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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

We Deserved More From Putin's Year

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One year ago today Russians went to the polls and elected Vladimir Putin president. After the checkered reign of Boris Yeltsin, the nation had great expectations for the energetic and determined young heir, while many harbored fears that his KGB background constitutes poor preparation for the head of a democratic state.

Over the last year, Putin has neither lived up to the hopes of his admirers nor fully justified the fears of his detractors. However, given the opportunities he has enjoyed in the form of a favorable global economy and a compliant legislature, Putin's failure to transform his popular support into concrete reform has been a disappointment.

The president's supporters argue that Russia's bureaucracy, traditions, entrenched interests and various other circumstances have rendered impossible more progress in such crucial areas as legal, military and administrative reform.

Although there have been occasional, half-hearted initiatives in all these areas, the president has inexplicably refused to publicly explain and advocate any of them. He has declined to provide the personal leadership that any country experiencing such a fundamental transition cannot do without. And only Putin is to blame for that.

The notable exception to this rule was Putin's advocacy of tax reform. In this case, when officials hinted that the 13 percent flat rate may be temporary, Putin spoke up and guaranteed that it was a long-term measure.

We can also fairly judge the president on the team that he has assembled. Here too, he comes up short. He turned a blind eye, for instance, when Press Minister Mikhail Lesin signed a secret agreement guaranteeing Media-MOST owner Vladimir Gusinsky personal freedom in exchange for surrendering control of his media holdings to Gazprom. Putin had nothing to say when the Audit Chamber released accusations of profiteering against Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov earlier this month.

No assessment of Putin's presidency would be complete without considering Chechnya, a quandary that becomes more intractable with each passing day and that threatens to overshadow all else the president does. Putin has not moved a jot from the "kill-them-in-the-outhouse" campaign rhetoric that he brought into office. No attempt to fashion a political settlement, no effort to win the support of civilians or to ease the conditions of refugees, no investigation or condemnation of atrocities. Nothing.

The bottom line is that, on dozens of crucial issues, we are, one year on, still asking, "What does Putin think?" The country has every right to demand more of its president than that.