Cultural Revolutions

Firing the Government

Vladimir Putin’s surprise firing of the Russian government on February 24 and his appointment of “technocratic” Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on March 1 had Western officials and observers buzzing about another round of “reform” and Russian cooperation with the West, while Western investors were optimistic that the new government would favor them.  Nevertheless, Washington should approach its relations with Moscow with a clear idea of what is likely happening behind the high Kremlin walls—and with no illusions about its present occupants.

Many Western observers saw Putin’s unexpected dismissal of the government, headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasya-nov, just 19 days before the March 14 presidential election, as a bold step intended to accelerate reforms that would favor foreign investment and improve Russia’s relations with the West.  The English-language Moscow Times, which serves Moscow’s expatriates, took a quick survey of resident Westerners and found they were “cheering” the “surprise nominee” who would supposedly “unquestioningly follow Putin’s orders to push forward reforms.”  Putin himself claimed Fradkov would advance restructuring of the government and fight corruption, while E.U. spokesman Reijo Kemppinen stated that the appointment of Russia’s current envoy to the European Union “is a positive...

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