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15th November 1998

New order in Yeltsin's Russia

By Mervyn de Silva

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A nation that produced Tolstoy and Chekhov, Dostoyevski and Gogol should surely cope quite easily with any adversity by relying on their homespun wit and wisdom.

The post-Mao revolution, characteristically called a "Cultural Revolution" did say farewell to the little Red Book .... just as Gorbachev in Russia anticipated some of the processes in China, and Deng Hsiao Ping.

Political change

A few weeks ago, the Kremlin signalled that Boris Yeltsin had given up day-to-day work. The news took even the best informed of western diplomats and journalists by surprise. It was Oleg Sysyev, a trusted Kremlin aide, who briefed the top level media corps based in Moscow, and accredited to the Kremlin.

A transfer of power.....that was the message. Mr Sysyev made it clear to the international media thatPresident Boris Yeltsin had decided that his most important task right now was to draft a constitution which would guarantee democracy and political stability. While there is no reason to doubt President Yeltsin's bona fides, what of the men who will now assume the task that he would entrust to them. Already Yevgeny Primakov, a Middle East expert and Pravda correspondent, has been installed in the key post of Prime Minister. Mr. Primakow has had close contacts with the Soviet Union's main intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies.

Premier Primakov

Mr. Primakov has already declared his priorities.... the restoration of law and order, a professionally prepard national budget (this will mean a crucial role to Russia's first-rate economists, some of whom have been ignored by politicians and finally experienced and tested bureaucrats who have been ingnored in the past for expressing views that did not please the commissars.)

It is also interesting to note that Mr. Primakov stressed the need to "honour all obligations, defend property rights, enforce tax payments and clamp down on the shadow economy". Prime Minister Primakov's priorities are surely interesting... very interesting.

Any Finance Minister, Governor of the Central Bank or Permanent Secretary in the Minstry of the Finance of a Third World country would surely recognise the diktat of the IMF and World Bank... communicated to the Finance Minister, Prime Minister or Executive President through the bureaucrats and the technocrats.

The land of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and of course Gorbachev had to recognise the new post-Cold War world, 'the war' of ideas which Moscow lost.... partly, at least the United States imposed the burdens of the Cold War on a rival that could not carry its burdens as well as the US and the western alliance.

President Yeltsin's successors will have to face these challenges as surely and painfully as a Third World country..... which some under-developed country do not need to confront, if there are no internal wars that challenge the ruling elite...meaning ofcourse ethnic conflict.

Hulftsdorp Hill

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