The Three Options of Pursuing Reform in Russia

Given the ideological split between Dmitry Medvedev and the corrupt bureaucracy built around the persona of Vladimir Putin, Leon Aron wonders what strategy the president may take to bring about his desired changes in Russia.  From the Washington Post:

What can Medvedev do? He could, like Nikita Khrushchev, pursue reform “within the system” — and probably would find himself opposed just as vigorously as Khrushchev was, neutralized by a corrupt and reactionary officialdom. This option would almost certainly bring an embarrassing display of impotence and perhaps an ignominious “retirement” in 2012.

Or the Russian president could try to reach out, as Mikhail Gorbachevdid, to the pro-democracy opposition and, even more so, to Russia’s newmiddle-class protesters, who turned out this year to call for moreeconomic and political freedom and to demand the return of elections forprovincial governorships and Putin’s resignation. The most significantstep here would be to ensure unimpeded registration of oppositionparties and movements in the run-up to the Duma election next year, andan honest tally of the votes, just as in 1989 and 1990.

There is, of course, a third option: that of Leonid Brezhnev, who ruledwith the blessing of the increasingly corrupt and hidebound nomenklaturafor 18 years as the country sank ever deeper into economic, social andmoral stagnation. But of course the Brezhnev option has already beentaken: If Putin recaptures the Kremlin in 2012 and serves two six-yearterms, he will, by 2024, have ruled Russia for 20 years, two yearslonger than Brezhnev, and very likely with the same result.