Posted 7 декабря 2022,, 10:02

Published 7 декабря 2022,, 10:02

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Self-restraint is inevitable: experts discussed Russia's prospects

Self-restraint is inevitable: experts discussed Russia's prospects

7 декабря 2022, 10:02
Фото: Соцсети
Russia's economic and political losses already incurred during the conflict in Ukraine are such that even a relative victory will not allow them to be quickly replenished, Russian and foreign experts agree.

As a result, regardless of the outcome of the conflict in the coming years and possibly decades, Russia will be forced to switch to a regime of “self-restraint” in order to restore its undermined forces and reputation. This regime will force it to focus on the highest priorities of the national interest and sharply limit its foreign policy influence. The collapse of Russia looks like an unlikely scenario, but it will have to rely more and more on China and increase its dependence on it. The weakening of the Kremlin is fraught with the resuscitation of old conflicts in the post-Soviet space, when Russia ceases to be the guarantor of compliance with the agreements. One way or another, Russia will in any case come to an end to this conflict with a result that is exactly the opposite of what it sought to achieve by launching a special operation in Ukraine.

The country faces years of degradation

Sad immediate and distant prospects for the Russian economy are drawn by expert Alexandra Prokopenko:

“Russian firms, for the most part, independently adapt to new conditions. The authorities do not interfere much - this is a very pro-market position. If the government continues to resist the temptation to fall into the state plan with a strict definition of who should supply what and where, then the Russian economy will most likely survive and the adaptation period will end somewhere by mid-2023.

However, the lack of access to technology will continue to hinder the modernization of enterprises, forcing the reduction of investment plans. Reorientation to other markets rests, on the one hand, on logistical bottlenecks, on the other hand, on the need to make concessions and provide discounts on their products. The situation is such that for the time being these markets are more necessary for Russia than Russia for them. And a turn to the domestic market can only partially support production - its scale is too small.

The pre-war potential of the Russian economy was already not very high - 2-3% growth per year. The special operation in Ukraine and external restrictions reduced it to about 1%. This is not enough even for supportive development.

The severance of external relations is leading Russia to regressive import substitution: lost import components will be replaced by less advanced counterparts. The labor market will be pressured by a shortage of qualified personnel - the brain drain will continue, including due to the simplification of tasks and the lack of access to advanced technologies. The remaining specialists will be fought for, which can increase their salaries faster than productivity grows, which will add inflationary risks. The development of the economy will turn in the opposite direction, and it will take three to five years to simply fix the negative balance..."

The impact on the world order will have to be forgotten for a while

Regardless of the outcome of the special operation, Russia’s military, economic and reputational losses leave no doubt that it will have to abandon the big strategy of “systemic challenge” to the existing world order, which it has pursued in recent years, and move to a “retrenchment” regime, Ivan Klyshch, an expert at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute, writes. The mode of “(self-)limitation” is by no means a rare (and repeatedly described) and rather even the most rational strategy for big powers that have experienced defeat or a large-scale internal crisis. The failures experienced, the threat of a deepening crisis and the collapse of statehood are forcing decision makers to focus on recuperating, reducing risks and reducing costs by abandoning obligations that are not priority and necessary, including the conduct of hostilities and the buildup of political influence abroad. In Russia, this strategy is well known from Foreign Minister Alexander Gorchakov's maxim "Russia is concentrating" formulated shortly after the defeat of the Russian monarchy in the Crimean War. Recently, the policy of "limitation" and "concentration" has been discussed mainly in relation to the United States, which, in the opinion of many in America, should reduce its foreign policy commitments.

It should be noted that there are two scenarios for "post-war" Russia most discussed by experts - the collapse and "reliance on China", increasing its dependence on Beijing. However, the first scenario, unlike the second, according to Ivan Klyshch, is much less likely, since Russia is a much more homogeneous country than the Soviet Union was.

The post-Soviet space will also get out of control

“Limiting” Russia is highly likely to lead to the resuscitation of old and the emergence of new military conflicts in the post-Soviet space, says Pavel Bayev, senior researcher at the Center for the United States and Europe from The Brookings Institution. Russia is already losing its positions in countries where its presence has traditionally been a guarantor of the preservation of the agreements reached, analysts at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) echo him. As a result, the efforts of the last thirty years, spent by Russia to assert its leadership positions in the region, are going to waste. Thus, it has already lost the status of a patron country for Armenia, whose president refused to sign the final declaration of the CSTO because of Russia's unwillingness to take a more decisive position in the renewed Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. Russia also adheres to the tactics of hushing up and evading arbitration and interference in relation to the dispute between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, because of which Kyrgyzstan canceled the next CSTO military exercises, which were to be held on its territory in October. Kazakhstan, despite not having a direct conflict of interest with any of its neighbors, has also moved away from Russia, refusing to support the Russian government's idea of imposing joint sanctions on Western countries.

The weakening of Russia could lead to new conflicts in border Georgia and even in Chechnya, which is still Russian, Baev believes. Chechen separatists can take advantage of Ramzan Kadyrov's ambitions, and Russia will be too exhausted to get involved in another Chechen campaign. Georgia, in turn, may try to return Abkhazia and South Ossetia to its borders. And if the return of South Ossetia, most likely, will not present much difficulty, then a new military conflict may break out over Abkhazia. Another point of change, according to the analyst, will be Belarus: the Lukashenka regime will fall as soon as Russia stops supporting him. United thanks to the mass protests of 2020, the Belarusian opposition will strive to create a pro-European government, ready to break the union state treaty with Russia.

One way or another, the West now needs to think through scenarios for interaction with this weakened “post-war” Russia in order to avoid new geopolitical catastrophes and be able to influence the future authorities of the country, based on the interests of international security, experts are sure. Most importantly, Russia will in any case end the conflict with Ukraine with a result that is directly opposite to what it sought to achieve by starting it.