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7 Aug, 2023 15:36

Andrey Sushentsov: The West really believes Russia is on the verge of ‘collapse.’ This explains a lot of bad policy

Driven by propaganda, endless fantasies about the country’s weakness are making it more difficult to end the Ukraine conflict
Andrey Sushentsov: The West really believes Russia is on the verge of ‘collapse.’ This explains a lot of bad policy

The ongoing Western narrative that Russia is constantly on the verge of imminent collapse stems from the persistent perception that the state is vulnerable to internal combustion because of its perceived fragility, vast territory and critical imbalances. 

Though the current Ukraine crisis serves as a serious stress test for Russia, in reality, it has already revealed the country’s remarkable adaptability.

Moscow’s current strategic foreign-policy objectives have remained unchanged since they were formulated in November-December 2021. Originally intended to be solved through diplomatic channels, they encompass not only Ukraine but also Russia’s broader relations with the US and the West. An agreement could have been reached through negotiations but, unfortunately, the West did not take this route. 

As a result, Russia has resorted to military means to achieve its vital interests.

Russia’s plans revolve primarily around ensuring the demilitarization of Ukraine and preventing any formal alliance between Kiev and Washington, as well as countering potential military links with the NATO military bloc. Moscow’s determination to get what it wants remains unwavering, and it is prepared to use all available means. If negotiations resume in the future, it is likely that the issues that figured prominently in the November-December 2021 diplomatic contacts will be revisited.

Unfortunately, the dominant narrative in Western countries often focuses on Russia’s supposed imminent collapse, ignoring its will to overcome the crisis. This narrative appears to be fueled by Western politicians’ belief in the country’s perceived weaknesses, which encourages the Western establishment not to seek an end to the conflict.

Based on long-term observations of the situation on the ground, especially after the infamous ‘Prigozhin revolt,’ one can conclude that there are still no clear signs of an impending crisis in Russia. On the contrary, the current state of the country has exceeded expectations in many areas – economic, social, demographic and military, given Russia’s ability to stand up to NATO’s formidable military machine.

The current crisis situation serves as a serious stress test, assessing Moscow’s ability to make informed decisions, demonstrate social resilience, use resources effectively, adapt its economic model, sustain its political system, manage information strategies and overcome foreign-policy challenges.

Undoubtedly, Russia is under enormous pressure and, like any nation state, is subject to factors that reveal both strengths and weaknesses.

Despite the difficulties associated with external assessment of the domestic situation, the last eighteen months has displayed Russia’s remarkable adaptability as a market economy, especially in times of severe stress. Even in the face of a significant loss of export opportunities to the West, Russia has shown unexpected flexibility and impressive financial and economic resilience. The idea of its collapse, which has been promoted in some Western media outlets, undoubtedly stems from the desire in the West to see this fantasy come true. 

By way of comparison, consider the recent events in France, with its ongoing strikes and riots. It would be unreasonable to suggest that France is on the verge of imploding or leaving the EU. Or take the riots on Capitol Hill, which erupted after former President Donald Trump refused to recognize the outcome of the 2020 US election. This episode had a significant impact on domestic American politics, but little impact on the geopolitical position of the United States.

The unfolding events in any country, including Russia, are best understood as a natural and cyclical part of political development rather than an imminent danger. Such circumstances often create challenges and complexities that countries must deal with as part of their ongoing growth and evolution.

Past examples (the Streltsy uprising under Peter the Great and a series of failed palace coups in subsequent periods) confirm Russia’s historical vulnerability to internal problems and uprisings. The current situation is not an isolated phenomenon but rather part of the broader historical context of the country’s life, reflecting recurring patterns of internal complexity and of socio-political upheaval throughout Russian history.

The Russian leadership effectively managed the Wagner rebellion by skillfully maintaining the balance of power, avoiding potentially significant losses and mitigating adverse effects to the frontlines of the Ukraine conflict. This successful strategy led to the strategic unity of the armed forces and opened the door for Wagner to continue its activities in other regions.

This article was first published by Valdai Discussion Club

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