Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russians Don't Get No Respect US's Lagging Support for Reforms and Its Bid for Influence in Ex-Soviet Republics Annoy Moscow

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russians Don't Get No Respect US's Lagging Support for Reforms and Its Bid for Influence in Ex-Soviet Republics Annoy Moscow

Article excerpt

RUSSIAN Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's current visit to the United States is coming at a sensitive time for his government.

With Russia more vulnerable than ever to a nationalist backlash, reformers in Moscow anxiously hope Mr. Chernomyrdin's US trip will not only generate trade but also restore international respect for Russia, despite its present political and economic turmoil.

President Boris Yeltsin's administration has been annoyed by what it views as the West's, particularly the US's, lagging support for his economic reforms. It is also roiled by Western efforts to increase influence in what Russia still considers its internal affairs; the fate of other former Soviet republics.

Some Yeltsin supporters say the West's recent actions vis-a-vis Russia are helping the president's hard-line opponents, allowing them to cast the reformist government as a Western hireling bent on betraying Russia's interests. If Moscow is to continue on its current reform path, the reformers say, the US and other Western nations must show greater understanding for the Yeltsin administration's difficult position.

Chernomyrdin, himself an advocate of a cautious reform pace, said before leaving Moscow on Aug. 29 that his most important goal was boosting cooperation, telling the Itar-Tass news agency that his visit would be of an exclusively "businesslike nature." Thus, he began his five-day visit in Houston, where he looked to attract investment in Russia's beleaguered oil industry, the nation's most important source of hard currency revenue.

Speaking to US oilmen Aug. 30, Chernomyrdin said Russia would need about $65 billion by the year 2000 to reverse the fall in Russia's fuel production. He took a step toward that goal the same day, announcing a deal between the Russian Gazprom concern and Houston-based Enron Corp.

Only during the last days of his visit - Sept. …

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