The Russian press has published extracts from a letter sent at the end of last month by Aleksandr Lebed to President Yeltsin. (Izvestiya, August 13) In it, the Security Council secretary strongly criticized Russia’s draft 1997 budget, prepared by the Chernomyrdin government and presently under consideration by the Duma. The letter was drafted by the Security Council staff under Sergei Glazyev, a long-time critic of the government’s investment policies. It calls for relaxing the government’s anti-inflation policies to encourage investment across the economic board, from the defense industry to agriculture and higher education. Lebed can have few illusions that the government will pay more than lip service to his proposals. His letter is not so much a sign that the Security Council intends to play an active role in debate over economic policy and to act as a kind of within-Kremlin opposition. Rather, it is a proclamation of Lebed’s candidacy for the 2000 presidential elections — or sooner, should Yeltsin be forced leave office before his term expires. Lebed knows that his strongest asset is his popularity with the electorate; his ratings have soared since he intervened in the Chechnya conflict. Russian voters like an underdog and attempts by the Kremlin to discredit him are likely to backfire in the same way that President Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to discredit Yeltsin did in 1990-91. The more scathingly Gorbachev spoke of his rival, the more popular Yeltsin grew.
Far East Power Workers Resume Strike, Call for Presidential Rule.