ON MY MIND
You have to wonder what drives people like Aleksei Kudrin and Ella Pamfilova. Both were in the news this week. Kudrin accepted an offer to chair the Kremlin's top economics think tank, the Center for Strategic Reform, and called for a fundamental restructuring of Russia's economy and political system. And Pamfilova, who was recently appointed head of the Election Commission, raised eyebrows by canceling elections in the Moscow suburb of Barvikha after four opposition candidates complained of fraud. Pamfilova says she will resign if there is fraud in September's elections to the State Duma. Call me cynical (although I don't think I am), but I just don't think the kind of economic reforms Kudrin is proposing are possible under the current regime. At best, he'll be allowed to tinker on the margins. And call me cynical again (and again, I don't think I am), but I don't expect September's election to be clean. Regime liberals like Kudrin and Pamfilova remain convinced that the Putin regime can be reformed and changed from within. It can't. Because reforming this regime would mean undermining its corrupt foundations, which would lead to its fall. And this is not what Putin has in mind.
IN THE NEWS
Former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin has agreed to head the Kremlin-affiliated Center for Strategic Reform.
Russia has announced anti-doping reforms in bid to avoid Rio Olympics ban
Vladimir Putin meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow today.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visits Armenia today amid tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Central Election Commission has ordered the cancelation of an April 24 local election in a Moscow suburb election after four candidates affiliated with opposition leader Aleksei Navalny filed protests about vote fraud.
Election Commission head Ella Pamfilova has proposed returning video cameras to voting booths and has vowed to resign in the event of vote fraud in September's parliamentary elections.
The United States and Russia sparred at yesterday's NATO-Russia Council meeting over an encounter between a U.S. Navy vessel and Russian warplanes in the Baltic Sea.
The European Commission has formally proposed visa-free travel for Ukrainians.
WHAT I'M READING
The Fall of the House of Putin?
NIkolai Petrov has a new report for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Putin's Downfall: The Coming Crisis Of The Russian Regime.
"Russia's current regime will not last long. The tumultuous events in Ukraine in 2014 reduced the country's possible trajectories to a single one -- a path that will quickly lead to the collapse of the Putin government if there is no radical change in its course," Petrov writes.
The Battle of the Narratives
The European Leadership Network has a new report, Competing Western And Russian Narratives On The European Order: Is There Common Ground?
Kudrinism vs. Putinism
In an editorial, the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta argues that the reforms former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin is proposing are the antithesis of Putinism.
The Perils of a Multipolar World
In a compelling piece in Slon.ru, Dangerous Equality: Why Multipolar Worlds Lead to World Wars, economist and political commentator Vladislav Inozemtsev argues that Russia's desire for a divided Europe and a multipolar world are misguided.
The Moscow-Belgrade Axis
Serbia's pro-Moscow far right is resurgent in advance of Sunday's election.
The Yukos Saga Continues
Time Magazine's veteran Russia hand, Simon Shuster, explains why a Dutch court's ruling has made Putin very happy.
Tough Love For Ukraine
Writing in Foreign Policy, former U.S. State Department official Josh Cohen argues that it is time to give Ukraine a dose of "tough love."
Ukraine's Privatization Paradox
Writing on his blog, Eric Hontz of the Center for International Private Enterprise notes that "Ukraine needs to privatize its state-owned companies -- but rushing it would repeat the mistakes of the past."
A Bridge Too Far?
In his column for Bloomberg View, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at Russia's efforts to build a bridge over the Kerch Strait, linking the annexed Crimean Peninsula to the Russian mainland.
Russia's Hip-Hop Generation
Meduza takes a look at the viral websites popular with Russia's youth.
And in a sign the Kremlin is going after the hip-hop generation, Gazprom Media has acquired the popular music channel A-One