Thursday, August 10, 2017

Moscow has Completely Failed Russian Far East, Russian Analysts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 9 – For decades, Moscow has been making “empty promises” to do something about the Russian Far East; but its failure to follow through an act on these words means that the problems of the Far East and Siberia are becoming only worse day by day,” Rosbalt analyst Dmitry Remizov says.

            Security Council secretary Nikolay Pastrushev’s remarks this week are the latest example of big promises (/, Russian analysts with whom Remizov says; but they are doubtful that this time will be any different than earlier ones (

            Andrey Kobyakov, an economist at Moscow State University, points out that Russia “today simply doesn’t have any institution responsible for scientific strategic planning of development” and that despite much talk no real steps have been taken. Instead, there has been moves in the opposite and negative direction.

            The regional affairs ministry “as currently organized” isn’t involved with this work. And “the key institutions which like the council for the development of productive resources have in practice been disbanded,” he says.  That is simultaneously a tragedy and a retreat from the arrangements that existed in Soviet times.

            There must be a complex state program and there must be an institution committed and able to implement it. That is the only way to hold the population in the region, attract investment from domestic and foreign sources, and ensure that Siberia and the Russian Far East don’t deteriorate still further.

            Nikita Krichevsky, a senior scholar at the Moscow Institute of Economics, says that there is little or no prospect that Moscow is going to take any real steps to address the region’s demographic problems or any others.  As a result, people will leave, and China will play an ever greater role, by applying pressure on regional and federal officials.

            Bair Tsyrenov, a Buryat deputy agrees both in terms of diagnosis and prospects. “Without serious government programs, the problems won’t be resolved. Siberia and the Far East are special regions, the development of which always in tsarist Russia and especially in  the Soviet period required stimuli so that people would stay living there.

            Unfortunately, he says, Moscow is quite prepared to spend enormous sums on gigantist projects; but it isn’t willing to develop and spend money on more mundane and more effective smaller ones. 

            And Stanislav Zakharov, a regional activist, says that the problem with Chinese businessman is especially worrisome because despite rules limiting their activities, these people rely on using corrupt relationships with local and federal officials to do an end run around the rules and behave exactly as they like.

             “We have already heard for many decades about the growing problems of the Far East and Siberia,” he says; “but in fact, no one tries to solve them: the authorities, both federal and region, only make new promises.” If that pattern continues, the region will be “transformed into a desert,” without people, without forests and without water supplies.

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