- Research Programs
- Regions & Topics
- All Publications
A nation must think before it acts.
This paper was finalized before the Russian Federation launched an attack on Ukraine on February 24, 2022. While the ongoing war and the extensive economic sanctions adopted against Russia will affect many of the circumstances discussed throughout the report – e.g. Russia’s economic capacity to conduct capital investments, as well as political decision-making and the public mood – we believe that it still has value as an analysis of some of the key contradictions and tension points in Russian domestic politics at the moment when Vladimir Putin decided to start the war. These circumstances may also affect the Russian government’s domestic position as the war’s costs mount.
In 2020, the Russian Federation’s legislature adopted constitutional reforms initiated by President Vladimir Putin. The reforms allowed Putin to “zero out” his presidential term count, and thus maintain ambiguity about his plans in 2024. They also set the stage for a radical revamp of governance in the country, with hope to kick-start Russia’s economic growth before 2024 and to ensure that the system could withstand instability stemming from a potential succession crisis.
The reforms did bring substantial changes. However, as it is evident from major policies regarding capital investments, public administration, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the reforms left political decision-making top-heavy, poorly informed, short-sighted, and constrained, making it highly questionable whether they could achieve the goal of stimulating growth and stabilizing the regime’s domestic position before 2024. It was amid this set of contradictions and ambiguities that Putin decided to start a war of submission against Ukraine in February 2022.
As of March 2022, it is too early to conclusively evaluate the consequences of the war on Russia’s future, and having been finalized in early February, this report cannot attempt to do it. However, by undoing the foundations of economic and social development, the war seems to have set Russia on a course where the regime aims to resolve the contradictions and ambiguities detailed in this report by previously unseen levels of domestic repression and external aggression.