approach of curbing the oligarchs may seem selective and arbitrary
and is open to accusations of using the criminal justice system to
cow political opponents and break them to the president’s will.
Nevertheless, it sent a clear signal that the days of the tycoons,
who had been pulling many of the country’s political strings, were
over: there were now certain restraints on their activities, and
they were no longer omnipotent.
to redefine the alliance with the elites and scale down the
oligarchization of power, which had led Boris Yeltsin to a political
trap and greatly weakened the federal center. In the first term of
his presidency a new system of power was set up that normalized
relations between the state and big business.
“dictatorship of law” may well be necessary to transform Russia from
a barter economy run by robber tycoons, corrupt bureaucrats, and
crime syndicates to a modern capitalist economy with a transparent
civil service and judiciary. His methods of squeezing the oligarchs
and frightening the governors cannot always be described as
democratic. The problem is that it may well be impossible to create
an effective state in Russia by purely democratic methods.
As is now
recognized even by more conservative free market thinkers, a limited
but effective state is absolutely necessary to ensure the conditions
for a working free market. Somehow, the power of the oligarchs,
corruption, and organized crime have to be curbed, and a measure of
discipline and honesty restored to the state service. So when Putin
speaks of the need for a stronger state, he is reflecting not just
the Russian tradition but also Russian realities.
unlimited freedom there should be freedom with certain limits, which
the governors, oligarchs, and civil servants are obliged to observe.
The introduction of rules is a sign not of curtailing liberties but
of civilization. It has been noted that liberal values are
threatened just as thoroughly by state incapacity as by despotic
power and that less state can mean less
freedom. The problem for Putin is whether or not he can rein in
corruption without suffocating more acceptable forms of private
community should be able to engage in a dialogue with the state: not
in the form of collusion of individual business barons with the
authorities, but as a consolidated group able to articulate its
common interests. The influential Russian Union of Industrialists
and Entrepreneurs, which unites several thousand employers and
business leaders, could potentially become a body capable of
providing a framework that reconciles the interests of the state and
business. The Union cooperates actively with relevant Duma
committees and with the government and its ministries. Its members
now participate in regular meetings with Putin, ironing out the
rules of the relationship between power and business.