Europe’s Futures Fellow Thomas de Waal spoke about how the Russo-Ukrainian War has ended the concepts of “the Near Abroad” and the “post-Soviet space” and what this means in the longer term for Russia’s own cohesion, state identity and relations with its neighbors.
Russia’s weakness as a result of the Russo-Ukrainian War and the decline of Russian-led institutions in this region (CIS, CSTO and EEU) gives opportunities to Russia’s neighbors. It also threatens a potential security vacuum in areas where Moscow is the main security provider such as the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, unless other international actors step in.
Instability may now spread to Russia itself. De Waal considered the current debate as to whether the Russian Federation itself is at risk of disintegration and set out some arguments as to why this is unlikely.
He argued that internal instability is more likely from another source. Russian society is more polarized on the issue of national identity than is obvious from outside. In the past three decades, a consolidated social group has emerged which is “post-imperial” and opposed to the war and one which is radically “imperial” and more nationalist than Putin himself. The clash between these two groups with radically different ideas of Russia’s place in the world may become a source of internal conflict inside Russia as Putin’s war drags on.
Thomas de Waal is a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. He is the author of numerous publications about the region, including The Caucasus: An Introduction, Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide and Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War. Formerly, he worked as a journalist for BBC radio and in Moscow for the Moscow Times, the Times of London, and the Economist.
A recording of the discussion is available below.