Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s ‘Force-Based State’ Weakening Russia, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 3 – The state model President Vladimir Putin has adopted, one based on the unrestrained use of force, is destroying the institutions of modern statehood, undermining the possibilities for economic growth, and isolating Russia from virtually all of the rest of the world, according to a former Kremlin advisor.
In yesterday’s “Kommersant,” Andrei Illarionov, who served as an advisor to Putin and his predecessor Boris Yeltsin, makes a sweeping indictment of the kind of regime Russia now has and says its replacement is Russia’s “most important task” (http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.html?DocID=755085&IssueID=36241).
To make his case, Illarionov draws on a variety of international rankings. He notes that in terms of the level of political rights and freedoms, Russia now stands 158th or 159th in the world, alongside Pakistan, Swaziland, and Togo. And in terms of freedom of the press, it occupied 147th place, alongside Iraq, Venezuela and Chad.
As for corruption, the outspoken Moscow analyst points out, today’s Russia stands in 123rd place out of 159 alongside Gambia, Afghanistan and Rwanda. In terms of the defense of property rights, it ranks 89th, right alongside Mozambique, Nigeria and Guatemala. And its judicial system ranks 170th out of 1999 countries.
Moreover, Illarionov notes, the “force model” of the state “legitimates force in society. Russia is today 7th in murders per 1,000 residents out of a survey of 112 countries – right between Ecuador and Guatemala. And in terms of their physical security, Russians find themselves ranked 175th out of 185 countries.
Many analysts both in Moscow and the West blame all this on the lawlessness and chaos of the 1990s, but such an interpretation is “a myth,” Illarionov says, noting that “the sharp decline in indicators of the quality of state institutions has been observed precisely” since those who seek to rely on force alone took over.
Corruption has increased both absolutely and relatively under the “force model,” a development Illarionov says is proved by both international and Russian statistics and one that is undermining both the bureaucratic effectiveness of the government apparatus and the stability of the country as a whole.
And he points out that all of this is having the most negative consequences on Russia’s standing in the world. Today, Moscow has “no allies,” he writes. The number of meetings with Western leaders has halved in the period since the Anna Politkovskaya and Aleksandr Litvinenko murders, and those with CIS leaders are down by two-thirds.
Even Russia’s economic growth so celebrated by the Kremlin and many in the West is less robust than many think. Russia’s GDP grew 6.8 percent annually in 2004 to 2006, more than in some European countries but less than Russia’s economic growth at the end of the Yeltsin era.
Compared to the CIS and Baltic countries, this relative decline is even greater. In 1999-2000, only two of these countries had higher growth rates than the Russian Federation, Illarionov continues, but now, 12 of the 14 do. And compared to China, today’s Russia is falling ever further behind.
This “catastrophe” -- and Illarinov pointedly uses precisely that word -- will have “serious consequences,” if not immediately in 2008 then eventually, something that those who believe Putin’s state based on force alone should reflect upon. And the longer things continue as they are, he suggests, the worse the impact of this system will be.
“The creators of this state,” Illarionov writes, “promised the rebirth of the Russian state, but the force model is destroying it. [They] promised security for citizens, but the force model is undermining that. [They] promised the strengthening of the sovereignty of Russia, but [their approach] is leading to the isolation of the country.”
Moreover, he continues, “the creators of this state promised an acceleration of economic growth, but the force model is guaranteeing its falling behind. [And they] promised the strengthening of the country, but [their approach is leading to] its weakening” across the board.
While the Kremlin and its backers at home and abroad will reject Illarionov’s arguments, some Russian analysts and many ordinary Russians appear to be accepting them, a trend that could point to trouble ahead for a regime that has promised not to have any. (See, among others, http://www.russ.ru/politics/docs/perestrojka_I_revolyuciya).

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