This Date's Issues: 3291 •3292
Johnson's Russia List
19 May 1999
United States Information Agency
Foreign Media Reaction
May 18, 1999
'RUSSIA ONCE AGAIN APPROACHING POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CHAOS'
Events in Russia over the last week--namely President Boris Yeltsin's
firing of Yevgeny Primakov, his third prime minister in 14 months, and the
failure of the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, to win the
votes necessary to launch impeachment proceedings against the Russian
president--captured the attention of the foreign media. Virtually all
commentators lambasted Mr. Yeltsin for the firing, seeing it as further
evidence of his "erratic and autocratic" behavior. Most mused about what
Yeltsin's "latest swing of the wrecking ball" would portend for the
country's political stability and economic health. Others worried about the
international repercussions of the Yeltsin decision, particularly at a time
when Russia is being looked at as a mediator in the Kosovo crisis. Many
writers judged the aborted impeachment bid to be a pyrrhic victory for Mr.
Yeltsin. The consensus view was that the proceedings further underscored
his growing isolation and unpopularity in all political circles. According
to some, even if Yeltsin nominee Sergei Stepashin is approved as the new
premier, the political animus between the Kremlin and the
Communist-dominated Duma will dominate the political landscape over the
coming election year, making progress in dealing with Russia's myriad
social and economic problems unlikely. A Sao Paulo paper summed up a
typically dismal view: "With an unstable president in poor health and a
[nominee for] premier whose only...quality is his loyalty to Yeltsin,
Russia is once again approaching political and economic chaos." Highlights
PRIMAKOV'S OUSTER: The removal of the "popular" premier, whom some editors
credited with returning a modicum of "political stability" to Russia, was
seen as yet another element of Mr. Yeltsin's "lone battle" to ensure his
political survival--a battle which is "likely to damage Russia's democratic
and liberal experience even further," noted a Belgian daily. Several
stressed that the ensuing government crisis "comes at the worst of times,"
and that "Russia's modern czar has done his country and the international
community a grave disservice." According to a London paper, "Russia now
faces an indefinite period of political crisis...to compound its economic
collapse.... Against that background, the prospects for Russia playing a
high role as peacemaker in the Balkans must be slim." From Moscow, some
analysts maintained that "there is no doubt that Primakov was dismissed for
political reasons," holding that "the unpopular decision" was "revenge for
Primakov's hobnobbing with the Communists."
YELTSIN'S ABORTED IMPEACHMENT: Opinionmakers generally agreed with a Madrid
daily that "Yeltsin has won a battle but the war still continues," with the
next fight likely to be over Mr. Yeltsin's candidate for premier. "Though
he survived the vote, his already debilitated authority will weaken further
along with that of the federal government," argued one paper. Another noted
that Mr. Yeltsin must increasingly contend not only with his Communist
foes, but also with a "disillusioned public and growing mistrust among
reformists." Opinion diverged on whether the impeachment setback for the
anti-Yeltsin "Communists and leftists" was "a temporary development" or "a
crushing blow." While some reformist papers in Moscow argued that "the vote
hurt [the Communists] badly" and "demonstrated their impotence," others
were quick to point out that "the Duma's flop has not made Yeltsin look any
This survey is based on 64 reports from 28 countries, May 12-18.
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below
| EUROPE | | EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC | | SOUTH ASIA | |
WESTERN HEMISPHERE |
RUSSIA: "Nobody Is Untouchable"
Official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (5/18) stressed in a report by
Aleksandr Linkov and Sergei Trusevich: "The Russian parliament has for the
first time shown that there are no untouchables in this country. Those in
high office should always be aware of their responsibility and answer for
what they do."
Igor Vandenko commented on page one of reformist Noviye Izvestiya (5/18):
"No matter what the Communists are saying about a 'popular impeachment' or
their 'moral victory' over Boris Yeltsin, they can't hide that last
Saturday's vote hurt them badly. After that fiasco, their small victories,
such as defeating the President's proposed candidate to the premiership,
would not matter very much."
"Russia Is Tired Of Yeltsin"
Leonid Radzikhovsky observed in reformist Segodnya (5/18): "The Duma's flop
has not made Yeltsin look any better. He has not won by the Duma losing.
The Communists have demonstrated their impotence and the president has
demonstrated what remains of his old vigor. But that can't change
anything--Russia is sick and tired of Yeltsin and his fighting spirit."
"What Good Is The Constitution?"
Ivan Rodin remarked on page one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/18):
"The impeachment procedure is more evidence that there is little use for
'the Yeltsin Constitution.' It, obviously, was written never to be used."
"Bleak Prospects For Communists"
Vasily Ustyuzhanin opined in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda
(5/18): "The outcome of the vote last Saturday must worry the Communists as
far as their chances in the coming general elections are concerned.
Evidently, they have to work out a new program of action. That goes for all
political parties. The aborted impeachment is a kind of dividing line
between what they could do before it and what they can do now."
"Drama Turns Into Farce"
Reformist Segodnya noted in a page-one report by Natalia Kalashnikova and
Yevgeny Yuryev (5/17): "A drama has proved to be a farce. Yeltsin has
popularly been approved (for a fourth time) and the Duma pilloried again.
There is hardly anyone of Yeltsin's caliber among politicians. No one of
the current presidential candidates could endure such a humiliating 'talk
show' and let his opponents see 'the democratic procedure' through. The
opposition did its best to revile the 'regime,' neglecting to point out
that it could only do so thanks to the 'regime' itself."
Reformist Vremya-MN (5/17) remarked in a piece by Darya Korsunskaya,
Svetlana Lolayeva and Gleb Cherkasov: "In the end, the Dumyites have
remained what they have always been, impotent trouble-makers."
Vasily Ustyuzhanin concluded in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya
Pravda (5/17): "[The impeachment proceeding] was important and useful as
the first attempt to call the powers that be to task. Since all seem to be
content with the outcome of the vote, Russia, it could cautiously be
suggested, may be facing a new stabilization period."
"Dilettante Heads Cabinet"
Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (5/15) front-paged this comment
by Aleksandr Frolov: "The appointment of a dilettante as the head of
government bespeaks Yeltsin's only caring about his own image, not the
economy. By sacking a popular premier, in defiance of public opinion,
Yeltsin has made it clear that, as he makes political plans, he does not
think of regaining public support, nor does he count on it."
Anatoly Kostyukov averred in reformist weekly Obshchaya Gazeta (# 18/19,
5/14): "We thought the era of mumbling old men who could hardly make it to
a rostrum on their own was gone never to return. We were wrong. The irony
is that the president, a guarantor of social peace, has become a permanent
source of social danger."
"Yeltsin Struggles To Survive"
Andrei Fyodorov, chairman of a political studies foundation, stated on page
one of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/14): "Obviously, the president is
among the weakest political figures in Russia today. Yeltsin has to think
more about surviving (in every respect) than running the country.... His
ill-conceived decision to sack Primakov makes that starkly clear."
"Election Is Decisive Factor"
Leading news analyst Otto Latsis asserted in reformist Noviye Izvestiya
(5/13): "The president's latest decision is very much in line with his
election plans.... The coming election, not Primakov's performance, was the
"Most Unpopular Decision"
Georgy Bovt judged on page one of reformist Segodnya (5/13): "This might be
the most unpopular decision the president has ever made. Most of the
political elite, unfortunately, has rejected the official explanation of
Primakov's dismissal. To the majority, the cabinet's faults, such as being
exceedingly cautious and lacking an economic policy, do not outweigh its
main accomplishment, political stability. The president's decision is seen
as revenge for hobnobbing with the Communists."
"Who Dismissed Primakov"
Aleksei Ulyukayev argued in reformist Segodnya (5/13): "Yeltsin did not
fire Primakov. The Maslyukovs and Kuliks did--he sank, weighed down by
their incompetence, irresponsibility and lack of principle. It's time,
Yevgeny Maksimovich. Good-bye. You've done a lot by ensuring political
stability when it was most needed. Every politician must quit some time.
Primakov must quit now."
Marina Volkova said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (5/13): "There is no
doubt in anyone's mind that Primakov was dismissed for political reasons."
BRITAIN: "Yeltsin's Latest Gamble"
The independent weekly Economist had this piece (5/14): "An ailing
President Yeltsin enters another political battle, perhaps his last, more
isolated and desperate than ever. Over the coming months, that means
instability, even danger.... If Mr. Yeltsin is lucky, he may have a working
government within a month or so, and Russia will stagger on until the
general election in December, which could give the political system a new
shot of legitimacy. If he is not, the country faces yet another lurch
"Crisis In The Kremlin"
London's conservative Evening Standard published this lead editorial
(5/13): "The news from Moscow is deeply disquieting. In a single impetuous
gesture Boris Yeltsin has once again thrown into turmoil a country which,
after wobbling on the brink of anarchy following the market crash and
hyper-inflation less than a year ago, was beginning to regain a modicum of
stability.... A constitutional crisis now threatens. It is to say the
least, unnerving, to see the world's second nuclear power descend into
political chaos at a time when NATO is engaged in a bitter...conflict with
The independent Financial Times opined (5/13): "What on earth is Yeltsin up
to? The Russian president's decision to fire his prime minister appears to
be totally self-serving. It is the fourth time he has fired a government in
14 months, inviting outright confrontation with the Communist-dominated
Duma. Russia now faces an indefinite period of political crisis and
constitutional instability, to compound its economic collapse.... Against
that background, the prospects for Russia playing a big role as peacemaker
in the Balkans must be slim."
"The Great Destabilizer"
The conservative Times ran this lead editorial (5/13): "By starting another
war with the Duma, and one which this by now terminally unpopular president
is likely to lose, Mr. Yeltsin makes decisive reform even less likely. Few
people, besides, feel that Mr. Primakov's failure to do tough, unpopular
things is the real reason for his dismissal. And even fewer expect Mr.
Yeltsin's latest swing of the wrecking ball to do Russia anything but
severe damage. The immediate consequence is that Russia will for weeks have
no government at all.... Yeltsin's latest gamble is with Russian
democracy.... For Russia, whose prospects of desperately needed IMF cash
must now again recede, this crisis comes at the worst of times. For the
outside world, the most immediate interest is whether it will also make
Russia harder to deal with over Kosovo."
"A Bad Day For Russia"
The liberal Guardian said in its lead editorial (5/13): "What happened
yesterday looks threatening on two levels. This new bout of chaotic
instability and internal conflict still further reduces the already
vestigial chances of the economic and governmental reconstruction which the
country so grievously needs. And the likely knock-on effects of that for
the crisis in the Balkans seem all too clear. Though at the start of the
war he responded with thunderous Cold War rhetoric, President Yeltsin, in
his erratic fashion, has been a constructive force."
"Czar Boris Has Done Russia A Disservice"
The centrist Independent had this lead editorial (5/13): "Boris Yeltsin
resented Mr. Primakov because his prime minister was infinitely more
popular and, thanks to his support in the Duma, in some respects more
powerful than himself. Second, he had permitted investigations into alleged
corruption to go ahead against members of the president's family and inner
circle. In earlier times, Mr. Primakov might have faced a show trial;
instead he has merely been fired. But the relative modesty of the
punishment should not hide the disturbing implications of what has
happened, both for Russia's internal stability and for the management of
the Kosovo crisis.... By firing Mr. Primakov, Russia's modern czar has done
both his country and the international community a grave disservice."
FRANCE: "Yeltsin's Safety Net"
Gilles Bridier opined in centrist La Tribune (5/14): "Even if Yeltsin turns
his back on the political stability needed for the economic reforms
demanded by the IMF, he is waging that...the IMF will not give up on
Russia.... The markets did not shed a single tear for Primakov.... On the
other hand, a worsening situation in Kosovo--in case Russia stopped playing
the mediator between NATO and Belgrade--or a victory of the conservative
party in Moscow, would represent a much bigger worry for the markets. This
explains why the Russian president continues to play his high wire act,
knowing full well that others [i.e., the West] are there to hold the safety
"Yeltsin: King Of The Absurd"
Andre Bercoff observed in right-of-center France Soir (5/14): "Yeltsin, who
can hardly finish a coherent sentence, fires his ministers faster than you
can say it. The entire circus would be laughable if there weren't thousands
of Russian nuclear warheads ready to go off."
GERMANY: "Russia's Lesser Evil"
Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau carried an editorial by Florian Hassel
(5/18): "It is true that Yeltsin has been detrimental rather than useful
for Russia over the past years.... This leader in the Kremlin must be
replaced. But this should be done by the voters in the summer of next
year--and not by the Duma or by a court.... With respect to the Duma, we
can only hope that the parliamentarians have learned their lesson from
their failure, the lesson that it is better for Russia to let the voters
decide and to hope for a gradual change rather than focussing on quick
solutions or on coup-like measures to oust its leaders.... But...nothing
will change for the better until a new better parliament has been elected."
Werner Adam front-paged this editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter
Allgemeine (5/17): "It is not known whether it was the memory of the bloody
events six years ago which caused approximately one hundred
parliamentarians not to take part in the vote. Another reason could be the
absurdity of some of the Communist accusations against the president.
However, we should not ignore the fact that it is mainly the manner in
which the Russian president exercises power that created Russia's
reputation as a labyrinth. As far as the economy is concerned, Russia has
turned into a synonym for chaos. The majority of Russians are waiting for
the presidential elections in June of next year, since these elections will
mark the end to Yeltsin's rule. But the parliament must be elected before
then. At that time, we will learn whether the current weakness of the
Communists is more than a temporary development."
"Yeltsin--A Winner Without A Future"
Moscow correspondent Thomas Avenarius filed the following editorial for
centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (5/17): "Was it a victory for
Yeltsin, a fiasco for the Communists, or even a triumph of reason? The next
political struggle is coming soon. By Wednesday, the Duma must vote on
Yeltsin's candidate for the office of premier. If Yeltsin is able to get
the approval of the Duma for his candidate, he will have achieved an
overall victory. But there is no way around it: Yeltsin's time is over. He
is a clever tactician, but he has no future-oriented perspectives to offer."
"Russia Stands Still Until 2000"
Business newspaper Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf argued (5/17): "Only 17
votes were needed to launch impeachment proceedings against President Boris
Yeltsin, 17 votes which could have plunged crisis-ridden Russia into an
even greater crisis.... The new acting premier Stepashin must be confirmed
by parliament, and it is uncertain whether the Duma will do so. In any
case, weeks will pass until a government has been formed that is capable of
acting. Weeks in which bills are frozen, talks with the IMF and the World
Bank about important loans remain suspended. Irrespective of whether it is
Stepashin or a different premier, Russia will continue to stand still until
the presidential elections in the summer of the year 2000."
Werner Adam wrote this editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine
(5/14): "In foreign policy, Yeltsin has so far acted with circumspection,
but as far as domestic policy is concerned, he is increasingly turning into
a hothead. The Russian president may not accept the system of checks and
balances. In the ten years of his autocratic rule, Yeltsin has never tried
to establish halfway acceptable cooperation with parliament.... It is not
possible to find a plausible explanation why President Yeltsin has now
fired a government for the fourth time in almost one year.... The fact that
Yeltsin is increasingly considered a political problem is based not only on
his embattled health, but also on his erratic and absolutist rule."
"Global Power And Banana Republic"
Frank Herold published this editorial in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung
(5/14): "There are two Russias, which sometimes meet but then stand in each
other's way. The first Russia is a global power. Over the past few years,
one tried several times to ignore this...but the possession of nuclear
missiles and a right to a UNSC veto are undisputable realities. The other
Russia is a banana republic--at least this was how Russia was ruled over
the past few years: with nepotism, intrigues, corruption, personal feuds,
and government changes that resembled a coup.... Another round in this
circle will now be completed since the president and the Duma are again
fighting each other.... But the banana republic is now disrupting the
circles of the Russian global power. Only recently, Moscow convincingly
lodged its claim to play a leading role in the solution to the Kosovo
conflict... But who should accept a state as a power for global order, if
it is unable to get its own problems under control? A Russia that is unable
to act domestically cannot play a constructive role in the search for peace."
ITALY: "The Lame-Duck Mediator"
Sandro Viola judged in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (5/13):
"Yeltsin's decision to oust Primakov...can only weaken Viktor
Chernomyrdin's mandate, since behind the Russian mediator there is now a
country faced with total political confusion.... Chernomyrdin's initiative
appears, if not crippled, at least partially emptied of its initial
credibility. Naturally it would be better for everybody if the shake up in
Moscow would not deprive the Russian mediation of its strength, since it
remains the only possibility to negotiate at the present time.
"But the fear that the political chaos in Moscow may diminish its impact is
well founded. Since this is a Russian initiative, and Russia is perhaps too
sick to play a significant role in the Balkan war."
"Boris Fires Primakov"
Roberto Livi commented in Rome's centrist Il Messaggero (5/13): "Even if
Yeltsin's decision proves to be only a tactical move dictated by the
domestic political situation...it is clear that Chernomyrdin's mediation
loses its weight at this point."
BELGIUM: "Parliamentarians In A Delicate Position"
Moscow correspondent Boris Toumanov asserted in conservative Catholic La
Libre Belgique (5/17): "After the vote [not to impeach Mr. Yeltsin]...it is
now the Kremlin, which is in a position of power on the eve of another
important battle with the Duma, which must decide on the candidacy of
Sergei Stepashin, proposed by Mr. Yeltsin as prime minister. The Russian
parliamentarians' position is very delicate. If they refuse to approve the
president's choice three times, the Duma is automatically dissolved. But,
if they accept Mr. Stepashin, the opposition is likely to lose face in the
eyes of its electorate."
"The Kremlin Is Having Fun, Russia Takes The Rap"
Moscow correspondent Boris Toumanov editorialized in conservative Catholic
La Libre Belgique (5/14): "In the case of Mr. Primakov, it is not his
communist views or his incompetence in the economic field which Mr. Yeltsin
has punished, but his disloyalty to the boss.... Almost one year before the
end of his term, the president--whose popularity has dropped to two
percent--continues to spend the little energy and authority he still has on
securing his political survival. This lone battle is likely to damage
Russia's democratic and liberal experience...even further."
BULGARIA: "Russia's Political Hostages"
Center-right Standard commented (5/14): "It looks like Russia is entering a
summer of harsh political struggles between Yeltsin and the Duma. The
country will be deprived of a working government, and in the best case
scenario, a paralysis of power will follow. Business will be paralyzed as
well. Starting this fall, another round of political storms will shake the
Russian Federation, marking the start of the parliamentary election campaign."
"A Time Of Anarchy For Russia"
Second-largest circulation 24 Hours contended (5/13): "Primakov was fired
because, according to opinion polls, he was the most popular politician in
Russia. Yeltsin has not been enjoying the people's approval lately and is
extremely sensitive in that respect. It is obvious that a furious fight
between parliament and president will ensue. Early parliamentary elections
are even more likely now. The crisis may grow into a constitutional crisis.
The timing couldn't be worse--Primakov had just secured an agreement with
the IMF and the World Bank for new loans."
CROATIA: "Political Earthquake In Russia"
Government-controlled Vjesnik carried a commentary by its Moscow
correspondent Bogoljub Lacmanovic (5/13): "It is widely believed that the
reason for this firing lies simply in the Russian president's character,
for the 'Kremlin Czar Boris' does not tolerate politicians around him that
are more popular among the ordinary people than he is....
"Without any doubt--the sacking of Primakov and his government will not
only cause a government crisis, but could also prove destabilizing for the
political situation in the country."
HUNGARY: "The Lonely Czar Of The Kremlin"
Moscow correspondent for top-circulation Nepszabadsag, Laszlo Lengyel
observed (5/17): "Boris Yeltsin has (and had) only one program: power....
This czar has become entirely lonely by now, but he has concentrated so
much power in his hands that it would be difficult to undermine it.... No
one can influence him, everybody had to either turn against him or quietly
resign. In the case of Primakov, the prime minister's popularity was more
dangerous to Yeltsin than the damage that Primakov's dismissal causes to
the interests of Russia."
"A Declaration Of War"
Foreign affairs editor Peter Barabas had this piece in independent Nepszava
(5/13): "Yeltsin's...decision amounts to a declaration of war...against the
Duma. And it has also shaken the very fragile balance that he created eight
months ago.... But the Russian president has started a political game
which, unlike the previous dismissals, could end up in a crisis of the
entire Russian political system."
IRELAND: "Czar Boris"
The conservative, populist Irish Independent predicted(5/13): "Boris
Yeltsin's days are numbered. But what comes after? A Communist, nationalist
or military regime would be more calamitous in economic terms.... Russia's
only salvation lies with the democrats."
KAZAKHSTAN: "In Contrast"
Pro-government Express K (5/18) had a captioned picture of President
Clinton, accompanied by an article describing the Duma's attempts to
impeach Russian President Yeltsin: "This is Bill Clinton, the U.S.
president, who they wanted to resign over only one point: A spot on the
intern's dress.... [In contrast to Yeltsin], Bill bombed out two countries
during his impeachment process."
POLAND: "Yeltsin The Victorious"
Ryszard Malik opined in centrist Rzeczpospolita (5/17): "Yeltsin's victory
is definitely good news for the West. In spite of various steps and
decisions which would often surprise politicians in Washington and
Brussels, the Russian president has continued a policy started in the early
1990s of friendly relations and cooperation with the West.... His success
indicates stabilization even if it is a crippled one."
"The Price Of Crisis"
Slawomir Popowski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (5/13): "Yeltsin's
decision can be interpreted as a provocation, a beginning of his favorite
political game effected through personnel changes. Until now, Yeltsin has
come out victorious from this sort of standoff--but Russia would always
have to pay for it. Now Russia is entering anew the period of
SLOVENIA: "The Evil Spirit Of The Kremlin"
Left-of-center Delo front-paged this editorial (5/13): "Yeltsin has made
one of his worst political moves....
"Because of his deliberateness, composure, independence, and clean hands,
which--unlike those of Russia's other leading figures--were never stained
with corruption, Primakov became Russia's most popular politician of the
recent time. He has even outshone the master of the Kremlin. And because
czars and dictators cannot live in someone else's shadow, he had to go....
It has been known for some time that the Russian president, with his
unpredictable and unpremeditated moves, has become the major destabilizing
factor in (Russia)."
SPAIN: "Lack Of Alternatives Saves Yeltsin Again"
Independent El Mundo said (5/16): "Some [experts] believe that the survival
instinct of some Russian MPs could allow Yeltsin to get enough backing for
the appointment of his new prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, next week....
Yeltsin has won a battle but the war still continues.... His erratic
policy, together with his unpredictable personality and the chaotic
economic situation, increase the unhappiness of the public, who, moreover,
do not appreciate Russia's moderate position on NATO's war against
"Test Of Strength In Moscow"
Liberal El Pais editorialized (5/12): "What Russia needs least in the
current circumstances is to increase its dangerous [internal]
instability.... In Moscow a strong government that eases the recovery of
political legitimacy is essential. For the time being and despite his major
defects, it appears only Primakov can be in command to avoid a definitive
JAPAN: "Russia Must Reconstruct Its Economy"
Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (5/18): "The political
situation in Russia...may recover somewhat after lawmakers backed away from
an [impeachment] showdown with Yeltsin.... Although blocking the
impeachment was, to be sure, a political victory for Yeltsin, the president
is aware that he can hardly be in a mood to celebrate the victory [given
the low public support for him.] Given the status of the Russian economy,
the State Duma made a sound judgment by suspending its showdown with
Yeltsin. The lower chamber will have to approve Stepashin as prime minister
on Wednesday and bring an early end to the political confusion. Russia must
give priority to reconstructing its economy, not to criticizing and taking
"Russian Leaders Oblivious To Obligations At Home And Abroad"
Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized (5/17): "At a time when
Russia has to take urgent measures to end its economic turmoil, this
country's political confusion will remain indefinitely.... Yeltsin deserves
censure for dismissing Primakov if he did so merely to protect his own
powerbase even at the expense of political stability in his country. The
president, his administration and parliament are preoccupied with a power
struggle when they should be joining forces to overcome their country's
AUSTRALIA: "Time For Yeltsin To Sack Himself"
The liberal Canberra Times (5/14) carried this editorial: "What does
Yeltsin think he is doing? His sudden sacking this week of Yevgeny Primakov
not only guarantees domestic destabilization, but has the potential to
undermine Russia's blossoming role as a peacemaker in the Yugoslav war. The
sacking had all the hallmarks of a Yeltsin fit of pique, and it is hard to
avoid the impression that Mr Primakov's relative competence was his
downfall.... Only one thing is really clear. Mr. Yeltsin's erratic and
autocratic behavior has gone on for long enough.
"For Russia's sake he should stop sacking governments and see that the only
one who really should go is himself."
INDONESIA: "This Russian Political Crisis Seems Serious"
Leading, independent Kompas contended (5/14): "It would be regrettable if
Russia's latest political crisis, occurring precisely at the moment of
Yeltsin's weakest physical and political condition, finally destroys this
THE PHILIPPINES: "Dangers Of A Renegade Russia"
Publisher Max Soliven of the third-leading Philippine Star (5/14) wrote in
his column: "Whatever happens, an already financially and economically
crippled Russia is in disarray.... Mr. Yeltsin has pulled surprises and
rabbit tricks out of his hat before, but apparently now has run out of
steam. Yet, where is any new leadership to emerge?... Russia is now poor
and...demoralized.... A humiliated and scorned Russia, with nothing to
lose...is the most dangerous factor in Europe today."
SOUTH KOREA: "Yeltsin After Impeachment Vote"
Inchon University president and editorial writer Kim Hahk-joon of
independent Dong-A Ilbo (5/18) observed: "Yeltsin breathed a sigh of relief
after the vote on his impeachment, but it is not over yet.... Though he
survived the vote, his already debilitated authority will weaken further
along with that of the federal government.... Another political leader who
was relieved at the outcome of the vote was Clinton, who needs Yeltsin's
help to successfully conclude the ongoing attack against Yugoslavia."
"Yeltsin Should Tread Carefully"
Kim Seok-Hwan commented in business-oriented Joong-Ang Ilbo (5/17): "The
failure of the Duma to approve the impeachment of Yeltsin has dealt a
crushing blow to the Communists and leftists.... However, although Yeltsin
has put out the fire at hand, he still faces many more, not the least of
which is the disillusioned public and growing distrust of the reformists."
THAILAND: "Russia Must Be Helped At All Costs"
The lead editorial of the independent, English-language Nation commented
(5/16): "With its 'bumbling drunk leader' and squabbling parliamentary
deputies, there appears to be little reason for optimism in Russia. Still,
with the world's help--however ill-advised or inefficient--Russia did
manage to escape the worst depths of the economic crisis which engulfed it
last year. And the same approach needs to be taken with Russia's politics.
The world needs to stay concerned and engaged."
VIETNAM: "NATO Seeks To Fish In Russia's Troubled Water"
The lead editorial of Lao Dong (Labor, the newspaper of Vietnam's General
Federation of Trade Unions) commented (5/17): "What has happened recently
shows that the highest priority of Mr. Yeltsin is not the role of Russia in
Kosovo, but the creation of favorable conditions for his candidate to run
for the presidential election in 2000. This priority will have immeasurable
impact on Russia's roles in foreign and security matters."
INDIA: "Czar Boris"
Pundit K. Subrahmanyam penned this analysis for his "Global Watch" column
in the pro-economic-reforms Economic Times (5/18): "It is widely known in
Russia and elsewhere that Yeltsin owes his election to Russian big
business, and [to] a pro-American lobby which managed his election
campaign.... But neither Yeltsin nor the Americans could accept Primakov as
a possible successor to Yeltsin.... Yeltsin has wielded [his presidential]
power most arbitrarily, as demonstrated by his sacking three prime
ministers in two years.... It is going to take a long time to clean up the
mess created by Yeltsin."
"Boris On The Brink"
The right-of-center Indian Express had this editorial (5/17): "[Primakov's]
going will throw the country into a new and probably protracted round of
political and economic turmoil even as poverty and insecurity grow....
Yeltsin's decision is utterly idiosyncratic.... Whatever else the Yeltsin
era has achieved, it has surely paved the way for the rise to power of
Communists and nationalists. They appear to be the only bulwarks against
economic and political prescriptions which have pushed 60 percent of the
population into poverty and raised a new class of robber barons."
The centrist Times of India (5/14) offered this view: "Whatever the
motivation behind Primakov's dismissal, it reduced the countervailing
influence of Russia in a world where unipolarity is being asserted with 800
sorties a day over Yugoslavia. A politically and economically unstable
Russia is today the most potent proliferation threat. The international
repercussions of the dismissal of Primakov are likely to outweigh the
domestic ones which are themselves extremely destabilizing."
PAKISTAN: "Russian Kaleidoscope"
Tanvir Ahmad Khan opined in the Karachi-based, independent Dawn (5/18):
"Basically, the challenge remains the same: how to save the pro-Western,
market-oriented and liberal democratic forces from the backlash of economic
failure. [Acting Prime Minister] Stepashin, if approved, will have to steer
the course through the parliamentary elections this coming winter....
Yeltsin is indispensable for the survival of the project to contain
resurgent communism thriving on nationalism and to ensure the continued
'Westernization' of Russia. Neither the West nor the liberal democrats have
as yet found an alternative to him."
ARGENTINA: "Another Risky Move, Tailored To Yeltsin's Needs"
Gail Scriven, international columnist for daily-of-record La Nacion, held
(5/13): "If something was missing to complicate even more the already
difficult international scenario amidst the Kosovo war, it was an explosive
political crisis in Russia. A political crisis like the one which broke out
in Moscow yesterday and which, undoubtedly, will lead to a fierce fight for
power between the Kremlin and the Communist-nationalistic opposition....
[Primakov's ouster] is a risky move aimed at making things worse, throwing
overboard the delicate balance between the government and parliament, ruled
by the opposition, and causing an institutional standstill.... With his
risky bet, Yeltsin opened a pandora's box. The Kosovo crisis could now be
merely a chess piece in this dangerous political game, reviving the
nationalistic rhetoric at a time when Yeltsin himself wants to avoid being
viewed as NATO's puppet."
BRAZIL: "Black Clouds Over Moscow"
Center-right O Estado de Sao Paulo's editorial declared (5/15): "Primakov
was not fired because of deficiencies in Russia's economic and political
management.... Primakov fell because he became popular and could become the
most feasible candidate for next year's presidential elections.... It is
very unlikely that the new prime minister will have the necessary political
flexibility to arrive at a compromise with a hostile Duma. With an unstable
president in poor health, and a prime minister whose only apparent quality
is his loyalty to Yeltsin, Russia is once again approaching political and
CANADA: "Poor Russia"
Frederic Wagniere opined in centrist La Presse (5/17): "President Yeltsin
may not be mentally and physically able to govern his sad country, but
neither is the Communist majority in parliament."
"Boris The Bungler"
Guy Taillefer opined in liberal, French-language Le Devoir (5/13): "In the
absence of Mr. Primakov, the agony of the Yelstin era risks expressing
itself in increasingly incoherent terms, leading the country astray."
ECUADOR: "Russia On Verge Of The Precipice"
Peter Schenkel opined in center-left, influential Hoy (5/15): "The most
serious effect is the political and economic chaos that could drag Russia
into domestic disintegration and a social explosion of unpredictable
consequences. The world needs a politically and economically stable Russia
that will play a responsible role on the international stage."
JAMAICA: "Russian In Turmoil"
Regular columnist John Rapley wrote in the moderate, influential Daily
Gleaner (5/14): "He's done it again. It seems that every time ailing old
Boris Yeltsin is afraid the world is about to forget about him, he reminds
it abruptly he is still Russia's president by sacking his prime
minister.... Yeltsin's reasons for sacking Mr. Primakov may amount to
nothing more than a fit of pique.... Russia's economic situation shows few
signs of improvement.... In this environment, the prospects for nationalist
and Communist politicians are likely to improve.... With war continuing in
Yugoslavia, the possibility of a sharp turn away from market reforms in
Russia becomes a greater possibility. For now, however, the most likely
prospect is continued muddling.... There is...a real likelihood
that...Russia will be left without an effective government."
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