Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 193

The Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), which has opened its ninth congress in Moscow, is getting a lot of attention from the powers-that-be. President Boris Yeltsin had a telephone conversation on October 19 with Arkady Volsky, the union’s president. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin, the two men discussed an “anticrisis program” which will be presented and debated during the congress, and which includes proposals from all of Russia’s regions. Yeltsin asked Volsky to give him the documents to be considered during the congress, Yakushkin reported. Yeltsin also asked Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to address the gathering.

Volsky, meanwhile, noted with satisfaction that Primakov’s government is listening to the opinion of “industrialists and entrepreneurs.” He said that the bulk of the suggestions made by RSPP members a month ago during a meeting with Primakov have been adopted by the government (Russian agencies, October 19).

The RSPP, politically a “centrist” organization, is widely viewed as representing the interests of the “red directors”–the Soviet-era industrial managers who, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the central planning system, simply “privatized” their enterprises. Back in 1993, Volsky created a political bloc, “Civic Union,” to contest the parliamentary elections which took place in December of that year. Derided by critics as the “director’s party,” Civic Union won no seats in the vote, but nonetheless remained influential thanks to the RSPP’s ties to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a fellow Soviet-era industrial manager.

Another likely ally of Volsky and industrialists is First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, who once headed the Soviet Union’s economic planning agency. During a meeting Monday with industrial heads in the northwestern region of Udmutria, Maslyukov said that Russia’s “natural monopolies”–a term referring to such entities as Gazprom, the natural gas monopoly, and United Energy Systems, the electricity monopoly, along with the railroads–are the “locomotives” which can lead Russia out of its current economic crisis. Maslyukov called for greater coordination between the various “sectors” of the economy, particularly between the oil-gas complex and military-industrial enterprises. He held up as a model Germany’s machine-building “union,” which, he said, determines production quotas, export targets and negotiates with the government for “privileges.” Maslyukov singled out the development of military technology as one of the Russian economy’s “reserves,” and said that Central Bank crediting of industrial sectors could be used for building domestic infrastructure like housing and roads (Russian agencies, October 19).

Maslyukov’s stock inside the government has apparently risen, despite the controversy earlier this month over a retrograde anticrisis program which, according to the Russian press, he drafted. Prime Minister Primakov has appointed Maslyukov to chair a government commission on protective measures in foreign trade and customs-tariff policy. By one account, this means that Maslyukov has been given control over “customs-tariff policy and practically all foreign trade, including the export of armaments and military technology–more precisely, the company ‘Rosvooruzheniye'” (“Profil” magazine, October 19).