Streetwise Professor

December 27, 2011

Whither Kudrin? Roadkill, probably

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 1:23 pm

The most intriguing aspect of the current wary circling dance between protesters and the government in Russia is the role of Alexei Kudrin, former Minister of Finance, and the man widely credited as being the architect of the sane and constructive parts of Russian economic policy in the Putin years.  A man who has worked with Putin since the St. Petersburg days.  Reputed to be the only government official permitted to address Putin with the familiar ты.

Kudrin was unceremoniously dumped by Medvedev in the fall, for his outspoken criticism of the administrations defense spending plans.  Although Kudrin called out Medvedev, given that (a) Medvedev is a cipher and a lame duck, and (b) Putin has been quite voluble in his support for dramatic increases in military spending, Putin was the actual target of Kudrin’s blast.  And Medvedev would never have relieved longtime Putin associate Kudrin without Putin’s agreement.

Kudrin has moved even further from the regime.  He has called for cleaning up Russian politics, the need for new Duma elections, and the necessity of a credible liberal political party.  And on Saturday, he went so far as to speak at the opposition rally in Moscow.

He did so–according to his own account–after speaking with Putin (h/t R).  He is holding himself out as a mediator between civil society and the government.  He is calling for peaceful change to the system, predicated on normalizing politics and honest elections.

His efforts are almost certainly doomed to futility.  To begin with, anyone who tries to come between parties to any domestic dispute is at high risk of being set on by both parties.   What’s more, Russia is already a low trust society (pace Tim Newman), where motives are always viewed with deep suspicion.  But most importantly, the only thing that makes Kudrin a credible interlocutor with Putin–his longstanding personal relationship–simultaneously makes him totally suspect in the eyes of the opposition.  And if Kudrin does something to build cred with the opposition, he will make himself suspect in the eyes of the regime–and make himself vulnerable to kompromat and worse.

Which all means that if Kudrin tries to maintain his middle-of-the-road course, he will end up like most things that walk the center line: roadkill.

But this means that a negotiated, transactional resolution to the standoff is virtually impossible, because there is likely no one who has credibility with both the regime and the opposition.  Indeed, the opposition itself is so splintered that there is likely no one even in its ranks that can unite it, let alone simultaneously transact with Putin.

Which means that Putin’s political purgatory is likely to last for some time.  He and his regime have sharply diminished respect and prestige, and the pretense of near universal popularity has been exploded.  But there is (in part by design) no credible alternative, nor anyone to bridge the divide.

The upshot of this is that this standoff is likely to continue.  Putin will no doubt just try to hold on, hoping that the energy of the opposition will dissipate and the country will lapse into its usual atomized apathy.

He is likely to succeed in this, but this does not mean that the protests and the existence of the opposition are irrelevant.  It is not likely–and it never was–that Putin would be removed by a popular movement surging on the streets.  But the revelation that large swathes of the population are already suffering from Putin fatigue even before the official restoration begins will have its effect.  The problem for observers is that its effect will be on the proverbial dog fights underneath the carpet.  That is, it will change the dynamic of the intra-regime infighting, the course of the battle between the clans.  The puncturing of the Putin hagiography will affect the palace intrigues, and those palace intrigues can have a dramatic effect on the way the country is governed–or not.

But as a man now outside of the palace, Kudrin’s ability to influence those intrigues is limited.  He is fatally compromised as an interlocutor between the insiders and the outsiders.  At most, his role is symptomatic of Russia’s current circumstances.  As a serious person who was seriously invested in the status quo, his opposition is a strong signal that the current system has reached a dead end.  But he will have virtually no impact on how that system evolves–or whether it is replaced by something else.

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  1. “hoping that the energy of the opposition will dissipate”

    But, SWP, it already HAS dissipated. The MSM chose not to report that street protests outside Moscow totally vanished on Christmas Eve, and Putin’s poll approval level started to rise.

    et’s be clear: The so-called “movement” (1) exists only in Moscow, even there affecting only a tiny minorit of the population (2) has no agreed leader or even leadership, (3) has no significant fundraising, (4) has no recognized political party, and (5) wields an agenda that consists of demanding that crazed Communists and rabid Russian nationlists be given (even) more votes instead of United Russia. Granted, it’s better than nothing, and maybe it’s the best Russians can do. But that isn’t saying very much at all.

    Comment by La Russophobe — December 28, 2011 @ 6:57 am



    Mr. Goldman, I am fully aware of your deep knowledge of Wall Street. I read essentially everything you write–even the 30 years’ War columns (incidentally, your treatment of that subject in your book is truly a revelation).

    This is a philosophical disagreement. I am persuaded that the Austrian position is the correct one, both morally and practically. I believe that banks are vital, indeed essential to a good society, but that fractional reserve banking is an unmitigated evil, because it’s based on fraud. I don’t just believe that, I think it as well, because it is logic that produces that conclusion.

    The Fed is a banking cartel. A secretive cabal of impossibly huge private banks. It creates trillions of dollars with absolutely no authority higher than itself, and without disclosing its actions, but puts the general public on the hook for whatever results [ah but SWP would have us believe anyone speaking of alternatives is a nutter, and that only mere criticism will suffice]. In the century since it was created, the dollar has lost 98% of its value. By contrast, cumulative inflation in the century prior to that was essentially zero. Which is a better model?

    God hates cheating monetary systems (Deut 25:13). Inflation is an evil. In a growing economy, prices naturally decline. This boon has been stolen from us, and the Federal Reserve system is the culprit.

    You may assume that we can’t go back to a gold coin standard (honest money). You may consider it, what’s that word you keep using to describe Dr. Paul…ah, yes, “nutball.” Well I hold you in the highest esteem, and agree with you in most areas, and understand your entrenched prejudice here, but philosophically, you are wrong to defend the banking cartel that has destroyed the dollar. A paper dollar buried in 1815 and dug up in 1915 would buy more than it did when it was buried. A paper dollar buried in 1915 and dug up today wouldn’t buy a gum ball. Defend that.

    Sure, real money, a gold coin standard with no fractional reserve lending, would mean much slower economic development than we’ve become used to. But the speed of change we accept as normative today is unhealthy in almost every aspect. We’d be better off, doing the morally correct thing. Maybe it would even trickle down to the family level; causing a human scale reassessment of what truly is valuable, and slowing every aspect of life down.

    I think the CME’s refusal to keep its foundational promise in the MFGlobal bankruptcy is revelatory of the whole Fed/fractional reserve/fiat money fraud [but SWP is constantly defending the CME from any and all wrongdoing, while never extending the innocent until proven guilty benefit of the doubt to anyone outside the U.S.] When MFGlobal stole its client money, and declared bankruptcy, and the CME did not make the customers whole–indeed, laughed in their faces [the real reason SWP hates RT and AJ — because they put on Gerald Celente who calls his buddies in Chicago crooks] –the corruption that began in 1913 came to full fruition.

    It it time that it ended. And Dr. Paul is the only one with the courage to try to end it. [They can stop him, but they will not stop his movement].

    Comment by Mr. X — December 28, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  3. This is not to say we do not hunger for personal tastes of victory, even if in small ways. The Ron Paul candidacy is one of those. No matter what happens now, we have won hugely. Millions of people have been introduced to ideas that will resonate long after they forget where they heard them [and introduced to Rand Paul]. The libertarian genie is well and truly out of the bottle. We win with every day that goes by with us in the race. We win with every million dollars the Ron Paul campaign pours into broadcasting our message, a message of freedom and individualism the media has long ignored, filtered, twisted or blocked [as SWP does here, no surprise, he’s with ‘the banks, and the Man’]. Should he take Iowa and New Hampshire the old boys network of the Republican Party will be out in even more force with their friends in the Democratic Party to stop him. The two may be very different in what they want to do, but they both share a common love of power and your money.

    Some made the mistake of thinking the Conservatives were our friends. I knew that was not true. They were only interested in us so long as they thought they could use us to their advantage. Has anyone noticed how the Conservative media turned against us as soon as it looked like we might actually have a real effect on the election? Even Pajamas Media has taken a decidly anti-libertarian turn. I must admit that one surprised me a bit, but as to the rest, I fully expected it. [No surprise, but you’ll notice Glenn Reynolds and Richard Fernandez, the two bloggers who made PJM a success, are not joining in the Ron Paul hate]

    I still do not expect Ron Paul will win, but God Almighty, I do intend to let those [MIC whoring, endless war supporting, Fiat money printing loving] Sons of Bitches know we libertarians were there. If you are Conservative and you still do not understand why we fight after reading this missive… you are really rather dense.

    It is simple. After thirty-five years, we have finally tasted blood in the political scene and for once it is not our own.

    Neither SWP, nor the swarms of PJM haters and bot commenters who may or may not be funded by the Gingrich campaign and RNC, would be paying attention to the Dr. No they once were content to pay on the head if he weren’t a threat to them.

    Comment by Mr. X — December 28, 2011 @ 4:34 pm


    Lastly here’s a recall petition for the Montana U.S. Senators who backed that legislation SWP insisted didn’t give this President he despises the authority to indefinitely detain anyone he designates a terrorist.

    I’ll take Yale constitutional law scholar Stewart Rhodes’ opinion of the NDAA over SWP’s any day of the week. And while I can forgive the sloppy, lazy ‘Zerohedge didn’t publish anything about the Russian protests because they’re KGB stooges’ post, deliberating sticking one’s head up the butt and urging SWP readers to do the same is much more difficult to forgive. But that’s ok SWP, lie back and think of Alexey Navalny the next time the TSA gives you the rubber gloves treatment. That’ll show those Putin loving Paulians.

    Comment by Mr. X — December 28, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  5. The pathetic Putin- fan Mr. X is funny . Love your funny twists and turn to make your favourite Gangster boss look good .

    Vladimir V. Semago, a member of the governing council of United Russia’s Moscow branch, wrote an op-ed in the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta last week praising the recent protests in an apparent attempt at penitence.

    “I have done many things in my political life that I am ashamed of,” Mr. Semago wrote. “But I do not have the nerve to appear in front of people who are now carrying out their civic duty, look them in the eye, and tell them that our seats in the Parliament are more important than their protest.”

    Comment by Anders — December 28, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  6. Anders, I haven’t written a damn thing about Putin in this thread. Or anywhere else on SWP today. I’m not bob, take it up with him or A/K. I’m outta here. If the Russian people vote out Putin in March that’s their business, and it won’t be because of the Demintern.

    And BTW Professor, since you consider all alternate media to be tin foil hat wearing loons, especially that damn Zerohedge, here’s a video of Joe Biden (7:55-8:20) talking with his old buddy Corzine about how they considered a bank holiday (aka you can’t get your money out while they devalue the dollar and with it your life savings like the old Mexican, Argentine peso were devalued).

    And of course, try Googling ‘Obama signs NDAA’. You’ll find one obscure footnote in the NYT, WaPost, and Politico. If they really thought what they were doing was noble and protecting us from terrorism, why not call a full court press? Answer: because they know what they’re doing is authoritarian.

    Not even Alex Jones can make this stuff up, even if he is a looney. That’s the trouble.

    Comment by Mr. X — December 28, 2011 @ 8:44 pm

  7. The funny Putin -mafia supporter Mr.X do not want to make any statements Alexei Kudrin . Not even his loony mentor Alex Jones can rant like Mr.X That’s the trouble. Russia Today is clearly serving the interests of those who promote the ideas that animate the burgeoning Patriot movement. The channel gets rave reviews on Patriot websites, including Jones’ Prison Planet Forum. “This is what mainstream news should be like,” one forum poster declared on May 7 — ironically overlooking that his ideal media outlet is heavily subsidized by and very likely beholden to a government. “Russia Today,” he said, “gets many kudos from me.”

    The story should be a surprise for naive Westerners. As a KGB agent, Vladimir Putin doesn’t have any morale, nor good one neither a bad one. He’s completely immoral.
    It’s strange to watch as American politicians, as Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama, have tried to appeal to the Putin’s sense of right and wrong. He lacks this sense. All current KGB (FSB) agents in Russia — and one can’t be ex-KGB agent, because KGB wasn’t not an entity or Intelligence Service — it was a way of life, so one can’t be more ex-KGB agent than can be ex-gay.
    Putin is absolutely corrupted person.

    Comment by Anders — December 29, 2011 @ 4:41 am

  8. “Russia Today,”

    Todays mafia state of Russia is a mix of black communism and red fascism .It is indeed ironic that speakers-whose minds and thoughts and actions are in no manner free-should demand the opportunity to parrot the Putin-mafia line to young Americans under the guise of freedom!

    For 12 years, Vladimir Putin has been an absolutely “Teflon dictator,” but a week of post-election protests seems to have shattered that notion. Putin’s strength has been clever propaganda, intimidation and mass corruption, but the regime lacks serious brute force capabilities or a mass force of well prepared, well paid and ideologically-motivated thugs – unlike, say, the present Iranian regime.

    “Academic freedom and press freedom is not an instrument for the perpetuation of conspiratorial ideologies. Nor is it an agent of self-destruction-a freedom to destroy freedom. As a free-flowing channel of truth and knowledge, academic freedom is not obligated to carry along the silted tributaries of lies and distortions of known loony idiots like Alex Jones . –

    Comment by Anders — December 29, 2011 @ 5:25 am

  9. […] and some say a little of both. In China, people are becoming discontented with their government. In Russia, Putin looks to be in trouble. Closer to home we have seen a secondary movement in Occupy Wall […]

    Pingback by Isolationism, Protectionism, Keeping to Yourself Never Works | Points and Figures — December 29, 2011 @ 7:13 am

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