Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a conference celebrating the 175th anniversary of Russia’s oldest state financial institution Sberbank, said that the export of civilian products has become a “driver of the national economy” in 2016. He added that it will “soon be catching up with our export of weapons.” He noted specifically the growth of export of agricultural commodities.
Putin’s assertion, however, is contradicted by statistics in the Russian Federal Customs Service’s 2016 economics report. According to the report, from January to September 2016, the export of food and agricultural products from Russia amounted to 5.1 percent of total exports with a 2.5 percent increase compared to 2015. The two main agricultural exports – wheat and vodka – totaled less than $3 billion in the first nine months of 2016.
Russia crude oil and other energy products remain the largest part of the exports, amounting to 62.3 percent in January-September 2016 – a 6.2 percent decrease compared to 2015.
Overall, the export of civilian products in 2016 decreased in the first nine months by 22.9 percent compared to the same period in 2015. It will take a productive fourth quarter for Putin’s prediction to come through.
Russian military exports officials said that from January to August 2016 military exports exceed $7 billion. Officials said military exports would likely be on par with 2015.
On November 22, Putin issued a presidential decree, classifying information about Russia’s military export as a state top secret “in the interests of national security.”
Edward Lucas, a chief editor at The Economist and senior vice-president at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told Polygraph.info that Putin’s ability to tout civilian exports is limited.
“Putin has been talking about modernization since 2000,” he said. “Since then we have had seen endless promises and many efforts. They haven't worked. Russia has excellent entrepreneurs with excellent business ideas. But the predatory state hampers them.”