That is the central argument of political analyst Kirill Rogov in an interesting piece in "Novaya gazeta." Rogov argues that the agendas of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "are fully formed and divergent" but neither of them is making a compelling case.
Here's the money quote:
Rogov correctly points out that the Putin model of authoritarian modernization is inherently unstable because it is dependent on high energy prices:
A change in the trend of raw materials prices undercuts not only the 'old' economy itself but also the two main pillars of the political regime that rests on it: social stability and the possibility of controlling the elites and the bureaucracy. Therefore, in spite of Vladimir Putin's continuous demonstration of self-confidence and equanimity, the main characteristic of his agenda for the elites in the long-term future is its 'instability.' And Putin's readiness to use force in this context makes this agenda even less attractive.
If Putin's program appears retrograde, Rogov writes that Medvedev's modernization looks like "wishful thinking" reminiscent of Mikhail Gorbachev's belief early in his tenure that he could save the Soviet system with mere tinkering around the edges:
And as I have blogged here (and on numerous other occasions) those "systemic problems" are essentially political. They won't be resolved by building a Russian version of Silicon Valley in Skolkovo and they won't be solved by luring Western investors to help rebuild crumbling infrastructure. They will only be resolved when Russia's economy is truly decentralized and a real private sector independent of the state -- unlike the current fake private sector, which is an adjunct of the state -- is allowed to flourish.
That, of course, would inevitably lead to a decentralization of power and a more competitive and pluralistic political environment.
Even if Medvedev wanted to go this far, Putin and silovikli cronies like Deputy Prime Minister (and Rosneft CEO) Igor Sechin would never let it happen. Their vision has always been a top-down moernization of the economy and an authoritarian neo-Andropovian political system.
So instead, Medvedev appears to be opting for a cosmetic modernization -- a Gorbachevian "accelerating scientific-technical progress" by another name -- and a pseudo makeover the political system to allow for fake pluralism.
-- Brian Whitmore