FROM AN AUSTRALIAN EXPATRIATE
MOSCOW - The BBC world service has reported new press restrictions in Russia, including 15 years jail for those who breach them.
The official Kremlin narrative is the only permitted one.
I agree with those who say that the Soviet state has returned, complete with its underlying kleptocratic economic culture, though entirely stripped of any of its benevolent parts.
It is now nakedly totalitarian.
I pity the poor Russians who are plainly not vested in the conflict or the political system.
They include no less than 6,000 Russian architects who have signed a document objecting to the invasion.
I guess they can look forward to some CPD [Compulsory Professional Development] tutorials on jail design.
There are a couple of recent articles in the Australian press which are reliable
While this article, ‘Putin is not Russia. He is a despot on borrowed time’ by Robert Horvath, offers a more nuanced perspective.
This latter piece is very good. And if you have the time, watch the famous Navalny video, Putin’s Palace, mentioned in the article.
It was the most popular video on YouTube in Russia last year and the first 15 minutes are truly shocking.
Perhaps on the one hand you can hold all Russians to account for this invasion, but the truth is they are now in a Soviet state and the possibility of pushback is negligible.
It was deeply ironic that, a few days before we flew out of Moscow, we went on a guided tour of the Gulag Museum, a short tram-ride away from our flat.
Established by the state, its message was even grimmer than I’d imagined it could be.
I fear the only long term outcome of the Ukraine War is Russia’s accelerating demise.
Russia’s GDP, the total market value of its goods and services, is about the same as Australia’s, yet its population is six times larger.
This means that productivity per person is one sixth of that in Australia.
Rather than investing in its well educated people. Russia blows its dough on its military and on manufacturing absurd nationalistic historical mash-ups to demonise ‘the West’.
Yet anyone who visits Moscow realises it is in every way a part of that West.
This ridiculous nationalism is sharpened and deployed for adventures like the current one in Ukraine.
For a nation whose contemporary self-estimation is based so much on its endurance against the Nazis and victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II), it is ironic to discover that its current adventure mimics the very trajectory of that same enemy.
The crisis will leave a pariah-state legacy for years, if not decades, in which prosperity has plummeted and very likely the nation dissolves into internal conflict, like the Russian Civil War of 1917-23.
Or perhaps it will be forced into perpetual penury following the weaning of the rest of the world away from its current fossil fuel addiction.
I feel sad for ordinary Russians. Almost all those I encountered were utterly charming – even, with one exception, the border control officers.
It’s not the fault of the people that they have awakened in a 2.0 reboot of Soviet Russia.
One observer has claimed that the war and the underlying juvenile nationalist twaddle is a desperate distraction to conceal Putin’s gross mismanagement of the Russian economy by a bunch of greedy rent-seeking kleptocrats.
Former US president Barack Obama observed that Russia’s only exports are gas and guns. You can add misery to the list now.
Until recently, many people around the globe feared an impending American civil war.
But suddenly one in Russia looks increasingly likely.
The only way to prevent this, I believe, rests in the hands of Russians themselves – to toss out Putin and his despicable cronies albeit at great personal risk.
It is the case that most Russians aspire to build a truly democratic economy suited to the 21st century, not the 19th.
For Russians and the rest of the world a ‘sphere of influence’ assembled around that kind of leadership would be genuinely compelling.