Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I've been reading these diaries with a good degree of interest over the past few days.

First off, none of the discussion about Putin's rise take into account the situation Russia found itself in the '90s, after the botched "shock therapy" transition away from Communism. I remember reading at the time numerous stories about the collapse of Russian civil society: soaring drug problems, organized crime, people not being paid wages for months, even years. In this context, I was expecting Russia to collapse, revert to Communism, or to some kind of nasty neo-fascism.

Now certainly, Putin is not an especially enlightened or democratic leader. But none of the three worse case scenarios have emerged because he is clearly a very skilled leader and was able to stabilize Russian society in a way that seemed anything but likely in say, 1998. There is a reason he is very popular within Russia.He is also essentially non-ideological, which strikes me as positive as well. He is a nationalist, but so what? The Russian people have imperial ambitions. But so what? So to do the Americans, the French, the British.

If Westerners want to complain about Putin's rise, they have to be realistic about the nature of the Russian society that enabled his rise - and indeed, their complicity, through their large role in the botched transition from communism - as well as the likely alternatives - none of which strike me as better than Putin, and probably most of them are much, much worse. Both for Russians and for the world more genrally.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Mon Jan 9th, 2006 at 07:05:31 PM EST

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