Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The Main Thing for Russians Now is that ‘There hasn’t Been a Mobilization,’ Economist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – Despite the expectations of many, Russia has not moved toward a military mobilization economy and as a result, Russians exist in a new normal, one that in large measure is similar to the one that they had before the war even though prices are rising, production falling and some things are now unavailable, according to economist Valery Kizilov.

            As history shows, he continues, “people in Russia are capable of putting up with this for decades.” There isn’t any panic, market prices are generally still in place, consumption isn’t being rationed. And money isn’t being shifted from consumers to the war in ways so obvious that people have reason to become especially angry (

            Russian officials refuse to call the current situation a crisis; and most Russians have followed suit, Kizilov says. They see problems around them but accept the idea that their society is stronger and more united than those in the West and can remain strong as a result. And as long as there isn’t a general mobilization, they are prepared to tolerate what they see and are told.

            Instead, both Russian society and the Russian leadership are returning to the rhetorical models of the late 1970s and 1980s, the period of stagnation out of which no one expected any change unless and until the top leader departed from the scene and instead everyone faced slow decay rather than any radical collapse.

            And again now as 50 years ago, the top elite assumes that time is working for rather than against them and that only some dramatic effort to change things would threaten their hold on power. Brezhnev didn’t want to make any such change, and neither do Putin and his entourage, the economist says.

            The limits of tolerance on the part of the population have thus not been tested yet, although what people would like to see and what they do are increasingly diverging in ways that are producing a certain sullenness, again in the manner like the last decades of life in the Soviet Union.

            As long as revenues come in from the sale of oil and gas, this situation will likely continue. The West hopes to upend this by creating a cartel of consumers to push down prices; but that is unlikely to work. Western countries will still want to get the gas and oil, and Moscow can successfully resist for some time any serious downward pressure on prices.

            Of course, everyone remembers how all this worked out 30 years ago. But Russia may be two decades away from any repetition. That is enough for the elites and long enough for the population to accept their current plight rather than engage in any action that could after all leave it in an even worse position, the economist suggests.

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