[Marxism] Is Russia imperialist?
jjonas at nic.fi
Thu Oct 25 09:58:57 MDT 2007
Marvin Gandall wrote:
> Limited financial resources? China and Russia aren't imperialist states -
> their foreign policy is defensive and they're not acquiring colonies or
> dependencies - but both have huge foreign exchange reserves which are being
> put to use abroad by their corporations and state-run investment funds.
> China now has some of the largest banks in the world, and is rapidly
> developing its productive forces. Western bankers complain, in fact, about
> being denied full access to China's booming capital markets.
I did some googling some time ago in order to clarify my understanding
on how to relate to Russia. This is because the Finnish Communist Party
passed a resolution in its party congress last summer that said:
"The cooperation with Russia offers great possibilities for us Finns.
[..] While being concerned over the undemocratic characteristics in the
Russian developments - e.g. harrassment of communists as well as many
shortcomings in labour and social rights - we reject the attempts to
resurrect Cold War threats and anti-Russian sentiment."
While a certain hatred of Russians is a real enough thing in Finland, my
gut feeling told me that this is not the right way to talk about Russia;
the text sounded more like Russia was still "a kind of" Soviet Union,
whose difficulties and "undemocratic characteristics" were to be
What finally triggered my small-scale research was the editorial in the
party's weekly, Tiedonantaja, last July. It dealt with the meeting of
SCO, a group set up for military cooperation by Russia, China and
smaller Asian states (and with India and Pakistan as observer members),
and the conclusion was that "the SCO has become a significant
counterweight to the hegemonic aims of the USA" and that "Russia and
China have had enough of the aggression of the Bush government and are
taking the challenge now seriously. Developing the cooperation within
the SCO is one way to respond to the challenge."
So I did some googling, and this is what i found:
"Foreign investors say Russia is becoming more competitive than before
with China, India, Brazil and other emerging markets as a magnet for
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), according to the full report on a
survey of 155 current and potential investors released today by the
Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) and The PBN Company. Summary
findings of the survey were presented last month to Minister German Gref
and other government officials at a FIAC Standing Committee meeting in
"The survey found that most current investors in Russia experienced
significant year-on-year growth in both sales and profits. Four in 10
reported that 2005 sales increased more than 30 percent, and nearly
three in 10 said profits grew in excess of 30 percent. More than 90
percent said they plan on increasing both their business operations and
investments in the next three years."
According to the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, foreign investment in
Russia is growing fast:
"Foreign investments in Russia grew 31.7 percent in January-September as
compared with the same period last year and amounted to 35.323 billion
dollars, the Federal State Statistics Service reported on Monday. The
total amount of accumulated investments in the Russian economy equalled
129.998 billion dollars as of the end of September 2006, which is 34.8
percent more as compared with the amount of investments accumulated by
the end of September 2005, the Prime-Tass economic news agency reported.
Cyprus, the Netherlands and Luxemburg are the biggest investors in
Russia, accounting respectively for 21.6 percent, 17.3 percent and 15
percent of all investments in the country. Great Britain with its 8.8
percent of total investments in Russia, Germany (7.9 percent), the
United States (5.9 percent), France and the Virgin Islands (2.5 percent
of investments each), Switzerland and Japan (2 percent of investments
each) are also on the list of ten major investors in the Russia economy."
But the Russian capitalist is not too much behind, as far as controlling
foreign productive assets and labour. An article in Washington Post on
Russian investments abroad says:
"Foreign investment is a major indicator of investment activity in
general. A total of $130 billion in foreign capital accumulated in the
Russian economy by late September of 2006. From January to September,
the Russian economy received $35.3 billion in foreign investment, or
31.7 percent more than in the same period last year."
Then the tone becomes alarmed:
"It's interesting that Russian investment abroad amounted to nearly the
same sum: $34.6 billion, registering a 51.4 percent increase over last
year's figure. There is little doubt that the total figure for the year
will be even higher. _However, Russian investment abroad will still
nearly equal foreign investment in Russia._
"How should we react to this? On one hand, it's not necessarily bad that
Russian investment abroad is growing. On the other hand, this growth far
outpaces the growth of investment in Russia. _This means that in the
near future Russian investment abroad will exceed foreign investment in
the Russian economy. Russia is becoming a kind of global donor._
"It's good that Russia has money to invest, but it's also clear that it
desperately needs investment itself. The task of making Russia more
attractive to investors is still before us, and the above-mentioned
trends confirm this."
Russia is well-known for having massive energy resources within its
borders, but the Russian capitalists are also hungry for the resources
in other counties (leaving aside here the fact that some, or a lot, of
the "Russian" resources probably are situated where indigenous peoples
live. I have to leave this aside, because I don't know too much details.)
In May 2006 president Putin signed a deal on continuing and enhancing
the gas reserves of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan with Russian
"[I]t is already clear that Gazprom would control the all phases of the
process: field development, gas acquisition, pipeline construction, and
transit operation. [..] Combined with Russian-led gas field development,
these pipeline projects are designed to perpetuate Russia's monopoly on
Central Asian gas, resulting in stronger economic and political leverage
on America's European allies."
But the Russians are not alone: at least in Kazakstan, it is trusted
that Western companies operating there would sell their gas into the
pipe controlled by Russia.
And there's other kinds of "international cooperation" too:
"[Russia] has agreed to give Total a 25% stake in the infrastructure
company that will develop the field and share the profit. A further 24%
could still be doled out to Norwegian or American companies, while
Gazprom will retain 51% of the infrastructure company and 100% of the
"The deal with Total completes a set of joint ventures that Gazprom has
built in Germany, Italy, Britain and now France. In Germany, Gazprom has
a joint venture with BASF and a close relationship with Ruhrgas which
owns about 7% of Gazprom and has a seat on its board. Germany's former
chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, is the boss of a joint Russo-German
consortium that is building the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany."
Besides the energy sector, Russia has a strong position in steel
industry. The most profitable steel monopoly Severstal "continues to
push for a global reach however, and says that 40% of its steel is now
produced outside of Russia and half its Russian production is exported."
Another major steel company, now completely in private hands,
Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works launched a ten billion investment in
India to build a steel factory.
The Russian steel company that's producing the most steel, Evraz, is
registered in Luxemburg, even though most of its functions are in
Russia, and most of the personnel is Russian.
Unlike the Finnish Communist Party, I can't really "understand" this
kind of "cooperation". Even though Russia's power can't be compared to
that of the EU or the USA, I guess the first WW is still though of in
terms of an inter-imperialist war, where Germany, France, Russia, Italy
and Britain were on the move with the same kind of aims, even though
Russia was more backward then too..?
Russia also has troops and military bases outside its borders; according
to the Kommersant, 25 of them altogether. While writing this I think
Putin's offer to the US on using a Russian base in Azerbaijan to monitor
Iran is still on the table. Whether it's an attempt to call Bush's cards
on whether the radar bases in Poland and the Czech republic are really
intended to monitor Iran, and not Russia, remains open, but in any case
is just an example how Putin has the nerve to offer US the use of a
Russian base in and another country's territory. Based on this report,
the Azeris don't really like Putin's offer, and would rather that the
base be shut down:
According to Moscow Newsn - the article is entitled "Russia Boosts
Military Presence at Home and Abroad" - "Russia is looking at boosting
its military presence in the Mediterranean with plans to set up two
naval bases in Syria."
With the agreement signed on 4th June between Russia and Tajikistan,
"Tajikistan is to relinquish land needed for establishing a Russian army
base, and will cede to Russia the military ranges that the Russian
military currently uses in Tajikistan. The bare land and ranges are to
be handed over "free of charge and without a time limit." Presumably,
the value of the rent is to be deducted from Tajikistan's debts to Russia."
Other countries where Russia has bases and troops are Armenia Belarus,
Georgia, Kazakstan, Kirgistan, Moldova and the Ukraine. In Georgia,
Moldova and the Ukraine, withdrawal had been demanded but implementation
had been slow.
For several of the bases, Russia doesn't need to pay anything; the host
countries cover the costs.
No doubt Russia is creating a counterweight for US (and the EU), but
what kind of counterweight is it..? Based on the material above, Russia
- if not quite yet an imperialist country par excellence - seems at
least to be on an imperialist trajectory.
Russia is not a country whose government I would be inclined to support
in a case of war between Russia and NATO countries (if it ever came to
that). In two world wars, Finland has been a battleground in a war
between Russia and Germany, the former worried that Germany might use
Finland's territory as a launchpad for attack against Russia, and the
latter doing just what Russia was afraid of. I think in a war between
Russia and NATO countries Finland (not a member of NATO) had better
steer clear from taking a side in the war, and instead focusing on
repelling whoever tries to use its territory for an attack on its
enemy.. what I see as the likely causes for war between Russia and NATO
is 1) continuing penetration of NATO into what used to be Russia's
buffer zone, and 2) the Caspian sea oil and gas, and who gets to pull
the strings of the smaller countries there..
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