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     Putin continues to puzzle observers. The first government leaders to whom he sent greetings after his election was President Bouteflika of Algeria. He sent Duma speaker Gennedy Selzner to Algiers to convey his message personally. Since Russia has had few relations with Algeria in the past, this strange gesture was thought to be an attempt to win support inside OPEC in order to influence the world supply and price of oil.
     WAISers have mixed feeling about Putin. Miles Seeley says "I think you are mistaken if you think Putin was just an educated analyst with the KGB. According to my information, he was in active operations." I had said "to the best of my knowledge." Miles may have better sources.
     Robert Gard says: "Some commentators have said that it will be difficult for Putin to clamp down on the criminal element that was instrumental in bringing him to power." Dwight Peterson, who was doing business in Chile during the Allende regime, does not regard US-style democracy as the main criterion for judging a foreign government. He says
     "It is essential that the criminal element and its power over the Russian economy and society must be eradicated if Russia is to have any hope of evolving as a world power again. Perhaps democracy is not the answer at the moment because it is certainly not working. I hesitate to say it, but repression is needed to quell the activities of the criminals and private militias so that a normal transition from controlled markets to free markets can take place. Russia needs a benign dictator who passionately cares for his/her mother country and who can ensure peace and tranquility for all while ridding the country of the international hooligans. I have no idea if Putin is this person. Has there ever been a benign dictator?? I don't know. But King Hussein of Jordan did a good job. The Sheik in Oman seems to have excelled. I even think that General Ongania in Argentina did a good job, but I will probably get comments on that one. My views on Pinochet are well documented. He definitely saved Chile from a terrible Marxist takeover of the country. Some countries are not ready for democracy. If another form of government steps in and imposes controls which are not in the democratic mode but which are designed to benefit that country's people, economy and social order with the expressed intent to enable it to return to a democratic form of government, then it should be supported. "

Ronald Hilton - 3/30/00