Programme Paper

Project: Russia and Eurasia Programme

Sir Andrew Wood
  • Despite some difference in tone and rumours of mutual irritation, no substantive change in the Medvedev-Putin tandem is in prospect. The decision as to who will run for President next will, absent radical change in the meantime, depend on who will by late 2011 seem best placed to defend the present elite. It is not axiomatic that the next President will be Putin, let alone Medvedev.
  • The authorities would like economic dynamism and innovation without political renovation. This is impossible, however, because the power structures and the economy are too interwoven. There are no credible signs of manageable or steady change within the elite.
  • However, the economic crisis has shaken the ruling class. Public discussion of Russia's long-term prospects is more open and more honest than it has been for many years. This matters, because it casts doubt not just on the ability of the current elite to manage affairs, but also their right to do so.
  • It is likely that the tension between economic renewal and the frozen political structure will continue to mount in 2010. Pressure is building within the system, and it will become increasingly difficult for outsiders, whether business or political, to manage their interests. Western companies as well as governments need to be careful to speak to more than just those currently in power and to calibrate their messages to the reality of different Russian audiences. Failure to do so will be seen as acknowledgement that they are in hock to the present regime.