Can Russia Modernize?

Putin is the tsar. He has both money — the government’s budget and the oligarchs’ fortunes — and the coercive power of the state firmly in his hand. He is the arbiter at the top and the trouble-shooter in social conflicts below. His most precious resource is his personal popularity, which adds a flavor of consent to his authoritarian regime.

But none of that is good enough. The 75 percent of Russians who make up the Putin majority are essentially passive and seek only the preservation of a paternalistic state. Putin can sit comfortably on their support, but he cannot ride forward with it. The best and brightest are not there.

Enter Medvedev. His Internet-surfing, compassionate and generally liberal image helps recruit a key constituency — those beyond the reach of Putin himself — to Putin’s plan. They include the country’s most apolitical citizens and its brainy, techy youth. Whether the plan succeeds is another matter.

via The Kremlin Two-Step | Opinion | The Moscow Times.

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