Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 48

Former Russian prime minister Yegor Gaidar says that the composition of the new Russian government, now being put together by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and newly appointed First Deputy Premier Anatoly Chubais, will be crucial in deciding the success or failure of the radical reforms outlined in President Boris Yeltsin’s March 6 speech to parliament. Interviewed last night on Russian television, Gaidar said Yeltsin’s proposals represent the first serious attempt at radical economic reform in Russia since the 1992 reforms carried out by his own government. Gaidar said Chernomyrdin is not capable of carrying out these reforms and that everything will depend on whether Chubais is able to put together a strong supporting team. On his own, Gaidar said, Chubais will not be able to push through the reforms, and Chernomyrdin is unlikely to be replaced. Therefore, Chubais will have to find ways of "working around" Chernomyrdin. Gaidar said the names of the new government will not be known earlier than the end of this week. (RTR, NTV, March 9)

Gaidar would, of course, be expected to approve of the proposals outlined in Yeltsin’s speech since he and other members of his institute were closely involved in drafting them. Gaidar might also be expected to disparage Chernomyrdin’s achievements, given that it was Chernomyrdin who replaced Gaidar as prime minister at the end of 1992. But Gaidar is a close personal friend of Chubais and his remarks are therefore of added interest since they probably reflect Chubais’ own.

The leaders of Russia’s Communist-dominated Duma called Chubais’ appointment "a slap in the face of the Russian people," and Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov said Chubais is so hated by the population that he can be likened "only to Hitler." (RTR, March 9) But Gaidar said yesterday that parliament will have little choice but to accept Chubais’ appointment. Gaidar said he believes Yeltsin now understands how serious Russia’s economic crisis is and is not going to give in to parliament. (Gaidar’s own attempt to launch a radical economic reform foundered in the spring of 1992, when the government gave in to demands for financial support from the state-owned industries.) Now, Gaidar said, Yeltsin will not hesitate to dissolve parliament if it carries through on its threat to vote no confidence in the new government. In fact, the Duma should be pleased at Chubais’ move from the Kremlin, where his influence is exercised behind the scenes, to a far more public and easily monitored government post.

Gaidar dismissed the 1997 federal budget recently adopted by parliament and signed into law by the president as "totally unrealistic and unrealizable," and said it would have to be completely rewritten. RTR predicted that, when the reshuffle is complete, Chubais will be the only first deputy prime minister. (At present, Russia has three.) The number of deputy prime ministers will be halved from 12 to 6 and each of the new deputies will be given oversight of one of the areas identified in Yeltsin’s speech as a priority reform area: housing, taxation, pensions, the military, social affairs, and law and order.

Some Hints of Movement in Nuclear Arms Control.