Staunton, September 20 – Unless radical changes occur, Russia is likely to lose its status as a world power over the next 20 years, falling not only out of the very top rank which will include the US, China and the European Union, but into the next run alongside Germany, Japan, India, Brazil, South Africa, South Korea and “in the more distant future,” Turkey.
Academician Aleksandr Dinkin says that “for a long time to come, the global military and financial-economic leadership of the United States will continue, but already today is forming a second level in the informal global hierarchy in which the EU and also China are a part” (www.mk.ru/politics/news/2010/09/14/529497-rossiya-perestanet-byit-sverhderzhavoy-k-2030-godu.html).
“By several measures -- natural resources, rocket and nuclear potential, scientific-technological possibilities and human potential -- Russia is a member of the second group of leading states,” Dinkin says, “but by many parameters, Russia is already approaching [the status of the members of] the third.”
This prospect, he suggests, may lead Moscow to press for changes at home and to come out with a number of proposals to expand international cooperation. Among the areas in which such new proposals are likely, he said, are for cooperation in the Arctic, the creation of a UN center for dealing with natural catastrophes, and another for combating piracy.
Making such proposals now and in the future, the IMEMO director continues, would “allow Russia to remain an important player in the international arena,” a status its leaders and population very much want it to retain all the more so at a time of increasing competition in the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.
Meanwhile, other commentators are making prognoses for the Russian Federation almost as bleak, also like Dinkin less as a description of what they think will happen than as a spur to the kind of reforms they believe are necessary to move the country in the direction they would like to see it go.
A clear example of this, one that has sparked a great deal debate over the last few days, are the comments of Igor Yurgens, the chairman of the administration of the Moscow Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) and a close advisor to President Dmitry Medvedev, about Russia’s prospects for modernization (www.nr2.ru/moskow/300609.html).
Asked what is “interfering with the modernization of Russia,” Yurgens pointed first to the attitude of the Russian people that because their country has “rich natural resources … we are rich, great and don’t need anything more,” a perspective that makes it difficult to recruit them to the modernizing task, and then to certain qualities of the Russian people themselves.
According to Yurgens, “Russians are still very archaic,” in that “in the Russian mentality, the community is higher than the individual personality” and “’the state is everything and [individual] efforts are nothing,’” a situation he suggested that reflected the relatively recent transition of Russians from the villages to the cities.
In order to modernize, he continued, it will be necessary to “root out” this “communal-collectivist archaism,” and that will take another 15 years. Only then will “the Russian people become comparable to the average European.” But in the meantime, he added, Russia must overcome the degradation of its intellectual classes and the lumpenization of its workers.
Not surprisingly, Yurgens comments have sparked outrage among many Russian commentators who see them as a direct attack on the nation. (See, among many others www.vz.ru/columns/2010/9/19/433649.html and www.stoletie.ru/obschestvo/dremuchest_i_modernizacija_2010-09-20.htm.)
But as Mikhail Berg writes in today’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal” in another connection, both predictions of the apocalypse and anger about those who predict it are very much part of the Russian tradition and exercise a powerful influence even now on all public discussions about the future (www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=10403).