Two significant moves relating to foreign policy and the economy although not very widely publicized came out of Vladimir Putin's administration last week.
The first was the announcement that the president-elect's first international visit (a brief stint in Belarus aside) will be to London to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The second was the announcement by the Kremlin on Wednesday that Putin had appointed economist Andrei Illarionov to the post of presidential adviser.
If Putin is looking for a mentor or partner in Europe, then he could have chosen no better than Britain and Blair. For all of the British prime minister's faults perhaps smarminess being the most notable he is by far the most impressive leader in Europe and undoubtedly a politician of great skill.
Blair is a leader of the next generation, and Putin could learn a lot from him. Britain, meanwhile, as Europe's best performing economy and one of its oldest democracies, will also be of interest to the president-elect.
The choice of Britain shows a healthy streak of pragmatism in the Kremlin.
Putin could not really turn to Germany, a country with which he has some history. French President Jacques Chirac, who was close to Boris Yeltsin, seems now to have gone cold on Russia. U.S. President Bill Clinton, meanwhile, is in his lame-duck year, so there is little point in expending a lot of energy courting the United States.
This makes Blair the logical choice, and it is fortuitous for Russia.
In relation to Putin's own administration, the naming of Illarionov is also extremely encouraging. Illarionov is known as a straight-talking and highly intelligent economist who is not beholden to any special interest group a rare thing in Russia.
This newspaper has great respect for Illarionov and we hope he will be very influential on economic policy in the Putin administration.
This is the man who warned prior to the August 1998 crisis of the danger of the government practice of resorting to domestic borrowing to finance the budget deficit and called for a devaluation of the ruble before it crashed. Illarionov has also long held that the IMF could better help Russia by drafting economic policy rather than distributing new funds.
In 20-20 hindsight, this looks like nothing special, but these predictions and assessments show significant intellectual rigor.
For Putin to have Illarionov as the man he turns to when it comes to economic matters is very good news indeed. He will receive unfettered assessments and well thought out analysis of the economy. This is exactly what Putin will need.
The president-elect could not be in better hands.
If Illarionov is Putin's top adviser, then this could be even more significant, given that it is increasingly likely Russia will be run from the Kremlin, while the White House will be tasked with implementing policy.
Devising policy in the Kremlin makes sense in that the current government much of which seems likely to remain in place is one of technocrats with few ideas of its own. The White House is also extremely prone to lobbying of the worst kind.
Good indications of Illarionov's rational analysis were his first comments to the media after being appointed. He told ORT television: "In the long-term, we will not get very far if we remain addicted to the oil needle."
This is nothing new. But has anyone heard the Russian government stating it quite so directly?
One positive aspect of Putin's early days has been an apparent willingness to learn. Putin is finding his feet as the leader of a nation facing huge social and economic problems as well as searching for its place in Europe.
If he is prepared to be guided by a leader such as Blair and to take economic advice from a man of Illarionov's ilk, then these are very positive signs. There are grounds for optimism that the new president is headed in the right direction.