Christian Caryl

Stories by Christian Caryl

  • DANCES WITH ROBOTS

    Norihiro Hagita recently put a 3-year-old girl and her mother into a room with a robot and kept them there for two hours. At first, the girl and the robot chatted and played. When the robot asked her to give him a hug, she happily complied. But after a time the two of them ran out of new things to do, and the little girl plopped down on the floor for a nap. The robot waited to make sure the girl had truly lost interest, then approached her mother and struck up a conversation. "Now here's the interesting part," says Hagita, pointing to the girl on videotape. "See how she sits up and watches? The robot is interacting with her mother and that's got her upset." He can't help but grin. "The robot has made her jealous."While engineers in most of the world try to make robots that perform specific and usually unpleasant tasks, from fighting wars to performing deep-sea salvage, Japanese engineers are obsessed with making the machines more human. Having put the country squarely in the lead of...
  • HOMEBOUND JAPAN: THE RISING SONS

    If anyone is going to change Japan's stay-at-home investment culture, it's probably Shinsei Bank. In 2000 the U.S. boutique investment firm Ripplewood Holdings bought the remains of Japan's Long-Term Credit Bank and revived it as Shinsei, which means "new life." Since then Shinsei has been leading a quiet revolution in Japan's staid retail banks. It's opening stylish new branches with teleconferencing screens and Internet access. Already Japan's seventh largest bank, with $10.6 billion in assets, Shinsei claims to be the top Internet mutual-fund provider in a nation that began to allow banks to sell mutual funds only in 2000. Its surprise best seller doesn't even target Japan: it's an India equity fund.For ordinary Japanese investors, this is the financial equivalent of bungee jumping out of an airplane. Japanese are the most provincial investors of any rich country. The nation's households hold a mere 0.5 percent of their assets overseas, and institutions hold 5 percent. U.S. Fed...
  • The Kid V. the Man

    Japan's establishment has many reasons to hate Takafumi Horie. He wears T shirts, not ties. He is 32, and voices disrespect for his elders. He's written best-sellers that preach a gospel of greed. Horie dropped out of elite Tokyo University and went on to create a billion-dollar Internet portal, Livedoor, outside the old boys' network. And last week Livedoor won a high-court ruling that greenlights a hostile takeover now shaking the foundations of Japanese business.Horie is the consummate outsider, and his unprecedented battle to seize control of the $2.2 billion Nippon Broadcasting System (NBS) has provoked a national uproar over what is proper Japanese corporate behavior. Hisashi Hieda, the head of NBS affiliate Fuji TV, wondered snidely whether Horie's tactics could be classified as "American style"--"but then I wouldn't know because I'm Japanese." The Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper warned of a future in which foreigners "harvest Japanese companies at will," and circle like "vultures"...
  • NORTH KOREA: RELUCTANT PARTNERS

    The White House emissary was packing heat. As Michael Green, senior director of Asian affairs on the U.S. National Security Council, made the rounds in Tokyo, Beijing and Seoul last week, he confronted his counterparts with the diplomatic equivalent of heavy weaponry--a handwritten note from U.S. President George W. Bush. It was Washington's latest effort to convince governments in the region that North Korea has been peddling nuclear materials to nefarious customers. U.S. officials last week claimed Pyongyang appeared to have supplied uranium hexafluoride to Libya, which gave up its own nuclear-weapons program at the West's urging.Increasingly, however, the calculations of Pyongyang's neighbors may differ from Washington's. All the heated headlines about North Korean nukes have obscured a more subtle shift in the local dynamic, in particular the country's blossoming economic relationship with China and South Korea. In July 2002 North Korean leader Kim Jong Il signaled the end of...
  • Law of the Land

    Japan's twentysomethings don't have much of a reputation for caring about politics. But Mitsunori Shigeno, 27, is a fine example of how that's beginning to change. First he and his classmates at Phoenix English College in Tokyo began hearing in the media that leading politicians wanted to revise the Japanese Constitution. Then a delegation of Phoenix students--most of whom hold full-time jobs and reserve their weekends for language study--sought an audience with a member of Parliament to discuss the issue. (To be polite, they brought along a cake.)Next, armed with new arguments, they held a class debate on a question that is preoccupying growing numbers of their countrymen: whether Japan should renounce Article 9, the famous constitutional clause in which the nation swears off war, and the means to wage it, for all time. The students' debate ended in a draw, but, says Shigeno, it fulfilled its purpose--to get people talking. "Because we don't have military power, other countries are...
  • INSIDE THE HERMIT KINGDOM

    Call me crazy, but I've always wanted to go to North Korea. Impenetrable, enigmatic, a tantalizing blank spot on the map. As a longtime correspondent in Russia, I had watched the old Soviet Union open up. Could something similar be happening in the Hermit Kingdom?Of course, totalitarian North Korea makes Russia look like a human-rights paradise, even in the bad old days. The only way an American can visit is to sign on with an approved tour to Hyundai's resort at Mount Kumgang, renowned on the peninsula for its scenic beauty. Since the venture was founded in 1998, more than 800,000 South Koreans have shelled out up to $500 a head for the privilege of spending 48 hours in an ultramodern hotel complex, cordoned off by security fences and guards in Russian-style uniforms. You get there by bus, crossing the fortified DMZ and bumping north along a carless road lined with barbed wire and, natch, more sour looking guards.As recently as a few months ago, we heard, Northern tour guides would...
  • An Army Adrift

    Two decades ago, South Korea's military had a clear enemy. Stalinist North Korea had triggered a fratricidal war that led to the death of millions. The South's cold-war-era leaders, all staunch anti-communists and former generals, painted the Hermit Kingdom as paranoid and bloodthirsty. Yet today, several South Korean officials say a government white paper on national defense due later this month may do away with the traditional description of North Korea as Seoul's "main enemy." Political leaders are calling for closer friendship with Pyongyang and more independence from Washington. The only security many younger Koreans are worried about is financial. Once a pillar of society, to which every young Korean male owes two years of service, the military is adrift. "Sometimes," says one regimental commander, "I wonder in what direction our guns should be aimed."He is not the only officer in South Korea's 690,000-man military bewildered by political and social changes on the Korean...
  • THE TWISTS OF FATE

    The Indian port of Chennai (formerly Madras) stood in the path of the wave, and disaster beckoned. The city is both the nation's second largest container terminal and an automaking capital known as India's Detroit. Its destruction would be a huge blow to one of Asia's most vibrant economies. Yet, protected by breakwaters and quirks of natural geography, Chennai got off lightly. A few ships were damaged, and the harbor filled with sand, yet within 24 hours cargo was moving again. Port spokesman Vajiravel Loganathan says it will take "one or two months at the most" to restore full operations.This was the part of the tragedy that didn't happen. Despite the horrible death toll, the economic impact looks to be miraculously low. Giant waves inundated more than 33,000 kilometers of coastline on three continents, according to an estimate by ESRI, a satellite mapping company, yet there are no reports of catastrophic damage to any major port or industrial facility. Economist and natural...
  • NATION OF MISERS

    A couple of weeks before Christmas you'd expect Yukie Ushijima, 38, to be gearing up for some serious holiday shopping. She's not hurting for cash, after all, since her husband is a successful architect. What's more, she lives in Japan, a country rich in clever strategies for separating people from their money. But Ushijima has taken something akin to a consumer's vow of chastity. "It's become my natural habit not to spend unnecessarily," she says. "I hardly buy things at department stores--just window shopping." When the family has cash to spare, she usually invests it instead to prepare for a secure retirement. Her preferred vehicle: Australian government bonds.Japan has long been legendary for its tightfisted consumers, whose stubborn refusal to get out and spend has plagued the economy like a lingering nightmare. Yet this was the year that was supposed to change all that. The optimists had plenty of weighty arguments on their side. Corporate profits were reaching new highs....
  • HE'S THE ANSWER

    Two questions loom large in the minds of Japan's political class in 2005. One concerns the economy. Recent indicators suggest that a full-scale recovery remains elusive, and whatever happens, it's clear that the year to come holds plenty of nerve-racking moments in store. And then there's leadership. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has declared that he's stepping down in 2006. That raises the issue of who will succeed him and carry the torch for Koizumi's program of reform.The answers to both questions intersect in an unlikely character by the name of Heizo Takenaka. A former professor who came to prominence as a TV commentator on economics, Takenaka entered the political arena in 2001 at the age of 50. These days the soft-spoken economic-reform czar is riding a reputation as a hard-nosed reformer who's not afraid to take on the establishment. "I'm not committed to any vested interest," says Takenaka. "I'm not financially supported by any special groups or special companies. In...
  • COMING OUT OF THE COLD

    For the past 30 years Hiroaki Kushioka has languished in corporate Japan's equivalent of Siberian exile. In 1974 he put his own conscience above company loyalty by going public with revelations about his employer's involvement in a price-fixing cartel. But because of the cozy relationship between government watchdogs and the industries they regulated at that time, the firm escaped punishment. Its managers were quick to take action against Kushioka. They derailed his sales career by transferring him to a provincial training center, where he spent most of the next three decades tending the flower beds.Yet these days, in an odd twist of fate, Japan's veteran whistle-blower is coming in from the cold. His book about his experiences, published two years ago, has earned him nationwide prominence. He filed a lawsuit against his company, which he claims is close to being resolved in his favor. And in perhaps the most striking sign of his new status, the onetime outcast now finds himself...
  • EVERY REASON TO BE AFRAID

    In October 2001 the White House found itself scrambling to respond to a threat that could have made 9/11 look like a pinprick. Just weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Bush administration received a tip from a CIA source that Al Qaeda had smuggled an atomic bomb into the United States. As Graham Allison tells the story, the government took the warning so seriously that it sent bomb hunters from its supersecret Nuclear Emergency Support Teams into New York City to look for the presumed device using radiation detectors concealed in backpacks and briefcases. The Feds didn't even inform Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. But, says Allison--a former assistant secretary of Defense in the Clinton administration and director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs--they were right to keep mum. "A news flash about an Al Qaeda nuclear weapon in Manhattan," he notes, "would create chaos."That time around, luckily, the threat turned out to be a dud....
  • TYCOON TAKEOVER

    It's no secret that a handful of "oligarchs" dominate the Russian economy, but until now the details have been murky. No one knew all the names in the oligarchy, exactly what they own, how many industries they dominate or to what effect. Are oligarchs leading the modernization of Russia, as they claim, or crippling progress? Answers have been hidden behind the thicket of shell companies that still obscure Russian accounting. "This is an absurd situation," says the World Bank's chief economist in Russia, Christof Ruehl. "It is one of the biggest countries on earth and no one knows how concentrated the economy is."The World Bank dispatched dozens of researchers to cut through the murk and produce the first clear view of just who controls Russia. Last week it released the surprising findings: the 23 biggest oligarchs control 35 percent of industrial sales, high by European standards but less than the 50 percent claimed by earlier estimates. The oligarchs do dominate the heights of the...
  • NO MORE EXCUSES

    In the halcyon days when Vladimir Putin visited his aunts and uncles here, the tiny village of Pominovo was a place of hope. "There was a store, a bar, a club," recalls Vladimir Kuvarin, himself once married to a now deceased cousin of the Russian president. "We were clothed and shod and well fed. We were happy here."That was in the early 1960s. Sixty souls lived in Pominovo then. These days there are 14--and no stores, not even a kiosk. "We lived better under communism," Kuvarin says, glancing around his dying village--and not even trying to conceal his disappointment in its most famous son.Surely, one might think, Kuvarin's discontent is misplaced. By all indications President Putin is cruising smoothly toward an overwhelming victory in Russia's March 14 presidential elections--a fitting reward, boosters say, for his remarkable success in rescuing his country from the chaos that threatened to engulf it just a few years ago. Russia (with plenty of help from national TV networks...
  • PULLING FOR PUTIN

    In most countries, presidential candidates tend to have the same concerns. How to formulate a program, raise money, get the voters' attention. But Vladimir Bryntsalov, a millionaire businessman, has something else on his mind. Campaigning for the job occupied by Vladimir Putin, he wants to make sure that his "rival" doesn't take him too seriously. "I'm not going to criticize Putin and praise myself," says Bryntsalov. "The country is on the right track."So why is he running? Mainly to air his own views, even if they're largely identical to Putin's. About one thing he's perfectly clear: "Only Putin can be president." Once Bryntsalov has collected the obligatory 2 million signatures needed to register his candidacy, he might drop out of the race altogether. "What's the point of wasting [the government's] money," he points out, "taking free television time and just repeating what Putin is saying?"Confused? Don't be. It's all part of another ignominious low to which Russian democracy has...
  • Iraqi Vice

    The trip from Ali's village to Baghdad takes an hour and a half by bus. As soon as he arrives, the 21-year-old Iraqi heads straight to Abu Abdullah's, just off Sadoun Street in an alley with a number instead of a name. "I don't have a wife," he says. "I don't have enough money to get married. So I come here." At Abu Abdullah's, $1.50 buys 15 minutes alone with a woman. The room is a cell with only a curtain for a door, and Ali complains that Abu Abdullah's women should bathe more often. But the young man says it's still a big improvement from Saddam Hussein's day. Back then, he says, the only establishment for a poor boy like himself was at a Gypsy settlement on the capital's western outskirts. "But now there are plenty of places." He grins. "Now we have freedom."Before the invasion, Iraq was one of the world's most tightly controlled societies. Only a few specially licensed stores could sell alcohol, and in recent years drinking was banned outright in restaurants and hotels. A...
  • With The Ghost Squad

    A boom echoes through the Iraqi city of Ar Ramadi, bringing the men of Bravo Company out of their bunks. "Mortars!" yells one soldier, and the members of Third Squad, First Platoon--they call themselves the Ghost Squad--ride out into the night, looking for the attack's source. Another blast rattles the city. "It hit the bridge," reports Sp/4 Patrick McDonald, always as calm as Canada, where he was born. "A big shower of sparks."The radio crackles: sentries at a Bravo Company lookout post have spotted the attackers in the darkness on the opposite bank of the Euphrates. The squad's two Humvees stop at a sheltered spot by the river, near the observation post. Everyone scans the far shore, some 400 yards distant, using night-vision goggles. "There they are," says one of the men. "I count seven."The enemy shoots first. The muzzle flashes of their AK-47s, invisible to the naked eye, show as flaring eruptions of light in the goggles' green view. The squad replies with M-16s and 50-caliber...
  • Bad Days In Baghdad

    It was Baghdad's bloodiest day since the end of the war. But for Tofan abed Al-Wahab, Oct. 27 turned out to be a moment of perverse good luck. Al-Wahab, who works for an Iraqi humanitarian organization, had just finished a meeting with a friend in the International Committee of the Red Cross. As he was driving away from the building, his car was jolted by an immense blast just a few yards behind. "There was an enormous boom and suddenly all this gravel was raining down on my car," he told NEWSWEEK 30 minutes later, his face still marked by the shock. "The car bounced up and down." Had his appointment lasted a few minutes longer, Al-Wahab might have ended up among the twelve Iraqis killed in the attack. And what about his friend? What happened to him? "I don't know," he says, shaking his head.That sense of consternation and uncertainty was mirrored in the reactions of countless Baghdadis in the wake of a wave of suicide bombings--six altogether--that struck the Iraqi capital on the...
  • The Real Sufism

    Enter Baghdad's leading Sufi mosque on a recent evening and the first thing that catches your eye is a man, sitting cross-legged in a corner of the courtyard. The blanket in front of him is filled with his wares, and clustered around are men young and old, busily buying, swapping and studying a bewildering assortment of pocket-sized pictures and postcards and CDs.There's something about the whole scene that recalls a gathering of baseball-card enthusiasts. But a closer look at the curiosities on offer quickly dispels the impression. Take the fuzzy picture of a miraculous forest, the white wobbly trunks against a dark background magically forming the Arabic letters of a verse from the Qur'an. Or the photo of a black-and-white cow whose side is emblazoned with spots that form the word ALLAH. Or a painting in lurid green and brown portraying the decapitated head of the great martyr Hussein, his head impaled on a spike.This is an interesting time to make the acquaintance of the Sufis of...
  • Another Bomb In Baghdad

    It was another searing Baghdad day, and Mohammed Yassim was hoping to reap a better-than-average profit by selling cold drinks at a spot where there are plenty of Iraqis desperately needing refreshment: the police headquarters of the Iraqi capital.The 20-year-old Yassim was heading out the gate of the headquarters building when he noticed a police officer gesturing to him, an old friend by the name of Isam. "He wanted to buy something," said Yassim.But before Yassim could react, both he and his officer friend found their transaction cut short by Iraq's savagely unpredictable guerrilla war. The car directly behind the policeman suddenly exploded into an immense fireball. "There was a big bang, and I was thrown to the ground," says Yassim. The blast, just 20 yards away, knocked him unconscious. When he came to a few minutes later, someone was helping him to his feet and pulling him away from the scene of the attack. Somewhere along the way, as acrid black smoke gushed into the sky, he...
  • 'We Just Want to Live'

    Yusuf Gatta woke in confusion in the early morning darkness of July 13. Helicopters were thundering over his house. Loudspeakers mounted on jeeps issued booming commands.Stumbling outside, Gatta found himself confronting dozens of U.S. soldiers engaged in a search for Iraqi guerillas. The Americans worked fast, separating the villagers into men and women. Before Gatta, 17, knew it, the Americans had slipped a hood over his head and cuffed his hands. "If you told them that the cuffs were hurting you, they would tighten them," he says, holding out wrists that still bear the marks of captivity. "They kicked us and hit us."Even at that, Gatta was one of the lucky ones. He was released after nine uncomfortable days of incarceration in a U.S. Army prison, but 19 other men from his village of Al Bushnaydikh remain in custody six weeks after the raid. Their relatives have no idea where they're being held, why they've been detained or how to get in touch with them. All that would be bad...
  • Tycoon Takedown

    If anyone embodies Russia's transformation from financial pariah to new economic star, it's 40-year-old Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Not long ago he was just another post-Soviet business tycoon, getting rich quick in dubious privatizations and trampling on minority shareholders.Then he gave himself a makeover. He engineered a management revolution at his flagship company, the oil giant YUKOS, and watched production figures spike. He embraced good corporate governance, and foreign-portfolio investors piled in, raising the stock-market valuation of his company to unheard-of heights. Last but not least, he hired a host of Western experts to handle his PR. These days he's a welcome guest among the world's business elite--and in Washington, too, where he has contributed generously, among others, to conservative think tanks linked with the Bush administration.It's been quite a roller-coaster ride, and it's evidently not over yet. These days the man who should be basking in his newly acquired...
  • The Invisible War

    Suicide bombings are now threatening to become a fixture of Russia's war against the Chechens. Two weekends ago two suicide bombers killed 14 and wounded dozens of others at a Moscow rock concert. Then last week a member of the Moscow bomb squad died attempting to disarm an explosive device taken from the backpack of a young Chechen woman as she entered a restaurant in the city center.Indeed, the war in the separatist republic is as brutal as ever--despite Moscow's proclamations to the contrary. Vladimir Putin's generals long ago declared the conflict over, yet every week about a dozen Russian soldiers die in Chechnya in ambushes or remote-controlled mine attacks. Moscow's security forces counter by detaining anyone suspected of cooperating with the guerillas--and the detainees often end up missing for good. According to the Russian human-rights organization Memorial, Russian troops removed four young men from the village of Chechen Aul last week; they haven't been heard from since....
  • The Two Russias

    Five years ago, Moscow's Gorbushka Market was a window on the lawless Russian economy. Merchants trafficked pirated CDs under the trees or peddled smuggled stereos from the backs of trucks--dodging cops and tax inspectors. These days the Gorbushka (as Muscovites affectionately refer to it) has emerged into the light. A Soviet-era TV factory has been converted into an air-conditioned consumer-electronics mall--some 2,000 stores, ranging from stalls offering mobile phones to luxury boutiques featuring state-of-the-art viewing salons for flat-screen TVs. Sony and EMI are building official pavilions, and 75,000 people visit each day. "We believe we are the biggest seller of music and videocassettes, music CDs and DVDs in Europe," says Igor Tokar, a spokesman for the mall's biggest landlord, adding that the Gorbushka is no longer a window on the nation, or even part of it. "Russia is a separate country," says Tokar. "What can I say? Moscow is Moscow."Fifteen years after Mikhail Gorbachev...
  • Don't Believe The Spin

    Visiting Moscow a few weeks ago, Secretary of State Colin Powell started off a working meeting with a champagne toast. His counterpart, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, joined in. Have the United States and Russia reconciled their bitter differences over Iraq? That's certainly the line being pushed by diplomatic spinmeisters in Washington and Moscow. Russia recently backed U.S. efforts to lift sanctions against Iraq in the U.N. Security Council. The Bushies returned the favor by telling anyone who would listen that Vladimir Putin remains far more popular in the White House than either of his friends from France and Germany. Then came last weekend's chummy encounter in St. Petersburg, followed by more schmoozing in Evian.Whoa. For all the nice noises, the much-touted "strategic partnership" between Washington and Moscow has suffered serious damage. Gone are the cozy days of yore, when George W. Bush and "Vladimir" looked into each other's eyes and spoke of religion. If the war in Iraq...
  • Going Nowhere Fast

    David Satter is profoundly disillusioned with post-Soviet Russia. Actually, that's putting it mildly; his new book, "Darkness at Dawn" (352 pages. Yale University Press), paints about as abject a picture as I've seen of the corruption, cronyism, lawlessness and incompetence that have flourished under Boris Yeltsin and his handpicked successor, Vladimir Putin. In one example, Satter, a former Financial Times correspondent in Moscow, takes us inside a police station on an ordinary workday to show how powerless Russians are against the law. He describes the case of V., a Muscovite thrown into the "monkey cage" for no other reason than to satisfy the arresting officer's desire to collect a bribe. "You resemble a wanted rapist," says the officer, "and we've got a wagonload of cooperative witnesses." V. refuses to pay the bribe and ends up spending the night, listening as other officers shake down detainees and conduct negotiations "about payoffs with the relatives of arrested persons....
  • A Frosty Friendship

    Vladislav Achalov has only good things to say about Saddam Hussein. He is a "strong man," he says, "fighting for his country." A former deputy Defense minister in the U.S.S.R., Achalov met Saddam "several times" during his frequent visits to Baghdad, most recently last April at the Iraqi dictator's lavish birthday celebrations in Tikrit. Russian journalists have seized on the relationship to ask whether Achalov and other retired Russian generals provided military advice to Baghdad in the war. Achalov denies it--but admits that the Russian brass often went to Iraq. "We didn't spend all that time talking about women," he adds with a grin.Moscow and Washington insist they're eager to bury the hatchet and revitalize the "strategic partnership" forged after September 11. But the job seems to be getting more difficult by the day. Shortly after the beginning of the war, the United States publicized Russian arms sales to the Iraqis--from GPS jammers designed to interfere with American...
  • The Moscow Connection: From Russia With Love

    The U.S.-Russia relationship has always had its tricky moments. But things have begun to look a lot trickier since Washington accused Russian companies of supplying Saddam Hussein with weapons that could kill U.S. troops in Iraq. Just days after the start of its invasion, Washington threatened to level sanctions against three Russian companies for arming the Iraqis in defiance of U.N. rules.Washington and Moscow are already at loggerheads over Iraq. Russia sided with France in vowing to veto a second U.N. resolution authorizing force against Saddam. Last week President Vladimir Putin called for an immediate end to the war, and he is likely to join France in demanding a future Security Council resolution putting the United Nations in charge of the postwar reconstruction of Iraq, rather than a civil administration headed by the United States and Britain. Washington and Moscow still have plenty of reasons to preserve the makeshift alliance they forged in the wake of 9-11. (They range...
  • Damaged Relations

    The U.S. government accuses Stanislav Aderin's company of supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein's army.Aderin, a senior executive at the Russian arms contractor KBP Instrument Design Bureau, hotly dismisses the allegations--with a somewhat discomfiting argument. "If our missiles were being used in Iraq, the American losses would be a lot higher," says Aderin huffily. "But since the American casualties are so light, I assume that our products aren't there."The Pentagon begs to differ. U.S. military sources recently revealed that several U.S. armored vehicles--including two Abrams M1A1 tanks--were knocked out by KBP-designed Kornet missiles in fighting around the Iraqi city of Najaf. That revelation came just days after the United States claimed that yet more Russian companies had supplied the Iraqis with other sensitive weapons. The talk was of night-vision goggles and sophisticated jammers that could interfere with the satellite-navigation systems relied upon by American high-tech...
  • Balancing Act

    George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin lately have been spending a lot of time on the phone with each other.In one of their most recent exchanges--soon after the U.S. president's Tuesday announcement that he was ending diplomatic efforts to solve the Iraq crisis--the Russian leader repeated his reasons for opposing military action. But he sent another message too: it was time, he said, for the two countries to resolve their differences and get back to business.That ambivalence was underscored further today. Putin reacted strongly to last night's attacks on Baghdad, saying that only Iraqis should decide whether they wanted a regime change and that "nothing can justify this military action." Soon after that, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who has been notable for the harshness of some of his recent statements, adopted a more conciliatory note. "We remain partners, not opponents," he said. "And we must continue dialogue with the United States so that the war does not bring negative...
  • The Battle Of The Presses

    The report on Russian TV last week didn't mince words or images. First, American actor Martin Sheen warned of a return to McCarthyism and an incipient "witch hunt" against anyone who dared criticize the Bush administration's war plans for Iraq. Then police were shown cracking down on university students staging a peaceful antiwar demonstration in New York. And just in case the message wasn't clear, a crawl along the bottom of the screen underscored it: Phil Donahue fired from TV for antiwar stance.It's not quite a return to the cold war, but Russian media coverage of U.S. policy on Iraq these days is rife with misinformation. After Secretary of State Colin Powell waved a small, empty vial during his recent presentation on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the U.N. Security Council, one state-owned Russian network dramatically "revealed"--in classic Soviet fashion--that the bottle actually hadn't contained any anthrax. (Powell never claimed it had; he was merely showing how little...
  • Chechnya: The Official Story

    Our small group of journalists sat on benches in a huge, empty hangar draped with Russian military banners, listening as two high-ranking officers in green camouflage gave us a situation report on the rebellious republic of Chechnya. We had come to the Chechen capital of Grozny on a special three-day tour staged by the Russian government, and now our hosts were delivering the messages they wanted us to take back home. The situation in Chechnya, they assured us, was characterized by "normalization and stabilization." Most Chechens, they said, approved of Moscow's attempts to restore "law and order" and postwar reconstruction was moving ahead. Most important, the Chechen "bandits and terrorists" who opposed the Russian forces had all but ceased their fight--one or two mine explosions a day, no more. We weren't sure we understood correctly, so we asked straight out. The war in Chechnya is over? Yes, came the official response. "No question about it."It's one thing to be in Moscow,...