Saturday, December 8, 2012

Window on Eurasia: The Chief Problem of the Russian Far East is Just How Far East It Is, Russian Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 8 – “It may seem trivial,” Anatoly Wasserman observes, “but the chief problem of [the Russian] Far East is that it is far away,” even from the Urals and West Siberian industrial regions. But that fact in and of itself represents a threat to the territorial integrity of Russia if Moscow continues to pursue what he calls “libertarian” policies.

            In a commentary on the portal this week, the commentator points out that despite the center’s efforts now and in the past, “even with regard to transportation links,” the Russian Far East is on a separate path” because “no one can repeal the theorems of transportation (

            Those theorems hold, Wasserman argues, that a country is headed toward disintegration if the time needed for regions to respond exceeds the time needed to send them a signal or “if the rate of the development of the regions exceeds the rate of the development of inter-regional links.

            Because of air travel and electronic communication, the analyst continues, the first is no longer as significant, although it was a matter of concern until the completion of the first pan-Russian railway.  But the second remains vitally important even if many in both Moscow and the Russian Far East fail to understand that reality.

            “The links between the [Russian] Far East and neighboring China, Korea and Japan are rapidly growing, but the links [of that region] to the federal center are just as rapidly becoming more difficult.”  Prices for air and railway tickets are rising, and as a result, fewer people and goods are moving between Moscow and the Russian Far East.

            That is a reflection, Wasserman argues, of “the destructive libertarian and liberal political theory” that has been guiding Moscow’s policies toward the region, which has been blocking “the intentional use of major multi-functional structures and above all the state,” and that has thereby provoked a growing regionalist movement.

            What is needed now as was the case earlier, the analyst argues, are precisely the kind of large state projects that will re-integrate the Russian Far East, the kind of projects that President Vladimir Putin seems to understand are necessary but that others in the Russian capital clearly do not.

            If the center does create “a single administration for the development of the Far Eastern region,” that alone will help “strengthen the ties between the Far East and the north and south of Sbieria, and as a result, they and not the ties [of this region] with China and Korea will be the most important” in defining what happens there.

            The need for this is so clear that all that is necessary for it to happen, Wasserman says, is “political will.” But that is a requirement because many in the Russian government will oppose it on the basis of “libertarian economic and liberal political theory” which “in principle” opposes “any activity of the state as a single whole.”

            Because the fate of the Russian Far East is so important, the Kremlin must get rid of this “economic block” before that “block gets rid” of Russia.  And “if the Far East should begin to move off in its own direction, things [in the borders of the Russian Federation] will not be limited to that region alone.  

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