The benefits of Russia’s coming disintegration – POLITICO

Janusz Bugajski is a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation. His new book, Failed State: A Guide to Russia’s Rupture, has just come out.

We are currently witnessing an unfolding global security revolution for which Western policymakers are clearly unprepared – the impending collapse of the Russian Federation.

Instead of planning for external contingencies and taking advantage of Russia’s de-imperialization, Western officials seem stuck in the past, believing they can return to the post-Cold War status quo, and some are even offering Moscow security guarantees to keep it going. the country is intact.

But Russia is a failed state. It failed to transform itself into a nation state, a civil state, or even a stable imperial state. It is a federation in name only, as the central government pursues a policy of ethnic and linguistic homogenization and gives no powers to the country’s 83 republics and regions. But hypercentralization has exposed many of the country’s weaknesses, including a shrinking economy under pressure from international sanctions, military defeats in Ukraine that have exposed the incompetence and corruption of its ruling elite, and anxiety in many regions about shrinking budgets.

Moscow is finally revealed as the predatory center of an empire that is exhausting its capacity to hold the country together. But most Western leaders still do not see the benefits of Russia’s disintegration.

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The disintegration of the Russian Federation will be the third stage of imperial collapse, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. It is fueled by elite power struggles and growing competition between the central government and disaffected regions, which could lead to civil wars and border disputes in some parts of the country. But it will also lead to the emergence of new states and interregional federations that will control their own resources and no longer send their men to die for the Moscow Empire.

As Moscow turns inward, its options for foreign aggression will diminish. And as a backwater state, under intense international sanctions and deprived of its resource base in Siberia, it will have a greatly reduced capacity to attack its neighbors. From the Arctic to the Black Sea, NATO’s eastern front will become more secure; and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will regain their occupied territories and apply for integration into the European Union and NATO without fear of Russian reaction.

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Central Asian countries will also feel increasingly liberated and will be able to turn to the West for energy, security and economic ties. China will be in a weaker position to expand its influence because it will no longer be able to cooperate with Moscow, and new pro-Western states may emerge from the Russian Federation, which will increase stability in several regions of Europe and Eurasia.

While nuclear weapons will remain a potential threat, Russia’s leaders will not kill themselves by unleashing them against the West. Instead, they will try to salvage their political future and economic fortunes, just as the Soviet elite did. And even if some developing countries acquire such weapons, they will have no reason to deploy them in order to gain international recognition and economic aid. Pro-Russian states are likely to seek nuclear disarmament, similar to Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The idea that Western leaders are only helping President Vladimir Putin by talking about the collapse of Russia is misleading. The Kremlin claims that the West wants to destroy Russia regardless of realpolitik, and denials from Washington and Brussels simply fuel Kremlin plots.

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Rather, a much more effective approach would be to clearly state what the West is supporting. Open support for pluralism, democracy, federalism, civil rights, and the autonomy of its republics and regions can help galvanize Russian citizens by showing that they are not isolated from the rest of the world. They will also need access to information that Moscow suppresses, especially when it comes to ensuring security, economic development and fostering peaceful, productive relations with its neighbors.

Even after the horrors of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and the genocidal justifications offered by the country’s government leaders and advisers, the hope of Western officials that they will be able to establish a beneficial relationship with the post-Putin Kremlin or liberal democratize the empire is highly desirable. thinking.

The West made a big mistake in thinking that the collapse of Soviet Communism meant the end of Russian imperialism. And where imperial states always fail, when they overextend themselves, and when centrifugal pressures are fueled by economic hardship, regional grievances and national resurgence, it must now avoid repeating that mistake—this time, mistakenly believing that the current empire is permanent.


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