Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We should be worried about Russia

Max Fisher is right. I see virtually no chance that Russia will start doing what the West wants because its economy going down the tubes. On the contrary, Putin will now have every reason to become more authoritarian and embark on more adventures to stick up for the rights of Russian people in the "near abroad" to bolster his popularity amidst his country's economic collapse.

Imposing another round of sanctions probably will do further damage to the Russian economy. But they won't work in the sense that they are not likely to make Russia act in the way that the U.S. government wants. On the contrary, the more the sanctions bite, the more Putin will be able to blame foreign powers for his country's woes and the more likely he is to actively defy Western powers as a way to bolster his standing with his domestic audience.

Because Putin has been cast as one of the bad guys in the American media's portrayal of international news (not completely unjustified, IMHO), it is inevitable that commentators will be crowing about Putin's comeuppance as the Russian economy deteriorates. But Russia's misfortunes are not going to make any of the West's issues any better, they will make things worse. Even if you put aside the suffering that ordinary Russians are going to experience (and the suffering of ordinary people in other former Soviet Republics, whose economy is closely tied to Russia's), the sinking Russian economy will pose some major challenges to the rest of the world.