If You Can’t Beat Them, Copy Them

AB47C0F5-1E78-451A-9DDC-E367A12FD134_w393_s.jpgMany commentators have been wondering in recent times exactly how the President plans to realise the reforms of the ‘Go Russia’ ilk.  One can look at Macha Lipman on the issue of re-Stalinisation in the Washington Post today for a recent example, who laments the gap between Presidential rhetoric and reality, or the Alexander Golts op-ed in today’s Moscow Times which questions how the President will be able to oversee his desired upgrading of Russia’s superannuated military.  RFE/RL has this report on one potential path the President has been advised to take if he wishes to see talk turn into action:

An influential think tank is advising President Dmitry Medvedev that he needs to establish an alternative power structure answerable only to him in order to reach his goal of modernizing Russia.

In a report for Medvedev, the Institute for Contemporary Development concludes that it will be impossible for the president to carry out any meaningful changes as long as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s siloviki cronies remain in key administrative posts. But attempting to dismantle Putin’s vaunted power vertical would be difficult (if not impossible) and destabilizing at this point.

So the institute is advising that Medvedev set up his own personal power vertical. 

Here is how “Nezavisimaya gazeta” describes the proposal:

The authors are not recommending the establishment of a shadow Cabinetor parliament. The experts are instead suggesting the formation ofcommand centers to guide the processes of modernization. The centersshould be divided into two groups: those dealing with current problemsand those in charge of strategic planning. The former will handle theproblems that cannot be delayed – homeless children, organized crime,etc. The latter will chart programs such as a new models for education,new concepts of military development, and alternative urban developmentstrategies.

And here is “Nezavisimaya gazeta” quoting directly from the report:

One structure will strive to prevent de-modernization, while the other will carry out modernization as such. They should operate in tandem. It is of utmost importance to leave the regular bureaucracy out of the process of modernization…By and large, structures of both kinds will represent a parallel power vertical that answers directly to the president, reacts to challenges, and maps out future developments. The functions of the regular bureaucracy, in the meantime, will come down to maintenance of the existing social systems – a mission that is vitally important but has nothing to do with modernization.   

The Institute for Contemporary Development, of course, is headed by Igor Yurgens, an adviser to Medvedev. 

Yurgens made waves back in February by suggesting that Russia’s implicit social contract, in which citizens sacrificed political freedoms in exchange for rising living standards, had been abrogated by the financial crisis. Political liberalization, Yurgens said at the time, was necessary if Russia was to emerge from the deepening recession.

His remarks were met with ridicule by Medvedev’s powerful deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, the regime’s unofficial ideologist and architect of Russia’s authoritarian system of “sovereign democracy.”

Keep reading here.