Saturday, January 13, 2024

Despite Current Autarchy Drive, Russia’s Most Likely Future ‘a Soviet Union with a Market Economy,’ Vyugin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 10 – Russia’s current drive toward autarchy and its dependence on China may continue for some time, Oleg Vyugin says; but “most likely,” the country will move in the direction of “a Soviet Union with a market economy,” an arrangement that will give Russian the chance to develop and prevent a recurrence of another 1991.

            The Higher School of Economics analyst says that autarchy will ultimately cost Russia more than it gains and that elites and the population eventually will both want the advantages that greater integration will offer and that a market economy will prevent a repetition of what happened three decades ago (

            Vyugin argues that the greater flexibility Russia already has in place as far as markets are concerned have prevented the collapse of the country as a result of the special military operation in Ukraine. Had Soviet planning and control been in place now, Russia itself would have collapsed already last year. And that is something the Kremlin recognizes.

            That is something the Kremlin recognizes, he suggests; and many there also recognize that “a model of the USSR with re prices presupposes the presence of a private sector” to service the population and government control over what used to be called “the commanding heights” of the rest of the economy.

            As a result, despite current problems, the Russia of the future is not something all that terrifying. “It is a Soviet Union with free prices that does not presuppose political and civic freedoms of the Western type.” For that to emerge will take a long time given the centuries of history that must be overcome.

“Perhaps democratic systems are more resistant to ideological interventions” than others,” Vyugin says. “In those, there is a change of power and ideas depending on the assessments by the citizens. Now the effectiveness of another model is being tested, one combining certain economic freedoms with political control by an ‘irremovable’ elite.”

In Russia today, “those making decisions now come from the late Soviet period” and they are driven both to defend themselves against challenge and develop the country and its possibilities for them and their children. Hence, the combination of free markets and political repression.

In the long term, that combination may not be sustainable and Russia will veer one way or the other, Vyugin says; but that choice will be made not by the incumbents but by the next generation of leaders, those now in their 30s and 40s are the ones who are going to have to make decisions that will either lead Russia to a better future or an ever greater lagging behind others.

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