Vice President Al Gore ended two days of talks here Friday by declaring his confidence that Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko will be able to carry out the fiscal reforms needed to make the Russian government solvent again.
Gore's statements came after two days of get-acquainted meetings with Kiriyenko, who has replaced former Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin as the senior official on a panel that coordinates the two governments' work on major U.S.-Russian issues.At a news conference with Kiriyenko, Gore said the prime minister had "full command" of the economic issues confronting Russia "and a very impressive understanding of economic reform and what must be done in order to advance reform."
Financial experts and some Russian officials have said the government has but three to five months to make major improvements in its tax system and budget or face another fiscal crisis like the one that nearly bankrupted the government early this month.
Using political pressure and executive declarations, President Boris Yeltsin and Kiriyenko managed earlier this month to put in place most of the laws needed to make financial reforms that have been demanded by Russia's creditors as the price for continued investment there. But persuading Russia's stubborn bureaucracy to carry out the laws is another matter, as is forcing powerful private interests to obey them.
Kiriyenko, who turns 36 on Sunday, seemed crisp and confident at Friday's meeting with reporters. He dismissed speculation that Russia's Communist-led Parliament would block reforms, saying the Parliament's opposition to some of the more onerous tax laws is normal, considering that many members face re-election next year.
"If we do not pay too much attention to the inevitable political emotions," he said, "we'll find common approaches and agreed solutions together."
And he handily put down a reporter from the frequently critical Independent newspaper of Moscow, who asked Gore if the United States had plans to step in should the Yeltsin government "prove unable to cope."
"Mr. Vice President, this is a favorite subject with the Independent newspaper," Kiriyenko said. "For the past four months they have been tensely waiting for collapse."