Vladimir Putin

April 7, 2000

Vladimir Putin's election as Russian president promises to be a boon for analysts as they dissect his chances of hauling Russia into the 21st century.

The taciturn former KGB spy has given little clue to how he intends to tackle Russia's acute problems except to outline economic aims. His promises to get tough on crime and corruption while reforming the post-communist legal system and improve the nascent market economy are seen internationally as a mantra to ensure Russia remains within the fold.

James Hughes, senior lecturer in Russian politics at the London School of Economics, said: "He will be much tougher in terms of domestic politics, more authoritarian (than Boris Yeltsin); abroad he will be more assertive; and he has said he will make Russia a friendlier place for foreign investors. Any anti-corruption policies that Mr Putin does try to promote will not work unless he tackles someone at the top."

University economists are upbeat. A poll by Michigan State University's William Davidson Institute last week found that more than 60 of 104 prominent experts questioned at Stanford and Columbia universities, the London Business School, the Warsaw Economics School and other leading research centres agreed that Mr Putin would "make positive changes in Russia's economic development", with growth rates of up to 3 per cent a year.

Saul Estrin, professor of economics at the LBS, said: "I am mildly optimistic for Russia's economy under Mr Putin. Certainly in the longer term it is essential that Russia massively restructures. To do that it needs investment, the enforcement of contracts, a functioning state, labour and capital market. That's a 25-year agenda. It is a very big job."

Peter Frank, professor of government at Essex University, said Russia's problems were beyond the ability of one man to solve. "Putin is 47 and has in his favour two buzz words: new and young. Communism did not work and no one wants that back; democracy as practised in Russia has not worked. What we're now going to get is Putinism, whatever that means. The really big question for Russia is: if Putin does not work, where does it go after that? It's make-or-break time."

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