The main political sensation in Russia this week is Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin’s statement that Russia needs fair and honest elections that would grant the authorities a mandate for executing difficult economic reforms.
What is really striking about Kudrin’s keynote speech at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum is the explicit acknowledgement that the current economic policy is too generous and populist, and that there is no financial possibility to deliver on all social promises, to increase expenditures on defense, and to advance the plans for the modernization of infrastructure and the industrial base.
Malignant growth of such clandestine business empires can only be interpreted by the majority of the political class as a sign of Putin’s either-or endgame. Putin is ready to hold on to the levers of power no matter what damage is done to Russia’s state integrity reducing Medvedev to irrelevance and squashing any political alternatives. He is also ready to deal with the breakdown of the crumbling kleptocracy not by taking a desperate last stance a la Colonel Qaddafi but by elegantly departing to a well-cushioned “island of stability.” This extra-smart policy planning hardly inspires masses of millionaires.