BORIS YELTSIN cast the die last month when he abolished the Russian parliament and called for elections. This was the ultimate high-stakes game, and it required the Russian president to follow through.
Now he has done so. After a 13-day standoff with hardliners in parliament and worries that he would again compromise, Mr. Yeltsin acted - or at least reacted - decisively when crowds broke through police lines at the parliament. He gave the orders to end the siege, and by Monday evening the hardliners surrendered; hundreds of defenders may have been killed.
Boris Yeltsin had to show he was willing to use power. He tried other means for months. The US and others are right to support his effort. Russia and its future still sit on a knife's edge. Provoked to the limit with a challenge of power, Yeltsin had to act or face a permanent loss of authority.
Fair questions have been raised about Yeltsin's means of bringing democracy. Clearly the US must urge him to continue a more liberal path. But Sunday's assault by an unsavory crew of fascist and communist thugs showed the world the kind of alliances hardliners were making and the direction they were willing to go. Now he must use his victory to speak strongly to Russians about elections this year.
Muscovites, now used to such convulsions, shopped during the crisis. Westerners can't be so detached. So much in the world's second-largest nuclear power is riding on one man.