Until last fall I perceived the president as a person lacking initiative, who was either chronically late to respond to developments or preferred not to respond at all. However, after last September my (and many others’) opinion of Mr. Putin changed. The president dared a breakthrough in Russia’s relations with the rest of the world. He made a strategic choice in favor of the West. He also caught Western leaders by surprise after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when he unconditionally supported the anti-terrorist coalition, and when he called NATO Secretary General Robertson and stated directly that relations between Russia and the Alliance couldn’t have been worse and that something had to be done to improve them… And President Putin goes on breaking these stereotypes by not overreacting to the US withdrawing from the ABM Treaty, or to America’s military presence in Central Asia, or to Washington’s plans for Iraq. The nation demands that the president show some strength, but I believe he feels that any door-slamming would only result in another humiliation for Russia. What happened in September, exactly, was that Russia consciously and voluntarily undertook the role of another great power’s junior partner – an unprecedented case in world history. Thus, President Putin ended an entire era in the history of the Russian Empire’s development.
Interview with Lilia Shevtsova, Novaya Gazeta No. 15 March 4-6, 2002