V. Milov: Future Scenarios for Russia: An Optimistic, but Realistic Outlook

2023-01-17 | Political initiatives, Geopolitical analysis

The current dictatorship in Moscow does not reflect a deliberate choice of the Russian people. It is the result of a swift and coordinated power grab on the background of strong economic growth in the early 2000s. Russian society has shown little appetite for aggressive imperial policies over the past years, and the pro-democracy movement has been far stronger in terms of street protest potential than all other political forces.

The present regime is unlikely to switch course as long as Putin remains in charge, but once he is gone, democratic change is much more likely than further radicalization. The only thing which holds back softer policies is Putin‘s personal worldview and his prejudices after nearly a quarter of a century in power. Removing this constraint will be a significant factor stimulating liberalization. The cost of maintaining the current imperialist path will be enormous, while initiating liberalization offers huge benefits. The largely opportunistic elites are likely to make a rational choice and take a softer course.

Projections of a disintegration of Russia similar to the breakup of the Soviet Union are largely baseless. Russia’s national republics would face enormous challenges in establishing viable sovereign states while they lack the level of national consciousness that fueled the Soviet constituent republics’ aspirations. Current trends among non-Russian ethnicities to speak up for self-determination and autonomy are helpful to achieve real federalization, but those demanding complete independence typically lack broad popular support.

While a functioning democracy may still be a long way ahead for Russia, basic preconditions like demand for democracy and a clear rejection of the usurpation of power are there. A majority of future-oriented Russians overwhelmingly supports a democratic form of governance. It is essential that the democratic West learns from past failures and supports Russia‘s next attempt for democratic change instead of snubbing it.

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