Oct 23, 2007

"Losing Russia"

We spend a lot of time on the follies of Russian commentators. Thankfully, the newest issue of Foreign Affairs has delivered up Nixon Center President Dimitri Simes and his condescending-yet-ridiculous essay on "Losing Russia."

To wit:
1) "In the late 1980's, it was far from inevitable that the Soviet Union or even the Eastern bloc would collapse." Are we back to this? Soviet planners had completely unplugged from reality by the mid 1980s. The Soviet economy was removing value from raw materials. The system was not so much on the verge of collapse, it was in free fall. Simes' assertion defies reality and explanation.

2) "It was Gorbachev, not Reagan who ended the Soviet Emprire." Yes, yes, this again. This statement is correct in form, but incorrect in fact. Gorbachev ended the Empire thru his failure to act (retreating in the face of political/institutional opposition on reform...could anyone have done it?) and his failure to properly address the nationalist centrifuge. Simes betrays his level of understanding of the period.

3) "Yeltsin's radical reformers often welcomed IMF and US pressure as justified for the harsh and hugely unpopular monetary policies they had advocated on their own." Utter nonsense. Yeltsin's reformers were far from radical. They followed the radical reform path for six months. After which, Yeltsin fostered a perfect storm of economic chaos, rapid privatization and continued Soviet subsidies. This created the endemic culture of rents which haunts Russia even today. They wholly ignored the IMF when pressured to stop. How is this welcoming IMF pressure?

4) The thesis (America's "neocolonial approach" is at fault) is unfounded and dangerously incendiary. Yeltisn's failure to properly implement reform perpetuated rents, rather than end them. In the end the West paid market prices for oil, minerals, and timber when the goods were sold to the highest bidder on the global exchange.

Yeltsin lost Russia and the Russians looted themselves into poverty.

Yet, it must be nice to be the President of the Nixon Center.

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