Keep Russia's Feet to the Fire

Prime minister sergei stepashin came to Washington this week to put Russian-American relations back on track after the Kosovo war and to keep IMF loans flowing. But with elections coming up in Russia and so many issues outstanding, the rail bed is still bumpy.

He assured US investors he will push market and legal reforms through the Communist-led Duma, or parliament, that blocked them so far.

The International Monetary Fund sees enough economic progress that it's ready to give a new $4.5 billion loan. That's risky lending to a major defaulter, and should be the last loan until further reforms.

Mr. Stepashin agreed to ask the Duma to ratify the START II arms-control treaty, begin discussion on a new pact, and discuss missile-defense systems. Both sides have a problem: Many in Congress want to toss out the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, while the Duma balks at approving START II.

The prime minister also promised to halt attacks on Moscow's Jewish synagogues and implied he would cut back on spying in the US.

Stepashin said the right things. But Russian leaders have said them before. The West must now make sure that this prime minister delivers.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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