Without a handout from the IMF, though, domestic pressure may yet push Moscow to crank up its printing press. "Primakov will have to print new money," says Zarakhovich. "There's nothing left to sell."
Money can be such a distasteful topic that Russia's Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov avoided asking for any when he met with Michel Camdessus. The IMF head left Moscow Wednesday making positive noises about Primakov's "pragmatism" and promised to return in January, but he signed no checks. Although Russia is desperate to get the IMF to release a $4 billion loan that has been withheld out of concern over Moscow's economic intentions, Primakov used the meeting as a fence-mending exercise. "The last meeting between the two sides was disastrous because Russian officials started shouting that they wouldn't be treated like a developing country," says TIME Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich. "But if you don't want to be treated that way, you shouldn't beg for money. So this time, Primakov provided an example of how to deal with someone on whom you depend."