The election hasn’t even been held yet, and already Vladimir Putin has named his new cabinet:
Putin retained the cabinet’s strongest advocates of market reforms and left the military and internal-security forces in the hands of fellow KGB alumni. He removed entrenched ministers left from Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in favor of his own loyalists and installed a close aide in the office of the new prime minister.
If you ask me, the cabinet sounds pretty damn good. Let me explain.
If Russia is ever going to become a fully modern nation — and let’s hope like hell it does — it’s going to need two things:
1) More real economic freedom.
2) A strong hand to keep everything from blowing up before freedom sinks in.
And don’t let the KGB bogeyman scare you. Back in the bad old days, it was Leonid Brezhnev’s KBG who tried to put Mikhail Gorbachev in power. They failed on the first attempt — and we got the brief gerontocracy of Konstantin Chernyenko. After he died, the KGB finally got their man as General Secretary.
And why would the KGB want Gorby? He wasn’t a spook — he was an old party hack best known for some minor agricultural reforms. And that’s exactly why they wanted him.
The KGB, better than any other body in the old USSR, knew that reform was needed if the country was going to survive. They saw the future — that was their job, after all — and it was bleak. Old Splotchy looked like the best bet to reform the government enough to survive, but not so much that the Party would fall from power.
The fact that they ended up wrong on both counts doesn’t change the fact that the KGB knew the value of reform.
So when you see that Putin — himself an old KGB hand — has appointed more of his old cronies to power, you might breathe a small sigh of relief. We might not get along with them very well, we might have good reason to distrust them, but in many ways they’re the best hope Russia has right now.