To discussimproving relations with the West or “Westernization” in the post-Putin era, inmy opinion, it is necessary to briefly examine the background of Russia’s policy-makingand decision-making processes and to combine what we have discussed in theclass. If we are going to talk about the possible changes in domestic policyand its affects on relations with the western world, the government may still facethe same essential question that Mikhail Gorbachev faced 3 decades ago, when heembarked on Perestroika. Today Russia’s political circumstances no longer hasany ideological superstructure so, cannot be compared with the communist systemof USSR. But the impasse remains the same. Radical modernization may have sucha disturbing effect on a seemingly stable political structure; which in turnmakes it impossible to control the outcome of the reforms. That can be calledas a nightmare for the political elite, which is directly linked to “politicalwill” hypothesis. For a liberal member of the economic bloc to take over theadministration of the country, suggests there may be economic change ofinstitutions too.
But as we all know radical economic reforms are impossiblewithout political reforms. After Putin-Medvedev tandem, a big question arises:How to make a political reform, in which aspects? Of course, it is not hard topredict that Russia is likely to lack the image of a strong and stabilizingpolitician as Putin. For instance,Putin, in his annual “Message to the Federal Assembly” in December 2012, barelymentioned the outside world.
He said: “They (Russians)should look to patriotism, not Westernism; to solidarity, not individualism; tospirituality, not consumerism and moral decay.” He touted Russia’s historicroots and traditional values as the basis for its future trajectory. On the otherhand, many of Russia’s most influential people, including some associated withthe Power Vertical, are convinced that a more democratic political system willbetter enable Russia to actualize its huge economic potential and reachtransparency and a well-established democracy throughout the state. I would bemore on this side. As I statedabove, some members of Russia’s contemporary ruling elite realized that Moscowcould not force its neighbors to surrender their sovereignty and live underRussian rule the way they did under the USSR.
On the other hand, a liberalRussia would have a significant and benign impact upon neighboring countries.In case of an expanding Russian democracy, there would be a marked improvementin U.S.-Russia relations, making security cooperation on a range of mattersplausible. For example, this could be an agreement covering the deployment ofthe American antimissile system in Europe; curbing the proliferation of weaponsof mass destruction (WMD); upgrading the New START Treaty (2010); resolvingcrises through the UN like those pertaining to Syria and Iran’s sectarianexpansionism; stabilizing a post U.
S. 2014 Afghanistan; and moving towardRussia’s membership in a new Euro-Atlantic security system may pave the way fornormalization with the West. According to myhypothesis, main obstacles the new liberal Government will face are: 1- Annexation of Crimea, Donbass2- Need forstructural/institutional reforms, Democratization3- Another Conflicts that RussiaInvolved 4- Demographical, CulturalDiversity Inside Homeland 1- Annexation of Crimea, Donbass According to thegenerally accepted view, the continuation of the annexation of the Crimea byRussia is going to bother Russia both in political, economical terms in thepost-Putin era. So, to put it more clearly, the West will continue to exertpressure on Russia to stop the annexation. Economic sanctions, cancellation ofinternational agreements and many problems will continue to put new Russianadministration into a difficult situation. In this case, there will be twooptions in front of the new Liberal government. These are;ending the Russian military presence in Crimea and Donbass unconditionally orfinding a solution for the issue by using diplomacy in a peaceful way.Regarding to political will hypothesis, at this stage of the game, we need tomeasure “how determined the new Liberal president is”.
Ending the annexationmay result in normalization of relations with the western states but at thesame time it means stepping back from tradition of Russian decision making.That does not sound reasonable much. But if we look from the viewpoint of the secondoption, by taking into consideration there is a reformist liberal government inRussia, opening bilateral negotiations with Ukrainian government withobservation of western states is more reasonable to settle the conflict. 2- Need for structural/institutionalreforms, Democratization During the Putinadministration (1999-2018), all previously independent state institutions havebeen emasculated; their authority and autonomy dramatically reduced. The systemof institutional checks and balances has been replaced by the ultimate arbiter;and this process was accompanied by the deliberate fragmentation ofcorporations and agencies (particularly security and law enforcement units).Simultaneously a new system of “corporate checks and balances” has been created.Because the system is stripped of autonomous players invested with distinctauthority, it cannot draw on established patterns of response to emergingproblems.
Instead every problem requires “manual management” and directinvolvement by the supreme leader. Also, corruption and bribery spread to thewhole state institutions, like the other authoritarian regimes. Also, he willleave behind a highly powerful and deeply entrenched inner circle. We aretalking about a powerful group of business/banking tycoons with who haveaccumulated enormous wealth and clout during Putin’s tenure. Keeping them inplace would be deadly for our liberal president, but challenging them wouldmean destabilizing the country; it could be highly risky for the top leader andwould likely cause a fierce political struggle. But whatever thecase, if the new Liberal administration wants to integrate Russia with theWestern norms, this is a significant issue to deal with. Separation of powersand a consolidation of political institutions are two essential changes to doin the way of “western” democratization.
3- Another Conflicts that RussiaInvolved The newadministration needs to find a solution frozen conflicts issue too (Abkhazia,Transnistria, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh). While this may not be likefinding definitive solutions but relations with this frozen conflict areas needto be carried out within the concept of soft power. In these crises, as opposedto the armed struggle in Ukraine, it needs be overcome with a masterfuldiplomacy in post-Putin era in order to establish/maintain good relations withthe West. 4- Demographical, CulturalDiversity Inside Homeland This may soundlike the most unimportant obstacle, but that needs to be taken into considerationwhile discussing a “change” in political system especially in a country that iseconomically superior, has a high population and has the world’s largestsurface area. So, the highly varied structure of the regions, despite theappointment of governors of them by the Kremlin, will be an obstacle to theimplementation of new “liberal” political and economic program in order toachieve “a major change”.
To achieve a common, nation-wide consensus about apolitical or an economic change seems hard to be possible in a short term. For Westernizationmeans something quite different in big cities than it does in an independent,resource-rich region like Siberia, in the impoverished Russian Far East or inthe Muslim-dominated northern Caucasus. With having hundreds of millions ofpeoples from different ethnical, cultural and religious backgrounds a majorchange in both political and economic area is a hard choice for policymakersand the change depends on their political will, because the fact that such abreakthrough has not been made in the history of the world, brings the mysteryof its consequences. SCENARIO 2 I would chooseto examine the increase of Russia’s international capabilities after Russianmilitary reform in the framework of intervention in Syria.
As it is well known,Russia announced significant reforms of the Russian Armed Forces in October2008. Although the first effects of this reform were seen in the Russian –Ukrainian war in 2014, in Crimea, Russian troops (which Russia has deniesusing) proved that Moscow can use highly trained and disciplined soldiers toexecute a swift, effective campaign, one which resulted in the seizure of alarge territory. And in Syria, Russia demonstrated a significant growth in itscapability to project force far from its borders, as well as tangible changesto its arsenal. Therefore, I think intervention in Syria is worth moreinvestigation because it is the first breakthrough of Russia in the Middle Eastwhich aims to change the balances of power in the Middle Eastern region. Also,after such an intervention in Ukraine, actions in Syria proved Russia’s effortsto take a more active role in world politics.
If we compare Russia’s role inthe multipolar world in 2013 with today, it is gradually growing. Speaking of theeffects of the operation in Syria and military reform, the operation in Syriahas clearly demonstrated success in the military reform and the aspiration tostrengthen Russia’s position in the international community. The operation aimedto support the friendly government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and respondto the threat of radical groupings, such as the Islamic State terroristorganization. Although relatively small in scale, the operation has highlightedsome major improvements in Russian military capabilities. Compared to the 2008Georgia War, which was the last time the Russian Air Force operated in a combatenvironment, the Russian military appears to have made great strides inoperational tempo and inter-service integration. The operation has also showcasedRussia’s recently developed standoff strike capability and demonstratedsignificant advances in its ability to carry out expeditionary operations. Theoperation in Syria has also highlighted advances in integration among thebranches of Russia’s military. This was one of the goals of military reformundertaken after notable failures were revealed during the war in Georgia.
Inorder to improve inter-service coordination, the Russian military reorganizedits regional command structure so that all non-strategic military units in eachmilitary district were placed under the direct authority of that district’smilitary commander. The fruits of military reform can be clearly seen by investigatingthe intervention in Syria. When we come tomeasurement of changes in Russia’s power, respectively, some preliminarydifficulties arise. Attempts to ‘measure’ Russia’s power is often complicatedby a lack of reliable data. This is particularly evident in any analysis ofRussia’s military power or of Russia’s defense industry, with crucial dataremaining classified.
Despite this, I would recommend my team to investigatechanges in Russia’s military economy data, usage of media both in-state andinternational area in order to examine how does Russia consolidate its peopleand how to persuade the international community about its activities/operationstaking place outside its borders. Also, what instruments does Russia plan touse while forming a “new” balance of power in the Middle East (collaboratingwith regional powers like Iran, using proxy armed/civil organizations and soon). Finally, to summarize, the analysis andcontribution to the formation of the report would contain a summary of whymilitary reform has been made, what are the consequences of the 2008 military reformand its instances by referring Russia’s actions outside of its borders; myteam’s investigations on military data, media factor, and instruments whichRussia used to maximize its power both in Middle East and international scenethat increase Russia’s bargaining power and also international capability.