It’s a good reminder of something we often forget: Not every prime minister has to be a genius, and not every economic target has to be met for life to improve in a developing or transitional country. But a few basic requirements must be met: a percentage of honest bureaucrats; a minimal investment in public health and safety; a genuine separation between criminal mafias and at least most state authorities. And, of course, a working legal system. The absence of these ingredients explains, in part, the popularity of President Vladimir Putin: Many Russians want someone, anyone, to appear to be in charge. But Putinism in turn reinforces the status quo, too. Criminality and lawlessness may be a big problem for the would-be middle class in Russia, but it suits those in power to leave things just as they are.