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Russia: Moscow Stays Away From G-7 Finance Meeting

  • Robert Lyle

Washington, 15 April 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The annual spring meetings of the leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in Washington this week brings the usual sideline meeting of the finance ministers and central bank governors of the G-7 group of major industrial nations.

But noticeably absent this morning will be the representatives of Russia as the top finance officials of the U.S., Germany, Japan, Great Britain, France, Italy and Canada climb the steps to Blair House, across from the White House.

Russian Central Bank governor Sergei Dubinin, who is leading Moscow's delegation to the IMF/World Bank meetings, says he's staying away because Moscow is not satisfied with its unequal position in the group.

Each spring for the past five or six years Russia's finance ministers and central bank governors have been invited to join the G-7 meeting to discuss Russia's economic situation. But they were never asked to stay for the full session and Dubinin says it's time for that to change.

Russia wants to be a full-fledged member of the group, says Dubinin, making it truly the G-8.

Little note has been taken of the Russian boycott so far. But it reflects the continuing discomfort within the G-7 over how quickly to bring Russia into the process.

No one opposes Russia's full participation eventually, but few are ready to bring Moscow into the financial side completely now.

A Canadian spokeswoman says there is a "difference" between the G-7 political and financial arenas. Russia is welcome in the political discussions, she says, but is not yet ready to join the economic side.

An Italian spokesman agrees, saying it is important that Russia get as closely involved in global management (political) issues as possible, but the time is not yet right for Moscow to join the economic side. He adds, however, that Rome hopes Russia will be ready to come into the economic side of the G-7 soon.

German spokesmen say Bonn supports the full integration of Russia into the global economy and welcomes its participation in the G-7 political process. However, whether Russia should fully participate in such meetings, the view is not so clear.

Japan has not yet taken a full position on Russian participation in finance meetings. "Russia decided not to take part in this meeting," said one spokeswoman, so Japan has not taken a position on the issue. Another Japanese official said Tokyo prefers to work out a consensus among all the G-7 countries first.

The U.S., which is hosting the meeting, has avoided commenting. In the past, Washington has supported Russia's political participation but said it was not yet ready on the economic side.

At the major annual G-7 summits' of heads of government, Russia has become an almost full member. Russian President Boris Yeltsin, or his prime minister when Yeltsin was undergoing heart surgery, has taken an increasingly larger role. Last year, when Yeltsin participated in all but one session of the three-day summit in Denver, Colorado, the U.S. got around the G-7 or G-8 question by renaming the meeting the "Summit of the Eight."

Great Britain, which hosts this year's summit in Birmingham next month, has publicly declared it the G-8 summit, saying in its advanced billing that Russia has been fully integrated into the group.

However, when asked about London's view on the finance ministers meeting in Washington, British officials and spokespeople declined to comment. "We'll wait until the Chancellor (finance minister) arrives in Washington to see if he wants to say anything," said one.

Russian finance minister Mikhail Zadornov is not in the Russian delegation. He was in the cabinet dismissed by Yeltsin and while the Russian president has said he will reappoint him, that must await the prime ministers confirmation by the Duma. So Zadornov is staying in Moscow, represented in the delegation in Washington by a deputy minister.

As delegation head, Central Bank governor Dubinin says he intends to make his G-7 protest a focal point of his time in Washington.