Sorry about the long lag in blogging. Spent all of last week in Moscow, which is both glorious and bizarre. Glorious because holiday decorations are still up and the new mayor has spent wisely and well in turning the city into a showplace. Red Square has never looked so marvelous; really like the Champ de Mars in Paris in holiday colors (doesn’t hurt that Russia’s new national colors are Red, White, and Blue, comme la France).
I was there for the annual Gaidar Forum, which has become a huge international conference on the Russian economy. Sessions were held on issues ranging from health care and innovation to Russia’s nuclear policy and higher education. All quite rational and fascinating. Prime Minister Medveydev came to deliver the keynote on the first day. Here is a link to one story on the Forum: http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_01_19/Gaidar-Forum-2013-new-challenges-new-opportunities/
Yet bizarre because while wonderful analysis was being delivered at the Forum, the reality of Russian politics was veering off in another direction. While conference speakers were stressing the need to aggressively compete in the global economy through greater openness and integration (the theme of the Gaidar Forum this year was “Russia and the World: Challenges of Integration”), Russia’s Parliament — at the demand of President Putin — was considering laws to ban government officials from owning property abroad, to ban Americans from adopting Russian children, and to muscle foreign companies out of important industries in Russia.
The essential need for Russia’s economy today is more freedom. Yet the essential need for the Russian government is to maintain control. The tug-of-war between these two will determine how successful Russia will be in the future.