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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Cabinet: A Game of Give and Take

In Russian politics perhaps more than elsewhere, the game is never over. But the new cabinet appointed by President Boris Yeltsin before Christmas ensures that, for now at least, there will be no dramatic shift in Russia's reform policies.


From the moment Yeltsin's latest battle with the Congress of People's Deputies began - several weeks before the session opened - to the moment he announced the new cabinet, he lost three exponents of radical reform to the conservative opposition.


Yeltsin's closest advisor, Gennady Burbulis, was the first to fall beneath the sacrificial knife, ahead of the Congress. Acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar was lost in the dying moments of the Congress. and since then, Pyotr Aven, the foreign trade minister, has also gone.


But Yeltsin has taken back with his left hand much of what he gave the conservatives with his right.


Boris Fyodorov, the new economics chief, has impeccable reformist credentials. At 34, he is even younger than Gaidar, and with nearly all of the old so-called Gaidar Team still in place he is unlikely to put any serious brakes on reform.


Sergei Glazyev, the new foreign trade minister, was Aven's deputy and is believed to share his view that Russia should aim to integrate with the economies of the West. The new information minister, Nikolai Fedotov, is also an outspoken liberal.


If the new ministers are reincarnations of the old, then it may be possibile for the ousted reformers to be entirely resurrected.


Burbulis, for example, had already been sacked and reshuffled twice before he was finally ousted at the Congress - and one suspects that he is biding his time even now. Mikhail Poltoranin, the former information minister, bobbed to the surface again this weekend in an executive version of his old job.


Most parliaments have a right to remove cabinet ministers and expect their decisions to be respected. But this Supreme Soviet has balked at pressing ahead with a new constitution that would define a civilized division of powers between itself and the president, and it has forfeited that right.


Unfortunately, Yeltsin's sleight of hand with the cabinet was only a small skirmish and the real battle has yet to be won. Parliament reconvenes in mid-January and may then insist on vetting Yeltsin's choices to head the Foreign, Defense, Security and Interior Ministries.


The new prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, has also said that there may yet be further cabinet changes to come. We can only hope that the new additions are Gaidar-style reformers too.