Ukrainain Elections: European victory and defeated Putin

Elections in Ukraine gave clear result. The choice fell on Europe and orientation to the West. The winners are primarily two parties of president Poroshenko (23%) and Prime Minister Arseniy Jaceniuk (22%).

Ukrainian election results have historical significance for the whole Europe. They confirm not only support for the groups grew up  from the “revolution of dignity” on the Maidan, but draw a fairly clear and stable shape of the Ukrainian current political life, despite unprecedented pressure, provoked by  the Russian aggression and poor economic situation. Ukrainian voters refused to be as well to be fooled by populist parties that are  in the  narrow minority.

Ukraine appears for the first time as a country and a state  with a clear and readable distribution of political sympathies. Ukraine gained Parliament capable of carrying out deep and necessary reforms.

In this situation, the big loser of the Ukrainian election seems to be Russian President Putin, who most obviously failed to destabilize the Ukrainian political life. Finally, the Ukrainian vote has exposed his lies about temporality of Ukrainian statehood and the alleged huge influence of „fascism” in Ukraine. Ukrainian voter has less sympathy for the nationalists that happens in many countries of the European Union itself, not to say  of Russia itself.

With the ukrainian elections Europe should be understood as broader, bigger and stronger.

The future of Russia. Divergent scenarios 2020-50.

Predictions about the future of Russia are extremely divergent what is really striking.  On the one hand there are the forecasts speaking about  the possibility of territorial disintegration of the Federation – as CIA report had predicted [1] . On the other hand, Russia is classified among  a group of emerging powers (BRIC), as predicted prominent economist Jeffrey Sachs.

These discrepancy should raise the special attention of analysts in Central Europe, for obvious reasons, that any strategic reflection on the geopolitical situation should take into account developments in Russia and the expected policy of Moscow.

The premiss of the pessimistic forecasts for Russia are rather obvious. On the first place there are  the most common demographic data – diminishing and aging population (from 148.6 million in 1993 to 141.9 in 2010), low life expectancy and the deteriorating state of health. Important  is  also the interconnection of territorial and demographic issues – the actual depopulation of areas east of the Urals, the percentage increase of non-Russian population in the total population, including in particular the followers of Islam.

The second premiss relates to the nature of the Russian economy based largely on export of gas and oil. Russia’s raw material resources seem to be huge, however Russia’s crude oil, at current extraction is only for about 20-30 years. Although it is a gas tycoon, but production costs are still growing and the entire  infrastructure needs the increasing of capital expenditure.

An important challenge  for Russia could be the global development of new technologies in the energy industry (solar energy, etc.) and  the possibility of obtaining gas from shale. Such a development would deprive Moscow of enormous political asset, which Putin is currently trying to use.

Finally, the pessimistic conditions for the future of Russia lists the low potential for modernization. Demography affects the substantial reduction of the labor force. Demography deteriorates the education. Finally, there is no evidence that in Russia in the foreseeable future leadership can be ready to lead broader  reforms. [2]

The attention should be also paid to the comparison of the volume of the Russian economy with the economies  of EU, USA and China. The national incomes of EU and U.S. are approximately $ 14 trillion, China is already about 8 trillion while the Russian economy is only about $ 2 trillion. Russia classified in BRIC is in this group of countries the less dynamic economy and has vastly fewer opportunities than China, India or Brazil.

Pessimistic forecasts for Russia can be seen in Central Europe, as an optimistic prediction, releasing from the traditional threats, connected historically with the Russian domination. If someone wants to stick to the approach based on historical experience the assumption that Russia is weakening must be seen as a positive factor. On the other hand such approach could be under suspicion of „wishful thinking”, in an opposite but similar way as  fear of Russia is exaggerated expression of the traditional apprehension.

One should, as well,   consider whether the weakening of Russia as a geopolitical colossus means also the weakening of Russia in relations with Poland and Central Europe. And to make the issue more complicated one could put a question whether pessimistic forecasts for Russia could be treated really only as so  optmistic for Central Europe and are not connected with some new not recognized threats.

One must also consider whether there would be some positive forecasts for Russia and whether it must provoke by necessity  the  deterioration of political situation of the countries in Central Europe or even under these conditions there were posiblities of cooperation.

It is difficult to analyze these issues on an other way than by considering several different scenarios for the future of Russia and their possible consequences.  This method of analysis avoids any sort of prophecies, helping mainly to understand the emerging trends and conceivable developments. The remarks presented here has only a introductory character.

(I) The territorial disintegration of the Russian Federation and the emergence of a national Russian state.

Russia, as a result of increasing difficulties of administering such a large territory and the lack of adequate resources for investment, slowly begins to give up its colonial heritage east of the Urals and the Caucasus. The migration of the Russian population from  the area east of the Urals increase to the area, ethnically Russian. In Russia, started an intensive discussion about the Russian identity, which prevailed by the voices of the need for the Russian nation-state like in the West. The advocates of such views had the opponents from two  sides –  the supporters of the imperial idea as well of   extreme nationalistic groups. Ironically, proponents of the Russian nation-state could use the argument that if Russia does not get rid of its „colonies”, Moscow as a result of migration will turn into multicultural mega-metropolis deprived of the Russian character.

The process could be accelerated by the growing economic difficulties, and also striving for independence the provinces in Ural region. Contradictory, inconsistent and timid reforms related to the efforts of decentralization, could contribute to this development. In Moscow in a certain moment, let us say in the late 20’s, the view that efforts to maintain such a large territory, brings more losses than gains, could gain the dominant position.

Roughly about a year 2050 Russia, as a nation state with about 70 million people would apply for membership in the EU. [3]

 (II) FR become under the influenced of  China, which has become the advocate of the Federation’s territorial integrity

According to this scenario, China’s investment would become dominant in Russia and export of Russian oil and gas would be directed mainly to China. Nationalist rhetoric would be supported within Russia but would steer primarily against Islam and in part against the West, while the vision of Russia as a Eurasian civilizations (such as by Russian historian Lev Gumilov) would become increasingly stronger. Russian nationalists did not notice the growing dependence on Beijing, stressing Sino-Russian alliance which in their eyes was directed against America and Europe, emphasizing the recovering position of Russia towards the West. With the alliance with China, Russia seemed to be protected against the danger from the south and from the growing influence of Islam.

The mythology of eurasian power could let Russian nationalists not to see the weakness of their own country. This situation in Russia might  be comfortable for China, because China elites could not be threaten by the vision  of democratization in neighboring country at the time having the russian reasources to their disposal. The West would be essentially devoid of political influence on the vast russian territory, which creates a large geopolitical benefits for Beijing.

 (III) Russia strongly weakens, but it would be supported from many sides, because  each of the big global players (China, EU, U.S., and the growing power of Turkey) would fear   that Moscow did not fell under the influence of their antagonists

In this scenario, Russia in a subtle way would be  trying to maintain a difficult balance between superpowers.  Russian politicians could use the  fears of the others  that Moscow could be under the foreign influences: the Americans that come under the influence of Beijing. The Chinese vice-versa, they could be  afraid that the European Union and the USA could fill the political vacuum on Russians territories. All of them were  frightened of the unknown connected with the possible process of territorial disintegration of FR. The integrity of the Russian Federation would be seen as a stabilizing factor in world politics and paradoxically it would be giving Moscow certain room for manoeuver. Moscow will cleverly use this situation, trying to regain its influence in Ukraine, Belarus, blackmailing the EU with the energy weapon, and above all technologically underdeveloped Central Europe.

Obviously this scenario creates for Russia a risky buisness  because Russia would not be able to gain and maintain equal status with the European Union, USA and China. Russian policy could, however, pursue their own interests to some extent in relations with  the smaller partners (and therefore of some countries in Central Europe), especially those which are dependent on Russian energy.

(IV) Russia with the help of high oil and gas prices  recovers its imperial position

The performence  of such scenario could be more likely  in a case of the deeper crisis of the world economy – especially U.S. and the European Union economies. Some sort of   isolationist tendencies in U.S. provoked with such development could be in Russia‘s favour.  Secondly  U.S. could turn to the Pacific (which is already happening to some extent). Similarly within the EU,  with EU unable to conduct the common foreign policy,  particular European countries should cooperate with Russia trying to improve their economic situation not puting any precoditions.

Moscow, without strong pressure from the West, would cooperate with China in Central Asia and would put stress on cooperation with BRIC.  One could assume that Moscow would  seek to rebuild its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe (Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova), and even seek to recover some influence in Central Europe.

With the increasing percentage of the non-Russian population in the Federation the formal issues of citizenship could become extremely important in suppressing the symptoms of Great Russian chauvinism. However this scenario could be connected with imperial vision of Russia within the Kremlin elite and with very limited technocratical vision of reforms.

Moscow strongly sought to invest into the Siberian economy by using any surplus in foreign trade to investment in this area.[4]

It seems that this is a scenario that is the closest to some  current strategic concepts in the Kremlin.

 (V) Moscow made „modernization”, while maintaining today’s position in global politics power second-class

According to this scenario, the modernization of Russia would be conducted in the  cooperation with the West. The Russian elites came to the conclusion that the ideas of „Shanghai group” can only contribute to the dependence of Russia from China. Russia begins to carry out a slow but systematic democratic reforms, allowing its territory, especially east of the Urals, to have more and more Western investments. The EU cooperates with Russia not only because of the economic benefits, but also for geopolitical reasons (to block the Chinese influence). Most of such cooperation benefit big investors from Germany and France, supported by their governments.

Moscow aware of its political significance, however, does not give up on the implementation of their interests and builds a sphere of influence, in which attempts to draw the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

(VI) Russian Federation falls apart in a gradual but peacefully, and its individual parts are given under the influence of its neighbors

The advancing weakening of Russia could gradually provoke the lost of control over particular areas. This phenomenon has already occurred to some extent at the end of the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. It should be emphasized that so far these processes have been detained in the late 90’s, along with the restoration of central authority, but they may occur again. Different regions,  gaining  the increasing awareness of the different from the headquarters in Moscow interests,  could  become more and autonomous  and secondly independent. They can also build a their own identities based on indigenous ethnic populations such as in Yakutia and the formation of a new Siberians consciousness of population of russian origin.

It is hard to imagine this scenario to be fuulfilled without at least partial democratization of authoritarian structures. The democratization reforms in some of their versions could directly provoke  such developments.

(VII) The disintegration of the Russian Federation balkanization leads to an immense territory, causing tensions in world politics of a global nature.

The course of events in the fulfillment of such a scenario is the least predictable. At the same time is even more likely that such a large territory with so much natural wealth can be left homeless.

This worrying scenario can connect to the escalation of conflicts in Asia and wars on the continent.


It should be noted that these scenarios are not mutually exclusive and it can happen that one will pass into  the second. The fulfillment  of a scenario „Russia in the precarious balance” (III) can change into the situation described in the scenario (V) „Moscow modernizing” and or change into the scenario, „dependence form China” or even the scenario  of „Russian national state” (I) The scenario of „Russia in the precarious balance” most resembles the current situation, although I think as many observers do, that  the current Russian elites would have denied this precariousness. The potential dependence of Moscow from Beijing, is now as well not seen as important. [5]

Another thought that comes into mind in  constructing such scenarios applies to the time perspective. It seems that the general premiss (demography, human capital etc) leads to more pessimistic considerations about   Russia in a longer terms. Even if such pessimistic prediction for Russia had to be realized, it does not mean that in the medium term, Moscow would  not have  some serious political achievements. It is a country powerful enough,  that  even with fading power, the headquarter in Moscow could successfully carry out their various political projects, including the regaining the influence on some limited areas and gaining advantage over some weaker oponents.

It seems that this reflection is important for policy planning in Central Europe. Warsaw for instance could have only a minimal (if not almost none) impact on the conduct of Moscow’s political behaviour, and also could only with great difficulties shape the Polish-Russian relations according to their own intentions. Moscow can  these relations, made „worse” or „improving”, depending on their needs and manipulating them in this way. Ironically for a country like Poland the passive attitude seems to be most appropriate. to a certain extent.  This does not preclude, of course, all sorts of activities, and even the initiative from the Polish side, to the point that it not turned into the excessive activism provoking illusions. This does’nt exclude the economical cooperation on diverse areas. It seems that maintaining even a semblance of good relations could be desirable, especially if one wants to lead the more active eastern neighborhood policy.

Paper prepared for Warsaw East European Conference 2012. Old and New., past, present and future of the post-communist world.

[1] Projections made by the CIA in 2004, the disintegration of the Russian Federation on 6-7 regions. The issue of territorial differentiation and even the dissolution of the Federation also returns constantly in Russian studies. (access 20.04.12)

[2] Nocholas Eberstadt, The Dying Bear, FA Nov./Dec. 2011

[3] In 2050 the entire FR will count  approximately 100 million. according to demographic estimation.

[5] Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, La Russie entre deux mondes, Paris 2011.