Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

It Is Time For Rutskoi To Resign

Vice President Alexander Rutskoi is beyond any doubt a brave man. A career military officer, he earned his country's highest honor -- "Hero of the Soviet Union" -- for the courage he demonstrated during the Afghan war. Boris Yeltsin most certainly took this factor into account when he chose Rutskoi as his running mate in 1991, as Russia prepared to elect a president for the first time. and now, with the political crisis that has developed here, it is time for Rutskoi to show courage once again.

In the last week, the vice president has repeatedly disavowed the actions of the president with whom he was elected to serve. He went on television shortly after Yeltsin spoke Saturday night to denounce the president's decision to rule by decree until April 25 -- pending a vote of confidence on "the president and vice president of the Russian Federation" and a vote on a new draft constitution. The decision to rule by decree, Rutskoi warned, would lead inevitably to bloodshed.

On Monday, Rutskoi denounced the president again, accusing Yeltsin of deciding to rule by decree in order to "cover up" the alleged mistakes his government had made in its approach to market reform. Without mentioning his own role in affairs of state, he said that "irresponsibility . . . in the executive" had helped bring Russia "to the brink of the abyss".

Such statements have understandably sown discontent in the Yeltsin camp. First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Shumeiko denounced Rutskoi's comments as cowardly, while Mikhail Poltoranin, one of the president's closest aides, demanded that the vice president apologize or face his own, separate vote of confidence on April 25.

Many may wonder how a man with views so different from those of Yeltsin was ever selected as his running mate in the first place. It must have seemed a good idea at the time, as Russia raced into its first fully democratic elections. Rutskoi, with his military panache and reputation as a patriot, provided balance on the Yeltsin ticket and brought support from the armed forces. A reform Communist, he had taken stands similar to those of Yeltsin before the June 1991 election -- and he proved his worth in August that year when he supported Yeltsin during the coup.

But now, Rutskoi has fallen out of step with the president. He cannot seriously hope to function as Russia's number two executive while in opposition to Yeltsin. Under present circumstances, to call his stand counterproductive is a large understatement. Now is the time for Rutskoi to put his courage on display. He should draw the obvious conclusion and resign.