Russia's Carbon Addiction

Germany’s leading magazine, Der Spiegel, has a fascinating interview with Russia’s President Dimitry Medvedev, which includes this exchange:

SPIEGEL: In a recent article that you wrote entitled “Go, Russia,” you spoke of your country’s “humiliating” economic “backwardness.” Why hasn’t Russia managed to overcome its dependency on natural resources in the time since the end of the Soviet Union?

Medvedev: Because people quickly get addicted to drugs. Trading gas and oil is our drug. People can’t get enough of it, even when prices are going through the roof. Five years ago, who could have imagined an oil price of $150 a barrel? Trading in natural resources is easy, it leads to the illusion of economic stability. Money flows in — considerable sums of money. Acute problems can be effectively resolved with it. You don’t need any economic reforms; you don’t need to deal with diversifying production. We could rid ourselves of this lethargy if we would only learn the right lessons from the crisis.

What would those lessons be? I sense one of those patented Thomas Friedman columns in the making.

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