Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Destructive Trends of Putin Decade Leave Russia’s Future in Doubt, Ryzhkov Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, December 29 – Developments over the past year which highlight the continuing “degradation of the state, society, culture, science and technology,” liberal Moscow politician Vladimir Ryzhkov says, raise questions about Russia’s capacity to survive in its current form and about its ability to remain “a single state” over the next decade.
In a comment on his Ekho Moskvy blog yesterday, Ryzhkov says that during the 1990s, this decline was “linked to the weakness of the state, the collapse of the old Soviet economy and the low prices for oil, in the Putin years,” it reflected the diversion of enormous oil earnings by the elite and their neglect of the basic infrastructure of the country and the needs of the people.
Indeed, Ryzhkov continues, “if one put aside the stereotypes and propagandistic clichés, Russia is slowly but truly continuing to be converted into the largest and most militarily and politically powerful ‘failed state’ in the world,” something Chinese analysts have already pointed to (
The past 12 months, the commentator says, have featured the rapid growth of many “destructive tendencies” which may lead to “the collapse of the government and the country” sometime in the new decade that begins or to a continuing decline if Russia and its regime do not in fact come apart.
Ryzhkov identifies five of these trends. First, he says, there has been “the continuing disintegration and collapse of society,” something expressed in Russia’s continuing decline in the UN human development index, the growth of social inequality, long-term poverty, and “the absence of the growth of the middle class.”
What makes this trend so dangerous, Ryzhkov continues, is that the current powers that be are doing nothing to address it, cutting spending on the development of human capital while increasing spending on the military, the police and the special services, not to mention the support of their own state apparatus.
Second, he says, there has been “the criminalization and growth in the ineffectiveness of the state,” as symbolized by the events in Kushchevskaya. This has reduced Russia’s competitiveness and left the country near the bottom on a wide variety of measures of modernity, reducing its attractiveness as a place to invest and increasing capital flight abroad.
Third, Ryzhkov points to “the growing ineffectiveness of the national economy.” The raw material sector has continued to grow as having the role of monopolies and the size of the state sector, all things that have undercut the possibilities for competition, increased inflation, and led to “a low quality of goods and services” for the population.
Fourth and despite all this, Ryzhkov notes, “Russian elites have manifested an immoderate love for expensive mega-projects” like the Pacific summit in Vladivostok in2012, the Universiade in Kazan in 2013, the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and the soccer championship in 2018, draining ever more money away from necessary social and economic activities.
And fifth, Ryzhkov says, given the other trends and the failures of the Russian political system, Russian society is increasingly characterized by “an atmosphere of general distrust, anger and cynicism,” attitudes that have resulted in “a growth of crime, xenophobia, and violence.”
The Kremlin’s youth policy has not only failed but is counterproductive, educating the young “in a spirit of hatred toward other opinions and democratic values” and failing to overcome “the absence of a policy of integrating various national groups and of a policy of promoting tolerance.”
“In the national republics,” Ryzhkov points out, there continue “a stormy growth of national self-consciousness, a reduction of the share of the ethnic Russian population and a powerful revival of religiosity, including extremism,” often as the direct result of Moscow’s actions or inactions.
Moscow’s appointment of unpopular governors, for example, “has exacerbated the the alienation of the provinces from the federal center. [And] by returning to imperial methods, Moscow … creating the potential for a new wave of separatist attitudes,” with “the weak links” being the North Caucasus, Kaliningrad, the Far East and Yakutia (Sakha).
The future for Russia is particularly clouded by the obvious desire of Vladimir Putin to remain in power “even after 2012” and his “stubborn unwillingness to recognize the destructiveness of the policies he has promoted for the development and integrity of the country.”
Ryzhkov concludes that “in the best case,” Russia faces a long period of “economic stagnation and social decline,” with “super-high corruption and the flight from the country not only of capital but also of one to two million of [the Russian Federation’s] best citizens,” developments the country can ill afford.
But “in the worst case,” the liberal Russian politician argues, “the policy of corruption, monopolization, centralization and illegality [associated with Putin and the powers that be around him] can lead to the de facto collapse of the country already in the decade starting in a few days.”

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