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Posted by on Jan 4, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

More Bad News From Russia

If you’ve been holding your breath to see a smiling Vladimir Putin run a la Julie Andrews in The South of Music through the hills singing the praises of democracy and liberalization you may turn blue due to things such as this:

President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday abruptly reduced the responsibilities of a senior adviser who last week issued a sweeping criticism of the Kremlin’s leadership and expressed deep misgivings about the direction in which Russia was headed.

In a presidential decree released without further comment, Mr. Putin relieved the adviser, Andrei N. Illarionov, of his duties as Russia’s envoy to the Group of 8, comprising the world’s major industrialized nations and Russia. Mr. Putin reassigned those duties to a presidential aide who is seemingly a more loyal Kremlin insider, Igor I. Shuvalov.

According to the Times, Illarionov had dared say that the country was heading in the wrong direction and was in danger of becoming a third world country.

Now, this isn’t to say it’s unusual for a leader to want to dump people who aren’t 100 percent loyal to the administration line. There has been a little bit of that going around Washington these days. And an argument can be made — for any leader in any country — that while varying opinions are critical for policymakers, unity is, too.

So policymakers have to balance the often-conflicting values of people around them who may disagree with them, and those who agree. And then there’s the question of airing differences in public, something that can irk a U.S. or a European leader as well. Which option to choose is a serious administrative, versus strictly political, issue.

BUT in the case of Russia, the stakes here are supremely high: the solidification of the young democracy. That’s why details like this are one more reason to fear — let’s just say it — that under Putin Russia may evolve into a new style of democracy…democracy KGB style. And what implications will that have for the U.S.? More:

Mr. Illarionov described the government as both arbitrary and wrong-headed, criticizing the Kremlin’s crackdown on the news media, its expropriation of the main asset of Yukos, the oil giant, its centralization of political power and its foreign relations.

His assessments were unsparing. He called the seizure last month of the Yukos unit "the swindle of the year."

In the government’s attack on a healthy company, and its signals about which companies were Kremlin favorites, Mr. Illarionov said, "financial flows are rerouted from the most effective companies to the least effective ones."

Moreover, Mr. Putin’s decision to do away with elections for governors throughout Russia, and to appoint governors through the presidency, Mr. Illarionov said, ensured that political competition was undermined, to ill effect. "Limited competition in all spheres of life leads to one thing," he said. "To stagnation."

At times Mr. Illarionov also appeared to put himself personally at odds with Mr. Putin, for example, dismissing as absurd Kremlin defenses of the Yukos seizure. Mr. Putin has been vocal in his support of Yukos’s near liquidation.

"This entire affair regrettably demonstrates that any of the official or semiofficial explanations given to the public regarding the Yukos affair do not have a leg to stand on," the economics adviser said.

So don’t expect Putin to do this.