SUMMER POLLS

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SUMMER POLLS

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 27, 2001, p. 2

The Public Opinion Foundation has done another poll on voting preferences, as at July 14-15, 2001. The question was: “Which of the following politicians would you vote for if a presidential election were held this Sunday?”

The leaders were the usual trio: President Putin, Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov, and Governor Aman Tuleev of the Kemerovo region. The gap between first and second position (44% and 14% respectively) was quite definite and substantial, but Tuleev (5%) is starting to catch up with Zyuganov. Zyuganov’s rating is gradually falling, but Tuleev is slowly but surely gaining support. It may be assumed that this trend, although not very noticeable during the summer vacation period, will become more intense by autumn.

Trailing in the results were Vladimir Zhirinovsky (3%), Sergei Shoigu (3%), Grigorii Yavlinsky (2%), Yevgeny Primakov (2%), and Yuri Luzhkov (2%).

SENIOR U.S. OFFICIALS VISIT RUSSIA

Rossiiskaya Gazeta, July 27, 2001, p. 2

The recent visit to Russia by some “key players” in the Bush administration – Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and Commerce Secretary Don Evans – may be considered an unprecedented event: it’s been almost a year since such senior US officials last came to Moscow. Analysts believe this represents a continuation of the Ljubljana meeting and the Genoa G-8 summit.

During talks with President Putin yesterday, the US emissaries spoke in favor of stepping up economic relations between Russia and the US, including joint projects in other countries. This was stated before the visit by Alan Larson, deputy secretary of state: “Business groups in America and Russia could become the driving force capable of developing trade and investment links between our two countries.”

Moscow is being very specific about what it wants in this area: it is time for Russia to be recognized as a nation with a market economy – and, correspondingly, time to revoke a number of amendments in the United States which hinder cooperation (primarily the Jackson-Vanik amendment, in force since the 1970s). The US administration already considers a number of other CIS countries as market economies…

GENEROSITY WILL PROVE TO BE EXPENSIVE FOR RUSSIA

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 27, 2001, p. 2

Russian state officials have perfected the art of playing games with the West. Russia made a bold move recently: it has decided to forgive $572 million in debts owed to it by some of the world’s poorest nations. This was announced by presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov. Members of the Paris Club of creditor nations, Russia among them, have written off a total of $6.5 billion for the poorest nations.

It’s interesting to note that Russia, which itself owes money to the Paris Club, wrote off more debts for the poorest nations than all but three of the G-8 members: Japan, France, and Germany. To all appearances, this generous move will prove expensive for Russia: in terms of cancelled debts proportional to GDP (0.3%), it leads the G-8.

It can’t be ruled out that this move is a broad hint to the West that a reciprocal gesture would be very welcome – like writing off some of Russia’s Soviet-era debts.

Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin recently mentioned an insult to Russia. He said: “We were misled by the promises of the Western nations to approve restructuring of our foreign debts. Some might even say that we were deceived.”

However, this response seems very strange, since Kudrin has repeatedly said that Russia needs no help from international financial organizations, and may be able to survive the debt repayment peak in 2003 without restructuring. Moreover, the obvious failure of negotiations with the Paris Club served as further confirmation that no one ever promised Russia that its foreign debts would be restructured.

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov was pushing hard for the plan to offer Russia’s major creditors the chance to convert their debts into equity – but this hasn’t been very successful either. Still, his latest visit to Finland did show that persistence sometimes yields results. Finland became just about the first country to show a favorable response to Kasianov’s plan. Maybe Finland’s example will inspire others among Russia’s creditors to review their attitudes to Russia’s foreign debts.

FATHERLAND HAS A NEW PROGRAM

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 27, 2001, p. 3

Andrei Isaev, a member of the political council of the Fatherland movement, announced at a news conference yesterday that Fatherland has prepared a new program and manifesto in the lead-up to the autumn congress. The drafts of these documents will be sent out to the regional branches today.

According to Isaev, an undoubted innovation in the program is “a positive view of the course adopted by the president”. However, the document does not include resolutions about the alliance with the Unity party, even though cooperation with Unity is part of Fatherland’s strategy. According to Isaev, Fatherland – as a center-left organization – is mostly committed to social-democratic ideals, but departs from them on two points. Fatherland considers it essential to encourage liberal solutions to economic challenges, and supports the defense of Russia’s national interests. Isaev is sure that disillusioned center-leftists from Yabloko and the Communist Party will soon be joining the ranks of Fatherland members.

Isaev also denied rumors of a possible early dissolution of the Duma at the Kremlin’s initiative. He argued that the law on political parties, pushed through by the Presidential Administration, will take two years to come into effect: so the new party system will only be complete in 2003. According to Isaev, early Duma elections would virtually render this law powerless.

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