Environmental Protection Problem in Russia

Russia has always been a power player in Europe. While Russia is not a part of the European Union it has tried to strengthen its ties with the EU. When Putin came into power in Russia it seemed the prospect of joining the EU was becoming less viable. It is hard to believe the EU would support and favor Putin’s politics within Russia, which also creates a barrier of entry into the EU. Russia would have to give up some of its sovereignty and accept decisions that the EU decides to collectively make. Certain policies within the EU conflict with Russian politics and ideals, such as LT+ rights. Russia also functions under communist ideologies, while not communist anymore, being referred to as a “ semi presidential party”. Policies within Russia do not align with the EU and their beliefs. Evidently, Russia is not a part of the Eurozone, which is the “geographic and economic region that consists of all the European Union (EU) countries that have fully incorporated the euro as their national currency” (Investopedia). While the Maastricht treaty aimed to create a common currency in Europe (the euro), Russia uses the ruble as currency as well as Belarus, instead of the euro. Regarding the Schengen area, Russia is not involved in the treaty formed. Russia is not one of the 26 countries who are in the Schengen area(“Schengen Area). If you want to travel to Russia you will need a visa to do so. Due to the fact that Russia is not a part of this treaty it is difficult to travel to Russia, obtaining a Visa is a daunting task. For most members of the EU is it easy to travel in between member states using a Schengen visa. The interconnectedness of these member states is proven by the fact that “Today, the Schengen Area encompasses most EU States, except of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom” (Khachatrian 1).

Issues facing Russia today include a growing political protest rate, corruption, their economic plan, and environmental issues. These issues are prominent in Russia, among others; political and social protests are growing as a result of political supression. Protesters are fighting against unfair election and just about everything in between , even education “Protesters carried signs with slogans including “freedom to the students, freedom to the universities” and “you don’t have enough prisons to hold everyone opposed to this government” (Roth 1). While having a mixed viewpoint, young Russians support Putin and what he has done for the country , while others argue that he has been in power for far too long, almost two decades. Overall , protests were sparked by the exclusion of some opposition and independent candidates from the ballot for the Moscow city council election to be held Sunday, they also reflect growing discontent after Putin’s nearly two decades in power” (Isachenkov 1). Russians are also protesting about stagnant living conditions within Russia, having just barely escaped a recession. Russia’s wealth is centered around Moscow but nowhere else; Russians blame the government and Putin “Vladimir Putin took over in 2000 and promised to bring the country together and end the chaos of the 90s. In the early Putin period, pensions and salaries were paid for the first time in years – while the super-rich continued to have lifestyles unthinkable to most Russians” (Walker 1). With all the power and wealth controlled to Moscow and major government cities, other Russian cities remained poor. Gorbachev while progressive, was considered weak in the end, giving away too much freedom for the people in the USSR. Followed by Yeltsin, who continued Gorbachev policies. Some Russians favor Putin because he has re-established Russia as a world power. Older generations seem willing to give up some well being for the sake of national pride. While others fight and riot against unfair elections and repressive policies.

The prevalence of corruption in Russia is due to numerous factors. Civil servants who are underpaid compared to their peers in the private sector are more likely to accept bribes in exchange for favors such as government contracts, non-prosecution and easier licensing, among other things (Schulze, Sjahrir, and Zakharov 135). There is literature that suggests increasing salaries of public officials significantly decreases corruption, but Russia is far behind the curve in this regard (Schulze et. al 135). Corruption in Russia is magnified due to the stifling of media freedom. The Russian government filters many of the news outlets and this perpetuates corruption because media freedom directly reduces corruption (Schulze et. al 147). Consequently, corruption in Russia can go relatively unchecked because the usual whistleblowers are displaced. To make matters worse, Russian elections have not reached the minimum standards to be considered democratic--elections that could have otherwise inserted upstanding politicians into the battle against corruption (Jimenez, Hidalgo & Klimek 4). There is significant pressure on voters to vote for specific individuals. One prevalent example in Russia is employers mandating their employees request absentee ballot so that they could be transported (usually by bus) to designated polling centers where they can be monitored as they vote (Jimenez et. al 4). Employers use threats of physical harm and termination to ensure their employees vote as they suggest them to.

Russia has operated under central management planning and as of recently transformed into a market economy (Arias). A major flaw with a centrally marketed economy is the allocation of resources. The free market tells us how to efficiently allocate resources by the price system. Centrally planned economies do not have a pricing system based on reality but on the prices established by the government. This way of economy gives power to a group or the government, who are out of touch with the people within the economy. I guess a question to ask today is; will the economy in Russia today affect Russian people’s attitude on Putin as a leader? Perhaps the attitudes of Russians are different than Americans, maybe because their economy has been problematic, and the period of transition to the free market was so hard for the majority of the population, that they are grateful that things are getting at least somewhat better and there’s a relative stability and recovery.

Russia has an abundance of nuclear and gas related environmental concerns, Russia’s transition to a market based economy means that the government has been strongly disposed to promoting economic growth rather than environmental protection (“Russia: Environmental Issues”). This leads to wrongful disposal of hazardous waste and careless safety measures. Enforcement of policies is poor and helps contribute to many leaks and pollution. The most severe problems however, are in Chechnya, where an estimated 30 million barrels of oil have leaked into the ground from the region\'s black market oil industry. Another major concern involves the usage of nuclear power plants, which are overwhelmingly destructive and cause severe health concerns and pollution. Russian neighbor, Norway, consistently complains about Russian air pollution entering their country. Recently, authorities with the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have deemed the levels of sulfur dioxide as a biohazard and issued a civil warning to its residents (Digges 1). Russia’s lax environmental protection policies are unlikely to change due to the substantial money invested in the corporations that significantly contribute to the air pollution, such as Norilsk Nickel that produces metals for electric cars (Digges 1). Therefore, without significant pressure from the United Nations via sanctions or internal change, Russia will continue to damage the environment.