MOSCOW -- The locale is the worst President Boris N. Yeltsin could have wished for. And the countries he has been counting on for help are in either economic doldrums or full-blown recession.
Is it any wonder, then, that Russia's leader will not be going to the Tokyo summit with the Group of Seven with his hand conspicuously out?
"The most important thing that we would like to hear from G-7, and it will be the key theme, I think, of the statement of our president, is access to markets, an end to discrimination," Deputy Prime Minister Boris G. Fyodorov said.
So look for a different kind of appeal from Mr. Yeltsin when he meets with the leaders of the richest Western countries in Japan's capital. Trade, not aid, is what he is expected to emphasize, although Russians still count on plenty of the latter as well.
Moscow is already resigned to the fact that it cannot hope for anything like the $4 billion to finance privatization of state-owned industries that had been President Clinton's original vision. But there has also been a high-level rethinking here of aid as a whole.
"The lesson now before everybody's eyes is how heavily the Soviet Union got in debt," said Mikhail Berger, economics correspondent for Izvestia. "The Russian leadership doesn't want Russia to get heavily indebted in turn."
Mr. Yeltsin's first experience with the G-7 in Munich a year ago also was a lesson in caution. Then, leaders of the seven richest industrial democracies triumphantly announced "a genuine and comprehensive partnership" with Russia, complete with pledges of $24 billion in assistance. But billions of that never materialized.
"The romanticism in Russia's expectations has gone," said Yevgeny V. Sergeyev, an influential member of the Supreme Soviet's Foreign Affairs Commission.
Russia expects negotiations to start on releasing International Monetary Fund reserve credits and the delivery of $300 million in Western aid to small and medium-size businesses, and it hopes the G-7 will approve "at least $2 billion" for the Clinton-backed program of privatization financing, Mr. Fyodorov said.
But it is Cold War-era restrictions still fettering trade with Russia that seem to upset the Moscow leadership most. Russian academics have tallied 300 laws and regulations in the United States alone that discriminate against goods from Russia as though they still came from the Communist Soviet Union, said Vladimir N. Zuyev of the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations.
By Mr. Berger's estimate, such restrictions -- for example, a U.S. ban on launching American-made space hardware on Moscow's booster rockets -- cost the struggling Russian economy $3 billion in lost business last year.
Foreign Minister Andrei V. Kozyr ev has served notice that Russia will now be pushing for its fair share of the worldwide arms, commercial space and nuclear engineering markets. With the demise of the Soviet bloc, Russia's weapons sales abroad have dropped to a fraction of the customary annual $50 billion, former Prime Minister Yegor T. Gaidar reports.
"If our exporters can normally trade, we won't need any government credits," Mr. Fyodorov maintained yesterday.
As if the dreary economic performance of the West weren't enough to dampen Russians' expectations, there is also the prickly matter of the summit's venue: the capital of the G-7 member with which Russia has the worst relations.