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Russia 2010. Report on Transformation

Russia 2010. Report on Transformation

Collective work edited by Konstantin Simonov,
Director General of the National Energy Security Fund (Moscow)

Warsaw, 31 May – 1 June, 2011


The year of 2010 proved relatively successful for the administration of the Russian Federation in terms of overcoming the effects of the financial-economic crisis and solution of problems of the regime stability.

In the political sphere the unity of the ruling establishment was ensured and the government office groups observed “the rules of decent conduct”. This was largely facilitated by bthe coordinated “team” play of both representatives of “the tandem”: Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev preferred maintaining peace and consensus in their bilateral relations despite the attempts of certain representatives of their teams to stir up competition between them. At the same time we should note that such a consolidated position of the “top persons” multiplied by the relative effectiveness of the political and social-economic line allowed creation pre-election conditions that are quite comfortable for the power. Its positions are obviously winning compared to those of their opponents, which was demonstrated by the spring and autumn electoral campaigns that were confidently won by the Unified Russia. At the end of the year, however, there came a ring that was quite alarming for the power and related to the sharp exacerbation of interethnic relations in the country. Besides, another potentially grave problem is the growing latent “irrational” protest sentiments related to the so-called “moral depreciation” of the power and lack of its “upgrade”, at least a “facelift” one.

In economy the year of 2010 passed under the sign of forced negotiation of crisis phenomena; the more so, attempts were made to reach new horizons in terms of innovative development of the RF that were, however, impeded by lack of the necessary legal base, insufficiency of foreign investments and “meanness” of foreign partners in terms of “technological openness”. In addition, significant breakthroughs were made in the principal energy sphere (this especially refers to promotion of the projects of the Nord and South Streams).

The regional policy demonstrated the power’s intention to conduct staff rotation in the “governor corps” on the eve of the electoral cycle. On the one hand, this was aimed at getting rid of the problem of “heavyweights’ Fronde” (Yu. Luzhkov, M. Shaimiev, M. Rakhimov), and, on the other hand, at optimization of local administration. 

Finally, the foreign policy of Russia in 2010 was characterized by quite a marked “West tilt”. It was largely related to the desire of the RF government to gain recognition of its membership in the “global joint-stock society” from the USA and the United Europe and to the hopes for Western assistance in the process of technological re-equipment of domestic economy. However, Russia failed to get “reciprocity” from the partners.  

On the whole the year of 2010 prepared the grounds for Russia’s entry into the new electoral cycle in quite favourable conditions.

One can forecast that despite the pre-election frenzy the system segment of domestic policy will maintain a certain stability and observance of “the rules of the game” while the political system will be able to bear the election “load”. Although formally the election process will prove to be rather tough, it will hardly result either in any “shocks” or even in any substantial political turbulence. On the one hand, this is ensured by the persisting high ratings of trust in the power, and on the other hand by lack of any serious institutionalized opponents of the power. Therefore, the key players (both the government office groups and political parties as well as civil society institutions) will prefer following the political situation and will not make any attempts “to rock the boat”. Moreover the activity of the majority of them will be hedged about with expectations of some impulses from above” concerning the “transit-2012” and the power general line after the end of the electoral cycle. At the same time “the ruling class” should expect internal and external “non-system” challenges. In particular, the sphere of interethnic relations is unlikely to stabilize, with the growing pressure upon the power “from below”: the native population of “Russian cities” will demand that the power should protect their interests in completion with “the Caucasians” while national diasporas, on the contrary, will appeal to principles of tolerance and provision of equal rights. Although the government of the country will take “a compromise position”, there is a possibility of the variant of soft exploitation of the “patriotic” attitudes of citizens of “Russian regions” for electoral purposes.    

One may quite logically expect that foreign counterparts will try to take advantage of the pre-election situation in 2011 and their activity in weakening the ruling regime of the RF will appear quite diverse: from encouraging protest sentiments to diplomatic pressure to make Russia’s administration sacrifice national interests. 

In the run-up for the elections the economy will maintain a certain stability largely ensured by high prices of energy resources. At the same the power will continue an active social policy stimulating the population with “electoral” bonuses, compensations and donations. The challenges of the economic sphere in 2011 may be only related to the turbulence on the international financial markets.

The relations between the federal Center and the regions will be also relatively quiet. By all appearances, in 2011 the Center will set a moratorium on any staff reshuffles conditioned by the need for electoral stabilization of the governors community. The power will also make exceptionally intensive actions to ensure high results of the Unified Russia in the prerun regional elections. The challenges of destabilization will be traditionally related with the North Caucasian region; however, the power will succeed in keeping the situation under control even in such problem subjects as Ingushetia and Dagestan by combining force measures and the tactics of “buying loyalty”. 

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