MOSCOW: President Yeltsin’s long expected threat in mid-October to fire his longest serving minister, Andrei Kozyrev, incited concern all over the world. That decision was withdrawn almost instantly, on the eve of Yeltsin’s visit to France and the U.S. Obviously the Russian President was unwilling to travel with a non-minister of foreign affairs in toe.
Many reasons animated Yeltsin’s choice to make - and unmake - that decision. Kozyrev’s inability and unwillingness to forge a unified and coordinated foreign policy was the most obvious. Under Kozyrev’s non-leadership Russia could not even command the modest resources at its disposal. Foreign Minister Kozyrev is also blamed for a collapse in morale within the diplomatic corps. His rhetorical about-faces as he sought to transform himself from ultra-liberal to ultra-nationalist left Russian diplomats dispirited and fatally undermined his former ability to portray Russia as a benevolent and democratic country.
Worse, Kozyrev’s flip-flops, coming on the heels of his "Yes, yes, yes" policy in response to Western requests, earned him universal mistrust of Russian elites - nationalist and Westernizing alike.
Kozyrev may hang on as foreign minister, but few in Moscow think this ultimate survivor will survive for long. Most Russians will applaud his fall. No matter its timing, the end of Kozyrev’s sway over Russian foreign policy exposes a number of hard questions, both for Russia and the West.