Road Rage in Putin’s Russia
“Mr. Putin, why do you get driven about in a Mercedes? Why not a Volga? Aren’t you a patriot?”
— Question asked by a picket sign December 14th in Vladivostok
Things are getting pretty hot in Vladimir Putin’s kitchen.
On December 14th, AFP reports about 6,000 people held protest rallies against Putin’s decision to raise import tariffs on automobiles in order to protect Russia’s domestic industry, which is on life support. On December 20th the protesters attempted to repeat their action, but were quickly suppressed with brutal violence by law enforcement.
Russians don’t want to be forced to buy inferior Russian vehicles, nor do the thousands who work in the foreign sector want to lose their jobs. The AFP quotes Gennady Sukhanov, an automotive analyst with Troika Dialog: “This is total nonsense. I myself am from Vladivostok. People there will not buy Russian brands.” It quotes Boris Nemtsov: “What right does he have, who is he to tell people what to eat, wear and drive? Mr Putin should start with himself.”
Less than 50 percent of all new cars sold in Russia this year were produced in Russia, so there are grave doubts as to whether Russia even has sufficient productive capacity to satisfy domestic demand even if Russian followed Putin’s edicts like lemmings.
But the Kremlin doesn’t care. Just as in Soviet times, it’s going to make it impossible to buy foreign goods and force Russians to purchase shoddy Russian products, basically at gunpoint. This only encourages the quality of Russian production to deteriorate further, and will leave Russia once again languishing in a backwater of the world economy with a third-rate standard of living providing fodder for many jokes.
The Kremlin’s neo-Soviet desperation is palpable.