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U.S.: Russia Must Shape Its Own Destiny, Says Treasury Secretary

U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told a Harvard University investment conference yesterday that Russia must shape its own economic destiny. Russian Economic Development Minister German Gref said his country is seeking structural development, not just economic growth. Correspondent Michael Lelyveld reports.

Boston, 6 August 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Speaking at a Harvard University conference on Russian investment last night (Thursday), U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said Washington has no desire to write economic prescriptions for Moscow.

Summers addressed a group of some 500 officials, business leaders and analysts of Russian affairs by video from Washington. He said: "We've always recognized in the United States [that] Russia will shape its own destiny. The fundamental economic choices for Russia will be made by the Russian people, by Russian businesses, by Russian government."

Summers said the role other countries and international institutions can at times be to provide support and at times -- in response to requests -- to provide advice. But he stressed any such support and advice should never to seek to replace Russia's own judgment.

While the secretary's remarks seemed to be in line with previous U.S. policy, they also appeared to underscore the changing nature of U.S.-Russian relations during a period when the Russian economy is improving as the reform program of President Vladimir Putin continues to emerge.

Summers appeared sensitive to criticisms that the United States and the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, have in the past urged Russia to adopt sweeping reform programs that have proved politically difficult to implement.

While steering clear of recommendations, Summers focused on what he called "crucial requisites of economic success in this new global economy." Among these, he included budgetary discipline and deficit reduction, strong financial and legal institutions, and the effort to become integrated with the global economy by taking necessary steps to join the World Trade Organization.

Summers' address was followed by brief remarks from German Gref, Russia's Minister for Economic Development and Trade. Gref said the objective of the Putin government was not merely economic growth but also structural development that would lead to the creation of what he called a "more moderate investment climate." Others who are expected to address the conference in coming days include international financier George Soros, IMF Deputy Managing Director Stanley Fischer and former Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko. This fourth annual U.S.-Russian Investment Symposium is scheduled to run through tomorrow (Oct. 8). It has been organized by Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government in cooperation with Britain's Financial Times newspaper.