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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformers Charge U.S. With Undermining Policy

U.S. President Bill Clinton warned on Friday against the dangers of inflation in Russia, after the former finance minister, Boris Fyodorov, accused his administration of contributing to the defeat of Russia's reformers.

"What we're concerned about obviously is whether they'll be able to manage their inflation problem," Clinton said as Russia's new, more conservative cabinet had its first day in office.

Thursday evening, however, Clinton reaffirmed his support for President Boris Yeltsin and his confidence in the future of reform following the resignation of Finance Minister Boris Fyodorov.

"I think he's going to have a challenging time," Clinton said of Yeltsin on television. "But he's a very tough guy. He believes in democracy."

Fyodorov charged that Clinton's administration had undermined the position of reformist ministers by prescribing "less shock and more therapy" after December's parliamentary elections.

Such recommendations, championed by the new deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, "were publicized here very much by the opposition, so he played to the Communist camp," Fyodorov told journalists Thursday.

In private meetings last week Fyodorov urged Western officials not to talk of lessening the shocks of reform, lest it undermine reformers. Yet Clinton repeated the idea, adopted after hardline nationalists and Communists upstaged reformers in the December polls.

"I think Talbott was out of line," Fyodorov said in English. "He actually stabbed us in the back."

Talbott's top aide in Washington, Jim Collins, said Friday that U.S. policy seeks only to assist Russian reform.

"Certainly neither Talbott nor any member in the United States government has any interest in seeing anything but the success of reform," said Collins, who served as the deputy chief of mission at Moscow's U.S. Embassy.

Much of the Clinton administration's confidence appears to stem from their hope that Yeltsin will be strong enough to deliver on his promises to bring radical change to Russia.

Still, observers are increasingly commenting that U.S. policymakers view Russia through overly rosy glasses.

"The Americans did not understand what is going on here," said Larisa Piyasheva, a radical reformer who formerly served as the Moscow mayor's privatization advisor. "I think the Russian government specifically waited until the Americans left to reemphasize to Clinton that reform is going on, and to have Clinton again declare his support."

Gaidar's top aide, Vladimir Mau, confirmed Friday that Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was informed of Gaidar's impending departure before Clinton arrived in Moscow Jan 13. Yet U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering said this week Clinton was "surprised by the timing" of Gaidar's resignation last Sunday just a day after Clinton left town.

Collins said the U.S. will wait to see if there is a policy change. At the U.S. Embassy, officials say they are sorry to see reform's leading lights darken. "Disappointment is a natural sentiment. We've known them well and we have a lot of confidence in them," said an official.