13 Comments

I struggle to see how things could be worse for the rest of the world with a new Russian leader. The present leader has shown himself to be thoroughly committed to occupying, indeed destroying, Ukraine and meddling in other countries. The only ‘good’ thing about him is that his misrule has greatly reduced the power of the Russian state to achieve its imperial ambitions.

Regime change would be nice but it’s a distraction. What we need to concentrate on is getting Russia out of Ukraine and leave it to the Russians to work their own politics. That said a new ruler at least offers a chance that he could recall the troops while he (or a very unlikely she) concentrates on consolidating internal power. At least that ruler won’t have their ego tied up with the Ukraine misadventure. Finally, Putin is 70 and not going to rule forever. It’s dumb to worry about the inevitable regime change. PS Glad your back in the saddle Dr McFaul!

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Thank you for your compendious analysis. As a student, it is very beneficial. In addition, it was excellent to read Secretary Rice, and Secretary Gates oped in the Washington Post.

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Thank you Mike! Your perspicacity on these affairs strikes me as reasonable, thoughtful, practical and pragmatic. Your experience in the area and with the ket players including Putin strike me as further evidence of the perspicacity of your views. Thank you for your simple straightforward thinking & writing. Yours is a voice of reason to my understanding of all the same factors.

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The Soviet Union, through its federal structure that was ostensibly based on nationality, was tailor-made for a breakup, even though Stalin made sure to include bits of other nationalities in most federal republics so that there would be endless internal divisions that would militate against unified independence movements. That's why we now have Armenians fighting Azerbaijanis, Georgians fighting Ossetians, Tajiks fighting Kyrgyz, etc. Nearly everybody has a grievance of some sort.

The current Russian Federation is over 80% ethnic Russian, and while there are a couple of dozen national ethnic groups that might be construed to have their own homeland, few would be viable.

Chechnya and Sakha might be the exceptions to this rule -- the rest are mostly surrounded by Greater Russia, or are simply not particularly significant.

The bottom line is that the further breakup of the territory that once formed the Soviet Union is much less likely than the original breakup that occurred in 1991. Most pundits were late to the party that time, and now, as if to compound their error, many are early to the party this time.

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Thanks for a bit of important demographic information I didn't know. James,

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I'm going to have to take back my comment a little bit. The long-delayed (suppressed?) results of the Russian 2020 census have just come out, and they are catastrophic. Russia is losing Russians, and the other nationalities are gaining as a percent of overall population. Russians now constitute less than 72% of the population. https://jamestown.org/program/5-million-fewer-than-in-2010-ethnic-russians-make-up-only-72-percent-of-russias-population/#:~:text=According%20to%20Russian%20census%20figures,.ru%2C%20January%205).

I suppose this could be one more reason why Putin is seeking to expand his "Russian World," although, paradoxically, the war with Ukraine is depressing the Russian birth rate further, according to Igor Yefremov. It could lead one to conclude that the worst enemy of the "Russian World" is Putin himself. https://www.eurasiareview.com/10012023-ukraine-war-pushing-russian-birthrate-down-to-its-lowest-level-in-history-by-end-of-year-oped/

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Thanks for the links James. The first one is less scary for the Russians in that at least some of the drop could be due to people who previously identified themselves as ethnic Russians may have changed their idenity (including saying 'nil'). The second one however was a shocker. It revealed births had been declining every year for 6 years, with 2022 on track to have a 6% decline. THEN the impact of the war and mobilization will kick in in response to the war and mobilization. The demographic feight train that's predicted to hit Russia in the medium to long term future looks like it's a lot closer than people think. That's not counting the effect of all the men who would have fathered children but have either been killed, wounded or pychologically damaged to the point they don't end up forming relationships. And let's not forget the large number of young people who got the hell out of Russia when the war started and won't be coming back. The demographic trends for Russia are bordering disastrous.

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Would love to read from you about what the major differences between Democratization and Political Liberalization in Russia could look like. We need hope! 💫

Oh and speaking of hope- I hope you feel fully recuperated very soon! 💐

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Thank you, this leaves a lot to chew on. Question: Is the military cohesive and strong enough to push back against any wannabe coup leaders? We've heard plenty about the lack of experience of Shoigu and the general disarray among the military leadership, so I'm wondering whether they could/would be poised to defend Putin against a coup attempt.

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My feeling, Laura, is that the Russian military isn't that enamoured with Putin and may be happy to accept a new ruler...especially one that gets it out of Ukraine. The hard bit would be getting the coup to succeed in the first place. I'm quitely confident that Putin has all likely centres of resistance riddled with informers. That sort of thing is much more part of his skill set than running a war against a reasonbly well armed and highly motivated army.

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Some interesting developments on this today, Weds., with a shuffle of generals again. More-enamored (of Putin) general back in the #1 spot, replacing less-enamored one who seemed more competent on the battlefield.

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Yep. As far as I can see the news on the war since March just keeps being good for Ukraine.

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Good points, thanks. Let's hope his web of informers breaks down somewhere, soon.

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