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U.S. Monitors Changes In Russia

A compromise plan designed to end Russia's economic meltdown brought a cautious reaction from the Clinton administration Sunday.

"We'll have to see how it all plays out," Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers told CBS News Senior White House Corresspondent Scott Pelley on CBS' Face the Nation.

"What is crucial is not words at this point but actions the Russians are able to take at what is a critical juncture for them and their management of the economy," Summers said.

However, Sunday's deal between the Russian parliament and acting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin was soon challenged by the Communists. The plan had opened the way for Chernomyrdin to eventually take over as Yeltsin's chosen successor.

Yeltsin last week fired his entire government, and named Chernomyrdin as acting prime minister.

Summers, who will be travelling with President Clinton Monday on a key summit meeting in Moscow, said that many of the problems plaguing the country have evolved out of corruption.

"There have been a lot of problems in the way the Russians have carried out their policies. Corruption has been a particularly serious problem - the lack of the rule of law, secure property rights, the way the money has been managed," Summers said.

However, the secretary added that Russia would not find a solution by reverting to its old ways.

"If they want to work through these problems, there's really no alternative to a market system based on the rule of law. They can't get there by going back to communism," Summers said.

The United States and other Western economic powers are concerned that Moscow will backtrack on free market reforms and return to some of the economic policies of the old Soviet communist state, including printing money to pay back-wages to workers and keep insolvent banks and businesses afloat.

Financial market turmoil intensified after the Russian government effectively devalued the ruble and declared a moratorium on some debt payments. The moves angered both the International Monetary Fund and the United States because they thought they had assurance that Moscow would defend its currency and negotiate with its creditors.

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson had approved of the rejected compromise deal, calling it a "very favorable development."

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Richardson said the United States was prepared to back continued financial support for Russia as long as it moves ahead with reforms.

"We're prepared to do more," Richardson, who is switching roles from U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "As long as there's economic reform, we're going to be there," he said.

However, political observers now speculate whether Mr. Clinton's trip to Russia -- where a powerless president is at the helm of an economic crisis -- will prove to be more than just a photo opportunity.