The Ukraine War might really break up the Russian Federation

The Ukraine War might really break up the Russian Federation

Alexander J. Motyl writes:

It’s time to start taking the potential disintegration of Russia seriously.

A number of analysts see the shattering of the Russian Federation as a possible aftermath of Vladimir Putin’s catastrophic war in Ukraine.

Although the world would be better off with a much weakened Russia, its fall may not go smoothly.

The Jamestown Foundation’s Janusz Bugajski would probably agree with this assessment: “as a rump state, under intense international sanctions and shorn of its resource base in Siberia, [Russia] will have severely reduced capabilities to attack neighbors.”

As a result, “NATO’s eastern front will become more secure; while Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will regain their occupied territories and petition for European Union and NATO integration without fear of Russia’s reaction.” Moreover, “countries in Central Asia will also feel increasingly liberated.”

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius holds a gloomier view: “A fragmenting, demoralized Russia is a devil’s playground. … Russia’s internal disarray poses a severe dilemma for Putin, but it’s very dangerous for the West, too.”

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Tatiana Stanovaya occupies a middle ground, while leaning toward Ignatius. She writes that, on the one hand, “the Kremlin will be wrestling simultaneously with…a deepening crisis of Putin’s leadership, a growing lack of political accountability, increasingly ineffective responses by the authorities to new challenges, an intensifying fragmentation among elites, and a society that is growing more antiestablishment.”

On the other hand, although “the world will have to contend with a more dangerous and unpredictable Russia,” it’s likely that “this inward turn could lead to a more pragmatic approach to the war against Ukraine.”

Bugajski’s optimism derives from his focus on a post-disintegration Russia, one that is a rump state under international scrutiny, lacking the economic and military resources it would need to pursue an imperialist agenda. Ignatius’s pessimism, like that of Stanovaya, derives from their focus on the process of Russia’s disintegration, which, even in the best imaginable circumstances, would be very messy. Both Ignatius implicitly and Stanovaya explicitly worry about a less predictable Russia, which would presumably be more dangerous.

So, who is right? [Continue reading…]

The Hill reports:

With the world’s attention on Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, Russia has quietly launched a new offensive in the eastern Luhansk region, which analysts say is aimed at undermining the Ukrainian operation.

While the operation is much smaller in size and scope than Moscow’s winter offensive, Russia is making some progress and appears to be narrowing in on the city of Kupyansk, where Ukraine ordered an evacuation this week.

The Russian advance could pressure Ukraine amid a major offensive of its own and divide its attention. Any success could also paint a politically beneficial contrast with Ukraine’s slow-moving counteroffensive in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, doubted Russia can advance. But if it does, he said it would be a significant blow to Ukraine at a perilous moment.

“This is something worth keeping an eye on. If the Russians make some progress here, then this is a really big deal,” Cancian said. “It would be devastating to Ukraine’s narrative about the counteroffensive if the Russians were able to capture Luhansk — which I don’t think they can.

“But if they’re able to do that at a time when the Ukrainian counteroffensive was hung up in the defensive zone, that would be a very powerful failure and I think very discouraging to Western supporters,” he added. [Continue reading…]

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