What’s the sense of coming into Europe during the war in the name of defence? That’s not the method! A little later, we found the same views in the Western literature.

SPENCER: You figured this out, anticipating the Westerners on nonoffensive defence?

SEMEIKO: It was not published, but it was sent up. And I was told that, after very attentive consideration, it was adopted. Because my arguments and the arguments of many, maybe the other participants elaborated on this idea and taking account of Western views, and at last it was adopted.

SPENCER: This became doctrine before the Westerners introduced it?

SEMEIKO: To some extent, but I don’t want to say that we were so clever that we were the first. It’s not a problem who was the first! The problem is another one.

SPENCER: But I happen to be interested in that question.

SEMEIKO: In the West it occurred only as a scientific concept. In the Soviet Union non-offensive defence is adopted officially. That is the point.

SPENCER: And at what time did it become official doctrine?

SEMEIKO: It was adopted the 6th of May, after Gorbachev came to power. Some points of the strategy began to appear in the press in 1987 and it was officially introduced at the Warsaw Pact conference in June, 1987, communication of the Budapest meeting of the Warsaw Pact. And it’s strange that it was not noticed by the Western analysts.

SPENCER: When were you writing about this and sending it up the channels?

SEMEIKO: In the middle of the 80s. I was at the Institute of USA and Canada.

SPENCER: I interviewed Anders Boserup in 1985. He was sitting right there on that sofa. There was a conference here in ’85 and I already knew that he was the person to interview about this question.

SEMEIKO: He, then some German, Norwegian, British, Dutch scientists, simultaneously came to this idea and called it non-offensive defence. Maybe my colleagues, we didn’t call it that, but the title isn’t important. What is important is the essence. I didn’t attach any specific term but the essence is that during the war it is necessary to restore the state that we lost as a result of the aggression. To restore and stop. Not a step further! And now, you see the idea of stoppage was adopted not at once by our military commanders. At first there were hesitations. Then I asked a military scientist, General Gareiv [sp?] “What will we do if we are attacked?” He said, “We will restore the border and then we will advance further.”
I was astonished. “Go further!”
“Yes, yes,” he said. “It is necessary to annihilate the aggressor on the other territory.”
I said to him, “If we elaborate such an approach there will be no difference from the old one. Our opponents will accuse us that we didn’t change anything and that we are going to use offensive methods.”
But about a year or half a year later he said, “Yes, we will stop. We will prevent further aggression by fire, but not by tanks.” That was a breakthrough in our strategy.

SPENCER: Was this published?

SEMEIKO: It was published in, maybe, 1988 or a little later, because the politicians came to this idea first and the military second. It is very difficult for the military mind.

SPENCER: So you were working away in the military.

SEMEIKO: The papers on this future strategy came from maybe other sources to the Politburo, to the Central Committee of the Party, and to the Generals. And they considered the problem on different levels. How they dealt with the issue I don’t know.

SPENCER: Did you speculate on what went on at that level. Do you know whose point of view …

SEMEIKO: I don’t know. It’s closed until now.

SPENCER: Do you think you will ever know who accepted your ideas?

SEMEIKO: I think that at least Gorbachev maybe was the first who agreed with the idea of non-offensive defence.

SPENCER: And who were some of the other people working with you on this idea?

SEMEIKO: Nobody. I don’t know about other people. It was my own assessment. I don’t want to overestimate my role, of course, because I am sure that maybe other people introduced this idea, but as for me personally, I know that I just sent it up to our leaders. But it doesn’t matter who and when. It’s not for publication, I hope you will not publish that.

SPENCER: Wait a minute. I don’t want to violate your trust. If you tell me that I must not publish this.

SEMEIKO: Don’t publish this. I don’t want to boast.

SPENCER: I know you don’t want to boast, but …

SEMEIKO: You should say that the idea of non-offensive defence appeared, maybe simultaneously, in the West and the East, but maybe the East was the first because there are many signs of its elaboration and it is very difficult under Soviet conditions to introduce new ideas immediately. It took time for the high command and the high politicians to adopt this idea because it changed the strategy radically. It’s very serious. Because if you have just non-offensive defence concept you should change not only the method of waging war but also the problems of constructing the armed forces — their deployment, their financing, their armament, etc. etc. Those are inter-related. And now I am proud that my country adopted this theory and began to rconstruct the armed forces to implement defensive defence. It’s not propaganda, it is reality. You know that now I am retired, but I have my friends in the army and they say that they are vowing that they are sick and tired of the defensive maneouvres.

SPENCER. (Laughs) They want more interesting things to do!

SEMEIKO: Because it was much more interesting to make offensive, yes. Defensive, defensive, oh, oh oh! And the problem is to find the [right] proportion of defensive. You know, if it is delivered, the aggressor just has penetrated in such and such steps, it is necessary to push him back. And the weapons for that are offensive. Counter-offensive. It is necessary to study these methods of action. Both defensive and offensive, you see. The proportion is mainly defensive.

SPENCER: If Gorbachev was already interested in nonoffensive defence in 1987 or so, that indicates he must have also been serious about the policy of nonintervention in other countries. Were these two policies discussed in connection with each other, say in the foreign ministry? It would seem to be unreasonable to keep only weapons that could not project power if you intended to project power into Afghanistan or Germany — or Poland in particular.

SEMEIKO: Yes, I see. Steps were taken to elaborate the concept of defensive defence in detail, both in peacetime and wartime. Our withdrawal from Afghanistan is one implementation of that concept. And our consent to withdraw our forces from the Eastern Europe was the same, just an implementation of this concept. So we came to our fortress. And this strategy is well coordinated with the foreign policy, with the economic policy — with little money for offensive strategies. Politically we just return to our homeland. We don’t want our military presence abroad. Gorbachev says we will withdraw our military brigade from Cuba. That is the last example of our returning back to the fortress. That’s the policy of peace, and defence now coincides. Just ten years ago we had a peaceful foreign policy and offensive military strategy. To some extent, that was a contradiction.

SPENCER: Tell me about the history of the concept of reasonable sufficiency. You were important in that, too.

SEMEIKO: Yes. It was a result of three factors. The first was political, the second military, the third economic. Political factor: We came to the conclusion that the huge number of our forces scares the West. It is necessary not to worry the West about our intentions because they saw the discrepancy between our capability and our intentions. Our intentions were peaceful but our capability not peaceful. Military factor: For defence you need less military forces than for offence. Economic factor: It was impossible for our country to be equal to all potential opponents — I mean United States, European countries, China (China was a potential opponent of the Soviet Union because of Mao and maybe afterward), Japan in the East. It was impossible to be equal quantitatively. We can’t have the same number of nuclear weapons as all potential opponents have. We came to the conclusion that, excuse me, we will walk without pants in this case. [???!!] And the result of the fact that such assessment was late is our difficulty. We just over-extended our military expenses because of a wrong goal — to be equal to the blocs of potential enemies. So the old idea says that to defend successfully it is necessary to maintain the ratio one to three. Defence side one, offence three. Maybe it is an approximation but of course the defender can have less forces. It will fit us very well. This was the ground for reasonable sufficiency. The question is, how much or how little is sufficient? Politically it was said by Gorbachev at the 27th Congress of the CPSU. He said that the number of armed forces, according to this concept, should be adequate to the size of the potential threat. If the threat is higher, our minimum should be higher, and so on. That’s the first point.

The second was that we transport the accent from quantitative characteristics to qualitative ones. As Lenin said, “Better less, but better.” And now we just support this idea. Of course, it has some difficulties because the West’s high technology means that we are behind. If we try not to be behind qualitatively, it is necessary to have high technology as well, but we can’t compete with the United States plus Britain plus Germany plus, plus, plus. Our economic and scientific status now is a problem. Of course, the problem of equilibrium now should be reconsidered and it is necessary to have minimum deterrence, minimum armed forces, but it is dangerous to over-estimate the importance of the minimum.

SPENCER: Were you in the business personally of trying to estimate what numbers and what mix of weapons to develop? Or were you dealing primarily with theoretical issues? What it your problem to decide how much is enough?

SEMEIKO: Forty years after the second world war we were just perplexed and struck by the fear of sudden attack because of Hitler’s attack.

SPENCER: People are always re-fighting the last war.

SEMEIKO: Yes, especially the older generation. They just remembered the experience of June 22, 1941 when nobody expected the sudden attack. The troops were just in the camps training in military skills. Everything was scattered. Nobody expected it because Stalin declared that Hitler would not attack. And because of that, we always tried to have maybe more than enough, to compensate for the possibility of heavy losses like 1941. That’s why we achieved numerical superiority over NATO’s conventional forces in Europe. NATO exceeded in nuclear and we tried to compensate by the size of conventional forces.

SPENCER: How did the idea become current — who promoted the idea that the West was really afraid of your surplus?

SEMEIKO: Oh! Thousands of statements. They considered our supremacy as proof of our coming aggression.

SPENCER: How did that discussion take place in the government? When did it finally begin to be taken seriously that the West was afraid?

SEMEIKO: Brezhnev was reluctant. Once he answered Ustinov, our Minister of Defence.
“Dima,” he said. “It seems to me we have too many missiles. Those missiles in Europe!”
“Yes,” he answered, “But they don’t want to eat!”
This conversation of two people, Brezhnev and our Minister of Defence, was published by a person who was present. They don’t need any food!
The political and military leadership declared Western concerns as propagandistic, as the ground for the arms race, as not relating to the real picture because we have this parity in conventional forces. That was deception. We had superiority. Now we recognize it.

SPENCER: Did you know that you had superiority?

SEMEIKO: Now, we won’t have it, since the diminishing of the armed forces, according to the Paris or Vienna accords. We’ll have less than the West. For example, the Soviet Union will have 13,500 tanks, NATO will have 20,000. Why do we have 13? Because other tanks belonged to the Warsaw Pact alliance, and they fell away while we remain alone. But from the point of view of defensive strategy, it’s not dangerous.

SPENCER: You promoted both the ideas of non-offensive defence and of reasonable sufficiency. Did you see them as a package — as part of the same doctrine?

SEMEIKO: Yes. The armed forces of the Soviet Union are ready to be sufficient in size, in preparation, in dislocation, to repulse possible aggression by minimum forces, conducting a defensive war. So the size and classes of their use are inter-related.

SPENCER: Sure, but the two elements, the two ideas, may not have happened simultaneously.

SEMEIKO: Agreed. Reasonable sufficiency and non-offensive defence were declared simulataneously, but it is easier to declare than to implement these terms.

SPENCER: Another change was the switch in strategy toward accepting on-site verification. I wonder if you can say how that happened? It was, I think, a phony issue, in that the U.S. wanted the Soviets to hang onto their rejection of verification so they would have an excuse. That’s my opinion, but nevertheless, there was resistance to on-site verification and then suddenly that was swept away. How did that happen?

SEMEIKO: The Soviet leadership of different levels was educated by Stalin in the sense that it is necessary to be vigilant, vigilant, and vigilant. The experience at the outset of the Cold War showed us that is was necessary to be vigilant. What does that mean? Not to admit any foreigner. For him not to know the military secrets. That’s why any verification proposals of the West (for example, Open Skies) were denied. We figured that thousands of Western spies will be looking at us and find the answer to the question why we try to conceal our territory: because we are too strong or too weak? So they will get the answer. We did not want such people. But now the situation has changed. Now we agree to admit any number of foreign inspectors on our territory — on mutual terms, of course. Let them see our minuses. Let them be sure that we are abiding by all the agreements we signed. The INF Treaty was the first time we showed our willingness to admit the American teams.

SPENCER: How did that change take place? Was the decision made at the top and others just accepted it? Who fed into it? What debate occurred?

SEMEIKO: I think the decision came from the politicians because the military are too closed. They are just screwed up. The changes in the Soviet Union are going so swiftly that it is impossible to say.

SPENCER: You say that in general the politicians made most of the innovations all along. The army never really supported reasonable sufficiency, nor non-offensive defence. They just got their orders from the political leaders and had to accept them or make a coup. Is that so?

SEMEIKO: It seems to me that the military was always second to accept the ideas. Always, always, in each case, the politicians were ahead. That’s their role: the civilian men just ruled the military ones.

SPENCER: And their advisers were mostly civilian? The people who gave them these new ideas.

SEMEIKO: The situation is very difficult in the Soviet Union, but in the U.S. there have always been civilian military strategists. For example, Kissinger. Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy was his historical work. He never served in the army but nevertheless he elaborated a very interesting theory that is obsolete not even today. And many other civilian strategists in the West. We in the Soviet Union had no such experts until two institutes were organized — our institute (USA and Canada) and IMEMO. Now the Institute of Europe. And a new generation of civilians appeared who now understand the problems and they tried to educated our civilian leadership. I remember for example, Semionov, who was the chairman of our delegation at the SALT I negotiations, researchers and students of our institute questioned him personally about the meaning of “heavier missile”? How does it fire? What is the term “accuracy”? What is the term “first strike”? We educated him politically and militarily. Now the time has passed. Our leaders now understand the problems very well. Now fresh ideas are penetrating the minds of our leadership much quicker than ten or twenty years ago.
As to the military, the professionals, they don’t want to be progressive in putting fresh military ideas forward. They need to have political inpulse to do anything and afterwards, after they have absorbed it, they begin to raise some technical details. Here they are masters. After political direction. Maybe it is the same picture as in the West.

SPENCER: Would you say that the civilians spend more time reading and having more contact with military theorists abroad than the military professionals do?

SEMEIKO: Yes. It is necessary to educate our civilians and in Western analytical organizations, to improve their minds in political and military methods. We have already organized at our institute some professionals of different kinds, lecturing and so on. But I repeat that the politicians should define the course, but to define it qualitatively it is necessary to know something.

SPENCER: Would you say the military resists the idea of contact — of reading and writing and meeting abroad?

SEMEIKO: Not anymore. Now they are open.

SPENCER: In Moscow at the END convention I talked with a Danish journalist named Dragsdahl who writes on Soviet military matters. He has written about how Western analysts, such as those in Pugwash, have had influence. He says that the Soviet top naval officers would not deal with civilian analysts. He introduced me to a man at the Russian foreign ministry who says not a single civilian analyst of naval policy has ever had a conversation with a top naval officer. If you phone them and say you want to talk with them about a particular issue, they will say, “It is none of your business. This is our profession.” Do you think this is especially true of the navy?

SEMEIKO: Not only. I know some civilian specialists in naval problems and they complain that they have no access to our admirals to discuss these problems. They meet with people in the middle level but not above. The same picture is in the Air Force and the Ground Forces. Why are the military so restrained? It is tradition. Keeping secrecy. Military spheres are closed. Second, they have a negative attitude to the civil men who, according to their point of view, understand nothing of their affairs. It is not their speciality, let them not introduce their nose into alien matters. And the third reason, is their underestimation of political aspects of the international military situation. They, the military, are accustomed to look at situations through military eyes. How many tanks? Where are the planes? What is the capability of missiles, etc. etc. If some Soviet or American civil specialist comes and begins to talk about the political environment around those tanks, missiles, and aircraft, they consider it not to be important. It is restricted thinking inherited from the past. Now it seems to me, they are getting to be more educated and the fact that 12 Soviet Generals and 6 Colonels are invited to Harvard University Government School for two weeks course is very interesting. For the first time we are ready to look at Western experience.

SPENCER: I am thinking of a paper by Karaganov, Kortunov, and Zhurkin on reasonable sufficiency. Do you know of other civilian analysts who are breaking paths? Can you name some others who are working along the same lines as you?

SEMEIKO: At our institute there are very good scientists — General Milshtein, General Mikhailov came to us. Do you know him?

SPENCER: I heard him speak once.

SEMEIKO: Do you remember about what?

SPENCER: At the conference where I met you he discussed, I think, the level of offensive capability.

SEMEIKO: Sergei Rogoff is the chief of the political, military department of our institute. He grows very quickly and spreads his knowledge. He is a pure civilian scientist because his former sphere was Israel and Zionism and anti-Zionism. But now he took over at our institute and has high level contacts. He talks with the Minister of Defence, General Staff leader, etc. Then at IMEMO, Arbatov, the son of Arbatov. They just issued reference books about a year ago about Security and Disarmament Problems. Proector is a very strong figure there. He is a European specialist. He knows German. Then I would say Kishilev, specialist in conventional armed forces. Specialist in naval arms problems. Stulov [?] the son of that journalist. They deserve to be interviewed.

[Most of the Q and A section that follows was transcribed from his talk at Massey college about the coup.]

SEMEIKO: I saw tanks in unusual places around the Kremlin. Always during normal parades, they go in one direction, but now they had surrounded it. And they were marked “Shame on CPSU!” Some people were giving food to the tankists. I saw a demonstration coming nearer, and I joined them. We went along Kalinin Prospect to the White House. (You know, there are two White Houses. And now we have almost the same name: U.S. and USS — Union of Sovereign States. Some people call us USSR — Union of Sovereign Separate Republics.)
As I walked along I heard the voice of one old man, “You old fool! Where are you going with those hoodlum youths?” You see, many old people agreed with the coup. I didn’t talk to him but went to the White House and then to my institute. And on the next day I went back to the White House and climbed over the barricades, which were not serious. They were just symbols of barricades, except for one tall one. As I was talking to a man there, a woman came up. “Whose barricades are these?” she asked.
“Ours,” he said. She went away, then came back.
“Whose ours?” she asked.
“Yeltsin’s,” he replied.
“Oh, Yeltsin’s! Okay!”

I wish I had taken my camera. For example, there was a beautiful girl sitting on a tank with a huge tricolor Russian flag and an umbrella. It was raining.

Many armored personnel carriers were standing there that had gone over to Yeltsin’s side. Suddenly they began to leave, with the Russian flags on their antennae. The people cried “Hooray, hooray, hooray!” I wondered why. They were ordered to leave by Yeltsin’s men, and the command had decided to reserve them.

Near that place three men died the next night. A column of armored cars was moving along the street, having been ordered to leave Moscow. And the military asked the militiamen to lead the way with a megaphone, saying, “Step aside, step aside!” But the militia didn’t come, and the people at the barricades were nervous. When they saw the armored cars they concluded that these cars were designated to encircle the White House. Not understanding the mission, one man threw an overcoat on the armored car, and the soldier shot. Another two people rushed to take the body, and the car began to manoeuvre and pushed them to the wall and they were killed. It should have been possible to avoid that.

What to think about the results of this coup? I will say, it had some positive aspects. It cleared the way for democratic forces. Now we have no resistance because those such men who had power have been removed. Second, now we have unity between the two leaders, Gorbachev and Yeltsin. If they are not friends, they are now at least people who cooperate.
It is necessary to decide what to do immediately. I like the program of the Baltic republics — 3, 3, 3 program. What to do, stage by stage, in three days, three weeks, three years. We need such a program. It is necessary to combine the problems because we have thousands of problems — economic, social, military, cultural. It is necessary to set priorities — where to begin.
We have four stages of development in this situation — terror, euphoria, depression, and adaptation. The terror was the situation of three days. Then euphoria: “Hooray, hooray! Victory!” Now is the stage of depression, as we see what a difficult autumn and spring we will have. And the stage of adjustment will come.

Q: What changes do you expect in the army as a result of the changes following the coup?

SEMEIKO: I hope that there’ll be two major changes. The first is great unilateral cuts without even negotiating. It seems to me that the leadership will consider this unilaterally. We don’t need such big forces now after the failure of the coup. The problems of security will be changed because of the independence of republics inside the Soviet Union, because of different means of ensuring security, etc. So, the idea is, the Soviet Union will pose no military threat to the West, as it poses no threat politically.
Second, our security interests will be turned inward, to keep peace in the country. It will be far more important to us than the outward direction. It means that we will have stronger interior troops than regular troops, which would have just designs to defend the country from outside. You understand the demographic and economic problems; we have no possibility to have a large army. The army will be divided into two parts — internal and external. The internal may be equal to the external. To us it is important to keep peace inside the country.

Q: A year or so ago they began to have soldiers accompany the police when patrolling city streets. Is this still going on and do you expect that it will continue?

SEMEIKO: Yes. And the strengthening of the interior forces may be just implemented very soon. That’s just my assessment, not an official one. The Ministry of Defence will be radically changed. It will be civil. The task of the ministry will be to define military policy, procurement problems, budgetary problems, etc. The minister may be a civilian man. As to tactical problems of the army, the General Staff will be occupied with such assignments — training troops, fighting, etc. Now the Minister of Defence, Shaposhnikov, is a military man, and he has different problems.

Semieko: The commission on military reform has been organized and is staffed by representatives of republics. This is very important because in the past, mainly Russians defined the military policy. Now it will be with the consent of all the republics.

Q: Do you think it will be a unified military force?

SEMEIKO: I think so, but it all depends on the situation in the Soviet Union. If the domestic situation is bad, the process of the dissolution of the Soviet Union will proceed. Then the army will be split and I don’t know the results. I heard before my departure that the Ukraine demanded that all the troops situated on their territory should belong to their army — including the Black Sea fleet. So it’s very dangerous. I heard that such acts took place in Kiev.

Q: I assume that it is dangerous to have separate armies for the republics because clashes might occur between them. One republic might fight against another. The only argument in favor of having republics with separate armies comes from some members of Mothers of Soldiers, who are concerned about the number of soldiers killed by ethnic fights. If there were separate armies for different nationalities, those fights would be reduced. Do you agree?

SEMEIKO: There were some statements by Shaposhnikov and other military commanders that in the future the army will not take part in such clashes. The internal troops, that’s another matter, but the army will not take part. Then if republics organize national guards, maybe 10,000 maximum, it will be up to the republican governments to prevent clashes without using union troops. I think that republican clashes should be settled by the republics. Why should Moscow interfere? It’s a delicate problem. The Karabakh situation shows that for four years, Moscow hasn’t been able to do anything.

Q: Yes, but I heard that the army in Azerbaijan is controlled by the president and the Communist Party of Azerbaijan, so they either permit or even participating in beating up the Armenians. The Armenians say they are not being treated right by the army, although originally they had asked the army to come. Immediately after it came, they wanted it to leave because the army was not helping them. Is that because the army is controlled by Azeris?

SEMEIKO: There are two forces in Azerbaijan — union and republican. The regular union army is the Fourth Army. They are involved in border clashes, trying unsuccessfully to keep order there. Then there is OMON detachment, which belongs to Baku, to Azerbaijanis. That militia troop was under the control of the Communist Party until the coup. Now the role of the Communist Party is gone, so much will depend on the character of the leadership in Azerbaijan. The president is a strong man who hates Armenians. It is difficult for him to talk peacefully. He was elected, but the results of the election are questioned now by his opponents. He favors a forceful solution to the Armenian problem. That’s a pity, of course.

The Russian Quest for Peace and Democracy, by Metta Spencer, published by Lexington Books