V.A.Dubovtsev

Real and Imaginary Threats as the Context of the Russian Development in the Globalizing World

The word “threat” is usually used as a self-evident term, however, this multiple-meaning and pithy term needs specification (may be, even the special socio-philosophical and conceptual analysis). A threat, generally, means the possibility of damage, or more precisely — that of undermining or losing some positive or significant features. The pitfalls become obvious if we ask such questions as who exactly can be hurt? what features are we talking about? who and how determines the positivity and significance? Demagogy does not like pitfalls, so it avoids such questions. The ruling grouping at all times and in all places tries to present a threat to itself as a threat to the whole society and its basic values (true faith, freedom, culture, order, stability, prosperity etc.). The modern Russia is also of no exception.

However, even apart from these clear tricks of the political rhetoric the problems remain. What is damage for Russia or any other country? Some general characteristics have undoubted and positive sense: ecological welfare, social health of the nation, development of science, culture, low crime rate etc. Correspondingly, worsening of the environment and nation health, decrease in the life expectancy, decline of the education level, degradation of science and culture, crime rate’s growth — one can decisively consider all of this to be the damage for a country.

Regarding other characteristics, the situation is more complicated. The preservations of the state’s integrity seems to be the absolute good, but is it applicable towards the Ottoman, Habsburg, British, or let’s say, Russian empire? The citizens of the modern Armenia or Egypt are not likely to welcome the restoration of the Ottoman Empire as well as the Americans, Canadians and Indians — the British one. The collapse of the Habsburg and Russian Empire was without a doubt a tragedy, but it brought freedom to the Hungarians, Serbs, Czechs, Poles, and Finns.

The growing economy is of course great, but what if it is growing only due to raw materials export and “dirty” productions expansion? High prices for the export also seem to be beneficial, but the huge flow of currency due to the raw materials export, especially the energy products (oil and gas), often leads to the deformation of the political system, emergence of the dominating clan, decline of other economic branches, socio-economic polarization between the “allowed” and “not allowed”. In other words, from the systemic and long-term perspective such “good” can turn out to be a significant damage in terms of the social and political development of the society.

Everything is also complicated regarding military might and high prestige in the international arena. How should one evaluate these characteristics that are absolutely positive at the first sight if military expenses inhibit social and cultural development, whereas high prestige is maintained by the stiff control over mass media so that the latter can not “wash dirty linen in public”?

So we can see that a “threat” is not such an unambiguous category as it seems to be. Not claiming the comprehensive description of all difficulties and nuances of this notion’s use, let’s state the key principles that will help us to avoid mistakes and ambiguity.

— there is no threat “on the whole”, a threat is the possibility of damage to some social integrity (its part, element) according to a certain set of features, positivity of which is not self-evident in most cases and can be converted into a problem;

— the improvement of some indicators often puts the improvement of other under question, sometimes even worsens them;

— the subjective magnitude of the threats is directly dependent on conscious or unconscious priorities (accepted hierarchy of positive characteristics); — the objective significance of threats that might incur damage to the basic structures of life activity might substantially differ from the subjective one; — the rhetoric of threats is a beloved means of the political struggle (“there are looming calamities, and we are the only ones who can save the country

from them”) and thus, requires the critical approach.

In this article we will consider the threats to Russia that the modern political scientists and publicists write about. It is to be noted right away that our research does not imply any specific empirical analysis being necessary for valid evaluations of the level of the concrete threats. Our task lies in being guided by the methodological principles listed above to evaluate the justification of different authors’ argumentation and, putting aside rhetoric, to obtain some generalized image of the possible threats as the real context of the country’s development. Let’s start with the external (geopolitical and geoeconomic) threats and then move on to the internal ones related to the efficiency of the state, economy, social sphere, infrastructure etc.

External threats. Among the geopolitical threats the danger of Russia’s disintegration repeating the USSR fate is the most popular one. The subjective component of this threat is rather obvious. As Yu.Fedorov fairly notices, the intellectual crisis in the post-Soviet Russia is linked to the “psychological shock that accompanied the empire’s collapse. Both in the pre-Soviet time and under the communist regime the system of the ideological myths included the complex of taboos. The most important ones among the latter were the taboo on any hypothesis presuming a possibility of the empire’s decay as well as any idea on the changeable character of the state, which sovereignty is already limited today”1 Fedorov 1998: 23.1. The shock from the great superpower crash that had not been overcome naturally breeds fears of a new surge of collapse. Another subjective reason for the increased attention to such threat is the aspiration of the ruling circles to legitimize their increasingly authoritarian and “vertical-power” policy, present it as being necessary for maintaining the country’s integrity. Putting aside this evident rhetoric, let us turn to the real argumentation on the extent of geopolitical dissolution’s probability.

After the forceful suppression of Chechen nobody expresses any specific fears regarding the separation of any European territories from Russia. The most “autonomous” Tatarstan and Bashkiria are structurally “squeezed”. The national peripheral regions such as Kalmykia, Dagestan, Chechen, Ingushetia, Northern Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Karelia, although remain problematic, are strongly connected to Russia geographically, politically, economically, culturally, and are also very far from their neighbors (Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Finland). Moreover, the Northern Ossetia and Abkhazia would like to join Russia, and it is only the negative position of the West that prevents Russia from including them into its territory.

It is all different in the Asian part of Russia. Analyzing the situation in the Eastern regions of the country, a lot of authors rather reasonably emphasize the importance of the demographic factor. The increase in the gap between the population density in Russia and China can not continue forever. Both legal and illegal Chinese settlement in the Border-zone will inevitably lead to the political consequences, although the character of these implications is still obscure. According to E.Gontmacher, “the USA... are extremely concerned with ours positioning vis-à-vis China... They are much more afraid of China than us, they fear the risks related to the rapid growth of its might. Russia is of interest to them since it demonstrates its readiness to become the raw-material appendage of China. Within the framework of this bond with Russia, it has a real chance to become the second superpower reproducing the situation of the bipolar world when some fifty years ago the USA and the USSR confronted each other. In such situation, Russia is running a twofold risk: on the one hand, to find itself under the tight pressure of the US, on the other hand, to become the energy appendage of China. It is true that for now the latter has no intention to claim our territories. The conversation on such threats is stupid; the Chinese are not ready to settle there... However, the Chinese political influence as well as the goods’ expansion is rather serious, since Russia might just lose its sovereignty, in particular, in terms of providing its population with consumer goods”2 Gontmacher 2007: 136.2.

V.Inozemtsev also treats the threat of the direct disintegration of the country, at least in the foreseen future, as being rather doubtful. “In the nearest years Russia will not face any of those “threats” that the current authorities as well as their experts talk so much about, — he argues. The almost mononational country “squeezed” between the greatest economic and political actors, Europe and China, and bordering with the Islamist states in the south, is not threatened with the collapse”3 Inozemtsev 2006: 57.3. At first sight, the author’s argumentation does not seem compelling since according to the geopolitical theory, it is the “squeeze” between the mighty powers that creates a tendency for the fragmentation (dissolution) of the country, because its peripheral regions start to incline towards the “squeezing” powers. However, since everything that could has already joined Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltic states and in the prospect, Belarus), and the Far-Eastern regions are rather alien towards China in terms of culture, one can in general agree with the conclusion drawn by Inozemtsev, although necessarily stipulating that the integrity of the Russian federation will greatly depend on the domestic situation. In case of the systemic and/or political crisis, the threat of the peripheral regions separation will rapidly increase, in particular, Russia might lack enough strength and will to secure the Kuril Islands that would be annexed by Japan supported by the US; China might significantly expand its influence over the Border-zone and the Eastern Siberian territories or even put them under its real control.

Thinking that under the condition of the increasing tendency towards regionalization (that is replacing globalization) the restoration of the Russian former influence in the post-Soviet space would be optimal, Inozemtsev regrets to notice that today our country is moving in the directly opposite direction. It is true that the policy of Russia regarding the “near-abroad countries”, especially Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, the Baltic States, and Belarus, can hardly be called reasonable, weighted and efficient. L.Shevtsova interprets the reasons of the current situation in the following way: “There is the impression that, on the one hand, the power has the inferiority complex, permanent fear that is being the reaction to the Ukrainian Maidan, which is already paranoia, on the other hand, there is the complex of superiority and self-confidence, aggressiveness and recklessness appeared as if from nowhere: they found their expression in the gas war with Ukraine”4 Shevtsova 2006.4.

The similar evaluation of the country’s current foreign policy course is delivered by E.Gontmacher: “We managed to fall out with everyone around us. It is because Russia is now becoming powerful and should dictate its conditions to the neighborhood. It will result in the serious geopolitical losses. We are losing the post-Soviet space: we have already failed the situation in the Caucasus as well as in Ukraine; I am sure that in the nearest future Kazakhstan and Belarus will be separated from us. The whole Russian foreign policy is somewhat adolescent: upon receiving a little of the oil market we start to think that we can dictate everything to everyone. We will end up turning into the rogue state, and nobody will take our interests into account”5 Gontmacher 2007: 127.5.

It is obvious that this “superiority complex” is in many respects caused by the revival of the imperial ambitions within the ruling elite as well as the broad masses. I.Yakovenko relates such ambitions to the inevitable Soviet stereotypes: “Even serious people being amiable to the liberal values treat the USSR collapse as the historical accident, the consequence of the unfavorable concatenation of circumstances... Here we are being challenged with the power of the ideological myths. The Soviet scientists grew up in the culture that presented the USSR as the eternal substance and tabooed any idea on its crash. If an “unbreakable union” suddenly collapses, it is just a tragic accident that should be repaired”6 Yakovenko 1999: 32.6.

All in all, the following conclusion regarding the geopolitical threats and possible vector of the geopolitical development of Russia in the nearest decades can be made: there is no direct threat of the dissolution or outside attack. It can emerge only in case of the deep systemic and/or political crisis caused by the internal reasons.

At the same time, in comparison with the beginning of the 1990-s, the objective geopolitical situation has probably worsened. The united Europe has expanded and strengthened. China has turned into the powerful state with real claims for the scientific-technological superiority and superpower’s status. The “near-abroad” has been politically separated from Russia. All of this suggests that its imperial and restoration ambitions lack solid grounds.

While the geopolitical situation is rather stable, the geoeconomics competition is gaining its momentum. Therefore, the role of such factors as the nature of the foreign economic connections, state efficiency, as well as sociopolitical and socio-economic structure of the country is increasing.

The two interrelated groups of threats are most often mentioned when applied to the geoeconomics sphere. The first one includes threats that might lead to the defeat in the world economic competition, irreversible backlog, marginalization, turning into the raw-material appendage, whereas the other one covers the possibility of losing economic and political independence, transiting to the so called “external management” of the national resources and economy.

The favorable conjuncture in terms of high energy products prices to some extent disguises the backlog, but by no means completely. The ruling elites as well as ordinary citizens increasingly feel that the neighbors are developing faster and more efficiently. The impression of the deepening gap between Russia and the Western world is also growing. Many think that all our efforts to “catch up” with the West are doomed to failure, and Russia is destined to turn into the third-rate power. However, such idea causes aggression among most of the political class (let alone the mass population) vis-à-vis the leading countries, breeds xenophobia and complex of a loser.

The analysts treat some threats as already materialized ones. V.Inozemtsev, for instance, openly states that “the status of the raw-material appendage” that the Russians are often afraid of, in fact, has already become a reality and no one seems to be really concerned with that”7 Inozemtsev 2006: 52.7.

There is also a good deal of writings on the country’s losing its autonomy that is being presented not only as a threat, but also as an accomplished fact. M.Molchanov describes the situation as follows: “Self-sufficiency implies an opportunity of rejecting partnership if necessary and, what is more important, it protects from the injury from breaking cooperation relations at the other state’s initiative. Today Russia lacks such a choice. The national security of the country is in pledge to the foreign creditors “prescribed” in the states of the “seven”. Judging by the amount of the investments into the main productive assets, the trans-national corporations have not yet contributed; the money is being pumped traditionally, by extracting the interest on the loan capital and unequal exchange of goods (the Western ones with the high added value, whereas the Russian with the low one)”8 Molchanov 2000: 17—18.8.

It is worth mentioning that the real specialists are not prone to explain the today’s problems of Russia by the external enemies’ deeds. “One should not blame the West for everything, — Molchanov argues, — since one could have refused to take money, to listen to the “experts”, to destroy industry and privatize it for free. The pro-Western course of the Russian elites could have been corrected on the base of understanding that it is only the compliance with the national interest that could finally secure their own interests. This statement within the political realism should be fully comprehended by those in power in the post-communist Russia, who despite the increasing anti-Western rhetoric continue to demonstrate their specific interpretation of the state interests, in particular, to keep their personal money in the secret accounts in the Western banks”9 Ibidem.9.

If to judge about the extent of dependence by the amount of the Russian capitals that are pumped to the West, in this case the experts’ fears are rather justified. “The Western economists agree that the illegal capital outflow from Russia, mostly to the countries of the “seven” or those with the facilitated, let us say, control over the financial flows (for example, the island states of the Caribbean and Mediterranean Basins), accounts for around $20—30 billion per year, i.e. around $300 billion during the 12-year-long time period starting with the perestroika”10 Ibid.: 18.10.

How does the power react to the obvious threats? In most cases it employs the traditional methods, such as banning measures that only reinforce the national capital owners mistrust of their own state, even more encouraging them to transfer their money abroad. The similar measures are used to exert pressure over the foreign companies, which reduce the investment attractiveness of the country and deprive it of the status of the reliable and predictable partner. The “antidote” for the direct “external management” from the side of the foreign firms and states as well as the transnational corporations seems to be elaborated. However, their latent “creeping” influence over the Russian economy through bureaucrats and business leaders keeping their capitals in the West is still very substantial, and therefore, a threat of the “external management” is by no means lifted.

The “counterblow” in the form of the respondent globalization impulse (including the attempt to establish control over the gas distribution networks in the Western and Central Europe) appeared to be rather awkward and inefficient. One can talk about some geoeconomics successes (besides energy products, timber and other raw materials sales) only in the sphere of weapons trade and energy cooperation with Iran, Algeria, and Pakistan. However, on the whole, comparing the positions of Russia within the international markets not with the Soviet closedness and chaos of Yeltsin’s decade, but rather with the development of China, India, Brazil and many countries of the Central Europe that have modernized their export-oriented industries, the picture is rather depressive, especially taking into account the Russian resources as well as its scientific-technological development level.

Internal threats. After the crises of 1991, 1993, 1998—1999 the sociopolitical situation in Russia looks rather stable, “frozen”, which is also indicated by the fast reconciliation with those protesting against the monetization of benefits, the peaceful reaction to the abolishment of the governors’ elections as well as to a number of “amendments” to the legislation that are designed to provide the current authorities with the absolute control over the composition of the elective bodies. Therefore, most of the analysts are inclined to relate the internal threats to the tendencies gaining their momentum in such basic spheres as economy, social sphere, governmental system, rather than to the political processes as such.

Regarding the economic sphere, the experts usually state that the opportunities of energy products’ export are already exhausted or limited, and point out the depreciation of the main production facilities and gradual deindustrialization of the country. We think that the report “The Long-Term Trends of the Russian Economy: Scenarios of the Economic Development of Russia until 2020” prepared in 2005 under the leadership of A.Belousov11 Belousov 2005.11 commands a due respect. The report states that in the nearest 10 years Russia is going to face three crises with the main reason being the unequal development of economy, which disproportions are steadily increasing. Within the sector aimed at the domestic consumer the profitability is 6 times less than within the raw-export one, the supply of the investments and average wages — twice, the labor productivity — 5 times less. It is even worse within the social branches — housing and public utilities, health service and education. The balance between the separate parts of the economy is reached only through low wages, monopoly tariffs, undervalued ruble and high tax burden for those working in the raw material sector. Those working within the energy and transport sectors lack money for modernization of the networks; two thirds of the employees do not possess an opportunity to obtain housing, qualitative medical and educational services; the cheap ruble inhibits import of technologies.

According to the report author’s forecast, the first crisis will be caused by the aggravation of the social tension: as a result of the inflation and growth of housing and public utilities tariffs the position of the state-funded employees will worsen, and their support for the state authorities will decrease. Moreover, the opening of the internal markets for foreign entrepreneurs (after Russia’s entrance into the WTO) and increase in the ruble rate will undermine the competitiveness of the medium and small business. In 4 years the labor force of the Russian Federation will reduce, which will lead to the “overheating” of the pension system. At the same time, the depreciation of the housing stock and production facilities will show through, which can cause mass breakdowns. In 5—6 years more the system of the state government will find itself in a crisis, being “eroded” by the global business-structures, non-governmental organizations and large regions seeking independence. The problem of poverty will also exacerbate, the country will be lagging behind in terms of the technological development. At the end of the 2010-s the GDP growth will not exceed 1.9% per year, whereas that of the investments — 2.8%12 Ibidem.12.

According to the specialists, such industrial and financial giants as Gazprom will not be able to overcome the crisis. E.Gontmacher possessing the long-term experience of working in the higher structures of the economic management evaluated the prospects of this world largest gas company rather skeptically: “First, it lacks growth in gas production. Now we rejected the Western help in exploring the Stockman natural gas deposit and, in my view, we will stick in the mire. We will not manage that on our own. Second, Gazprom suffers the budget deficit. It has huge uncovered external debts (tens of billions of dollars), under which there are long-term debt obligations for gas supplies into the Western Europe. However, since we do not have any new facilities, we are starting to face problems with our domestic market. The investments into the exploration of new deposits are not enough, and thus, Gazprom insists on (and seems to succeed in that) liberalization of the internal prices on its production. What it means in terms of the inflation’s decrease and which implications it will have for an ordinary consumer is clear without any additional explanations”13 Gontmacher 2007: 129.13.

Most analysts approved the transition towards the 3-year budgeting system. There are, however, some critical remarks as usually. Some fear that the regions will lack money for the indexation of wages in the framework of the national projects as well as regular indexation that is designed to neutralize inflation. It is also noted that the system of the Pension Fund does not work out, and the state will have to assume a responsibility to pay out some part of pensions. Moreover, practically all analysts agree that tariffs will be growing, and the causes of inflation are linked to the “reckless policy of monopolists” rather than consumption and money income growth”14 Shevtsova 2006.14.

The deterioration of the socio-economic situation inevitably leads to the aggravation of the social tension and political perturbations. What shape will they take? A lot of authors fear the surge of xenophobia and ethno-nationalism that might lead to fascization of the country. “The most obvious domestic threat, — V.Sheynis argues, — is the increasing nationalist, xenophobic surge”15 Sheynis 2007: 379.15. E.Pain also stresses the same threat: “The level of the population’s dissatisfaction is growing, and under the current conditions this dissatisfaction usually takes ethnic shape. The mythologized explanations of the problems are very popular today: the prestigious jobs are inaccessible, because the “other” do not let us in; new housing is unavailable since the “other” buy it all; the crime rate is increasing — the “other” brought it”16 Pain 2007: 365.16.

V.Inozemtsev is of a different viewpoint. According to his conclusions, “fascization” of Russia is hardly probable, although the “weight” of the national component in the political life is likely to increase to a certain extent, but in this sense Russia will not be an exception”17 Inozemtsev 2006: 53.17. However, he does not cite any arguments supporting his position (neither do his opponents, by the way).

In order to assess to what extent the fascist threat is real, let us turn to the facts. In accordance with the universal tendencies, the process of the excessive rural population displacement from the Central Asia and the Caucasus will continue. More and more people from these regions will be immigrating into Russia, where the attitude towards immigrants is already now alien at its best, and sometimes even aggressive. Moreover, it is common knowledge that under the conditions of the social discomfort the aggression towards the “other” significantly increases. One should also remember that according to the sociological surveys most citizens in Russia want the “strong hand” that would “establish order”18 Sotsialnopoliticheskaya situatsiya 2006.18. The combination of a) the mass hopes for the authoritarian repressive power b) the alienation and negative attitude of the significant number of the Russians towards immigrants, c) the possible aggravation of the socio-political tension, and d) the further growth of the immigration into Russia suggests that “the increasing weight of the national component in the political life of the country” will have exactly the fascist form. Therefore, the threat of fascization of Russia is not far-fetched; it does exist and is likely to increase rather than decrease.

Nevertheless, a lot of analysts consider the main cause of the domestic threats to be the inefficiency of the state government rather than the mass sentiments. According to L.Shevtsova, the story about the monetization of benefits was the result of the ruling team ignoring of the sociological surveys suggesting that “this reform will not be accepted and approved by the population. Either the authorities were not informed, or the “who cares” attitude prevailed: just let it go — we will make it, and they will buy it! But they did not. After they did not buy it, another fact was revealed, i.e. the fear and lack of confidence of this power, since it rushed into populism. Therefore, the nonawareness of the power, the inadequacy of the decision-making process (that is obviously based on the non-awareness and insufficient professionalism) and the proneness towards the populist zigzags were demonstrated19 Shevtsova 2006.19.

V.Inozemtsev interprets the situation similarly. “The main threats to the regime, — he argues, — will be derived from the inside and the rapid worsening of the state government’s quality due to the somewhat “negative recruitment” of people filling the bureaucratic ranks, rather than from outside and unstable conjecture of the resource markets. Within such recruitment, those functionaries, whose qualification and abilities make them out of competition with the current bosses, are preferable at any level of the bureaucratic hierarchy. Within each redistribution of duties the open vacancies are filled with even less qualified personnel. The lack of the objective grounds for the career progress makes almost each functionary consider himself as a temporary employee, which in the society that is not very rich causes the irresistible desire to manage to use the position with the purpose of the self-enrichment. The combination of incompetence and corruption leads to the decision being harmful in terms of the public good: within such system these decisions appear to be the products of the rational choice, rather than accidental mistakes”20 Inozemtsev 2006: 50.20.

E.Gontmacher delivers an even rougher evaluation of the “quality” of the ruling elite: “The paradox... lies in the fact that... the struggle for the “national interests” is being conducted by the elite that is actually not national, or Russian. Since all its money is kept there, in the West. Since the Russian economy has long been maximally transparent, and its “captains” seek to make IPO, moreover, in London. They do not care about our internal market, they have an intention to raise gas prices 5 times over 5 years. If they are serious about that, this means that they are totally indifferent to the country’s economy and its future. This is an absolutely comprador strategy that has nothing to do with the nationally oriented policy”21 Gontmacher 2007: 137.21.

Of course, it would be wrong to blame the whole ruling elite for the compradorain interests. Judging by the whole set of decisions and actions visà-vis the Western countries and companies, there is a rather strong statehood core within its higher level that seeks to restore an absolute control over the current processes in the country and national resources. It is this goal that the power efforts, in particular, in the sphere of the parties’ building, are aimed at. However, in this case as well as in many other ones the factor of the unintended implications works out. As L.Shevtsova notes, “the more the “United Russia” occupies the political space, the bigger the threat is that the population being tired of the “party of power” will support extremist forces. The longer the current team stays in the Kremlin, the stronger the threat is that is will stimulate a demand for the more aggressive type of authoritarianism. The more so, the political construction pushes to the following scenario: under the hybrid system, if a country is not moving forward, it is inevitably rolling back”22 Shevtsova 2007a: 83.22.

L.Shevtsova argues that despite the visible stability and strength the political regime established in Russia is rather fragile. “This system that is maintained through the rather situational consensus, of course, can not preserve this consensus for a long time since it is actually based on the very instable and situational factors: oil price, lack of an alternative and also the fact that none of the political groups or clans is winning, i.e. the balance of the groupings and clans is being secured. Those were the three factors. As soon as one of the factors is violated, something will happen to the oil price, or one of the groupings will try to yield power, to change the balance of power, as soon as some explosion of the social brewing occurs, this same moment the today’s consolidation will fracture. This is unavoidable23 Shevtsova 2007b.23.

Being tuned vis-à-vis the modern system of the state government rather critically, many authors neither believe in the ability of the society to overcome the looming threat of a crisis. “I do not see any chances that our state system can be modernized by the efforts of the society, — the famous journalist and TV presenter A.Arkhangelsky claims. — Neither through the orange revolution that of course will never happen nor by any other means. There are even fewer chances to modernize the system from inside. It is most plausible that it will be ruined on its own upon finding out its inviability. In its turn, its crash will provoke a deep social crisis, and in the process of overcoming it we will face the necessity to recreate the state”24 Arkhangelsky 2007: 123.24.

Other experts also point out a threat of the systemic crisis. “I firmly believe that Russia will not manage to avoid the repetition of the events such as the state catastrophe in August 1991 or October 1993”, — E.Gontmacher stresses25 Gontmacher 2007: 130.25. He is echoed by S.Kordonsky: “If the deficits are synchronized and the power crisis will meet the raw material and financial crisis, one might expect the collapse of the recourse state being comparable with what happened in the USSR in 1991”26 Kordonsky 2007: 232.26.

However, it is practically indisputable that after such crisis the country will shift towards the strengthening of the authoritarian tendencies rather than liberalism. The scenario, which possibility is pointed out by L.Shevtsova, seems rather probable: “One of the groupings in essence grabs power in the heavy-handed way and liquidates other influential centers. Thus, we will turn from the mild authoritarianism being comfortable for many to the rigid one”27 Shevtsova 2007b.27.

Shevtsova’s concern is fully shared by V.Sheynis: “It is at least naive to expect that taking into account the current (in the foreseen future as well) state of the society the winner under the conditions of the crisis will introduce liberal democracy, balanced separation of powers etc. It is much more plausible, almost guaranteed, that in this case we will end up with a stiffer authoritarian regime, which the today’s regime will seem almost a kingdom of freedom in comparison with”28 Sheynis 2007: 385.28. I.Shablinsky provides the similar assessment of the situation. He emphasizes that under the conditions of the crisis the mass leftist sentiments are likely to take the shape of the aggressive expropriation and redistribution. “The predominant position of the “United Russia” looks awkward, but if it empties the occupied political space, who will take it? It will be occupied by the parties that call for revenge and distribution, and I am not sure which one is worse for us”29 Shablinsky 2007: 76.29.

However, by no means all specialists agree that Russia is on the eve of a crisis. According to V.Inozemtsev, our country entered the epoch of stability, although the stability of stagnation rather than prosperity: “Today the Russian elite is connected to the world through the thousands of threads, including the resources kept abroad and the property obtained abroad; people live in the open country, are acquainted with the situation beyond its borders and receive information from there practically unhampered; the surrounding world, although being often dissatisfied with the situation in Russia, has no intentions to impact the inner political struggle. Under such conditions the established regime is much more stable than Brezhnev’s one, the more so it relies upon the significant mass of the law-enforcement and bureaucratic structures officials being capable of nothing else but feeding at the public trough. The regime and its proponents have gained a lot, whereas in the “normal” society they lack any prospects. Most of the population has gained something as well. Therefore, the “stagnation” of the beginning of the 21st century will last longer than the stagnation in the last quarter of the 19th century — at least, it is not likely to end by 2020”30 Inozemtsev 2006: 55.30.

Treating the systemic crisis as the hardly probable one, A.Shcherbak and A.Etkind firmly believe that the deep cause of the threats to democracy is the merge of the political technologies with the state law-enforcement resources: “The core phenomenon of the modern political technologies, being the subject to the theoretical understanding in the Russian conditions, is their interaction with the state law-enforcement structures. The financial and propagandist resources, which increasing part is concentrated under the control of the hybrid regime, are supplemented with the legitimate use of violence that it applies in the political struggle. According to the famous definition of M.Weber, the legitimate use of violence is always monopolized by a state; it is only authoritarian and totalitarian regimes where the legitimate use of violence is the political resource. If a political technologist is able to influence the state law-enforcement structures, or vise versa, the intelligence, security or, let us say, drug enforcement structures are able to impact actions of political technologists, supporting ones and inhibiting others, democracy is in danger”31 Shcherbak, Etkind 2005.31.

Many authors are rather pessimistic about the future of Russia. “The economy based on the natural resources use and the political system aimed at mediocre people will not encourage the intellectual progress in the country, — V.Inozemtsev states. — Russia will not become a motherland of new high technologies, the existing (if not increasing) deficit in the sphere of the trade of intellectual property rights and high-tech goods will remain. The educational standards will be gradually decreasing. As a result, the outflow of cadres that practically stopped in the recent years might be restored. The remaining scientific schools might lose their positions in the world science. The system of medical service will be further reoriented towards the needs of the wealthy citizens, while the state medical structures will continue to retrograde. The gap in the life expectancy between Russia and the European countries will not be reduced by 2020”32 Inozemtsev 2006: 54.32.

Nevertheless, some analysts still believe that Russia will “lift up its head”. From the perspective of R.Nureev, “some peculiarities of our economic culture might be prerequisite for that. Russia is at the same time the most Eastern country among the Western ones and the most Western country among the Eastern ones. In Russia the collectivist values substantially prevail over the individualist ones, but still cultivating unique and nonstandard thinking (provided that this creativity does not come down to the concern with one’s own wallet) and behavior is rather plausible. Therefore, the elaboration of “new thinking” that would synthesize spirit of collectivism and creative self-expression might be easier for us than for other non-European countries”33 Nureev 2001: 126.33.

A.Belousov, the director of the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting, points out a number of Russia’s competitive advantages that can be and should be accumulated. He supposes that the future of our country depends on whether it will manage to maintain the balanced development of its energy, scientific-research, transitional and agricultural potential. If the government focuses its efforts on the modernization of the infrastructure, but neglects the projects that are designed to enroll Russia into the global economy, by 2020 the GDP growth will have decreased to 4.2% per year. On the contrary, if bureaucrats lose themselves in embedding the Russian economy into the world one and forget about its infrastructure, the GDP growth will amount to 4.5—5%, but the tensions in the society will aggravate. Only if the government makes progress in implementing both export and infrastructure projects, the GDP will grow at 5.9—6.4% per year34 Belousov 2003.34.

***

To conclude, the overall mood of the analysts, especially of the liberal ones, is extremely alarming. They determine a whole range of external and internal threats linked to the inability of the current political regime to find adequate responses to the existing challenges. Most of the authors predict a crisis entailing further “curtailing” of democracy. The threat of the country’s skew to fascism also remains plausible. The governmental experts are more optimistic, but even they acknowledge the existing grave difficulties and problems with the implementation of the economic and institutional reforms.

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