Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Greatest Threats to Russian National Security are Domestic Not Foreign, Academy of Sciences Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, November 29 – Corruption in the bureaucracy, the exhaustion of industrial plant, demographic decline, and the preservation of the raw materials export model of development are “the basic threats” to the national security of the Russian Federation, according to a survey of experts conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences.
Together with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Russia, specialists at the Moscow institute queried 131 scholars, public figures, and officials of national security agencies concerning their views about the national security threats Russia now faces. In the report, they are called “theoreticians, social figures, and government employees.”
While they were asked to rate the current level of security, the ability of the government to deal with particular threats, and the prospects for improving the situation, few of the experts, Alfia Yenikeyeva reports on STRF.ru concluded that the situation was either “good” or “catastrophic” (www.strf.ru/material.aspx?CatalogId=222&d_no=35162).
Instead, most registered moderate levels of concerns, although social figures tended to express greater concern than did officials and representatives of law enforcement organs, a pattern that were it reported for any other country would surprise nobody but one that in the Russian case is especially disturbing.
Mikhail Gorshkov, the director of the Institute of Sociology and one of the co-authors of this study, say that “such a picture is characteristic of contemporary Russian in which representatives of the power structures display optimism on the situation in various spheres, but scholars and public figures oppose this with critical positions.”
“The greatest concern” among social figures involved public health, low levels of protection of individuals from criminal activities, and “also threats connected with terrorism and the worsening quality of life of citizens.” They viewed the situation in energy, military and state security as relatively favorable.
That division, Igor Zadorin, head of the TSIRKON research group, said, reflects a growing trend among such people to focus on domestic issues when questions of security are raised. For them, the top 10 problems are all domestic, beginning with “the problem of corruption in the powers and administrative structures.”
Corruption in Russia, the experts said, “has acquired such dimensions that it undermines national security practically in all directions by making extremely ineffective any measures for blocking threats practically in all spheres of the life of society.” Only if it is overcome, those surveyed said, could one hope to speak about modernization.
Another threat ranking near the top of the list of threats is “demodernization” of the country. Many of those surveyed said that “if such a trend continues, then [Russia] will face collapse,” Vladimir Petukhov, the director of the Center of Complex Social Research of the Institute of Sociology said.
Few of the experts have much faith that there will be positive changes, and those who do think so are certain they will be “extremely insignificant.” Only about a quarter expect even “a small improvement in the coming three to five years. No one expects significant changes. And twice as many – nearly half – think the situation will only get worse.
Some of this pessimism, Gorshkov said, is linked with the 2008-2009 economic crisis which highlighted the problems of the current social-economic system and its dependence on world trends. Another part is connected with instability in the North Caucasus and social problems. But “the main” cause is the growth in corruption.
Assessments of the work of the security agencies by outsiders was higher than might be expected, but Zadorin suggested that a major reason for that is the closed nature of their work, something that makes any outside assessment difficult. But the study “unexpectedly” found another reason as well.
Many of the experts and social activists said that the institutions of civil society had a major impact on national security, something Zadorin said was “entirely new.” He explained it as being less an indication that these institutions were affecting the siloviki than by the fact that increasingly, such people assess national security in terms of domestic problems.

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