guriev28_Anatolij FominyhEyeEmGetty Images_kremlinplants Anatolij Fominyh/EyeEm/Getty Images

The Greening of the Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced that his country aims to become carbon neutral by 2060. This major policy shift reflects the European Union’s increasing commitment to its green agenda, as well as Putin’s desire to reduce Russia’s international isolation.

PARIS – In a 1970s-era Soviet joke, the Politburo resurrects Stalin and asks him what it should do to combat economic stagnation and widespread disillusion with communist ideals. Stalin proposes a two-part program: first, shoot all the communists, and second, paint the Kremlin green. “Why green?” the shocked Politburo members ask. A smiling Stalin replies: “I was sure there would be no questions about the first part.”

Given the growing state-sanctioned repression and use of torture in today’s Russia, this joke no longer seems quite so far-fetched or dated. In a March 2021 poll, 52% of respondents – by far the highest proportion in Russia’s post-Soviet history – said that they feared a return to tyranny. But what is even more striking is that the Russian government is now following Stalin’s second suggestion and turning the Kremlin green.

Of course, the fifteenth-century castle in downtown Moscow is still painted red. But its masters have suddenly started talking the language of decarbonization. On October 13, President Vladimir Putin announced at the Russian Energy Week forum that Russia aims to become carbon neutral by 2060 – ten years after the United States and the European Union but at the same time as China.

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