December 8, 2003 by AK
I don’t know if I’m alone in feeling there’s no future. Nothing bright to expect from this country; only fog, rain and snow ahead. It’s not that Russia has not gone through bad times before, but isn’t much of a consolation.
This mental gloom feeds on simple, unescapable thoughts. The EU’s expansion is going to isolate Russia from a huge market with tariffs, quotas and product-specific regulations. Europe, apparently, only needs Russian oil and gas; whatever else Russian may produce, let it trade with China.
Then there is infrastructure. That Russian roads are awful is a proverbial truth. A huge, sparsely populated country is what Russia has always been; its railroads, electricity transmission lines, pipelines, central heating systems, telephone networks were built and have been managed in a centralized way. Good or bad, they are in place, and all need maintenance and reinvestment; they may shape the way markets develop, or, perhaps, the other way round. The government retains control over these vital networks. There are many reasons why it wouldn’t privatize; the question is whether it has any idea how to manage the infrastructure it controls. Nowhere is infrastructure as important as in Russia; the government’s failure will bury its future. This election has provided no incentives for anything but patchwork maintenance.
Going back to politics: after four years of relative economic stability and growth, crudely nationalistic populists get a third of the vote. An immature nation.