Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction


March 29, 2000





With Vladimir Putin's victory in Russia's presidential race, overseas commentators were left to speculate--in the absence of a well-articulated campaign platform by Mr. Putin--on whether he is up to the "tall order" of righting the troubled Russian state without resorting to "authoritarian methods," and on what his reign signals for Russian-West relations.  "The Russian people have, as expected, elected their riddle wrapped in an enigma," said one pundit.  Despite the aura of "mystery" surrounding the president-elect, many--citing "the deeply Byzantine way in which Putin was crowned...before the voters had a chance to cast their ballot;" "the cynical disgrace of his conduct" in Chechnya; and Mr. Putin's stress on law and order that some worried would come at the expense of democratic freedoms--deemed that his victory gives rise to "grave doubts" and advised "keeping a close eye on Putin."  A few analysts, by contrast, took some comfort in the fact that, under a "young and energetic" new president, "Russia at last has the opportunity for change."  Whether Mr. Putin would seize the opportunity to "put Russia back on track"--by, e.g., "tackling corruption and crime"--was an open question.  Some concluded that, in the end, the president-elect might strike a balance between "democratic and authoritarian methods," ruling as an "enlightened dictator."  Others added, however, that the direction of Mr. Putin's leadership will emerge only after a new government is formed.  Additional highlights follow:


'AN EPIC TASK' FACES PUTIN:  Numerous analysts underscored the daunting challenges facing the president-elect, particularly on the domestic front.  In a typical view, a British writer posited: "The government must reappropriate the country's resource wealth.  It must cut the oligarchs down to size....  It must raise enough in reduce corruption.  It must establish an effective legal system.  It must create a normal cash-based economy." 


'COLLISION' COURSE WITH WEST?:  While some observers argued that the new Kremlin leader "will not risk major confrontations with the West"--especially because "he needs its money" and "is aware of the importance" of positive relations with both NATO and the EU--others were not so sanguine.  A Singapore daily, speaking for others in Europe and Asia, held that "where Mr. Putin sees Russia in the global scheme of things could challenge American notions of omnipotence."  "The new Russian government will identify its interests in terms that will collide with basic Western principles," seconded a Madrid analyst. 


VIEWS FROM RUSSIA:  Papers of various political stripes saw the poll result as a "sign of popular trust" in Mr. Putin, with voters judging him to be a "man of action," "capable of solving the most urgent problems" and "turning Russia into an effective state, a great...nation."  Some focused on the high expectations the electorate has for Mr. Putin's ability to "clean up the mess left behind by Yeltsin."  Reformist Izvestiya, however, echoed the Russian leader's own claim in asserting that "nobody expects miracles of him."  A few papers also took note of liberal candidate Yavlinsky's "drubbing," seeing it more broadly as a "defeat for liberal forces."

EDITOR:  Katherine L. Starr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This survey is based on 64 reports from 48 countries, March 23 - 29.  Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.




RUSSIA:    "Popular Trust"


Aleksei Kiva said in official parliamentary Parlamentskaya Gazeta (3/29):  "Putin's victory in the first round is a sign of popular trust....  Popular trust is extremely important at crucial moments in the history of a country, when its leader has to make hard decisions.  Clearly, the greater the faith in a president-elect at home, the greater the confidence he incites abroad....  If Putin does not want to lose the Russians' trust as fast as Yeltsin did, he should distance himself from the family.  Otherwise, all his fine words about national resurgence, justice, and combatting poverty, corruption and crime will remain just words."


"Russians Want Orderly Change"


Editor-in-chief Viktor Linnik of neo-communist Slovo (3/29-30) stated on page one:  "Most voters have made it clear that they favor an orderly change, nothing offhand or impetuous.  The majority prefers the 'unfamiliar' Putin. Russians for the most part rejected their communist and more recent democratic past.  Sunday's vote means a change of political guideposts in contemporary Russia.  The post-1991 era is drawing to a close.  Russia is shedding its old skin.  That which is emerging is a transition to a qualitatively new state."


"Putin Can Do Things"


Editor-in-chief Vitaly Tretyakov of centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (3/28):  "Putin has won because society considers him the only effective politician in this country, capable of solving its most urgent problems (like Chechnya).  Putin has won because, of all the candidates, he (paradoxically) is the only one whom society does not associate with Yeltsin.  The others are symbols, attributes and figures of the Yeltsin regime, slack, anarchist, powerless and impotent.  Putin has won because he is articulate about his strategic goal of turning Russia into an effective state, a great and rich nation.  He is the only one, society believes, who not only wants that but can make it happen....  Zyuganov has half-won, half-lost.  He has half-won because he has remained the Number One communist and Number One opponent.  He has half-lost because for all the formidable electoral base and deep-running leftist sentiment in society, he can't really compete with Putin....  Yavlinsky has lost on all counts.  He has ceased to be the chief contender for leadership in the democratic opposition."


"Putin Black Box"


Andrei Kolesnikov pointed out in reformist Izvestiya (3/28): "Funny, comparing the head of state to a 'black box' was still justified on March 27.  Left alone with that object, even Putin would not know with what to fill it. Uncertainties will remain until economic and political priorities are specified and a new cabinet and Kremlin administration formed."


"Man Of Action"


Otto Latsis commented on page one of reformist Noviye Izvestiya (3/28): "Society does not support Moscow's second Chechen campaign because it likes it.  It supports this campaign because it knows that after the bandits' attack on Daghestan, the government had no choice. 



"More importantly, voters realize that they are electing a new head of state to deal with Russia's socio-economic and political problems, not to carry out a military operation.  The current events in the North Caucasus, dramatic though they are, did not determine the political choice....  It so happened that the majority placed their hopes for reform on Putin.  True, he did not present his socio-economic program, but he showed himself to be a man of action."


"Democrats Lose"


Leonid Radzikhovskiy front-paged this view in reformist Segodnya (3/28):  "Yavlinsky's drubbing at the ballot box represented not just a personal failure but the failure of an idea--and the defeat of the democratic liberal forces in Russia.  And center-right cousins such as Chubais, Gaidar and others have lost along with Yavlinsky....  This is a death sentence for the Yeltsin era and the era of reform.  Why did the country vote for Yeltsin's successor?  Not because people see him as Yeltsin's successor; rather, they expect Putin to put thing in order and clean up the mess left behind by Yeltsin and his reformers."


"How Legitimate Is Russia's President?"


Aleksandr Frolov charged on page one of nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (3/28): "It looked as though the masses placed no big hopes on the March 26 poll.  It did not feel like the 'last and decisive battle.'  [Ed. Note: From the Russian version of the 'Internationale.']  So there is no feeling of defeat among the patriots.  Evidently, Russia is entering a new historical phase where its problems will have to be resolved other than by voting.  Nothing extraordinary has happened.  It is just that we have had a new question added to the dozens on our list: Does this country have a legitimate president?"


"Miracles Not Expected"


Georgy Bovt and Yevgeny Krutikov judged in reformist Izvestiya (3/27):  "What can't Putin do even if he wants to?  He cannot make Russia a totalitarian country again. Totalitarianism requires a nation-wide totalitarian emotional upsurge.  A sluggish and calculated victory, even in the first round, does not create preconditions for such an upsurge.  Putin will not be able to quickly force the country to live according to the laws of a developed market....  Neither four nor seven years will be enough for him or even God Almighty to rid the man in the street from sponging attitudes and introduce new labor ethics on a large scale.  Even under Putin Internet and the most advanced computer technologies will not be a part of the province's life....  Putin will not be able to propel the country into the 21st century with a single push.  Miracles do not happen.  But nobody expects them of him."


BRITAIN:  "A Journey Into The Unknown"


The independent Financial Times had this op-ed commentary by columnist Martin Wolf (3/29):  "The Russian people have, as expected, elected their riddle wrapped in an enigma....  The challenge that Russia confronts can be defined by what he is--and is not--able to do.  He can rule his country by decree, but cannot be confident of obedience.  He can devastate Chechnya, but cannot pay his country's doctors.  A civilized country has a law-governed and effective state.  Russia is the antithesis....  The task can at least be defined.  The government must reappropriate the country's resource wealth.  It must cut the oligarchs down to size.  It must raise enough in taxes and pay its servants enough to reduce corruption.  It must establish an effective legal system, with workable property rights.  It must, in the process, create a normal cash-based economy and harmonious relations with lower levels of government. This is a very tall order."



"Putin's Presidency"


The conservative Times had this lead editorial (3/28):  "Vladimir Putin now has the popular support he needs to run Russia.  In contrast to his quixotic, decrepit and flawed predecessor...Mr. Putin is young and energetic enough to let him actually put in the hours at his Kremlin office that will be needed to implement whatever policies he decides to pursue.  Under its new president, therefore, Russia at last has a great opportunity for change....  Mr. Putin's willingness to cooperate with foreign governments and NATO should be encouraged by the West.  But, given that the years of maverick rule are over and a firmer hand is at the Russian wheel, Western governments must also be firmer in insisting that Russia finally bring in the reforms--of tax, property and investment law--that it has promised for too long."


"Putin Does Not Deserve Praise Unless He Is A Catalyst For Change"


The centrist Independent said in its lead editorial (3/28):  "The jury is still out on Vladimir Putin, though the signs are not good.  The Western enthusiasm for him is difficult to understand.  As befits a spy, his track record is almost invisible but his career suggests that liberalism is not always his prime concern.  Only on one issue can we see just where he stands.  Very depressing it is, too.  His conduct of the war in Chechnya...has been a cynical disgrace....  There is, admittedly, a potential chink of light in the darkness.  Mr. Putin has talked of the need for a 'dictatorship of law'--in other words, the creation of a civil society, which Russia so badly needs.  Russians feel alienated from the laws that theoretically protect them; that must change.  If Putin sets Russia on the right road in this regard, then he will deserve respect.  To praise Mr. Putin for a few fine words makes no sense at all, however.  If Putin's Russia becomes a place of tolerance, he will deserve respect.  But killing civilians to win an election is a poor start."


"President Putin"


In its lead editorial, the independent Financial Times held (3/27):  "Mr. Putin's election is no triumph of liberal politics....  To a foreign audience Mr. Putin speaks the comforting language of reform, of market economics and open politics.  At home, his rhetoric is of nationalism and discipline, of liquidating terrorists and purging enemies of the state.  Russian voters love it.  The West should offer cautious friendship....  He has much to prove.  The Russian election is an opportunity.  We do not know whether Mr. Putin will seize it."


"Power To Putin"


The conservative Daily Telegraph offered this perspective (3/27):  "Yesterday's poll...marked the first transfer of power through the ballot box in Russia's history.  That is one of Mr. Yeltsin's greatest legacies, but his fitful attention to running Russia has nonetheless left his successor with much to do.  The gravest doubts about Mr. Putin arise from his close association with the second Chechen war....  In the one area in which he has made a name for himself, [he] has come across as autocratic and short-sighted.  Only with his inauguration in May shall we know whether there is more to him than the conduct of that war suggests."


FRANCE:   "Putin, But For What?"


Left-of-center Le Monde said in its editorial (3/29):   "Aside from the war in Chechnya, no one knows what this new president is capable of doing....  Putin needs to address the question of reforms for small business, land ownership and transparency in foreign investment.  While this would not be democracy per se, it would already be the opposite of arbitrary power.  Something that is in no one's interest, not the Russian people or the international community."



"The West Ready To Be Charmed By Putin"


Pierre Haski opined in left-of-center Liberation (3/28):  "The West will not say it too loud, but it is clearly relieved by the Russian election results....  With Putin, the West is hoping for an essential element in international relations: predictability....  Even if Yeltsin's successor appears to be rather enigmatic in matters of foreign policy, it is generally believed that he will not brandish the threat of nuclear arms at every turn....  But will Europeans and Americans have the necessary ambition and the means to define a new basis for their relations with Putin?"


"The Elusive Dauphin"


Irina de Chikoff filed from Moscow in right-of-center Le Figaro  (3/27):  "He seduces but also frightens....  Boris Yeltsin was unpredictable, full of shortcomings, but irresistibly alive.  His designated successor has something mechanical about him."


"Putin Snatches Victory, Not Plebiscite"


Yves Bourdillon and Nicolas Tonev noted from Moscow in right-of-center Les Echos (3/27):  "Vladimir Putin did not get the massive plebiscite he was dreaming of to anchor his authority....  He will be judged on reducing corruption and paying salaries, and on the end of the Chechen conflict.  He will also have to attract foreign investors."


"Putin Winner"


Joshua Krimov wrote from Moscow for right-of-center France Soir (3/27): "Putin will now have to manage the capital of popularity he has gained with populist statements flattering the Russian yearning for authority.  He will essentially have to brush aside the oligarchs."


GERMANY:  "The West's Wish List On Russia"


Stefan Kornelius judged in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/29):  "The political wish list of the West is long:  Europe and the United States want to regain influence over Russian reforms; they want security for their credits, stability, and peacefulness.  That is why Putin's economic reform will be most significant.  Already the United States is talking about the possibility of credits if the new president behaves himself....  However, the Russian president, too, has a useful tool for exerting pressure and setting up deals with the West.  President Clinton wants nothing more than to end his tenure with a disarmament treaty.  The American is thinking of a double deal: Ratification of START II and an agreement which would give the United States the right to deploy a missile defense system."


"Who Is This Mr. Putin?"


Moscow correspondent Sabine Adler told listeners on national DeutschlandRadio of Berlin (3/27):  "Who is this Mr. Putin?  Where will he lead his country to?  Everybody still has the chance to look for those commonplaces among Putin's statements....  But soon it will become clear what the former KGB man means by order, dictatorship of the law, and a liberal economic policy....  If the Russians are lucky, Putin's path will lead via stability to democracy.  But in order to achieve this goal, the economic situation must be improved, human rights must become valid, and tolerance for a variety of views must be developed....  This would by far be the most favorable option, but, unfortunately, also the one that is most unlikely."







Werner Adam front-paged this editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (3/27):  "Apart from the fact that Yeltsin's successor owes his popularity mainly to the merciless war in Chechnya and that he was vague about his political and economic views before the election, Putin's election leaves doubts about whether Russia has broken with its past.  It is the deeply Byzantine way with which Putin was crowned as candidate and was then supported by the opponents of his mentor Yeltsin before the voters had a chance to cast their ballots."


"The Wrong Man For Russia"


Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/27) argued:  "This was no election, it was like the crowning of a crown prince....  The Russian voters have confirmed a man as the master in the Kremlin of whom they know little, but of whom they expect much.  After the years of a policy which caricatured terms like democracy and reforms, Putin's voters simply want better times, but it is very likely that their hopes will be disappointed, for Putin is the wrong man for Russia....  Russia lacks not only the culture of openness but also the will to develop it.  Under Putin, the mania to keep as much secret as possible has not decreased but increased.  Of the more than 1,000 decisions which Putin made in January and February almost half got the secret status.  And the anti-crisis program, which is to bring Russia being developed by state functionaries, and of course is strictly secret....  This is the wrong path."


ITALY:  "Putin And His Double"


Enzo Bettiza commented on the front-page of centrist, influential La Stampa (3/29):  "It is not very meaningful to keep on wondering who Putin is and what is hidden in the black box of his mind.  His...days as acting president have shown rather clearly who Putin is and will be.  A key feature of the long and troubled transition of post-Soviet Russia is a two-sidedness to political power, which is in a continuous balance between democratic and authoritarian methods...and Putin is a perfect heir to this.  It is indeed very likely that both Russia and the world will never deal with only one Putin but always with two or even three Putins....  It will be a Putin, who, once he has gotten rid of ideological restraints, pragmatically...and unscrupulously uses the most convenient means in order to pursue the aims he wants.  He will resort to democratic means when he has to modernize the economic system, and he will resort to autocratic means if they are necessary to make the state stronger."


"And What Now?"


Stefano Silvestri opined in leading, business Il Sole-24 Ore (3/29):  "And what now?  Certainly, a positive thing is that the long period of uncertainty due to Putin's predecessor's health conditions is over....  We know he wants to strengthen the authority of the central state...and, indeed, his nationalism might have positive effects...providing it does not become only a rejection of dialogue and cooperation efforts with...the Council of Europe and the OSCE....  Up until now Putin has clearly expressed his willingness to follow Yeltsin's path...and signals he sent to his interlocutors seem balanced.  For example, he is rather aware of the importance of establishing a positive relationship with both NATO and the EU....  Open and urgent issues, such as Kosovo and EU enlargement, as well as...negotiations with the Americans over ABM and nuclear disarmament...are indeed the real litmus test to understand what the Russian place in the world will be."






"The West Is Notified"


Ennio Caretto front-paged this comment in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (3/28):  "The post-Yeltsin era in Russia began with a surprise for Clinton and America: the announcement that the Kremlin's foreign policy will change....  What is significant is that [Putin's] first public act was to challenge the White House.  Putin, in fact, rejected the 'strategic partnership' with the United States....  Clinton and America, who were betting on a continuity with Yeltsin's policy will have to review their strategy....  After having been humiliated for a long time, especially in Kosovo...Russia wants to regain its historical strength and prestige.  It will not stop its dialogue with the United States, but it wants it to be on a level field."


"Inside The 'Black Box'"


Piero Sinatti concluded in leading, business Il Sole-24 Ore (3/28):  "The new president said he will keep oligarchs at a distance and that he will redefine the powers of the...heads of regions and republics in the federation.  We will see if...Putin keeps his promises....  The appointment of his new government...will be his first real test.  The four-year budget plan...the second one.  We will then begin to know what is inside the Putin 'black box.'"


"The New Game Between East And West"


Aldo Rizzo commented in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/27):  "Clinton has said of Putin that he is 'very intelligent and well motivated, with strong views.'  There is no doubt about that, the question is now what use he will make of his intelligence and what his strong views are in reality, beyond the merciless use of force in Chechnya.  Putin is most likely a pragmatist, who knows the reasons for the collapse of the Soviet empire and knows that the Russians nonetheless expect a return to superpower status, and law and order at home.  This should include a fight against corruption, while his pragmatism should help Putin in foreign policy--reminding him that he cannot sacrifice to Russian nationalism the need for strong cooperation with the West, both on strategic weapons as well as in the economic field."


AUSTRIA:  "Who Is The New President?"


Mass-circulation Kurier (3/28) carried a commentary by foreign affairs editor Livia Klingl:  "The question of who is this new president of an ailing superpower cannot be answered, not even after his victory.  Quite irritating is the way he gained power, because it was based solely on the Chechen war.  Until now, he has failed to present a program....  Only when a new prime minister is nominated and a new cabinet is formed, will it be possible to see which oligarchs will continue to have a hand in the government...and will no longer have a say.  These decisions will be a yardstick of Russia's future policy.  From the point of view of foreign policy, Russia will probably become more predictable with the disciplined pragmatist at its helm.  He will not risk major confrontations with the West, because he needs its money.  Putin's violation of the freedom of the press in his approach to journalists and...Chechnya give a foretaste of his potential domestic policy." 


BELGIUM:  "Lord Of The Kremlin"


Foreign editor Axel Buyse opined in independent Catholic De Standaard (3/28):  "The challenges with which the Russian president is confronted seem to be phenomenal....  He will have to tackle deep-rooted social evils like corruption.  And, above all, he will have to show that he has the guts to tackle the oligarchs....  Moreover, he must be able to put an end to the military Chechnya.  He must also gain a grip on regional leaders."



"And Now?"


Pol Mathil asked in independent Le Soir (3/28):  "And now?  Impostor or providential man?...  At home as abroad, President Putin will have to be judged on his acts. This is even more true since he cannot be judged on his platform or on his intentions:  The candidate Putin never revealed any of them."


"Intentions Unclear"


Francoise Delstanche editorialized in financial L'Echo (3/28):  "Vladimir Putin's intentions remain unclear.  The new strong man of Russia has never explained his economic program.  He never specified what he meant with 'dictatorship of the law' and by a strong state, nor how he intended to defeat the powerful lobby of the new industrial and financial oligarchs.  One can only fear that the war in Chechnya is a foretaste of the methods he plans on using to restore his country's 'prestige and place in the world.'"


"For Now, West Must Wait And See"


Paul De Bruyn argued in conservative Catholic Gazet van Antwerpen (3/28):  "Putin has already tried to assure the West....  [But] Putin's reconciling language does not guarantee anything.  It does not mean that Moscow is ready for better relations with the West.  The Russians feel humiliated by NATO....  For the time being, the West cannot do much more than wait and see."


"Vladimir Putin's Hidden Face"


Philippe Paquet editorialized in conservative Catholic La Libre Belgique (3/27):  "Here is at last a Russian president who has the physical capacity to match his potential ambitions....  But the way Vladimir Putin--who did not even need to campaign--was elected shows how far Russia still is from Europe....  The new resident of the Kremlin is, in many aspects, an enigma.  A boring campaign did not reveal anything of his capacities or of his convictions.  This leaves room for hope that Mr. Putin has unsuspected skills....  So far, Putin has not shown whether he could be an astute politician, a shrewd diplomat, or a competent and honest statesman.  But in his dealings with his 'sponsors' as well as with NATO and the IMF, Yeltsin's successor can surprise and put Russia back on track."


BULGARIA:  "Challenges Ahead"


Left-leaning Monitor held (3/29):  "Now Putin will have to deal with several direct challenges and to prove that he's not just a political hot air balloon.  He must end the war in Chechnya by political means and thus keep it within the Russian federation.  Secondly, he needs to mobilize the Russian economy."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Enlightened Dictatorship"


Sandra Kristofova stressed in centrist Zemske noviny (3/28):  "There are too many questions about one election and one country that has inherited a nuclear arsenal....  Putin's Russia will probably be an enlightened dictatorship that will formally keep democratic principles and make sure, in its own interest, that the economy is based on free and liberal grounds.  A mix of Bonapartism, Pinochetism and democracy, which could suit Russia, and the West would reconcile with it.  A half-democratic but stable nuclear power makes a more transparent partner than a democratic but divided country on the edge of chaos."




DENMARK:   "View With Caution"


Center-right Jyllands-Posten commented (3/28):  "The crucial factor is how Putin will use his office.  At the present time, we still do not know much about Putin.  We do not know what kind of government he will form or what kind of people he will surround himself with.  We do not know what kind of economic policies he favors. From the West's point of view a lot of reasons exist why we should view Putin with extreme caution--not least, his campaign in Chechnya."  


HUNGARY:  "What's Next?"


Miklos Kun judged in center-right Magyar Nemzet (3/27):  "The secret of Putin's popularity before the election rest with the fact that he had promised everything to everybody.  Now his victory is there....  What's next?  Which direction will Putin go, and along with him Russia?"


LITHUANIA:  "Russia Makes Clear Choice, But Putin Remains A Puzzle"


Top-circulation, national Lietuvos Rytas asserted (3/27):  “The election of Putin in a certain sense marks the beginning of a new era, goodbye to Yeltsin’s ‘unstable and indecisive Russia,’ and hello to the ‘Iron Putin.’  Trent Lott...and Madeleine Albright have said, Putin is still a puzzle.” 




Independent, left-of-center Utrinski Vesnik (3/28) had an op-ed by Dimitar Culev:  "Why Putin? Two reasons.  Internally, he promised a 'dictatorship of law;' and in the field of foreign affairs, he exhibited an ability to make autonomous decisions (read actions in Chechnya) in the midst of international pressure."


THE NETHERLANDS:  "Best, Worst Case Scenarios"


Influential, liberal De Volkskrant opined (3/28):  "Under the leadership of former KGB spy Putin, Russia is entering a new era.  In the best case scenario, Russia will become a rather authoritarian-guided democracy; in the worst case scenario, Russia will slowly but surely slip into becoming a police state."


"The Ideal Leader"


Left-of-center Trouw front-paged this editorial (3/27):  "It is very clear that most Russians see in Putin their ideal leader.  This is understandable.  Putin seems to represent that which Yeltsin lacked: the power to convince, the will to tackle corruption and crime, and the capabilities to give Russia politically and economically an appropriate place on the world stage.  However, one could wonder whether the Russian people are right.  Putin is extremely good at keeping his cards to himself, allowing the people to see in him what they wish to see: an economic reformer, a strong centralist who keeps the country together, an anti-democrat who restricts freedom of the press, someone who wants to clean up the Kremlin....  But there is one exception, and that is Chechnya.  Putin has been very clear on this issue....  The world cannot but respect the choice of the Russian people.  However, there is sufficient reason to keep a close eye on Putin and to question his policy [if] the new Russian leader confuses decisiveness with dictatorship."






NORWAY:  "A Clear Result, Unclear Future"


Newspaper-of-record Aftenposten commented (3/28):  "Just as unsure as the big country's future is Putin's political direction....  We know almost just as little about both."


"A New Era?"


Christian Democratic Vaart Land held (3/28):  "The people have first and foremost voted for safety....  After years of uncertainty with a sick and unpredictable leader, the Russians wanted something more stable.  What Putin stands for in politics is unknown."


POLAND:  "Who Putin Really Is"


Krystyna Szelestowska wrote in leftist Trybuna (3/28):  "Russia has a new leader, one who is totally different from his sickly and unpredictable predecessor.  But in truth neither his voters nor the world...can say with certainty what Putin is like and what kind of president he will make.  The Russian people...supported the young politician...because a yearning for strong leadership is still strong in Russia. By deciding for an uncompromising war against Chechnya, Putin demonstrated he is a determined man, one who will not let Russia be humiliated and marginalized....  But Russia...also needs a good program to cure its economy....  Will the new president be able to meet this challenge?"


ROMANIA:  "A Real Czar"


Bogdan Chirieac stressed in leading, independent Adevarul (3/28):  "People expect to see Putin at work, because he was elected for this very reason:  He promised to be a real czar.  He stated that from now on Russia would be ruled by a 'law dictatorship.'  This is very different from the 'dictatorship of the proletariat,' but also different from Western liberal democracy.  Putin will probably...combine the 'iron hand' of the political ruler with a market economy led by the tycoons of the military-industrial branch....  This is not a political system that would fit Europe, but it could prove efficient in maintaining the stability of this colossus during this transition period."


SPAIN:   "West Needs To Devise New Approaches To Moscow"


Hermann Tertsch counseled in center-left El Pais (3/29):  "Putin will not do anything silly in his relations with Europe and the United States in the near term...but Russia's rhetoric will shift and the international scene will return to multipolarity, as Moscow seeks allies to shore up its status as a Third World nuclear power.  The new Russian government will identify its interests in terms that will collide with basic Western principles and redefine its relations with internal critics, minorities, and labor unions in ways not always seen as palatable.  For these reasons, the West needs to devise new approaches to attitudes and policies like those on display in Chechnya that it cannot allow to remain unchallenged."


"With Putin, Everything And Nothing Changes"


Independent El Mundo opined (3/27):  "No one has ever accumulated so much power in so short a time coming from so far afield....  Russians have opted for a political leader whose ideas and personality remain a mystery....  It is doubtful that Putin is seriously interested in doing away with corruption....  His rapid ascent is owing in large part to the support of Yeltsin's entourage....  It is therefore unlikely that his policies will differ much from those of his predecessor."



SWEDEN:  "Victory For Civil Servant Putin"


Social Democratic Aftonbladet carried this editorial (3/27):  "Now hopes are pinned on [Putin] to make changes.  However, it is doubtful that he is the right man to fulfill these expectations.  The only thing that can be said about him is that he represents some kind of liberal conservatism that espouses strong confidence in the state administration....  Putin is only a civil servant at a time when Russia needs a new set of values."


SWITZERLAND:  "The Difficult Path To Reform"


Gerardo Morina, foreign editor of the largest Italian-language Corriere del Ticino observed (3/27):  "Putin will have to clearly define his relationship with the West, in particular with the United States....  On this, Moscow is displaying two faces.  One of cautiousness and dependence as it needs funds from the IMF, and the other of absolute parity with Washington at the international political level, making use of its nuclear card." 


TURKEY:  "Russia's New Czar"


Soli Ozel wrote in intellectual/liberal Yeni Binyil (3/27):  "Putin's KGB career, his characterization of the journalists who are against him as traitors, his description of Chechens as animals, and his indifference to the plight of Chechens in concentration camps like Chernokozovo, are all indicative of his political identity.  In the new era, it is not difficult to predict the erosion of Russia's political life, leading to increased restrictions on freedoms.  Even if Putin proves that the positive scenarios about him are correct, Russia's huge problems are not expected to be handled easily."




CHINA:   "Russia's Foreign Policy Likely To Oppose Western Strategy"


Li Qingyi wrote in official China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao, 3/29):  "Analysts say Putin is likely to adopt an independent foreign policy concentrating on Russia's national interests, which sharply opposes the West's strategy to control and cripple Russia.  Therefore, a new round of contests may occur between Russia and the West after Putin takes office."


"What Made Putin Win?"


Liu Gang wrote in the official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 3/28): "Putin's unyielding stance in the face of pressure from the West as well as his pragmatic policy have contributed to his victory in the presidential elections.  He impresses the people as 'shrewd, iron-handed, brave and careful.'"


HONG KONG:  "Hard Foreign Policy Choices"


The independent Hong Kong Standard wrote in its editorial (3/28): "In the foreign policy realm, Mr. Putin will be faced with a hard choice between China and the United States.  Some analysts say...the new president will tend to get closer to Washington in order to get economic aid.  But given his mandate and the fact that he is being surrounded by generals and former intelligence operatives, he may tend to share more of China's views....  Nevertheless, the world's mainstream trend is cooperation.  Under a more stable and effective leadership, Russia should be in a better position to cooperate with both Washington and Beijing."




"Sino-Russian Partnership;  U.S.-Russian Friction"


Pro-PRC Wen Wei Po had this editorial (3/28): "In terms of foreign affairs, Putin already said that Russia would continue to oppose a unipolar world and hegemonism.  Russia will develop an independent foreign affairs policy....  It is expected that a Sino-Russian strategic partnership relationship will develop in a stable way.  The United States interfered in Russian internal affairs and threatened Russia...[on] Chechnya.  Putin simply took no notice of U.S. threats.  The U.S. attitude toward Putin's election is fairly cool....  Hence, frictions between the United States and Russia are inevitable." 


INDONESIA:  "After Election, Prospects For Russian Democracy Remain Unclear"


Leading, independent Kompas posited (3/27):  "The theme of Putin's campaign to restore the state's power raised concern that this signals a restriction of the public's civil rights, akin to what was done during the communist era....  Putin's rise to power does not necessarily assure Russia of a better democracy.  Throughout its eleven Russian leader has been able to exercise democracy seriously."


JAPAN:  "Putin Must Reform Russia"


Liberal Asahi observed (3/28):  "During his election campaign, Mr. Putin stressed the need to restore law and order, to create a 'dictatorship of the law' and to reform the country's economy.  Russia's priority to restoring law and order is understandable, but we are concerned over the possible formation of an oppressive and authoritarian government by Putin, a former KBG operative, who, for instance, imposed strict control on media coverage of Russia's recent military operation into Chechnya....  Now, he must give top priority to eradicating corruption....  First and foremost, Russia must invite foreign investment and reconstruct its economy rather than tinkering with its bygone 'superpower' mentality."


THE PHILIPPINES:  "What Kind Of Society Will Putin Lead? 


University of the Philippines professor Ben Lim wrote in his column in the independent Philippine Post (3/29):  "What kind of society will Putin establish or lead?  Certainly it would not be one of Communist restoration or the establishment of the Great Russian statehood as proposed by the new generation of communists.  He may preserve the current political system and pursue some of the liberal policies leading to a market economy as a concession to the rightists....  Russian democracy will follow the path of evolving Third World democracies, a liberal economy with an 'autocratic democracy.'" 


SINGAPORE:  "Putin Can Surprise"


The pro-government Straits Times argued (3/29):  "After the confused state of [Yeltsin's] presidency, the coming of Vladimir a breath of fresh air....  The Russians dare hope that Mr. Putin can arrest the slide, then turn the country around.  It is an epic task....  But here is a man who can provide leadership.  He does come imbued with a sense of mission.  This is precisely what Russia needs at this juncture....  If [Putin] can merge his vigor and decisiveness with a credible plan of action to reorganize the economy and alter the coarse morality of the wealthy business class, Russia stands a chance....  In foreign affairs, where Mr. Putin sees Russia in the global scheme of things could challenge American notions of omnipotence.  This is a welcome development.  The United States has been vocal about his authoritarian tendencies, and may have got on the wrong side of him....  What is clear is that the United States, despite its material support for Russia's market transition, will have no sway over Mr. Putin's world vision.  Secondly, a Russia-China strategic alliance is possibility."."


"A Russia At Risk"


The pro-government Straits Times opined (3/23):  "It is hard to discern whether Mr. Putin is up to the task....  Putin has not offered details in his campaigning on how he would reform the system and fix the sinking morality.  He has only hinted at tighter state controls to check malfeasance.  Were things that simple.  Indeed, the impression is being engendered that he is flying blind....  If Mr. Putin is overwhelmed by the task, Russia is at risk of becoming an irrelevance in today's globalized construct.  Only its nuclear status would spare it total oblivion....  The political transition has got into a rut.  It will need continued help from the United States and aid agencies like the IMF to keep going."


SOUTH KOREA:   "Putin's Russia"


Independent Hankyoreh Shinmun (3/29) editorialized:  "[Putin's] biggest challenge will be to figure out what to do with the small oligarchic group that benefited the most from Yeltsin's privatization process....  Unlike pro-U.S. Yeltsin, Putin is more likely to have his own voice toward the United States....  Meanwhile, China, threatened by Washington's global leadership, will be holding out its hand to Russia.  Clearly, change in U.S.-Russian relations is on the way, although Putin may not abruptly modify his course of diplomacy."


"Putin's Rule"


Conservative Segye Ilbo asserted (3/28):  "Putin, first of all, will choose a practical line of diplomacy toward the West because it is necessary  for his own pursuit of democracy and a market system.  How he handles the relationship with the West will determine his chances of finding cures for the 'Russian illness,' including corruption and economic confusion.  The relationship with the West is where the fate of his political life lies....  Russia will be seeking improved standing on the international stage, a motive that will force Putin to be more involved in international affairs.  This prospect could exacerbate relations with the United States."


VIETNAM:  "V.Putin: 'There Is No Miracle'"


Phan Xuan Loan wrote in Tuoi Tre, mouthpiece of Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Youth League (3/28):  "After three months of turning himself into a enigma to avoid pressure, it's time now for Putin to 'show off' and face real problems....  Russians are still waiting to see if he is capable of avoiding the influence of the tycoons....  How will Mr. Putin handle the issue of NATO's enlargement to the East?  How will he get financial support and attract foreign investment to Russia without a loss of pride by the 'Russian Bear'?  The answer lies ahead."     




PAKISTAN:  "Putin's Challenges"


The centrist, national News maintained (3/29):  "The greatest internal political challenge facing Mr. Putin would be to deliver on his electoral pledges to restore Russia's might, fight corruption and battle poverty and social injustice....  Mr. Putin would also have to move quickly to bring Moscow's involvement in the war in Chechnya to an early conclusion....  Russia's desperate search for political stability following years of dysfunctional rule by Boris Yeltsin will not come to fruition if Mr. Putin continues to act like a bully in Chechnya and does not treat the path of compromise and diplomacy."







EGYPT:   "Only The Future Will Tell"


Pro-government Al Ahram held (3/29):  "Clearly, there are fears among Western countries, especially the United States about the future of Russia.  Yeltsin was a secure ally...but the new president is different from his predecessor in everything.  Only the future will tell."




BURKINA FASO:  "What To Expect From Vladimir Putin's Election?"


Independent Le Pays held (3/29):  "The new president's moves are particularly awaited on two matters [the fight against corruption and the resolution of the Chechen war]....  The time has come for Putin to take the plunge.  The new Russian president must start working very soon to save a seriously ill Russia....  On the international side, the support of the United States is indisputably necessary so that communism does not get the upper hand.  Besides this political reason, there is also the fact that Russia is still a nuclear power that must be handled carefully."




ARGENTINA:  "A Country In Search Of A Strong Hand"


Facundo Landivar, on special assignment in Moscow for daily-of-record La Nacion, judged (3/27):  "One word explains the victory obtained by Vladimir Putin yesterday: leadership.  Because this is what this society--fed up with the past and tired of chaos--was calling for and he gave it to them: a sufficiently strong hand to lead the country out of a crisis, a physically healthy leader, a ruler who is still young and thinks about reforms but who believes and bets on Russia's traditional values.  What in the West may sound tough and even inadmissible in a candidate--such as promising the 'dictatorship of law,' launching a full and merciless war, or guaranteeing a strong and controlling state--is what the people want to hear in Russia....  One cannot even say that the Russians voted with their wallet, because nobody really knows where the new president, who on many occasions has combined the idea of a free market with that of a controlling state, is headed....  Putin understood society's claims. Now he must show that he is capable of putting these into practice."


BRAZIL:  "Which Putin Will Prevail?"


Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo's editorial said (3/27):  "Despite being the acting president of Russia for three months, Putin remains an unknown....  The massive demonstration of the Russian electorate in Putin's favor reflects his ambiguous biography.  On the one hand, opting for the market economy; on the other, and perhaps even in contradiction, displaying a certain nostalgia for the might of the Soviet era.  It is difficult to say whether it is the liberal face of Putin or the more authoritarian one that will prevail."


CANADA:  "Putin Is The Tough Boss Russians Need" 


Richard Gwyn wrote in the liberal Toronto Star (3/29):  "It's pretty clear...the Russians need someone like [Putin] at this time.  If the cost to them turns out to be some loss of democracy and the cost to us proves to be a certain reassertion of Russian nationalism, then, surely, this is the time for us to look the other way while a tough boss tries to drag 150 million people back from the edge of an abyss."



"The Power Of Mr. Putin"


The leading Globe and Mail opined (3/28):  "After Boris Yeltsin, there was nowhere to go but up....  As for Mr. Putin's Western counterparts, they welcome him as the devil they know.  A strong, reasonably predictable administration in the Kremlin will help the day-to-day conduct of international affairs.  It will also reduce the chance of a disastrous misuse of Russia's nuclear arsenal....  Repression, intolerance, racism and crony capitalism...are all features of present-day Russia. The new president has much to do, and much to undo."


"Russia's Unsettling Vote"


The liberal Toronto Star remarked (3/28):  "Russians don't honestly know where [Putin] will take the country....  He made no policy speeches, engaged in no debates and subjected himself to no serious scrutiny....  This election may have been democratic but it was skewed to one candidate, and a mystery man at that.  The real Vladimir Putin has yet to step forward."


"Putin Between Authority And Corruption"


Frédéric Wagnière observed in centrist, French-language La Presse (3/27):  "It remains to be seen what hurts democratic freedoms and Russian development more: a president who likes authoritarian methods or the present rampant corruption."


JAMAICA:  "Putin And Russia"


The moderate, influential Daily Gleaner's editorial argued (3/28):  "The victory was not resounding....  While liberal candidates all but fizzled in the vote, the Communists put in a stronger showing than expected....  This tilt towards conservatism will cast a shadow over Mr. Putin's stated aims of advancing Russia's reform process.  It must be borne in mind that Mr. Putin put together little in the way of a campaign platform and shot to the front of the polls on the basis of one issue...Chechnya.  It appears many Russians warmed to Mr. an authoritarian savior.  In short, there is not much in this election result that should inspire confidence in the future of Russia's democracy." 


MEXICO:   "Toughest Part Is Ahead"


Mireya Olivas declared in nationalist Milenio (3/28):  "The toughest part of the job lies ahead for Putin....  What are the pressing issues in his agenda?  To fight corruption and nepotism from the top down....  [And] to get the economy back on its feet.  A lot of money will be required, but it will not flow unless the new Russian government cleans the banking and tax systems, as well as the judicial system....  The way Putin solves the Chechen issue will shed light on the future of the many ethnic minorities that live in Russia as well as on his commitment to human rights...  It is now time to see if ready to begin the in-depth cleaning that Russia badly needs."


PERU:  "Important Responsibilities"


Straight-forward, respected El Comercio ran this editorial on Putin's "responsibilities" (3/28):  "Among the most important ones, he should urgently implement economic reforms, resolve problems of secession--starting with Chechnya--and take concrete steps to eradicate corruption, affirm the democratic system and guarantee civil liberties....  One would hope that the use of [presidential] power would be synonymous with a more democratic government, free of any authoritarianism, and one which would face up to Russia's numerous, severe problems."                                                   


For more information, please contact:

U.S. Department of State

Bureau of Intelligence and Research

Office of Research  --  Media Reaction

Telephone: (202) 619-6511

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