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The Election in Russia Does Not Matter

Interesting analysis in the Financial Times today from Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, arguing that it doesn’t matter who becomes the next president of Russia.

The next president is unlikely to allow a more pluralistic political system, significantly strengthen the rule of law or tackle corruption. Nor is he likely to steer the economy away from dependency on natural resource exports, so that manufacturing and services play a greater role. That is because such policies would threaten the power base and wealth of the ruling clans. (…)

In foreign policy, too, dramatic shifts are unlikely. As a senior parliamentarian in the ruling United Russia party puts it: “Foreign policy did not change much when Putin left the Kremlin, so why should it change if he returns?” The most significant development of recent years, the “reset” with the US, is likely to endure, he says, because it is interest-driven. The Russians think the US has accepted their primacy in their near abroad, including Ukraine. And the US has had Russian help on the transit of supplies to Afghanistan and on sanctioning Iran. (…)

Mr Medvedev has failed to transform Russia but he has acted as a cushion between the west and the Russian elite. Without him more friction is likely but, in any case, the US and Europe should prepare to deal with an increasingly economically troubled Russia that may become more confrontational. They cannot do much to influence events, although they should do what they can to support economic modernisation. Whoever is in charge, relations are unlikely to be easy,

So why are we all paying so much attention?