This week, on the first anniversary of the disputed parliamentary
elections that set off a wave of protests that made Navalny a household
name, Kudrin called on the Kremlin to stop using "confrontational
rhetoric" toward its opponents.
In a report posted on the website of his think tank, the Civic
Initiatives Committee, Kudrin and his co-authors wrote that such actions
"only increase the antigovernment attitude of the middle class, without
which the country's development isn't possible."
The report, titled "2012: The Authorities and Our Common Risks,"
also criticizes Russia's rulers for engaging in what it calls
"imitation politics" and says only a real dialogue between the Kremlin
and the emerging civil society can prevent the country from sliding into
economic and political stagnation -- or worse.
For the past year, Kudrin, who resigned as finance minister in September 2011, has been trying to position himself as the man in the middle
of Russia's intractable political standoff -- the honest broker who
could foster a true dialogue among the authorities, the opposition, and
newly politically active segments of society. Having seen the system work from the inside, he understands that Russia
is dangerously dependent on oil and gas, that current levels of
corruption are unsustainable, and that in order for the economy to
diversify and modernize, the political system will need to become more
pluralistic. But he has also stressed that change needs to be
And recently, Kudrin appears to be getting a major assist from Navalny. The anticorruption blogger has been using his influence on the opposition's Coordinating Council
to strengthen the hand of moderates who seek to negotiate with the
authorities and reform the political system and weaken radical elements
who want nothing short of regime change.
Navalny's chief ally in this effort has been socialite-turned-social-activist Ksenia Sobchak, with whom he has teamed up to form a powerful super faction on the council. The Navalny-Sobchak alliance was instrumental in providing a critical link between Kudrin and the Coordinating Council. The two successfully backed a controversial move to get Dmitry Nekrasov, a close ally of the former finance minister, named the committee's executive secretary.
Nekrasov, a former Kremlin aide who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the
same council, is the coordinator of Kudrin's think tank. Navalny praised him as "sincere, sensible," and "capable." He also lauded the work of Kudrin's Civic Initiatives Committee. After Nekrasov's appointment was approved, opposition journalist and council member Oleg Kashin fiercely criticized Navalny on Twitter.
Despite their obvious differences, Kudrin and Navalny also complement
each other. Kudrin has cache with the authorities that Navalny lacks.
Navalny has street cred with the opposition that Kudrin, despite his
apparent democratic epiphany, will probably never have.
It's not clear where -- if anywhere -- this is going. But a true meeting
of the minds between Aleksei and Aleksei could be a vital step toward
development that I've been watching for: an overt alliance between the
technocratic wing of the elite that understands that Russia's political
system needs to open up to accommodate an changing society, on one hand,
and the moderate wing of the opposition that is seeking evolutionary
change on the other.
This post appears courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.