Uh Oh: Will Another Kremlin ‘Compromise’ Mean The West Will Give Old Guard A New Lease On Life?

 As Russian President Boris Yeltsin begins meeting with those who twenty-four hours ago were determined to impeach him — Parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov and the Chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Zorkin — expectations are rising that yet another deal might be cut between them. Yeltsin has deleted public reference to his announced intention to impose "special rule" and to ignore Parliamentary edicts — i.e., the key portion of his 20 March declaration deemed unconstitutional by the Court. For its part, the Parliament has put off an initial meeting scheduled to consider his impeachment and, instead, called an emergency session for this Friday.

It should become clear shortly whether Yeltsin will once again abandon his principled and courageous stand against the communist/nationalist opponents of genuine reform in Russia in order to retain some power.(1) If so, the result would be predictable: There would be little change in Russia’s political reality — namely that genuine democratic and free market reform is being strangled in the crib by the ascendant Old Guard.

Unfortunately, such a development would nonetheless produce immense relief throughout the West. This would be born of a mistaken impression that the crisis in Moscow had passed — and with it the threat of renewed Cold War and the prospect of having to cancel massive defense budget cuts now underway. Worse yet, the upshot likely will be a redoubled determination to offer vast, new and unconditional assistance to the Russian government — the precise outcome favored by the hardline Parliament.

In short, were Yeltsin now to: revert to form, agree to continue his cohabitation with the existing Parliament, and accede to its desire to postpone or water-down the April plebescite, he would — whether by design or by chance — actually be giving a new lease on life to those determined to stymie Russia’s structural transformation. For the sake of the Russian people, long-term international security and the interests of Western taxpayers, it can only be hoped that Yeltsin will decide to "cut and cut clean" and bring about, through popular elections, the final dismantling of the last bastion of the old Soviet system.

Either way, the Center for Security Policy believes that the United States and its G-7 partners must resist the temptation (one which was exceedingly powerful even before the latest drama in Moscow) to provide economic, financial and/or other forms of assistance to Boris Yeltsin — or anyone else — in the absence of demonstrable and continuing progress toward democratic and free-market reform and institution-building. Specific recommendations concerning the nature of the conditions that should be applied to new assistance and the modalities that might be utilized to implement them are spelled out in the attached point paper.

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1. See in this regard the Center’s recent Decision Brief entitled "Prediction on Russia’s Constitutional Crisis: Yeltsin Will ‘Survive’ — But Hold the Champagne" (No. 93-D 19, 11 March 1993.)

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