After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989-1991, Russia seemed destineta to an inevitable decline. Yet, it managed to partially recover and preserve its status as one of the world's leading powers.
Today, it has many porblems to deal with. Its access to the ocean is difficult, and this reduces its economic growth and power-projection capabilities. Its territory is immense, but its economic and demographic core lies in its European part; while the eastern regions remain largely underdeveloped. Infrastructures are old and insufficient. Its population is pretty large (144 million people) but it is gradually ageing. Russia is extremely rich in hydrocarbons, but its economy is too dependent on energy export revenues; and progress in diversifying the economy have produced limited results. Moreover, the Western-imposed sanctions following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 have made things even more difficult. As a result, Russia's economic outlook is not the best and its GDP is small compared with other great powers. This translates in limited resources to modernize its military and pursue its interests abroad.
Still, Russia remains a power to be reckoned with. Being a Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, it enjoys veto powers at the UN. As a primary actor on the global energy market, Russia can use its resources as a geoeconomic tool to exert its power; especially on Europe, which relies heavily on Russian hydrocarbons. It's influence is still strong in countries of the former Soviet block. Even though it is still affected by several problems, its military represents a powerful fighting force equipped with technologically advanced weaponry; and it is being modernized. In particular, its powerful nuclear arsenal is paramount to ensure Russia's status as a great power.
Moreover, there are several factors that may boost Russia's power in the future. Much of Siberia's natural resources are still underexploited. Global warming, while being generally harmful for the planet, may have some beneficial effect on Russia. First, it may increase the agricultural output. Second, and most importantly, it could make it easier to access the Arctic and develop the Northern Sea Route (NSR); thus bringing important revenues to Russia thanks to maritime trade activities. The Arctic is believed to hold vast natural resources, notably hydrocarbons; and Russia could benefit from their exploitation, especially because it enjoys a favourable geographic position and has a stronger (military) presence than other countries.
Nevertheless, the current situation remains problematic for Russia. It is rather isolated internationally as a result of the Ukrainian crisis and its intervention in Syria's civil war in support of Bashar al-Assad. Since then, relations with the West have reached a low-point and Russia has been accused of fostering instability, pursuing an expansionist policy, preparing military offensives, spreading fake news and even meddling in the US Presidential elections. This has pushed Russia to strengthen its ties with other powers, notably China; even though theere are several issues that may undermine their partnership in the long term. Russia is trying to build a multipolar order to counter America's global power, which includes supporting rival institutions (like the New Development Bank) in the context of the BRICS grouping. As a result, tensions with the US and its NATO allies are once again high. Still, this can also be considered the result of a failure by Western powers to understand and properly take into account Russia's mind frame, which considers Eastern Europe as its sphere of influence that it must preserve to enure its national security.
All in all, Russia remains a major power; but it will have to struggle to maintain its status in the coming decades.
The Wagner Group: Intrigue, War, and Resource Extraction in Africa and Beyond
After describing the origins and the first operations of the Wagner Group in my previous article, I take a look at the Group's activities in Africa and Venezuela.
Then, on the basis of the recurring elements I identified, I present a list of countries where Wagner could get involved in the years ahead to protect the interests of both Russia and its ruling economic elite.
Full article here on Geopolitical Monitor (subscription required).
Photo taken from: Geopolitica.info
The Wagner Group: Origins and Early Deployments
In the past few years, the Wagner Group has emerged as one of Russia's main tools for low-profile foreign interventions.
Often described as a mercenary enterprise - technically a private military company, or PMC - it is actually a conglomerate of firms operating in different sectors that are all linked to Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rich businessman with close ties to the Kremlin.
In the first of a two-part series published on Geopolitical Monitor, I describe the Group's origin and its first military operations in Ukraine and Syria.
Full article here (subscription required).
Photo taken from: The Moscow Times
Russia's Geopolitical Vision
In spite of its problems, Russia remains a power of primary geopolitical importance. After the fall of the USSR, it is gradually recovering its influence on international affairs.
In doing so, it is following a geopolitical vision dating back to its past, which endured during the communist era and continues shaping Russia's foreign policy today.
This video by KJ Reports, based upon my analysis, explores this fascinating topic.
Photo source: WallpapersExpert.com
The Hotspots in the NATO-Russia Confrontation
In a context of increasingly strained relations between Russia and NATO, post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus assume a particular geopolitical importance.
Squeezed between the two sides, these states must carefully choose their foreign policy in order to maintain good ties with both parties without leaning excessively towards either.
Otherwise, they risk becoming conflict zones; with detrimental consequences for their stability, territorial integrity and independence.
In this contribution to KJ Reports, I examin the main hotspots in the NATO-Russia confrontation.
Is Another Russia-Georgia War Looming on the Horizon?
After the 2008 war, Russian-Georgian relations have been stable for over a decade.
However, the recent election of Salome Zurabishvili as President of Georgia threatens this delicate equilibrium. As a matter of fact, she advocates for the country to join the EU and NATO, and this may to push Russia to act preventively in defense of its interests similarly to what it did in the past.
Read my analysis on this topic on Geopolitical Monitor (subscription required).
Belarus After Lukashenko: The Next Ukraine?
Belarus is a country that rarely attracts mediatic attention. Yet, things may change in the years ahead.
In power since 1994, President Lukashenko granted the country stability, albeit under an authoritarian government. But his rule will not last forever, and at that moment Belarus will be at a crossroad in terms of both domestic and foreign policy.
Considering Russia's geopolitical interests, if the post-Lukashenko transition is not managed carefully by both national and European decision-makers, there is the actual risk that Belarus may turn into another Ukraine; with detrimental consequences for regional stability.
If this interests you, read my analysis here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Photo credit: kremlin.ru (modified)
The Geopolitics of the Black Sea - Article & Video
Since the protests in Ukraine, the subsequent annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Donbass, the Black Sea region has become one of the theatres of the ongoing NATO-Russia confrontation. Multiple interest collide in the area, in both strategic (access to the Mediterranean) and economic (pipelines) terms.
With no resolution in sight for the Ukrainian conflict, the US is increasing its military presence in Romania. Amid a complicated feud with Turkey due to its ambivalence, America is also seeking closer security ties with Greece to hedge against the risk of Turkey befriending Russia. In response, Moscow will attempt to destabilize NATO members in the Balkans.
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Sino-Russian Relations: Toward a Second Split?
Good Sino-Russian relations are often given for granted. While it is true that they are cooperating out of common anti-US interests, there are various issues that threaten the long-term tenure of their strategic partnership.
It will probably take decades for them to produce their effects, but this may lead to a second Sino-Russian split akin to the one occurred in the 60s. And like then, this may give America a golden opportunity for a grand strategy move: to align itself with Russia to counter the main competitor (China), in a reverse scenario of what the Nixon administration did in 1971-72 (opening to the PRC to press the USSR).
Full article here (only for Geopolitical Monitor subscribers).
Photo credit: Kremlin.ru, modified