Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 96

In a related development, acting Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin suggested yesterday that the dismissal of Yevgeny Primakov will not have any impact on Russian foreign policy–either with regard to the Kosovo crisis or more broadly. In remarks before the Russian Federation Council and during talks with visiting Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Stepashin said that Russian foreign policy is determined by the president and that “there will be no serious changes in this field. We will continue to do what was mapped out earlier.” Stepashin also said that Russia’s two foreign policy priorities right now are a settlement of the Balkans crisis and the promotion of closer relations between Russia and the other countries of the CIS. With regard to the Balkans, he suggested that the peace process must begin with a halt to NATO’s air campaign against Yugoslavia (Russian agencies, May 17).

Stepashin’s remarks notwithstanding, it will be interesting in the coming weeks and months to see if there are shifts in Russia’s foreign policy in the wake of Primakov’s departure. The one-time Russian spymaster has been seen as the primary architect of Russian foreign policy since he was named to the Foreign Ministry post in early 1996. Following his accession to the prime minister post last August, and the subsequent appointment of Igor Ivanov as foreign minister, Primakov is believed still to have wielded considerable–and probably decisive–influence over Russian diplomacy. Ivanov’s fate may be one indicator of whether Primakov will continue to have a voice in Russian foreign policy. Russia’s acting chief diplomat is a protege of Primakov with little independent political stature. Even his removal, however, will likely not mean the end of the more assertive line that was adopted and pursued by Primakov in his diplomatic dealings with the world.