The future of the Russian Federation
Soiuz nerushimyj respublik
Splotila naveki Velikaia Rus.
Da zdravstvuet sozdannyj
Edinyj, moguchij Sovetskij Soiuz!
This article should be conjunction with our article How to Remain President of Russia, to which this is a sequel. The articles linked to in that article are also important background reading to understand fully the relevanf political events unfolding in contemporary Russia.
The future of Russia will be a return to rule by committee, much as it was in the Soviet Union.
And the West can live with this. They just need to be talked into it with gentle persuasion.
Why will there be a return to Politburo rule?
The idea of a Politburo (or committee of bureaucrats) running Russia is as old as the country itself. Virtually all the Russian Emperor(s), Tsars and Bolshevik revolutionaries had one.
Each member of the 'Buro' manages a vast portfolio with its own complex and hierarchical architecture of Nomenklatura bureaucrats who keep approximate rules-based order over different fields in this most enormous of countries. The Buro's administrative staff and managers fight with one another (indeed they do all the way down these structures) but their conflicts have a way of balancing out and avoiding the risk of accumulation of absolute power in the Soviet / Russian system.
Russia has no history of democracy (save for a brief interlude in 1905 that led a lot of people to be killed) and Russians are inherently suspicious of democracy, thinking that it is a corrupt creation of the Nomenklatura to keep an eye on what they are thinking by monitoring how they vote and how they express their political affiliations.
Instead Russia has a history of so-called 'managed democracy' which is very appealing to her people's mentality. Elections are fixed, so you know who to vote for without the risk of getting shot or imprisoned. Managed democracy represents political security for a people perennially paranoid about politics leading to death or torture cells (and with good reason; Russian history is full of that sort of thing). Hence Russia has elections in which everyone already knows what to say and how to vote to avoid for themselves any political 'provlems'.
Russians will not quickly adapt to 'western' democracy in the short or medium, just as they did not in the 1990's, because they perceive it as incredibly dangerous with lots of involvement of Russian state security services who may kill them, disappear them etcetera for 'getting their political choices wrong'. (The FSB continues to assassinate what it is believed to be in the thousands of people in Russia each year without judicial warrant or similar; most of these people are political dissidents of various kinds.)
Hence there are three parties in the current Russian 'democratic' system: United Russia (basically an evolution of the Soviet Communist Party); the Communist Party (that exists for people who really believe in communism, generally elderly people) and the Liberal Democratic Party, a party for businessmen who operate under the control of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Liberal Democratic Party in particular (which is extremely illiberal and highly undemocratic) is populated with former GRU agents who committed assassinations abroad and
therefore cannot leave Russia again. Hence after plastic surgery they join the Liberal Democratic Party and are given some business interests to manage, as reward for their patriotism and bravery. Do not think the Russian system does not reward its own 'heroes'. It does.
These political parties are of course all one and the same party: Vladimir Putin's party. So you can vote for any of those parties you want. But it is extremely unwise, nay dangerous, to vote for anyone else. Indeed giving people the opportunity to do so is principally an FSB tactic for drawing up lists of deviants who will later be murdered, tortured or imprisoned.
Hence transition to democracy, at least in the short to medium term, is out of the question. It would take a seismic earthquake to change Russians' political perspectives in such a way that 'western' democracy might work. And that will not happen quickly. It did not happen in the 1990's and it will not happen now. It is a painfully incremental stepwise process unlikely to be completed in this author's lifetime.
The biggest problem to the Russian / Soviet system of government by sclerotic bureaucracies with a committee of bureaucrats overseeing the whole is that from time to time one of the top figures executes a power grab and ends up controlling everything. Recent examples include:
Tsar Nicholae II. Acquired sufficient unilateral authority to force Russia info a disastrous war with Germany that ended up in a humiliating partition agreement for Russian Imperial territory, ignominious withdrawal by the Russian Armed Forces, the Russian Revolution, and the execution by firing squad of him and his entire family.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Seized power from within the Bolshevik political structure by virtue of his skill at demagoguery and his alliance of convenience with the roundly despised Leon Trotsky; Lenin was dealt with by 'doctors' who declared he had 'had a stroke' and confined him forcibly to a wheelchair for the rest of his short life from which he could not disseminate destabilising political materials to the public.
Joseph Stalin. Joined forces with the maliciously psychopathic Laventry Beria who built up the Russian security service architecture to extraordinary levels, controlling everyone and everything through midnight arrests, torture and executions. Stalin was prepared to make unilateral decisions that condemned tens of millions of people to agonising deaths in the Gulag. In the end his doctors murdered him - but not before he had murdered lots of them.
Vladimir Putin. Swept into power as an explicit FSB (Russian state security service) candidate, and then seized control of the country's primary and secondary industrial assets using threats, intimidation, imprisonment and murder of his opponents both at home and abroad. Eventually led his country into a catastrophic war with Ukraine of little objective value to the Russian national interest, in the meantime paving the way for another genocide, potentially of millions of people, by letting everyone in Ukraine freeze to death in the bitter 2022 / 2023 winter. Also has a curious loathing of doctors, who never get to write reports about him (unless they want to go the way of Stalin's doctors). This author would not be surprised if the doctors get him in the end.
After each of these unhappy tyrannies, the Russian system tends to revert what it is most comfortable: rule by Politburo, at least for some several years. This is the consistent historical pattern, and we have no reason to believe it will be any different this time.
What will 2023 Politburo rule look like?
Once in place and Vladimir Putin has found himself involuntarily admitted to the dreaded Moscow Central Clinical Hospital, the new regime will begin with a lot of bluster about keeping the war going with Ukraine.
However the Politburo will send out peace feelers to Kyiv and NATO, seeking a pragmatic resolution of the war based on some sort of de facto partition. The West will reluctantly agree, subject to lots of caveats about regional referenda and other such tosh, just to bring the war to an end.
Russia will then go into one of its periodic eras of introspection, where they wonder where all their wealth and freedom of travel have gone and how to get them back. In the meantime Russian industry will be effectively nationalised (to the extent it has not already been so).
Diplomacy with the West will be difficult, as each member of the Politburo vies to deliver the most luridly explosive speech about western imperialism to outflank the other members of the Buro. However rational diplomacy will continue using private, secretive and informal means.
The West will be faced with a lot of unusual problems in dealing with a new Russia that has gone in a direction relatively few will have predicted. It must treat each unusual new problem calmly, rationally and with respect and sensitivity to the Russian people and the new wave of relatively moderate Nomenklatura members that come to replace President Putin.