Since the Berlin Wall was dis­man­tled and the former Soviet Union dis­solved, Russia has moved to a two-​​party polit­ical system and a market economy. The former com­mu­nist country has made great gains in the global economy, but the com­mit­ment of Russia’s leaders to demo­c­ratic polit­ical values is ques­tion­able. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama recently chided Russian Prime Min­ister Vladimir Putin for keeping “one foot in the old ways of doing business.”

Watch T. Anthony Jones and Harlow Robinson dis­cuss the fall of the Berlin Wall here.

Exam­ining Russian cul­ture, pol­i­tics and busi­ness two decades after the Berlin Wall came down are pro­fes­sors T. Anthony Jones and­Harlow Robinson (in video), and Sheila M. Puffer (in print).

• Jones is asso­ciate pro­fessor of soci­ology and exec­u­tive director of the Gor­bachev Foun­da­tion of North America. He has written exten­sively on Russia.

• Robinson is a Matthews Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Lan­guage, Lit­er­a­tures and Cul­ture, and an expert on Russian history.

• Puffer is the Walsh Research Pro­fessor and Cherry Family Senior Fellow of Inter­na­tional Busi­ness, with a research emphasis in Russia and Eastern Europe.

 

Sheila Puffer dis­cusses Russia’s post-​​Soviet economy and the stake it has in main­taining sta­bility with the West.

 

Do you think Russia will return to a Cold War-​​style polit­ical pos­ture towards the West?

Russia still sees itself as a major world power, and wants to exert its influ­ence in a very vis­ible way on the world stage. So although there may be some rum­blings of Cold War talk, I don’t believe we’ll see a full return to that. Russia is far too invested in the global economy to risk taking that polit­ical strategy.
Prime Min­ister Putin and other gov­ern­ment offi­cials are hosting meet­ings to try to attract more for­eign invest­ment into Russia. Russia could lose out if it closed in on itself again.

Inter­est­ingly, since the col­lapse of the Berlin Wall, there are dif­fer­ences in how people in Russia and in Europe view the old com­mu­nist bloc’s shift to a market economy. Those atti­tudes seem to break down along gen­er­a­tional lines.

According to The Pew Global Atti­tudes Project, which polled atti­tudes in Europe and Russia, they found dis­tinct dif­fer­ences between those born after or before the Berlin Wall was taken down.
Of those born around the fall of the Berlin Wall, 60 per­cent approved of Russia’s change to a multi-​​party system and a market economy. In con­trast, of those who were over the age of 60, only 27 per­cent approved.

Since the wall’s col­lapse, how has Russia’s posi­tion in the global economy devel­oped, along­side that of China and India?

Russia, India and China, the so-​​called “RIC’s,” loom large in many ways. Not only do they occupy 20 per­cent of the world’s land­mass, but it is pre­dicted that by 2050, their economies could sur­pass the economies of the other G-​​8 mem­bers (France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ger­many, Japan, Italy and Canada.)

Prime Min­ister Putin signed deals with China recently worth a record $3.5 bil­lion, to col­lab­o­rate on devel­oping power plants and energy and trans­porta­tion infrastructure.

On November 3, RusAl (Russia Alu­minum) signed a con­tract to sell 1.68 mil­lion tons of alu­minum to China to the Chi­nese state con­glom­erate NORINCO, over the next seven years. That’s an impor­tant development.

In October, Russia and India announced a joint devel­op­ment project to create a new, super­sonic mis­sile. These coun­tries already suc­cess­fully col­lab­o­rated on a lunar mis­sion as well as var­ious satel­lite launches, using Russian technology.

And just this past Sep­tember, India and Russia decided to partner on nuclear, biotech­nology, nan­otech­nology and core infra­struc­ture projects.

Russia is impor­tant to the global economy for a number of rea­sons. Number one, it has four times the house­hold income of India, and ten times that of China. They’re a good market for con­sumer goods, and they’re building up a well-​​educated con­sumer class.

Russia has vast nat­ural resources. It’s the world’s top oil and gas pro­ducer, pro­viding 25 per­cent of Euro­pean energy, and 100 per­cent to Baltic coun­tries. It has the number one gas reserve in the world, and the second largest oil reserve, edged out only by Saudi Arabia. It is number three in the world in for­eign cur­rency reserves — they’re sit­ting on a lot of money, and that should continue.

Russia is cru­cial to the global economy, and I don’t see it allowing a polit­ical sit­u­a­tion with the West under­mine what it is accomplishing.