7 May 2016


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In December, we published a full Net Assessment of Russia for our premium subscribers. Since that time, Russia’s fundamental strategy has not shifted, but the tactics Moscow uses to achieve its goals have evolved. At the same time, Moscow is continuing to grapple with the implications of low global energy prices for its economic and political stability, as well as defense priorities.

Our goal is to provide the most relevant and up-to-date analysis of the key global geopolitical trends that will impact our future. With that in mind, we’ve made the following key updates to our assessment of Russia:

The Bulk of Russian Forces Leave Syria

While some Russian forces are still active in Syria, President Vladimir Putin’s announcement in March that the bulk of Russia’s forces would leave the country signals that Russia is turning its attention back to its primary strategic challenges in Europe. Russia’s limited intervention in Syria has largely fulfilled its purpose. It has reshaped perceptions of Russian power, strengthened the position of Bashar al-Assad’s forces, and led to increased discussions with the U.S. over both the Middle East and the future of Ukraine.

Regime Worries About Internal Stability Grow

Putin remains popular and there has been no significant social unrest. However, in April, Putin announced the creation of a new National Guard, which will be accountable directly to him. The National Guard will take control of OMON, Russia’s riot police, and SOBR, the country’s SWAT forces. The creation of this new force under Putin’s direct control signals that the president is highly concerned about internal stability, and perhaps even about the reliability of Russia’s elites and security services.

Economic Situation Worsens

Russia’s economic outlook has worsened. The World Bank estimates that Russia’s economy will contract by 1.9 percent in 2016, in contrast to an earlier forecast of merely 0.6 percent, and much of this shift is due to the price of oil. Declines in government spending, as well as rising consumer prices and a weak currency, have a direct impact on the everyday lives of constituents, while also limiting the amount of resources the regime can distribute to loyal elites.

Financial Challenges Impact Strategy

There are indications that Russia’s budget woes are undermining the Kremlin’s ability to pursue some of its strategic goals. Significantly, the government is opting to cut defense spending by 5 percent, a move the Kremlin had earlier sought to avoid and that could create further delays for the Russian military’s modernization drive.

A Deeper Dive

So what does this all mean for the future of Russia and its goals as a major world player? In past articles, we’ve discussed how the dynamic between the U.S. and Russia is shifting, with the U.S. selectively negotiating and deterring Russia with the aim of limiting Russian influence while avoiding direct confrontation in the region. All of these changes will have a long-term impact on Russia’s relationship with the West, as well as its own economic and internal sustainability. Right now, the future of Russia seems unclear to most.

Our full, comprehensive forecast “The Road to 2040” – available exclusively to our premium subscribers – is an inspection not only of the current impact of Russia’s actions, but also what it will look like 24 years from now (if it even still exists as it does today). And these insights are not the only ones in this exciting report. It also describes the likely outcome of the ongoing fragmentation of Europe and Asia, whether the U.S. will remain a superpower in the long term and how China's status will change over the coming decades.

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