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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who is Yeltsin ananyways?

"A Russian leader loved by the West? . . Or a man respected by his own people? "


Who is this Yeltsin? Is the Russian president a demi-God, a local hero, a courageous resistance leader -- the only person who just might be able to pull this whole thing off? I think so, yes.


Or is he a demagogue, a wild Siberian peasant, an inaccessible, risk-taking man of crisis? Yes, I think that too.


Or, is he merely a transitional president, a future dictator, a dangerous man, a hopeless carouser. . . or worse. Maybe, but I doubt it.


Boris Yeltsin's political character is so critical at this moment in Russia's history. Why are we (or is he? ) so unclear about it? How can Russia, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world as a whole have such diverse views about such a prominent individual, hardly a new arrival on the world stage, and certainly not so shy in his own personal profile?


Well, maybe we never really knew the Shah of Iran as well as we thought. Certainly we never knew Noriega, or Saddam, or Begin, or Alinde, or Rajiv Ghandi. Perhaps we don't need to know.


Or perhaps its simply not that easy. It's always a little difficult to know whether today's revolutionary leader is tomorrow's wild-eyed radical, or the father of his nation?


I've been here for almost three years now, and I've changed positions on "the man" three times. Initially, I believed we should be frightened of him (I found his use of television awe-some). But then, I looked at his record, the people he appointed to his team, the swathe he cut. and now? . . .


It depends on who you listen to.


The Western press writes that Baker-Bush may have given up on him already. Don't commit. Look for the successors. Play the field. I hope that isn't true, like I hope that the Ameri-can business approach to this country isn't true either. (Are we such a suc-cessful enterprise that we can afford to pass up what many sincerely believe will be "the world's last great market"? )


And then the intelligence community's recent track record on this country (or Iran, or Iraq, or. . . ) doesn't exactly fill me with much confidence in their much-vaunted "game plans". (I wonder if the CIA would run as inept a coup as the KGB. Probably. )


But who do you listen to? Perhaps talk to the Brits. After all, they spotted Gorbachev before any of us, and they seem to like Yeltsin, in that perverse, right-hand drive way of theirs.


Or maybe ask the Russians! There certainly seem to be a lot of them around wherever you go these days! Why, some of them have even got "real money"!


Of course the Russians are such a cynical lot. Almost like they've been burned and don't give their support that easily anymore. Funny.


(Incidentally, can you imagine Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan, David Duke, and good-time Bill Clinton running for president here? )


But listen anyway. I've heard words like "honest", "decent", "fair", or even whole phrases like "a common man", "uncultured--but in the good sense", "good when in trouble", and "a fast-clock chess player". Oh, I don't mean it was all positive, but I do believe that people here (perhaps more the young) may just trust him, probably believe him, maybe even respect him. In any case, they give a damn about him!


As for me, personally I like him, although professionally as a marketing man, I know he needs a good PR cam-paign in the West if he's ever going to get their support. . . and God knows, he needs it. After all, Marshall, its not about reality, but about perception. Right?


But then, what do you want? A Russian leader loved by the West? We just had that. Or a man respected by his own people?


It may be temporary; he may be temporary. But he may also be all we've got, right now. After all, what do you want. . . PR? . . . or courage?


Personally, I need CNN, and Time, and the New York Times. But I don't need to believe all their domestic audi-ences want them. After all, I'm here. I'm closer. I may even know (or think I know) a little better.


Who's two-faced, anyway? Him or me?


Brvce Macdmald is director ofBBDO Marketing