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Volodymyr Gorbulin: Putin’s Russia is Doomed to Confront West and Lose

13 April 2018, 18:20

After the re-election of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russia has three alternatives without alternatives ahead: it is doomed to Putin’s rule, doomed to confront with the West and doomed to lose in this confrontation.

Volodymyr Gorbulin, the Director of the National Institute of Strategic Studies (NISS) of Ukraine, stated this during the 11th Kyiv Security Forum in Kyiv.

“On March 18, Vladimir Putin did not risk at all, the re-election procedure was a pure formality and could not affect anything. That is why today we have three dimensions of lack of alternatives associated with the election of Putin for the next term of the presidency: the first one is Russia’s doom to Putin’s rule. The second is Russia’s doom to confront the West, and the third is the inevitability of Russia’s defeat in this confrontation,” he said.

According to V.Gorbulin, Russia is doomed to Putin’s rule because she has lost all the other opportunities for national development. He noted that Russians live in fear and the source of this fear is in each citizen of the Russian Federation: “Everything in the Russian Federation turns on Putin: pensions and salaries, heating and order on the street, territorial integrity and international status. Russia lives with the fear that all this would collapse without Putin”.

Thus, Russia is prostrated with fear to lose stability, and the reason for this lies in the regime of lack of political alternatives. “Russia cannot allow democracy and even a debate. Near the Kremlin, one has to speak whispering and walk in hospital footies, as if at the bedside of a dying patient,” the director of the NISS noted.

He stressed that the current state of inevitable confrontation with the West is quite suitable for the Russian leadership, “because it corresponds to the course for aggressive self-isolation dictated by the Kremlin’s internal aims”.

V.Gorbulin pointed out the reasons why Putin is interested in confronting the West: “This is the basis for his internal legitimacy, the restoration of the empire, geopolitical ambitions, and the affirmation of the Russian identity. The West cannot be a friend because it is bigger, stronger and more modern, and in its development is not dependent on Russia... For the current Russian regime, there is nothing worse than to admit the Western rules and to get rid of its own illusions... The confrontation with the West allows the Kremlin to act on behalf of the entire Russian people”.

Additionally, the confrontation with the United States, NATO, and to some extent with the EU is today the most advantageous geopolitical positioning of Russia, which tactically gives it more advantages than disadvantages: “The Russian Federation has placed its bet on leading the anti-Western trend that has emerged objectively at this historical stage”.

V.Gorbulin stressed that there was no doubt that “at most of the playing fields where Russia is playing the game, it loses”: “Bluff will be exposed and the reality will return its rights”.

According to the expert, the official Moscow is ready for a new Cold War, it is just higgling the “comfortable conditions in a bunker”. However, the NISS Director expressed the hope that “the world leaders would not allow Putin to reach this comfort of self-isolation, but a quick and comprehensive surrender on the conditions of the winners”.

The text of Mr.Gorbulin’s speech:

LACK OF ALTERNATIVES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE RECENT PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN RUSSIA

“The organizers of the Forum offered me to use the notion of ‘lack of alternatives’ as the basic concept of speech. This is an interesting approach that may, in fact, give a key to understanding the current security situation in the world in general and in connection with Russian threats, in particular.

On March 18, Vladimir Putin did not risk at all, the re-election procedure was a pure formality and could not affect anything.

That is why today we have three dimensions of lack of alternatives associated with the election of Putin for the next term of the presidency.

The first one is Russia’s doom to Putin’s rule.

The second is Russia’s doom to confront the West.

And the third is the inevitability of Russia’s defeat in this confrontation.

Thus, I would like to elaborate on such variation without alternatives.

So, why Russia is doomed to Putin? Because the country, by essence, has lost all other opportunities for the national development. 76% of votes in support of the incumbent president is not a sign of a strong nation. It is rather a symptom of fear.

And the point here is not that the elections are controlled, and the administrative pressure has reached the scale as it used to be in the Soviet era. The source of Russian fear is not outside but inside every citizen of this state. Everything in Russia is kept on Putin – pensions and salaries, heating and order on the streets, territorial integrity, international status. Russian live conscious that without Putin, the construction can instantly collapse, as it happened with the Soviet Union. Thus, Russia is prostrated with fear to lose stability. The reason for this lies in the regime of lack of political alternatives, in which Russia has been living since 2000. The lack of alternatives is always predictable, and therefore, it is the basis for the shaping the concept of stability. Although, it is worth saying that this stability is mythical.

Russia cannot allow democracy and even a debate. Near the Kremlin, one has to speak whispering and walk in hospital footies, as if at the bedside of a dying patient.

Is this belief of Russians that their country is unable to live a normal life of a free country true? Or this may rather be an artificially formed psychological and ideological condition that helps Putin’s team to stay in power? An interesting question that needs further study.

One cannot say that this situation is new or unexpected for the leadership of the Russian Federation. This prospect could have been clearly seen in 2011-2012. By the way, at that time, obviously, final decisions were taken regarding the destabilization of Ukraine. But the main Kremlin’s ‘rainy day funds’ were the investments in the loyalty of the elites, the loyalty of the masses, as well as the rearmament and reorganization of the army.

The current ‘Putin without an alternative’ – is Putin in the deep defense, which closes Russia for the rest of the world and manages the situation by means of fear. His arsenal includes the fear for domestic use and the fear for export.

Now the second question is: is there any alternative foreign policy for such Russia, apart from the confrontation with the West?

I doubt this. The current situation is quite suitable for the Russian leadership because it corresponds to the course for aggressive self-isolation dictated by the Kremlin’s internal aims. The ‘loneliness of Russia’, as the current ideologist of the empire Vladislav Surkov put it, is the only possible model of survival. If not for Russia at large, then for the Putin’s regime – it is for sure.

There are two main reasons why Putin is interested in a conflict between Russia and the West.

First, his inner legitimacy based on this. The restoration of the empire, geopolitical ambitions, the affirmation of the Russian identity in opposition to the West – is the mission that the regime has chosen for itself, and which has received the consent of the society.

The West cannot be a friend because it is bigger, stronger and more modern, and in its development is not dependent on the Russian Federation. Russia’s partnership with the U.S., Europe and their common offspring – the NATO – is quite possible, from a functional point of view. One can say that it is even natural and, to some extent, is in the interest of both parties. But in this partnership, Russia would not only be given the role of a junior partner but also would have to comply with certain rules and to get rid of certain illusions. Though, for the current Russian regime, there is nothing worse than to admit the Western rules and to get rid of its own illusions. In this situation, it would lose everything that has value for it.

Putin’s Russia will never refuse its values, and the confrontation with the West allows the Kremlin to act on behalf of the entire Russian people.

Secondly, the confrontation with the United States, NATO and, to some extent, the European Union is today the most advantageous geopolitical positioning for Russia, which tactically gives it more advantages than disadvantages.

The Russian Federation has placed its bet on leading the anti-Western trend that has emerged objectively at this historic stage. Many factors coincided here, including the crisis of the European Union, America’s fatigue of world leadership, the awakening of the Islamic world, China’s ambitions, the economic crisis, and the exhaustion of growth resources, not to mention the ideological and informational factors, the international law and international security institutions.

And all this in Russia’s opinion happened because the West has brought the world to the present crisis, and Russia brings a certain alternative morality and alternative order. Surprisingly, this Russia’s new order coincides with the policy of Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, resonates with the policy of the leadership of China, Iran, Turkey, unites the far-left of Greece, the far-right of Hungary and all the possible radical forces in Europe.

The confrontation with the West provides Russia with leadership and initiative in many aspects of current world politics and allows it to play a much larger role than the one that is proportionate to its real capabilities and resources.

And, finally, the third thesis – how could this all end.

There is no doubt that at most of the playing fields where Russia is playing the game, it loses. The bluff will be exposed and the reality will return its rights.

The Kremlin can still manipulate its close partners and allies, using their interests, dependence, illusions about Russia’s intentions and capabilities. We, ourselves, have until recently been in this state of anxious uncertainty, trying to understand what Moscow wants and how its words and actions should be understood. A hard lesson of 2014 has returned us the ability to see things as they are.

I hope that we were not the only ones who opened the eyes. Even in the post-Soviet space, Putin is unlikely to have too trusting partners left. However, at present, in most satellite countries, there is no decent alternative to the relationship offered by the Russian Federation.

The West is a different matter. It was rather strange to observe the attempts to make a bargain with Putin, to explain him something, to understand his logic, to help him save the face, etc. This game filled the Kremlin with euphoria and a sense of permissiveness. And even the change in the tone and the transition to a policy of containment did not quite contradict Russia’s destabilization plan. The official Moscow is ready for a new ‘Cold War’, it is just higgling the comfortable conditions in a bunker.

But the most recent words, actions and decisions that we see in Washington, London, and Berlin, raise hope that the West still has an alternative scenario for the future. The world leaders would not allow Putin to reach this comfort of self-isolation, but a quick and comprehensive surrender on the conditions of the winners.

Perhaps, Russia was destined to become a basic element of a new system of international and Eurasian security. But not in the sense that Russian strategists dream of. The current leadership of the Russian Federation has convincingly shown its inability to be a reliable, predictable partner. Russia cannot be trusted. The world is interested to let such aggressive, revanchist regimes to have an opportunity to ruin peace and stability.

I can assure you that Ukraine has a ‘secret’ weapons to withstand such destruction. As Mrs.Rose Gottemoeller assured from this stage this morning, NATO wanted to learn how to counteract hybrid threats from Ukraine. Of course, we are ready to do this.

And what’s about Putin? The old and the new one: the one to which everyone is accustomed, and the one for which everyone hopes.

The new Putin, like the old one, does not need any ‘opposition’, he ‘opposes’ himself. And his advertised state stability is in contradiction with the realities in Russia. Russia is becoming a country in which nothing should happen, but anything can happen. This is a new state of the system and society, and nobody has the experience of existence in such new state”.

FOR REFERENCE:

The annual international event Kyiv Security Forum was launched by the Arseniy Yatsenyuk Foundation Open Ukraine in 2007 as a platform for high-level discussions on the current issues in Europe and the Black Sea region. The Forum aims at increasing security cooperation between the EU and the Black Sea region, raising awareness about regional developments among key regional players, promoting the role of independent and non-governmental actors in setting the security agenda in Europe.

The event is being held with the support of NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine, the German Marshall Fund, The Victor Pinchuk Foundation, The Royal Institute of International Relations, Chatham House (UK), and The Regional Representative Office of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in Ukraine.