Soviet Union disintegration has become a real disaster for most post-soviet countries and a big challenge for their elites. We cannot say yet that all of them have successfully undergone transition, but some important experience already exists.
Growth, reforms and transition in contemporary world
The world is changing. The leaders in economic sphere are shifting: Asia is becoming more influential. This is undoubtable in terms of economic development, a fact that no one can rightfully deny.
On the contrary, post-soviet countries, that have passed the transition, were in a long period of recession, caused by this transformation. It took from 4 (Armenia) to 10 (Ukraine) years for these countries to recover and start developing. Through this period GDP in some of them declined twice (or even more: Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan) in comparison with the soviet period.
One of the main reason of such dramatic results was the absence of strategic, long-term plan or any other system program of reforms and transition. Addressing to these plans and programs we mean public strategies and official documents, that reflect real political consensus and can be implemented in public administration. We also should keep in mind such specific features of post-soviet politics, like high influence of informal institutions and mechanism, which is often connected with neo-patrimonial type of political relations and so-called “hybrid” character of political regime and institutions.
Post-communist transition was oriented to the West as an attractor and an ideal, and also was supported by Western countries and international institutions. Now, when western countries are declining in economic sphere and struggling with new problems in internal politics, like populism and separatism, all the Post-Soviet countries are meeting a new challenge – how to deal with Asia. Its well-known, that Asian success almost in all cases was based on strategic plans in economy and has its so-called “specific features” in political sphere, sometimes looking like similar to the post-soviet ones. Can their policies be harmonized, for example within the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative?
”Planning” as a forbidden word in a transition epoch
After the Soviet Union disintegration “planning” in terms of the state activity in economic sphere has become almost forbidden word. Planning in socio-economic sphere was closely associated with so-called “totalitarian” administrative system (administrativno-komandnaya sistema), that is why all the attempts to save or modify it were proclaimed as revisionism.
Radical reforms in economic sphere, initiated after the collapse of the USSR, declared the dismantling of the state planning system, which was to be changed by new, more perfect “market” mechanisms.
For a long period of time the word “planning” could not be pronounced in public policy in Russia. The history of the Federal Law ”On state forecasting and programs of socio-economic development in Russian Federation”, adopted in 1995 was good illustration of this thesis – with no word on planning either in the name or in any norm: only forecasting and development of the state programs.
Political disintegration vs economic determination
Successfully, there were other examples of planning acceptance in public policy, and all of them were outside Russia.
Kazakhstan, the nearest neighbor with the longest border, while struggling with its political challenges has found its own “formula of success” building “nationalism” inside and “unionism” outside. Russia was chosen by Kazakhstan elite as an attractor in its pragmatic policy.
Belarus, another close neighbor, which owns the shortest path from Moscow to the West and is the closest in cultural aspects (from 80 to 90 per cent of its citizens do not divide their identity with Russians one) did not have any political reasons for the disintegration with Russia. For this highly developed industrial country the main goal has become full access to Russian market.
These countries started designing their formal strategies and plans outside Russia to bring Russia into the integration.
Planning in Russia: from indicative to strategic
The 1998 year crisis in Russia clearly showed the need in new course in public policy: more strategic and more state-oriented. So called “conservative”, or state-oriented group of politicians with new Prime-minister Primakov and, later, Mr Putin as prime-minister and president were trying to establish new type of economic policy, based on forecast, long-term goals with clear indicators, which would be the basis for state programs.
After 9-year development new “Concept of long-term socio-economic development” had appeared in 2008. It was really long-awaited baby after 9-year pregnancy, that reflected strategic political consensus among Russian elite, that finally was reached. But this Concept had no chance to be implemented.
The 2008 year crisis and military conflict in Osetia initiated “national security turnover” in strategic planning. The focus of the political attention was shifted into the security. As a result, in 2009 New National Security Strategy was signed. The main idea of the document, based on the analysis of the reasons of the World economic crisis, was that global economy, its institutions cannot prevent and manage crises, and the US economy can produce huge amount of risks for other economies, that can threaten the core national interests. This, together with the understanding of American influence in post-soviet states, especially by supporting color revolutions, framed new strategic vision, where the security was leading in comparison with the socio-economic development.
This “security turnover” has become very helpful for strategic planning. As the ideologists of this concept were mainly technocrats, they supported the development of Federal Law ”On strategic planning” which was finally signed in 2014. This law is some kind “technocratic utopia” of how to develop national strategies. It could be very important if we had strong influence of formal institutions, but now the practice allows us to describe it like some kind of “sleeping institution”.