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Impressions about modern day Russia

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Soviet cogitations: 2880
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 16 Nov 2005, 17:55
Party Bureaucrat
Post 10 Mar 2020, 20:03
I wanted to gather people's opinion about Russia today.

Following the regime change in Ukraine 6 years ago and the Syrian conflict, Russia seems to have resumed a more active role as the main resistance against Western empire and as a diplomatic force around the world. Resistsnce to sanctions and a growing partnership with China reinforce this image of a resurgent power challenging American supremacy in a manner similar to the USSR during the Cold War.

However, at the same time, Russia still operates as a capitalist economy using its military and diplomacy to promote its export businesses, and plays a double/triple game even with its allies to squeeze thr most material gain. Likewise, the government seems to use its foreign policy and military policy to coopt the CPRF and Soviet nostalgists while pushing through a privatization agenda.

However, this is an impression I get from casually reading third party sources, so I wanted to see if there were more critical perspectives.

"History is a set of lies agreed upon."
--Napoleon Bonaparte
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Soviet cogitations: 4510
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 13 Mar 2020, 00:23
I think you summed up pretty well in just a couple sentences the essence of Russia's significance in today's world: Resistance to the West on some issues, but only as a fellow capitalist competitor, not because of any real ideological differences or moral compass.

In a lot of ways, today's Russia is indistinguishable from other third world countries on the global periphery. The country's status as a successor to the USSR gives it diplomatic clout in the UN, a nuclear umbrella and some advanced technologies (nuclear reactors, remnants of a space industry and a military industrial complex), but for the most part our economic establishment seems very comfortable with the capitalist division of labour theory under which Russia 'is best at' being a giant gas station selling resources in exchange for pretty much everything else - electronics, clothing, cars, pharmaceuticals, machine goods, even components for what few industrial products we have left. Our oligarchs and government officials have dual citizenship and property in London, NYC and Miami, and their children go to school in or live in the same NATO countries that Russia's military would supposedly target in the event of war.

At the same time that Moscow flexes its muscles by sending a warship somewhere or yelling at the Americans at the UN, at home Russians consume Hollywood films (or their Russian knockoff equivalent), buy Western brands, and are part of the same cultural and style trends as the rest of the world. Similarly, the country continues to move away from Soviet standards on education and health care, adopting the Bologna university standard, reducing free medical coverage and introducing an insurance ponzi scheme that doesn't seem that different than that of the US, except that it's smaller.

You're absolutely right about the 'double-triple game' with allies bit. For the most part, all of Russia's interactions with its partners these days seem to be commercial, with a few prestige projects (Syria, unprofitable gas pipelines to China as a sign of our forever friendship) being exceptions. Even our closest ally - Belarus, has felt the squeeze in recent years because oligarchs want to wring a couple more billion dollars out of Minsk in energy contracts. Another thing I think is problematic is our attempt to work with everyone, including countries whose interests are seemingly diametrically opposed to our own, like Saudi Arabia, or Turkey, or Israel. Overall, this multivector can have some extremely deleterious long-term consequences, firstly because it leads to a situation where no country can completely trust Russia, and second because it can create absurd situations that make the Kremlin look bad even among ordinary Russians. Syria's a good example, where our Turkish 'partners' and our Israeli 'partners' are pummeling our Syrian 'partners' while we sell S-400s to Ankara and engage in 'anti-terrorism cooperation' with Tel Aviv.

To sum up, maybe the best thing that can be said about Russia geopolitically is that it has become somewhat of a counterweight to naked Western imperialism of the late 90s and 2000s. The flip side of that is that Moscow's main goal - financial gain for our economic elites, is often indistinguishable from the predatory behaviour of Washington and Brussels. Ukraine is by far the best example of the tragic effects this can have, I think.
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
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Soviet cogitations: 9424
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 19 Mar 2005, 20:08
Post 13 Mar 2020, 07:24
I mean it's basically a right-wing authoritarian country like Singapore or whatever but with interests that collide with the US. Nowadays IT/finance is the biggest growth industry outside oil. And that really completely relies on a consumer economy oriented towards borrowing money to buy stuff.

There's also import substitution, but without an industrial policy all its meant so far was that Russia shifted from importing consumer goods to importing capital goods. So South Korean televisions and household appliances as well as German and Korean cars are made in Russia now and its not just CKD kits to avoid customs, but the main value-added internals are generally imported.

What's pretty funny is that this has led to some cognitive dissonance among people, as they value consumption but find ways to cheat their way into it by buying cheaper grey import electronics or pirating movies and then being angry at the government and the world when their torrenting website is blocked by the government or Samsung remotely deactivates grey market TVs because it also loses money off of them, or because their favorite Marvel capeshit is released several days later than globally in Russia because of piracy concerns. But this zhlob mentality will probably stay around forever, even if Russia escapes the "middle income trap" and there is enough resources for everyone to buy whatever crap they want.

"Bleh, i don't even know what i'm arguing for. What a stupid rant. Disregard what i wrote." - Loz
"Every time is gyros time" - Stalinista
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