INSOR Russia: Institute of Contemporary Development
Updated April 18, 2019

February 7, 2012

Россия в иностранной прессе

YURGENS: PUTIN IS WEAK

Agency WPS press extracts

An interview with Igor Yurgens, chief of the Institute of Contemporary Development, soon-to-be ex-president Dmitry Medvedev's «think tank».

Question: Do you think Vladimir Putin will win the presidential election in the first round?

Igor Yurgens: I don't think that he will be able to do so easily. Or without falsifications, that is. Pollsters estimate his current rating at under the 50% + 1 vote necessary for victory in the first round. As for falsifications, the impression I get is that the powers-that-be will try to do without them in major cities. Falsifications might be pulled off by governors who directly depend on the federal center. It is governors who might go too far in their desire to please Moscow. And that's dangerous because it will only incense the population and strengthen protests.

Putin is basking in the sun. He's lost his edge. Had it been different with him, it would have been wholly different for all of us. I do not doubt that Putin, had he remained unchanged, would have handled the opposition all the same. He is a sharp debater. I remember the G8 summit in St.Petersburg in 2003 when Putin was truly on a par with world leaders like Bush, Blair, and Chirac. Actually, he was even better then all of them. No more, regrettably. Putin is different now, and his cohort is different. There is lots of irritation in the air, lots of bad feelings... as Davos plainly showed. Putin grew weaker. He is weak. This weakness is plainly exposed by his inability to see things as they are, in all these limos and other external trappings of power, in the shows like the one in Nizhny Tagil... Even in his unwillingness to let others speak their mind.

In short, the gap dividing Putin and the rest of the country will only widen if he wins in the very first round.

Question: Putin is not super legitimate anymore, in whatever round he wins presidency. And yet, he is weak. He no longer represents the whole country.

Igor Yurgens: No longer indeed. Moreover, according to text-book Marxism, revolution in Russia did not begin on September 24 or in Bolotnaya Square in December. It had begun long before that. It happened when productive forces came into collision with productive relations, the latter being autocratic and feudal... The relations where every minister or head of a state corporation regards his respective structure as his personal domain where his opinion and his whims are the only things that matter. The revolution is economic. The question is, what form it will assume. This revolution continues despite Putin. It will come to its logical conclusion sooner or later. The revolution will discard the old system and install a new one.

The question is whether or not Putin persuades his cronies to bear these changes in mind, to remember that the situation is different now and that it is therefore necessary to change the whole system of control and management. Putin may permit Western capitals in Russia... I'm talking the WTO and so on. He may make Aleksei Kudrin his prime minister and Kudrin will cut the costs. Privatization might be launched. Russian monopolies... the ones that are called «natural» for no reason that I can understand, these monopolies might be reformed. Even Putin's colleagues like Timchenko might contribute to it all... Timchenko has distribution networks. Allied with Novatec and Sibur, he may well challenge Gazprom... It will be non-violent decentralization.

Unfortunately, all processes are so latent and slow that we all want them accelerated.

There is, however, a different scenario... the one where Putin does not change, where he remains the man we saw in Nizhny Tagil. In this case, I give Russia two years before it rushes headlong into a brick wall.

Question: Discord within the elite seems to be escalating. On the one hand, liberals within power structures openly promote modernization. That's senior state functionaries who are speaking... who did so in Davos. On the other hand, Dmitry Rogozin who is also a senior state functionary calls certain people «collaborationists». He did not name them but clearly implied that Gref, Kudrin, Shuvalov were betraying national interests... All these people belong to one and the same team. They answer to one and the same patron, the premier. Are things so bad indeed? With the discord, I mean.

Igor Yurgens: There is certain discord indeed, but that's fine. I know both Rogozin and Shuvalov. Believe me, if necessary, these two will meet and reach an agreement.

Rogozin did well handling the matter of Kaliningrad transit with the West and representing Russia in NATO after that. As a politician, however, he refuses to play second fiddle to Shuvalov. He is sufficiently ambitious to put up a fight, and he will fight to the end. Which, for him, is determined by the scope of his personal ambitions. And these latter include his elevation to presidency, no less.

Question: The opposition is no better, fragmented as it is. There will be several separate demonstrations on February 4 — liberals, nationalists, leftists, etc... By the way, what do you think of nationalism these days? Does it pose a threat?

Igor Yurgens: What about the Russians? That's a difficult question because it is so difficult to understand the Russians. We've never known a defeat in war, never known mass national humiliation. Successful models are typical of the nations that knew defeat — Japanese, Germans, Koreans, Philippians... Defeated in wars, they adopted foreign rules of the game and, monitored and pampered by the United States, eventually recovered and developed civilized democracy and economies. Not so the Russians...

Question: Medvedev is a politician you and me sympathized with... Lots of questions in connection with him. Will Medvedev make an effective premier? Will he ever run for president again? Will he put together a new coalition for modernization?

Igor Yurgens: I've known Medvedev since 2000. He is grappling with a dilemma now. He has to choose between making a splash and leaving his imprint on history on the one hand and taking it easy on the other.

He is a capable man in any event. He is already a member of the club that comprises people like Clinton and Blair... i.e. the people who can do fine just by touring the world and giving lectures.

It was Medvedev who arranged the reload... and he is only 46. I do not think that it is time for him to finish his career. I still think that had he remained the president, we'd have avoided a lot of trouble.

Question: Do you see new leaders within the existing elite and opposition?

Igor Yurgens: I find Akunin a very interesting man. Bykov as well. Navalny is quite promising.

As for the establishment, I think that I'll mention Rogozin and Kudrin.

Source: Novaya Gazeta, No 11, February 3, 2012, p. 15

RUSSIAN POLITICAL RISKS COSTING BILLIONS COULD MAKE EX-MINISTER PREMIER — PAPER

BBC Monitoring Former Soviet Union

Text of report by the website of heavyweight Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta on 2 February [Report by Anastasiya Bashkatova, under the rubric «Today: Economics»: «Aleksey Kudrin Pushed Into Being Premier — Political Risks Have Already Cost Russia Almost $76 Billion»]

The unsuccessful castling of the tandem, the disputed parliamentary elections, and the mass protests have already cost the country at least 75.9bn dollars. In Moscow yesterday independent economists named that price for the recent Russian instability. But even this sum will most likely not be the final one. If the economic situation gets worse, Vladimir Putin will probably have to replace Dmitriy Medvedev in the post of premier with Aleksey Kudrin, who is more acceptable from the viewpoint of economists. Such a scenario is considered very likely in the presidential Institute of Contemporary Development (InSoR), whose supervisory council Dmitriy Medvedev continues to head.

(…) Judging from everything, the situation has become so inflamed that yesterday even the presidential Institute of Contemporary Development, which would usually support many of Dmitriy Medvedev's undertakings, altogether unexpectedly warned the country against the appointment of Medvedev as the head of the new government. As Igor Yurgens, the chairman of the governing board of InSoR, said, the economy in principle looks good now: growth in GDP is about 4 per cent, inflation and official unemployment are at the lowest in the last 20 years, and the budget is virtually without a deficit.

«If these indicators were given to Barack Obama or Nicolas Sarkozy, they would die of happiness. So the Russian economy is not the catalyst of the protest sentiments, but even just the opposite,» Yurgens believes. «But what can it expect later?»

In InSoR's opinion, there are two scenarios for the future development of events. The first is that Vladimir Putin ignores the political situation in the country and the dissatisfaction of the masses, wins in the first round of the presidential election, and appoints Dmitriy Medvedev prime minister. We see all the same familiar people in the new government, but perhaps in slightly different seats — Igor Sechin, and Dmitriy Rogozin, and Vladislav Surkov. The Russian economy follows the same route that was outlined in Putin's article. «In other words, we proceed properly with the state corporations, without mass privatizations, and we handle the state order and social mandates properly,» the expert explains. Actually everything remains the same as it is, only with insignificant changes. «In this case, in two years Russia hits the wall at the speed of 140 kilometres an hour,» Yurgens says.

The second scenario, according to Yurgens, is that in the first round, Putin makes it possible for the «oppositionist soup» to start boiling and wins only in the second round. After that he begins to take into account the lessons of the past and appoints Aleksey Kudrin the head of the government. «Foreign investors are delighted. Macroeconomic stability has been observed. Kudrin begins to efficiently and painlessly trim 20 trillion from the military budget and reduce the indexing of pensions and inflated military expenditures. The privatization of existing monopolies occurs — both raw material and transport ones. A breakthrough project for creating a parallel, private Gazprom is announced. There is privatization in the natural monopolies, although not of the controlling blocks of stock, but private companies that are interested in transparency and efficiency are launched in these monopolies. And then the country outdoes Brazil in terms of its growth already this year and becomes the intellectual leader of BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa],» Yurgens describes the prospects.

ALEKSEI KUDRIN A DEVENIT NOUA SPERANTA PENTRU O PARTE A SOCIETATII RUSE. Cine este cel vazut ca posibil viitor lider al Rusiei

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Directorul Institutului pentru dezvoltare moderna, Igor Iurgens, descrie urmatorul scenariu: „In primul tur de scrutin, Putin permite opozitiei sa se emotioneze si castiga in turul secund. Apoi, tinand cont de lectiile trecutului, il numeste premier pe Kudrin. Investitorii straini sunt in extaz. Stabilitatea macroeconomica este respectata. Kudrin incepe sa taie un pic din bugetul de 20 de trilioane de ruble al apararii, reduce indexarea pensiilor si a salariilor militarilor. Sunt privatizate marile monopoluri de stat. Se lanseaza proiectul pentru crearea unui Gazprom privat, paralel. Kudrin va reusi, astfel, sa aduca economia rusa in fruntea statelor BRIC.