Picking up the IMF check was the only heavy lifting Stepashin performed on his American journey. The rest of his visit was light work. He met with Vice President Al Gore and briefly with President Bill Clinton. He saw congressional leaders. He visited with World Bank President James Wolfensohn, who came away with a “very positive feeling” about Russia’s determination to face up to its domestic problems. He attacked NATO in a speech at the National Press Club and told a business audience that investors can come to Russia “without fear of racketeers.”

As sheep without fear of the shearers. As Stepashin spoke, businessman Pavel Kapysh, head of the Baltic Financial Industrial Group, was shot dead in St. Petersburg. The attackers first fired rocket-propelled grenades at Kapysh’s armor-plated Chevy Blazer, then finished him off with Kalashnikovs. Kapysh, arrested but not charged some years ago for trading in contraband oil, may have crossed St. Petersburg’s Tambov mob, racketeers by anyone’s definition. And standing with Stepashin at his brief stop in Seattle was a poster boy for official extortion, Yevgeny Nazdratenko, the governor of Primorsky krai on the Sea of Japan. Many in Seattle’s business community have personal knowledge of Nazdratenko as an shakedown artist who has seized fishing vessels, confiscated shareholders’ equity and threatened foreign investors with physical violence unless they sign a share of their assets over to him or contribute to his “campaign fund.”