Monday, November 23, 2009

Putin, Medvedev Onside For Russia's Future

Last week in his state-of-the-nation address, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev laid out an ambitious (though vague) plan for Russia's future, titled quite humbly as: "Go, Russia!" At the time, critics thought the speech was also a thinly-veiled critique of his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, since he had failed to modernize the Russian economy and tackle corruption during his time as president. Putin seemed visibly uncomfortable at times during Medvedev's address, so Russia watchers were interested to see what his "response" would be when he addressed the party congress of United Russia (the dominant party in Russian politics) on Saturday.

It turns out that Putin largely endorsed the position of his protege. He echoed calls to modernize the Russian economy, saying that too many companies in Russia tried to: "squeeze out every last drop from aging equipment and get into debt with the hope that the state will provide a shoulder at the last minute and drag them out of their hole." He went on to say that the business climate was dominated by "short-term opportunists", and that long-term investment is what Russia truly needs. He also announced a plan to help Russia's "monocities", factory towns built around a single industry, to diversify their economies, including a plan to create "techno-parks and ‘business incubators’.”

Putin even called for a crackdown on corruption (though he has made this call a number of times in the past), singling out Russian state monopolies especially to engage in internal reforms. It was an interesting response from Putin, and one that is bound to spark yet another round of speculation about the true nature of their relationship - this picture from the Moscow Times was surely released to reinforce the idea of a strong partnership (even if it does sort of make them look like they're out on a date...).

Medvedev, meanwhile, pressed on with his push for reforms. He used his address at the party conference to call for free and fair elections (the last few in Russia have been alleged to be anything but free or fair). He also called for amending laws to strengthen the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia - in 2006 Putin signed a law that made operating an NGO in Russia nearly impossible. To make matters worse, there have been several high-profile murders of people involved with Russian human rights NGOs in the past year. Medvedev pledged to "continue to perfect the legal status of NGOs" in Russia, along with more than a billion rubles in aid to NGOs.

Critics say that the plans from both Medvedev and Putin are vague, that really at this point they're nothing more than talking points. But they are plans and plans that point in the right direction for Russia. The challenge for both Putin and Medvedev now is to show that these really are the outline for a course of action for the future and not just a few well-crafted speeches.
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1 comment:

DM said...

Truthfully, I don't see how making plans is that much different from what Obama has attempted with relations in the Middle East. You start off with an idea, make a plan and then go.

But it starts with a plan.