April 29, 2007
WE EASILY FORGET...:
Boris the Fighter (BILL CLINTON, 4/29/07, NY Times)
The last time I saw Mr. Yeltsin during my presidency was in June 2000, six months after he became the first leader of Russia to step down voluntarily as part of a constitutional transition. Though the burdens of office and his heart surgery had taken a toll on his health, he still had his trademark bear hug and smile. He clearly thought he had done the right thing in stepping down early and in selecting as his successor Vladimir Putin, who had the intelligence, energy and stamina the country needed to get Russia’s economy on track and handle its complicated politics.
I told him I was impressed by what I had seen of President Putin but wasn’t sure he was as comfortable with or committed to democracy as Mr. Yeltsin. Mr. Yeltsin replied that we would have disagreements as Russia found its way into the future, but that President Putin would not turn the clock back and we would find a way to work together.
I saw Mr. Yeltsin one more time, when I went back to the Kremlin for the 75th birthday party President Putin held for him last year. He seemed in good health and at peace with himself and his work.
Boris Yeltsin was intelligent, passionate, emotional, strong-willed and courageous. He wasn’t perfect, and he had to contend with staggering political and economic challenges as he led Russia away from centuries of authoritarian rule. But lead he did. At the end of the cold war, Russia and the world were lucky to have him.
History will be kind to my friend Boris.
...that nothing made George Washington greater in the eyes of his contemporaries than his willingness to turn power over to others. Just because it took a Russian two hundred years to follow the example doesn't make it any less worth celebrating. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2007 9:20 AM