Interesting observation. Recently we have tried to deliver some merchandise from the UK to several Eastern European markets. We had no difficulties with delivery or customs for most countries. Only two countries turned out to be a surprising exception where we experienced problems both with delivery and customs - Kazakhstan and Russia.
While delivery to Russia was less of a problem than Kazakhstan, Russian customs is known for its complicated regulations, unpredictable interpretations and irrational exceptions. It's sufficient to google "problems Russian customs" to get an idea of the extent of the problem. Some cases can seem absurd - one of our partners has been trying to get several boxes with advertising leaflets through Russian customs for over 6 months now. Taking into consideration customs broker and storage costs, their tenacity is astonishing.
Impact on Russia's competitiveness, economy and image is obvious, perhaps not to the state officials, especially customs ones. Most certainly Russia has been excluded by a number of international companies from their merchandise and advertising materials delivery plans in preference of other European markets. Of course there is always an option of ordering and producing locally. However, the process is no less complicated than that with customs because of the legislation governing work of local suppliers with foreign organisations.
Because of the customs problems, Russia may experience problems with delivery from popular international online stores, such as asos.com. It's enough to look through customer comments on their forum to feel sympathy for Russian clients. Image of the country is another thing. Russia is a huge market, a country making a big statement for the future, while at the same time I can not deliver and take through customs promotional pens at a cost that would not be 10 times higher than these pens' production cost.
At best, foreign business managers may wonder why everything is fine with the delivery of merchandise to Lithuania, Hungary and Romania, while mail department categorically refuses to deliver same products to Russia. At worst, Russia is simply excluded from merchandise & advertising materials delivery plans, hencedepriving Russian consumer of additional information, products and new interesting solutions.
Situation in Kazakhstan is even worse. Whatever is not lost by Kazpost, will be stopped by the customs. Delivery to Kazakhstan itself is much more expensive than to Russia, because of geographical distances and need to use expensive courier services, to avoid Kazpost (eg normally I would use Royal Mail to mail merchandise from Britain, but in Kazakhstan they work with Kazpost, and it's a no go scenario - tested).
Besides wildly high delivery costs, as compared to Russia, I don't even mention Eastern Europe, customs clearance process in Kazakhstan seems to have been copied from Russia - same need to hire a customs broker, take into consideration some weird requirements and provide a pile of documents. I can't even think of how hard it must be to order something from abroad, eg on Amazon, Ebay or Asos for a typical Kazakhstan consumer. I suspect it's either an unaffordable luxury or Mission Impossible. I also can not imagine what companies who try to deliver to Kazakhstan something more substantial than merchandise (eg medical equipment or baby food) have to go through.
I am not giving up. Together with our brave shipping department we are trying to find an acceptable solution. I still want to deliver pens and other merchandise of a famous international brand to consumers in Kazakhstan and Russia. My British colleagues can't understand why it's so hard to deliver anything to our countries. To be honest, I don't know what to tell them. Both Kazakhstan and Russia aim to be in the world's top 50 countries on competitiveness, yet both have absolutely incompetitive customs regulations. It affects business, it affects consumers. Why neither Kazakhstan nor Russia try to be more like their Eastern European counterparts who made their customs truly transparent and open? Thus, I propose to start the competitiveness improving mission from the customs. Please remember who you first heard it from ;)