Briefing Paper

Briefing Paper 170 (2015)   

From stagnation to cul-de-sac?
The roots and trajectory of Russia's troubles

Published 11.2.2015

Sinikukka Saari
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs

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The traditional cornerstones of the popularity of the Putin regime – stability, growing prosperity, the increased status of Russia in international affairs – seem to be rapidly eroding, which has led many observers to predict major changes in Russia in the near future.

However, there are significant structural issues – alongside the mechanisms of ‘political technology’ and the outright oppression of dissent – that support and maintain the Putin regime, regardless of its malfunctioning and undisputed failings.

Even in the unlikely event of Putin suddenly disappearing from the political scene, significant hurdles remain for the restructuring of the Russian economy and political system. No major modernisation or reform mode is to be expected.

The EU and Finland should base their policies on a realistic assessment of Russia’s long-term trajectory. There are unlikely to be any shortcuts to success, and no western policy is likely to produce positive results in the short term. What is needed now is a long-term perspective and principled policies, while acknowledging that only the Russians can change Russia’s political direction.