Nikolai Petrakov has given us an informed critique of the “shock therapy” approach to Russian economic reform implemented under Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar. In Petrakov’s opinion, the decision to emulate the Polish model was a mistake; he contends that Russia’s lack of a private sector and the huge scale of its military-industrial complex render it incapable of achieving a market economy merely through the liberalization of prices.

Lest anyone be tempted to categorize Petrakov among those political hardliners in Russia today who are opposed to free markets and democratic reform in general, it is important to point out that Petrakov chose to resign his post as Gorbachev’s chief economic adviser in January 1991 rather than continue to serve a government that sought to undermine genuine economic reform and used military repression against Lithuania. Petrakov was particularly critical of the Soviet leadership at the time for losing control over spending and the money supply; he believed its actions effectively sabotaged the transition to a market economy.