ios foresaw a period of prolonged difficulty in which Russia might have no choice but to retreat to a semiprotectionist economic posture and rely on state-led measures to revive domestic production. This approach would require skillful leadership to succeed while maintaining supportive economic and political ties to the West, something that Prime Minister Primakov might indeed be capable of achieving. But with Yeltsin's health worsening, leadership was the biggest near-term question mark. Should early presidential elections be held, the winner might well be the national ist-authoritarian-leaning General Lebed, governor of Krasnoyarsk province. A list of other contenders included Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov.
Under any of these candidates -- or for that matter, under an increasingly crippled Yeltsin presidency -- the potential for much worse than near-term muddling through remained great. Any further clumsy economic measures, such as those seen so often since the breakup of the USSR, could prompt a much more serious collapse. Any foreign crisis affecting the Russian economy as seriously as had Asian economic woes and falling commodity prices could similarly cause even more widespread disruption. And any of these scenarios could increase popular pressures for more radical populist or antimarket measures, such as increased printing of money or broad renationalization of industry, that would lead to a spiral of hoarding and shortages, inflation and capital flight, and international economic isolation. In this outlook, increased frictions with the West would be difficult to avoid, as would tension with the Baltics and perhaps Ukraine. Indeed, NATO air strikes intended to force an end to Serb "cleansing" of ethnic Albanians from the Yugoslav province of Kosovo stirred great popular resentment in Russia. Thus the possibility hovered that the "soft" redivision of Europe already emerging, instead of continuing to become more malleable, might grow more firm.
Aslund, A., Gorbachev's Struggle for Economic Reform ( 1989). Bialer, S., Stalin's Successors: Leadership, Stability, and Change in the Soviet Union ( 1980).