By Aleksandr Khaldey
Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard
As it became known, the adviser to the President on economic issues, the academician Sergey Glazyev, is leaving his post and will move to the position of Eurasian Economic Commission Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics. The approval of Glazyev’s candidature by all heads of state of the EAEU is planned for October 1st.
Such a change in the format of Vladimir Putin’s relations with Sergey Glazyev externally looks like a demonstration of the president’s position in relation to the problem of leaving the existing economic, and subsequent political, crisis. However, this is a misconception.
Despite the fact that, according to a number of Telegram channels, there have been recent complaints in the Presidential Administration about what Glazyev was doing, his transition to a position being one fold of magnitude lower than the one he had in the status of adviser does not mean the collapse of his political career.
The fact is that the current appointment of Glazyev, according to a number of sources, was lobbied by Mikhail Babich, and this completely changes things. In such a case, Glazyev’s new appointment looks like his withdrawal to the reserve with a concentration of forces for a work over the head of Russian systemic liberals on the EAEU field.
At the moment, for Putin it is not only pointless to be next to Glazyev. Even Glazyev’s formal status as Putin’s adviser has lost its political expediency, because the economic discourse is entirely owned by liberals. Putin does not need Glazyev as a symbolic counterbalance to liberals right now.
The presence of Glazyev next to him at a certain historical stage made sense as a sign of openness to the center-left forces during their period of popularity and a sign of readiness to come into contact with them; for coming into contact, but not for following their advice. Putin has always been faithful to the policy of containing and balances, and the fact that Glazyev is now removed from Putin’s circle suggests that this system is now being built differently.
This is being done in a situation where the authorities have a need to actively participate in the fight between two liberal currents in the elite: radical and moderate. Left-wing recipes are not foreseen in the future, and therefore all attention is now paid to the liberals who gather their forces.
The policy of dividing the forces involved in the fight for power and preventing their blocking is the need for the survival of the political center. The center has now shifted to the right. There is no more left-center.
This happened due to the full inability of the left wing to somehow influence the result of the current policies in the conditions of crisis and a sharp activisation of the right wing. The left wing completely “faded” from politics after the return of Crimea and their patriotic agenda failed. They are discredited not only by prolonged creative infertility and a loss of any influence in society, but also by full political impotence.
For the president, keeping Glazyev near to himself in such conditions is not only not necessary — it is harmful. There isn’t that force to which there would be need to broadcast something, keeping Glazyev near to himself.
But on the right flank there are such forces, and they gain strength on the eve of the transfer. And it is necessary to work with them, in some areas making a compromise and concessions, and in other areas not allowing their strengthening and consolidation. Relations with the IMF are still crucial for the Russian banking system. A departure from the criteria of the IMF when an alternative to it hasn’t yet been created will put the Russian financial system in full isolation, much exceeding sanctions. Even China considers that doing this for itself now is madness.
For Vladimir Putin there was never an opportunity to follow Glazyev’s advice. None of his recipes were taken seriously and realised. Not because they were disputable economically, but because they pushed Putin into a frontal conflict with the Russian and global elite – a conflict that Putin would not be able to win if he found himself in political loneliness.
It is precisely in the underestimation of the political impossibility of implementing his recommendations that Glazyev’s main disadvantage as an adviser lies. In fact, he constantly pushed Putin towards impossible decisions, forgetting that politics is not an academic dispute about what is true and false, but the art of the possible. In politics the choice is made not between truth and non-truth, but the lesser of all possible evils. There the criteria for rationality are absolutely different.
Glazyev’s proposals were political romanticism, without an assessment of their economic content. Political unrealisability turned them into utopia. After all, communism is also quite good in theory; the trouble was that society cannot exist on its principles. The presence of even the most truncated commodity-monetary relations in a socialist society constantly generates capitalism and kills communist goals and methods. Well, and of course, the quality of human material played a role back then and it plays its role also now – mankind is not yet ready for socialism.
Glazyev proposed to increase the budget deficit, to fix the ruble exchange rate, opt for a powerful monetary issue, stimulate demand, lower the interest rate, and bring the Central Bank under the control of the government, giving the latter the opportunity to replenish the budget at the expense of the emission. This seems attractive, but Glazyev failed to convince the supreme power that this would not be followed by the collapse of basic economic parameters, and, the most important, by the critical clash of interests of key elite groups that the existence of the country depends on.
And the matter here is not at all about the prejudices of Kudrin and Gref imposed on the authorities. Glazyev indeed did not give an exhaustive justification for his economic correctness. Putin, simply speaking, has not yet seen where the solution to the problems is, but has seen exactly where they arise in addition to the already existing ones, as well as the fact that Glazyev himself completely refuses to see this.
In his new role, Glazyev gets a chance to implement what he had no opportunity to implement in Russia. In the Union State of Russia and Belarus, which Mikhail Babich is engaged in along with integration with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, it is not necessary to break the established financial structure, as it was done in Russia, but to build a new one from scratch.
This makes the task much easier and creates opportunity to then change the Russian system in order to put it into the integrational system. This is another agenda where Glazyev’s economic platform, in connection with Babich’s political resource, already not only will provide an opportunity to implement the integration concept under the auspices of Russia, but also will create a certain platform for consolidating of the illiberal counterelite, the necessity of which has been discussed for so long by political scientists.
It is certainly impossible to overcome Lukashenko’s resistance to financial and economic integration on the terms of the EAEU common currency, the engine that will itself turn the CIS into a common economic and political space beneficial to all local elites, by the efforts of Babich and Glazyev alone. Without Putin, this process is guaranteed to shut down. Only Putin has the resource of connecting all Russian resources and institutions to stimulate integration trends among EAEU partners.
And while liberals are busy with Russia and the fight for the transfer, a niche, free from liberals, was formed in the direction of the EAEU, where forces rejected by liberal Russian elites began to concentrate. As long as no one takes them seriously, considering their cause hopeless, they have a real opportunity to significantly strengthen their position. This means that in Putin’s changed system of containing and balances, the counterbalance to Russian liberals is being built at the supranational level.
Operating on different floors of political space, liberals and their opponents have so far avoided a clash. If Russian conservatives will be able to build a common neoconservative system working in the EAEU space, it will absorb what liberals have built in Russia. The system can only be affected by another system, the creation of which Babich and Glazyev are involved now.
If the central government, represented by Vladimir Putin, with the participation of the Security Council and interested ministries and agencies will be able to support this policy, its success can be as unexpectedly phenomenal as the Crimean Spring. Or the Belarusian Strategic Offensive Operation “Bagration”, organised by Marshal Rokossovsky. The concentration and build-up of forces in those directions where they are not expected is the main element of any strategy of victory.
If this is done consistently and correctly, success will come as naturally as sunrise comes after the outgoing night. Formal positions in the official system make no difference – the fact that Glazyev will be a minister and Babich a deputy minister, is similar to the distribution of roles in the embassy-based residency, where the resident can be a chauffeur and his agent a second assistant ambassador. The most important is that the positions are in the informal system, in the contour of which general coordination is carried out.
In this context, the fact of the departure of academician Glazyev to the post of Minister for Integration and Macroeconomics in the EEC looks like an appointment to the post of Chief of the Operational Department of the Front Staff at the request of the Chief of Staff with the approval of the appointment of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. The success of the operation will now depend on the ability of the new commandment to develop the initiative in its operational direction.