The Russian state re-built via state sponsored corruption now moving further along the path of an authoritarian democracy with rule of law and transparency

AUTOCRATIC DEMOCRACY? Ft. Sergey Karaganov, School of World Economics & Intl Relations Dean at HSE (WorldsApaRT, Oct 5, 2017, 2nd part of 14 min)


14:13 [Music]
14:23 Welcome back to WorldsApart with Sergey Karaganov, the Dean of the School of World Economics and International Relations at the Moscow Higher School of Economics. Mr. Karaganov on earth we will really discuss the changes with an American political establishment and I think the Russian governing elites are also going through a period of major rotation which is incidentally also tied to the electoral cycle. Only in Russia it’s pre-electoral rather than post-electoral.

What do you make of it so far? Can this mass change of faces at the regional and ministerial level change the nature of Russian governance?

15:00 It will start to change the nature of Russian governance because we have to get rid from of the elites, which made all the mistakes which we have made in the 90s and the beginning of the 2000s, because without that we could not move further. These elites are not necessarily bad or corrupt but they made terrible mistakes.

Are you sure they are not necessarily corrupt?

I do not want to accuse anybody. Maybe they’re corrupt, but I’m saying they have made mistakes to which they’re tied intellectually, political economically, and they have to be pushed away.

15:47 Now can I ask you something about what Hillary Clinton recently said in her interview? She repeated this very familiar in neoliberal thesis that Vladimir Putin hates democracy. Yet rhetorically if you look at Putin speeches he always pays homage to the traditional democratic values like the rule of law, transparent government, even civil liberties. At the same time we’ve had a series of security oriented laws that expands, significantly expand the powers of the state. In your own understanding what kind of a state does Russia aspire to be?

16:25 I think, well, first of all despite [what] aspires to be a Russian state. That means that we shall not copy any …

Russians are humans too, assume human values …

I think that 15 years from now we should be more democratic but it should be burocratic. We now have authoritarian democracy. We should have democratic authority to terrorism. 15 years from now with hopefully, and that is the core issue, with more emphasis on rule of law. We are living in this situation where property is not protected by a law, which is the core problem of Russian internal development. So for that you need a new generation of technocrats

I’m happy that people who are in their thirties or forties being put in one by one, and tooking positions in the government. We have to have people with no ties to the previous system

17:27 You often point out in your interviews that you consider strategic thinking to be Russia’s strong competitive advantage. Even Russia haters recognized that the Kremlin has this ability to play a poor hand well. For example in Syria, in the Middle-East, there are good examples. But why do you think it’s so challenging to apply these strategic genius domestically, and finally address Russia’s perennial problems like corruption, institutionalized inefficiency? It only takes a good strategy …

I’m not very much interested in stability of the United States or even on the Middle East. We could play a free hand there. But in this country we’re interested in stable development. We have had a hundred years of a catastrophy. We have to gradually, I mean, build up, and I understand those people who are risk averted. They remember how beautiful ideas of democrats of February 17th, our early start of a revolution, brought in the bloodshed which took away, I mean, tens of millions of people.

18:40 Absolutely, but I think there is also a realization in government that corruption is threatening the very structure of the Russian state. Even according to the Accounting Chamber, which reports directly to Putin, I think about a third of budget money is getting either mismanaged or embezzled. That’s a major issue for the state as well.

That is the at beginning of the 2000s there was no state in Russia. It have de facto collapsed. It had to be restored somehow. There was one way to start the machine of opression, do it by blood. It was done by money. The elite was told, steal but restore the state. So corruption unfortunately is a part of, used to be the part of the state building mechanism, and it would be extremely hard to do work with it.

19:44 It’s interesting you say that because, if we look at the statistics of corruption and embezzlement charges brought against former government officials, the number has actually significantly increased in the recent years. I’ve already seen some economists term it a counter elite repression. If what you said is true, if the state indeed relied on corruption as something that helped to build the state structure, why of a suddenly it’s changed its mind? …

Corruption, which is by the way built also on the fact that Russia had not developed the defense by law of property, is now the major impairment for develop. So, I mean, gradually the same elite which used corruption as a vehicle for rebuilding the state is now, I’m trying to start saying this, so starting to fight corruption in order to save the state and the society.

20:46 Now, Putin is usually credited for strengthening the Russian state, but I heard some prominent Russian thinkers suggest that it may have very dangerous consequences for Russia given its historically proven tendency towards authoritarian and even tyrannical rule. The argument is that Putin is relatively risk-averse and [has] self-restraint but if you have another leader who is much more impulsive, than all that state levers could be used to turn Russia again into some sort of a Stalinist state. Having built the strong state are you prepared to say that Putin now owes Russia to create its own checks and balances?

Its own checks and balances he’ll use. I think he intends to do that as well, as he’s doing a lot not to repeat in future the possibility to build the repressions. I mean a month and a half from now a huge monument will be opened by Putin to the victims of repression.

21:55: Believe it or not my my next question is exactly about that monument or history associated with it. I know that you’re personally attached to that whole project. In the Russian society we have a lot of discussion these days about the role of Joseph Stalin, how he influenced the Russian state… but I think forced labor camps and summary executions are not just about Stalin personally. It’s about the way the omnipotent Soviet state related to its citizens.

Do you think the Kremlin and Russia more broadly have fully processed this issue? What kind of a relationship can Russia realistically build between power and its people?

First of all Russia has been─and because of its size, of its history─of constantly fighting wars and defending itself. It would be fair to say that the question is do democratic, authoritarian, or authoritarian democratic …

22:49 What do you mean by authoritarian centralised?

It is, it is because of his history, in genes. We have been in the fight, we have been the warriors. That’s there. You have to understand your own people and yourself, I mean. Even if you don’t like this kind of a character. It is there.

But character can also change. People change, so a countries could change.

Well, well yes, over centuries well.

23:16 If you believe professor Englehart, who did a lot of studies, it takes only two generations …

I do not believe that you could do that, in two generations. We tried at the beginning of 80s and then in the nineties. I mean we failed bitterly. Institutions became worse in this terms of mentality. So we had to retreat, and now to move much slower and much more systematically. I hope, I am pretty sure that we shall be a much more open and democratic country. We are becoming by the way. If you see our election processes are becoming cleaner and cleaner from every year, which is amazing because there’s when there was pressure from outside we were, I mean in 90s how horribly in there. And in 2000 also, understandably, but now it is becoming cleaner in spite of the fact that now we spit on international influences on that matter.

So it is where we’re, and hopefully we’re developing according our own speed. However we have not reached a threshold where we’ll say that ruffle of their terrorism or collapse is absolutely impossible. We are going to …

24:46 Even, I think, the United States hasn’t reached that.

History [is] in events. I am pretty sure that the present-day democracy in Europe would not survive in most countries. Because it could not survive under circumstances when Europe is not dominating, and the West is not dominating the world militarily anymore. So they have to compete in open market, and in an open market all systems are competitive depending on their own competitiveness.

25:18 Well speaking of, which you’ve long been an advocate of Russia’s pivot to the East, China in particular, and in the West it’s sometimes portrayed as this concert of two authoritarian giants. But I’ve spoken to a number of Chinese experts recently, and they all point out that there is a noticeable progress in Chinese efforts to build an independent rule of law and court system. There is also an emphasis  on transparent governance, there is also a higher awareness of people civil and environmental rights.

As the West is going through this renegotiation, rethinking of democracy don’t you think that the East can too provide its own interpretation of that concept?

Well, in our long-term thinking, where we are writing that eventually, if there is one end game for a political system it will be authoritarian democracy. Maybe we are wrong and the world would never, history would never end probably. I mean we are wrong but that is where things are moving, and Russia is moving in the same direction. Of course with all my due respect and love for our Chinese friends and de-facto allies, I mean, we are much more developed society in humanistic terms.

26:36 But they’re much more developed society in developmental terms, strides in infrastructure, and that is also important for the spread of democratic values.

Well, not necessarily by the way. Who told you that? There is no direct link. Of course most of the affluent countries have been democracies. Most of the developing countries are authoritarian, and never in history except for one very important exception a democracy became there a real democracy, became a really effective economy. The one exception is a very culturally strange country, the United States.

The United States was born as a democracy, and some and because of many reasons, including its instability to foreign aggression, it has developed as a democracy. If you compare a Russian authoritarian democracy to that of say a European of that twenties, well we’re in many ways more developed already

27:46 Professor Karaganov, if it’s always a great pleasure talking to you. Thank you for your time and to our viewers. Please share your comments in our Twitter Facebook and YouTube pages, and I hope to see you again same place, same time here on WorldsApart.

[Music] 28:21

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