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Vyacheslav Baburin: "The costs of the defense potential of the Far East will always exceed any economic benefits that this region can bring"

A well-known regional researcher believes that it is not the primary task of the Far East to make a profit

The ER correspondent asked questions about the development of the Far East to the head of the Department of Economic and Social Geography of Russia, Faculty of Geography, Moscow State University. M.V. Lomonosov, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, Professor Vyacheslav Baburin.

Vyacheslav Baburin: "The costs of the defense potential of the Far East will always exceed any economic benefits that this region can bring"
- Vyacheslav Leonidovich, at present the Far East is developed unevenly: life is concentrated in the South, the North is more than "empty". A number of experts claim that it will remain so in the future. Is this statement true?

- This is the real picture of today. But if the state is focused on preserving its integrity, then it will strive to ensure it by all possible means, in particular, through economic, political and human ties.

The northern and northeastern parts of the Far East today cannot be left without people and economy. Otherwise, Russia will lose control of the coast. Therefore, it is necessary to create corresponding centers in the Far Eastern North and Northeast. Of course, creating them exclusively for military purposes or climate monitoring is expensive and impractical. It is necessary to create not rotational settlements, but permanent, multifunctional ones. For this, it is necessary to scientifically justify the choice of such points where the development of settlements with a diversified economy is possible.

- Russian Siberia and the Far East contrast somewhat with each other territorially, economically and socially. But, nevertheless, they are more similar. At the same time, the programs for the development of these two Russian regions are being done in different ways. In your opinion, should they be linked?

- Siberia and the Far East are formally similar, but their geographic and geopolitical positions, as well as the history of development, are radically different. At the same time, a serious problem of transport costs is inherent in the Far East - having a set of resources similar to Siberia, it is much more distant from the European part of the country. Unlike the Far East, Siberia can be easily integrated into the European part of Russia with moderate transportation costs.

Having a competitor in the face of Siberia, the Far East can supply to the western Russian regions only its own "exclusive" resources, which are not available in Siberia - for example, precious metals. All the rest of its products cannot be targeted at the domestic Russian market. And in the absence of its own market in the Far East, its export orientation is objectively growing.

- And in your opinion, to what extent is this export orientation in demand? Are there any real indicators of the results of the "turn" of our economy to the East?

- Unfortunately, so far an objective economic analysis does not give any reason to say that in practice there has been a reorientation of Russia to the East. Russian ties remain predominantly in the West. Trade relations between Russia and China are currently sagging in the same way as with all other countries in the world. Russia's pivot to the East is more about talk, dreams, plans and intentions than a real economic process.

- How do you think, how realistic is the revival of the Far Eastern economy due to the introduction of new economic regimes on the territory of the Far East, such as TOPs or Free Ports? Will these regimes have a tangible effect? Can we also successfully use the potential of special economic zones, as China did?

- The creation of the TOP system is not a new idea. It can be said that this is a derivative of the territorial-production complexes, industrial centers and other territorial entities created earlier in the USSR.

ASEZ and the Free Port are one of the possible instruments for the modern development of Russia. But when using them, one should take into account the fact that Russia today is not a great, mighty Soviet Union with an economy mainly turned inward, but a country that is highly dependent on the surrounding macroeconomic situation - on the world conjuncture cycles. The Free Port regime is not an exception either - its benefits will be claimed only in case of good market conditions. In the case of a bad situation - that is, with low prices for goods and compression of trade turnover - no one will need the benefits provided by the Free Port. As a result, these territories will become depressive zones. This is objective - if we are talking about a market economy, competitiveness plays a key role here.

But I repeat: the Far East is, first of all, not an economic, but a geostrategic region of Russia. Roughly speaking, it shouldn't be profitable. First of all, it must secure our positions in the Pacific and Arctic oceans. The rest of its functions should be used no more than supporting its general development. Reducing the costs of maintaining the defense potential of the Far East through the development of its economy is a good prospect. But the cost of the defense potential of the Far East will always exceed any economic benefits that this region can bring.

- To increase the scale of cooperation between the Far East and the countries of Southeast Asia, the state has announced serious financial support for the development of local extractive industries. In your opinion, what should be given priority in such financing - the development of new fields, improving the quality of production, improving management or something else?

- The developed fields have a well-developed infrastructure and production assets, which makes it much more convenient to develop them than to develop new fields. Therefore, even if the geological indicators of the developed Far Eastern deposits are worse than undeveloped ones, it is necessary to develop the former. And within the framework of it - to focus on new modern technologies that make it possible to develop poor deposits and carry out a comprehensive extraction of useful components from them. This is exactly how the mining industry should be dealt with in the Far East, primarily in its South.

- It's no secret that the Far East is characterized by difficult geographic conditions, in which it is quite difficult to build roads and railways. Is it efficient to try to develop on its territory any alternative “innovative” types of freight transport that do not require the creation of a “serious” infrastructure?

- It should be understood that roads and railways serve not only for civilian needs and transportation of resources. First of all, they ensure the integrity of the state, as they represent an off-season transport network. Neither river, nor sea, nor air transport can provide such a connection as they do, since these species are much more sensitive to weather conditions. And I do not know of any innovative types of transport that could compete with road and rail today. The development of these basic modes of transport in the Far East is costly and laborious, but in its Northern regions, their development is simply necessary. And it is possible - just not fast. To the extent that the state will have resources for these purposes.

- The development of the Far East in the future is not possible without solving the problem of the small number and quality of its population. What should be the program for the development of human capital in the Far East - what exactly should it include?

- People will not voluntarily go to the Far East. The first thing that needs to be done to attract the population to its territory is to endow the recently created Agency for the Development of Human Capital with maximum rights and resources, including financial ones.

Secondly, it is necessary for the state to provide immigrants with housing with the right to buy or sell in 20 years. And it gave certain benefits when they gave birth to children - it lowered the cost of buying out housing every time a child appears in the family. Thirdly, migrants must be provided with jobs. At the same time, Russian citizenship should be granted only if the person went to live in the Far East for at least 15-20 years.
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