Yuri Maslyukov said yesterday that if he is unable to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund, it will not be a “catastrophe,” given that Primakov or even President Boris Yeltsin can take over as Russia’s negotiator (Russian agencies, March 3). A Russian daily reported today that Primakov will, in essence, take over from Maslyukov at the end of this month, when the prime minister travels to Washington to meet with U.S. Vice President Albert Gore. According to the newspaper, Washington will agree to use its influence with the IMF to win aid for Russia only if Primakov makes “serious political concessions”–specifically, if he agrees to an American withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. The paper predicted that if Primakov fails to win further IMF funding for Russia, leading to a sovereign default, Primakov will lose his job. In this connection, the paper noted that March 23–the date for the start of the Washington meeting of the Gore-Primakov Commission–will mark the first anniversary of the firing of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin (Kommersant daily, March 3).
Another newspaper, meanwhile, was much more upbeat, predicting that Russia will reach an agreement with the IMF. According to this account, and in contrast to Camdessus’ tough talk this week, Western governments are talking more and more about the possibility of writing off Russia’s multibillion-dollar Soviet-era debt altogether. In this second take on the issue, the IMF head and the G-7 leaders are simply playing a game of “good cop, bad cop” (Izvestia, March 3). U.S. President Bill Clinton recently said that aiding Russia’s economy was a top priority.
STEPASHIN MEETS WITH CHECHEN COUNTERPART.