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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Giving Kudrin the Kudos He Deserves

President Vladimir Putin's Cabinet announcement Monday was thin on changes and even thinner on surprises.

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref had made it known in recent months that he wanted out, and Mikhail Zurabov seemed to lurch from one fiasco to the next as health and social development minister.

There was bad blood between Putin and Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev stretching back to their days in the St. Petersburg city government, while Yakovlev's replacement, Dmitry Kozak, has been close to the president for just as long.

The only real surprise was Alexei Kudrin's elevation to the post of deputy prime minister.

Kudrin has maintained economic and fiscal stability while significantly improving the country's foreign debt position over the last seven years.

He oversaw the establishment of the stabilization fund in early 2004, thus helping minimize the negative macroeconomic effects posed by a steep hike in import revenues from oil and gas exports as world energy prices skyrocketed.

Establishing the fund was the easy part. More difficult has been the rearguard action he has been forced to fight to keep the money from being hijacked by a seemingly endless stream of spending proposals.

Kudrin has spent the last three years working under Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, who handed him a trio of economic objectives set by Putin when Fradkov took office: doubling the country's economy in 10 years, reducing inflation and preventing a serious rise in the value of the ruble.

Most economists pointed out that the three objectives were mutually exclusive given conditions at the time, and Kudrin himself regularly complained that foot-dragging on economic reforms was making his job even more difficult.

Most famously, he leveled the charge at Fradkov in an August 2004 Cabinet meeting after the prime minister had complained that economic growth was too slow. The rare open confrontation within the government was only resolved when Kudrin flew to Sochi to plead his case to Putin. He returned to Moscow vindicated.

The results have been pretty impressive.

The ruble has, indeed, appreciated against the dollar -- just like every other currency in the world. But its value against the euro is essentially what it was four years ago.

The government has not met its inflation targets, but with reforms stalled, corruption is still rife and economic growth at about 7 percent, just coming close is a victory.

Increasing state ownership and interference in vital economic sectors has drawn increasing criticism from many economists, businesspeople and investors in recent years, but none of these issues is under Kudrin's control.

In his areas of authority and responsibility, the results have been good, if not excellent.

Kudrin deserves the promotion.