President Yeltsin’s surprise appointment of one of Russia’s most prominent reformers as his chief of staff has been greeted with rapturous approval by the liberal Russian media. Anatoly Chubais is also tipped to assume the post of chief presidential aide which is expected to be vacated by Viktor Ilyushin, who will become a deputy prime minister. Yeltsin has given Chubais twelve days in which to come up with a plan for streamlining the Kremlin apparatus. Chubais is expected to propose that the presidential guards (formerly headed by General Aleksandr Korzhakov) should be subordinated to the presidential administration, that is, to himself. Chubais and Korzhakov first crossed swords over a year ago, when Korzhakov tried to meddle in the economy, and Chubais masterminded Korzhakov’s recent fall from power.
Many commentators argue that Chubais’ entry to the Kremlin will transform the balance of power from a two-sided struggle between Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and National Security Adviser Aleksandr Lebed into a triangular contest for the president’s ear. There is no love lost between the three men so any alliances are likely to prove temporary. Many expect Chernomyrdin to be the first to crack. Nezavisimaya gazeta argues that the only Russian politician strong enough to use the post of prime minister to keep Chubais and Lebed under control would be the present mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov. But the paper goes on to argue that Chubais will turn the presidential apparatus into Russia’s main decision-making center and that Yeltsin will soon, therefore, have no need for a strong government or prime minister. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 16)
Few people believed Chubais’ protestations yesterday that he would leave the management of the economy to the government and restrict his own activities to the political sphere. On the contrary, Chubais is expected to try to use his new post to consolidate the market reforms he initiated when he was a member of the cabinet.
Chernomyrdin and Gore Hail Trade Talks.