Russian president Vladimir Putin made state building the central priority of his first term. For example, in his first State of the Union address in July 2000 Putin stated that meeting the many challenges facing Russia was “impossible without strengthening the state.” On the eve of the March 2004 presidential election, which Putin is widely expected to win, it is worth eva luating how successful Putin has been in this endeavor. To what extent has he succeeded in the goals he set for himself in 2000? What steps should he take to further his state-building project in a second term?
In this policy memo, I argue that the apparent strengthening of the Russian state under Putin is largely an illusion. Putin has strengthened the Kremlin, but not the state. The political power of some key actors under his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, particularly regional leaders and the so-called oligarchs, has diminished. But the ability of the state to implement reliably and enforce its decisions has not appreciably increased. […]