Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 100

Whether Boris Berezovsky’s reported power play is being thwarted remains to be seen. It is possible, however, that Yeltsin is trying to return to his past practice of setting up a system of checks and balances by playing the powerful clans against one another.

As one opposition leader–Nikolai Kharitonov, head of the Agrarian Party–put it: “Even though I am at the State Duma, I can hear the crunching of vertebrae from across the Kremlin wall. A fight for influence over the cabinet is in full swing” (Los Angeles Times, May 22).

Some observers, however, predicted that, despite this battle, a period of calm was in the offing. Georgy Satarov, head of the INDEM think tank and a former Yeltsin political adviser, said yesterday that it was Yeltsin’s pattern to “rest” after political victories–such as the failure of impeachment and the State Duma’s confirmation of Sergei Stepashin. Hence his Sochi vacation. But another observer, Lilya Shevtsova of the Moscow Carnegie Center, said in the same interview that the upheavals at the top were evidence that Yeltsin has become a “hostage” of the system he created. “This regime cannot develop normally… in order to survive [it] needs constant shocks, the constant provoking of crises,” she said. “There is another structural trap, connected to a successor. Yes, Yeltsin needs a successor in order to resolve the problem of the continuity of policy. At the same time, however, he rejects any successor…. We can come to the conclusion that before the end of Yeltsin’s term nothing can be ruled out. The regime, the elected monarchy under which we live, will hardly allow Yeltsin to calm down. That is, one can expect various surprises” (NTV, May 24).