Conversations on Russia: Reform from Yeltsin to Putin

By Padma Desai | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 15
Jack Matlock Jr
The Road Ahead

FEBRUARY 2004

Russia's history does not prevent Russia from being a democracy any more than
Bourbon autocracy deprived France of the possibility.

Gorbachev was the more systematic political reformer…. Yeltsin was not so
much a systematic reformer as a master politician.

The elements of electoral democracy are not perfect but are far more extensive
than they have ever been in Russian history.

Putin has brought a sense of stability to the Russian populace, which explains his
current popularity.

I believe he "Putin" has a better understanding of Russia's interests than Yeltsin.
The danger is that he will go too far in recentralizing political authority and rely
too heavily on police methods.

Putin now has television tamed, in the sense that it will not report negative sto-
ries about topics that could be politically damaging to him—in particular, the
war in Chechnya is not reported objectively.

Soviet mass culture was even more banal than quick food and Hollywood and
was often imposed by police methods.


APRIL 2005

I believe that, ideologically and in spirit, the Cold War ended at the end of 1988,
certainly not with the collapse of the Soviet Union but before that.

The end of the Cold War gave the Soviet leadership an opportunity to reform
without the pressures of an adversarial U.S.-Soviet relationship.

During the Bush Sr. administration, the Cold War confrontation had practically
disappeared.

-325-

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