30 years down the line

Russia is yet to recover from the shock of collapse as Putin faces a huge challenge including animosity between America and China which is affecting India also
30 years down the line
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Painful and unfortunate demise of USSR, a great friend of India, on Dec 26,1991 had left permanent scars and after effects which compounded his challenges including combined onslaught of the US and China thereby making President, Vladimir Putin’s task extremely difficult.

Unsung death of a great nation

74 years old, a vibrant Soviet Union had become history due to negative fallout of the blunders of politicians, though great nation was born out of the violent upheavals of the Great October Revolution of 1917 as it heaved its last in the dreary darkness of late December 1991, stripped of ideology, dismembered, bankrupt and hungry -- but awe-inspiring even in its fall. New York Times wrote “The end of the Soviet Union came with the resignation of Mikhail S. Gorbachev to make way for a new “Commonwealth of Independent States. At 7:32 P.M., shortly after the conclusion of his televised address, the red flag with hammer-and-sickle was lowered over the Kremlin and the white-blue-red Russian flag rose in its stead. No Ceremony, Only Chimes.”

Putin’s challenges and flaws

Analysts believe that Russia might have done wonders in Putin’s 20 years had it implemented his Action Plan to take the countrymen out of a serious economic and identity crisis. Even after three decades of its demise, the changing demographics is scaring Russia as a large number of Russians born after the downfall of the Soviet Union are demanding a better standard of life. Russia is currently facing a grave threat of economic sanctions by US and European Union if it takes unwarranted step of invading Ukraine, although they favor more diplomacy with Moscow to avert such misadventure.

In Post Soviet collapse period, United States tried to dictate it as it was weak and majority of European nations sided with super power but Russia today has recovered and re-emerged as a great power, confronting US with the help of China, a sworn enemy of United States in new world order.

India was affected due to loss of trusted friend

But India has been put in precarious situation as its major tilting towards US had upset Russia which is leaning toward Dragon primarily to neutralize United States. Analysts opine that India has taken corrective measures to repose faith in Russia’s old ties hence Indian prime minister, Narender Modi took a strong stand thereby not succumbing under US pressure to honour USD 5 billion missile deal and signing of over a dozen agreements during recent Putin’s visit to India. Russia stood with India in taking tough stand against Taliban though the Biden administration had toed Pakistan’s line and isolated India from Doha dialogue with Taliban.

Expectations of common Russians

Experts say that common people want an improved lifestyle, enhanced income and a better future for themselves as well as their families. Now Putin and Russian elites are in a fix to hold on to power amidst such high expectations of the people and failure may undermine chances of re-election in the next presidential term? The most significant change Putin has made in Russia is that young Russians who grew up under Putin don’t know what free discussion is or what what does democracy mean?

The Covid-19 pandemic crises have also hit Russia’s economy as hard although it fared better than some developed economies. Still, the Pandemic remains a serious public health crisis in the country with cases high and vaccination sluggish which may create negativity in the society.

Economy in bad shape

Putin will have to do something extraordinary as to bring economy back on track especially when The World Bank has noted that Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 3% in 2020, compared to contractions of 3.8% on average globally, and 5.4% in advanced economies. As per World Bank forecast, Russia’s GDP would expand by 4.3% in 2021, before slipping back to grow by 2.8% in 2022 and then 1.8% in 2023 as the output gap closes.”

Analysts believe that If he does run for re-election with the confidence to win unless there is aerodynamic and seismic changes in Russia in the next few years, given the oppression of opposition parties, politicians like jailed Alexei Navalny then Putin, who’s now 69, could potentially be in power until 2036.

International relevance

None can deny that Russia is an influential force in both Europe and Asia given its position as a global oil and gas exporter, although in recent years Putin has spoken of the need to diversify Russia’s economy away from its reliance on energy exports, an objective that has been prioritized after the 2014 oil price crash. Russia has emerged from the turmoil and shock of collapse of the USSR and it has become a country which is having hope and the potential to become a part of the civilized world. Putin promised to “Make Russia Great Again” in exchange for the loyalty of his subjects.

Factors responsible for collapse of Russia

Experts feel that firstly, Perestroika which broadly translates to “openness”, reforms to the political and judicial system introduced in the 1980s which ensured greater freedom for the public and the press besides enhanced government transparency. Thus, instead of streamlining the system, Gorbachev’s decentralization caused new production bottlenecks and blockages. Seconndly, Glasnost . Gorbachev introduced glasnost in 1988 which gave the Soviet people freedom of speech etc., which was unknown to them. The press became far less controlled and thousands of political prisoners as well as many dissidents were released as part of a wider program of de-Stalinization.

In present scenario, Russia is struggling to counter onslaught of Biden administration which holds it responsible for interfering in the presidential elections in 2016 thereby helping Donald Trump. Joe Biden has not shown any flexibility to improve ties with Russia especially after its complete connivance with China which has hit India also though Modi government has taken corrective measures to revive close relations enjoyed by two countries since decades.

(K.S. TOMAR is a national columnist and political analyst)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK