Democracy. Russia. CIS.

A reply to a reply

Posted by democratist on July 28, 2010

Dear AGT,

It seems to me one of the key areas where our arguments differ is that, as you admit, you don’t understand the Russian leadership’s current obsession with innovation.

But it seems to me that the  nomenklatura is not simply concerned about FDI and growth (which do indeed appear to be returning) but rather also with innovation, because if Russia really wants to be a serious player on the world stage in the twenty-first century (or even a regional one) then it needs to be innovating in the military, genetic, IT, telecommunications, space, and other spheres that Medvedev outlined in his recent speech.

Stealing these ideas through industrial espionage, or copying them 10 or 20 years after your rivals have come up with them (as appears to be the case with UAVs), just isn’t going to cut the mustard –  and I think that this is something the Chinese understand very well.

Additionally, I think you underestimate just how serious Russian corruption has become, you note that it’s a “problem” –  Transparency International puts Russia on a par with Zimbabwe.

State enterprises are especially susceptible to corruption (Aslund, 2008) and I would guess that this also goes some way to explaining their inability to come up with innovative products – such as UAVs. The state-led re-equipping of universities and research centers will not help much in this regard.

So there is a need to innovate. And innovation implies an accountable institutional framework, and that implies democracy.

Are the Russians ready for that? Probably not yet.

 But there is little to lose in offering the opportunity; any “backlash” would probably only result in the situation reverting to what it was until only a few months ago; it’s not like the Russians are going to start a war because the OSCE offered to observe their elections (as it has done those of almost every other member country for the past five years, including the US, UK and many others in the “West”).

They can always just effectively say “no” (again).

All the best,


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