Just a week after President Vladimir Putin upbraided his cabinet for being insufficiently ambitious in setting growth targets for the economy–which is trending downward, according to presidential economic adviser Andrei Illarionov, thanks to excessive government spending and bureaucracy–the Kremlin announced that the head of state would deliver his long-awaited annual State of the Nation on April 18.
Given the record of Putin’s predecessor, expectations are rather low for the annual presidential address, which is delivered to a joint session of parliament and other top state officials. Early in his tenure, Boris Yeltsin promised a relentless battle against crime and official graft, and vowed in one of his last State of the Nation addresses that he would work to reverse the corrupt symbiosis between business and the state. These tall orders, of course, went unfilled, and by the end of Yeltsin’s second term, many observers regarded his annual speeches as little more than medical bulletins.
Putin, to his credit, is far more cautious than his predecessor and less given to grandiose promises: He is fond, for example, of noting that Russia’s economy, even in the best-case scenario, will need eighteen years to catch up with Portugal’s. Thus the president’s style of leadership, together with economy’s sluggish performance, suggest that this week’s speech will be less than historical.