Western bankers may be watching closely -- and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was due to meet U.S. deputy Treasury Secretary Larry Summers Friday -- but Russians don't set much store by their budget. "Normal countries are run according to two documents, the constitution and the budget," says TIME Moscow correspondent Yuri Zarakhovich. "Here, things are different. In a country that has had at least seven constitutions this century, nobody considers the budget sacrosanct."
Like the old economist joke, Russia's budget is based on the premise "assume a multi-billion dollar bailout." The document to be presented to the Duma Friday factors in a hoped-for $7.5 billion in foreign loans and $8 billion in debt-repayment relief. And then, of course, there's the $1.7 billion that the government plans to simply print. "This budget is an exercise in wishful thinking," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "They have no reason to believe they'll actually get the loans they've factored in."