Our leaders and political analysts have been very active in recent weeks. We had the Valdai Club, the global security forum in Yaroslavl, President Dmitry Medvedev’s “Go, Russia!” article and provocative statements made by the president’s first deputy chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov, and the head of the Institute of Contemporary Development, Igor Yurgens.
This deluge of polemical sound bites has underscored the fact that Medvedev has not offered concrete solutions for the most difficult challenges facing Russia today. Instead, he only offers vague slogans while proposing overly ambitious projects in areas that would ordinarily fall under the authority of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The country’s numerous political analysts compete with one another to come up with accurate interpretations of what this or that statement by the president and prime minister means for Russian and world politics. A perfect example is the Valdai Club, designed to give our top leaders the opportunity to make seemingly meaningful — but in reality very empty — statements for consumption by the international community.
I don’t want to become just one more observer giving his opinion of Medvedev’s curious statement that the system of appointing governors is democratic, that it is appropriate for Russia and that it will remain in place for the next 100 years. Instead, I will risk making a diagnosis of the country’s political system.
I think these signs indicate that the Kremlin is both nervous and uncertain. The Kremlin realizes that it must finally do something to correct the situation but is unable and unwilling to do so. This realization is a break from its former state of self-complacency.
Two factors are compounding the problem — the desire of the authorities to preserve their high popularity ratings at any cost, and the paralysis of government officials who cannot take action without approval from the top.
When Putin moved from the Kremlin to the White House, he took all of the authority with him. The result is that while something is being accomplished in the economic sphere, the political work of the Kremlin has ground to a halt.
Medvedev has said the country is so burdened by bureaucracy that nobody lifts a finger until he gives the order to act. But at the same time, he draws the surprising conclusion that the political system is functioning well.
The hyperactivity on the analyst front is nothing but a meaningless jumble of empty political signals, proposals and conjecture issuing from the ever-shifting political landscape. It represents a crippled system in which idle boyars and economically crippled, servile oligarchs kowtow to their powerless and passive king.
This is Russia’s latest risky experiment: the attempt to carry out Medvedev’s transition from a relatively unknown political figure to the country’s chief executive. Were it not for the crisis, the experiment might even be amusing. Under the current circumstances, however, it is a disaster waiting to happen.