January 5, 2000
RUSSIA: CHRONICLING YELTSIN'S LEGACY; EARLY SPECULATION ON PUTIN'S RULE
Boris Yeltsin's "surprise" New Year's Eve resignation as president of Russia and Vladimir Putin's appointment as acting president garnered extensive editorial coverage from all corners of the globe. Most agreed that Mr. Yeltsin's final move as president was a "masterstroke"--ensuring that his popular, hand-picked successor would have the advantage of incumbency in the lead-up to the March presidential elections, and that he himself would be exempt from future prosecution. More broadly, a number of writers offered their views on the former Kremlin leader's nearly decade-long reign. Many were of two minds about Mr. Yeltsin: saluting his "historic achievement" in "dethroning communism" in the former Soviet Union; but, at the same time, holding him accountable for the "chronic economic crisis," "widespread criminality," and the "escalation of the nationalist and xenophobic mood in Russia" as epitomized by the Chechen wars, which occurred on his watch. Meanwhile, other analysts focused on what a putative Putin presidency might look like, and underscored the many problems--from "corruption scandals" and "omnipotent oligarchs" to civil war--facing the new leadership. Nearly all concurred that for now "what kind of leader Putin will be remains a big question mark." Nevertheless, a few expressed concern that his governing style might prove to be "authoritarian" and "autocratic." Still others questioned his ability to move beyond the "strongman," "warrior" image, based on his prosecution of the war in Chechnya, and succeed as a "real statesman" able to tackle Russia's myriad social and economic ills. Highlights follow:
YELTSIN'S LEGACY: Several papers recalled the August 1991 image of Mr. Yeltsin standing atop a tank to face down an attempted Communist coup, "a move that contributed mightily to the fall of the Soviet Union," stressing that this--and not "his many failures since"--is what history will record. London's conservative Times joined others in arguing that the former Russian leader "often failed to follow up his victories; in recent years, he was incapable of doing so. But he picked the right battles to fight."
RUSSIA UNDER PUTIN: The view from most quarters was that former KGB agent Putin remains an "unknown quantity," whose political platform won't be clarified until after his likely presidential victory. Echoing a common refrain, a Paris daily judged that while "Putin presents himself as a supporter of reforms...it is not quite obvious" that he sees democracy as the "best means" to modernize Russia. Despite the "uncertainty," papers anticipated no upheavals in Russia's relations with the West, since Moscow "needs the West's economic...support." Mr. Putin's dismissal of Yeltsin's daughter from her Kremlin post left several to wonder if he intends to distance himself from the "Yeltsin clan" and steer an independent course as a "new generation" leader, or whether he will remain beholden to the Kremlin's "old guard."
VIEWS FROM RUSSIA: The vast majority of Moscow's reformist press praised former President Yeltsin for, in the words of Segodnya, "giving all of us freedom." Izvestiya summed up Yeltsin's role in history this way: "He will be remembered as an architect of a democratic system in a country that, basically, is unfamiliar with democracy." On Acting President Putin, Kommersant observed that he faces the difficult task of bringing about a change in the West's attitude toward Russia: "Putin has already demonstrated that to ensure Russia's integrity he will stand up to the West.... But there must be an end to any quarrel."
EDITOR: Katherine L. Starr
EDITOR'S NOTE: This survey is based on 72 reports from 39 countries, January 1- 5. Editorial excerpts are grouped by region; editorials from each country are listed from the most recent date.
RUSSIA: "Democratic Act"
Yevgeny Krutikov commented on page one of reformist Izvestiya (1/5): "Owing to the unique character...of Russia's first president, the system, clumsy and unbalanced as it was, worked without serious failures. No matter how much he wanted to gag the press, he never attempted to impose censorship. Governments changed often, but that was in keeping with the Constitution. He made many enemies, but he never persecuted people for political reasons, even when betrayed. He made those rules and consciously followed them. He will be remembered as the architect of a democratic system in a country that, basically, is unfamiliar with democracy. His departure from the political scene is a democratic act rarely seen before.... Most of those who know the acting president hope that, if elected president, he, with his common sense and experience as a former intelligence officer...will not become another in a long chain of Russia's autocrats."
"There'll Be No Communist President"
Denis Babichenko said in reformist Segodnya (1/5): "No matter what people say about Yeltsin, his last move shows that he makes his own decisions. He quit when he wanted, making sure that his candidate will win the presidential election, his resignation ruining the others' chances. We don't know what kind of president Yeltsin's 'heir' will be, but we certainly won't have a Communist Party candidate for president. That, basically, is Yeltsin's political legacy."
"Yeltsin Made Us Free"
Sergei Mulin remarked in reformist Segodnya (1/5): "Yeltsin gave all of us freedom, maximum freedom to do what we want and what we are able to do with ourselves."
"Yeltsin's Three Pillars"
Tatyana Malkina said on page one of reformist Vremya-MN (1/5): "All these years Yeltsin, with a neophyte's persistence, has upheld new Russia's three pillars: Democracy, market economy, and freedom of speech, ready to sacrifice power, as well as his own life, to them. In reality, his passions looked quite different from his ideals. That happens to all 'firsts.' Yeltsin can rightly be awarded the title of those who...mean well but are short of time."
"This Never Happened Before"
According to Aleksandr Gamov in reformist, youth-oriented Komsomolskaya Pravda (1/5): "Russia hasn't seen this happen before--an autocratic head of state, almost 'doomed' to a life-long reign, of sane mind and firm memory, suddenly dons his coat and leaves...to stay in history."
Mikhail Rostovsky wrote in reformist, youth-oriented Moskovskii Komsomolets (1/5): "Doubtless, that Boris Yeltsin has given up power on his own is a courageous move. But his New Year's Eve surprise has its dark side, too. It has virtually deprived Putin's potential rivals of a chance to prepare normally for the election.... As in Soviet times, they now face an election without a choice. That doesn't look like the triumph of democracy."
"New Josef Stalin"
A special edition of reformist Kommersant (1/5) cited Russian politicians: "Mikhail Gorbachev, surprisingly, has become the worst critic of the Kremlin's plans, 'Putin's position is not as strong as it seems. It seems strong because his views are unknown. Putin sticks to his being a mystery. A mysterious look, mysterious words. But as often happens, when a man opens his mouth, you find that he has nothing to say.' The most extravagant reaction came from the editor-in-chief Aleksandr Prokhanov of nationalist, opposition Zavtra, 'Here comes the leader of Russia, a new Josef Stalin, who, after hiding in the depths of Jewish power, has finally come to the light of day.'"
"Putin Must Have West Change On Russia"
Andrei Bagrov demanded in a special edition of reformist Kommersant (1/5): "Putin faces a very difficult task. He ought to have the West change on Russia and do it fast. For a great power to be virtually isolated is absolutely intolerable. It is a matter of principle to Putin. Of course, Putin has already demonstrated that to ensure Russia's integrity, he will stand up to the West if he has to. But there must be an end to any quarrel."
BRITAIN: "Wrestling With The Past"
The independent Financial Times had this op-ed commentary by Moscow bureau chief John Thornhill (1/5): "Over the past few weeks Mr. Putin has gathered a team of advisers around him and has been articulating his views. He will be forced to reveal even more of his thoughts over the next three months in the run-up to the presidential elections, in which he is the clear favorite. Will he merely reveal himself to be the front man for Russia's oligarchs, as some commentators have suggested? Or will he prove to be the dynamic, reforming president that Russia needs, capable of charting a third way between communist authoritarianism and lawless capitalism? There remain many doubts about Mr. Putin's intentions--and ability--to pursue meaningful reforms.... Like Mr. Yeltsin in 1996, Mr. Putin also appears worryingly reliant on a group of financial oligarchs to finance his forthcoming election campaign. They will doubtless expect their reward. Mr. Putin may yet find that national Russian politics resembles less a constructive clash of ideas than a brawl among competing financial-political clans. For some, Mr. Putin appears to be Russia's best hope. But if he is to succeed, he will first have to repeal what became known as the first rule of Viktor Chernomyrdin, the unsuccessful Russian prime minister of the early 1990s: 'We hoped for the best but things turned out as usual.'"
"Russia's Unknown Civilian"
The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (1/4): "The fighting in Chechnya has catapulted Vladimir Putin from obscurity to the brink of a four-year presidential term. When Grozny is eventually taken, it is difficult to believe that he will not be in hock to the generals whose campaign has won him such popularity.... By the end of March, Mr. Putin will want to have pacified Chechnya and to ride to electoral triumph on that achievement. Only then will we discover the nature of his political platform beyond the relentless prosecution of the war."
"Yeltsin's Masterstroke: A Departure Timed For Russia's Lasting Good"
The conservative Times opined (1/1): "'Happy New Century, my dears.' Boris Yeltsin's last words to the Russian people as president capture...the vast distance that Russia has galloped since this mercurial, charismatic giant, in the first of many comebacks, roared out of political oblivion in 1990 to become the first popularly elected leader in Russia's history. The journey from communist empire to pluralist national democracy has been rock-strewn. The Yeltsin years have brought undreamt-of freedoms and opportunities; but also huge uncertainties, misery for many and barely mastered turbulence.
"Some of that turbulence was worsened by the tactics of this moody, manipulative politician, who would ditch the brightest reformer if that was the price of controlling a far-from-democratic establishment.... But with no map to guide the way out of the Soviet wasteland, how could the road not have been rocky?... Yeltsin captivated the world in 1991, when he stood on a tank to thunder to the leaders of the August coup that, while they might build a throne by force, 'you cannot sit on bayonets for long.' And he continued, however unsteadily, ultimately to stand by democratic norms. He ordered troops into the Duma in 1993 only when it menaced democracy. Not only did he disprove every rumor that he would abort elections; he twice appealed to the voters and won, on economic reform in 1993 and in the presidential elections in 1996....
"Mr. Yeltsin timed his departure with typical astuteness. At long last, Communists no longer dominate the Duma, which will make effective government easier. The economy is looking up.... Above all, his chosen heir, Vladimir Putin, buoyed by a popular, brutal war in Chechyna, will never have better prospects of winning the presidential elections.... Cynics will say that Yeltsin, whose family is accused of illicit business deals, went only when he felt sure he could protect his back.... Yet there is no reason to doubt his pride yesterday in the 'hope and faith' with which Russians voted in the recent Duma elections for 'a new generation of politicians,' or his conviction in 'the main task of my life: [that] Russia will never return to the past.' He is right. However Russians invest the past with nostalgia, they do not vote for it. Nationalism has grown, but not to the point of isolation or irredentism; Russia is a discontented neighbor to the world, but one that on balance plays by the rules of the global game. These are huge gains.... He often failed to follow up his victories; in recent years, he was incapable of doing so. But he picked the right battles to fight."
FRANCE: "Should We Fear Putin?"
Sylvaine Pasquier observed in right-of-center weekly L'Express (1/6): "Yeltsin's designated successor presents himself as a reformer of national dignity. A vague program, but which plays on authoritarianism and confrontation with the West.... Under the pretext of a fight against terrorism, the war against Chechnya will serve as a launching pad for the Putin rocket."
"The Two Putins"
Charles Lambroschini signed this editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/4): "Vladimir Putin looks like a two-faced man. According to him, the war in Chechnya would be a rebuilding action.... He says Moscow is defending its national integrity against separatists.... [At the same time], he does not want to break with the West or the trade rules. On the contrary, Putin presents himself as a supporter of reforms, determined to keep the direction Yeltsin held for the past ten years. He does not want a return match against the United States.... Nor does he want to go back to communism by reinstating political dictatorship and a state economy. Putin is consistent: His first challenge is to modernize Russia. But it is not quite obvious that for the new president, democracy is the best means to do it."
"Putin Dismisses Yeltsin's Daughter"
Laure Mandeville asked in a front-page editorial in right-of-center Le Figaro (1/4): "Will the politico-financial family, who gravitated around Boris Yeltsin for years, keep holding on to Putin if he is elected president? Will the former KGB colonel, now that he has reached power, tolerate his former 'godfathers' if he becomes czar?... One thing remains certain, the fight of the Yeltsin circles to control Putin will begin sooner or later."
"The Putin Era Has Started"
Laure Mandeville filed from Moscow for right-of-center Le Figaro (1/3): "The transfer of power is probably Yeltsin's last success.
"The czar who dreamed of establishing democracy but only gave birth to a chaotic capitalistic jungle.... Yeltsin not only had a successful departure. He bought life-time security for himself and his family, sweeping out stinky corruption scandals which had recently tainted his family."
GERMANY: "Expulsion From The Paradise Of Kleptocrats"
Moscow correspondent Tomas Avenarius filed the following editorial for Munich's centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung (1/5): "It was clear that Yeltsin's daughter had to leave the Kremlin. By firing her, Putin has disposed of one of the worst residual burdens of his predecessor. He made this step immediately after taking office, since there is hardly anybody else in Russia who is considered so much the personification of Yeltsin's kleptocracy in the Kremlin such as...Tatyana.... It creates a good impression to disassociate oneself from such people...but Putin has not yet broken with the Yeltsin team.... Time will tell whether he will fire them...or whether Putin will allow the 'Yeltsin system' to continue its work with the well-known figures. But if he wants to become serious with his fight against corruption, Putin must get rid of many of his former mentors."
"A Moderate 'Good Luck' From The West"
Centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/4) carried an editorial by Josef Joffe: "Russia remains a picture puzzle. No, Boris Yeltsin did not create a democratic state that acts according to the rule of law, he did not set up a half-way functioning market economy. But in comparison to one thousand years of despotism...Yeltsin did a Herculean job and brought Russia from the 16th to the 19th century. This was not a bad achievement."
"Clearing Away Yeltsin's Legacy"
Centrist Suedwest Presse of Ulm (1/4) opined: "Yesterday, the new man in the Kremlin cleared away the personal legacy of his predecessor. This creates hopes that, with the new generation at the top a new understanding of politics will gain the upper hand. The Kremlin leader is exercising a tightrope act. He is working to improve his reputation but does not want to frighten off the old guard. The thus far [he] is aware of one fact: He will not be able to gain lasting support in Russia by showing strength only at the battlefield in Chechnya. The Russian people want a strong leader. However, in everyday life, Putin must demonstrate that he is able to show this strength in the fight against crime and omnipresent corruption."
"Perfectly Orchestrated Departure"
Moscow correspondent Tomas Avenarius filed the following editorial for centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (1/3): "With Putin, Yeltsin chose a successor who must prove to be a Hercules if he wants to resolve all (Russian) problems. He seems to have the necessary toughness. The future will tell whether he has the democratic steadfastness: Doubts are allowed. It will be decisive for Yeltsin's historical significance whether his semi-democratic, chaotic Russia is only a transitional stage or the end of the turnabout from 1991/92. If it were a way station on the path to a better, fairer society...Russia could forgive Yeltsin his mistakes."
"Yeltsin's Historic Achievement"
Right-of-center Stuttgarter Zeitung opined (1/3): "Boris Yeltsin was right when he, in a moving farewell address, pointed out that Russia's way back to communism is blocked. This is his historic achievement.... Nobody fought and struggled with communism like Yeltsin, and he finally defeated it."
Werner Adam front-paged this editorial in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (1/3): "Vladimir Putin presented himself to his compatriots as Russia's new strong man. With this view, he got the support of many Russians since Yeltsin's lingering illness increasingly stood for economic stagnation and social backwardness. A change of generation at the leadership indeed seemed to be overdue. However, the circumstances of this change make it appropriate not to pin one's hopes...on wishful thinking on a new Russia."
ITALY: "The New Desire For Order And Revenge That Worries The West"
Franco Venturini penned this analysis from Moscow in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/5): "Will the acting president be able to reconcile the contradictory impulses that characterize his rise to power? The future of Russia and the future of its foreign policy will depend on this. But the West, even if it is forced to wait for the outcome of the March presidential elections, cannot limit itself to a superficial analysis amid one mistake and the other. (Let's not forget that) if Putin still does not have a consistent policy, the West continues not to have a Russia policy."
"Putin's Distancing Effort"
Rome's centrist Il Messaggero noted (1/4): "The firing of Tatiana from the Kremlin, the spokesman and the other three advisors seems to indicate a distancing from the so-called 'Yeltsin family.'"
"The Czar Is Still Alive"
Ugo Tramballi's analysis in leading, business Il Sole-24 Ore (1/2): "Yeltsin's government is over, but not 'Yeltsinism.' This is not the end of the family and its moguls.... As for the war in Chechnya, it is so popular in Russia that even thinking of a defeat represents a betrayal of the Russian homeland. It is clear, therefore, that Yeltsin's farewell is not the sad farewell of a leader but an able move so that nothing will change.... Even this 'white coup d'etat' satisfies a majority of the Russians, like the war in Chechnya and the smart look of the new president. We may not like Vladimir Putin's curriculum as a KGB man in Berlin...but the Russians like him.... It is needless to wonder whether this is ridiculous or alarming: Even the Russians have gained a right to have a leader they like."
"Not Another Yeltsin"
Franco Venturini's commentary on the front page of centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera held (1/2): "Nobody in Russian history has ever voluntarily resigned like Yeltsin. We should draw two signals from this exceptional event: the confirmation of some progress towards democracy in post-Communist Russia notwithstanding its many deficiencies, and the need to understand why a man who lived for power has suddenly decided to give it up.... In any case, we should realize right away that Vladimir Putin...will not be another Yeltsin. His style of government is much more determined and enjoys the support of the military. His economic vision is more conservative, made of free-market rules but also state assistance. And hopefully his fight against corruption will be more determined.... The former KGB agent Putin will not be an easy interlocutor for the West. The hope is that stability and legality without authoritarianism will be the other side of the coin."
AUSTRIA: "The Moscow Coup"
Foreign affairs writer Andreas Schwarz asserted in conservative Die Presse (1/3): "It is absolutely uncertain which Russia the world faces under Putin.
"We don't know much about the former secret service man, except that he is capable of waging a war in his own country. And we know that the young prime minister managed to consolidate his power in the Kremlin and to form an alliance with the military within a short period of time. Putin acts on the basis of nationalism and chauvinism, but it is unknown where he stands otherwise. His 'vision' of a third path for Russia, which would rule out both blind faith in Western liberalism and the return to communism, is a fairly vague program. And his announcement of 'adapting market economy and democracy to the Russian circumstances' might also be understood as a threat. How might a man act, who has seized power in Russia...by means of brilliant and cool-headed calculation and a great deal of brutality?"
AZERBAIJAN: "Putin Capitalizes On Russia's Chauvinistic Mood"
Independent Zerkalo offered this commentary (1/4): "The events in Chechnya can still be used as a pre-election trampoline, and Putin is trying to gain points. His trip to Chechnya...was not only the beginning of the pre-election campaign but also showed the mood, aims and methods of the new Russian leader. These days, as the chauvinistic mood is soaring in the [Russian] society, such behavior is really bringing dividends. However, it will hardly find understanding outside Russia. Instigation of virulent chauvinism is...playing with fire. As the West is determined to exert pressure on Russia, Putin may have to deal with the consequences of his own 'tough' policies during three pre-election months."
BELGIUM: "What Will Putin Bring?"
Frank Schloemer opined in independent De Morgen (1/4): "All eyes are now focused on the new strongman in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin, and people wonder whether things will change with this man.... His first official acts give the impression that he does not lack decisiveness: on a single day he signed 40 laws which Yeltsin was keeping in his drawer and he fired a key figure of the 'family:' Yeltsin's daughter Tatiana.... However, more is necessary than the removal of one Yeltsin clan key figure from power.... Yeltsin did not succeed in turning his nation into a genuine democracy and the question is whether his successor will be able to do that. Admittedly, it is not an easy task to lead Russia to democracy after centuries of authoritarian regimes.... In this field, the new Kremlin boss does not inspire much confidence.... Above all, he is interested in a brutal victory in Chechnya and his entire policy is subordinate to that. He holds the press in his grip like his predecessors did, and human rights is not his strongest suit. In the struggle against the Mafia, no major victories have been achieved since his arrival. In a virtuoso manner, Putin is playing the feeling that Russia is still a superpower, which is attractive to the people. It is very much the question whether that superpower-thinking is reassuring for the world--when it is linked to nationalism in a chaotic country."
"The Lost Honor Of Boris Yeltsin"
Foreign editor Philippe Paquet judged in conservative Catholic La Libre Belgique (1/3): "It is true that Boris Yeltsin could not perform miracles.... He was forced overnight to crank up an immense country which had been immobilized for a long time; to redesign its internal organization and its function in the world; to correct errors created and maintained by 70 years of communism.... It is not certain that anyone else would have performed better. But, it is a fact that Yeltsin presided, literally, over the formation of the largest Mafioso system in the world. It is a regime in which the economy and politics, on a foundation of widespread criminality, are in the grip of a few clans of omnipotent oligarchs; in which an obscure figure from the secret services can be made head of the government and the state; where 'barbarian' people in the Caucasus are bombed blindly."
BULGARIA: "Family's Influence And Putin's Independence"
Center-left Sega argued (1/4): "Putin will have to patronize the oligarchy with one hand and beat up the Chechens with the other. This is the only way he could meet the expectations of the Kremlin elite and the Russian people, on whom he depends for staying in power. The real problem will appear when the new strong man of the Kremlin starts feeling independent enough not to depend on the Kremlin or the people. The constitution that Yeltsin produced...could guarantee Putin 'great independence.'"
CROATIA: "A Game With Hidden Cards"
Bogoljub Lacmanovic commented in pro-government Vecernji List (1/4): "One thing is for sure: Yeltsin picked Putin as his 'successor' because of his loyalty. He proved it by signing his first decree as the acting head of state granting amnesty to Yeltsin and his family.... However, Putin conceals what kind of policy he will make if elected president. As a former intelligence officer, Putin is making cautious moves, well aware that before the presidential elections he must not displease those who helped him climb the Kremlin Olympus."
FINLAND: "Russia's Development Stalled During Yeltsin's Second Term"
Leading, independent Helsingin Sanomat's main editorial read (1/2): "The immediate reason was not Yeltsin's collapsing health, but tactics: to provide the best possible starting point for his successor candidate, Vladimir Putin. Yeltsin's conduct was not entirely in keeping with the purest rules of democracy. But...most Russians think that Yeltsin stayed in office for too long. Almost all of his second term was a personal catastrophe.... What kind of a leader Putin will be is a big question mark. Russians see him as a determined and energetic man, a representative of a new generation. Putin...declared that the war concerns more than just the fate of Chechnya. His message was that it would mark the end of the disintegration of the Russian Federation. That is a tough goal...and may take Russia into many conflicts in years to come. History will remember Yeltsin for his role in putting an end to the Soviet Union and communism and taking Russia on the road to democracy."
"Yeltsin's Resignation Surprises But Does Not Frighten"
Independent Aamulehti ran this editorial (1/2): "[Yeltsin] remained a political master tactician with an element of surprise until the end, but he should have abdicated a long time ago. Despite his mistakes and shortcomings, Yeltsin will be remembered as a man who led his country to the road toward democracy and strengthened global stability.... The economy will be the key to everything. Once the unfortunate Chechnya war is over, Putin...will need to start institution-building and law-making, to finally push the economy on an upward trend. That will require tough measures against the oligarchs who have been operating behind the scenes."
KAZAKHSTAN: "Welcome, Putin, It's A New Year!"
Independent Express K (1/4) argued: "Boris Yeltsin has made a superior step [pulling the rug out from under] of all the rest of the applicants.... Yeltsin has appointed his successor and left...at the very moment when the [political] track is clean."
LITHUANIA: "A Huge Triumph For Democracy"
Top-circulation, independent Lietuvos Rytas led with this commentary (1/4): "The first resignation of a Russian president was a huge triumph for democracy in this country. For the first time in the history of this country, its leader--in a time of peace and without being forced by anyone--resigned from his post. This is a historically important event, before which pale all other circumstances."
THE NETHERLANDS: "Putin Is Tough, But Unclear What He Stands For"
Centrist Haagsche Courant (1/4) argued that Putin's dismissal of Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana "shows the Russian people that he has the courage to make a clean sweep. Until the presidential elections in March, his image as...strong man will need to be continually reaffirmed. Other than that he is tough, it is totally unclear what he stands for. That Yeltsin saw him as an ideal successor says nothing whatever."
NORWAY: "Ex-President Boris Yeltsin"
Conservative Aftenposten (1/2) commented: "Yeltsin...was very determined in his conviction that the Communist Party...should not be able to harm the country and the nation anymore. This he succeeded in. He did it without shooting and arrests. This will be his historical monument."
"Clear The Way For Putin"
Social Democratic Dagsavisen (1/2) commented: "Boris Yeltsin has led Russia in an very important period in the transition from dictatorship to democracy.... The biggest problem with Boris Yeltsin was the lack of predictability.... Nothing indicates any big changes in Russian foreign policy in the time to come.... On home ground Putin has a gigantic task of getting the country's economic situation in order. If it is to succeed, he must also have the will and ability to clean up the comprehensive corruption in the country."
POLAND: "Apologist For A 'Third Way'"
Tadeusz Barzdo observed in legal and economic Prawo i Gospodarka (1/4): "If the war in the northern Caucasus does not bring a disaster in the nearest future, then the West will have to accept a representative of a new generation of 'enlightened' nationalists ruling in the Kremlin. Putin's earlier statements indicate clearly that he rejects both Western liberalism and the return to Communism.... Therefore, Putin opts for combining the principles of free market economy and democracy with Russia's realities. He is then the first high ranking Moscow official who advocates the so-called 'third way' of development."
"No Threat Of Confrontation With West"
Joanna Strzelczyk opined in right-of-center Zycie (1/4): "For the time being, there is no threat of a global confrontation [with the West.] Putin and his future successors will be faced with a different target: they must rebuild Russia, piece together what has been destroyed. They cannot afford a confrontation with the West whose support and assistance are necessary for Russia to stand on its feet."
"What Threatens Russia"
Slawomir Popowski wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (1/3): "Yeltsin's era began with great hopes for a peaceful transformation of the communist Soviet empire into a modern democratic state with a healthy economy.... It ended with a chronic economic crisis, escalation of nationalist and xenophobic mood in Russia, and the Chechnya war which brings to power a new host in the Kremlin.... Russia today is not threatened by the revival of communism--and it is Yeltsin's contribution that the Russians have already learned this lesson. Much more dangerous is nationalism and the 'Great Russia' imperialism. If the new ruler in the Kremlin follows this road, then Russia...will again find itself at a dead-end, receding farther and farther from Europe."
PORTUGAL: "Putin's Russia"
Deputy editor-in-chief António Ribeiro Ferreira argued in centrist Diário de Notícias (1/3): "The resignation of Boris Yeltsin and his substitution by Vladimir Putin...might well mark the birth of a strong Russia, respectable and with sufficient authority to participate in the construction of a new international order, based on respect for the sovereignty of nations, regardless of their economic or military power, and in which human rights are effectively respected."
SLOVENIA: "Russia's Fragile Democracy"
Left-of-center Delo (1/3) opined in a front page editorial: "Russia had a historic opportunity. For the first time, the government could have been democratically...transferred to Yeltsin's legally elected successor.... Yeltsin's sudden resignation is some sort of a velvet revolution which was necessary to assure the continuation of the current policy. Thanks to the Kremlin's present elite, Russia's fragile democracy has not passed the exam.... The government that assures continuity and its victory in democratic elections--as a result of a war and empty promises about a rebirth of the former great country--is very unpredictable."
SPAIN: "The Chechen Factor"
Liberal El Pais opined (1/4): "Yesterday's attack on the embassy of the Russian Federation in Beirut is the first sign that the crisis in Chechnya may spill over the borders of Russia and Caucasia.... The lone assailant carried a message in his pocket confirming that his terrorist action was carried out in solidarity with the Chechen inhabitants of Grozny.... Russian leaders may win the war militarily, but the brutal methods they have employed in crushing Chechen resistance ensure that they will not win the peace."
SWEDEN: "The Man Who Dethroned Communism"
Conservative Svenska Dagbladet ran this editorial (1/2): "Boris Yeltsin will...in history as the man who managed to dethrone Soviet communism.... And what picture can be more suitable than the one dated August 1991, when Yeltsin on top of a Soviet tank in front of the Russian parliament spoke out against the attempted Communist coup.... But by his actions, as the head of the Russian Federation, Yeltsin, time and again, demonstrated that to him power was more important than democracy and freedom.... Statesmen can be great in different respects, and Yeltsin's greatness does not include democratic or liberal virtues."
TURKEY: "Relations With Putin"
Sami Kohen wrote in mass-appeal Milliyet (1/4): "Using his popularity, Putin is going to reorganize politics and the economy in Russia, which could lead to a more central, authoritarian order.... For Chechnya, he will take actions that will 'wipe out' the issue, which means he will pursue a more nationalist policy.... On foreign policy issues, Putin will not make any changes vis-a-vis Russian-American relations. Russia is opening up, and needs the Western world's economic and moral support.... On the other hand, it will not be a surprise if Putin defies the world on Chechnya or on the Caucasus."
AUSTRALIA: "Boris Yeltsin: A Nuisance Who Stayed Too Long"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald featured an editorial by Bob Ellis (1/5): "What a catastrophe this man has been.... The tragedy is he ran a continent and ran it into ruin. His legacy is absolutely predictable. His successor, appalled at the debts he has run up, will repudiate them, and pull out of the world economy."
CHINA: "Yeltsin's Resignation"
Wang Xianju and Li Yongquan commented in intellectually-oriented Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao, 1/3): "Health is not a decisive factor in Yeltsin's resignation. The media say the real purpose of Yeltsin's quitting is to create favorable conditions for Putin's competition in the upcoming elections. It is widely believed that success is...already within Putin's hand."
HONG KONG: "World Jury Out On Man Likely To Be President"
The independent Hong Kong Standard wrote in its editorial (1/4): "While [Putin's] drive to become Russia's second democratically elected president looks increasingly rosy, his mission to lead the former socialist nation out of extreme economic difficulty will be challenging.... The dilemma is that while foreign aid is vital to Russia's economy and its reform drive, Mr. Putin's hardline stance on Chechnya will only make it more difficult for Russia to gain the support.... Mr. Putin's dilemma is also that of the West. If...proves to be capable of keeping the country stable and carrying out reforms, will the West forgive him on Chechnya and provide aid?"
INDONESIA: "After Yeltsin Resignation, Russians Wait For Change"
Leading, independent Kompas contended (1/4): "Despite the possibility that he may be brought to court on charges of corruption, collusion, and nepotism, Yeltsin's leadership will always be remembered. Yeltsin's leadership legacy is his support of the initial stages of reform and transparency, and his decision to resign may begin a new tradition in Russian politics."
"Yeltsin's Resignation and Russia's Future"
Independent, afternoon Suara Pembaruan wrote (1/3): "For the time being, Putin can manage Russia. As noted by Western observers, Putin is a pragmatic person who seeks immediate resolutions. Yet it is doubtful he can overcome the economic crisis.... There has yet to appear a leader who is sufficiently strong and wise to lift Russia out of its administrative and leadership crisis, economic sluggishness and various social problems."
JAPAN: "Yeltsin's Well-Calculated Resignation; Putin's Unclear Strategy"
An editorial in business-oriented Nihon Keizai observed (1/3): "Putin...has not yet clarified his own strategy as leader. Given circumstances, Putin is unlikely to deviate greatly from policies set by his protector Yeltsin."
"First Act Of Russia's Reforms Ends"
Liberal Asahi editorialized (1/3): "It was typical of Yeltsin to stun his country and the rest of the world by abruptly announcing his resignation.... The fulfillment of his commitment to a 'civilized transfer of powers' will serve as a good precedent for creating a law-abiding nation in Russia.... It is not certain immediately how Yeltsin's achievements will be evaluated historically. The first act of reform for democratization and a market economy...has just ended in that country."
PHILIPPINES: "A Legacy Of Freedom"
The independent, conservative Philippine Star asserted (1/2): "Yeltsin himself, after becoming an icon of democracy, increasingly came to be pictured as an inebriated buffoon. He cultivated a cabal led by his daughter, which reportedly used power for corruption. Yeltsin's image as a democrat was scarred by his brutal crackdown on separatists in Chechnya.... Yet under his watch Russians enjoyed unprecedented freedom and cemented ties with the West.... Yeltsin's legacy in the former bastion of communism is indisputable.
"The world may have greeted his departure with little regret, and he may have botched Russia's transition from strong-arm rule to democracy, but succeeding generations of Russian leaders will find it difficult to undo his democratic reforms. Yeltsin will always be remembered for his precious legacy of freedom."
SOUTH KOREA: "Russia Without Yeltsin"
Moderate Hankook Ilbo concluded (1/3): "Yeltsin's resignation is yet another reminder of how skillfully he practices political strategy, choosing the right moment for his heir, Putin…. It remains to be seen how wise his choice of Putin will prove to be. The fact is that Putin's popularity rests mostly on the success of the military offensive against Chechnya, not on the strength of the heir's political vision for Russia…. No matter how whimsical Yeltsin may have been, he nevertheless is Russia's hero, who...changed the country's course in the 20th century. The world will not forget the courage with which he opened Russia's door to democracy."
The independent Hankyoreh Shinmun (1/3) editorialized: "Putin's prospects for election as president in March are now greater than ever.... However, his way to power is not free of obstacles. His popularity...rests solely on the offensive against Chechnya.... In the days ahead, Putin has to prove his leadership, especially in tackling huge domestic issues ranging from corruption to the inefficiency of Russia's economic structure."
BANGLADESH: "On Yeltsin's Resignation"
Pro-West Ittefaq told readers (1/2): "One of Yeltsin's achievements is both undeniable and historic: rescuing the Soviet Union from the poisonous clutches of communism. He played a critical role in bringing about the emergence of 15 independent states by dissolving the Soviet Union.... Undoubtedly, a modern Russia will forever remember Yeltsin for its modernization and development."
INDIA: "Exit The Czar"
The centrist Times of India offered this view (1/3): "It is obvious that Yeltsin's action is a calculated move to ensure that he will be succeeded in office by his hand-picked choice.... There may even be an element of personal interest...since Mr Yeltsin may like to ensure that his successor does not start looking too closely into business transactions undertaken by his family or himself.... Whatever his motivation, at least he should be given credit for the style in which he has effected a transition to his successor. Yeltsin's place in history will be subject to dispute among future chroniclers. His various actions could not be called democratic since they were extremely whimsical, authoritarian and personalized. He brought about the break-up of the Soviet Union to become the undisputed ruler of Russia.... Naturally, Yeltsin's mercurial personality and dubious dealings raise questions about his chosen successor. Having been placed in an advantageous position, Putin need not necessarily follow his mentor's example. For Russia's sake, one hopes he will not."
"The Imperfect Boris Revolution"
The right-of-center Indian Express (1/3): "His new year gift to Russia, a declaration of departure from the Kremlin, marks the less than grand finale of a turbulent chapter in Russian history.... And he is taking leave as an imperfect democrat, as a paranoid redeemer, as a man who has finally come to terms with the desperation of power.... The beginning was glorious. Yeltsin the mass leader, the street fighter of democracy....
"The man who once denounced communism as fantasy and described himself as a social democrat willingly failed to use his democratic mandate to build the structures of civil society. In the absence of institutionalised democracy, freedom courted the remains of the past. Gennady Zyuganov and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the reborn communist and the farcical nationalist, are the products of the imperfect Boris revolution."
PAKISTAN: "The Change In Russia"
An editorial in pro-Muslim League Pakistan held (1/3): "Soon after assuming office, the acting president left for Chechnya to pat the army on its back.... Russia's leadership and learned citizens need to realize that their problems will not be solved by occupying Chechnya. The new Russia can only prosper if it sets up a strong and stable political system to control its domestic problems, corruption and mismanagement."
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: "Free From The Scandal Called Yeltsin"
Sharjah-based Al-Khaleej featured this editorial (1/1): "Yeltsin's removal is good news for the new century.... He...was never known as a reformist or one who called for introducing democracy.... This zealous communist suddenly turned into a Russian nationalist, into a tyrant domestically, and into a dummy in the hands of Washington. He handed over the destiny of his country to the United States, which immediately began to deal with its old partner as a paper tiger and a non-developed third world nation.... He handed the destiny of his nation over to the mafia of monopoly so that the social gap between the poor and the rich became excessive.... Luckily the new century will be free from a scandal called Yeltsin."
ZAMBIA: "Yeltsin's Stepping Down"
The government-owned Zambia Daily Mail maintained (1/3): "The resignation of the former Russian strongman is a positive development, and one which sets a good precedent for that country.... Given the background of the former communist countries, where leaders never contemplated relinquishing power, but were only nudged out of office by death, Yelstin's decision to stand down has great political significance for the country's future."
ARGENTINA: "Yeltsin's Democracy"
Alfredo Grieco y Bavio, left-of-center Pagina 12's international analyst, opined (1/3): "Yeltsin was a fervent enemy of Communists. But not from the ideological point of view.... Yeltsin does not believe in democracy. From democracy he learned that each vote has a price and that it is more advisable to resort to fraud."
BRAZIL: "Russian Transition"
Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo ran this editorial (1/4): "If Yeltsin gave the coup de grace to Communism, he has also left as a heritage a significant increase in social inequities.... Yeltsin will surely not be included among the century's great statesmen. His unpredictability and alcoholism have destroyed his image. More important, however, he was unable to stop the socio-economic deterioration in Russia and create solid bases to recover the nation. But it is unquestionable that his energy and charisma were fundamental to make the Soviet empire collapse."
Independent Jornal da Tarde's editorial asserted (1/4): "Putin is a mystery to be deciphered.... A KGB career man, Putin has so far given contradictory signs about his intentions. At the same time that he speaks about the resumption of economic growth, he also suggests a 'strong State' to defend his fellow citizens.... On the one hand he praises the efforts to establish democratic principles, but on the other, he instigates the old Russian nationalism. Some label him as a 'liberal nationalist,' which are ingredients that may not combine."
CANADA: "Russia After Boris Yeltsin"
Quebec's English-language Gazette observed (1/4): "Mr. Yeltsin's place in history is secure. He will be best remembered for the pivotal role he played in August 1991, when as leader of Russia he bravely clambered atop a tank, helping to face down an anti-Gorbachev coup attempt by Communist hardliners, a move that contributed mightily to the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism and thus the end of the Cold War. That huge accomplishment may not excuse his many failures since, but when the history books are written, it seems likely to overshadow them.... Mr. Putin remains an unknown quantity. He says encouraging things about political freedoms, a state based on laws, a larger role for the judiciary and the need to fight corruption and crime. He also speaks of reforming the tax (and tax-collection) system, an absolute necessity. And he has said good things about the need to further integrate Russia into the world economy. Mr. Putin says authoritarianism is not the answer. Still, if he wins the election, a nervous world will be watching him carefully for just such tendencies."
"Authoritarian Hand In The 'New Russia'"
Stephen Handelman suggested in the liberal Toronto Star (1/4): "The new 'New Russia' will be different from what the West imagined back in 1991: The state will play a more powerful role in the economy and the disorder of parliamentary politics will be tamed under a more authoritarian system. And there will be a new inner circle of military-corporate power determined to extend Russian influence and challenge U.S. hegemony."
"From Yeltsin, With Love"
The conservative National Post (1/3) opined: "A resurgent imperial Russia may be an election-winning posture, but it is not a real possibility. Russia is simply too weak economically. The real political choices that will face Mr. Putin after March 26 are either a return to serious reform--this time including a real rule of law, binding both on bureaucrats and on the oligarchs who grew fat under Yeltsin--or a continued lurch into a Latin American future of rampant inflation, a weak currency, widespread corruption.... If Mr. Putin is the realist he claims, he will choose reform. Or end, sadly, like Boris Yeltsin."
MEXICO: "Putin's Success"
Nationalist/independent El Universal (1/4) carried a column by Joseph Hodara: "Putin will not be a second Yeltsin. Young, enigmatic and formal, Putin makes no bones about his strident nationalism and the will to face, at least rhetorically, Washington and NATO as its military arm. He can tell that the destruction of Chechnya will win him votes and enthusiasm among the Russians.... And President Clinton lacks the courage and the time to oppose him.... In the final analysis, (Putin's) chances of success depend on three factors: the snuffing of the Chechnya revolt, the increase in the price of Russian export oil, and the collaborationist silence of the West."
"Surprising Yeltsin Resignation"
Nationalist/pro-government Excelsior maintained (1/1): "The most important thing is that for the first time in many decades there's been a non-violent government transition in Russia.... Yeltsin had the merit of pulling his people out of the traditional dictatorship and leading it to a democratic system, though he did not hesitate in using cannons against his opponents.... Yeltsin's corruption and that of his relatives and supporters was also scandalous, which explains his request for an immunity decree.... Under his aegis, Russia went from being a great world power to a being a nation subordinate to the United States, which many Russians resent."
PERU: "Yeltsin Resignation"
Straight-forward, respected El Comercio judged (1/2): "It should be acknowledged that Yeltsin's government has made progress in establishing democracy and a free market economy. However, he could not implement the substantial reforms needed to overcome problems like unemployment, corruption and crime."
URUGUAY: "A Good Warrior--And A Good Administrator?"
Top-circulation, conservative El Pais published this editorial (1/2): "Putin now has the opportunity, as well as the need, to demonstrate that besides being a good warrior, he is also a good administrator. The Russians--like the rest of the world--will follow Putin's actions carefully in the next few weeks since they will reveal if the new leader is just the Bear party's symbol or if he is the real statesman his country is expecting and needing."
For more information, please contact:
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