EDITORIAL: Russia’s Dutch Politics Disease


Russia’s Dutch Politics Disease

Some economists argue that having a large amount of natural resources is a bad thing for a country.  This infamous “Dutch disease” infects the national will, drying up incentives for innovation and encouraging the citizenry to become like the fat couch potatoes in the movie “Wall-E.”  Eventually, unless rescued by a heroic robot, such “rich” societies end up destroying themselves.

Can the same be said of politics?  Is Russia worse off with a little bit of freedom under Vladimir Putin than it was with none at all under Brezhnev, because there is less chance of fomenting real social change?

We think so, and so does Russian economist Yevgeny Gontmakher in his latest Moscow Times column. 

Gontmakher recently wrote a column attacking the Kremlin’s chief propagandist Vladislav Surkov, accusing him of propagating an official state ideology little different from that put forth in Soviet times by Mikhail Suslov, flunkie of Brezhnev.  Gontmakher then received a merciless barrage of personal attacks in the blogosphere seeking to silence him.  He writes:

According to Surkov’s political model, the public discussion of the economic problems in the country has been halted. Of course, Russians today can express themselves openly in their kitchens and even in some public places — a major improvement over Soviet times — but the problem is that these candid discussions are never aired in the mainstream media, and therefore they will have no bearing on the decisions made by our authorities.

When we first began this blog, there were those who criticized our use of the term “neo-Soviet” arguing that Putin’s Russia lacked ideology.  We believed that ideology was irrelevant to such status, which depends instead simply on a certain type of social structure imposed from above. But now, it’s clear our critics were utterly wrong. Russia has an ideology and a chief ideologist, and they are just as maligant as they ever were in Soviet times.

The vestigial “freedom” that Russians still “enjoy” is in fact worse than no freedom at all. It is powerless, but it acts to release a certain amount of pressure and resentment that would otherwise build up to critically undermine the regime’s foundations, just as it did in Soviet times. It’s Dutch politics, and its something that could totally destroy Russia, rotting it from within, until there is nothing left worth saving.

Gontmakher argues, as we always have, that this system is weak and can be destroyed by concerted effort. He points to the example of Pikalyovo as proof that this is so.  But there must be leaders who are willing to stand up against the regime as Gontmakher has done, and there must be those who will praise their courage and support their efforts.

Now is a moment of profound opportunity, since the Putin regime has been dramatically weaknened by the economic crisis it has proved unable to manage.  It is time for the world to rally to the cause of Russia’s true patriots, like Gontmakher, who actually risk something for their country — unlike Putin, who lives a life of privilege and risks nothing.

18 responses to “EDITORIAL: Russia’s Dutch Politics Disease

  1. …..“it became clearer than ever that the principles enshrined in the Constitution — above all, private initiative and property rights, an independent court, a competitive political system, an active civil society and free press — need to be guaranteed and protected.”

    A rather moot point since all of the above Constitutional principles were swept away while Russians sat in their kitchens feasting on Putin’s tv swill. Yeltsin was for all of his faults a democrat at heart and if the Russians had run with it they wouldn’t have backslided to where they are today.

    Russians, being one of the most childlike groups on the planet, still don’t understand that democracy isn’t gifted to people. You earn it. It’s hard to say what Ivan Sixpack processes when he sees, that’s if he sees as Iran is Russia’s client state and supports the autocrats in power, on tv the carnage in Iran. I suspect he disapproves of such bold decisive behavior by the opposition.

    As long as the siloviki throw an adequate amount of crumbs to sovok sheeple and their politically disengaged offspring Russia remains in its deservedly natural serf state.

    What a contrast, Iran’s youth dying in the streets and Putin’s Nashi youth attacking physically and on the internet anyone that challenges Putin.

    So, there you have it.

    • OMG, Yeltsin ‘a democrat at heart’. That was exactly why he shelled the parliament and forged the 1996 elections. Somewhere very, very deep in his heart.

      • Yeltsin was a “democrat” because he brought war to Chehcnya. Putin is an anti-democrat because he brought peace there.

        Similarly, USA is a democratic country because it invaded Iraq and caused the death of at least 500 000 innocnet civilians there.

        On the other hand, France is not a democratic country because it opposed the Iraq war.


        Freedom fries was a euphemism for French fries used by some conservatives in the United States as a result of anti-French sentiment in the United States during the international debate over the decision to launch the 2003 invasion of Iraq. France had expressed strong opposition in the United Nations to such an invasion. The French position was frowned upon by some in the United States, leading to campaigns for the boycotting of French goods and businesses and the removal of the country’s name from products.

        On March 11, 2003, Representatives Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-North Carolina) declared that all references to French fries and French toast on the menus of the restaurants and snack bars run by the House of Representatives would be removed. House cafeterias were ordered to rename French fries to “freedom fries”. The simultaneous renaming of French toast to “freedom toast” attracted less attention.[1]

        The Embassy of France in Washington, D.C. made no comment beyond pointing out that French fries probably come from Belgium. “We are at a very serious moment dealing with very serious issues and we are not focusing on the name you give to potatoes,” said Nathalie Loisau, an embassy spokeswoman.

        The patience and sense of humour with which foreign diplomats deal with the infantile and humourless US politicians is laudible.

  2. The insanity of Russian politics also extends to diplomacy.

    For example accusing the sovreign government of Kyrgyzstan of “treason” for changing its mind over the future of a US airbase.


    When will Russians realise those they oppressed hate them because of Russia’s own deeds, reather than some “western conspiriacy”?

    • “The Kyrgyz government agreed to expel US troops after receiving £1.3 billion in aid and soft loans from Moscow in February.”

      > When will Russians realise those they
      > oppressed hate them because of
      > Russia’s own deeds, reather than
      > some “western conspiriacy”?

      No wonder people say: “No good deed shall go unpunished”.

      Now that the Kyrgyz dictators have put £1.3 billion, stolen from average Russian taxpayers under false pretences, into their personal Swiss accounts, it is high time for them to voice hatred towards Russia in order to get £1.3 billion from US taxpayers. After than they can kick USA again and get £1.3 billion more from Russia, and so on. Soon the Kyrgyz leaders will make it to the Top 10 on the Forbes’ list.

      It’s a victimless crime, unless you take into account innocent American and Russian taxpayers. But who ever does?!

      • You miss the fact that those who payed the 1.3 million are just as criminal. After all, what did they think they were doing? Buying other people’s opinions with money? Paying to close an airbase?… Oh, I have no illusions about the Kyrgyz. But I do think it’s funny that somehow you think their desire to do anything for money somehow lessens the bad intentions of those who paid.

        It’s like a guy who paid a hired gun to kill someone, and then gets angry because the murder didn’t take place. “But I paid him! The least he could have done is actually kill that guy!”

        I’d laugh if such things weren’t tragic.

        • Closing foreign bases is not the same as murder. The latter is a crime, the former is a right.

          Murder is when people get slaughtered, as in:


          American base guards shot and killed a local [ethnic Russian] man at the entrance gates [and Kyrgystan was then prevented from conducting an investigation] ,

          a US plane collided with a Kyrgyzstan passenger jet on the runway (Manas is adjacent to Bishkek’s civilian airport)

          and controversy arose over the US practice of dumping fuel before landing; the fuel was polluting crops near the air base.

        • > You miss the fact that those who
          > payed the 1.3 million are just as
          > criminal

          They are? What law did they break exactly? And it’s not “1.3 million”. It is £1.3 *billion*, which is more than $2 billion.

          > After all, what did they think they
          > were doing? Buying other people’s
          > opinions with money?

          Are you talking about the US foreign aid to countries like Egypt (to the tune of $3 billion per year, as I recall)?

          Giving other countries foreign aid in exchange for political and geopolitical favours is perfectly legal and is the backbone of the US foreign policiy.

          So why do you think that it is illegal for Russia to do so? Does USA have more legal rights than Russia?

          • Considering Russia’s murder of more than 60,000,000 people in the 20th century, the export of the vile ideology of communism around the world resulting in the deaths of another 80,000,000 or so, the ongoing repression of ethnic minorities, the invasion of neigboring states, the rampant corruption in Russian society, business, and politics, then yes, the US does have more legal rights than Russia, just as it had more legal rights than Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

            • Don’t forget to mention how Russia exterminated 200,000,000 Native Americans, stole their lands and put the rare syrvivors on Indian reservations.

              Add to that the use of 2,300,000,000 African-Americans as slaves in Alamaba and other southern states of Russia – and we get the true reason why the Kyrgyz law should make it illegal for Russia to give foreign aid to Kyrgyzstan.

              • Dear Ostap,

                Thank you for informing me as to how many more human beings roosha killed and enslaved. Now I can tell all my friends and quote you. :)

                • Les,

                  I just pictured you saying something like “Ostap Bender told me about 2.3 Billion black slaves in Alabama”… Or maybe “Baron Munchhausen told me about 2.3 Billion residents of the Moon that he met during his travels”.

                  Do you suppose your listeners will think it’s a joke? Or that you are delusional? If you spend the next half-hour telling them about the menu in Moscow restaurants you will clear any doubts in their mind!

  3. penny

    “Yeltsin was for all of his faults a democrat at heart ” — ???

    Yeltsin was a dipsomaniac at his heart, stomach and head accompanied by CIA “expert” thugs.

  4. Andrew,
    As General Lebed used to say, stupidity is not absence of thoughts. It’s different kind of thoughts. A government accusing foreign government of treachery is that different kind of thoughts.

    From Kirghiz side Lukashenko is an example to emulate. Like a child of divorced parents, Lukashenko has been milking both Russia and Europe for years, autocracy and human rights abuse notwithstanding. Why can’t Kirghiz rulers do the same? “Manas is for sale – we are accepting initial bids”…

  5. rts and dittohead posts are quite instructive. Soviet citizens are accustomed to kick previous leaders. Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, now Yeltsin – none were treated to kindly after they were out of power.

    So, current stars of power vertical should take notice: Sharikovs that praise them today will be kicking them in the groin tomorrow with the same vengeance!

    • That’s actually a good point. But note that this is also ominous for the next regime after Putin’s — they’ll also be followed by another one that will paint them in black colors.

      As they used to sing: ‘Where are all the flowers gone?… When will we ever learn?…’

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