Putvedev and its Core Instability

Brian Whitmore, writing on the Power Vertical and translating from Novaya Gazeta:

The turbulence currently rattling Russia’s body politic resembles that which existed in the early perestroika period. There is a consensus that there is a need for change, the elite has split into two opposing camps unable to agree over what needs to be done, and neither side can garner a critical mass of support for their agenda.

That is the central argument of political analyst Kirill Rogov in an interesting piece in “Novaya gazeta.” Rogov argues that the agendas of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin “are fully formed and divergent” but neither of them is making a compelling case.

Here’s the money quote:

The problem is not that Russia right now seemingly has two chiefs. The problem is that the feeling that change is necessary has fully matured in society. You cannot brush it off with PR tricks. For society, to move backward (Putin) looks increasingly unpromising historically, and this ignites the prime minister’s hostility toward his protégé. At the same time, the calls to move forward (Medvedev) for now appear unconvincing to the greater part of society. As a result, the machine is skidding and starting to overheat from the inside a little.

Rogov correctly points out that the Putin model of authoritarian modernization is inherently unstable because it is dependent on high energy prices:

The Putin agenda is unconvincing because, as the crisis showed, governance by the ‘old economy,’ with its gigantic raw materials industry, monopolies, and state corporations, looks solid and convincing only as long as oil prices are high. But the onset of an era of low prices is being accepted more and more often as the base scenario for serious long-term forecasts. The logic here is simple. The longer energy prices remain high, the more investments are made in new deposits, production technology, and alternative fuel. And that means a turnaround in prices is virtually inevitable.

A change in the trend of raw materials prices undercuts not only the ‘old’ economy itself but also the two main pillars of the political regime that rests on it: social stability and the possibility of controlling the elites and the bureaucracy. Therefore, in spite of Vladimir Putin’s continuous demonstration of self-confidence and equanimity, the main characteristic of his agenda for the elites in the long-term future is its ‘instability.’ And Putin’s readiness to use force in this context makes this agenda even less attractive.

If Putin’s program appears retrograde, Rogov writes that Medvedev’s modernization looks like “wishful thinking” reminiscent of Mikhail Gorbachev’s belief early in his tenure that he could save the Soviet system with mere tinkering around the edges:

Then, the arrival of a new general secretary coincided with a growing sense in society and among the elite that the status quo was exhausted, a mounting sense of instability, and ominous economic trends. It is amusing that the first reaction to this was a slogan: ‘accelerating scientific-technical progress.’ Kind of sounds like Medvedev modernization: the search for a simple, technological solution that does not touch on systemic problems.

And as I have blogged here (and on numerous other occasions) those “systemic problems” are essentially political. They won’t be resolved by building a Russian version of Silicon Valley in Skolkovo and they won’t be solved by luring Western investors to help rebuild crumbling infrastructure. They will only be resolved when Russia’s economy is truly decentralized and a real private sector independent of the state — unlike the current fake private sector, which is an adjunct of the state — is allowed to flourish.

That, of course, would inevitably lead to a decentralization of power and a more competitive and pluralistic political environment.

Even if Medvedev wanted to go this far, Putin and silovikli cronies like Deputy Prime Minister (and Rosneft CEO) Igor Sechin would never let it happen. Their vision has always been a top-down moernization of the economy and an authoritarian neo-Andropovian political system.

So instead, Medvedev appears to be opting for a cosmetic modernization — a Gorbachevian “accelerating scientific-technical progress” by another name — and a pseudo makeover the political system to allow for fake pluralism

3 responses to “Putvedev and its Core Instability

  1. Putin and Medvedev need to concentrate more on:
    1) raising wages of army personnel
    2) improve the law to make is less foggy for the foreign investers and grand them security of the law
    3) invest in the education, give engineers industrial placements and increasse support for factories
    4) allow wider rights of the citizens of the Russian Federation
    5) diplomatically negotiate to have this website removed

    • Congratulations Konstantin for showing your true, but totally divorced from reality, colors.

      However do you realize that points one to four are totally alien to Putin’s ‘modus operandi’ and therefore against him and his grand plan of becoming the richest crime czar in the history of mankind.

      If I were you I would be looking over my shoulder for his wretched KGB/FSB goons on their way to arrest you for spreading such vile and seditious propaganda against beloved ‘vozd’ Putin.

      Thank you for point five – which shows you up for the idiot you really are – what’s wrong Kostia? does the truth get under your skin. Remember chum the pen is and will always be mightier than the sword!!! and no amount of propaganda will alter that fact. Learn to live with this simple fact of life – i.e. truth – as it will never, ever change.

      Can any sane person imagine?? “diplomatically negotiate to have this website removed”. You have to be brain damaged to utter such stupid and irresponsible words!!!

      Confucius the great Chinese philosopher is world known for stating “It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and let people think that you’r an idiot, rather than open it and dispel all doubt.” Thank you Kostia for dispelling all doubt.

  2. Pingback: July 7, 2010 — Contents | Klipizlesene.info- Videolar- Komik-Eğlenceli-Ciddi-Filmler

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