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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Stepashin Loves You, Sincerely




I love you all," Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin told a crowd of Seattle businesspeople this weekend, apropos of nothing.


That's the sort of rhetoric likely to bring Stepashin closer to the famously touchy-feely U.S. Vice President Al Gore. A strong rapport existed between Gore and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, one that Gore valued and bragged about. In fact, Gore found Chernomyrdin so congenial that he once sent back a CIA analysis alleging Chernomyrdin was corrupt with what The New York Times called "a barnyard epithet" scrawled across the cover.


Now Stepashin is the prime minister, and a major part of his mission to Washington, we are told, is to build his own warm relationship with heir apparent Gore. We suspect these two bland men will be perfect for each other - just a couple of New Age world leaders getting in touch with their inner selves.


Regardless of how it may play in Washington, however, Stepashin's professions of love were met skeptically in Seattle - he had the gall to include the lord of Vladivostok, Yevgeny Nazdratenko, in his entourage.


No Russian and American cities have as natural a partnership as do the Pacific Rim cities of Seattle and Vladivostok. Seattle businesses are well aware of what doing business is like in the Far East, and they are deeply unimpressed with Nazdratenko's rule.


The governor is a man who has driven foreign investors from the Far East Shipping Co., among them the honorary British consul to Vladivostok. Those investors say he threatened them with jail unless they got out of his way. Nazdratenko denies that.


Nazdratenko also has little to say about the vicious persecution of journalists and environmentalists going on under his watch, though he has plenty shrill to say about the danger to Russia purportedly represented by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and the Chinese.


Stepashin is supposed to be talking up Russia as a place for Americans to invest. At his side he's got Nazdratenko, a man who is one of those walking symbols of much that is wrong and unattractive about investing here. Washington Governor Gary Locke reportedly had to make a point of seating himself far from Nazdratenko - he's that embarrassing.


The Russian government is apparently so used to being in the company of dubious people that it sometimes forgets it can look bad.


Then again, maybe the Russian government understands things fine. After all, more money seems to be on the way from the International Monetary Fund - just in time, as always, for election season spending. So far anyway, Stepashin's love is not going unrequited.