Stephen Blank On Perestroika
Medvedev, reform, and Gorbachev:
It is a mistake to liken Medvedev’s inchoate calls for modernization (which he has not defined) to perestroika, which, even though it too was inchoate and unformed, became to a significant degree a real policy with genuine momentum, for all its failures. Moreover, until modernization encompasses first of all the state, it means little or nothing in real practice. In Russia, as in most places, optimal economic innovation or modernization cannot be accomplished without a wholesale reformation, if not transformation, of the state, and Medvedev has not shown the slightest inclination to take on this subject.
As a result, whatever the length of the current crisis, Russia is condemned to sub-optimal economic outcomes and continued backwardness as it remains imprisoned in the magic circle of autocracy and non-market economies (and we should not take those declarations that Russia is a market economy seriously for they are political statements, not accurate descriptions of reality).
The failure to modernize Russia could lead to a direct expansion of the authoritarian model of today which would, in my opinion, return us to something like authoritarian modernization, and resemble Mediterranean Fascism, another example of failed modernization. This would take time to reveal its bankruptcy, but given its demographic situation and the rise of China, Russia does not have time to waste. It could be Putin or someone else who leads that regressive formation, but until and unless Medvedev shows more political courage, insight into his own system, and skill in transforming it, as Gorbachev did, and greater understanding of economics than Gorbachev did (for he was horrible here), all reforms will be essentially cosmetic and will fail to come to grips with the fundamental dysfunctionality of the Russian state under its present dispensation.