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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais: Right Man For the Job

The promotion of Anatoly Chubais to Russia's economics overlord offers hope that there is still life left in the drive toward a Western-style market that began in Russia three years ago, but has been losing steam ever since.

In the entire so-called Gaidar team, there was nobody more sure of his free market views or more determined in their application than Chubais, who for that reason was and remains the man most loathed by parliament's conservatives.

Universally recognized as tough, driven, arrogant and a good manager, Chubais could be just the kind of unequivocating economist that Yeltsin, in the wake of the Oct. 11 ruble crash, feels he now needs to drive a path to financial stability.

If Chubais is truly to be given the power to direct economic policy -- and this is not certain -- then there will be fireworks ahead as he takes on ideological opponents inside and outside the cabinet. There is, on this score, some reason to worry that he would upset the political equilibrium that has characterized the rule of Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin this year.

There is more to be gained than lost in Chubais' appointment, however. He was already the last committed Western-style reformer left in government, but now he would be thrown into the daily struggle over budgets and monetary policy as a voice of fiscal responsibility, much needed after the losses of Acting Finance Minister Sergei Dubinin and Economics Minister Alexander Shokhin.

What he lacks in ability to build political consensus, Chubais would more than make up for with the dogged consistency he has shown in heading the drive toward privatization, which was the fastest if not the neatest in history. Indeed, it is probably these qualities of toughness and perseverance that have endeared Chubais to Yeltsin, rather than any reformist zeal.

It is, however, possible that Chubais will be given no real power and was named one of the government's only two first deputy prime ministers as a sop to Russian liberals and Western financiers, while the government was purged of its few remaining liberals.

The path to this depressing end would pass over the political corpses of Shokhin, Dubinin, former Agriculture Minister Viktor Khlystun and finally of Chubais himself, kicked upstairs to move him out of his privatization fortress at the State Property Committee.

This would be a terrible mistake on the part of the president, further eroding his already dwindling support among Russia's liberals. By contrast, if he has genuinely thrown Chubais into the breach to impose order in the securities markets and on the country's financial policies as a whole, then he has made an inspired choice.