A Geopolitical Nightmare: No Happy Endings If Russia Melts Down

 

“What happened in Crimea was a terrible thing. What happened in Ukraine was a tragedy. What is happening in Russia now is a threat to the global order.”

As the ruble plummets, there is a degree of satisfaction and even relish in the West at the sight of Russia’s difficulties. The balloon of Putin’s strategic genius is rapidly deflating in the face of harsh economic realities: now the Russians will be put in their place.

Today’s Russia is not the Soviet behemoth, comparatively disconnected from the world economy. Nor is it the struggling reform economy of the 1990s. It is the world’s eighth largest economy, well integrated into the global marketplace. If Russia goes into a prolonged recession, it is not just Russia itself that bears the consequences—it will be the rest of the world as well. First in line is the European Union, whose member states—some barely emerging from recession—have extensive trade links with Russia. Continue reading

Russia’s Military Is Back

Earlier this year, in an address delivered on the day devoted to the “defenders of the Fatherland,” the Russian president proclaimed: “Ensuring Russia has a reliable military force is the priority of our state policy. Unfortunately, the present world is far from being peaceful and safe. Long obsolete conflicts are being joined by new, but no less difficult, ones. Instability is growing in vast regions of the world.”

This is not empty talk. The rhetoric has been matched by a concurrent allocation of resources; Russia is now engaged in its largest military buildup since the collapse of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago, with major increases in defense spending budgeted each year to 2020. Putin has pushed for this program even over the objections of some within the Kremlin who worried about costs and the possible negative impact on Russian prosperity; opposition to the expansion of military spending was one of the reasons the long-serving Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin left the cabinet two years ago.

The rest of the world is taking notice. Continue reading