Staunton, January 17 – Many have focused on the fact that rising poverty in the Russian Federation has reduced the willingness of its residents to believe Kremlin propaganda, but they have ignored something that may be even more serious: faced with poverty, Russians today are prepared to invest in foreign defense firms that produce weapons that could destroy Russia.
In an essay entitled “The Ideology of Indifference. The Problems of the 1990s haven’t Disappeared – They’ve been Transformed,” Oleg Nikiforov, editor of NG-Energiya says that Russians desperate to earn money are now putting their limited savings in a fund that says it earns money by investing in foreign defense industries (ng.ru/style/2021-01-18/16_8059_style.html).
That fund like some of the pyramid schemes of 25 years ago promises an enormous return, even as its advertising is illustrated with pictures of a nuclear bomb going off. From one point of view, investing in defense industries is rational given the rise of international tensions; but investing in those industries in countries that might use them against Russia is troubling.
Not only does it raise questions about the rationality of those who would seek to make money even by investing in enterprises working against them, but it also prompts one to ask something about just how effective Kremlin propaganda about the West is for its domestic audiences.
It may be possible to convince Western audiences that everything in Russia is in “’tip top’” condition, but if this is so, Nikiforov asks, “then why does a Russian reader put money in the American military industrial complex?” The answer, of course, is that propaganda in Russia is not competing against other propaganda but against reality.
If people become so poor that investing in the defense industries of other countries to make money seems entirely reasonable, that highlights the growth of indifference to the fate of anything larger than oneself and certainly indifference to the fate of one’s country. And that is not something that propaganda alone can cure.
Instead, Nikiforov argues, the Russian government must take this as a warning sign and invest real money and not just words in alleviating poverty and especially poverty among children or it will face a population increasingly indifferent to the survival not just of the current rulers but of the country as such.
That there is now so much indifference, the NG-Energii editor says, is why not entirely unreasonably, “Russian communists are comparing 2021 with 1989.”