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Medvedev's Institute Proposes Radical Reforms

Russia will join NATO and the EU, reduce its military, reintroduce gubernatorial elections and four-year presidential terms and disband its Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, according to a paper released Wednesday by a think tank close to President Dmitry Medvedev.

The essay, "21st-Century Russia: Reflections on an Attractive Tomorrow," published by the Institute of Contemporary Development, calls for drastic measures but also embraces modernization appeals formulated by Medvedev last fall in his "Go, Russia!" article and his state-of-the-nation address.

Medvedev chairs the institute's board of trustees.

Analysts cautioned that the proposals were far from realistic and most likely an attempt to rally public opinion behind Medvedev's modernization drive.

United Russia, headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, accused the think tank of advocating a return to the turbulent 1990s. A number of its proposals contradict key elements of United Russia's "Strategy 2020," also known as "Putin's Plan."

The 23,000-word essay — published on the institute's web site, Insor-Russia.ru, and signed by its chairman, Igor Yurgens, and sociologist Yevgeny Gontmakher ?€” argues that economic modernization cannot be achieved without political modernization.

Medvedev has regularly promised political reforms, which critics say have so far been largely cosmetic.

Among the paper's more radical contents is a sweeping reform of the law enforcement authorities, which are often seen as a haven for the country's conservative hard-liners, the so-called siloviki.

The authors propose that the Interior Ministry be disbanded and replaced with a Federal Criminal Police Service. Simpler police duties like road traffic would be carried out by a new force subordinated to regional leaders.

Calls to turn the police on its head have become louder after a series of violent incidents embarrassed the Interior Ministry in recent months.

The paper also proposes to replace the Federal Security Service with a Counterintelligence Service and a Service for the Protection of the Constitution, the latter of which would be responsible for fighting terrorism and separatism ?€” a model that seemingly mimics the intelligence organization of present-day Germany.

The military is to be slashed in half to 500,000 to 600,000 servicemen in peacetime.

The paper says the country should consider joining both the European Union and NATO. "This will stimulate [Russia's] further positive transformation, it says.

It also calls for the return of popularly elected governors and reducing the presidential term to five years. A Medvedev-backed amendment extended the term to six years, from four previously.

The decision to abolish gubernatorial elections in 2004 has been criticized as a leading example of Putin rolling back democracy during his presidency, which ended in 2008. Medvedev, Putin's handpicked successor, has said he personally participated in this decision and that it should remain intact for the next 100 years. 

Medvedev received a draft of the paper a few weeks ago and has yet to comment, Arkady Dvorkovich, the president's economic adviser, told Vedomosti in an interview published Wednesday.

A Kremlin spokesman said Wednesday that he had nothing to add to Dvorkovich's statement.

Gontmakher, one of the paper's authors, told Vedomosti that the report was not written for Medvedev but to initiate public debate.

United Russia officials condemned the paper as idealizing the 1990s. "Their mistake is that they think that there was an ideal democracy then. But it was in the 1990s that the system of social security and many other civil rights were destroyed," State Duma Deputy Sergei Markov said in a statement.

Pavel Danilin, an analyst of the Fund for Effective Politics, a pro-Kremlin think tank, said that the paper reflected "myths" traditionally held by the country's liberals.

"If their key proposals were met, we would have a revolution ?€” and I do not see any need for a revolution," he told The Moscow Times.

Alexei Mukhin, an analyst at the Center for Political Information, said that describing a "golden paradise" in which the siloviki had little influence reflected efforts by political forces close to Medvedev to secure their political future.

"These are dangerous dreams for United Russia promoted by Medvedev's neo-liberals," he said.

Stanislav Belkovsky, an independent analyst and former Kremlin insider, wrote off the paper as part of a Kremlin PR effort aimed at foreign audiences. "This was written to bolster Medvedev's positive image in the West," he said.

Belkovsky said Medvedev and Putin believed that real democracy was not good for the country. "They know that past democratic experiments ended in failure ?€” Nicholas II was executed, and Gorbachev lost his job and his state," he said.

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