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The Election of Putin

     Miles Seeley, who spent his life in US intelligence, gives his assessment of Putin: " I have strong opinions about the man because I worked for many years against his kind when he was in the KGB, and with his kind when they defected. Putin played it very smart pre-election, being vague on everything except pursuing he war in Chechnya, which he knew was very popular. Of course, now the Chechens have taken to the mountains and are picking off Russian soldiers in the manner of the ill-fated Afghan adventure.
     But Putin must look at the dominance of the Russian criminal class in his troubled economy, and he must view them as an internal problem he could solve using the tactics of the old KGB Second Chief (Internal) Directorate. I think he will be tempted to introduce repressive measures. They too will be popular with the average citizen, who may in fact not have been paid a ruble in salary for months, while the racketeers got enormously wealthy and influential. Much more Western investment would follow internal stabilization, as Putin knows. What will he do?
     And what will we do? We inveighed, on human rights terms, against the war in Chechnya, and neither Yeltsin nor Putin paid us any attention. If a revived internal security system of secret police and informers is installed, will we react? If we do, will Putin heed any warnings we give? Doubtful.
     Looked at from the perspective of my experience and my knowledge of men like Putin, then, the near future should be most interesting. It will take a lot of knowledge and diplomacy for us to tread a path between sanctimonious condemnation and a desire to see capitalism and democracy succeed. Lurking in the background through all of this is the not-defunct Communist Party, which just garnered 30% of the vote to everyone's surprise. What was that old Chinese saying about living in "interesting times?"

     My comment: The comparison with Afghanistan is very appropriate. Countries go to war thinking they will win, but when disaster hits their enthusiasm vanishes (cf Vietnam). How will Chechnya go? Putin, as far as I know, is not the dirty tricks kind. Intelligence services are manned mostly by educated people who do analysis. Putin was in East Germany, in contact with West Germany, so he has far more experience than Brezhnev did.

Ronald Hilton - 3/28/00