No Prospect of Perestroika 2.0

PerestroikaCrisis Politics: No Cue for “Perestroika 2.0”

Unpleasant as the dark side of Putinism may be, it is designed to be a lower-risk and lower-cost alternative to the nationalist authoritarianism advocated by many, writes Andrew Wilson, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, on openDemocracy:

Russia is one of those countries for which the economic crisis ought to be a blessing in disguise. Over the last boom decade, high energy prices have excused a multitude of pathologies: corruption got worse because there was more to steal; Putin brokered the creation of giant inefficient “national champions” that are a deadweight on the more productive parts of the economy; even Russia’s one copper-bottomed asset, oil and gas, will decline in the future, as its giant energy companies like Gazprom and Rosneft have simply failed to invest enough to meet supply commitments.

Recession and lower energy prices, on the other hand, it is often argued, ought to prompt protest and/or reform. But, Russia is currently a land where all the predicted dogs are failing to bark. The idea of a new perestroika – in itself an indication of how far Russia has moved backwards over the last 20 years – is a myth. Social unrest has been isolated and parochial. “Protest” has the flavor of the Khrushchev era: people petition local bosses, who then save factory jobs or build new roads because of the fear of retribution from the top.

Putin is starting to behave like Yeltsin when he was mayor of Moscow in the mid-1980s, making unannounced visits to city supermarkets to bemoan the price of pork. Nor, on the other hand, has there been any real crackdown to prevent protest – the regime seems capable of enduring without it. According to one of those who built the current system, the political fixer Gleb Pavlovsky [in an interview with the author], therefore, “the system has survived this crash-test – though there is no guarantee it will survive the next one.”

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