Mr Putin brought into motion forces that thrive on war and nationalism. These are not the forces of imperial expansion—Russia lacks the dynamism, resources and vision that empire-building requires. They are forces of chaos and disorganisation. __ Beyond Putin
More Fragile than it Looks
An Unstable Alliance Based On Bribes
In the words of Mikhail Iampolski, a historian, Russia at present resembles a khanate in which local princes receive a licence to rule from the chief khan in the Kremlin. For the past decade the main job of the Moscow-appointed governors has been to provide votes for Mr Putin. In exchange they received a share of oil revenues and the right to rule as they see fit. Chechnya under Ramzan Kadyrov, a former warlord installed by Mr Putin, is a grotesque illustration of this. In the most recent presidential election, Chechnya provided 99.7% of its votes for Mr Putin with a turnout of 99.6%. __ Economist
No Longer a Question of “If?” But of “When?” and “How?”
Once the money runs out, the first rat to desert the sinking ship will be Chechnya.
The exit of Chechnya will have a huge impact on neighboring Dagestan. It could be followed by Tatarstan declaring itself an independent Khanate. Siberia could revive its own sovereignty, while the Ural could form a republic. __ http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/08/russia-under-putin-to-break-up/
Tatarstan is one of many republics and oblasts where “ethnic Russians” are in the minority. As Putin ramps up Russian hostility against Turks, the potential for intra-ethnic violence inside the oblasts and republics grows accordingly.
Tatarstan, home to 2m Muslim ethnic Tatars and 1.5m ethnic Russians, could declare itself the separate khanate it was in the 15th century. It has a strong identity, a diverse economy, which includes its own oil firm, and a well-educated ruling class. It would form a special relationship with Crimea, which Crimean Tartars (at last able to claim their historic land) would declare an independent state. __ Russian Breakup
Russia has always been unstable. But as its economic lifelines grow more and more strained, the ability of the Russian state to hold the restless herd together with bribes alone is failing. With that failure comes an increasing fragility of the Russian enterprise itself.
As risks of inter- and intranational conflict grows, the Russian state grows more fragile, as a going concern. Its stock on the international market must necessarily decline in value.
Putin’s Russia has a strange and surreal psychology that is reminiscent of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany.
Russia constantly portrays itself as a downtrodden nation: no one takes its priorities into account; the Americans don’t want to recognize its global significance; it’s been reduced to regional-power status and yet its “legitimate” rights to its former colonies and satellites are still not recognized. Russia constantly asserts that it is the victim of aggression. Meanwhile, the former republics that gained their independence seem to feel much better about their situation. The Ukranian victims of Russian aggression, for example, are experiencing a renewed sense of dignity, while the aggressor (Russia) bemoans its humiliation. In today’s political context, this victim discourse takes on particular significance. __ Russian State of Mind
Without Putin’s violent warmongering around its edges, Ukraine might have a chance to develop around a less corrupt and criminal model of governance than it followed when closer economic ties to Russia were the norm. That is why Putin cannot allow Ukraine to experience peace for any significant period of time. Russia as it is now known would not survive the success of Ukraine.
The breakup will happen sooner or later, and it will not be a peaceful one. The risks to the world at large will be great, and many parts of the western order are likely to suffer. Nevertheless, the pieces are in play and cannot be pulled back, thanks to Putin.
… Russia will start falling apart – federation subjects will declare autonomy. The weaker the center becomes the stronger the movement away from the center will grow. They have to do something about the Far East, Tatarstan. Russia is a huge country… __ Bukovsky on the Disintegration of Russia
Observers far and wide can see the prominent schisms leading to fragmentation and disintegration inside the artificially and poorly maintained “federation.”
… The growing gulf between the Russian people and the Kremlin, ethnic conflicts, regional competition, alcoholism, and the spread of Chinese influence into Siberia and the Russian Far East, Suvorov says, means not only that Russia is weak but that it will disintegrate during the next 10 to 15 years.”
The Caucasus is a perennial hotspot of dissent and insurgency — becoming more so as Putin ramps up his war against Sunni Muslims. Now with Putin’s war against Turkey and the Turkic peoples, more of Russia’s republics and oblasts come into play. The Far East grows more apt to breakaway — or to be taken by stealth — by the year.
The former head of the Moscow FSB also predicts a sad fate for Russia:
I am afraid that beginning from March 2014 we have determined the destiny of our country for a long time. On one hand, this destiny will be about economic and technological downfall, and on the other on our rising dependency on China. __ Yevgeny Sabostynov former FSB Chief Moscow
A rising dependency on China is a dynamic and growing reality. Putin has isolated himself so deeply from other sources of technology and funding that his puppet strings are increasingly being twitched by Beijing’s sense of destiny, rather than Moscow’s.
All indications show that the Russian Far East is fast becoming (if it has not already become) economically dependent on China. Its future is in the hands of the local Chinese, not Russian local authorities. The Chinese cultivate the land, which the Russians are not motivated to do on their own. Local authorities and businessmen don’t complain about dwindling Russian manpower beyond the Amur River as they can easily replace native workers with Chinese who are willing to work 12 hours a day or more. __ Russian Far East Becoming Stealth Colony of China
The vast expanses of Siberia would provide not just room for China’s huddled masses, now squeezed into the coastal half of their country by the mountains and deserts of western China. The land is already providing China, “the factory of the world,” with much of its raw materials, especially oil, gas and timber. Increasingly, Chinese-owned factories in Siberia churn out finished goods, as if the region already were a part of the Middle Kingdom’s economy. __ China Will Reclaim Siberia
Below is a closer look at how Russia might begin to disintegrate, a piece at a time:
Disintegration of the Russian Federation could be triggered by just a few federal subjects that are potential hotbeds of separatism. They already have plenty of ethnic and/or economic reasons to separate from Moscow. If such sentiments escalated, Russia’s further existence as a single state would be impossible due to a number of reasons.
The first such province is the modern Ural Federal District that is clearly divided into two specialized regions: Tyumen Oblast (or Yugra comprised of the oil-rich Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug) and the steelwork-dominated Ural including Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk oblasts. Adjacent is Kurgan Oblast dominated by industrial machine building.
Tyumen Oblast with its two autonomous okrugs has the most abundant resources in Russia. It provides 2/3 of all Russian oil and over 90% of natural gas (Gazprom is nothing without it). Deprived of its minerals, the rest of Russia would automatically turn into a huge importer of natural gas and would hardly be able to export oil or oil products, but would most likely have to import those as well. The population of Tyumen Oblast was a mere 3.55 million at the beginning of 2014, with just 2.15 million in the autonomous okrugs that extract oil and gas. This makes the region comparable to Kuwait in terms of oil extraction per capita (Kuwait’s population is 2.7 million people). The only difference is that Tyumen Oblast extracts 3.5 times more oil and over 150 more gas than Kuwait does. __ Mechanisms of Disintegration
By thrusting Ukraine into a state of perpetual war and instability, Putin has made it necessary for Ukrainians to discover as many ways as possible to destabilise Putin’s Russia. They are likely to be joined in that endeavour by other Eastern European escapees from the Russian gulag of nations.
It is unlikely that the Russian Federation will survive in its current form. Russia’s failure to transform its energy revenue into a self-sustaining economy makes it vulnerable to price fluctuations. It has no defense against these market forces. Given the organization of the federation, with revenue flowing to Moscow before being distributed directly or via regional governments, the flow of resources will also vary dramatically. This will lead to a repeat of the Soviet Union’s experience in the 1980s and Russia’s in the 1990s, in which Moscow’s ability to support the national infrastructure declined. In this case, it will cause regions to fend for themselves by forming informal and formal autonomous entities. The economic ties binding the Russian periphery to Moscow will fray. __
Asked what could stop Putin, Kasparov says that “when [he] hears ‘a coalition of states,’ this can mean only one thing, that no one wants do to anything… As long as Obama is in power, whose strategy is ‘leading from behind,’ nothing of course will happen.” Europe isn’t in a position to do anything as it has its own problems and lacks military power. __
Putin had the opportunity to move the country away from the corrupt and criminal patronage system, toward a freer economy with more opportunity for ordinary Russians. But he chose corruption and mafiacracy instead.
Besides leading the country … back to authoritarianism, Putin did not change a massively corrupt economic system that is based on bribery and personal connections. This is a system in which free enterprises and entrepreneurs face serious obstacles if they do not have the necessary ties in the government or are not backed by the siloviki (“men of power”) who control the military, police, and intelligence services. Thus, Russia’s most valuable assets came to be controlled by a small group of oligarch businessmen. Putin permitted them to keep their wealth in exchange for political loyalty. Aslund has compared the power of these oligarchs—most of whom became wealthy through control of companies in the energy sector—to 19th-century American “robber barons.” This oligarchy has become Russia’s biggest obstacle to economic development. To solve that problem, Aslund recommends that the oligarchs be required to “pay a compensation for benefits they have enjoyed, in return guaranteeing them their property rights.” __ Putin Chose the Path of Corruption
And so, when the money stops, Russia will quickly lose its cohesion.
And now we come to the important question: As Russia disintegrates into several pieces, what becomes of the vaunted
Soviet Russian nuclear arsenal?
China will likely be asked by the new Siberian states to take control of nuclear assets there. The new Ural state may well probably prove stable enough to control the large stores of nuclear materials and wastes there. The new states of the Caucasus may come into the possession of a few strategic nukes, and more tactical nukes. And some nukes are almost certain to fall into the hands of Iran as well as into the hands of Sunni militant groups.
Russia’s nuclear trove is a rich treasure chest of destruction, as are the troves of biological weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons of mass devastation that Russia has been developing.
It will be very difficult for the remnants of Russia to escape the impact of some of these weapons, once they are out of the Kremlin’s control.
When Russia disintegrates, open warfare is apt to break out between Iran and Israel, Pakistan and India, North Korea and South Korea, Russia and Poland, Russia and Turkey, Russia and Japan, Russia and China, and Russia and NATO.
Putin’s belligerence has isolated Russia from former friends and allies, making new enemies. Russia is now stuck in an expensive and treacherous Syrian conflict that may last years, with likely blowback to the Russian core as a result. The expense of supporting stolen Crimea and underwriting the invasion of east Ukraine is growing more unjustifiable to government bankers.
But Putin cannot stop short of Belarus, or he will have failed in his Ukrainian gamb it. But openly hostile action in Belarus risks indefinite extension of western sanctions. So Putin must keep his actions as secret as possible.
Meanwhile, Russia’s existence — as we know it — becomes more precarious and fragile.
This is the path that Putin has chosen to take. He is the only one to blame. But billions are likely to suffer.
Russia’s False Dawn
In the years between 2010 and early 2014, Russia appeared to be overcoming many of its core problems. Birth rates seemed to be rising, and death rates appeared to be falling. Russia’s GDP gave every appearance of being on an upward path. But all of these things were only surface statistical phenomena that represented normal statistical variation within larger trends.
Anyone who understood basic economics, chain of supply, and the basic needs of sustainable technological progress, could see that Russia was in big trouble — despite the slight blips on its statistical trend lines.
Certainly several Russia analysts — including two usual suspect fellow-traveling grad students — were fooled. They in turn fooled large numbers of their readers into trusting the growing flood of Kremlin propaganda that served to distract from the deep processes that matter.
Putin’s government has done nothing to relax its iron grip on business or eradicate high-level corruption. It hasn’t even pretended to be more welcoming to investors: The rhetoric coming out of the Kremlin is mainly grim survival and hostility.
Some oil exporters — Venezuela and Nigeria, for example — are inept when it comes to economic policy. That isn’t the case with Russia: It just has a leader who doesn’t prioritize the economy or care too much about living standards as long as the population is enthusiastic about his quest for a bigger geopolitical role. Russia is unique among oil exporters as a nation that is being milked for the sake of one man’s grand vision.
For Putin’s bold power play to be capable of working, he would have needed to utilise his “years of plenty” to reduce corruption and increase opportunity for Russian business. Once a healthy broad-based industrial economy had been built, it would have drawn massive amounts of foreign investment and would have experienced several years of the same type of astounding growth given to China over two and a half decades. Russia would then have a much greater amount of political capital and clout.
By wasting the years of high oil prices in corrupt power plays and consolidating dictatorial powers, Putin has put Russia in an untenable position: The country is broke with broken infrastructures, polluted water / air / soil, a completely dismal chain of supply for its industrial infrastructure — including its military — and a rapidly ageing multicultural and multiethnic population of increasingly diverse loyalties that will lose most of its cohesiveness before two decades have passed.
The west’s problems are quite serious, but orders of magnitude less severe than the infirmities that infest Russia.
We should look at the coming collapse of Russia with regret, and with deep concern. There are many preparations that must be made to deal with the fallout. One neglects such warnings at his own risk.
Russian news you will not likely read elsewhere:
Business and the Kremlin Putin knows what is going on. He gets a cut of everything. It is a bit worrying how readily the Russian government eats its own future, though. Power and wealth. And a dollop of mindless ideology for the fools in the cheap bleachers swilling cheap spirits.
Complexities of Crimea: The truth is far more complex than the official narrative.
“Nowadays production of false information [in the media] in Russia is almost an industry. It’s not a case of casual inaccuracies or distorted perceptions, it’s a deliberate process of creating fakes, and it’s only gaining speed,” said Alexei Kovalyov, whose website devoted to exposing lies and inaccuracies in pro-Kremlin reports has recently recorded 211,000 visits a month.
… According to Klishin, the Russian government contracts so-called advertising and PR agencies, through which people are employed as pro-Kremlin Internet activists.
“It’s not like there are government officials posting comments on Facebook and building up hashtags on Twitter. There are companies with people on payroll that work in shifts and spend days in their offices writing right comments in the Internet,” he said.
… Russian television nowadays performs an important job – it legitimizes lies, says political analyst Vladimir Gelman. “When the television lies and doesn’t even try to hide it, it sends a signal to people that there is no truth – there are simply different kinds of lies, and the one shown on television is the right one,” he told The Moscow Times.
Corruption rules Russia Today in a bloody iron fist.
Rapid strengthening of regional identities weakens cohesion of the 85 Russian fractions. Centrifugal forces grow, encouraging a “spinning apart” of the fractious puzzle pieces that are today’s divided Russia.
Case in point: Russian jet bombs Syrian Army Air Base, killing three of Assad’s soldiers. But like a good little puppet, Assad blames US jets, which were 35 miles away at the time. It seems that Russia’s brave use of “dumb and stupid bombs” is creating blowback in paradise. More on Russia’s stupidity and Assad’s duplicity.