Dmitry Medvedev: Go Russia!
Dear citizens, dear friends! This article has been written by me to share my understanding of our strategic goals with each and every one of you, to share my view on the present and the future of our country, and to encourage everyone who has something to say to join the discussion on these issues. Your assessments, remarks and proposals will be taken into account when the president’s address to the Federal Council is prepared. They will also be taken into account when development plan of our state is drawn up. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In several months Russia will enter a new decade of the new century. No doubt, such milestones and round figures have a symbolic, rather than a practical meaning. But they make us think about our past. They make us assess the present and think about the future, think about the future of each and every of us, about the future of our children and of our country.
Let us first answer a simple, but a very serious question. Should we continue sticking to the primitive economy based on natural resources, to the deep-rooted corruption, to an outdated habit to rely only on the state, on foreign countries, on any kind of a cure-all, on anyone but on ourselves? Does Russia, overloaded with such burdens, have a future?
Next year we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of our victory in the Great Patriotic war. This anniversary will remind us of the fact that the time we are living in was the future for the heroes, who won freedom for us. It will remind us that the people who won over a cruel and a very strong enemy back then should, or rather must, win over corruption and underdevelopment. We must make our country modern and comfortable to live in.
The generations of today received a great inheritance, which we deserved, which we earned through the efforts of our predecessors. Sometimes it was done at the cost of hardships and victims. We boast a vast territory and enormous natural resources, solid industrial potential, great scientific, technical, educational, artistic achievements, a glorious history of our army and navy, as well as nuclear weapons. We also enjoy the reputation of a state that has always played an important and, sometimes, the most important role in great historic events.
How are we going to deal with this heritage? How will we multiply it? What will Russia be like for my son, for the children and grandchildren of my compatriots? What will be Russia’s position, and so the position of our descendants and successors, or future Russian generations among other nations – in the world system of the division of labor, in the system of international relations, in the world culture? What should be done to constantly improve the living standard of Russian citizens today and in the future? What should we do to make our society richer? How do we give more freedom to it? How do we make it more humane and attractive? What should we do for our state to give everyone who needs it a better education, an interesting job, a good income, comfortable environment for a private life and creative work?
I have answers to these questions. And before I formulate them, I would like to give my assessment of the current situation.
The world financial crisis has shown that our current state of affairs leaves much to be desired. Twenty years of robust changes did not free our country from the dependence on natural resources. Our modern economy repeated the greatest sin of the Soviet economy, as it largely ignores the needs of the individual. National business with some small exceptions does not invent anything, it does not create things or technologies needed by people. We just trade the things, which were not produced by us – we trade in raw materials and imported goods. The goods produced in Russia are, basically, not very competitive.
Hence – a greater drop in production in terms of the current crisis compared to other economies and out-of-limits fluctuations of the stock market. All this shows that we failed to do all the necessary things during previous years. And in many cases what we did was far from being right.
The energy and working efficiency at the majority of our enterprises are shamefully low. But that’s half the problem. The problem is that it seems that it is not of much concern to the owners, directors, chief engineers and officials.
As consequence, Russia’s influence on the level of global economic processes is not as great as we would want it to be. Surely, a country can’t have an absolute influence in the epoch of globalization. It would have been harmful. But our country should have significant possibilities, as is becoming to the historical role of Russia.
The democratic institutes have been generally formed and stabilized but their quality is far from being ideal. The civil society is weak, the level of self-organization and self-management are not high.
With each year, there are less and less of us left.
Alcoholism, smoking, road accidents, not enough access to many medical technologies, and ecological problems cut down lives of millions of people. A tentative birth-rate increase doesn’t compensate for the population decrease so far.
We’ve managed to get the country together and stop the centrifugal tendencies. But there are still many problems left, including the most acute ones. The terrorist attacks on Russia continue. People who live in the republics of the North Caucuses forgot about peace. Military law enforcement staff, state and municipal officials and civilians die. Yes, those crimes are committed with the support of international bandit groups. But let’s admit it – the situation wouldn’t have been that acute if the social and economic development of the South of Russia was really productive.
So, an inefficient economy, a half-soviet social sphere, an infant democracy, negative demographic tendencies, an unstable Caucuses – all those are big problems, even for a state like Russia.
We shouldn’t dramatize, however. A lot is being done. Russia is working.
It is not the half-paralyzed half-state it used to be just 10 years ago. All social systems are functioning. But this is not enough, as they just reproduce the current model without developing it. They don’t change the established life-style and retain bad habits.
It’s impossible to gain leadership based on oil and gas market conditions. We need to understand, to feel the complexity of all our problems and discuss them openly, in order to get down to action. At the end of it all, it’s not the raw exchange market that should decide the destiny of Russia, but our self-perception and an insight into who we are, our history and our future – rather, it should be about our intellect, a realistic self-esteem, our strength, the sense of dignity and an entrepreneurial spirit.
By naming the five priorities of the technological development, by suggesting specific directions to modernize the political system, measures to strengthen the judicial branch and counter corruption, I proceed from my perception of the future of Russia. And for that future I consider it necessary to free our country from the neglected social afflictions that chain down its creative energy and slow us down from the common advancing forward. Those are:
1. The age-long economic backwardness and the habit to live off exports of raw materials that are exchanged for ready-made products. The elements of the innovational system have been developed throughout Russian history and some gains have been made by Peter the Great, the last tsars and the Bolsheviks. But the price of that success was too high, because it was attained at the cost of extreme strains and at the limits of the totalitarian state machine.
2. The age-long corruption that has been exhausting Russia since old days. It is still excessively present in all noticeable areas of economic and public activities. But the case is not just in excessive state interference. Business also stands to blame. Many entrepreneurs are concerned with how to bribe bureaucrats to gain ‘control over the flows’ of the redistribution of property rather than investing into unique technologies and products or finding talented inventors.
3. A widely popular paternalistic sentiment in society. People are convinced that the state, or someone else, should solve their problems, but not each particular person in his or her work place. A desire to ‘make themselves’ and pursue personal successes step by step is not in our national habit. This leads to a lack of initiative and new ideas, unsolved problems and a low level of public discussion in society, including critical statements. Public consent and support are usually expressed through silence, while objections which are often emotional and biting are at the same time superficial and irresponsible. Well, it’s not for the first one hundred years that Russia has been facing these problems.
We can sometimes hear the talk that chronic social diseases cannot be cured completely, that traditions are unshakable and that history has a custom to be repeated.
But there was a time when serfdom and total and mass illiteracy seemed to be insurmountable problems. And yet they were overcome.
As for traditions, their influence is certainly considerable. But while fitting in into any new era, they undergo changes. Some of them simply disappear, and not all of them are useful. For me, traditions are nothing more than indisputable values which should be preserved. They include inter-confessional and inter-ethnic peace, military valor, a sense of duty, hospitality and kindness that are inherent to our people. But bribery, larceny, mental and spiritual laziness and drinking are the vices that insult our traditions. We should be determined to get rid of them.
And, of course, modern Russia is not repeating its past. The time we are living in is really new. Not only because it’s flowing ahead just like any other time but also because it opens up enormous opportunities to our country and to each of us in particular. There were no such opportunities twenty, thirty or more than a hundred or three hundred years ago.
The price for impressive results of the two greatest modernizations in Russian history – the one under Peter the Great (imperial modernization) and the second under the Soviet rule – was devastation, humiliation and physical extermination of millions of our compatriots. We have no right to judge our predecessors. But we cannot but recognize that the preservation of a human life was not, to put it mildly, a priority for the state in those years. Unfortunately, it’s a fact. Today, for the first time in our history, we have a chance to prove to ourselves and the whole world that Russia can develop democratically and that the country’s transition to a higher level of civilized development is possible, and that it will be carried out with non-violent methods – not by coercion but by conviction; not by suppression but through disclosure of the creative potential of each individual; through interest but not intimidation; not through opposition but the rapprochement of the interests of an individual, society and the state.
We really live in a very special time. We have a chance to build a new, free, prosperous and strong Russia. As the president of this country, I feel it my duty to do everything within my power to ensure that we use this chance in full measure.
In the next few decades Russia should become a country, the prosperity of which will depend not so much on raw materials but its intellectual resources: a ‘clever’ economy which creates unique knowledge and exports most advanced technologies and innovations.
I’ve recently defined five strategic vectors for the economic modernization of this country.
First, we will become one of the leading countries in terms of efficiency of production, transportation and energy use. We will develop and take to internal and external markets new types of fuel. Second, we will preserve and upgrade to a new qualitative level our nuclear technologies. Third, Russian experts will continue modernizing information technologies and will succeed in producing a major impact on processes of development of global free-to–all information networks by using super computers and other necessary material facilities. Fourth, we will have our own ground and space infrastructure for the transmission of all kinds of information; our satellites will ‘see’ the whole “world” and will help our compatriots and people in all countries to communicate with each other, travel, conduct scientific research and be occupied with agricultural and industrial output. Fifth, Russia will advance to the leading positions in the production of separate types of medical equipment, super modern diagnostics methods and medicine for treating virus infections, cardio-vascular and neurological diseases and cancer.
While sticking to these five strategies of hi-tech leadership, we will also pay constant attention to developing the most significant traditional industries and branches, the agro-industrial complex, in particular. One-third of us lives in rural areas. The availability of modern social amenities to rural residents, the growth of their personal incomes and the improvement of their living and working conditions will always be our top priority.
And it stands to reason that Russia will be well armed. It will be enough if an idea to threaten us or our allies doesn’t occur to anyone.
These goals are realistic and the tasks set for their attainment are complicated but solvable. Detailed and step-by-step plans for advancement in the above-mentioned directions are already being drafted. We will encourage and stimulate scientific and technological creative work. First and foremost, we will support young scientists and inventors. The secondary and high school will train a sufficient number of experts for promising spheres. Scientific establishments will focus their efforts on breakthrough projects. Lawmakers will pass all decisions necessary for comprehensive support of the spirit of innovation in all spheres of public life and for the creation of the market of ideas, discoveries and new technologies. State and private companies will receive all-round support in all their undertakings to create demand for products of innovative work. Foreign companies and scientific organizations will be granted the most favorable conditions for the construction in Russia of research and design centers. We will invite the best scientists and engineers from various countries to come and work in Russia. And what’s most important, we will explain to our young people that knowledge which others don’t possess, intellectual superiority and an ability to create things necessary to people are major competitive advantages. Russian poet Alexander Pushkin wrote: “There’s the highest degree of bravery – the bravery of invention and creation where the creative thought has such a vast range.” An inventor, an innovator, a scientist, a teacher and an entrepreneur introducing new technologies will become the most respected people in society that will give them everything they need for their fruitful work.
Of course, an innovative economy cannot emerge overnight. It’s part of a culture based on humanistic values: it strives to change the world for the sake of a better quality of life, for the sake of man’s liberation from poverty, diseases, fear and injustices. Talented people seeking renewal and are capable of creating something better that will not fly in from another planet. They are already here among us, and a convincing proof of that is provided by the results of international intellectual Olympiads, the practice of patenting Russian inventions by foreign countries and a true hunt waged by the world’s largest companies and universities for our experts. We – the state, society and family – should learn to find, grow, educate and take care of such people.
I consider technological development to be a public and state priority, also, because scientific and technological progress is inseparable from progress of political systems. Democracy was believed to be born in ancient Greece. But at that time, democracy was not for all. Freedom was a privilege of the minority. A full-fledged democracy that established universal suffrage and legally-binding equality of all citizens in the face of the law has emerged quite recently – some eighty or one hundred years ago. Democracy became massive when the production of essential consumer goods and services also became massive; when the level of technological development of Western civilization opened general access to elementary benefits, to education and public health systems and information exchanges. Each new invention that improves the quality of life is accompanied by an additional degree of human freedom. It makes the conditions of human existence more comfortable and social relations fairer. The ‘cleverer’, more intellectual and effective our economy is going to be, the more prosperous our citizens will be and a freer, fairer and more humane political system will, on the whole, become a reality.
The spreading of modern information technologies which we will promote in every possible way creates unprecedented opportunities for realizing such fundamental political freedoms as freedom of speech and assembly and for exposing and liquidating the seats of corruption as well as for direct access to practically any venue of any events, for indirect sharing of the opinions and occupations of people around the globe. Then, a society will become as open and transparent as never before, even if the ruling class doesn’t like it.
The political system of Russia will also be open to the maximum degree, flexible and internally complicated. It will be adequate to a dynamic, mobile, transparent and multi-dimensional social structure and will match the political culture of free, prosperous, critically-minded and confident people.
Like in most democratic states, parliamentary parties which regularly replace one another will be the leaders in political struggle. Federal and regional bodies of executive power (not vice versa) will form parties and coalitions and nominate candidates to the posts of the head of state, regional leaders and heads of local self-government bodies. They will have a lengthy experience of civilized political competition, a responsible and meaningful interaction with voters, inter-party cooperation, and they will search for compromise options for the solution of thorny social problems. They will unite in one political whole all parts of society, citizens of all nationalities, various groups of people and Russian lands vested with broad powers.
The political system will be renovated and improved in the free competition of open political associations and with an inter-party consensus preserved on strategic issues of foreign policy, social stability, national security, the basics of constitutional order, the protection of the nation’s sovereignty and the rights and freedoms of citizens, the protection of property rights, non-acceptance of extremism, support for the structures of civil society and all forms of self-organization and self-government. Such a consensus exists in all modern democracies.
This year we have started moving towards building such a political system. Political parties have received additional opportunities for influencing the formation of the executive authorities in Federal entities and municipalities. Formal requirements for a number of party formation issues have been softened. Conditions for putting forward candidates for the State Duma election have been simplified. Guarantees of equal access to the state mass media by the parliamentary parties have been legally established. A number of other measures have been taken as well.
Not all are happy with the tempos of our movement in this direction. They talk about a need of boosting the changes of the political system. At times they even talk about returning to the ‘democratic’ nineties. But the return to a paralyzed state is unacceptable.
Thus I have to upset supporters of a permanent revolution. We are not going to hurry up. Rush and hastiness in the matter of political reforms had already caused tragic consequences in a number of times in our history. Russia had been placed on the verge of disintegration. We have no right of risking the social stability and threatening security of our citizens for the sake of some abstract theories. We have no right of sacrificing the stable life, even for the highest goals. Confucius noted long ago: ‘Impatience in small things destroys the greatest plans’. We’ve had enough of that in the past. Reforms are for people, not people for reforms. At the same time I am not going to make those happy who are satisfied with the status quo; those who fear changes and don’t welcome them. Changes will come. They will be gradual, well-thought-out and phased. But they will be persistent and consistent.
The Russian democracy will not mechanically copy the western patterns. The civil community cannot be bought with foreign grants. Political culture cannot be remodeled by simple imitation of political traditions of leading communities. Freedom cannot be written out of the book even if it’s a really clever book. We will definitely learn from other nations. We will adopt their experience and consider their success and errors in development of democratic institutions. But no one will ever live our lives for us. Only our own experience of democratic construction will give us the right of stating that we are free, we are responsible and we are successful.
Democracy needs protection, just like the basic rights and freedoms of our citizens do. It needs protection, first of all from corruption that causes abuse of power, a lack of freedom and injustice. We have just started forming such a protection mechanism. The court should be its central part. We are to form the modern efficient court that will be acting in accordance with the new legislation on the judicial machinery and will be based on the modern understanding of the law. We are also to get rid of the lack of respect towards the law and the court which, as I’ve said many times, had become our sad ‘tradition’. But in the formation of the new judicial power, races and campaigning are unacceptable, as well as chit-chat that the very system had been rotten and that it would be easier to hire a new judicial and law-enforcement corps than to change them. We don’t have ‘new’ judges or ‘new’ prosecutors, policemen, special services personnel, officials, businessmen and so on. We have to make proper conditions for the acting law-enforcement corps, firmly getting rid of easy riders. We have to teach the law enforcement officers to protect and secure rights and freedoms, resolving the conflicts in the legal field justly, clearly and efficiently. We have to eliminate illegal influence on judicial acts no matter what motivation stands behind it. At the end of the day, the judicial system is capable of figuring out what’s in the interests of the state and what reflects self-interests of a corrupted bureaucrat or entrepreneur. We have to develop the taste for the legal culture, orderliness and respect for others, including such an important right as a right for property. Courts, largely supported by the community, are called to clear the country of corruption. This is a difficult task, but it’s a realizable one too. Other countries have accomplished this, anyways.
We will be doing our utmost for normalizing the lives of people in the Russian Caucasus. Economic and humanitarian programs for the south of the country will be reconsidered and specified at the earliest time. Separate and very clear criteria of efficiency of the work of the state structure leaders on the Caucasus issues will be developed. First of all, this includes federal and regional ministries and departments that are responsible for the quality of policy in the area of industrial manufacturing, finance, social development, education and culture. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies will continue suppressing bandit groups that have been trying to intimidate populations of certain Caucasus republics into adopting their delirious ideas and barbarian orders.
Negative demographic tendencies should be slowed down and stopped. The raising of medical service standards, motivation for fertility, safety on the roads and in industry, the fight against the pandemic of alcoholism and development of physical culture and mass sports should become the strategy and, at the same time, routinely realizable state tasks.
Whatever area is affected by transformations, their final goal is to raise the living standards in Russia.
Providing conditions to ensure citizens have a place to live, a job and medical service; taking care of retired, protecting children and supporting people with limited abilities – these are direct obligations of the authorities at all levels.
Often speeches of the Russian politicians remind us that, according to our constitution, Russia is a social state. This is really true, but we shouldn’t forget that the modern social state is not an overblown Soviet welfare and is not a special distributor of goods that come from above. It is a complicated and balanced system of economic incentives and social guarantees, and ethical and behavioural norms, and its being productive crucially depends upon the quality of labour and level of training of each one of us.
Society can distribute through the state only what it earns. Living above our means is immoral, unreasonable and dangerous. We should be raising our economy in order to earn more. Not only gaining from oil price raises at some point, but actually making more.
We will promote the efficiency of the social sphere along all vectors, giving increased attention to tasks of material and medical security for veterans and old-age pensioners.
Modernizing Russian democracy, forming a new economy, as I see it, is only possible if we make use of post-industrial society’s intellectual resources. Without any complexes, openly and pragmatically! The matter of harmonizing relations with Western democracies is not a matter of taste or of some personal preferences for some or other political groups. Our internal financial and technological capabilities are currently insufficient for a real upturn in the quality of life.
We need money and technologies of the countries of Europe, America and Asia. Those countries, in turn, need Russia’s capacities.
We are extremely interested in a rapprochement between and mutual penetration of our cultures and economies.
Of course, there are no relations free from contradictions. There will always be controversial themes and reasons for differences. But offense-taking, conceit, complexes, and distrust, let alone hostility, must be expelled, on a reciprocal basis from Russia’s relations with the leading democratic countries.
We have many tasks in common, some of which are such undoubted priorities that concern virtually every inhabitant of the Earth as the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and the reduction of the risk of unfavorable technogenic climate change.
We should know how to make our partners interested and how to involve them in joint activities. If, to that end, something ought to be changed in our own selves, if prejudices and illusions have to be discarded, this is what needs to be done. The case in point, of course, is not a policy of unilateral concessions. The lack of will and incompetence can result neither in respect, nor in gratitude, nor still in benefit. This already happened in our recent history. The naïve ideas about the infallible and happy West and about an eternally underdeveloped Russia are unacceptable, offensive and dangerous. But a no-less dangerous path is one of confrontation, self-isolation, reciprocal fault-finding and grievances.
It is not nostalgia that should determine our foreign policy, but the strategic long-term goals of Russia’s modernization. In this context Russia, as one of the leading economies, a nuclear power, and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, must openly and directly state its position, defending it in every area. Fidgeting and time-serving are out of the question. And in cases where our own interests are endangered, they must be resolutely defended. I already happened to speak about these principles of our foreign policy in August of last year.
Alongside active work in the Western vector, we should intensify our cooperation with the member-states of the EurAzEC, the CSTO, and the CIS. They are our closest strategic partners. We and they have tasks in common in modernizing our economies, assuring regional security, and working for a more just world order. We also should promote world cooperation with our SCO and BRIC partners.
Like every great people, the people of Russia has a brilliant and heroic history that inspires respect and admiration, but at the same time is controversial, difficult, and ambiguous.
Different people and different countries have a different perception of Russia. Much work still needs to be done in order to defend our historical legacy from distortion and political speculations. We must take a sober look at our past, seeing both grandiose victories and tragic mistakes, and things to be emulated, and manifestations of the best traits of the national character.
In any event, we will be attentive to our history, and we will respect it. We will primarily respect the role our country played to maintain a balanced world order throughout many centuries. Russia always, at all stages of its growth, sought to attain a fairer world order.
It is Russia that time and again gave its protection to smaller peoples that faced the threat of enslavement or even extermination. This was the case quite recently, when the Saakashili regime perpetrated a criminal attack against South Ossetia. Russia repeatedly ruined the adventurous plans of those who aspired to world domination. She was twice in the van of great coalitions: the 19th-century one that stopped Napoleon and the 20th-century one that crushed the Nazis. Both in wartime and in time of peace, if a fair case called for a resolute action, our people came to help. Russia was always a loyal ally at war and an honest partner in economic and diplomatic affairs.
In the future, Russia will be an active and respected participant in the world commonwealth of free nations, strong enough to bring significant influence to bear on decision-making of global consequence. She will also be strong enough to disallow anyone’s unilateral actions likely to cause damage to our national interests, or to have a negative effect on our internal affairs or to cause the level of earnings at home to decline, or to harm the security of Russians.
For this purpose, we, already at this stage, jointly with other countries, are working to achieve a reform in the supranational political and economic institutions. The aim of this modernization is to develop international relations and to take into account the interests of as many peoples and countries as possible. This work is aimed at imposing such rules of cooperation and dispute-settlement as should be based on modern views on equality and justice.
Such are my views on the historical role of our country, and on its future. Such are the answers I suggest to the questions of concern for each of us.
I invite to this cooperation everyone who shares my convictions. I also invite to cooperation those who disagree with me but who sincerely wish changes for the better.