Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin

By Padma Desai | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Boris Nemtsov
The Political Activist

APRIL 2000

You know, Putin is a lucky man in a happy situation. He can do whatever he
wants with the State Duma.

I am sure "Putin" believes that Russia needs a healthy market economy. Unfortu-
nately, he doesn't believe that Russia also needs a democracy. It is difficult to
explain to someone with a KGB background that a connection exists between
democracy and competitive markets. That is the real difference between Putin and
Yeltsin. Yeltsin believed in this connection in his very soul, especially after he vis-
ited the United States and went to a supermarket. "I am for democracy, and I am
for private business," he said. He kept that pledge to the end of his career.

Putin looks strong on issues such as Chechnya and flying an aircraft or visiting a
submarine, but he is extremely cautious on economic and political decisions.


JUNE 2003

Because of the grim experience of World War II, during which millions per-
ished, none of the grandchildren of the war veterans now want to join the army.
At the same time, we have a huge demographic crisis. Russia's population is de-
clining. Will the army disappear in Russia?

We have three million bureaucrats in the country. We live under a bureaucratic
capitalism.

I think he "Putin" wants a loyal press. Like all politicians, he hates criticism. But a
lot of politicians, including your president, the president of the United States,
understand the meaning of freedom. Putin does not understand it, and that is the
point.

Well, I think the main problem for Russia is to attract Russian investment, which
in turn will promote growth. That is my position. I do not think foreign invest-
ment is crucial.

-115-

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