The free world should say a prayer today in gratitude for the life of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, dead at 76. His own mercurial nature, reported alcohol problems, and some behaviors that bordered on buffoonery have all, quite unfortunately, obscured the truth that this was a man who did more than anybody this side of Reagan and Pope John Paul II to kill the Soviet menace. The Left loves to credit Gorbachev, of course, and there is a sense in which Gorby deserves some credit. He was a reformer and a man of sanity who wanted to avoid a nuclear conflagration. But he remained a Communist apparatchik and tried mightily to keep the Soviet Communist state intact. It was Yeltsin who was the republican reformer — and Yeltsin who was the braver man. While Gorby meekly went under House arrest as Soviet hardliners tried to reconstitute the Stalinist nature of the Soviet state, it was Yeltsin who risked his life to climb attack a tank and dare the tank to kill him in front of the reformist/republican crowds gathered around. It was Yeltsin who tried (very incompetently, but with utter sincerity) to bring the free market to Russia. It was Yeltsin who beat back another attempted coup by hardline Communists. It was Yeltsin who tried to strengthen ties with the West.
No, Yeltsin was not a very good head of state. But he was a great man, brave and freedom-loving. May he rest in the Lord’s peace and in the fond memories of freedom-loving peoples for all time.