Staunton, May 24 – Many have welcomed the appointment of former finance minister Aleksey Kudrin to head the Audit Chamber as the welcome addition to the Russian cabinet of a liberal reformer, but Irina Pavlova argues that this image, one cultivated by the Putin regime itself, does not fully correspond to reality.
On her blog, the US-based Russian historian says that “in the system of Putin’s power, Aleksey Kudrin plays the role of a liberal – in the first instance for the West and, one must say, he does so extremely successfully” given that his undertakings since leaving government all reflected disagreements with the Kremlin (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2018/05/blog-post.html).
Kudrin resigned as finance minister in 2011 over his disagreement with then-President Dmitry Medvedev about increasing military spending. That was enough for him to be christened a liberal reformer by many “official liberal experts” and thus someone who could be counted on to bring positive changes if he came back to the government.
However, there is a fundamental problem with this image of Kudrin: He “always was a man of the System and all these years has worked successfully for its modernization.” Indeed, he fully confirmed that in remarks to the Duma when two days ago it was considering his nomination to head the Audit Chamber.
Asked whether in the light of his resignation in 2011 over military spending he could fully support Putin’s ten-year rearmament program, Kudrin responded with the following words: “While the leader of the oversight administration of the Presidential Administration in the 1990s and then finance minister for 11 years, I took part in strengthening the defense capability and security of the country.”
“On the basis of the personal directive of the president,” Kudrin continued, “I personally was involved in supporting a number of kinds of forces with corresponding technology and arms. This was governed by corresponding and secret presidential directives that defined my role. And the achievements the president mentioned in his message reflect my work as well.”
As far as his disagreements with Medvedev is concerned, the new Audit Chamber head said, they reflected only the timetable for the spending of money on defense, not the spending of money for that purpose as such.
Pavlova observes that in her view, “the most interesting feature in this passage is not the revelation by Kudrin about his personal contribution to the militarization of the country” although that undermines the image many have about him “but rather the public confirmation of the existing regime of secrecy and oral directives by Putin.”