For Russia, the transformation of its local political revisionism into a global economic and political restructuring was unexpected. Until mid-2017, the Kremlin acted in the paradigm of “limited geopolitical confrontation,” hoping to restore relations with the West. Initially, the Russian authorities were not ready for the formulation and, moreover, for the implementation of the modernisation program. This was facilitated by the balance of forces that had developed by 2013 in the Russian elite. The globalist-liberal segment viewed economic modernisation and its socio-political consequences as dangerous. Modernisation would inevitably create new groups of economic interests, potentially destabilising the ownership structure and power architecture, formed as a result of the privatisation of the late 1990s and the first, elite, redistribution of property from 2001–2005 (“equidistance of oligarchs”). However, it was not possible to fully keep the existing balance: the “clan wars” of the last years reflect the processes of changing the influence of various groups of economic interests under the influence of the new economic reality, that are useful in general for the economy, but destabilising for the relations in the elite.
The attempt to preserve the former paradigms of embedding into the global economy, demonstrated by the Russian economic authorities in their strategies of export support, being conceptually correct, does not take into account two principal circumstances: firstly, the prospects for a deep restructuring of the existing system of the global economy, and hence the structure of technological and logistic chains. Some promising markets may lose a significant part of their attractiveness. And secondly, the fact that the existing structure of exports, with some exceptions (cooperation with Egypt, Iran, India, some other countries) preserves mainly the raw material nature of the Russian economy. That will in no way contribute to improving the quality of Russia’s participation in the global division of labor.
The main question for Russia is how much the attempts of its economic isolation and destruction of the economy part of the process and mechanisms of preparation for the economic crisis are, and how much of it is an independent element of the system of international relations. Probably, the situation around Russia was not originally part of any large geo-economic picture. As it developed, and the system of sanctions was expanded, it became an integral part of the process of shaping the context of the restructuring of the world economy architecture.
The boundary factors for embedding the confrontational situation around Russia in the overall context of the global crisis are likely to be the agreement of Russia with OPEC and the achievement of a long-term understanding between Moscow and Beijing on the harmonisation of mutual interests on globally significant logistics corridors. Chronologically, the final embedding of confrontation with Russia into the global context should be attributed to the second half of 2016, when events in the global economy and politics began to accelerate sharply.
Putin’s statement on the possibility of using nuclear weapons with a special focus on the retaliatory and counter-strategic nature of strategic nuclear response indicates: The Kremlin admits that the crisis will be total and may be associated with the loss of not only economic independence, but also the integrity of the state. Given the traditional caution of the Russian leadership, this means readiness for a relatively tough scenario of the situation.
Hardly anyone will argue that in the current social and economical format, Russia will not be able to effectively fight to preserve the positions won in the last four or five years. However, the evolving confrontational situation around Russia gives it the opportunity to more toughly fight for influence during the development of a new global economic architecture. The question of whether Russia now its medium-term strategy has, relevant to the conditions of the emerging economic multipolarity, is becoming far from theoretical. And the ability of the dominant groups and clans in the elite to launch the mechanisms of economic and social modernisation will determine the ability of the elite to play a greater role in global processes than under the former system. The contours of the future global economy, the global political architecture and the institutional infrastructure form an approximate request for the formula of Russian modernisation.
Russia is on the periphery of the competition for influence in the new architecture of the world economy, but there are several areas where its influence is close to the decisive one:
– energy, including the latest technology. Although Russia hasn’t reached the level of the leader in the competition for a new technological platform in the global energy sector, the current situation gives us a new chance;
– integrated defense technologies and security services, the demand for which will only grow in the process of global transformations.
– global logistics. Russia, a decade ago considered to be exclusively the object of development, was able to demonstrate the ability to configure and implement the largest logistics projects independently.
With serious efforts at the national level, the emergence of the fourth segment of Russia’s global influence, the chemical industry, is possible. There is a significant potential for the formation of global influence in the turnover of rare-earth metals and special metallurgy, although this is a “niche” sector by definition. However, positions in it can be transformed into a decisive influence in the new materials sector.
These spheres of dominant influence are not enough to claim a decisive role in shaping the new architecture of the global economy, especially in the conditions of the lack of self-sufficiency of the Russian market and Russia’s inability to form a confidently controlled system of “satellite” markets. A negative role is played by Russia’s inability to form the investment component of its economic policy adequate to the new conditions. The situation of an “investment cemetery” in Russia is the most obvious threat to the prospects of increasing its influence on the formation of a new global economic architecture.
Modernisation in Russia will occur against the background of a relatively high level of military-political risks focused on it. This may resemble the post-war period, when a comprehensive counteraction was carried out against the policies of the USSR to restore the economy and increase its influence, using both military and economic-restrictive means. The model of pre-war (the 1930s – early 1940s) modernisation based on exploiting the contradictions of the largest capitalist countries, who perceived the USSR as an economically ignored marginal force, is much less likely.
Key system approaches to the implementation of specific modernisation projects could be the following:
– creation of new regionally oriented focal points of economic growth. Russia has the resources to implement two, a maximum of three regional development projects simultaneously, initially diversified. It is necessary to prioritise and control resources at the highest political level properly. Russia needs a new economic geography;
– advanced technological development in the main clusters based on the concentration of investment resources and the creation of special conditions of operation. It is necessary to return to the system of “organisational projects,”organizationally closed large technological and production projects implemented in special economic conditions under the supervision of top management. The organisational project should be aimed at creating a full-fledged new branch of the real sector of the economy with appropriate technological, industrial and social ties. Now Russia is able to carry out no more than two organisational projects at the same time, but this is still sufficient given the narrowness of investment opportunities;
– preservation, maintenance of economic growth of industries related to the “traditional” industry (the industry of the “second” and “third” modernisations) through the access to working capital and embedding these industries in the emerging regionalised centres. In the traditional areas of Russian industry, it is advisable to borrow elements of Donald Trump’s policy, considering differences in the structure and scale of the economy. Traditional branches of the Russian industry can and should become export-oriented. The policy of the Russian government to support exports is quite adequate, but it is only one of the directions of the country’s system modernisation, which is unable to replace the rest. The “export” nature of traditional industries should be compensated by the presence of internal drivers for new territorial-industrial clusters;
– managed formation of new civil society in opposition to the trends of its virtualisation. Overcoming the trends of social atomization is necessary. Dialogue with socially active groups expressing consolidated public interests is more strategically viable than the marginalisation and exclusion of significant social strata from active economic life. Russia needs institutionalised clusters (regional and sectoral) with new social paradigms of behavior. This will be the “Russian World 2.0”, adequate to the era of post-globalisation;
– Recreation of the system of continuous education and permanent training/retraining of personnel. This is a major social and managerial challenge, requiring the revival of the authority of higher education and scientific activity as an elite sphere. It is also necessary to go beyond the limits of formalistic scientometric indicators in scientific activity and the formation within the Russian economic and cultural ecumene of a system of scientific and scientific-practical schools and platforms for the full-time and part-time interaction of professionally close groups outside the communication space alone.
The collapse of the global economic mainstream poses a real danger of imposing modernisation phantoms on Russia, fictitious, purely information-manipulative areas of modernisation, which suck investment and organisational resources out of the country, directing them into “unsuitable” dead-end areas. Such modernisation phantoms are “perpendicular” to the practical tasks facing Russia. We have already witnessed several attempts to insert the fictitious vectors of modernisation into the Russian intellectual space, the most notable of which was the topic of blockchain and cryptocurrency. In such conditions, the most important thing is to determine the strategic vectors of goal-setting in technologies that will allow Russia to fight for a worthy place in the new world division of labor.