Right now the president of the Russian Federation is probably wrapping up his comments to the American Chamber of Commerce, where he has spent the day at various roundtables meeting the business elite. Hopefully at least some of them suggested that they would like to see some actions to verify the many nice promises being made. Here Robert Manning, Senior Advisor to the Atlantic Council, suggests a “test” of some kind to get a sense of the Kremlin’s intentions.
To the degree that Russia demonstrates embarking on a different path, even if it stumbles in sorting out how to do so, it merits close scrutiny and a response from the trans-Atlantic community commensurate with its seriousness. At a minimum, the logic of Russia’s Foreign Ministry statement and the hints of change in Moscow’s behavior need to be tested.
Fantasizing change, however, and actually transforming a political and business culture that impedes innovation and entrepreneurship are two entirely different things. The interesting question is whether the so far modest signs of change in Russia are more than incremental or tactical shifts reflecting the intentions of some, or whether there are economic and political forces inside Russia strong enough to bring about the change necessary to move Russia beyond a largely rentier Petro-state.