Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Short-Term Thinking Dooms Post-Soviet States to Cycling from Authoritarianism to Chaos and Back Again, Nesmiyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 15 – The current situation in Belarus like so many others in the post-Soviet states shows that they are doomed to cycling between authoritarianism and chaos because those in charge approach everything from a short-term perspective and fail to engage in long-term planning, Anatoly Nesmiyan says.

            Nesmiyan, who is better known under his blogger screen name El Murid, says that the collapse of the USSR left in place the ruling stratum but its members, except in Central Asia, quickly yielded to new people but tragically, in almost every case, these people were “organically incapable  of strategic planning” (krizis-kopilka.ru/archives/79150).

            Their “criminal psychology” was “primitive and expressed in the classic formula, ‘I steal, I drink and I go to jail.’ They viewed their time in power as inevitably short and therefore tried to use it to acquire wealth rather than promote any broader and longer-term goals. And they were certain that they would lose property when they lost power, thus making all transitions fraught.

            Instead of people moving from public to private positions and perhaps back again, these systems promoted the idea that the only way to become wealthy was to be in power and to hold it as long as possible, something that seems to guarantee stability but in fact makes it impossible if only because of the working out of actuarial data.

            Given this perspective, Nesmiyan argues, it doesn’t matter how clever a ruler is. He will fall into this trap and when his departure occurs or appears imminent, the authoritarian rule he will have created to allow him short-term profit will collapse while others rush in to try to gain access to the same benefits, thus guaranteeing that the cycle will continue.

            “The challenge which arises for all post-Soviet states thus appears quite obvious: after the current despotic regimes go into the past,” they must find new people who want something entirely different lest they fall into the same trap as those they may have overthrown but at least take the place of.

            That is no easy task and will take a long time, but one of the best ways forward, Nesmiyan says, is to promote long-term thinking by creating institutions which focus on strategic planning, thus creating a critical mass of people who don’t think only in the short-term but instead focus on longer-term goals.

            The current system will continue to degrade otherwise, he suggests; but “sooner or later,” the peoples of the region will recognize that overcoming this limiting factor is their common task; And once they do, they may come to believe that they share a common civilization and the need to work together, albeit in a non-imperial way.

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