The foundation for the political harmony has been provided by Russia’s strong economic growth—but it is exactly in the economic sphere that the symptoms of stagnation are coming to the surface, despite the continuing inflow of “petro roubles.”
Moscow enjoys the still-abundant fruits of petro-prosperity, so its rentier-bureaucrats, fancying themselves as a “creative class,” maintain a moderately optimistic outlook.
Putin and Medvedev encourage this “enjoy-it-while-it-lasts” attitude but their hands-on management quite possibly only serves to stifle economic activity and bring the horizon of stagnation closer. The problem with their “tandemocracy,” which is merely a travesty of democracy, is that no institutional safety net is available for a sudden turn in fortune—and those cannot be talked out of existence. The attempts to scapegoat a negligent minister or a greedy oligarch even now look far from convincing, and the issue of responsibility for a possible economic tremor, even if of medium magnitude, remains yawningly open. Putin has gambled on a good-weather political arrangement, and now has reasons to worry about every cloud—just as the winds are gathering power.