Russia risks becoming a failed state in the next 10 years, analysts say

Russian President Vladimir Putin poses as he delivers a New Year’s address to the nation at the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don on December 31, 2022.

Mikhail Klimentiev | AFP | Getty Images

According to a survey of global strategists and analysts, Russia as we know it may not survive the next decade and risks becoming a failed state as it continues its costly war in Ukraine.

Last fall, the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security surveyed 167 global strategists and practitioners about the key potential drivers of geopolitical, societal, economic, technological and environmental change. Respondents included mostly men and workers in the private sector, universities, non-profit organizations, as well as independent consultants or freelancers.

One of the most surprising takeaways from the poll, according to the Atlantic Council, is that respondents pointed to a potential collapse of Russia over the next decade. This “suggests that the Kremlin’s war on Ukraine could precipitate massive upheaval in a great power with the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons on the planet,” the US think tank noted in Monday’s report.

Around 46% of survey respondents expected Russia to become a failed state or break up by 2033. On the other hand, around 40% of respondents expected Russia to “internally break up for reasons including, but not limited to, revolution, civil war or political disintegration”.

European respondents were more cynical about Russia’s short-term prospects, with 49% predicting a disintegration scenario. Comparatively, only 36% of U.S. respondents — who made up about 60% of all experts polled — expressed similar beliefs.

The investigation comes as Russia’s war on Ukraine shows no signs of ending soon.

Almost a year after its invasion, Russia has inflicted an immense amount of death, damage and destruction. Kyiv’s economy is expected to shrink by more than 30% in 2022, according to the latest estimates from Ukraine’s Economy Ministry.

Last September, the Ukrainian government, the European Commission and the World Bank estimated the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine at $349 billion. The figure is now likely much higher, as the war continues until 2023. Ukraine’s allies have called on Russia to foot the bill for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

Geopolitical analysts agree that Russia has deeply harmed itself by pursuing territorial gains in Ukraine, alienating many members of the international political, business and commercial community and relying increasingly on rogue states like the Iran and North Korea for partnerships and weapons.

Moscow has also lost much of its share of European energy customers due to self-censorship and sanctions. Many Russian officials, entities and industries now operate under Western restrictions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is widely considered to have misjudged the invasion of Ukraine, assuming a rapid collapse of Kyiv’s forces and administration. Instead, the Ukrainian resistance cost Moscow several humiliating defeats on the battlefield, although the Russian army still occupied part of the territory to the east and south of Ukraine.

A Russian tank hit by an anti-tank missile is seen in a field on December 22, 2022 in Izyum, Ukraine.

Peter Crom | Getty Images

Experts are watching the Kremlin closely for signs of a willingness to turn the tide of the war through nuclear deployment. Such an escalation has yet to progress beyond the Russian rattling. Analysts say Russia would likely refrain from using nuclear weapons which could incite the West and the NATO military alliance into a direct confrontation. A nuclear recourse could even isolate Moscow from provisional allies and remaining oil buyers, such as China and India.

Only 14% of respondents to the Atlantic Council poll thought Russia was likely to use a nuclear weapon within the next ten years.

“Of those who expect the country to experience both state failure and break-up in the next decade, 22% believe the use of nuclear weapons will be part of that story ten years from now. “, noted the think tank.

He said there was some hope that state failure in Russia, or a breakdown over the next decade, could lead to a positive outcome: “Among those who think Russia is likely to experiencing state failure or breakdown in the next decade, 10% believe that it is most likely of all currently autocratic countries to become democratic by the end of that period,” revealed the investigation.

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