This is another example of the newly-emerging Russian nationalism, which embraces a break from the West as a liberation for the Russian people. Does the crisis over Crimea mark the end of a Western-oriented period of history for Russia? For Russia’s Gazeta, columnist Pyotr Vlasov writes that the new paradigm will marginalize Russia’s pro-Western liberals, and will wean Russians off of all things Western that ‘easy oil money’ made accessible.
For Gazeta, Pyotr Vlasov begins by disparaging Western sanctions and Russia’s pro-West ‘liberals’ who hope sanctions bring Russia to its knees:
Social networks these days are seeing an unprecedented influx of alarmists foretelling that because of Western sanctions, seven of the Ten Plagues would soon fall on our heads and will affect absolutely everyone. Retirees are afraid that “the shortages will be as bad as they were in the USSR.” The creative class is concerned that “we’ll have to use the beaches of Murmansk.” Businessmen and officials both fear “our assets will be confiscated.” For those not yet terrified, warnings of apocalypse abound, such as “complete international isolation,” a “new Iron Curtain,” and the “disintegration of the country.”
Practically speaking, this mass psychosis looks mysterious. One need only read a collection of quotes from Western heads of state to understand that the “international community,” out of whose orbit we are supposedly about to slip on our descent into hell, is doing everything it can not to overreact. The currently approved package of sanctions is, even to me, an ordinary Russian citizen, somewhat inconvenient. It’s the human thing. However, it is one thing to freeze with great pomp the bank account of a famed oligarch like Yelena Mizulina, and quite another to stop buying Russian oil.
But even if the inconceivable happens – and it’s hard to imagine the West ripping the shirt from its chest and suddenly demolishing all trade ties with Moscow, no economic apocalypse will occur.
There will be no repetition of the shortages and decline of the late 1980s. China, Japan, Korea, and India, in principle, produce the range of goods that we currently obtain from the West currently, and they are more than ready to buy raw materials. What’s more, the Russian economy is a far cry from the dull system of planning and distribution that existed at the sunset of the Soviet Union. Moreover, a certain degree of isolation from imports that easy oil money has attached us to would rather be to our advantage.
What then, for example, worries people like Boris Nemtsov, from whose predictions one imagines an anti-utopia? I can share one observation to help explain the psychological underpinning if what’s going on.
To my astonishment, one well-known Kremlin critic, whose column I regularly read, recently changed his approach on the sensitive topic of officials with foreign assets. Instead of rebuking them as “thieves,” he began to advise them not to quarrel with the West over Crimea in order to keep their villas and bank accounts. It was obvious that in this new political situation, the presence of corruption is perceived more as a positive thing, as it gives the West a chance to put added “pressure” on the Kremlin. But the officials haven’t heeded the advice. They declared Crimea a part of Russia. In his last column the author was genuinely perplexed: What’s happening in the country, when officials don’t even care about their villas? What motivates them now?
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