Miller challenges the popular notion that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s entire talent lies in using corruption to sustain a kleptocratic authoritarian regime. Putin and his loyalists certainly are corrupt, but he and the liberal technocratic economic team on which he relies have also skillfully managed Russia’s economic fortunes. As Miller recounts in this short and admirably clear book, Putin took over a debt-ridden, revenue-starved economy in 1999 and then forced the oligarchs to pay taxes, saved the windfall from soaring oil profits (and later used it to weather successive financial crises), paid off Russia’s debts, tamed inflation, and presided over rapid growth (fueled not only by oil profits but also by increased productivity). Russia, Miller argues, has a dual economy: one portion dominated by corrupt and inefficient state-owned enterprises, the other driven by a widening range of efficient and innovative private companies. He sketches a “hierarchy of Putinomics”: “first, political control; second, social stability; third, efficiency and profit.” The first two objectives are within reach, but the system’s inability to properly fund the country’s health-care and educational systems, fight corruption, or establish the rule of law threatens to sacrifice the third.
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