The ‘Putin doctrine’ is an economic catastrophe for Russia’s neighbours

Most of all that is of course a military, diplomatic, strategic and political issue. Western Europe, which should be standing up to Russian aggression, has allowed itself to become negligently dependent on its energy. 

Germany, which refuses to spend any serious money on defence, as well as being completely reliant on Russian gas, is most to blame, but so are many others. And yet while the politics are serious enough, the economics matter as well. The Putin doctrine will be a disaster for growth. 

In truth, these should surely be fast-growing nations. After all, they have all the ingredients in place that normally turbocharge developing countries. They have young populations. They have lots of natural resources. They are right at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, making them natural hubs for manufacturing and distribution. 

It is hard to think of a better place to put a factory right now than right on what used to be the Silk Road connecting two continents. And perhaps most of all they have the potential to catch up rapidly with the developed world, borrowing ideas and technologies proven elsewhere. 

It has worked in Taiwan, Vietnam, much of Africa, and of course in eastern and central Europe as well. It should work in the countries ringing Russia. The trouble is, an intellectually and economically dead form of autocracy is being imposed on all of them. 

Countries that are drained of freedom are quickly drained of entrepreneurship and initiative as well. 

Putin-ism may have been effective at cementing power for the Russian president and his coterie of billionaire oligarchs. But it has been a failure for the wider economy, with cronyism and corruption rife, and wealth purely dependent on the right connections. 

Just take a look at some of the figures for proof of that. If you go back to 1990, and the end of the old Soviet bloc, Russia had double the GDP per capita of Poland, and roughly the same as the Czech Republic ($3,400 per head in Russia, compared with $1,700 in Poland, and $3,900 in the what was then Czechoslovakia). 

And now? Both former satellites have raced ahead of the country that was once the master. Polish GDP per capita is 50pc higher than Russia’s ($15,000 per capita, compared with $10,000 for Russia), and the Czech Republic’s ($22,000) more than double, even though neither have any significant natural resources apart from some coal. 

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