Sunday, January 3, 2016

Russia’s Neighbors Don’t Have to Be Dependent on Russia for Energy, Illarionov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 3 – One of the arguments those opposed to the collapse of the USSR frequently offered and one that those who believe that these countries must remain in Moscow’s sphere of influence is that they are inevitably going to be dependent on the Russian Federation for energy supplies.

            But that argument, often heard in Moscow and still heard in Western countries as well, reflects “stereotypical” thinking which real events on the ground are showing to be without foundation, according to economist Andrey Illarionov ( and

            The Moscow scholar points out that despite its size, Lithuania decided to pursue “real energy independence from Russia” and “in the course of the last several years, [Vilnius] has achieved this. That means that any other country … is capable of achieving energy independence from Russia.”

            Not only will that free these countries of the kind of Russian leverage to which they are subject to at the present time, Illarionov says, but it will mean that Russia as “an energy power” will cease to exist.” Russia will still have oil and gas, but if no one abroad buys it, these resources will remain at home.

            That will affect the Russian economy across the board even as it changes Russia’s geopolitical situation.  And then perhaps Russia will follow Kazakhstan’s approach, a country in which income from the sale of petroleum constitutes an even larger portion of the state budget than in Russia but which is pursuing a policy of diversifying its national economy.

            “The more adequate policy being conducted by among others the authoritarian regime of Kazakhstan is giving completely different results” both at home and abroad. And it is leading to a radical change in the balance between Russia and her neighbors both economically and politically.

            Indeed, Inozemtsev says, “any other country which conducts a more adequate economic policy and has higher rates of growth may pass Russia in terms of GDP per capita.”  Russians aren’t ready for this but they need to be because that is the current trend and the Baltic countries are showing the way.

            “Having supported European sanctions against Russia,” the economist continues, “Lithuania imposed national sanctions as well and declared its readiness to completely do without Russian gas.” Moreover, Vilnius has ratified the Ukraine-EU accord and “offered the Ukrainian government help in the construction of a terminal” for gas from elsewhere.

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