Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Russia and Its Authoritarian Friends Lag Increasingly Behind Its Free Enemies, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 6 – Not only are the countries Russians identify as friendly more likely to be authoritarian and poor than those they list as enemies, Andrey Illarionov says; but the former are falling ever further behind the latter both in terms of GDP per capita and the amount of freedom their citizens enjoy.

            In a blog post today, the Moscow economist says that polls routinely show that Russians consider the US, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Great Britain, France and Ukraine as its enemies and that they view Belarus, China, Kazakhstan, Syria, Armenia, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan and India as friends (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/1994996-echo/).

                What is striking, he suggests, is that almost all of the former are free and highly developed countries while almost all of the latter are “unfree authoritarian and economically less developed” ones. And what is worrisome is that over the last 12 years, the two groups have diverged both economically and politically rather than converged.

            Over that period, Illarionov says, “average GDP per capita among Russia’s “enemies” rose 67.1 percent, while among its ‘friends,’ this measure stagnated – increasingly only 1.3 percent.” As far as civil and political freedom is concerned, the “enemies” remained high while the “friends” saw a decline of almost 30 percent, using the Freedom House measures.

            And those trends mean that “the relative level of GDP per capita among Russia’s ‘friends’ compared to this measure among its ‘enemies’ fell from approximately 81 percent in 2005 to 49 percent in 2016.”  At the same time, the relative level of political and civic freedoms of ‘the friends’ compared to that of ‘the enemies’ fell from 61 percent to 46 percent.

            This pattern leads to some devastating and disturbing conclusions: “Russia’s ‘enemies’ (that is, of the current Russian leadership are, as a rule, politically free countries with well-off citizens who have long life expectancies, low crime, and low levels of domestic and foreign aggression.”

            “Russia’s ‘friends,’” in contrast, Illarionov says, “are as a rule unfree authoritarian regime with poor residents who are condemned to short life expectancies, high crime and high levels of domestic and foreign aggression.”  Still worse this divergence is “rapidly growing” rather than narrowing as many had hoped as recently as the 1990s.

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