Russia’s Economic Imperialism

Russia’s use of natural gas to exert economic and political pressure on Ukraine has caused grave concern in the West. But Russia’s pressure on Georgia has been even heavier – and has scarcely been noticed.

In Georgia, as in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin seeks to implement the doctrine of a “liberal empire” put forward in October 2003 by Anatoli Chubais, the chairman of United Energy System (RAO UES), Russia’s energy monopoly. According to Chubais, Russia will never find a place in either NATO or the European Union, so it must create an alternativeto both, a new empire of its own.

It can do this by using its huge and rich public-private monopolies to take over the key industries and economic institutions of former Soviet republics, thereby laying the groundwork for political domination. The resulting empire will be liberal, according to Chubais’s definition, because it can be built with money rather than tanks.

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