Staunton, June 7 – Vladimir Putin and other Russian government speakers at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum indicated that for them, the attraction of foreign investments to Russian regions is among their greatest concerns; but the regional policies they outlined will deepen the divide between rich and poor regions and spell the end of rural Russia.
Government speakers in general and Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said that Moscow believes that it is necessary to concentrate investments in 15 to 20 of the more than 80 regions and to promote within them and others 15 to 30 municipalities which he referred to as “strong points” (regnum.ru/news/economy/3290384.html).
As critics have already noted, that combination will lead to a situation in which the favored few regions will do better and better while the rest will decline and continue to rely on federal subsidies rather than outside investment and that much of rural Russia will simply be allowed to decay and even die off.
Dmitry Mikhaylichenko, head of the Institute of Regional Expertise, says Moscow’s focus on only the regions already doing better will consign the rest to disaster, and political analyst Nikolay Yevdomkimov says that the center’s bet on only 15 to 30 “strong points” will mean “the end of rural Russia.”
If most analysts fear that the division of the country into rich and poor regions is almost a foregone conclusion, many are deeply concerned about the government’s approach within the regions, one that would lead to the identification of some municipalities for survival and growth and consign the rest to decay and death.
Among the harshest critics to emerge so far of this plan is Modest Kolerov, the Russian nationalist commentator and man behind the Regnum news agency. He argues that Khusnullin’s plan to create “defensive positions” within the regions is both utopian and wrong and that it will fail in the absence of the development of Russia as a whole (iarex.ru/articles/81284.html).
What neither Kolerov nor the other critics of Moscow’s regional policy have pointed out is that the center is treating the regions almost like a field of battle, identifying winners and losers, and even using military terminology like “strong points” to describe what they want to see happen. That in fact may be the most important insight these discussions offer.