In Western countries, the prevailing narrative often centres on Russia’s supposed imminent collapse, overshadowing its enduring determination to prevail over the crisis. This narrative appears to be perpetuated by discussions among Western politicians on Russia’s perceived weaknesses, potentially diverting the Western establishment from seeking an end to the conflict, writes Valdai Club Programme Director Andrey Sushentsov.
Russia’s strategic goals amid the Ukraine crisis have remained steadfast since they were initially formulated in November–December 2021. Originally intended to be pursued through diplomatic channels, these objectives encompass not only Ukraine but also broader Russo-US/Western relations.
Notably, these goals could have been accomplished through diplomatic negotiations, but regrettably, this path was not pursued by the West. As a consequence, Russia has resorted to military means to pursue its vital interests. These objectives primarily revolve around ensuring the demilitarisation of Ukraine, the prevention of any formal alliance between Ukraine and its primary military ally, the US, and countering any potential military connections with NATO. The determination to achieve these aims remains steadfast, and Russia is prepared to employ all available means, be it through diplomatic negotiations or, if necessary, using military force. If negotiations resume in the future, it is likely that they will revisit the issues that were prominent in the diplomatic discussions held in November–December 2021.
Alas, in Western countries, the prevailing narrative often centres on Russia’s supposed imminent collapse, overshadowing its enduring determination to prevail over the crisis. This narrative appears to be perpetuated by discussions among Western politicians on Russia’s perceived weaknesses, potentially diverting the Western establishment from seeking an end to the conflict.
After closely observing the situation on the ground for over a year, particularly in the aftermath of the infamous “Prigozhin revolt,” there are still no discernible indications of an impending crisis in Russia. On the contrary, Russia’s current state has exceeded the observers’ expectations in multiple domains, such as the economy, social dynamics, demographics, and notably the military domain – given Russia’s ability to contend with the formidable military machine of NATO in the on-going standoff.
The narrative of Russia’s imminent implosion stems from the persistent notion that the country is vulnerable to internal collapse due to perceived fragility, vastness, and critical imbalances. The on-going crisis acts as a substantial stress test for Russia, evaluating its ability to make sound decisions, display societal resilience, efficiently utilize resources, adapt its economic model, maintain its political system, manage information strategies, and navigate foreign policy challenges. Undeniably, Russia has confronted immense pressure, and like any nation-state, it undergoes stress tests that illuminate both its strengths and weaknesses.
Despite the challenges in gauging Russia’s situation from an external standpoint, this stress test has revealed Russia’s remarkable adaptability as a market economy, especially during times of severe strain. Even in the face of a significant loss of export capacity to the West, Russia has demonstrated unexpected agility, showcasing impressive resilience in its financial sector and throughout the economy. The notion of implosion, as propagated in some Western publications, is certainly arising from a desire in the West to witness such a fantasy scenario materialising. For the sake of comparison, consider the recent events in France with everlasting strikes and riots. It would be unfounded to suggest that France is on the verge of implosion or disengagement from the EU. Or consider the Capitol Hill riots that erupted after former President Trump denied the presidential election results. Although this instance had a significant impact on domestic American politics, it had very little effect on the country’s geopolitical stance.
The unfolding events in every country, including Russia, are best understood as a natural and cyclical aspect of political development, rather than an imminent collapse. Such circumstances often present challenges and complexities that nations must navigate as part of their on-going growth and evolution.
Historical instances such as the Streltsy uprising under Peter the Great and a number of failed palace coups in subsequent periods emphasise Russia’s historical exposure to internal challenges and rebellions. This perspective underscores that the current situation is not an isolated occurrence but rather part of the country’s broader historical context, depicting recurring patterns of domestic complexities and socio-political disruptions throughout Russian history.
In my analysis, it is evident that the Russian leadership effectively managed the “Wagner situation,” skilfully maintaining the balance of power while mitigating substantial losses and adverse consequences on the frontlines. This successful handling resulted in strategic unity among the armed forces, thus opening doors for potential Wagner operations in other regions in the future.