In an interview with El Pais news outlet, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell highlighted the economic weakness of Russia compared to other major geopolitical players. He described the Russian economy as small and emphasized its dependence on energy exports. Borrell stated that Russia is an economic dwarf, likening it to a gas pump owned by someone with an atomic bomb.
However, Borrell cautioned against underestimating or isolating China, noting that Beijing is a true geopolitical player unlike Moscow. He emphasized the need to take China seriously and not underestimate its influence. While Russia may be economically weak, Borrell still considers it a threat to EU security, particularly due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which he noted is practically on the EU’s border.
This comparison of Russia to a gas pump is not a new concept. In 2014, the late US Senator John McCain famously referred to Russia as “a gas station masquerading as a country,” highlighting its heavy reliance on energy exports. The Russian government has acknowledged this dependency and has taken steps to diversify its income sources and reduce its reliance on natural resources for budget revenue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently spoke at the International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, where he emphasized the country’s progress in reducing its dependency on energy revenue. Putin attributed this achievement to the robust development of the trade and service sectors. According to data from Russia’s Finance Ministry, oil and gas income in the first half of 2023 accounted for only 27% of the total budget revenues, while non-oil and gas revenues surged by 18% year-on-year and constituted 73% of the total budget income.
The Russian government’s efforts to reduce its reliance on energy exports appear to be bearing fruit. By diversifying its income sources and fostering growth in other sectors, Russia has managed to decrease its vulnerability to fluctuations in oil and gas prices. This shift is vital for the long-term stability and resilience of the Russian economy.
While acknowledging Russia’s economic weaknesses, it is important to recognize the country’s geopolitical significance and its potential to disrupt regional security. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is an ongoing concern for the EU, as it directly affects the stability of neighboring countries. The EU remains committed to addressing this issue and finding a peaceful resolution.
In conclusion, Russia’s economic dependency on energy exports is a significant weakness, as highlighted by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. However, it is crucial to not underestimate Russia’s geopolitical influence and the potential security threats it poses to the EU. The Russian government’s efforts to diversify its income sources and reduce reliance on natural resources are commendable and have shown positive results. The ongoing conflict with Ukraine remains a key challenge for regional stability, and the EU is actively engaged in seeking a peaceful resolution.