Streetwise Professor

December 11, 2006

So right, but so wrong

Filed under: Russia — The Professor @ 9:58 am

Russian scholar Aleksandr Khromchikhin of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, participating in an Radio Ekho Moskvy program monitored by the BBC:

Khromchikhin said that Russia lacks a proper “national authority”. “In my opinion, the Russian state lacks a proper sense of national identity. We simply have Gazprom, the veto at the UN Security Council and a strategic nuclear potential,” he observed.

That is a fair summary of Russia’s geopolitical strategic assets, its (few) advantages in the “correlation of forces,” as the Soviets phrased it. However, it ignores Russia’s primary asset–its human capital–its engineers, scientists, mathematicians, musicians, writers, and artists. Indeed, contrary to Khromchikhin’s lament, Russia’s main tragedy may well be that its government’s monomaniacal efforts to create a “national authority” and a “national identity” (defined primarily negatively by opposition to the West in general and the US in particular) are making it impossible for this human resource to reach its full potential. The neo-mercantilist drive to create “national champion” companies to compete globally deprives talented individuals of the space and freedom they need to flourish. The Ozymandius-like obsession with power and national prestige is undermining the civil society that would permit Russia’s human capital to thrive.

In brief, a little less national authority, and a national identity built on something other than great power status, would be good things. Unfortunately, inasmuch as a good fraction of the Russian populace has bought into this mindset, this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

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