Our Man in Moscow
The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 5-12, Summer 2005
5 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2011
Date Written: June 5, 2005
Two radically divergent views of Russia have emerged in the West. The business community has, by and large, applauded the modernization of the Russian economy under President Vladimir Putin, including the opening of lucrative new markets for Western investment and the application of more uniform rules. Meanwhile, Western intellectuals and media pundits contend that Putin has abandoned democracy, centralized political authority, suppressed private enterprise, and muzzled the press.Those who regard Boris Yeltsin’s reign as “democratic,” however, need to take a more sober look at the 1990s. At the time, Russia was continually lurching from one economic crisis to another. It survived economic default thanks largely to massive amounts of humanitarian assistance and bank loans from the West. Power struggles paralyzed the elite, and the country’s mineral and oil resources were plundered by a small group of oligarchs. Simply put, the choice facing Yeltsin’s successor was never one between democracy and dictatorship. Rather, it was between having the country continue its slide into criminality and chaos, or making a last-ditch attempt — one that few believed had any chance of success — to put a halt to the country’s decay by restoring the authority of national institutions.
Keywords: Vladimir Putin, Russia, Democratization, Privatization
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