Russia. Future Scenarios


9 replies

  1. When thinking about Russia one should distinguish between West and East, but of course there are many exceptions. Yet, from many Westerners’ perspective, Russia’s future looks gloomy and the feelings associated with the country usually express uncertainty of its possible actions and fear. A country that is still one of global players due to its vast territory, that used to ‘rule’ the world, is losing importance. Russia tries to control other countries using energy as a tool, especially in relation to its neighbors. However, given the statistics and data available one can see that the strategy doesn’t work out as it was previously expected.

    On the other hand, from the Easterners’ point of view, the situation looks differently. In the region Russia is no doubt the mightiest player. The organization: The Commonwealth of Independent States was created mainly to maintain Russia’s dominance over the former Soviet Republics. Russian authorities, with Putin and Medvedev at the spearhead, play the game in a very smart way. A system of rewards and ‘punishments’ was introduced, that is supposed to discipline other member states of the CIS. Yet, even in the organization itself, some countries want to gain full independence, what could prove troublesome for Russia.

    Recently situation has changed in Russia – right after the elections, many were demonstrating against the government, blaming it for unfair count of votes. It only fueled the debate about other controversial issues like: debatable democracy, denial of human rights, repressive measures against those who criticize the government. Yet, because of media that usually show mainly the positive things about the government, people actually support the authorities and are proud of it. Vladimir Putin remains a role model for many Russians.

    In the near future we will all see how the situation evolves: new presidential election (even though the winner is already knows) could be a spur for a society to act. I only hope that the country will choose more democratic and transparent values that manipulation and intimidation that was used a lot in the past.

  2. My comment will consist two forecasts. First will regard to economic situation in Russia second to the future of its democracy.
    The financial crisis that almost swamped Russia’s economic system in the fall of 2008 also led to renewed speculation about the stability and long-term endurance of the country’s political system. While it had previously appeared that the windfall revenues earned by the government from Russia’s energy wealth would allow its leaders to spend their way out of any potential difficulties, this prospect was put to a very real test as the government was forced to spend a large part of its financial reserves just to prop up the ruble and to bail out indebted state-allied corporations. Although by early 2009 the economic situation had somewhat stabilized, analysts began to consider how the Russian political system would function in the absence of the financial resources its leaders had come to take for granted.
    The future of Russian democracy.
    Vladimir Putin’s term of office has been characterized by the mixture of autocracy and democracy. The autocratic aspects showed up in the way several Russian media and businessman were harassed by state in the way we do not see in the Western Europe. Putin’s support for the political party United Russia in particular has been surrounded by the cloud of distrust. Even after last elections when United Russia lost many votes they still have a strong majority in Russian parliament. Although in my opinion United Russia is not really a party but rather a vaguely patriotic movement. It appears to depend entirely on Putin’s popularity and his ability to unite Russians. The party is thus an illustration of still immature political system of party politics in Russia today.
    Another aspect of Russia’s democratic future is that the country needs to come to grips with its totalitarian past, just as many other countries done in in 1991.

  3. Taking into consideration political situation in Russia, real democracy development in the country is rather impossible at the moment and there is a little chance that this will change in the near future.

    Due to the fact that politics has a huge impact on Russia’s economy, including country’s export, import, capital markets, agriculture etc. the situation of the country is quite easy to predict. The power in Russia is based only on one person who controls the economy of the whole country and nd despite the fact that support for Putin decreased slightly in the recent time (as evident by statistics), he still remains Russia’s leader making the development of the country dependent solely upon a single person. Thus taking into consideration the ease with which Putin controls the whole economy the country’s scenario is quite clear.

    Contemporary Russia regards itself as an empire, at least when it comes to its vast reserves of natural resources such as oil and natural gas, but it is not fully an empire.Taking into account the type of resources the country possesses, Russia could be possibly the biggest empire in the world. However, for the country to become developed and rich it would be necessary for the political system to be transformed. This, however, in the closest future is not realistic.

    Apart from changes in politics it would also be necessary to change the mentality of Russians who are used to country’s control by a single person. Thus in my opinion the only chance for Russia to become such empire as it could potentially be, a generational change would have to take place. If young people with a different mentality governed the country, supporting substantial changes, the potential of the country could be more used. Unfortunately, due to the fact that currently the situation in Russia, and to be more specific Putin’s politics which divided the nation into very poor and very rich ones, made the development of the middle class much harder.

    Following this in my opinion the future scenario of Russia is quite easy to predict. When Putin will start his governance again in May this year and he will become the president for another two cadences, the before mentioned political and economic changes will simply not take place, leaving the country where it is at the moment.

  4. We now live in an age where bipolar system of the cold war and hegemony of the United States are over (or at least as some scholars say the second one is coming to an end). GDP of aging Europe is falling and we are on the loosing side. However, this situation may open an opportunity for Russia to play important role in the future of the continent, maybe not as an empire or hegemon but an energy supplier for Europe.
    In international relations today a military might is not a hundred percent of success. Military spending especially for small states is simply unnecessary waste of money and for ‘the big ones’ what is important is how fast you can mobilize and move your military forces around the world, if a state wants to play an aggressive role in military politics. During the cold war there has been two countries able to do that now it is only one namely the United States which even now during the crisis, makes enormous cuts stopping respectively future warrior and jet fighters project. Number of the force does not mean about their ability to fight beyond the borders. Russian army lacks many of the factors of modern military forces, yes they might be brutal but are they professionals in a military sense, conducting crucial operations including assassination of Maschadov, or hostages crisis in Budionnowsk, Bieslana and Dubrovka. The only card that can be played in the military sense is the nuclear weapon which is in Russia’s possession. Nonetheless, those scenarios are not very probable, but still worth mentioning (just before the Great War some journalists were writing that ‘today’s’ economical bounds will prevent military conflicts in Europe, and despite that few years later World faced biggest industrial war in history), (J. Keegan,’ The First World War’ 1999). Future military conflicts will be based on special forces operations and operations other than war, stabilization missions etc. If it comes to big players, economic conflicts will play crucial part, depreciations of currency or change in energy policy. That is why in this perspective Russia might be crucial player in the international arena. However, it works both ways, Europe might need Russian energy but on the other hand Russia need costumers for its gas, which is sold for bigger amount of money to Europe than to China (one of the world’s biggest energy consumer). As long as the prices of natural resources will be rising it may be confounding that most of the population will not react vehemently on widespread corruption of oligarchy. Same was with the United States, before the crisis, where country prospered, only few have seen to who gets lucrative contracts in Iraq and how inefficiently some of the firms there work. As long as Russians have a notion of better life only Moscow and Petersburg will gather crowds which will oppose present political currents. Russia felt that it was loosing its influence after ’89 in Central Europe. Poland and Czech Republic in NATO, than Orange Revolution (which has failed, but nonetheless back in 2004 it was quite a concern) and war in Ossetia. Russia feels that it need to play an important role and tries to be a good business partner for Europe. This is not a zero – sum – game, here every one can benefit and rest of Europe must see this possibility.
    It is hard to predict the future and say what will be next or what are real directions of policies. I am just an observer who sees some of the action taken by the states not knowing what national leaders are talking about behind closed doors. However, from those observations it can be said that nations need to do business and close cooperation in energy policy with Russia might open an avenue for better future for Europe, of course it may prove otherwise, we will see in the next years to come.

  5. I would like to comment on our lecture on Russia and…

    Firstly, I agree with the statement that Russia, in today’s geopolitics, is not holding the position of a global leader. Yes, it is an important power, but it is not a superpower (torn by its own problems, which often undermine its prestige and the way the world perceives it). There are other more important centers of power.
    However, I disagree with the view that the role of Russia is declining. Yes, it may not be that of the leader, but it’s certainly not shrinking. One ought to remember that Russian Federation is still a regional hegemon for the Caucasus, Central Asia, and even parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans. For a lot of Azerbaijanis, Moldavians, Albanians, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Turkmenistanis, Tajikistanis, Kyrgyzstanis, Ukrainians, and Belarusians today’s Russia is still heaven on Earth. A lot of trade and migration (mostly of employment character, to Russia) are going on there.
    Moreover, one cannot forget the fact that Russia is one of the few countries on the world largely abundant with oil and natural gas (and other natural resources – although those ones are quite difficult to extract just now). It exports significant amounts of them and half of the EU is to some extent dependent on that (especially on the natural gas). Their resources are cheap and they have an extensive infrastructure to transport them. Furthermore, Russia dominates the earlier mentioned regions that are also abundant with oil and natural gas.
    Although a bit out-of-date, but nonetheless large and well-trained, the Russian army is another factor that makes the Federation an influence in the world. Their special forces (Alpha, Spetsnaz) are regarded among the world leaders. Their ground troops (Desant) are well-known for their ruthlessness and ability to act in any situation. Their air force has probably the military aviators in the world, while their naval capabilities include divisions of submarines and aircraft carriers (again, not very high-tech, but nonetheless with a solid cartographic and geological reconnaissance of the seas (especially northern Atlantic and the Arctic). Finally, they also have extensive military and civil intelligence service (FSB, GRU) and nuclear capability (both tactical and strategic).

    Secondly, one problem that should be addressed here, in my opinion, is the more and more visible Russian aspiration to become a world empire – the global hegemon. It has been becoming more evident in the Russian foreign policy and foreign relations. It seems to me that contemporary Russia cannot still become accustomed to the idea that it is no longer the international politics main ‘trend-setter’. Nation states still reckon with the Russian Federation, but they no longer follow its tone – they no longer have to. Smaller powers are now fully able to choose their own distinctive paths for development and growth. They no longer have to either ‘align’ with Russia or become its ‘enemy’ (due to differences in opinions). To a large extent, they can stand aside from such debates and purse their own goals. That is something hard to accept for a lot of Russian political elites. It’s difficult for them to recognize Russia’s decrease in importance in global politics. Hence, there are threats, the Cold War rhetoric, and the unsuccessful attempts to consecutively dominate the smaller countries.
    I believe it is related to Russia being a true empire (with a tsar) back in the history and then playing an equally important role (as the United States) in the bipolar world of the Cold War. Today, the world has changed and there are much more powerful (in terms of their capabilities to influence the global politics and the global economics) actors emerging. Consequently, it means that Russia has to ‘share’ its powers of influence with them.
    It’s worth to keep an eye on this aspect, because for quite some time in the future it might actually dictate Russia’s position in the world politics. Understanding that might actually provide one with a strategy of how to successfully deal with the Russians.

    Thirdly, looking purely from the Polish and European perspective, Russia has a lot of potential. Today’s world does not consist only with ‘big-league politics’. Russian Federation has a lot of business opportunities to offer. Yes, the risk of activity there is still rather high and the costs are increased by the impressing level of corruption (ranging from everyday life to large-scale investment projects), however there are a lot of economic areas where the Polish and European enterprises could conduct successful businesses in Russia. Russian market is still developing, so there are a lot of spots yet to be filled by the foreign capital. Moreover, the top strata of Russian society are highly affluent and willing to participate in FDI conducted on the Russian territory (they know the localities of the market). Finally, Russia has a lot potential in its human capital – Russian education (yes, still largely based on the solutions developed under the Soviet times) produces very well-educated and well-trained professionals, especially in science. It could be worth, both for Poland and the EU, to ‘brain-drain’ Russia a little bit, in order to acquire knowledgeable human resources.

    Fourthly, I am rather skeptical in terms of the positive forecasts regarding the growth of the Russian GDP. I would introduce a lot caution and restrain here. The fact is that Russian public finance still requires a great deal of reform – if not an overall change. I am the most concerned about the Russian annual budget being literally based on the exports of oil (and, to some extent, of the natural gas). Although, this activity is profitable today, it is abundant with a great deal of uncertainty and volatility (fluctuation) related to the actual inflows to the budget. This makes it completely pegged to the situation on the global resource markets. In fact, the relationship between the budget deficit (or lack thereof) and the price on oil is so close that even a minor fluctuations in the price levels (by a couple of dollars) may result in a double-digit percentage of the deficit(or surplus).
    That is hardly a framework to thoroughly plan one’s expenses….

    Fifthly, I believe that Russian exports, in general, could use some diversification. A greater share of goods other than oil and natural gas should be introduced. This would give the Russian economy less global market risk and could change the structure of exports (from rather not-processed goods to more processed ones – with a higher added value on them).

  6. It is worth analyzing the future of Russia in the light of scenarios for the world international relations in the distant future.

    Scenario Description (based on various sources)

    Polycentric world The power will be shared, dispersal of sovereign states

    Great Power Management There will be two world poles of dominance

    Normative integration States will adopt common set of norms

    Balance of Power Exclusive spheres of influence among the world major powers

    Multi regionalism International order will be build around regional spheres of responsibility

    Imperial Revival World will be divided among several international powers

    Collective Unipolarity Recognition of the centrality of the United States as the global power
    which assembles and cements international society

    • Due to the technical difficulties I append URL to the proper table:

  7. Aleksandra, I absolutely agree with you that it is very difficult to predict the future of Russia. Everything depends on the government, institutions and changes that will happen in this country in the future. (And bearing in mind that Putin is going to win ellections during 2012 doesnot fullfills me with the positive pictures!) But I would like to comment about your words: ‘In my humble opinion, Moscow will regain its super power due to high prices of oil and gas. 80% of Russia’s export is oil and gas…”. To some extent I can agree with You upon the issue that Moscow can rise the prices of oil and gas, and thanks to that it can somehow „regain its super power” (though I think these words are too laud here). But if it will do so it will last for a short period! The countries dependent on Russia’s resources wont be tolerant with Russia’s such a rude and drastic step. There will be some counteractions from the world to Russia. What goes around comes around.
    Apart from that, here comes my main argument and concern about the Russia’s future. During the 21st century in the era of technology, no country can have sustainable economy (in the long run) if it is not heavily investing in technological sector. Since this sector is having huge influence on Economical development. Even more when we are talking about such a huge economy as Russia is. The oil and gas might even be replaces with some other energy sources in the future (No one will be surprised with that innovation nowadays and even more after some decades), and then what will be left for Russia? No infrastructure, No technology, So social capital…and it will still be in the ‘Post-Soviet’ shape.

  8. I would like to make a comment about future scenario for Russia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects. It has an area of 17,075,400 km2. Poland is fifty-five times smaller than Russia. Yet, the population of Russia is shrinking. In years 1989 -2004 the percentage of people younger than 15 diminished by 6,4%. The future of Russia is hard to predict. There are few prognoses about Russia’s situation in the future. One says it will disintegrate, other say it will get under influence of China, another say it will strongly weaken. In my humble opinion, Moscow will regain its super power due to high prices of oil and gas. 80% of Russia’s export is oil and gas. These numbers might grow in the future. On the other hand there is constant development of Muslim in Russia. China is expanding, while the role of Africa is growing. There is a possibility of potential shift of power in the future. There are many scenerios of Russia’s future. It seems impossible to predict what will happen with the federation, but it is sure it will not stay the same for the next years.


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