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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: Tongues Wag as Primakov Tries Risky Peace Pact

The proposal the prime minister sent to the president and the leaders of both chambers of the Federal Assembly is a sensible one. Maybe it doesn't shine with originality, but it is nevertheless within the bounds of common sense. And at the same time it has a cunning political lining.

The main drive of Yevgeny Primakov's short note, dictated by the wish to maintain political stability in the country in the year of elections [to the State Duma] is as follows. The president, government and parliament agree among themselves on a package of political agreements. The president undertakes not to dissolve the Duma and not to dismiss the government. The Duma will not try to dismiss the president from his position (i.e. impeach him), and the government formally pledges not to use its right to initiate a no-confidence motion in itself in the Duma.

Primakov's initiative only requires a specific action from the Duma, namely to desist from its favorite pastime of trying to expel [President] Boris Yeltsin from the Kremlin for anti-constitutional actions in Chechnya, for genocide of the Russian people and so on. The other players in this three-way agreement are basically required to do nothing at all. As it is, the president has no constitutional right to dissolve the Duma in the year prior to the elections. The government is not going to sacrifice itself by forcing a possible no-confidence motion against itself in the Duma. It is a bold move, although it does seem like a person promising to commit suicide. ...

So what does this dream mean? The government intends to protect itself against the possibility of renewed attacks by right-wing democrats and [Yabloko party leader Grigory] Yavlinsky. The media continue polishing up their scenario of Primakov's replacement, which they have virtually timetabled for sometime this spring. Compromising material on the government is ready: The situation of the country, they are saying, is now out of control, no International Monetary Fund credits have materialized, wages are still going unpaid, the fight against crime, corruption and political extremism is getting nowhere, there is legislative chaos in Vladivostok and regional governors are using the worst profanities imaginable when they speak.

It is revealing that media of a certain orientation have immediately stirred up intrigue around Primakov's initiative, speculating on people's shock and, it seems, using details that they appear to have made up themselves. Like the prime minister supposedly not having agreed to the move with the president first. Such versions of events have long since been the daily dish on the menu of the oligarchs that control those media, which release them when they need to psychologically soften someone up. Their treatment of the note is in the same spirit. According to these media, the note proposes all branches of power voluntarily limit their constitutional authority. And the scoundrels know just how painfully the president reacts to any attempt to encroach upon the authority of the "guarantor of the constitution."

Slovo, Jan. 27-28

Campaign Opener

Last Friday, Yevgeny Primakov sent a letter and a packet of documents to the chairman of the State Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, from which it can at least be said that the widely held view that the prime minister is an extremely cautious man is very exaggerated. It is absolutely clear from the letter that Primakov has taken the wheel of state power in his own hands and is conducting his own dialogue with legislators, acting without, though not necessarily against, the will of Boris Yeltsin. ...

Such a decisive move, which borders on him expanding his own powers, can be explained in two ways: Either it had been impossible to discuss with the president these initiatives, or Primakov has decided to act at his own risk and start his own presidential campaign.

Segodnya, Jan. 26

Too Soon for Pacts

It's obvious that Primakov was hoping in this way to designate his role as a "political premier," "the first man." How successful his d?marche has been is another matter. Given the severe demoralization of the political elite today, some of those drowning are certainly likely to clutch at straws, as we saw by the reaction [to the proposal] by Vladimir Ryzhkov, the reluctant leader of [the Duma faction of Our Home Is Russia.]

Ryzhkov regards such an agreement as "a huge blessing for the country," and the fact that such documents were delivered to the Duma as "very fortunate in that it returns us to the situation that existed in August and September of last year." If you consider a return to that situation a "huge blessing," then there is no need for comment.

But looking more coolly at matters, Primakov's appeal brings its effectiveness into question. In terms of Primakov's own interests, the appeal was maybe successful in its timing - pressure on his office is mounting - but from the point of view of the general political and social situation it was hardly a sensible move. Civic peace initiatives are usually worked out in times of erupting passions by means of mutual capitulation in order to quell these eruptions for a while. But there has not been any such eruption yet, and since a universal pact is a tool that can be used only once, it would have best been saved for a particularly rainy day.

Pacts drawn up on the basis of "what's ours is ours, and we'll talk about what's yours" hardly ever reach the stage of realization. Every six months in the postwar Soviet era new and far-reaching peace initiatives were announced that were so obviously worth little more than the paper they were written on that they were regarded as part of a straightforward demagogical ritual.

Fantastical rituals existed in their own right and so did the Cold War. Yevgeny Primakov has been praised for many things, most of all as a wise diplomat and politician in the Soviet-era of great power politics. With this new appeal the prime minister has reminded us how the policies of that abundant era looked when they were put into practice.

Izvestia, Jan. 28

Honeymoon's Over

At first glance the idea is nothing new. Last fall there was also talk of an agreement whereby the Duma would drop the idea of impeachment and the president would drop the idea of dissolving the fractious parliament.

The Constitution forbids the dissolution of the lower chamber [State Duma] in the year prior to elections and for one year after them, so there is no need for an agreement on this count. True, if you consider Yeltsin's infamous unpredictability and the constant tale-bearing of those who control the sick president's hand, it won't hurt to put some obstacles in the way of Kremlin intrigues. ...

There is another - as yet unvoiced - component to Primakov's proposal in the form of guarantees for him personally that he will not be dismissed prematurely. The same guarantees that were being discussed as early as last September. It is personally dangerous for Primakov to broach this question himself, even via anonymous sources in the White House, since it could provoke a fit of jealousy by the president resulting in a repeat of [Viktor] Chernomyrdin's ejection from the prime minister's seat.

Primakov's 100-day honeymoon in office has long been over. Who knows what Boris Nikolayevich [Yeltsin] is cooking up now? Hospital seclusion and stringent diet (oats and blancmange) have never been known to improve anyone's character, and Yeltsin doesn't know any tricks other than replacing people around him ("he wasn't up to the job, you see, he let me down"). So Yevgeny Maksimovich [Primakov] has to cover himself with declarations of old ideas.

Tribuna, Jan. 27