The story of modern Russia can be summed up in two words- wasted potential. It is the largest exporter of natural gas, and the largest single-country exporter of oil in terms of absolute numbers. It should look like Norway, but alas, much of it looks roughly the same as it did in the 90’s. It has a large population of talented, highly technically proficient IT workers, but these are not utilized to diversify Russia’s economy and make it into a major producer of software and computer innovation. Depending on how you look at it, Russia either equals or just manages to beat the economy of the state of California by comparison, when it probably could have rivaled the US had it not been so mismanaged in recent years. Then along comes this, the largest solar power plant in Russia, which recently went online.
Why did I bother pointing this out? I’m not a big alternative energy buff, but I think the fact that the state can manage to open something like this in spite of sanctions and a plummeting economy is pretty impressive. It shows that Russia still slowly creeps forward. Let’s be honest, I can’t imagine the US government earmarking any more funding for solar energy after the Solyndra scandal. The well-financed conservative lobby has convinced a large portion of America that “fuck the environment” is a positive sentiment.
This just goes to show how sometimes Russia’s system actually has some advantages over that of America, yet due to corruption and a horrible ideology these levers are not put to good use. For years pundits have been saying that Obama should have created a “new New Deal,” fighting unemployment by hiring people to fix America’s infrastructure. As far as I know, that suggestion hasn’t been seriously taken up by anybody in the government, much less Obama himself. Even if they did entertain this idea, the money would go to private contractors first and foremost. By contrast, Putin could create a state enterprise to hire hundreds of thousands of people at decent living wages to fix up Russia’s infrastructure, which needs far more work than that of the United States. Putin theoretically could tell some people that he wants a modern hospital built in this or that town, and that every ruble needs to be accounted for or someone’s going to jail, but of course that’s not what actually happens. Instead officials get to skim their cuts out of the budget in exchange for loyalty, almost like a feudal system.
It’s really become a proverb for me, the story of Russia. Wasted potential. It would make a great epitaph if nations could have tombstones.