Popov On The 2018 Russian Elections – Part 2: The People Want Putin’s Reforms


March 20, 2018 – Fort Russ –

By Eduard Popov, translated by Jafe Arnold –

Continued from Part 1 – 

Vladimir Putin’s triumphant results in the Russian presidential elections guarantee him a mandate of confidence. But such also imposes enormous obligations on him. In the figurative expression of the famous director, Nikita Mikhalkov, “a vote for Putin is a vote of expectations and hope.” In fact, Russian voters expect the newly elected president to implement a large-scale program of reforms, such as the agenda partially voiced by Putin himself in his Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1st.

Putin must not only strengthen national sovereignty in Russia’s confrontation with the West, but also strengthen its national economy and improve the prosperity of its citizens – indeed, all of these fronts are interconnected in the long run. Moreover, all of this is impossible without fundamental changes in domestic policy, fighting against corruption, and improving the quality of the administrative class. These tasks are extremely complex and large-scale, and have to be handled amidst an aggressive external environment and possibly in the circumstances of the West only partially recognizing the Russian elections. However, pursuing such reforms will open a new window of opportunity, primarily by removing the burden of the pro-Western Russian quasi-elites.

Vladimir Putin’s very first statements the day after the elections, March 19th, lend hope that such an “update” is to be expected. To begin with, Putin was posed the question of whether Dmitry Medvedev will remain Prime Minister, but Putin’s response to this direct question was evasive. This, in fact, suggests a high probability that Medvedev will be replaced. This is good news, as the weak Prime Minister Medvedev has been an obstacle to the Russian economy.

But just how successful will a replacement be? After all, we have seen how the scandalous arrest and investigation of the corrupt Minister of Economic Development, Ulyukaev, who was one of the key figures of the liberal clan, only led to the appointment of another representative of this lobby. It must be admitted that the liberal clan almost completely dominates the economic and financial spheres, and the patriotic wing of the elite is much weaker and consists of only a handful of heavyweights, such as the President’s aide, the academician Sergey Glazyev. The patriots have yet to present a clear and convincing economic development strategy to the head of state, having hitherto limited themselves merely to palliative measures and criticizing liberal plans.

But if Dmitry Medvedev is a brake on the Russian economy, then the head of the National Bank, Elvira Nabiulina (a graduate of Yale University and, again, one of the key figures of the liberal clan) is purely destructive. Nabiulina has caused harm to the country’s financial system and economy that is much more tangible than the harm done by Western sanctions. More than once the question has been raised: in the interests of what state is the head of Russia’s Central Bank working? The dismissal of Nabiulina is even more ripe than replacing Medvedev. Her destructive operations could nullify the brilliant results of Putin’s foreign policy.

Indeed, those numerous liberal critics who say that Russia is weak or even ravaged when it comes to the economy are right to a considerable extent, except for the fact that they conveniently omit one point: it is their liberal clan that has been destroying the country’s economy for years.

Replacing Medvedev and Nabiulina with professional, patriotic specialists would be a victory comparable to Crimea’s reunification with Russia or recognizing Donbass.

But this is still far off. On March 19th, at a meeting with the co-chairs of his campaign headquarters, Putin announced his presidency’s agenda: “The main thing we will engage is the domestic agenda, especially guaranteeing  growth rates for Russia’s economy, making it innovative, developing healthcare, education, and industrial production, as well as, like I have already said, infrastructure and other areas that are most important for moving the country forward and raising our citizens’ standard of living.”

Putin added that “there are also issues related to ensuring the country’s defense capability and security…We also can’t sidestep these, but the most important thing for us now is the domestic agenda.” Further, the President explained that in addressing such pressing issues, he will rely on the support of not only his campaign headquarters’ chairs, but also his “whole big team” – which he figuratively called the people of Russia.

Is this a mere figure of speech or populist rhetoric? Or is this some kind of outline of a formula for reform? I would like to recall here the formula of the outstanding Russian philosopher and geopolitician, Alexander Panarin: as is the rule in Russian history, the tsar (the ruler) can and must appeal to the people over the head of the boyars (the elites).

Putin’s triumphant electoral victory gives him the opportunity to rely on the people’s widespread support for his authority and weaken the elite political and bureaucratic power mechanisms hindering reform. Russia’s most important deficit is its deficit in the administrative layer, as the Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyin put it. Effective mechanisms for training professional and responsible cadre for leadership have yet to be created.

It is important to remember that Putin ran in these elections as an independent candidate, not on the ticket of the ruling United Russia Party. The All-Russian People’s Front played no small role in his election campaign and remains an extremely intriguing social entity that is at once both a partner and competitor of United Russia. A closer look should be taken into this front’s potential, and I believe it should be relied upon in the fight against the omnipotent elites. In the very least, I am not aware of any other instruments of popular control and popular participation capable of competing with professional politicians and the bureaucracy.

The program of reforms voiced by Putin is in the interests of the Russian people, but is impossible without the participation of the people institutionalized in a formation akin to the People’s Front. Otherwise, the elites will once again undermine the President’s promises as has happened more than once in contemporary Russia.


Eduard Popov is a Rostov State University graduate with a PhD in history and philosophy. In 2008, he founded the Center for Ukrainian Studies of the Southern Federal University of Russia, and from 2009-2013, he was the founding head of the Black Sea-Caspian Center of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, an analytical institute of the Presidential Administration of Russia. In June 2014, Popov headed the establishment of the Representative Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic in Rostov-on-Don and actively participated in humanitarian aid efforts in Donbass. In addition to being Fort Russ’ guest analyst since June, 2016, Popov is currently the leading research fellow of the Institute of the Russian Abroad and the founding director of the Europe Center for Public and Information Cooperation. 

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The Green Hornet
The Green Hornet
3 years ago

Domestic growth is only possible if Russia scraps the old sovjet laws.
Russia has a credit law from sovjet times and with this creditors meets to many obstacles to loan out moneys.
Hence the high interest on loans.
14% on a mortgage on a house kills the economy.
Putin should fix up the credit law and get the mortgage interest down to under 5%
Then and only then we will see a prosperous middle class that Russia needs to prosper properly.
In Russia today many people have loaned a lot of moneys and laugh at the creditor who cannot get their moneys back due to old communist laws.

As the law stands today a homeowner can loan from a private entity let say 10 000 usd and laugh at the creditor.

The sovjet law says its impossible to throw them out if its their only home.
Capitalism will not prosper in Russia with these conditions.

If Russia dont fix this fundamental issue it should opt for social democracy ala Sweeden.

Sweeden has 50% personal tax and Russia 13%
Cant get it both ways, either Russia will be real capitalistic or stuck in a limbo forever.
Or go the Sweedish way with 50% ++ TAX………………………….

Umberto Indicci
Umberto Indicci
3 years ago

Stalin handled such ‘elites’ effectively.

3 years ago

With regard to the central bank, look for announcements regarding amendments to the RF constitution if the object is to wrest control of the bank from the Bank for International Settlements and its Atlanticist lackeys and bring it under the control of the RF.

There are many people who object to the way that the Russian Central Bank has conducted itself during the sanctions regime imposed on Russia and who want a central bank that is more responsive to the president of the Russian Federation and his executive team. Those who advocate subordination of the Russian Central Bank to and all Russian economic policy formally under the office of the president (see: Engdahl: ÔÇ£RussiaÔÇÖs Achilles Heel ÔÇô Reflections from St. PetersburgÔÇØ: http://journal-neo.org/2016/07/02/russia-s-achilles-heel-reflections-from-st-petersburg/ ) rather than under the prime minister (the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation (Chapter 6, Articles 111 & 112) ) face the need to amend the Russian Federal Constitution. That requires concerted political action at the local and regional levels to ensure that candidates sympathetic to such changes get elected to the Duma. It appears that may have been accomplished in the last Duma election in 2016 (?).

The Constitution of the Russian Federation

Article 75 (Chapter 3)

1. The monetary unit in the Russian Federation shall be the rouble. Money issue shall be carried out exclusively by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation. Introduction and issue of other currencies in Russia shall not be allowed.

2. The protection and ensuring the stability of the rouble shall be the major task of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, which it shall fulfil independently of the other bodies of state authority.

3. The system of taxes paid to the federal budget and the general principles of taxation and dues in the Russian Federation shall be fixed by the federal law.

4. State loans shall be issued according to the rules fixed by the federal law and shall be floated on a voluntary basis.


Chapter 9. Constitutional Amendments and Review of the Constitution

Article 134

Proposals on amendments and review of the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation may be submitted by the President of the Russian Federation, the Council of the Federation, the State Duma, the Government of the Russian Federation, the legislative (representative) bodies of the subjects of the Russian Federation, and also by groups numbering not less than one fifth of the number of the members of the Council of the Federation or of the deputies of the State Duma.

Article 135

1. Provisions of Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation may not be revised by the Federal Assembly.

2. If a proposal on the review of the provisions of Chapters 1, 2 and 9 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation is supported by three fifths of the total number of the members of the Council of the Federation and the deputies of the State Duma, then according to federal constitutional law a Constitutional Assembly shall be convened.

3. The Constitutional Assembly shall either confirm the invariability of the Constitution of the Russian Federation or draft a new Constitution of the Russian Federation, which shall be adopted by the Constitutional Assembly by two thirds of the total number of its members or submitted to a referendum. In case of a referendum the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall be considered adopted, if over half of the voters who came to the polls supported it and under the condition that over half of the electorate participated in the referendum.

Article 136

Amendments to the provisions of Chapters 3-8
(Article 75 is included in Chapter 3 of the Constitution) of the Constitution of the Russian Federation shall be adopted according to the rules fixed for adoption of federal constitutional laws and come into force after they are approved by the bodies of legislative power of not less than two thirds of the subjects of the Russian Federation.

Chapter 5. The Federal Assembly

Article 94

The Federal Assembly – the parliament of the Russian Federation – shall be the representative and legislative body of the Russian Federation.

Article 95

1. The Federal Assembly consists of two chambers – the Council of the Federation and the State Duma.

2. The Council of the Federation includes two representatives from each subject of the Russian Federation: one from the legislative and one from the executive body of state authority.

3. The State Duma consists of 450 deputies.

Article 108

1. Federal constitutional laws shall be adopted on the issues envisaged by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.

2. A federal constitutional law shall be considered to be adopted, if it is approved by not less than three fourths of the total number of the members of the Council of the Federation and not less than two thirds of the total number of the deputies of the State Duma. The adopted federal constitutional law shall be signed by the President of the Russian Federation in fourteen days and made public.
[emphasis added]


Blue Pilgrim
Blue Pilgrim
3 years ago

The solution is straightforward, if a little messy to implement: Russia, as a sovereign state, can create fiat money — not based on shadows and corruption as in the west, but on real expectations of investing in the real economy businesses and production.
I’d like see Putin and crew have a video conferences with people like Michael Hudson, Steve Keen, Bill Black, Stephanie Kelton, and Richard Wolff, who understand how to do this. Russia, as a sovereign state, can invest money in both private and public endeavors without interest, and as the economy grows can reap taxes from it to control inflation. The only ‘national debt’ that matters is with the foreign sector, as long as the wealth is not frittered away like the US does with it’s absurd military budget. (Consider how the US pumped money into the economy with the New Deal and the GI Bill, and what it did for the US economy.)

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