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When Putin Retires...

 

A Hybrid System

 

Putinís ascendancy to power in the Kremlin marks yet another historic transformation in Russia. In a country where the political system has always been dominated by people, rather than laws and institutions, the change in leadership represents a change in direction more so than it would in Western democracies.  

Like many Russiaís rulers before him, Putin looks set to impose his indelible stamp on the country. As the second term of his presidency comes to an end it is clear that he has made his Russia very different from that of the Yeltsin era.

His political thought and behavior seems to fit the countryís current system, which remains a hybrid of democracy and authoritarianism. What is less known is how well Putin understands that heavy-handed state regulation and pervasive bureaucracy stifle democratic policies and economic freedom? His vision of revitalizing the primacy of the state in Russian lives is designed to overcome the neo-feudal fragmentation of state authority inherited from Yeltsinís era, but may come at the expense of human rights, democracy, and media freedom.

Does he realize that greater economic liberalism is linked to liberalism of the political kind? Can he orchestrate a society-powered remodernization that would be responsive to domestic consumer needs and integrated functionally into the global economy? Does he understand that technological innovation, advanced telecommunications, and venture capital, which are the engines of economic growth in the early twenty-first century, can thrive only in open and free societies? These are the questions, the positive answers to which will ensure Putinís valued place in Russian and world history.

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