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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Past Sins Bind Yeltsin In Base Love Triangle




My last column came out the day Boris Berezovsky was named secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Still not knowing about his appointment, I had written that Boris Yeltsin was undoubtedly sincere in his declared desire to throw Berezovsky out of the country, but it would be very difficult for him to do so because of the tycoon's too close involvement in presidential family financial affairs.


I personally didn't see any dignified way out of this political and personal dilemma. But Yeltsin demonstrated once again what enormous distance lies between a modest political observer and the unpredictable and charismatic president of all Russians. Indeed, he didn't dare cut off his relationship with the notorious wheeler-dealer, because it would have been too risky for him. But he fulfilled his promise and did throw Berezovsky out of the country -- into an international organization with headquarters outside Russia's borders, in Minsk.


Describing his presence at this sensitive intergovernmental post as a glaring conflict of interest is putting it far too mildly. It opens the way for his financial empire to participate in many lucrative projects, such as rescheduling CIS countries debts to Russia, privatization schemes in these countries, Caspian oil exploration and so on.


But Yeltsin would not have been Yeltsin if, after giving in to Berezovsky and admitting to his dependence on him, he had not decided to demonstrate immediately that this dependence on one of the financial clans is not absolute.


The most effective way for him to demonstrate this was to appoint Berezovsky's arch-rival, Anatoly Chubais, to the key post of chairman of the board of Unified Energy Systems.


This political love triangle already has a dramatic history of mutual passions, intrigues and betrayals. The president has on several occasions appointed and fired both Berezovsky and Chubais, who have been both political friends and sworn enemies. The positions of this tango of three at the top of Russian power is changing, but the partners cannot separate from one another.


Several observers have interpreted the president's most recent appointments as a timely way of financing his or his successor's presidential campaign. In my view, this is not the case. There are many serious constitutional and medical obstacles to Yeltsin's running for a third term. As for a "successor," given the current state of war of all against all in the party of power, any concept of someone who is appointed by the president and approved by the party of power loses all meaning.


It is enough to recall Berezovsky's huge financial infusions into the Krasnoyarsk campaign of retired General Alexander Lebed, who by no means can be presented as a candidate of the party of power.


No, the "Big Troika" of Yeltsin, Berezovsky and Chubais are linked not by the future presidential campaign in 2000, but by the past one in 1996. They have since been incapable of settling the accounts of that campaign.


Two years ago, the first president of democratic Russia, the leading reformer and the financial adventurer together committed the original incestuous sin of collusion between money and power. They won their presidential campaign. But since then, they have been walking along crooked paths that are joined by an invisible chain of too much knowledge, which brings too much sorrow.