The new Yeltsin

June 20, 1991

Fresh from his stupendous victory as the first elected president of Russia, Boris Yeltsin is back in the U.S., and apparently on better behavior this time than his last visit two years ago. On that trip, which included a stop in Baltimore, some thought they detected a whiff of Old Busthead. But for our part, after listening to his performance at Johns Hopkins, we detected a whiff of Old Demagoguery: He knew what his audiences wanted to hear, and he readily obliged by saying it.

Yeltsin's principal message now seems to be, come and invest in the Soviet Union.

But it's going to take more than Yeltsin's blandishments to persuade American businesses to invest in the Soviet Union in the present unstable climate, and we've heard little from Yeltsin to suggest that he could achieve that stability more readily than Mikhail Gorbachev has done.

The fundamental problem with the Soviet economy is simply that the stick has been put away, and there is no carrot. Nor is there any likelihood that Yeltsin or anyone else can wave a magic wand and create a Western-style economy. Can anyone believe that if it were so easy, Gorbachev wouldn't have done it already?

Yeltsin's election notwithstanding, Gorbachev is still the West's best bet in the Soviet Union.


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