It isn’t easy to live in an autocratic society, everything is easily criminalized, politicized. For anyone with easy memory of the 20th century, the west’s greatest geopolitical, strategic asset was human rights. Helsinki and Solidarity did more to push Marxism over the ash-heap of history than any other natural rights doctrine since the American Revolution dispensed with the divine right of kings.
If team Trump wishes to gauge Putin’s regime, they need to look no further than Alexei Kudrin, for he holds the balance in measuring the autocratic oscillations of Putin’s kleptocracy. If Moscow had a contemporary of Orwell, it would be Kudrin.
Kudrin has mastered the byzantine innards of Putin’s criminal oligarchy. He’s not an overt dissident, but he is the counterweight to the autocratic albatross that Russia has become.
Early spring 2016 saw Putin call upon Kudrin to assess and field a new economic strategy for weathering both sanctions and the fiscal calamity that became low oil. Kudrin’s verdict was beyond grim, it was apocalyptic and it underscores why/how Moscow’s industrial base modernization plans have openly failed. For Kudrin, the contemporary pace of Russian economic growth is identical to the conditions that brought about the Soviet collapse. Brezhnev isn’t a term used to encapsulate growth, but stagnation; and for Kudrin, the reasons are simple enough to understand yet exceedingly difficult for Russia’s social base to accept. By denying the supremacy of market based political economies, all that’s left is Russian autocracy. For Kudrin, Russia is going in circles.
The source of the Russian malaise is dual; insufficient market based institutions and monolithic governing mores unwrites Russian autocracy. For Kudrin, reforming the social, political base of government is essential. In a word: civil society.
Islamic Civilization encapsulates an identical problem, albeit from different cultural sources, yet the denial of strong civil institutions worked for Russian autocracy while its social base was feudal. Like the Saudi’s, Putin’s entourage must embrace the very reforms that threaten the systems stability. The Saudi’s have begun half hearted measures at reforming at the periphery. The Russians haven’t.
If 2017 is tough on Russia, it is because the dominant political class is incapable of responding to the social, political challenge of reform. Get ready for volatility.
George Orwell call your office.