While the Russian opposition’s hopes fade for immediate reforms, Vladimir Putin is quickly consolidating his power base after sealing the election victory. Putin reserves the right to choose regional government officials, keeping the ones he likes and throwing out any pesky reformers–even after they’re elected. He has not allowed smaller parties to join together to better their chances at the polls. A new set of liberalizing legislation may be passed as early as next month, says a Putin ally in parliament, but the Kremlin will not allow new elections to be held after the legislation takes effect.Why the delay? As the same parliament member explains in the WSJ, keeping opposition groups in a never-ending phase of incubation is ideal: “These newly formed parties will need to accumulate a lot of experience and that doesn’t happen at a snap of the fingers.” He reasons that they must “feel the political struggle” at the local level before playing with the big boys at the national level. But as the Journal notes, “many parties that were shut down in recent years had already been successful on the national scene.”Russia’s resource curse continues to be the strongest bastion of the Putinocracy. Today, two thirds of the country’s exports and almost half of its federal revenues are tied to the price of oil. Sales and purchases of foreign exchange represent the single instrument used by the Russian Central Bank to manage the money supply. With an eye on current spending and investment trends, Russia’s balance of payments won’t become a problem if oil prices continue to go up, and as long as prices keep drifting north, the Putinocracy can continue to buy the acquiescence of a critical mass of Russia’s population.This works for Putin; it doesn’t work as well for Russia. If the country’s oil wealth is ever going to serve as the basis for general prosperity and development (as, for example, happened in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries), an effective and transparent legal system that promotes new enterprises and additional foreign investment needs to take shape. But since the oil money allows the Putinocracy to prosper without a general commitment to serious reform and good governance, Russia isn’t taking advantage of its oil prosperity to lay the foundations for a true national renaissance.Over the last ten years, the investment climate in Russia has seriously deteriorated compared to other emerging markets. That doesn’t look set to change; it is springtime in the Kremlin, winter for the country as a whole. This is a shame; Putin took power determined to make Russia great once again. It is Russian nationalism that in the end will condemn him most bitterly for the lost opportunities he now represents.