Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Poorer Kremlin - and Russia

Andrei Illarionov has been Economic Advisor to President Putin during his entire period, and has been a sign that there has after all been room for some internal policy debates also in the Kremlin.

Andrei has been and remains an outspoken man. He fought - wrongly, in my opinion - against the present scheme for transforming, modernizing and privatizing the entire electric power system of Russia. He was equally adamant in his opposition to Russia signing the Kyoto protocol - in his opinion the country simply wasn't ready for it.

But these were points on what in the great scheme of things were more more marginal issues. It was when he publicly started to take issue with the arrest of Khodorkovsky, the dismantling of Yukos and the trends towards de-democratization that he got into hotter water.

Now, it is obvious that he has reached the end of his career in the Kremlin. In Moscow today, he has announced that he has stepped down since he can no longer freely express his views on the policies that he increasingly disagrees with. In reality it is obvious that he has been dismissed.

But his voice on the future of Russia is an important one and should be heard. He is deeply concerned with the need to make his Russia truly a part of the modern world - and sharply critical of the now dominant trend of economic policy thinking in the Kremlin.

Earlier this year he wrote that "it dreams of imposing state control over money flows in the fuel sector, nationalizing it,putting under control its infrastructure, keeping up infrastructure monopolies, and managing energy resource flows inside and outside the country."

This is not the Russia he wants - since such a Russia will fail to modernize sufficiently, and risks being dragged down by the magnitude of the challengess it faces in the decades ahead.

Neither is it the Russia that is in the interest of the rest of Europe. We want a modern, open and successful Russia - not a stumbling, closing and failing one.

The Kremlin will be a poorer place without the honest voice of Andrei Illiaronov.

I hope voice will be more heard in the open and public debate on the future of Russia.