Russia Keeps Hard-Line Foreign Policy despite New Premier

By Sieff, Martin | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 26, 1998 | Go to article overview

Russia Keeps Hard-Line Foreign Policy despite New Premier


Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


There is to be a new government in Moscow, but it's going to follow the same foreign policy with the same foreign minister - increasingly at odds with the United States.

Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, who was confirmed as prime minister Friday after a fight between parliament and President Boris Yeltsin, said yesterday he will present his new Cabinet Tuesday night.

But Mr. Yeltsin has already made clear that he wants Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev to keep their jobs - keeping Russia's external affairs on track.

Russian foreign policy is backed by a broad political consensus and won't change, whoever becomes prime minister, but it will come into increasing conflict with the United States, experts warn.

"There is a growing and fundamental discrepancy between Russia and the United States in their approaches to foreign policy," said Dimitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center.

"There is no question that Russia is refusing to walk in lockstep to the United States any more."

Russian foreign policy has shown remarkable continuity, despite the current round of political upheaval in Moscow.

Mr. Yeltsin fired Viktor Chernomyrdin, his prime minister of 5 1/2 years, on March 23. But he almost immediately signaled that he would retain his tough foreign minister, Mr. Primakov.

Mr. Primakov has been widely criticized in the United States for his background as a top Soviet strategist in the 1960s and 1970s at the height of the Cold War and for his vigorous efforts since his appointment two years ago to forge close ties with China, Iran and Iraq.

Russian political sources said these policies did not originate with Mr. Primakov alone but reflected the broad consensus of the political establishment in Moscow.

Even First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, a leading champion of democracy and free-market reform, has publicly urged the selling of Russian nuclear technology ovserseas.

"If there is a single defining principle as to the direction of Russian foreign policy, it is: `Do your own thing,' " said Keith Bush, a Russia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Some Russian diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have said Mr. …

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