What Does Vladimir Putin Want?
TIME Magazine Article
Russia's voters appear to have more realistic expectations of the post-communist era than many American commentators. While op-ed pages in the U.S. sound dire warnings about President Vladimir Putin plunging the country back into the dark days of Stalinism, Putin looks set to win upward of 80 percent of the vote in Sunday's presidential election. One voter who plans to give the president her vote told the New York Times why: "At least he isn't making things worse."
Putin's combination of authoritarian political instincts and market-friendly economic policies make him a political creature quite familiar in countries at Russia's level on the economic ladder — the authoritarian modernizer. The Russian president is essentially a nationalist, who believes a strong (read authoritarian) state is necessary to the country's survival and prosperity.
Dealing with Putin's Russia is now a dilemma that confronts the West for at least the next four years, and more if he decides to take up his legislature's offer to extend his term limit. If Yeltsin's Russia had been an economic basket case run by a pliant buffoon, Putin's is a major and growing oil producer run by an authoritarian nationalist willing to deal with the West but on an independent and often competitive basis.