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Johnson's Russia List


March 30, 2000    
This Date's Issues: 4209  4210  4211

Johnson's Russia List
30 March 2000


US Department of State
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

"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


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

"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
"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

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

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

"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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