DATE=5/12/2000 TYPE=U-S OPINION ROUNDUP TITLE=PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN NUMBER=6-11818 BYLINE=ANDREW GUTHRIE DATELINE=WASHINGTON INTERNET=YES CONTENT= INTRO: Russia got a new president this week, as acting president Vladimir Putin was sworn into the job he has held for the past several months. The event has drawn considerable attention in the editorial columns of the U-S press, and we get a sampling now from ___________ in today's U-S Opinion Roundup. TEXT: Vladimir Putin was sworn in at the ornate great hall of the Kremlin Sunday [5/7] and then visited Moscow's main Orthodox Cathedral to receive the church's blessing. Our sampling begins in the Midwest, where the Chicago Tribune discusses the daunting task ahead for President Putin. VOICE: Much progress has been made in the decade since the Soviet Union collapsed and Boris Yeltsin was elected head of the modern Russian state. But today's Russia, in the words of a key Putin adviser, is "stagnated in a semireformed state." [President] Putin's legacy will be lustrous indeed if he can complete the reformation. .... Conditions could hardly be more auspicious as [he] ... begins his formal term. He is a new president -- of a new generation -- with a new legislature that appears as eager as he is to effect change. Russia's economy is growing and the troublesome military campaign in Chechnya -- for now at least -- has quieted. ... [Mr.] Putin ... has a critical window of opportunity to be bold and must seize it. TEXT: The Providence Journal has this to say about Mr. Putin's inaugural address. VOICE: Mr. Putin made two important points. To begin with, "for the first time in Russian history, supreme power in the country is being transferred in the most democratic and most simple way: through the will of the people, legally and peacefully." The brutal war against the Chechens is still being waged. But ... as a constitutional matter, Mr. Putin has said and done all the right things. ... His second point was more equivocal. "The movement towards a free society has not been easy [and] the establishment of a democratic state is a process still far from over," he said. ... "We want our Russia to be a free, prosperous, rich, strong and civilized country," he said, "a country of which its citizens are proud and which is respected in the world." No one can argue with that; nor would anyone hope for anything but the best in the Putin years. TEXT: In Ohio, Cleveland's Plain Dealer is awed by the huge responsibility Mr. Putin has taken on. VOICE: It's a responsibility that challenges comprehension. The Russian Federation spans eleven time zones, encompassing a land naturally rich in oil, metals, timber and agricultural potential. It ranks first in the world with a 99 percent literacy rate, and boasts a vast number of teachers, engineers and scientists. Yet its legacy of czarist rule followed by nearly a century of Communism's command economics has left its people without an understanding of, or a legal infrastructure for, the market economy to which they now so unwillingly must adjust. TEXT: In California, the San Francisco Examiner was frustrated by a lack of specifics, beyond the sweeping generalities. VOPICE: ... beyond [President] Putin's general promise to work openly and honestly for effective government and a better life for ordinary Russians, there were virtually no specifics about his contemplated policies. ... A truer test of [Mr.] Putin's presidential ability will be whether he can bring order, in a judicially sanctioned way, to the chaotic, crime-ridden economy -- starting with effective administration of widely flouted tax laws. The internal challenge he faces makes the prospect for a victorious Al Gore or George W. Bush look like a picnic. TEXT: In Georgia, the Augusta Chronicle is somewhat skeptical that the new Russian leader is too much of an enigma. VOICE: Foreign policy analysts in government and the media are poring over [his] inaugural address for some clues as to where he intends to take his beleaguered nation ... It's akin to reading tea leaves. We can't recall a head-of-state of a major country taking office where so little is known about him. TEXT: The Los Angeles Times calls Mr. Putin "a mixed picture," writing: VOICE: Sunday's inauguration ... [of Mr. Putin was] the first democratic succession of leadership in the country's history ...[and is] rich in symbolism and promise. [Mr.] Putin, a former K-G-B officer, likes to invoke the word "democracy," but it does not come naturally to him. At 47, he is younger and more vigorous than his predecessor, Boris ... Yeltsin.... He is taking charge of a country that has accomplished a great deal on the democratic front but disappointed in its economic transformation. ... [Mr.] Putin is an enigma. Even as a presidential candidate he said little about his policies or programs. /// OPT /// ...[He] should use the center-right majority in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, to push for much needed tax reform and a law clearly establishing the right of private ownership of land. /// END OPT /// TEXT: As for the New York Times, it focuses first on the significance of the inauguration and what a dramatic change it is for Russia. VOICE: It completed the first transfer of power from one freely elected leader to another in more than one- thousand years of Russian history. After the ceremony, the energetic new president and his aging predecessor stepped into the bright sunshine of Cathedral Square, the very place where generations of czars appeared after being crowned in the Cathedral of the Assumption. Little more than a decade ago, the idea of a democratically chosen president occupying that ground would have seemed unimaginable. TEXT: With that comment from the New York Times, we conclude this sampling of editorial reaction to the inauguration of Russia's new president, Vladimir Putin. NEB/ANG/KL 12-May-2000 14:29 PM EDT (12-May-2000 1829 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .