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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Anglo-American candidate to be President of Russia, replacing Vladimir Putin, reprivatizing Russia’s resource assets, and emasculating the country’s defences, has made a fresh pitch.

Alexei Kudrin, sacked as Finance Minister,  demoted as presidential economic adviser, then appointed  Chairman of the Accounting Chamber five months ago,  gave a speech to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE) in Moscow on Wednesday. “Today”, Kudrin declared, “Russia’s foreign policy should be subordinated to the reduction of tension in our relations with other countries and, at least, to the preservation or reduction of the sanctions regime, not to the build-up. Today I would measure the effectiveness of our foreign policy on these indicators. We do not have such global problems for Russia —  risks of military and political importance which would require increasing tension with other countries.”

By other countries, Kudrin means the United States. By subordinating Russian foreign policy, Kudrin means withdrawal from Syria; from Crimea and the Donbass; and capitulation to US sanctions. By reduction of tension, Kudrin means regime change in the Kremlin – himself instead of Putin.

Kudrin’s speech was a deviation from his official role as the state auditor that is unprecedented for the post; Kudrin’s predecessors, Sergei Stepashin and Tatiana Golikova, had been ambitious politicians and ministers of state in their time, but they did not advocate their own views on foreign and defence policy outside the state budget that is the Chamber’s remit. Kudrin’s speech was at the invitation of the executive council of the RUIE; that’s the Russian business lobby. The speech was Kudrin’s opening bid – he’s opened this bidding before — for the oligarchs to back him against the Russian military and security establishment.  

The Accounting Chamber, the RUIE, and Kudrin’s personal political tribune,  the Civil Initiatives Committee, were asked for a transcript of his speech. All refused.

A brief video excerpt of Kudrin speaking, followed by Alexander Shokhin, chairman of RUIE, on his right; and on Shokhin’s right, Minister of Economic Development, Maxim Oreshkin.  The presentation, held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow, was billed as “the Main Activities of the Government until 2024.”  Click to watch the clip and the RBC publication

The press release of the RUIE summarized Kudrin as saying: “sanctions create serious risks for growth of the Russian economy and the implementation of the decree of the President of the Russian Federation. ‘Sanctions problems, of course, create high risks for the growth rate of the economy in the coming years. There are already scenarios of the Central Bank and ACRA [Analytical Credit Rating Agency, established in Moscow in 2015]  that such sanctions as are being considered, that are under current discussion, can reduce the growth rate and even lead to a recession next year. Of course, this is a big challenge for the implementation of all the goals of the President.’”

The press release continues: “Among the reasons hindering the execution of decrees of the President of the Russian Federation, [Kudrin] named the excessive administrative burden on businesses and the supervisory burden on companies, including from law enforcement bodies. Alexey Kudrin stressed that it is necessary to reduce the share of the state in the economy and build institutions for the implementation of public administration reform.”

Interfax reported   Kudrin as saying: “We must clearly realize that if the sanctions are increased, the goals set by the President are practically unattainable in many respects, including technological and social development, Therefore, this component [sanctions] is probably the key for the implementation of these goals set by the President.”

According to the Gazeta.ru report, “because of the new US sanctions, Russia may once again plunge into recession, and the national development goals set by the President will not be fulfilled. This was stated by the head of Accounting Chamber of the Russian Federation Alexei Kudrin.”

Kommersant quoted Kudrin as faulting the government for inadequate privatization of state assets. “Revenues from privatization for 2019 are planned at 13 billion rubles;  2020 — 11 billion rubles;  2021 — zero. Without this liberation, investment activity will not happen.”

There is no record that in his speech Kudrin identified as deterrents for investment growth continuing capital flight; large-scale bank fraud; preferences for oligarchs in state procurement,  utility price regulation, state bank lending, and onshore havens for profit repatriation; cost overruns in budget spending on infrastructure projects allocated to oligarchs; or corruption.

Follow the track record Kudrin has established over the years for defending the oligarch interests against the foreign and defence policies of the country in his bids for prime minister, president, and vice president.    

“Kudrin suggests giving up,” reported Zavtra, a Russian nationalist publication. “Since Mr. Kudrin is a man of his word, who got used to getting his own way in our realities, we can assume that sooner or later we will have another loud reset of relations with the West, recognition of our foreign policy omissions and mistakes, loud friendship with dancing, and cheerful privatization of state property, as well as the transformation of our loyalists into inveterate Westerners…”

“Kudrin simply does not know of the existence of China, India and rest of the world,” comments a veteran Moscow publisher. “He doesn’t understand how a country like Russia might not only grow,  but take leadership through technological, military and economic alliances. He does not understand that the western economies he so wants to court would have been nothing without their wars. Capitulation is not an option for Russia. In the present situation, being a military power is the only sure way to economic growth. Kudrin is an accountant literally and professionally.  But I fear there are more like him even now inside the government.”

“Kudrin keeps vying to beat  General Vlasov’s record for switching sides”, the source adds about Lieutenant-General Andrei Vlasov (right). Captured by the Germans during the siege of Leningrad, he defected and led the Russian Liberation Army, a German creation. When one of his units was defeated by the Red Army, he tried to flee towards the US Army, but was captured by Russian troops instead; and sent to Moscow for trial.  Convicted for high treason, he was executed in Moscow on August 1, 1946 . The only memorial to Vlasov is in New York State.

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