Putin's Russia

Padma Desai
Content Type
Journal Article
Foreign Affairs
Issue Number
Publication Date
May/June 2008
Council on Foreign Relations
To the Editor: Michael McFaul and Kathryn Stoner-Weiss ("The Myth of the Authoritarian Model," January/February 2008) make several erroneous judgments regarding the current Russian scene. The Russian economy has grown in the last seven years at an annual rate of 6.5 percent. The ongoing debate among economists and other informed observers of Russia is over whether this is a result of exceptionally high (and rising) oil prices, and hence a reversible phenomenon if the price of oil collapses, or the result of substantive changes in the last decade that made high growth rates sustainable. At a major World Leaders Forum and a scientific conference attended by distinguished Russia scholars at Columbia University last April, participants shared the view that Russia's economic performance was not a flash in the pan caused by oil; rather, the consensus was that important policy changes had taken place. Still, no responsible Western scholar of Russia (nor even a supporter of former Russian President Vladimir Putin) has suggested that the high growth rates in Russia are a product of Putin's authoritarian ways. The claim by McFaul and Stoner-Weiss that this argument is made is simply creating a straw man.
Political Geography