"Vedomosti", July 4th, 2011
Tandem: "Sit down and talk it over"
The results of the political season in Russia are sad to say the least. The country has stalled or even made backward progress in its struggle to become a proper modern state with a competitive economy. The authorities are imitating active reformation in separate spheres, which only increases the feeling of improvisational governing, and public debates end with guessing which of the two members of the tandem is going to run for president. Public is discussing neither the reasons for the ineffectiveness of the current model of the state, which is obvious even to the president and the prime minister, nor the details of the policy that the next president must pass in order to turn the situation around. According to "Levada-Center" polls the number of respondents having faith in Medvedev's policy decreased to 33%, while numbers of those trusting Putin went down from 50% to 41% since last year, with 52% of those surveyed being unsatisfied with the government altogether. Considering the lack of an alternative those are extremely poor results, especially since the number of Russian citizens who think that their country is not going the right way exceeds those who consider Russia to be on the right path.
The main result of the passing political season has become the creation of a super-corrupt pseudo-state capitalism that has basically turned into a system of personal gain for high-ranking officials and their friends. This system is controlled by non-public but extremely influential clans, without consent of which none of the important economic or political decisions in the country can be made. The administrative, financial and legislative powers as well as the major legal mechanisms are concentrated deep within those clans allowing them to adjust the whole system the way they require it on the fly. It's there where the major staffing decisions are made with all of this bringing back the practice of the 90's during which the laws were constantly bent to someone's specific requirements and circumstances.
The public life has degraded severely, while a parallel, unofficial pseudo government has been formed. The decision-making processes have been almost entirely monopolized by the people who have never been legitimately granted such authority, a powerful administrative resource is solely dedicated to serving corruption and personal gain and systematized authority is replaced with subjective improvisation. As a result the officials are openly lobbying private projects, which in many cases acutely contradict national interests, while the clans are explicitly dividing the country between themselves.
Raiding is also returning in massive scale, although unlike the 90's the main role is now played by government officials, who purposefully discredit private companies in order to force the owners into selling their businesses at "discounted" rates to the friends of those officials. There are also individuals in power who charge entrepreneurs for "fixing" the problems that these individuals have created in the first place. Putin's way of introducing the main candidate for the presidential election of 2012 ("sit down and talk it over") has become a "one-size-fits-all" method of raiding for clans. Owners are offered to "sit down and talk it over" otherwise their venture gets taken over the hard way. In modern Russia the difference between the real price and the "talked over" price of the business in many cases determines the wealth of high-ranking officials. The country is left almost without a single venture capable of defending itself against the greed of those officials and their friends. The principles of free market and fair competition are being eroded from the degrading national economy, and that puts this economy beyond modernization.
Russian corruption is slowly eating away at Global Financial Structure as well. Not that long ago Russian officials have started to involve employees of foreign financial organizations into their schemes to influence not only the processes of capitalization of certain Russian companies, but also the conditions of entering the global market altogether. This puts Russia at risk of more International scandals, ones that would surpass in their scale even the scandals of the 90's, ones that have turned Russia into an exile in the Global Financial world for quite a long time. Foreign investment into the country shouldn't spark any hopes either - the scale of the investment is incredibly small for an economy of this size, and the main states that invest into Russia are Cyprus, Netherlands and Luxembourg - jurisdictions most popular among Russian entrepreneurs. Such investment can not be considered foreign and this money is not related to modern technologies in any way. But most importantly - significant part of these investments would be taken out of the country again by Russian officials and their friends from international financial organizations in private accounts and off the record.
The degradation of the government and economy is followed by degradation of population and transformation of its priorities. A forecast recently published by American Census Bureau is predicting Russia to suffer a 21% decrease in population (down to 109 million) by the middle of the century, forcing it to move to the 17th place in the World while maintaining it's shamefully low life expectancy. According to Russian Public Opinion Research Center 22% of Russians are planning to immigrate, while among the youth this ratio is close to 40%. In the next 50 years up to 30% of country's population is predicted to consist of immigrants from the neighboring countries who would consider themselves mere temporary residents and who send more than 2% of Russian GDP back to their states already.
Today Russia has turned into a tandem of weak state and powerful corrupt clans. Organized crime and oligarchs' audacity of the 90's have been replaced by organized gangs consisting of government officials and their oligarch "lieutenants" who have managed to take over the control over the state. Even the president has no choice but to admit that the system has become incredibly ineffective, hence his decision to call for drastic reforms right before the elections, which is quite rare in modern politics. Unfortunately such reformation is impossible due to absence of ideology and concept of the state, which the renewed, decentralized government should be built around. What the country needs today is practically a new state, transparent, dedicated to developing national business, appealing to its own people and the International Community, free of clans and their influence, with systems of checks and balances in place and the rule of law. Ultimately - creation of such state should be the main goal of those who want to become real national leaders able to prove their worth with tangible actions, not mere words.