Staunton, September 9 – As a result of Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, Russia faces three large sets of problems with the outside world, with Ukraine, and with itself that will take decades if not generations to overcome and limit its ability to develop as many of its citizens had hoped, according to Ivan Kurilla, a professor at Volgograd State University.
Not surprisingly, most people are focusing on immediate problems, the international relations specialist writes today, and as a result are paying less attention than they should to the longer-lasting consequences which “not only the current but the next ruler of Russia” will face.
The ceasefire in the Donbass, Kurilla says, “cannot resolve the problems which underlie the Ukrainian conflict.” That will take enormous time, “possibly decades or the lives of entire generations.” And to resolve them will require “not military victory but the slow work” of social and political change.
That in turn means, the Volgograd professor says, that the Russian government will face several tasks for a long time whether it likes it or not as the direct result of what the Kremlin has now done in Ukraine.
The first of these concerns relations with the outside world, “with international organizations, with Europe, the United States and even with China.” Over the last six months, he notes, “Russia has not simply fallen under economic sanctions but cost itself the great part of the diplomatic conquests of the last two decades and awoken a new wave of distrust” toward it.
Its rulers and people should “expect a strengthening of European security structures openly directed at restraining Russia.” The creation of a NATO rapid reaction force is only the first step in which the Western alliance is going to move.
In response, Moscow must seek to “save what remains of Russia’s international ties and retain at least the level of cooperation which now remains.” There is a lot that it has retained, “but the losses are large.” Then Moscow must seek a way of integrating Russia into these structures, something some in Europe are interested in.
The second group of issues involves Ukraine, Kurilla says. There are economic, political and trust issues that must be addressed even though there is now “mutual hatred.” Ukraine is not going to forgive or forget either the intervention or the territorial losses that it has been forced to yield, and no conceivable Russian government is going to give back Crimea.
There are many things Russia will have to do to try to improve relations with Kiev, and it is even possible “in the distant political future” that Moscow will be prepared for “a discussion of a special status” for Crimea, one that would recognize Ukraine’s “special role” there “but only in the cultural and economic spheres.”
And “the third circle of issues,” Kurillov argues, “the relations within Russian society and between the state and society” are “both the most complicated and the most immediate.” Russian propaganda has convinced a majority of Russians not only that fascists have seized power in Ukraine but that there is “a fifth column” within their own country.
“The search for enemies and the striving for unanimity is giving birth to archaic models in politics and culture and threatening the future of the country,” the Volgograd scholar says.
The weakening of this propaganda will help, but its impact and the appearance in Russia of heroes living and dead from the fighting in Ukraine – funerals for the latter are becoming heavily politicized – and of refugees from Ukraine will continue to shape Russian attitudes well into the future, often in ways that threaten social and political stability.
The government, either the current one or its successor, is going to have to address this and introduce certain “corrections” in relations between itself and the population. “Sooner or later,” he says, [it] will have to restore conditions for civil dialogue and return to the role of arbiter” among groups rather than pursuing its own goals and demonizing its opponents.
The leadership that will come to power after the current one, Kurilla says, will be forced to eat the dish prepared by the current one in Ukraine. In doing so, it will suffer “a portion” of popular anger as it has to acknowledge mistakes and thus appears in the eyes of the population as a denigrator of the nation’s history.
But, Kurillov concludes, “this is the only path of restoring trust in the state, not only in international politics but and this is important from the citizens” of Russia itself.