Putin’s Greatest Weakness: The Russian Economy

Dictatorships generally do not foster, or even tolerate, the kind of creative disruption of the status quo necessary to the existence of a dynamic free market. Plus, the economy of the Russian state can best be described as a mafia state, or kleptocracy. Thus Vladimir Putin needs to find other ways to shore up both the national finances and the support of his cronies (much less so, of his people, who are primarily afterthoughts in the Russian power structure).

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the rapid shift to capitalism was done with little oversight and many hands in the cookie jar. The Russian land’s rich stores of minerals, oil and gas, heavy metals, and other natural resources were rapidly privatized and newly-minted oligarchs flexed wealth and power in a way never before dreamed of in the former USSR.

The combination of powerful new gatekeepers who locked up the Russian economy early via capital flight and never let it go overshadowed the capitalistic transition and, in a very real way, hijacked it before it ever really got underway. The result is, some 30 years on, an unpopular creaking kleptocratic regime reviled around the world for its stubborn aggression, subversion of democratic processes around the world particularly in Europe and the United States, support for organized crime, and significant financial crimes on the part of the state itself.

Putin’s autocratic rule from dull to terrifyingly devious has a chilling effect on hope, self-determination, self-governance, and ultimately — on happiness, freedom, and creativity. Totalitarianism is capable of exerting control, but always fails to inspire anything except for eventual revolution against the oppressors.

Here is a granular look at major indicators of the economy of the Russian Federation.

OECD Country Dashboard: Russian economy

The Mafia State: Russia Since the “End” of the Cold War

We Americans thought it ended, anyhow — but we were wrong. The revanchism that in some sense was of high potential after the fall of the former Soviet Union indeed came to pass — and later to be accelerated by the rise of Vladimir Putin to power.

Along with that trajectory, a curious development path for the former Soviet state: mostly, a descent into organized crime at the highest echelons of government. In some sense, organized crime is the government.

Here’s a great #longread from the Guardian about the history of a modern-day mafia state.