Russian Crossroad

A great nation nears trouble when its predominant middle class cannot make its weight felt. Russia faces that situation today.

Lawmakers will vote a decisive third time Friday on whether to install a new reform prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko. His task: to tame the oligarchic capitalism that replaced total-monopoly communism.

Communists in parliament (malefactors of lost power) and the men who bought the Communist state's prime assets at bargain prices (malefactors of great wealth who fear losing power) threaten the center.

At that center stands Boris Yeltsin, the quixotic, imperious populist who burst on the scene 15 years ago by facing down party hacks threatened by his popularity. He has since made a career of weaving between bold younger reformers and powerful old-guard and new-guard opponents.

Kiriyenko and First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, both in their thirties, represent Yeltsin's attempt to provide tangible benefits to ordinary citizens. They represent the nation's future, symbolically and literally. Kiriyenko deserves a yes vote, for the sake of Russia's long-suffering people.

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