Primakov Won't Go Home Empty-Handed

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Quick, who's our man in Moscow? Well, with Boris Yeltsin all but out of the game, Yevgeny Primakov has improbably become Washington's choice as the guarantor of Russian stability. "There's a delicious irony here," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "Primakov has never been regarded as any great friend of the West, but now he's viewed in the U.S. as Russia's best hope." And that may be a comment on the lack of a U.S. policy on Russia following the demise of Yeltsin's Washington-friendly "reform" era.

Prime Minister Primakov arrives in Washington Tuesday for talks with President Clinton and the IMF, hoping to secure loans. Although he has little to offer in response to concerns over his budget, and although Moscow and Washington are at odds on issues ranging from Kosovo to missile defense, Primakov is unlikely to be sent home empty-handed. "In the interests of stability the IMF will probably give him at least enough for Russia to roll over its debt to the IMF," says Meier. "Primakov's style of governing has been 'Don't just do something, stand there!' and it's won him unheard-of popularity levels at home." And right now Washington seems content to go along with whatever works.