What Could Happen If The Russian Federation Broke Up? – According to some experts, the breakup of the Russian Federation is a very real possibility thanks to the pressures brought on by the Ukraine war.
The state is currently made up of 21 independent republics, 22 if you include Crimea, but only ten other UN members outside Russia currently do.
Each republic has its own constitution, national anthem, and opinion on the Russian Federation.
Autonomy was granted following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, although these powers have been largely taken away since Vladimir Putin took control in 2000.
Nevertheless, greater autonomy – and perhaps even independence – remains on the lips of Russia’s ethnic minorities.
President Putin’s mobilizations for the invasion of Ukraine, unpopular among ethnic Russians themselves, have been particularly controversial in republics that fought Russian forces less than 30 years ago.
Bar a few modest gains by Russia in Bakhmut and Ukraine in Zaporizhzhia; the front line has remained relatively stable since the liberation of Kherson in November 2022.
However, the conflict is far from predictable – as proved by the Wagner rebellion earlier this year – and a breakthrough could weaken Russian forces, shatter morale and lead to an eventual liberation of annexed areas, subsequently calling the unity of the Federation into question.
The Pros And Cons Of Russia Breaking Up
Western analysts are divided over what the impact would be in a hypothetical disintegration.
Many assume that an embarrassing defeat to Ukraine would cause partisan movements disgruntled with the Moscow regime to fight for independence, leaving Russia to an area controlling the capital, St Petersburg, and Nizhny Novgorod.
A much-weakened Russia as a rump state would, “under intense international sanctions and shorn of its resource base in Siberia,” leave the regime with “severely reduced capabilities to attack neighbors,” according to The Jamestown Foundation’s Janusz Bugajski. “NATO’s eastern front will become more secure; while Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova will regain their occupied territories and petition for European Union and NATO integration without fear of Russia’s reaction,” Bugajski added.
It’s not a view which is universally accepted.
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius expressed concern that “a fragmenting, demoralized Russia is a devil’s playground,” adding that internal disarray poses a severe dilemma for Putin, but it’s very dangerous for the West, too.”
Another analyst, Tatiana Stanovaya, sees both sides of the argument. She believes that a multitude of problems, including “a deepening crisis of Putin’s leadership, a growing lack of political accountability, increasingly ineffective responses by the authorities to new challenges, an intensifying fragmentation among elites, and a society that is growing more antiestablishment,” could lead to a disintegrated Russian Federation.
However, Stanovaya also writes that “the world will have to contend with a more dangerous and unpredictable Russia,” which could lead to “a more pragmatic approach to the war against Ukraine.”
Bugajski’s optimism stems from a post-disintegration Russia; Ignatius and Stanovaya, on the other hand, recognize that a disintegrated Russian Federation will not simply happen overnight. The process could be brutal, and desperate measures by Putin to retain control could lead to knock-on effects to neighbors and enemies in the West.
Then there is one other massive problem to consider: what happens to the thousands of nuclear warheads located all around Russia?
Russia is not renowned for its predictability – a trend that is unlikely to change in the event of partisan uprisings.
As joyful as a weakened Russia may sound for the West, one must always be careful what they wish for.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
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