Sunday, November 23, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Another Regional Ministry – This Time for the Arctic – Won’t Help, Moscow Experts Say

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 23 – “Kommersant” reported last week that Moscow is planning to create a Ministry for Arctic Affairs ( on the pattern of the other “regional” ministries the center has set up over the last 18 months for the Far East, the North Caucasus and occupied Crimea.


                Despite the statement by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov that he does not know anything “about the existence of such plans,” Moscow experts and commentators are already weighing in and suggesting that this latest bureaucratic innovation will occur and will be no more effective than any of the others (


            Aleksey Polubota of “Svobodnaya pressa” surveyed three of the Academician Artur Chilingarov, president of the State Polar Academy and someone suggested as a possible head of the new ministry, said that it would be “more effective” to create a state committee which could coordinate with other ministries than to establish a new ministry that would fight with them.


                In his view, Chilingarov said, “a ministry for Arctic affairs in fact would be ineffective and an unjustifiedly expensive structure.” It would cost more but do less than the State Committee for the North that existed in the 1990s. Moscow should be thinking about a coordinating committee instead.


            Aleksandr Ignatyev, the editor of “Arkticheskiye vedomosti,” said that Moscow needed to pay more attention to the Artic and that a ministry might be “better than nothing” but that it would be less effective than a coordinating committee because other ministries and private firms would resist it at every step.

             And Sergey Vasiltsov, the Duma deputy who heads the Center for Research on the Political Culture of Russia, said that he opposes the idea less because of its particular focus than because of what it says about the Russian government’s current proclivity for such regional ministries.

            “Attempts in recent years at resolving problems by setting up yet another agency have mostly led to the doubling of the size of the bureaucratic apparatus,” he said. “Even without this, we already have more than two and a half times as many bureaucrats per capita as was the case in Soviet times.”

            Vasiltsov added that he does not see any evidence that the new ministries in the Far East or in the North Caucasus have brought with them any particular successes. Instead, all of them are “simply the result of the bureaucratic style of thought of the majority of our government administrators.”

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