INSOR Russia: Institute of Contemporary Development
Updated June 28, 2019

INSOR Head Speaks on Russia’s Modernization Outlook

June 29, 2011

Igor Yurgens, Management Board Chairman of the Institute for Contemporary Development, spoke on the prospects for Russian modernization at an EU-Russia Centre breakfast on 29 June. Yurgens said that all major players in Russia recognized the imperative of modernization. The debate was more about the speed and nature of modernization. There was a conservative camp emphasizing stability and a more progressive camp emphasizing reform.

Medvedev was convinced of the need for a comprehensive modernization covering all aspects of Russian society. Without political freedom it would be impossible to reform successfully.

With regard to the presidential elections next March,Yurgens sketched out various scenarios. But no matter who was president the imperative to modernize would remain. There was simply no other way of safeguarding Russia’s place in the G8 and even in the G20. The only question was the tempo, the speed, the resistance of the interest groups and the level of the support.

Yurgens said that there was ‘a breeze of change’ blowing through Russia and it was up to political leaders to move the country forward. He pointed to Medvedev’s achievements in the legal sphere, tax reform and his determination to see more political plurality in Russia.

In response to questions he said that it was a mistake to ban political parties without justification.

It was also a serious mistake to introduce a law that would give precedence to the Russian constitution over the European Court on Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Regarding the high-profile Khodorkovsky and Magnitsky’scases, Yurgensthought Medvedev would favour a release for the former oligarch. The president had ordered an independent investigation into the Magnistky case.

Yurgens hoped the long-running WTO negotiations would be completed as soon as possible. It was important that Russia joined this key rules-based international trade body.

Yurgens reminded his audience that Putin had also started off as a liberal and pro-Western president. But he felt duped by George W Bush over NATO enlargement and missile defense. Putin nevertheless remained a pragmatist and still recognized that Russia had no future except with a close relationship to the EU.