The Importance of Scapegoats

This is from a Q&A posted by Reuters with Eurasia Group (Ian Bremmer).  EG doesn’t often tell you much that a regular reader wouldn’t already know (including a definition of the word “siloviki”), but it’s good to see what intelligence the corporate execs are operating on.  As usual, the message is to keep an eye on the scapegoats for the crisis.

As far as political power balances go, a dynamic of more immediate concern is the jockeying between the relatively more liberal technocratic faction of the political elite-personified in many ways by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin-and the hard-line, statist elements of the elite known as the “siloviki” — from the Russian word for people tied to the security services. In short, the two sides view the financial crisis in starkly different terms — the liberals, who control the broad strokes of economic policy for the moment, see the crisis as a technocratic policy challenge, and are committed to defending Russias longer term macroeconomic stability and global openness. The hardliners, in turn, have advocated more protectionist and autarchic responses, and many of them are state capitalists eyeing lucrative assets weakened by the financial crisis. Should popular discontent, or silovik power, compel Putin to scapegoat Kudrin or other top liberals, it would be a grim signal about Russias economic and political future.