The rise of unknown, distant people

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Aug 24, 2008

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In the last week of my course on Comparative Politics I have especially dealt with post-communist states and the consequences of globalization. My post covers both topics and was a part of my final exam for CPS. I will reflect on the reemergence of Russia on the international scene and the role of globalization in this process. Agricultural development serves as my example to point at the various changes globalization brings for Russia.

In the days of Stalin, Soviet agriculture was crippled by collectivization. However, today Russian agriculture is on the rise. Despite inefficiencies in production, foreign investors are increasingly drawn to Russia, which has some of the most fertile soils on the planet. Foreign companies are determined to make Russian agriculture more efficient and effective in order to realize high profits. Global food shortages also play an important role in Russia's agriculture. In 2008 prices for wheat, rice and corn reached record levels, causing famine and unrest around the world. Due to this unrest it was Russian President Medvedev who conveniently underscored Russian potential to solve the international crisis at last month's G8 summit.

Few will argue that Russia is not on the rise on the international scene. This ascension is fuelled by globalization in all its forms. As intensive and extensive international contacts are created, multinational corporations identify the Russian plains as a lucrative business opportunity. This in turn draws foreign investment, creating an influx of local wealth and enabling new possibilities.

Speed and flexibility of these developments are greatly increased by technological advancements which are available to all. Business deals are sealed by webcam a contract in PDF format and a virtual glass of vodka. In other words, international cooperation is no longer hindered by notorious post communist bureaucracy, but rather encouraged by the accessibility of new technology. For Russia, however, real change is most appreciated from a historical point of view. It is interesting to note that a Russian President is inviting American companies like John Deere on Stalin's fields to compete on a global market.

Apart from the corporate angle, the political implications are equally interesting. It is not so difficult to foresee Medvedev using Russia's reclaimed position as international food supplier to advance political goals. In time it may remind us of the practices of Gazprom, which are conducted 'n sync with Kremlin policies and effectively bolster Russian power on the global stage. Where will hungry people turn in an overpopulated world with international institutions, which are neither capable nor committed to solving worldwide poverty?

Although Russian agriculture is merely an example, it underscores how globalization can revamp post communist economic depression, inject foreign capital in neglected areas and enhance global political standing. Also, it shows how, from a historical perspective, change is both profound and expansive. In a broader view, Russian agriculture illustrates how a flatting world contributes to what Fareed Zakaria refers to as a 'rise of the rest'. Globalization is picking up and spreading power. Or from an American perspective: how unknown, distant people are shaping this crowded world along the lines of Post Americanism.
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