Letter From the Editors: Nov. 21 - 27, 2016

Author: Xenia Grushetsky

The View From the Kremlin - Living the Dream in a Post-Truth World

In what could be called the Year of Backlash (with all the previous references to Brexit and Trump), 2016 continues to shock and amaze. On the heels of the surprising arrest of economic development minister Aleksei Ulyukayev last week, Russian commentators rushed to wrap their collective brains around the Igor Sechin Phenomenon. For better or worse, it looks like Putin’s ally from his days at St. Petersburg City Hall is upping the ante politically. But as Andrei Kolesnikov points out, Sechin is not a political figure - at least officially. He is merely the CEO of a state-owned corporation. However, he is rumored to have strong ties with law enforcement, and as we saw last week, he isn’t shy about using them.

According to Yevgenia Albats, Rosneft is now officially taking on the powers of law-enforcement agencies: "What we are witnessing is not the merging of the state and business.. . but rather the merging of a repressive agency with the wealthiest state-owned corporation," she writes. Is this the emergence of a corporate state in Russia, something that Benito Mussolini once ominously described as, "All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state"?

Vladimir Pastukhov takes Albats’ sentiments a step further. Yes, Sechin is currently ruthlessly asserting himself on the political arena, going after the so-called liberal establishment (as embodied by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and former finance minister Aleksei Kudrin). But by showing that he is in a way bigger than Putin, Sechin could be setting himself up for a very big fall: "Sechin’s over-the-top pushiness could at some point force Putin to take response measures. And in that case, there will be no shortage of people willing to cut [Sechin] down to size."

Perhaps Sechin can only hope that Putin is too distracted ...

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