Staunton, January 12 – After starting at much the same place at the end of Soviet times and going through the difficulties of the 1990s, all of the former Soviet republics and Baltic states except for Ukraine showed a larger percentage increase in their GDPs between 2000 and 2019 than Russia, Igor Nikolayev says.
Using current values from 2010, the Russian economist continues, Azerbaijan’s GDP increased 341 percent during that period; Turkmenistan’s, 305 percent; Uzbekistan’s 242 percent; Armenia’s 225 percent; Kazakhstan’s, 219 percent; Georgia’s, 219 percent; Moldova’s, 133 percent; Belarus’, 126 percent, Kyrgyzstan’s, 125 percent, Lithuania’s, 112 percent; Estonia’s, 96 percent; Russia’s, 85 percent; and Ukraine’s, 52 percent (mk.ru/economics/2021/01/12/ekonomika-rossii-otstala-v-razvitii-ot-stran-byvshego-sssr.html).
In short, everyone did better than Russia except for Ukraine, which is “a special case” because of the military conflicts and political instability there. Many Russians will find this fact unpleasant and seek to offer explanations such as immigrant workers and transfer payments, but these do not change the overall picture, Nikolayev suggests.
It is especially important now that the Kremlin stop denying this unfortunate reality because its constant claims of success are leading it to adopt policies that will do nothing to help it recover from the declines of the last year. Moscow seems to believe it doesn’t need to give money to the population as other countries have, but that is wrong.
By compensating those who lost incomes because of the pandemic lockdowns, the economist says, the West has set the stage for economic recovery; but not doing that, he continues, it has guaranteed stagnation at best and continuing decline or at least a significant lag behind the West and its own neighbors.
Only if the people in the Kremlin admit just how “modest” its achievements have been in the economy will it be able to change course so that in the future, it can grow and be an attractive pole around which others might assemble rather than a negative case from which ever more of its neighbors are fleeing.
“Beyond doubt, present-day Russia has a Big Brother syndrome,” Nikolayev continues. It assumes that those around it will always be part of its sphere of influence. But that is nonsense. Were Russia strong economically, it might hold that sphere together. But it isn’t, and the weak are in no position to slow the centrifugal forces” operating across the region.