Saturday, December 21, 2019

Russia Won’t Have Beautiful Future if It Seeks to Maintain Its Sovereignty Above All Else and in Isolation, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 19 – Encouraged by Vladimir Putin, many Russians now believe that their country will have a beautiful future, one with a law-governed democratic state, a competitive economy, and a government that is responsible to and controlled by the people, Vladislav Inozemtsev says.

            Moreover, again encouraged by the Kremlin, they “almost always” link these positive things to “a powerful sovereign state occupied a place in the world worthy of its past and present.” But such dreams are unlikely to be achieved, the economist says, especially using that mechanism (

            There are three reasons for pessimism, Inozemtsev says. First of all, in Russia, “the most important value was and remains strength as a symbiosis of power and force: the country must be strong; the authorities must be strong; any anyone pretending in this society to anything must be strong as well.” 

            Such an ideology, he argues, “fundamentally contradicts legal consciousness and no democracy can be established in a country where the powers are the law and not the individual personality.” 

            Second, “under conditions of backwardness which has been reproduced over centuries and which has now achieved its local apotheosis, society cannot independently create a competitive economy since the country obviously loses out to the majority of other players” given its focus on the raw materials sector and on closing off the country from the world.

            And third, Russia’s “rich imperial heritage inevitably begins to break through in the most varied forms – from ‘Crimea is ours’ to the inability to accept the values of federalism and integrate migrants … A country which never developed as a nation will not create a contemporary internal structure.”

            To say this is not to argue that “Russia will never change.”  But rather it is to say that “the transition to normalcy from the present anomalous system is extremely improbable.”   Widespread corruption, violations of human rights, and misuse of power simply make that conclusion more certain

            For a genuine renewal of Russia in a positive direction, “the present-day de facto unitary state” would need to be replaced by “a new treaty-based federation,” much property would have to be renationalized and a new and more just privatization follow, and there would need to be “a complete purge” of Putin era officials.

            “Not one of these projects looks realistic under conditions of the dominant Russian ethnos, the unprecedented inequality in property ownership, or the involvement of so many millions of people in the bureaucratic machine that must be cleansed, Inozemtsev continues.

            According to the Russian economist, “the main problem of Russia – and it will not disappear after the transfer of power from the real Putin to some notional Navalny – is that the state in our country has priority over society” and maintains that arrangement for force. There is no reason to think that will change by any conceivable successor.

            “The sovereignty of Russia is, in my view, an absolute evil of its kind since it requires the use of force for its support, creates in society an atmosphere of tension, gives rise to various kinds of ‘verticals,’ and as a result pushes the country into archaic forms,” Inozemtsev says (stress supplied).

            “I will say more,” he continues, “nowhere in the world has sovereignty in the tradition Schmitt understanding been used so consistently for the legitimation of backwardness as in Russia.” And “therefore I see only one path for Russia” – its involvement in supranational structures like the European Union in which some sovereignty is sacrificed for progress.

            Occupation like that which Germany and Japan experienced after World War II would be another option theoretically, Inozemtsev suggests, but that is not practical at the present time.

            “’De-sovereignization,’  leading to ‘the beautiful Russia of the future,’ could be realized after the Putin elite leads the country to economic collapse and the population spontaneously turns toward West.” But given that the EU would not be able or want to accept Russia as a member, the better model would be the ways Norway and Switzerland interact with Brussels now and how the UK will cooperate with it after Brexit.

            Inozemtsev continues: “Of course it is possible to hope that the next leader of a successful protest wave which sometime will replace the Putin regime will not soon call to ‘vote with one’s heart,’ to send tanks into the latest ‘subject of the federation’ unhappy with Moscow and seize shares” of companies to enrich his or her relatives and friends.

            “But this is more the lot of the 20-year-olds than those who saw both Soviet times and the early democratic Russia and Putinism,” the economist concludes, of “those who saw and understand that a personality like Mikhail Gorbachev is to be met in Russian history only once.”

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