Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Music Festivals Canceled As Russia Seeks Isolation

Russia’s economy might be reeling from decisions made in Moscow, but the country has a sneaking suspicion that other countries are behind its problems. The result: Russia is pulling back from the outside world. This month the Kremlin has ordered the last-minute cancellation of two music festivals. The apparent reason: some of the scheduled performers were arriving in the country from performances in Ukraine, a country that Russia is particularly unhappy with right now. At the same time, Russia seized encrypted servers belonging to a foreign VPN provider, forcing that company out of the country. New espionage laws in Russia appear to make not just VPNs but all Internet routers illegal, but the enforcement of the law seems to target only services used to communicate between Russia and other countries in Europe.

Russia’s withdrawal from the global economy is puzzling in some ways. This is a country that could be economically self-sufficient but instead is heavily dependent on imports for things as basic as fruit and vegetables, while it operates an economy built on oil exports. Polls, though, show plenty of voter support for isolationism. This trend has come about during a period of relatively benign weather in Russia. The next summer-long drought, whenever it occurs, may test Russia’s collective resolve to go it alone. In a drought Russia may be forced to import wheat. If the inevitable food imports are done under the table with official denials, that will be a sign that Russia is in no mood to rejoin the party.