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Russia: Zbigniew Brzezinski Skeptical On Primakov Appointment

Prague, 15 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Former United States National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski said today in an interview with RFE/RL that the appointment of Yevgeny Primakov as Russian Prime Minister is unlikely to resolve Russia's internal problems.

"The Russian Smuta," Brzezinski said "will continue for a long time to come." He said the economic and political situation in Russia remains critical and unstable.

Brzezinski cited Primakov's abilities as a successful foreign minister and his knowledge of the West. But Brzezinski also described Primakov as a product of the old Soviet "apparat," who "harbors residual imperialistic ambitions," and who will be beholden to the nationalist factions in the Duma.

In response to a question on Western support for Russian reforms, Brzezinski points to what he called a flaw in Western thinking on the reform process in Russia. He said that Western advocacy of the simultaneous introduction of liberal capitalist economic changes and democratic practices fails to take into account "the cumulative consequences of seventy years of communism, two world wars, and the destruction of the Russian intelligentsia by the communists." All of these factors, said Brzezinski, make it much more difficult for Russia to reform itself in the same way as Poland, Estonia, or other countries in Central Europe have done.

The scope extent of Western economic aid to Russia, Brzezinski said, is marginal in comparison with the scale of Russia's internal problems. Much more important, he insisted, is the nature of the Russian reform program. Brzezinski said that he firmly believes that a high proportion of the assistance allocated to Russia either never leaves Moscow or is "stolen by the 'oligarchs' who are only interested in enriching themselves and depositing much of the stolen money back in the West."

Brzezinski said that the aid would be more effective if the West made direct investments in the Russian regions. Furthermore, he said, Russia's chances of development would be greater if Russia were organized as a confederation of three main units: European Russia; Central Russia and Siberia; and Far-Eastern Russia. Under this confederate arrangement, Brzezinski said, each region would be far better placed to develop regional trade alliances with neighboring economic trading zones than under the present system.

Brzezinski said that his view was certain to meet a hostile reaction from Russia's nationalist politicians.

(Interview conducted by Evgeny Novikov, Russian Service) /