Russia's penchant for printing money, and a new proposal to cut sales tax, have alarmed the IMF. "Moscow wants to dismantle the one thing in the economy that works," says Meier. Even if he hangs tough in the talks, though, Primakov's inertia can't last. For one thing, $17.5 billion in foreign debt falls due next year. And foreign bankers won't accept newly minted rubles.
Even though Russia's Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had no comprehensive economic program to put on the table in his Tuesday meeting with Marcel Camdessus, he still hopes to persuade the IMF chief to come up with the next $4 billion installment of a loan from the fund. Fat chance. "Until they commit to a coherent economic program the IMF is unlikely to offer more than encouraging words," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "But going into the meeting, Primakov is talking tough about not being pushed around by the IMF."