Robert Kaiser is Associate Editor and Senior Correspondent at The Washington Post.

The collapse of Communism and the dismantling of the Soviet Union were moments of national trauma for Russia. The succeeding transition to a democratic state and a free market economy were no less daunting. The transfer of state power through the election process this past spring was a major triumph, but serious problems remain. These problems must be the principal agenda of Vladimir Putin who lacks a traditional political background. Robert Kaiser evaluates his performance to date and potential future challenges.