Putinania

Russian Politics, & Personalities

Frolov’s Questions

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Before asking his questions this week, Frolov says:

…there is an innovative theory that suggests that Medvedev could still rule Russia even if his run for the second term fizzled out – he would become the ruler of “Russia 2.0,” the leader of choice for the most dynamic and vibrant part of Russian society – the “innovating class.” Vladimir Putin would continue to lead a “traditional Russia” and its economy of oil and gas.

Then he asks:

Will Medvedev’s “modernization” succeed? Is it mostly just talk, or will there be real action to reform and modernize Russia? Are there parallels with the way Gorbachev launched his “perestroika” in the mid-1980s? Would Medvedev, like Gorbachev, face the need to modernize Russia’s politics in order to modernize its economy? Would he be able to remain in the driver’s seat of his modernization agenda, or, like Gorbachev in the 1980s, be thrown off the ship he is trying to upgrade? Could Medvedev really “rule Russia 2.0” with Putin coming back to rule “Russia 1.0”?

Taking the questions one by one…

1. Will Medvedev’s “modernization” succeed? Short answer, no.  Longer answer, see next question.

2. Is it mostly just talk, or will there be real action to reform and modernize Russia? This is not just a talking point.  There is some honest motivation behind it, namely the desire to see Russia succeed.  However, because of the way the system is set up, and because of the transitional nature of the tandemocracy, there is no possible way that this can succeed.  Besides which, as I and others have said before, there can be no change of this scale without massive reconstruction of the national psyche.  Some of the issues that Medvedev has mentioned require a total attitude change, and that is something that takes longer than a presidency.

3. Are there parallels with the way Gorbachev launched his “perestroika” in the mid-1980s? Confession: my knowledge of perestroika is minimal.  Most of my knowledge of that era relates to Poland, and Czechoslovakia.  I have always been more interested in the post-Soviet era/current politics.  So I do not think that I can accurately answer this question.

4. Would Medvedev, like Gorbachev, face the need to modernize Russia’s politics in order to modernize its economy? Yes.  See question 2.

5. Would he be able to remain in the driver’s seat of his modernization agenda, or, like Gorbachev in the 1980s, be thrown off the ship he is trying to upgrade? I feel like a broken record sometimes.  I need to write a list out for all of you of what I believe are the main points that govern Putin’s Power Vertical.  But, since I have yet to do so, let me repeat: all the Power Vertical requires is a warm body that is at least nominally loyal, and will not stab Putin in the back.  Therefore, Medvedev is easily replaceable.  Come to that, Putin is also expendable, and replaceable.  Not to the degree that Medvedev is perhaps, but the s0-called “personality cult” of Putin is fake, and given the right set of circumstances, it would be relatively easy to replace him.

6. Could Medvedev really “rule Russia 2.0” with Putin coming back to rule “Russia 1.0”? Essentially, you are talking about maintaining and extending the tandemocracy.  The system that is currently in place is like a carton of milk.  Because of its very nature, and consistency, it has an expiration date.  That date might not be as clearly defined as we would like (the expiration date stamp blurred, to continue with the milk carton theme), but it definitely has an expiration date.

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