· First, “more than a trillion oil-dollars have gone into the pockets of the oligarchs and been taken out of the country when they could have been spent on the development of industry, technology, roads, medicine, science and education.”
· Second, “the country has been de-industrialized,” leaving it less capable of making its own way in the world because it has been reduced to being a raw materials supplier to others.
· Third, “the Far East has become an arena of Chinese colonization.”
· Fourth, the country’s halting steps toward democracy and freedom were not only stopped but reversed with Russians today having fewer freedoms and being subjected to more repression than at any point since Soviet times.
· And fifth, Russia faces “growing international isolation as a result of the adventurist and aggressive foreign policy of the Kremlin” ).
She offers details on each of these. “Over the 20 years of Putin’s rule,” Alekseyeva says, “’the improvement’ of the lives of ordinary Russians is obvious to the unaided eye: prices have risen, social standards have fallen, there are no roads or work, educated young people are fleeting abroad, pensioners are being impoverished,” but the oligarchs have been living better than ever.
What makes this unbearable is that “everything could have been entirely different.” If the regime had spent the trillions of oil-dollars, the country would not only have been able to modernize; but its citizens would have been living at the standards of the leading Western countries and not at the level of those in the third world.
Instead, Alekseyeva continues, “trillions of oil dollars went into the palaces and yachts of the oligarchs and their foreign bank accounts” or “into wars and senseless image projects like the Olympics or the World Cup. Among the examples of what this means, she says, are the following:
· China is now building 90 times as many kilometers of new highways each year as Russia is under Putin.
· Russia is spending 0.4 percent of GDP on healthcare while Germany is spending 11 percent and Japan 10; and it is spending 0.7 percent on education compared to the US which is spending 5.4 percent and Great Britain which is investing 5.6 percent. Schools and hospitals are closing far more rapidly than the decline in population even by sector justifies.
· Russia is investing in science half as much as it is spending on paying for the expanding bureaucracy and “13 times (!!!) less than it is spending on the real army.”
· In Silicon Valley alone, there are 40,000 Russian scholars working for the US who could be working for Russia.
· The country’s housing stock has deteriorated and many houses don’t have indoor plumbing or reliable heating – and people do not have real prospects that there will be better housing anytime soon.
· And the government is not content just to divert oil wealth into the pockets of the oligarchs: it has reached into the pockets of ordinary Russians repeatedly taking their money by playing games with benefits and now pensions.
“Yet another ‘achievement’ of the Putin regime is the creeping surrender to the Chinese of the Far East,” that Dmitry Medvedev has pushed through the Duma to enrich his friends even at the cost of Russian sovereignty. And while 22 million Russians can’t make ends meet, Putin et al give money to “African dictators and former Soviet satellites.”
The Yeltsin 1990s were not perfect, the Rusmonitor commentator says, “but in the area of human rights, at the beginning of this century, Russia was significantly different than it is now.” People could demonstrate and speak freely and the media could report on almost anything. Putin has ended that and build a highly repressive state.
Another sad reality is that the Putin regime has run through the Russian industrial enterprises that had somehow survived from Soviet times. It closed “more than 35,000” between 2005 and 2017, and its industrial base fell behind that of neighboring Kazakhstan and “is approaching the level of Equatorial Guinea.”
Russia has been deindustrialized and reduced to being a raw materials supplier of the West. That means many things, including that it cannot respond successfully to any external shock anymore. In 1998, it responded to default and devaluation with a burst of economic activity even though oil prices were low. Now, it can’t do anything of the kind.
But it is in the area of foreign policy that Putin’s negative achievements are the most serious, she continues. “In 1999, when Putin took power, Russia was a member of the G8; today, Russia is in the company of countries like Iran and North Korea.” And while in power, he has unleashed “several senseless wars,” isolating Russia from the civilized world.
“The short-sighted adventurist and aggressive policy of the Kremlin in the international arena is depriving Russians of a future.” Putin’s foolish actions mean that “the most powerful countries of the West are now against our country,” and there is little indication that the situation is about to change as long as he is in the Kremlin.
According to Alekseyeva, “the real result of Putin’s almost 20 years is a destroyed industrial base left to Russia from the USSR, an increasingly impoverished science, the loss of Russia’s position in the cosmos, the conversion of the country into a raw materials supplier for developed countries, unprecedented theft … an aggressive foreign policy which has led to the growing isolation of the state” – and even that is not a complete list of his failures.
“If you will,” she concludes, “the most important thing future generations will hold against Putin is that he had a real chance to modernize Russia and convert it into an economically developed country, free and open to the world – and he did not make use of this chance.”