Understand the political consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war
The new feature of Fair Observer FO° Insights gives meaning to current issues. We pose a series of quick questions to the best of our more than 2,500 contributors from over 90 countries who share their insights, insights and perspectives on an important issue.
Experts are arguing over what awaits Russia after a so far disastrous war. In Western capitals like London and Washington, many believe Vladimir Putin’s regime could fall. They believe that Russia could disintegrate. In places like India and China, many believe that most war information is Western propaganda that should be taken with a handful of salt, not a pinch of salt. They believe that Russia will overcome its initial setbacks, take control of the Ukrainian coast and leave Ukraine as a landlocked rump state.
Atul Singh on the political consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian war
In this episode of FO° Insights, Atul Singh makes sense of what is happening. You can watch the video above and/or read what he has to say below. Transcript lightly edited for clarity.
Is this the second round of the 1991 Soviet collapse?
Atoul Singh: Zhou Enlai once said of the influence of the French Revolution – he said it for 1968 but it was interpreted as 1789 – that it was too early to tell. I think it’s too early to tell.
The Russian Empire was a hastily constructed contraption. Russia expanded east to the Pacific, just as America moved west to reach the same ocean. But the American empire was built on more solid foundations, while the Russian empire was a messy and disorganized affair.
The Soviet Union that emerged in 1917 collapsed in 1991. Now you might see places like Dagestan, Chechnya and other regions secede. If and it is the big if if the military defeat is catastrophic. If the losses are too high, which they have been so far, but they are not yet too high, and if people start losing their shirts and suffering for food and basic services, then Russia could collapse.
Moreover, Russia is governed by a kleptocratic regime. It’s not built on an ideology. Unlike Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin does not generate tremendous economic growth or industrialization. In fact, Russian factories depend on spare parts from all over the world. The Russians don’t make silicon chips, so they can’t do a lot of advanced stuff without help from others. So yes, Russia could collapse, but the jury is still out on whether it will.
Is Vladimir Putin running out of rope?
Atoul Singh: My personal feeling is that Vladimir Putin will eventually leave because most dictators lose touch and dictators who end up in wars that end badly don’t seem to stay in the saddle for too long. This war is not going very well for Putin, so he may be running out of rope, and the reason for that is not necessarily the war. The reason may well be that he presided over a regime that indulged in mass thefts. And there is no real moral or ideological basis for his regime.
Putin’s regime is a fake tsarism, it’s a tsarism without a tsar with its private properties, with its fanciful castles, with oligarchs and an absolute concentration of power. In the end, Putin’s regime is not like the Soviet regime which had true believers. Everything is built around a nostalgia for past greatness and which can end in a defeat in Ukraine, or let’s say a Pyrrhic victory, which is often not much better.
Can Russia still export its military equipment?
Russia has made a name for itself as a powerful military power, exporting its T-90 tanks, S-400 missiles, Sukhoi Su-30s and so on to many countries around the world, including China and the United States. India. Now Russian factories will have to work overtime to supply their own army. In addition, many engines for Russian military equipment came from Ukraine. In fact, that’s what the Indians are discovering, and Russia will find it very difficult to increase production and supply other countries.
Russia’s strength as a defense exporter will weaken. The country is definitely going to be on its back, if not on its knees, and if things go horribly wrong. Of course, Russian kit now has a bad reputation, given the mutilation it has suffered, but if the war turned even worse, Russia’s days as a leading arms exporter could be in doubt. . The Chinese might look at Russia, or the Russian disaster, a little more cheerfully than the West. They could step in to fill the void.
Will Russia fall under the thumb of China?
Well, that’s the nightmare of many of my Pentagon friends. I’ve heard so many arguments that the real enemy is China and Russia is a distraction. Some of these ladies and gentlemen believe that China is backing Russia through back channels and shady deals are backing Vladimir Putin.
Little by little, a giant pipeline is being built to meet Chinese energy needs. This will provide Russia with much of the liquidity needed to continue over a period of time. Russia is increasingly beholden to China. If Beijing emerges triumphant or triumphant, we could achieve something like an alliance between Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire before World War I.
It could then take the West. In fact, this Eurasian alliance could emerge as a challenger to Washington and European capitals. Of course, Russia and China have thorny border issues. They have a long border. They also have a geopolitical rivalry in Central Asia. They had quarrels even under communism when they were supposed to be under the same ideology. But pressure from the West could push them together, certainly at this time. The Russians need the Chinese more than the Chinese need the Russians. Russia will therefore certainly be under the thumb of China.
What future for Russia?
A gloomy winter, I suppose, after a difficult summer. Russia is not in its best shape. Yes, its ruble no longer drops to the same degree – they backed it with gold. Yes, Russia has a fortress economy. Yes, it can grow wheat. Yes, there is bread and oil. But at the end of the day, the Russians haven’t really invested in their own country and made stuff. A country’s ability to fight a war and win a war depends on its ability to do things, and that’s what Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union was good at despite all its catastrophic loss of life and murder of millions of people.
Under Vladimir Putin, the Russian oligarchs bought yachts, properties in London and beautiful villas in Monaco and elsewhere. And the Russians don’t do anything anymore. They export goods. So Russia can certainly cause a giant crash in the world economy. It can cause inflation to ricochet around the world. This can bring about the collapse of regimes like in Egypt and even in countries like Lebanon.
However, Russia is no longer doing anything advanced and no longer producing silicon chips, which is important for the next generation of manufacturing. So the future for Russia is bleak, and there is sure to be a massive upheaval in the way Russia is run and perhaps even the way Russian borders are drawn when the dust settles.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.