Given how precarious the Russian crisis has been in recent weeks, not to mention the nation's history of political uprising and revolution, the news that President Boris Yeltsin wants to appoint Yevgeny Primakov as prime minister was good indeed.
While Primakov's intentions are unknown, and his ties to traditional Soviet allies such as Iraq are reason for concern, he has at last brought an end to what could have become a radical, and possibly bloody, upheaval. Think of what might have happened. If Yeltsin had presented Viktor Chernomyrdin a third time to the lower house of Parliament, or Duma, it immediately would have triggered a crisis. The Communists who control the Duma threatened to begin impeachment proceedings. Had they rejected Chernomyrdin a third time, Yeltsin could have dissolved the Duma and either called for new elections or proclaimed a crisis and ruled the nation as a dictator.Had any of these things happened, chances are someone would have plotted a coup or an armed rebellion. Those who favor a return to the hard-line Soviet-style leadership would have seized the moment and tried to force their will. For the United States, this would have signaled a new foreign-policy crisis at a time when all energies in Washington are focused on President Clinton's own domestic crisis.
Instead, the Russian stock market soared Thursday by nearly 5 percent and the ruble gained strength. That was the first sign of life in the Russian economy since at least mid-August.
Primakov has his roots in the old Soviet Union, where he headed the immense espionage program. Those ties undoubtedly give him favor with the Communists, who are expected to approve his appointment. But Primakov is no hard-liner. He is prone to finding compromises.
He does, however, present some challenges for the United States. Primakov wants to ease sanctions against Iraq, and he strongly opposes NATO's expansion plans into former Soviet-bloc nations. That means the Clinton administration ought to work hard to develop a persuasive diplomatic relationship with him.
Most importantly, however, it means Russia's democratic experiment is still alive, and that's good news for the entire world.