Saturday, August 14, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Medvedev has No Solution for North Caucasus, Moscow Editors Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 14 – As his meetings in the North Caucasus this week showed, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is seeking to find a system of administration for that region and others that is not based on either corruption or massive force, but the editors of two leading Moscow news outlets suggest that he has not found an alternative to what is taking there.
And as a result, the editors of “Nezavisimaya gazeta” and “” suggest, Medvedev for all his calls to create a law-based state in that region as well as in the rest of Russia has not yet shown that he can implement that program or even that, given conditions in that region and more generally, whether such a program could be implemented at all.
In a leading article published yesterday, the editors of “Nezavisimaya” say that the Sochi meeting earlier this week demonstrated that Medvedev is “dissatisfied with the existing system of administration at the level of the regions,” one in which corruption and force remain endemic (
The Russian president said that “it is necessary to conduct a real struggle with corruption and not just with the trading of positions.” Otherwise, he continued, “there will not be any result.” According to the paper, “the key phrase” here is “trading of positions,” because it reflects “the historically evolved motivational basis of the Russian powers that be.”
The current heads of the regions, “Nezavisimaya” says, “can hardly be considered professional administrators,” regardless of what Moscow may have expected when it eliminated elections for those positions. Instead, “they more often play the role of watchers” for the center who run their domains “by means of individual will.”
In doing so, they operate most of the time “on two basic stimuli – fear and greed,” and “one of the most powerful levels are the financial flows which are controlled by the governors.” (As the paper points out, “the alternative in the existing set of social relations could be if you will only repression of a Stalinist type.”)
Regional heads who do not make use of the financial resources they control in order to build their own power “quickly are eaten alive by their political opponents who make use of the mass media which they support and the social organizations which they control.” Consequently, the heads have no choice but to deploy these funds as the most effective means of governance.
“Corruption in the classical sense,” the paper’s editors continue, is defined as an inclination to theft. However, in Russia, it traditionally is one of the instruments of administration of the regions,” an arrangement that Medvedev finds ever less to his liking and one that he clearly would like to change.
As he has often said, he wants to “oppose to the existing system a new and contemporary one” that would be “based on law and conscience.” But unfortunately, “Nezavisimaya” continues, “Medvedev himself does not have an answer to the question of how to make such a scheme work.”
For most of its history,” the editors point out, “Russia has lived with a system based either on fear or on regulated resource flows or ‘feeding’” of officials. Medvedev does not want either, but the paper suggests, he does not recognize that making use of Western models, themselves not free from corruption, won’t necessarily work.
And as a result, even as Medvedev complains about corruption, the governors, especially in the North Caucasus, will find themselves compelled to make use of its specifically Russian form. Otherwise, they would lose control of the situation, and the center would be forced to withdraw or introduce draconian force.
Meanwhile, the same day, the editors of reach a similar conclusion. They suggest that Medvedev and others in Moscow who think as he does may finally be losing their illusions and that “the Kremlin does not have in reserve” any policy but the continued disbursement of funds (
That represents a particular problem for Medvedev because it is obvious that he is “searching for a formula of North Caucasus regulation” which will be an alternative to the one which Ramzan Kadyrov has made in Chechnya” with Grozny’s unpleasant combination of force and corruption covered by constant declarations of loyalty.
It should have surprised no one that Medvedev would like another way forward, but what is “surprising is something else:” the apparent willingness of Medvedev and others to believe that “the purely technocratic approach of [Presidential plenipotentiary] Aleksandr Khloponin” was “suitable for realization in the Russian Caucasus and in particular in Daghestan.”
That approach, based on the assumption that the only thing necessary is “to send investments there and help with advice and control” and then “life will settle down and the economy will work. If not just like in Moscow then perhaps as in Moscow oblast. Tourists will then come. Like in Sochi.”
But in fact, as the recent change at the top in Daghestan shows, Moscow has continued to rely on leaders of clans, who build their power by the channeling of funds to associates. Moscow and Medvedev need to understand “it is impossible to use this circle of people as one of the bases of support and at the same time seriously struggle with those on whom these people stand.”
Unfortunately, the editors conclude, “the North Caucasus societal crisis …de our common state and social illnesses, does not provide any hope that in the foreseeable future, this region will stand on its own even in an economic sense.” And that means Moscow has little choice but “to pay and pay” corrupt regimes, even if Medvedev would like to do otherwise

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