Strategy à la russe: catch up with Portugal and die in Donbas

  • In World
  • 2022-07-26 00:19:00Z
  • By The New Voice of Ukraine
Russian invaders in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, south of Ukraine.
Russian invaders in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, south of Ukraine.  

According to Putin, Western countries have become "countries of the golden billion", not only thanks to their ideas, but also thanks to the plundering of other nations and turning them into colonies. From now on, only sovereign states can ensure high growth dynamics. Russia, obviously, should become the leader among these countries.

History is, in fact, a science, not merely a source of historical propaganda. Historical truths are never simple and rarely pleasant. One of them is as follows: in his policy essay in 1999, Putin set Russia the task of catching up and overtaking Portugal, the poorest country in Western Europe, in the next 15 years. More than 20 years have passed since then. According to the IMF, Portugal's GDP per capita is $24,500. Russia's stands at $12,600.

GDP per capita is not the best indicator, as it does not reflect the purchasing power and stratification of the population. A more reliable indicator of a country's well-being is life expectancy. In Portugal, this indicator is 82.7 years, Russia's - 72.9.

Read also: Russia has not abandoned its goal of crushing Ukrainian statehood

Putin is right on one point: authoritarian states when they begin to reform, achieve very high growth rates in the first years. Hence the fascination with the authoritarian model - the model of "sovereign democracy."

This fascination is rooted in historical myopia: when the events of several decades are perceived as the projection of a long-term trend. A longer historical perspective shows that the trick is not fast growth, but steady growth.

Authoritarian countries, after reaching a plateau, enter stagnation, which can turn into a collapse. Let me remind you that in the 1960s, the USSR also developed very quickly, faster than the United States, and Khrushchev also set himself the task of catching up and overtaking America.

Putin set much more modest goals: to catch up not with the richest, but with the poorest state in the West. But even such a task is out of Russia's reach. Even before the annexation of Crimea, the growth rate of the Russian economy began to decline. According to economists' calculations, at such rates, Putin would have to live and rule Russia until 2065 in order to catch up with the poorest country in Europe.

Since the fall of communism, some former communist countries have managed to catch up and overtake Portugal. These are Slovenia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Slovakia, Latvia and Poland, it seems, will soon succeed too. But all these countries, according to Putin's logic, are not sovereign countries, because they are subject to the dictates of the West.

Read also: How Putin weaponized the slayer of economies

But the example of Portugal speaks against Putin the most. It was the first Western empire to colonize Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and it was the last to abandon its colonies. According to Putin's logic, if the wealth of the West was built on colonial plunder, Portugal would now be one of the richest countries in Western Europe. And in fact, it is one of the poorest.

And vice versa: in the list of the richest, there are countries that never had colonies: Switzerland and Sweden. And there is also one which itself was once a colony, and that was a colony of Russia - Finland.

Every time Putin is compared to Hitler, it serves as a compliment. Behind Hitler stood a large economy and one of the most effective armies in the world. There is nothing backing Putin except his own puffed-up and offended cheeks. Russia's combined gross product is slightly larger than that of South Korea, a country 140 times smaller in size and three times smaller in population. And the "invincible and legendary" Russian army cannot cope with the Ukrainian army - which is smaller, but fights much better. If the Russians continue to advance at the same pace as they are now in Donbas, it will take approximately as many years to reach the western border of Ukraine as it would to catch up and overtake Portugal. That is, never.

The Russian situation resembles the plot of Aesop's fable: the fox, which could not reach the grapes, called them sour. Russia cannot become a normal Western state, so it calls the entire Western world abnormal, as if they are a separate civilization, to whom civilized rules of behavior do not apply. Hence "we will follow a different path". That's how Russia meanders in delusion, and now it also threatens to subject the rest of the world to this.

The narrative about civilizational idiosyncrasies is fundamentally false because it assumes that there are peoples and countries that, as a result of their civilizational characteristics, like to live in poverty and lawlessness, when their parents are imprisoned, their daughters are raped, and their sons are sent to die in wars in foreign countries and for foreign interests.

Read also: More than 70% of Russians support war against Ukraine, according to survey

The truth is different: when people are deprived of these rights by their authorities, they get used to that state. Some, because they come to terms with their powerlessness, others, because they are put on the illusory greatness treatment: yes, we are poor and disenfranchised, but our country is big and strong.

One way or another, the moral of this fable remains the same: one's own, "sovereign" path is a direct way to the third world - what we sincerely wish upon today's Russia.


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