#9 - JRL 7180
May 12, 2003
PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS: AT A LOSS FOR WORDS
Author: Vladimir Rudakov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
THE KREMLIN IS AT A LOSS FOR WORDS. IT IS THE MIDDLE OF MAY, AND THE PRESIDENT HAS NOT ADDRESSED THE FEDERAL ASSEMBLY "ON THE SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY AND MAIN DIRECTIONS OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN POLICY OF THE STATE". WORDS WILL BE FOUND, OF COURSE, BUT WILL THEY BE SUFFICIENT TO SCREEN THE BEWILDERMENT OF THE POWERS-THAT-BE? BEWILDERMENT CAUSED BY THE CRISIS OF THE REFORMS.
ARE PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY VLADIMIR PUTIN IN FUNDAMENTAL POLICY SPHERES THE REASON FOR POSTPONEMENT OF PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO THE FEDERAL ASSEMBLY?
The first leaks from the presidential administration that the address would be mostly "foreign policy" date from early April. "The lack of any significant breakthroughs in the reforms became clear at the onset of the year," an expert in the employ of the presidential administration told this correspondent. The decision was therefore made to dedicate the presidential address mostly to problems of international security, war on terrorism, situation around Iraq, and Russia's fundamental stand on the matter. It was the period when everybody expected the war to be lengthy and bloody and the Americans' eventual triumph difficult. Saddam Hussein spoiled everything, and the war promptly ended in the American victory.
Russia's position that looked impeccable on the eve of the war became the subject of criticism. The relations of partnership between Russia and the United States Vladimir Putin had wasted no effort to build deteriorated. Long-term economic cooperation with the United States, the accomplishment of which was to signify triumph of pragmatism over romanticism (the course Putin had proclaimed in his three previous addresses) remained "the objective" not yet attained. And attaining it after all the maneuvers on the Kremlin's part appears quite dubious now.
In other words, the "international" part of the presidential address that was all but ready had to be written all anew.
Neither did domestic policy turn out to be the subject where presidential speech-writers could give vent to their skills. A simple analysis of the "domestic" objectives proclaimed in the 2002 address indicates at least a lax implementation of the "presidential program for 2003", if not its outright failure. What really hurts is that it mostly concerns the spheres where the reforms are usually considered integral elements of "Putin's modernization".
Central subject of last year's presidential address, the administrative reforms have never been initiated. Redistribution of powers among levels of state power stopped at the phase of adoption of appropriate laws in the first reading. This was just because bona fide redistribution demands dramatic revision of the Budget and Tax codes, an undertaking neither the Duma nor governors are ready for.
Reorganization of civil service was restricted to adoption of the framework law.
The military reforms never made it past the phase of experiments and consultations - either because of Putin's desire not to go about it seriously or because Russian generals are not exactly in a hurry. In short, implementation of the majority of Putin's orders has been shifted to the middle or end of his second presidency.
The situation with plans for the future is even worse than that. On the one hand, Putin has already said everything there is to say about the short-term plans and what they should include. Essentially, the program of "Putin's modernization" was formulated by the Center of Strategic Surveys over three years ago. On the other hand, the president cannot help posing new problems in his address, particularly the year before the election.
The problem is that there are certain difficulties with "strategic planning". Criticism of the Ministry of Economic Development (the shelter for the majority of experts of the Center of Strategic Surveys including Minister Herman Gref), the so-called "Ministry of Reforms", has become much more ruthless since the end of 2002. Gref's withdrawal from the limelight - or even resignation - is not ruled out. New Deputy Premier Boris Aleshin was put in charge of a whole number of Gref's spheres - from mobilization readiness of national economy to abolition of administrative barriers for businesses.
According to a high official of the presidential administration, the initial plan was to have Putin address the parliament on April 9. The address was postponed to April 23 or so, later. It was postponed again soon after, and the new date of the address was not set. Presidential Representative to the Duma Alexander Kotenkov could only assure lawmakers that the president was not going to address them in April. As a matter of fact, Kotenkov made it plain that he was not even sure that it would happen in May. Delays with the address are seen as a result of objective, not subjective (thank God!) reasons. One of the central of them boils down to the poorly-hidden crisis of the authorities that "do not cope anymore" as would have been said in the classics. Lack of achievements is but a corollary. There is another reason as well - absence of coherent and - also importantly - clear ideas for the future.
ANDREI PIONTKOVSKY, STRATEGIC SURVEYS INSTITUTE DIRECTOR: FAILURE OF PUTIN'S PROGRAM, MOSTLY CENTERED AROUND ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STABILIZATION, IS APPARENT NOW. WHAT WAS CALLED ECONOMIC STABILIZATION TWO YEARS AGO IS NOW CALLED STAGNATION OR NEO-STAGNATION BY ABSOLUTELY ALL ECONOMISTS FROM GLAZIEV TO GAIDAR. YELTSIN'S MODEL OF CAPITALISM WAS ONLY REINFORCED UNDER PUTIN EVEN THOUGH IT HAD PROVED ITS INADEQUACY AND INABILITY TO ENSURE STABLE GROWTH RATES OR A TRANSITION TO POST-INDUSTRIAL PHASE.
The political stabilization everybody was so proud of generates questions too. It is associated with the amorphous and faceless United Russia that makes one want to gag. Even the so-called power vertical is only an illusion. The impression is that the president does not wield any real levers - either in the matter of economic and military reforms or in the matter of fighting corruption and crime.
ACTUALLY, WE SHOULD NOT SERIOUSLY EXPECT THE POWERS-THAT-BE TO TRY TO FIND A WAY OUT OF THE CUL-DE-SAC IN THE NEAR FUTURE. FROM THIS POINT OF VIEW, EXPECTING THE ANNUAL PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS TO THE FEDERAL ASSEMBLY TO CONTAIN ANY FRESH IDEAS IS AT LEAST NAIVE. NOBODY HAS EVER LOOKED FOR FRESH IDEAS, AND PARTICULARLY IN ELECTION YEARS. EVERYTHING WILL PROBABLY BOIL DOWN TO TRADITIONAL PR TRICKS. WE SHOULD BEAR IN MIND THAT THE POWERS-THAT-BE ARE STILL STUNNED BY THEIR SUCCESS IN 1999 AND 2000 THEY OWE TO A CONSIDERABLE EXTENT TO CUNNING PR TACTICS. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IS NUMBER ONE TASK OF THE REGIME NOWADAYS. FEW DOUBT PUTIN'S SUCCESS, BUT THE AUTHORITIES WILL CONCENTRATE ON HIS CAMPAIGN, AND HIS CAMPAIGN ALONE, ALL THE SAME. FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF LOGIC, THE REGIME WILL HAVE TO SACRIFICE SOMEBODY. IT WILL HAVE TO SPLIT FOR THAT - ONE SEGMENT WILL CASTIGATE THE OTHER. UNITED RUSSIA IS ALREADY DOING IT, CLEARLY ON ORDERS FROM THE KREMLIN. IT IS CLEAR THAT MIKHAIL KASYANOV'S GOVERNMENT WILL BE MADE THE SCAPEGOAT. ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE IS A QUESTION HERE WHETHER OR NOT IT IS GOING TO BE ACCEPTED BY KASYANOV OR RATHER BY THE MEN AND INTERESTS HE REPRESENTS. IF NOT, WE ARE IN FOR SOME SURPRISES THAT HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH POLITICAL STABILIZATION.