Russia Rudderless

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Never mind the Y2K bug; Russians just want to make it past November 17. That date -- on which Russia's moratorium on servicing foreign debt ends -- hangs heavily over Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who Monday presented his economic program to parliament. "Primakov's plan, as he said today, can still change," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "What can't change is the November 17 deadline, when the ruble is expected to go into another tailspin and drop as much as half of its value."

Foreign creditors and the IMF have been unimpressed with Primakov's plan to print more money and cut taxes, which aren't being collected anyway. While those newly minted rubles have been used to pay out wage arrears, foreign debtors don't take funny money -- and there's little else in the government's coffers. Says Meier, "In the worst case, it could mean a cutoff of all foreign trade and massive shortages; even that airlines stop flying." Even if it doesn't bring the end of the world as Russians know it, November 17 will remind them their nightmare's not over yet.