This is the last issue of Pro et Contra. The journal will no longer be published in the format known to its readers for many years. The last issue continues—and concludes—with the scenarios of Russia’s development. This time, the authors analyze the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on the country’s future.
The Ukrainian Crisis and Russia
Ukraine: Illusions Not Lost
The Kiev Maidan is clearly unique when contrasted with global trends. The Ukrainian protesters were actually able to change their country’s political regime. Kiev became the place where people decided to fight till the end, which in fact became the decisive element in their struggle against the Yanukovych regime. Ukraine is facing a number of obstacles on its path to democratic transformation; however, the drive that led to the Maidan’s victory is one of the factors that will spur democratic change.
The Crisis Through the Eyes of Ukrainians
The mass protests in Kiev triggered a deep social and political crisis in December 2013. The first phase of the crisis culminated in the fall of the Yanukovych regime following the street protests against it. The second phase resulted in the loss of Crimea orchestrated with the help of Russian troops, which threatened to break up the country and escalate the Russian aggression to the rest of its territory. However, sociopolitical sentiments inside Ukraine have also caused the spiraling of the crisis.
Patriarch Kirill and the Post-Maidan Ukraine
The Ukrainian crisis became a serious test for the Russian Orthodox Church, whose hierarchs found themselves between the rock and the hard place. On one side is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which falls under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate but enjoys considerable autonomy. Its leadership spoke against Russia’s involvement in the Ukrainian crisis, thus expressing its support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity. The Kremlin, which Patriarch Kirill traditionally supports, is on the other side.
The Fourth Conquest of Crimea
The military component of the Crimean operation has presented the researcher with an important question: how can a liberal military reform continue to be carried out while the country itself remains authoritarian? Does it mean that Russia can also expect the rise of a “new militarism” in which a modern military coexists with an ideology of mass mobilization? A “correct” reform in a particular sphere, be it military affairs or taxation, does not ensure the evolution of an authoritarian regime in a positive direction. It may even strengthen such a regime by providing it with modern financial institutions or modernized armed forces.
Russia in 2014: Sliding Down the Funnel
In the absence of powerful external shocks, the regime’s longevity is likely to be determined by three major downward trends: a) decreasing administrative efficiency; b) cumulative effect of technological and social degradation; c) aging business and political elite and loss of its functional efficiency. The situation can be likened to a continuous slide down the funnel, in which the movement trajectory resembles a narrowing spiral, while the system itself can be compared to a plane in a tailspin.
Geopolitics of Self-Isolation
Modern Putinologists failed to promptly diagnose the regime’s mutation that made Russia’s rejection of the Western rules of the game inevitable and marked its turn to the state of confrontation. This article discusses certain aspects of international political climate that helped to accelerate this mutation and will determine the risks at its final stages. Lacking serious resources to increase its power, Russia repudiated the core trend of the emerging multipolar world, which considers economic dynamism the main criterion for success.
The Post-Crimea Political Regime
The annexation of Crimea have raised the regime’s legitimacy as a protector from external threats. This increased “symbolic legitimacy” will offset the discontent with the regime’s day-to-day performance for a certain period of time. However, the conflict between these two trends remains unresolved: “patriotic mobilization” does not solve any of the urgent socioeconomic problems. How the conflict between these two components of regime legitimacy evolves will to a large extent determine the prospective development of the entire political system.
The Russian Economy by the Start of the Post-Putin Era
The baseline scenario provides for the inertial development of the Russian economy; however, some new external factors will emerge. Two deviations from the baseline scenario will be discussed: a) “the new Cold War,” which will incorporate the West’s economic sanctions and the Russian leaders’ attempts to ensure the country’s self-sufficient development, and b) “change of priorities”—if approximately midway through the projection period the Russian leaders realize the seriousness of the problems that the country faces and start solving them.
The Russian Space: After Crimea and in the Midst of the Crisis
Scenario analysis reveals mostly bleak results: regions will not become engines of positive change in Russia; they lack economic resources and powerful elite interests to make an impact. More modernized large cities will bear the brunt of the growing selective political repressions, which will allow the regime to stay in power until the next presidential elections. Under the most extreme scenario, the North Caucasus will become Russia’s main engine of change. In case of the seriously weakened Center, China may exert a disproportionate influence over the eastern regions of the country. However, their secession from Russia is unlikely.
Putin’s Totalitarian Backslide
Historical evidence from around the world suggests that weakened legitimacy frequently leads to dictatorial rule or attempts to establish it rather than to democratization. The Kremlin’s policy of fomenting instability in Ukraine only strengthens these trends, but now in the guise of pointless national narcissism. This concentration of negative evolutionary trends leads to Russia’s alienation from global processes and guarantees to engender the feelings of resentment and selfisolation for the next generation of Russians.
Non-Political Activism in Russia
Ksenia Demakova, Svetlana Makovetskaya, Yelena Skryakova
The growth of civic activism in Russia helps to create “bridging social capital” which contributes to building trust outside of the immediate circle of one’s relatives and friends, thus facilitating the formation of broad public solidarity coalitions. At the same time, “bonding social capital,” which helps to build greater trust within smaller groups of like-minded individuals, is also being created. Despite the clash between the “conservationist” and “modern” agendas, we are witnessing gradual development of civic culture.