Russia, a Failed Country IMO.

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@Huntn, Russia is neither a failed state nor a failed country, - it is most certainly not a failed country - not by any definition (socio-economic, political, etc).

Put another way, I cannot think of a single European who would regard Russia as any sort of a failed state.


Just to be clear, you and most Europeans would call Russia a successful country based on it’s autocratic/fascist nature, violation of both human and civil rights, the economic health of average citizens, and murdering and jailing of its dissidents.

Please provide the title you would use instead if you were to title a thread with the intent of discussing the flaws and failures of the Russian ruling class and highlight the link in post number one. Thanks.
This topic is more nuanced than a blunt dichotomy between stating that Russia is a "failed country" (it is not), - and nor is it a "failed state" - or arguing (and I do not argue this) that it is "a successful country".

I see it as a somewhat - potentially unstable - hybrid, torn between Asiatic technocratic norms of governance, occasional dreams of western type democracy, (on the part of liberals), traditional Russian autocracy, (informed by a fervent interpretation of nationalism - since the 18th century, Russian nationalism has always been a far more powerful force than any lingering longing or nostalgia for western democratic norms, and has often clashed with it, arguing that it is an alien ideological import, totally unsuited to specific Russian conditions), and a grotesque level of corruption at elite levels.

Russia has always been autocratic - that is its default historical setting - and now, by the standards of Russian history, what needs to be pointed out is that it is lot less awful than it used to be.

Yes, dissidents are now (increasingly, and routinely) murdered (rather than exiled/bullied, and/or, otherwise silenced); yet, Stalin murdered millions, and this is what is remembered in Russia.

Russia is mourning the loss of an empire; that - plus stability (the 1990s were anything but stable, the currency crash wiped out savings and the value of salaries and pensions), and an increasing and improving standard of living - all matter more to many in the state bureaucracy, the elites, and much of the population, than the idea of "democracy".

However, successions have often been a problem (as they are in all autocracies, or authoritarian systems) - the challenge lies in ensuring a peaceful succession, one that allows the incumbent to leave office, yet doesn't threaten that same incumbent with loss of life, liberty, privileges, or whatever assets have been salted away when they do leave office - this gave rise to a (very good) political joke from the 19th century that observed that: "Russia is an autocracy tempered by assassination."

Now, long term - apart from an excessive reliance on natural resources (the government recognises the problem but appears unable to do anything about it), and an unwillingness to address the cronyist and stratospheric levels of corruption at elite level, the Russian administration may face further challenges internationally, more in Asia than re the west.

I'd imagine that they couldn't believe their luck when (the compromised) Mr Trump won the 2016 election, - this seriously crippled the US and effectively prevented it from offering any sort of serious (competent, coherent, informed, engaged) leadership for four years - and the catastrophic effects of his appalling presidency will continue to have repercussions rippling world wide - but, apart from the imposition of sanctions (which have hurt and harmed the Russian economy to a considerable extent) as a consequence of the annexation of Crimea, to my mind, relations with the west will not be the major issue, or challenge, facing Russia in the near, or far, future.

Instead, if I were Russian, I'd be looking to China; and I would wonder whether the form and shape and contours of current borders will remain the same, in place, in, let us say, half a century's time. I would speculate that they might not.

In any case, instead of a statement for a thread title, I would ask whether it is possible to even envisage Russia as a (functioning) democracy. Something such as "Could Russia Ever Become Democratic?" or "Why Is Russia Not A Democracy?"
 
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This topic is more nuanced than a blunt dichotomy between stating that Russia is a "failed country" (it is not), - and nor is it a "failed state" - or arguing (and I do not argue this) that it is "a successful country".

I see it as a somewhat - potentially unstable - hybrid, torn between Asiatic technocratic norms of governance, occasional dreams of western type democracy, (on the part of liberals), traditional Russian autocracy, (informed by a fervent interpretation of nationalism - since the 18th century, Russian nationalism has always been a far more powerful force than any lingering longing or nostalgia for western democratic norms, and has often clashed with it, arguing that it is an alien ideological import, totally unsuited to specific Russian conditions), and a grotesque level of corruption at elite levels.

Russia has always been autocratic - that is its default historical setting - and now, by the standards of Russian history, what needs to be pointed out is that it is lot less awful than it used to be.

Yes, dissidents are now (increasingly, and routinely) murdered (rather than exiled/bullied, and/or, otherwise silenced); yet, Stalin murdered millions, and this is what is remembered in Russia.

Russia is mourning the loss of an empire; that - plus stability (the 1990s were anything but stable, the currency crash wiped out savings and the value of salaries and pensions), and an increasing and improving standard of living - all matter more to many in the state bureaucracy, the elites, and much of the population, than the idea of "democracy".

However, successions have often been a problem (as they are in all autocracies, or authoritarian systes) - the challenge lies in ensuring a peaceful succession, one that dosn't threaten the incumbent with loss of life, liberty, privileges, or whatever assets have been salted away - this gave rise to a (very good) political joke from the 19th century that observed that: "Russia is an autocracy tempered by assassination."

Now, long term - apart from an excessive reliance on natural resources (the government recognises the problem but apears unable to do anything about it), and an unwillingness to address the cronyist and stratospheric levels of corruption at elite level, the Russian administration may face further challenges internationally, more in Asia than re the west.

I'd imagine that they couldn't believe their luck when (the compromised) Mr Trump won the 2016 election, - this seriously crippled the US and effectively prevented it from offering any sort of serious (competent, coherent, informed, engaged) leadership for four years - and the catastrophic effects of his appalling presidency will continue to have repercussions rippling world wide - but, apart from the imposition of sanctions (which have hurt and harmed the Russian economy to a considerable extent) as a consequence of the annexation of Crimea, to my mind, relations with the west will not be the major issue, or challenge, facing Russia in the near, or far, future.

Instead, if I were Russian, I'd be looking to China; and I would wonder whether the form and shape and contours of current borders will remain the same, in place, in, let us say, half a century's time. I would speculate that they might not.

In any case, instead of a statement for a thread title, I would ask whether it is possible to even envisage Russia as a (functioning) democracy. Something such as "Could Russia Ever Become Democratic?" or "Why Is Russia Not A Democracy?"
I reworked the title and post 1. I suspect you will continue to take issue with my position. My definition of fail does not match yours or apparently the European Union’s. ;) I accept this disagreement. Yet, I suspect if you can’t describe Russia as successful, the default choice would be failed in many minds.

Do you by chance have an opinion about Russia’s new foreign agent law, the reason I started this post?
 

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I reworked the title and post 1. I suspect you will continue to take issue with my position. My definition of fail does not match yours or apparently the European Union’s. ;) I accept this disagreement. Yet, I suspect if you can’t describe Russia as successful, the default choice would be failed in many minds.

No, well, yes, I do.

I think it - the title - lacks nuance and subtlety. Above all, it lacks understanding of Russia, culturally, politically and historically.

As a Somali interlocutor once reminded me, with a chiding smile, as we sat sipping coffee: "There are many more colours than black and white."

Or, as the late Viktor Chernomyrdin put it (and this is very apposite in a Russian context, especially a Russian context thinking about why and how attempts at reform seem to always end in depressed, doomed, and depressing, failure): "We wanted the best but it turned out like always."

Thus, there are more choices in this discussion than "failed" or "successful" - it is not one or the other - and to decline to accept one does not mean that the other then, automatically, applies, as a "default" or as anything else.
 

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Do you by chance have an opinion about Russia’s new foreign agent law, the reason I started this post?
Well, why not state that in the thread title?

Will revert re the foreign agent law, but - the short version is that it is nothing new, nor is it anything surprising in Russian history (or politics) especially when the political pendulum has swung in the direction of reaction (and repression).

This is entirely predictable and depressingly clichéd, not least because in its search for convenient "enemies" (or targets), the state has chosen easy targets, and appealed to crude Russian nationalism rather than identifying (and addressing) real problems. But, again, to reiterate, this is nothing new whatsoever.

For over two centuries, in fact, for nearly three centuries, the debate about political (and economic) change in Russia has swung in one or other of two directions.

Roughly, the first is a sort of "liberalisation" - which means both liberal politics (more travel, greater personal freedom, - i.e. civil and human rights - re assembly, writing, publishing, teaching, thinking, travelling, political representation, relaxing censorship, reducing penalties for criminal offences, and limiting what is considered to be a criminal offence, and so on), and liberal economics (opening up closed domestic markets, opening up the country to foreign influences - cultural and economic both - and seeking to expand export markets).

This has often boiled down to a (genuine) debate on the extent of state power - how much power should the state have, hold, exercise and wield - in the market, in the state, and in society, including what power the state has over the individual.

In addition, the "liberal" phase - or phases (Peter the Great, Alexander II, V. I. Lenin during his NEP era, N. S. Khrushchev, Mikhail Gorbachev, would, one way or another, be thought or considered to have fallen into this camp) has - or have - almost always coincided with a more relaxed attitude to foreigners, and allowing them (and welcoming them) to live and work in Russia, work with Russians, form relationships (personal and professional) and marry Russians.

In general, it has also concided with a marked reduction in good old-fashioned Russian anti-Semitism, which was a marked feature of Tsarist Russia, and of the USSR under Stalin.

The second direction of this historical tendency is that of "reaction": These periods of "reaction" - yes, reaction against reform - (as exemplified - to a greater or lesser extent - by rulers such as Alexander III, Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, and indeed, Vladimir Putin) have been marked by an embrace of Russian nationalist sentiment, close ties with the Orthodox Church, and a policy of autocracy - as Alexander III put it: "Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationality," were the prevailing values of the state.

Those periods also saw foreigners frequently expelled and their businesses or enterprises shut down, censorship and repression and degrees of police control dramatically increased, civil rights curtailed, limited or abolished, and - historically - Jews on the receiving end of truly atrocious, appallingly vicious and profoundly murderous pogroms.

Historically, the periods of "reaction" (and repression) have coincided with a closing in of Russia in cultural terms, and economic terms, a sort of (cultivated, and encouraged by the authorities) nationalistic xenophobia, (where Russians with foreign friends or colleagues might fall foul of the authorities) in marked contrast to the "opening up" and liberalisation of society during the (more fleeting, but not less influential) "reform" periods.
 
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