Russia Slides Backwards?
Jude Wanniski
September 24, 1998


Memo To:Bob Bartley, WSJournal editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Yevgeni Primakov

Your September 3 lead editorial, “Russia Slides Backwards,” asks us to believe that the policies it has been following for the last several years under Boris Yeltsin have been taking it forward. You know better than almost anyone I know, Bob, that Russia has been going down the toilet under the guiding hands of our Treasury Department in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, and the sweet “shock therapy” ministrations of the International Monetary Fund. How can they do worse with the Old Guard? You may recall that it was the Old Guard that invited me to Moscow in 1989 to help advise the Gorbachev government on how to convert to market socialism. I asked you to support my efforts and you decided to help the New Guard and its shock therapy. Are you really happy with the results of the path you chose to follow?

Okay, let’s put that aside and return to your lead editorial. Please read through it and tell me what you propose the government might do to pull out of its tailspin? I can’t find any advice at all, only ridicule for the members of the Primakov team as it has so far been assembled. With all due respect, your boys took the ruble from 4-to-the-dollar to 10,000-to-the-dollar. Too many Russians have died of malnutrition, disease and alcoholism under the “shock therapy” scheme you backed, although I will admit you were half-hearted about it. If you are serious about helping Russia fix itself, you should be more constructive in your criticism. Suggest they fix the ruble to gold, at a reasonable price that will enable the poor people to preserve their savings and pensions. Like 2000 to the ounce. The government can say it will sell public lands for rubles only, at a market rate that makes the ruble worth 2000 ruble per ounce.

P.S. I wrote an op-ed for the NYTimes two weeks ago, but after they first decided to run it, they then decided not. It's about the same issue, Old Guard versus the so-called "Liberal Reformers." It's about how Primakov has to go back and start from Square One.

minimum wages.