Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Skyrocketing Destruction of Environment Occurring Far from Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 18 – The petroleum industry’s profits flow almost entirely to Moscow but their destruction of the environment, which increased at a rate of 500 percent a year between 2017 and 2018 is hitting regions and republics far from the center in the Southern, Siberian and Urals federal districts (rbc.ru/economics/16/02/2020/5e4929fc9a79472979a9a19f).

            On the one hand, this pattern is what one might expect: oil and gas fields and processing sites that cause the damage are typically located far from the center and as reserves decline the companies involved are likely to cut corners in order to maintain their profit margin, even as they send the money they earn to Moscow.

            But on the other, it highlights what the absence of federalism in Russia means, the Region.Expert poral says, and it explains why regional governments have few resources to address this destruction of the environment and also why protests about environmental destruction generally take place far from Moscow but inevitably become about the center.

            Moscow’s plans to send the city’s trash to these regions only exacerbates this situation. Up to now, those protesting this plan have focused on getting Moscow to change its policies on trash rather than power relations between the center and the regions. But as the environmental situation deteriorates that is likely to change.

            Indeed, the Kremlin is already beginning to fear that environmental protests now could ultimately have an impact on the Russian political system similar to the one they had on the Soviet system at the end in the Baltic countries where environmental protests grew into national ones (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/10/kremlin-fears-protests-against-moscow.html).

            An interesting possibility is that some in Moscow may now or soon will be ready to link up with these regional environmental protests given that the rising tide of ecological destruction is estimated to be cutting Russian economic growth by five to six percent a year (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/01/unresolved-environmental-problems.html).

            At the very least, the destruction of the environment in Putin’s Russia and the protests outside of Moscow against this are likely to be far more politically significant than many commentators now assume and to become even more so as Russia moves to a post-Putin future in which the country’s reliance on oil and gas will be viewed negatively rather than positively.

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