Last summer, hard-line communists and Russian chauvinists fumbled in a coup attempt. This week, this same coalition proved too timid and disorganized to clip the wings of President Boris N. Yeltsin, making lots of noise but then surrendering without a fight. The reform movement won a respite of sorts -- until this summer.
The summer will be crucial. Money from the recently announced $24 billion Western aid package should be flowing by then, enabling the Russian government to curtail some of the rampant inflation and chaos in the economy. More reform programs also should be in place. All this could improve the food situation and lift sagging confidence. If that does not happen, the August-September period could propel Russia into a far more serious political crisis than the one just barely avoided.
Russia's basic political problems were not resolved this week. The crux of the dilemma is that about the only surviving communist-era political institution in Moscow is the Congress of People's Deputies. After the failed coup attempt, reformists ousted communist hard-liners from many other key positions in life. But discredited hard-liners still control the legislative body -- because Mikhail S. Gorbachev, in a futile effort to save socialism, packed the congress with appointed party loyalists.