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Why the Russian Invasion to Ukraine is a Miscalculation on the Feasibility of Conquest

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In the midst of a recovering world from the pandemic, a war in Europe is the last thing anybody would ever wish for. The conflict has been boiling down since the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and Russia’s troop buildup outside of the Ukrainian borders has been happening since February 2021, when it announced a large troop deployment for a ‘large scale exercise’. By December in the same year, Russia made an 8-point wish list amidst rising tensions and on February 24th 2022, Russia started its invasion of Ukraine under the guise of what Putin says is a ‘special military operation’. The following day, heavy Russian artillery marches towards Kyiv expecting an easy path, however they were met by heavy resistance from the Ukrainian military and civilians.[1] Within the following months, the struggle to take over Kyiv has proven Russia’s miscalculation on what Van Evera terms as the ‘feasibility of conquest’. But in order to fully understand where miscalculation lies, it is important to note the background and sources of insecurity between all parties involved.

In Putin’s worldview, the legitimacy of the Ukrainian identity and statehood is a precarious issue. He has long stated and emphasized on Eastern Slav unity between Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, suggesting that the political destiny of the three nations is inseparable with one another. This “unity paradigm” as coined by Zenon Kohut, or the commitment to the believe that Eastern Slavic states encompasses an “all-Russian” people and thus part of Russia’s sphere of influence (as suggested by the conception of the Ruskii miir)) is what lead to Russia’s primary source of insecurity in recent years. The denial of the Ukrainian identity and statehood by Russia is engrossed within the long historical narratives of Russia’s imperial tradition, and thereby perceiving Ukraine’s desire to separate from Moscow’s influence as a product of “external forces”. As a growing Ukrainian identity is eventually established due to the three-decade process of ‘Ukranization’, calls for integration with the European Union and NATO is a hard pill to swallow for the Kremlin. Should Ukraine adopt a ‘western European identity’ and join NATO, Russia is faced with a reality of a disintegrated Eastern Europe community. In haste, Russia attempts to bring Ukraine back into its arms through military force, under calculations that ethnic Russians living on the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine still holds post-imperial consciousness and pro-Russian sentiments.[2] Therefore, a pro-Western and anti-Russia Ukrainian statehood who potentially could be holding a NATO base is the greatest source of insecurity for Russia.

Another view is that Russia’s motivation in Ukraine is based on its identification as a great power state. But its slow growing economy, old population, and security problems within its vast territory makes it not resemble like one. Hence, Russia’s great power status undeniably rests on three things; membership in the UNSC, its nuclear weapons, and its position as the largest state in Eastern Europe. But all these have been challenged before by Western Europe and the US allies, noting the intervention in Iraq and the 2008 recognition of Kosovo which it perceives as efforts to undermine its position in the UNSC. Growing numbers of NATO bases in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and the Czech Republic, have also threatened Russia’s edge on its nuclear ability. The idea to admit Ukraine and Georgia into NATO as reiterated by Bush’s administration in 2008 also became a threat to its relevance in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, Russia saw Ukraine moving away from its reaches when it proposed the signing of the EU association agreements.[3] All of this have fueled to become Russia’s primary source of insecurity and motivations as to why it is so adamant in ‘reacquiring’ its neighbor back. [4] This further explains why Russia justifies the invasion under two narratives; one, as a reaction to the encroachment by NATO and the West and two, as a historically justified view that Ukraine belongs to Russia.[5]

On the contrary, Ukraine’s greatest source of insecurity is its unpredictably aggressive and large neighbor who views their sovereignty as illegitimate. As a smaller and developing state compared to Russia, Ukraine views Russia’s meddling in its political affairs as an unwanted intervention. The decoupling of the Russian and Ukrainian identity has started since long ago from laws regarding using the Ukrainian language as the national language and establishing a Ukrainian Orthodox Church. As Ukraine’s political outlooks diverge from Russia, its insecurity lies in its stubborn neighbor refusing to acknowledge their distinctiveness as a sovereign and legitimate state.[6] The 2014 annexation of Crimea has further spurred concerns over its territorial integrity and without being part of any official security alliances, Ukraine is faced with the reality that a war with Russia means fighting on the battlefield alone.

Despite this, the concern over Ukrainian security is not an exclusively Ukrainian agenda, but also a concern for the Western European states and the Atlantic alliance. Russia’s invasion has proved itself as a predatory state with blatant disregard to existing notions of sovereignty and its behavior risks tipping the international security collective, noting that some Eastern European states like Poland—who is a member of NATO and borders Russia and Ukraine—are in close range with the on-going war. Hence, for most of the international community, the primary source of insecurity is the anarchic state of the international system that allows the violation of sovereignty norms, kickstarting worries of their own sovereignties in the face of predatory states. Furthermore, the war has undermined the geopolitical stability of the European continent since the last World War II. As most of these countries identify themselves as ‘democratic adherers to freedom and liberty’, as well as being geographically situated within the region of the conflict, an unsettled Europe risks destabilizing the region’s development as a whole.

As the war has led to the further decoupling of Europe, Ukraine’s resilience (with the help of Western governments support) has taken Russia by surprise. According to Van Evera, the concept on ‘feasibility of conquest’—or in other words, why states would initiate invasions and wars—is shaped by four factors such as military technology, geographic factors, social and political factors, and the nature of diplomacy in relations to the conflict.[7] In hindsight, Russia’s military technology and power outnumbers Ukraine as the former spends 10 times as much on their defense spending than the latter. It has three times the artillery of Ukraine and 10 times as many aircrafts[8]. But the miscalculation lies on the emphasis on its military prowess, forgetting other factors like geographical feasibility, social-political leadership and solidarity, and the diplomatic context of the conflict. To be fair, Russia seems to have thought its military campaign against Ukraine would be a three-day march to takeover Kyiv without much resistance. Therefore, it was left unprepared towards fighting a war that has lasted up to almost 5 months. This is just as Van Evera has written; aggressive operations can penetrate enemy defenses but a reckless operation will expose one’s own defenses.[9]

Russia is not prepared to fight this war. Not only did it did not have a long-term plan on how its invasion was going to play out, Russian forces were underequipped; riding on old armored vehicles, facing gas, food, and water shortages leading to a generally disorganized war effort. This might also be caused by two factors; firstly, its political system and secondly, due to the lack of information among its troops. Russia is known to maintain elite loyalty by profiting off government provisions within procurement systems—including military procurement—which led to widespread corruption. The corruption with the military procurement has left Russian troops fighting in Ukraine with inadequate supplies causing them to loot civilian homes in an attempt to fulfill their water and food needs. Energy shortages has also left many Russian tanks and armored vehicles unable to move any further and are left disregarded on the sides of Ukrainian streets. Furthermore, despite its overwhelming numbers, the Russian air force has failed to dominate the skies due to the lack of tactical strategy.[10]  Additionally, it seemed that the invasion was kept under wraps amongst military officials which led to a lot of the Russian troops losing morale quickly as they do not understand why they are fighting a war in a country where many of them have familial ties.[11]

Meanwhile, the Ukrainians have opted to capitalize on Russia’s strategic failure. Since the 2014 Crimean annexation, it has received weapons supply from western nations. In 2016, Ukraine and NATO did a training program for the Ukrainian special forces, but never truly expecting that the training would be put to test so soon.[12] Amidst the current war, the US and its allies in NATO and the EU have committed to sending weaponry such as Javelin antitank missiles, machine guns, sniper rifles, and stinger surface-to-air missiles.[13] The Ukrainians have adopted a strategy to wear down the Russian offense by sticking into the defense position. This is due to Ukrainian’s consciousness of its own military prowess; power-wise, Ukraine understands its limitations and optimizes what is has effectively. The weapons shipment from the West have also helped it strengthened its defense, as military technology that focuses on lethal firepower and mobility are best suited for defense.[14] The geographical factor definitely falls into the Ukrainian’s favor, as local knowledge on its geography has created an effective environment for its guerilla warfare. Many Ukrainian troops have opted to fortify cities instead of engaging with the Russians out in the open as seen in the struggle in Mykoliv city in order to save their military supplies and engage with Russians in the most efficient manner possible. Russia’s initial strategy to seize and encircle Kyiv through the Hostomel airfield had failed as the Ukrainian forces defense-dominant strategy have managed to holdout the Russian air and missile strikes and prevented them from further advancing towards Kyiv.

Barriers and fortifications are put up by destroying bridges and highways to prevent tanks from mobilizing. A strategy of the Ukrainians is to destroy the Russian convoy with artillery shells and antitank missiles whenever the vehicles were on the open highway. This relates to Van Evera’s point on strong fortification and human made obstacles like urban sprawls that are essential in the creation of a strong defense.[15] This can be seen in how Kyiv has been barricaded with large concrete blocks, sandbags, tires, and tanker trucks. Similarly, trenches have been dug out surrounding the city of Irpin as Russia’s lack of knowledge around Irpin has left their tanks stuck in small streets, making them easy targets for the Ukrainian military.[16] It should be noted that local knowledge is not simply limited in the geographical sense, but can also be sourced from civilian intel. Residents in several Ukrainian cities who were either unable to get out or refuse to leave have helped provide intel on Russian movements using their cellphones. [17] The war has further consolidated Ukrainian solidarity and Zelenskyy’s leadership when he opted to stay and fight in the capital alongside his countrymen. The charismatic leader’s popular government has garnered the ability to raise its citizens loyalty and organize them for effective guerilla resistance.[18] This can be seen in how voluntary Ukrainian citizens have joined in taking up arms in defending their cities via guerilla warfare. Many citizens have participated in building Molotov cocktails in the frontlines and even farmers are contributing by towing away Russian armored vehicles. [19] Furthermore, smaller arsenals are distributed amongst guerilla fighters noting the usefulness of assault rifles, machine guns, light mortars, and mines for defensive powers, which reaffirms the Ukrainian fighters’ commitment to defend instead of attack. [20]

This just goes in line with Van Evera’s writing on the usage of local knowledge which can hinder conquest. Similarly, Van Evera also states that when states do not have the adequate critical resources, conquest can also be hindered.[21] He also noted that the diplomatic factor that influences conquest feasibility are within these three arrangements; collective security systems, defensive alliance, and balancing behavior by neutral states.[22] The latter is most true in the context of Ukraine’s diplomatic efforts in garnering international support and sympathy towards its side of the war. Despite not being part of a collective security system or a formal defensive alliance, Ukraine has managed to gain the support of states like the US and EU members to play the role as ‘neutral balancers’, or those who join the weaker party in order to balance the more powerful party. Though they do not fight within the war directly, they are fighting in proxy by sending weaponry and supplies to Ukraine and imposing severe economic sanctions. Ukraine, for its part, is helping its ally states by stalling the war in order to make Russia suffer from the brunt of its sanctions. Furthermore, the involvement of balancing parties—who are also a part of a security collective like NATO—makes Russia’s aggression limited towards Ukraine, since expanding its aggression towards the balancing parties would enlarge the scale of the war. But this situation is also made feasible due to the political regimes within the balancing states involved which have strong willingness to intervene in preventing the expansion of regional hegemonies.[23] Should these states pursue isolationist policies; the war situation would be a completely different story.

The city of Lysychansk is likely to become Russia’s next target as it has been bombarding the city with airstrikes. In the other side of the river separating Lysychansk with the city of Severodonestsk, the street fighting and ground assaults has made humanitarian assistance to enter very difficult in the Luhansk region. Meanwhile, the struggle in Kharkiv continuous as Russia’s ground assaults to the northeast pushes’ Ukrainian troops away from Russian-occupied frontiers near the Russian border.[24] Amidst it all, there is no denying that the invasion to Ukraine for Russia’s part is a heavy miscalculation on the feasibility of conquest since it only focused on assumptions on its military powers. It neglects the other factors that should have been utilized to serve its own goals and is now being capitalized by the Ukrainian forces in holding out against the aggression. From differing perceptions of threat that have led to different security concerns for both parties—and to an extent, to balancing parties as well—there is one salient takeaway within this war. It is undeniable that the Russia-Ukraine War marks a rise in concerns regarding a state’s national security, noting the existence of predatory behavior within the international system. But security itself is an issue of specific context in which actors have different interpretations on what they deem as threatening and secure. In an international arena that is now buzzing with security concerns, a diverse spectrum of security concerns in relation to the Russia-Ukraine War has emerged. For some it might be concerns on how the war is impacting the slow-going post-pandemic recovery with rising food and oil prices that are predicted to cause instability in volatile regions like Africa and the Middle East, as well as straining developing and emerging economies in Asia and Latin America whilst Central and South Asian states risks getting their share of aid diverted to the Ukrainian cause.[25] For others, it might be the threat on the breach of sovereignty norms and the reminder of the constant precarity within the international life due to the existence of predatory behavior. Time can only tell how the Russia-Ukraine War will play out, but in the meantime, there is no denying that everyone is on the edge of their seats in following its development. Therefore, the Russian invasion in Ukraine has become one of the most pressing security issues in the 21st century.


[1] Reuters, “A Timeline of War as Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Enters Third Month,” Hindustan Times, April 23, 2022, https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/a-timeline-of-war-as-russia-s-invasion-of-ukraine-enters-third-month-101650699536819.html.

[2] Jeffrey Mankoff, “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Identity, History, and Conflict,” www.csis.org, April 22, 2022, https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-war-ukraine-identity-history-and-conflict.

[3] Ruth Deyermond, “What Are Russia’s Real Motivations in Ukraine? We Need to Understand Them | Ruth Deyermond,” The Guardian, April 27, 2014, sec. Opinion, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/27/russia-motivations-ukraine-crisis.

[4] Kristen de Groot, “Putin’s Motivation behind the Attack on Ukraine,” Penn Today, February 24, 2022, https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/putins-motivation-behind-attack-ukraine.

[5] Sebastian Shindler, “Opinion – Russian Motives in Ukraine and Western Response Options,” E-International Relations, February 28, 2022, https://www.e-ir.info/2022/02/28/opinion-russian-motives-in-ukraine-and-western-response-options/.

[6] Jeffrey Mankoff, “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Identity, History, and Conflict,” www.csis.org, April 22, 2022, https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-war-ukraine-identity-history-and-conflict

[7] Van Evera, 1998, p.16

[8] Jeffrey Mankoff, “Russia’s War in Ukraine: Identity, History, and Conflict,” www.csis.org, April 22, 2022, https://www.csis.org/analysis/russias-war-ukraine-identity-history-and-conflict

[9] Van Evera, 1998, p.18

[10] France 24, “Five Reasons Why Ukraine Has Been Able to Stall Russian Advance,” France 24, March 8, 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220308-five-reasons-why-ukraine-has-been-able-to-stall-russian-advance.

[11] Zack Beauchamp, “9 Big Questions about Russia’s War in Ukraine, Answered,” Vox, March 30, 2022, https://www.vox.com/22989379/russia-ukraine-war-putin-zelenskyy-us-nato-explainer-questions.

[12] Sudarsan Raghavan, “How Kyiv’s Outgunned Defenders Have Kept Russian Forces from Capturing the Capital,” Washington Post, March 15, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/15/ukraine-kyiv-russia-war/.

[13]France 24, “Five Reasons Why Ukraine Has Been Able to Stall Russian Advance,” France 24, March 8, 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20220308-five-reasons-why-ukraine-has-been-able-to-stall-russian-advance.

[14] Van Evera, 1998, pp.16-17

[15] Van Evera, 1998, pp.16-19

[16] Van Evera, 1998, p.20

[17] Sudarsan Raghavan, “How Kyiv’s Outgunned Defenders Have Kept Russian Forces from Capturing the Capital,” Washington Post, March 15, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/15/ukraine-kyiv-russia-war/.

[18] Van Evera, 1998, p.20

[19] Sudarsan Raghavan, “How Kyiv’s Outgunned Defenders Have Kept Russian Forces from Capturing the Capital,” Washington Post, March 15, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/15/ukraine-kyiv-russia-war/.

[20] Sudarsan Raghavan, “How Kyiv’s Outgunned Defenders Have Kept Russian Forces from Capturing the Capital,” Washington Post, March 15, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/03/15/ukraine-kyiv-russia-war/.

[21] Van Evera, 1998, p.20

[22] Van Evera, 1998, pp.21-22

[23] Van Evera, 1998, pp.21-22

[24] The Washington Post, “Latest Russia-Ukraine War News Updates,” The Washington Post, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/06/18/russia-ukraine-war-putin-news-live-updates/.

[25] IMF, “How War in Ukraine Is Reverberating across World’s Regions,” IMF Blog, March 15, 2022, https://blogs.imf.org/2022/03/15/how-war-in-ukraine-is-reverberating-across-worlds-regions/.

Marsha Phoebe is on her fourth semester as an international relations major in Gadjah Mada University, Jogjyakarta, Indonesia. Her academic concentration is on global politics and security with a special interest for low security issues. Regions of interest include Southeast Asia, Japan, Latin America, and Africa.

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British Sanctions Against Patriarch Kirill. Forgiveness and Humility in Response

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The UK Treasury has published another list of Russian individuals subject to financial sanctions. Along with 11 other Russians, the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill is included. The use of restrictive measures against Patriarch Kirill represents is a new stage of escalation in relations between Russia and the West. Sanctions may affect the foreign activities of the Moscow Patriarchate. However, the political consequences are far more important. Whether willing or not, London is adding a religious dimension to the hornet’s nest of its current problems. At first glance, a technical and relatively minor political move can have disproportionately serious consequences.

Sanctions against Patriarch Kirill will do nothing to achieve the stated goals of British sanctions — to counter “Russian aggression” against Ukraine. Church support for the Russian government will only become more decisive. However, they will give rise to additional new risks, which will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to control. The British officials, by zealously “punishing” the Russian religious leader, are doing a disservice to their own country and the rest of the Western community. Religion is an extremely sensitive topic, capable of heating up any conflict at an uncontrollable speed.

Let’s start with the possible material consequences of the sanctions for Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church. Blocking financial sanctions mean that individuals under UK jurisdiction are prohibited from engaging in any financial transactions with the blocked persons. Their assets are frozen. That is, formally they remain the property of the blocked person, but it is practically impossible to use them. One of the key questions is whether such restrictions on Patriarch Kirill affect the property of the ROC in the UK, as well as its activities? At first glance, the answer is no. The list of blocked persons did not include the Moscow Patriarchate as an institution. There are no legal entities subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate among them.

However, they may still have problems in connection with the concept of ownership and control. Part 4 of the December 2020 UK Financial Sanctions General Guidelines clarifies that blocking sanctions apply to any entity that is directly or indirectly owned or controlled by a person subject to blocking sanctions. Here we mean, first of all, property relations. The British regulator applies the “50% rule” when the criterion for control is the ownership of shares of 50% or more of a controlled entity. Such a rule is quite applicable for companies and corporations, but not for the Church. Patriarch Kirill heads the Russian Orthodox Church, but cannot be considered its “owner”. However, the Guidelines contain other control criteria. For example, such a criterion could be the expectation that the person may be able to carry out the activities of the organisation in accordance with its requirements. Its decryption is again more suitable for business. So, for example, the concept of such opportunities includes the appointment of a board of directors or key managers, control of the bank accounts of the organisation or its economic resources. But its application to other legal entities, including those subordinate to or associated with Patriarch Kirill, is not ruled out. That is, there is an element of legal uncertainty.

The main difficulty here may arise in connection with the so-called excessive compliance of foreign counterparties of the ROC. Today, the practice has developed when foreign counterparties are forced to excessively comply with the law, due to the threat of administrative and even criminal measures against violators of the sanctions regime, as well as the uncertainty of some rules. In other words, it is easier to over-execute and refuse a transaction than to carry it out with the risk of subsequent problems with the regulator. Especially excessive compliance is typical for banks, which are the most vulnerable due to their large number of transactions, and are frightened off by the experience of some violators incurring multi-million (and sometimes billion) fines for failing to meet the requirements of sanctions regulators.

Moreover, British sanctions may also affect the excessive compliance of banks and counterparties in other jurisdictions. The procedure for monitoring a counterparty through databases of sanctioned persons will inevitably reveal to them the connection of any institution of the Moscow Patriarchate with Patriarch Kirill. Again, from a procedural point of view, this will mean, at a minimum, transactional delays, regardless of whether it is under British jurisdiction or not. Such delays today are due to the very connection of the deal with Russia, even if there are no persons under sanctions involved. The appearance of such persons increases the risk of disrupting the transaction.

At the same time, in comparison with the material side of the issue, the political consequences seem to be much more important. Sanctions against Patriarch Kirill make the conflict between Russia and the West a clash of religious values. You can argue as much as you like that these are not sanctions against the Russian people; that the sanctions against Patriarch Kirill are allegedly imposed for supporting the Russian authorities in their policy on the Ukrainian issue, that the British authorities have nothing else in mind, that this is a purely legal issue, and not a reason for a value conflict, etc. This will also include analytical notes by Russophobes on how the ROC is used as a tool of “soft power” in the post-Soviet space and beyond. The problem, however, is that we do not only live in a world of bureaucratic schemes and technocratic politics. We live in a much more complex world, where bureaucratic machinery collides with the psychology of large masses of people, with symbols, with the complexity and diversity of perceptions and, most importantly, the possibility of using all this complexity for political purposes. It is not so important who exactly ends up using all this energy. It is important that a hostile measure against a religious leader will inevitably add fuel to the fire. It will expand the dimensions of the conflict, shifting it from a purely secular arena into the realm of religious feelings. Russia is a rather secularised society. It is difficult to expect that the sanctions against Patriarch Kirill will lead to the effects that a similar move would have, for example, on an Islamic community, in the event of similar actions being taken against an Islamic leader of a similar magnitude. However, it is hardly worth underestimating the religious factor, especially given the difficult historical background. At first glance, technocratic action releases forces that are very difficult to control. The West has already encountered the factor of political Islam, generated by difficult relations with individual Islamic countries. Now the almost-forgotten contours of faults between Christian denominations are added here. It is sympathetic that earlier sanctions against Patriarch Kirill were discussed as one of the measures of the sixth package of EU sanctions, but were not included in the final version. A scaling up of the British initiative is not out of the question, and will complicate things much more.

At the same time, the sanctions against Patriarch Kirill do not bring the British authorities one iota closer to the implementation of the declared goals of the sanctions policy. Formally, they must “change the behaviour” of the person under sanctions. That is, in the bureaucratic scheme, after the imposition of sanctions, Patriarch Kirill must refuse to support the Russian authorities on the Ukrainian issue. At the very least, sanctions should “raise the price” of such support. What will actually happen? The Church’s support for the Russian authorities will only increase. The ROC is likely to face some material damage from the sanctions against Patriarch Kirill, but it will also only increase the energy of the consolidation of Church and state. In other words, the sanctions will have the opposite effect of what’s expected and will be a disservice.

What can the Russians do in response? Surely there will be a temptation to adopt “mirror and symmetrical” actions, such as adding British religious figures to our lists. Such an action on our part will only lend weight to the British move, show that we think in the same terms. If in other areas retaliatory measures can be justified, then in the subtle world of religious issues, caution and prudence are advisable. Linear circuits do harm here. Forgiveness and humility can do much, as a great moral force.

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‘Russian Rebellion’: Local and Global Consequences

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The military conflict in Ukraine today is at the nerve of relations between Russia and the West, and largely sets the tone for security policy in the Euro-Atlantic region. It also has many global implications. In the ideological sphere, it is increasingly presented as a struggle between the liberal world order and the “rebellion of the discontented”. It is Russia that today has assumed the role of the vanguard of such a rebellion, openly challenging its Western rivals.

The use of the concept of rebellion here is not accidental. The West is promoting a liberal world order based on clear ideological premises. These include the market economy; the globalisation of standards, markets and technologies; democracy as a no-alternative political form for the organisation of states; an open society and a diversity of cultures and ways of life; and human rights. In practice, the implementation of these principles varies from country to country and changes over time. However, the diversity of practice has little effect on the integrity of the ideology. Unlike the West, Russia does not offer an alternative ideological menu. So Russia differs from the Soviet Union, which at one time adopted another modernist ideology – socialism – and actively promoted it as a global alternative.

At the same time, both liberalism and socialism are Western doctrines. Both are based on the ideas of progress, rationality and emancipation. There are more similarities between them than you might think. Socialists offer a different view of private property, pointing to the excesses of the uncontrolled market. Already in the twentieth century, however, there was a convergence of liberal and socialist ideas in the form of a combination of state regulation and the market. With regards to their political ideation, democracy and the power of the people are no less important for socialism than for liberalism. Traces of the idea of globalisation could be found in the concept of international worker solidarity. Liberation from prejudices and the rationalisation of all spheres of life are expressed as clearly in socialism as in liberalism.

The problem with the Soviet Union was that the implementation of socialist ideas eventually turned into an imitation. The principles of democracy remained on paper, but in reality they were crushed by an authoritarian (and at certain stages – totalitarian) state. In the rationalisation of the economy and industrialisation, the USSR achieved amazing success, but later it ran into stagnation, unable to adapt its economy to rapidly changing world realities. The periphery of the economy, with its raw-material bias, was identified back in the Brezhnev era. Emancipation proved unprecedented, but was also ultimately hobbled by the increasingly rigid social structure of the Soviet state. At the end of the Cold War, the picture was completed by double standards and a cynical attitude towards the ideology of Soviet society itself and its elite.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet project, the policy of the USSR could hardly be called a rebellion. Throughout its history, the USSR still offered a systemic alternative. Relations with the bourgeois environment could be called an attempt at revolution, and then rivalry and competition, but not a revolt. Soviet policy had a positive agenda, offering a holistic picture of the world.

The current “Russian rebellion” is based on dissatisfaction with the established status quo of the liberal world order, or rather, its individual consequences for Russia.

There are reasons for such dissatisfaction. Scepticism about democracy was determined by the practical possibilities of foreign states to “hack” democratic institutions. Colour revolutions in the post-Soviet space only strengthened this attitude. The flip-side of democracy was the possibility of interference in democratic institutions from the outside in order to ‘correct’ the political course. The United States, not without reason, was considered a key “hacker” of national sovereignty through the manipulation of democratic institutions abroad. All the more ironic was the indignation of Washington itself after Russia allegedly also tried to “hack” American democracy.

Russia’s greatest annoyance was its secondary role in the unipolar world order, the disregard for its interests, and that system’s increasingly clear refusal to perceive it as an equal partner. Interestingly, economic factors were secondary for the “Russian rebellion”. In theory, Russia can be considered dissatisfied with its peripheral status in the global economy and its role as a raw materials appendage. In practice, Russia has become very deeply integrated into the international division of labour. However, compared to the stories about democracy, sovereignty and foreign policy, Russia’s dissatisfaction with its place in the world economy was articulated in a very weak way. Liberal emancipation can hardly be considered the main political problem for Moscow. In some aspects, the Russian narrative has distanced itself from the Western mainstream. This concerns such topics as multiculturalism and sexual minorities; although in the West itself, perceptions of these remains extremely heterogeneous. At the same time, in terms of lifestyle, Russia is still more of a European and Western country, so culture, like the economy, can hardly be considered a key source of the problem.

Given the concentration of Russian discontent in the political sphere, it is hardly surprising that it was the Ukrainian issue that became the trigger for the “Russian rebellion”. The Maidans and the change of power were seen by Moscow as a cynical hack into the country’s political system, as well as a threat of such a hack targeting Russia itself. In addition, at the doctrinal level, Ukraine was increasingly positioned as a fundamentally different project, drifting further and further towards Western values. From the point of view of foreign policy, it was with regards to the Ukrainian issue that Russian interests in the field of security were discriminated against in the most acute form. Economic issues here also acquired political overtones: Moscow could put pressure on Kyiv with gas prices and threats to diversify its transit, but it was clearly losing to the European Union and other Western players in the very model of economic integration. It is not surprising that all those contradictions that had accumulated after the Cold War made themselves known in Ukraine.

Realising that the game was being played according to fundamentally unfavourable and discriminatory rules from the Russian point of view, Moscow not only slammed the table with its fist and brushed the pieces off the board, it also decided, figuratively speaking, to hit its opponents hard on the head with this board. Rivalry “according to the rules” turned into a fight, the field of which is Ukraine. At the same time, on the part of the West itself, there is a degree of irritation, discontent and rejection of Russia, proportional to its own discontent or even surpassing it. The West is frustrated by the very fact of a decisive rebellion, its senselessness in terms of the balance of benefits and losses, and the ruthlessness of Russian pressure. Hence the obvious non-selectivity and emotionality of retaliatory strikes, a bizarre mixture of sanctions bombings, plans to confiscate Russian property, defeat the “oligarchs” (the most pro-Western wing of the Russian elite) and equally senseless bullying of the Russian cultural, sports and intellectual elite, and society as a whole. Only the threat of a direct military confrontation with Russia keeps them from using military force.

The West has every reason to fear the “Russian rebellion.” Worries about a liberal world order arose long before 2022 and even before 2014. Compared to Russia, China poses a far greater danger. If the “Russian rebellion” is successful, it will become clear that China’s ambitions will be even more difficult to contain. Moreover, unlike Russia, China can offer an alternative economic model, and its own view of democracy, as well as a different ethic of international relations.

The success of the “Russian rebellion” may become a prologue to much more systemic challenges. Therefore, the pacification of Russia for the West has become a task that clearly goes beyond the boundaries of the post-Soviet and even the Euro-Atlantic space.

Meanwhile, in the actions of Moscow, there have been signs of progress that are unpleasant for the West. Yes, the Western blockade will increase the lag and backwardness of the economy. Yes, military operations are costly. Yes, they can cause unpredictable social reactions and even present a challenge to political stability. None of these challenges, however, are capable of knocking Russia off its political course from now on. Moscow is slowly developing an offensive and seems to be determined to integrate the occupied Ukrainian territories into its political, information and economic space. Ukraine faces not only colossal economic and human losses, but also the threat of losing territory. Large-scale Western aid is having an effect, making it difficult for Russia to act. Apparently, however, it is not able to stop Russians: infusions of military equipment are simply ground up by military operations. The longer the conflict drags on, the more territory Ukraine could lose. This presents the West with the unpleasant realisation that it is necessary to reach at least a temporary agreement with Russia. It will be preceded by an attempt to reverse the military situation. However, if it fails, Ukraine will simply not be able to stop the further loss of its statehood.

In other words, the “Russian rebellion” has a chance to end in success in the sense that it may end in a fundamental reformatting of a large post-Soviet state that has recently been hostile to Russia. It will show the readiness and ability on the part of Russia to back up its claims with the most radical actions.

Will the success of the rebellion mean its victory? This will depend on two factors. The first is the international political implications. A military success in Ukraine could set off a chain of global consequences leading to the decline of the West. However, such a scenario is far from predetermined. The West’s margin of safety is high, despite its apparent vulnerability. The readiness of other non-Western players to give up the benefits of globalisation for the sake of abstract and vague political guidelines like a multipolar world is completely unobvious. It is likely that the West will have to endure the new status quo in Ukraine, but this does not mean the defeat of its model. Russia does not systematically challenge this model and does not have a complete picture of how to change it. In Moscow, perhaps, they believe that the model has become obsolete and expect it to collapse by itself, but this conclusion is far from obvious.

The second factor is the consequences for Russia itself. By avoiding promoting a global alternative to the liberal order, Russia will at least have to decide on a programme for its own development. So far, its contours are also built mainly around the denial of the West and its models in certain areas. Given that, the vast majority of other non-Western countries, while defending their sovereignty, are actively developing and cultivating Western practices that benefit them. These include the organisation of industry, developments in the field of science and education, and participation in the international division of labour. The rejection of such practices, just because they are conditionally “Western”, as well as the “cosplay” of Soviet practices created amid different historical conditions and left in the distant past, can only increase the difficulties that Russia is currently facing. The preservation and development of a market economy as well as an open and mobile society remain among the most important tasks.

From our partner RIAC

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BRICS creating early warning system for epidemic risks

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In their final declaration, leaders of the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) at the end of their 14th summit hosted by China, have emphasized their commitment the need for creating complex early warning system for epidemic risks within the group, and underscored that the member states must be better prepared for future healthcare emergencies.

The group also advocated “equitable distribution of vaccines” and called on international agencies and charities to purchase vaccines and boosters “from manufacturers in developing countries, including in Africa, to ensure that the manufacturing capabilities being developed are retained.”

Russia has been advocating for closer collaboration among the members, but China seems to be the fastest in taking actions concerning health related matters. Under the leadership of Russia, it first proposed cooperation on countering infectious diseases as a priority for BRICS. The final joint declaration of the 2015 BRICS summit in Ufa, Russia, has instructions by the leaders to work consistently on managing the risk of disease outbreaks.

“We are concerned about growing and diversifying global threats posed by communicable and non-communicable diseases. It has a negative impact on economic and social development, especially in developing and in the least developed countries,” said the 2015 BRICS declaration.

Among the group, China and India were ready to step up the sharing of information, and experience with BRICS countries and conduct joint research and development of drugs and vaccines based on respecting each other’s sovereignty and national conditions.

During the rotating chairmanship of South Africa, it firmly re-proposed the creating of full-scale coordinating research and development center and planned to be located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nevertheless, there has not been any practical achievements in that direction. Then Covid-19 began in December 2019 and was declared pandemic the following year by the World Health Organization (WHO). As China took the helm of BRICS, effective from January 2022, experts and research analysts have since showed deep interests and were further discussing possibilities of multilateral cooperation, existing challenges and identifying diverse priorities, the strength and weaknesses of BRICS.

With noticeable efforts, BRICS has consistently been pushing for diverse health initiatives, most especially vaccines, to halt the coronavirus pandemic that has shattered the global economy. There are Chinese and Russian vaccines, both reported as effective and safe, and currently getting ready to ramp up large-scale production.

March 22 marked the launch the BRICS Vaccine Research and Development Centre, involving the heads of relevant agencies from the five countries. The initiative to establish the BRICS Vaccine R&D Center was incorporated in the final declaration of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg, South Africa (July 26-27, 2018).

The main objective is to share best practices and strengthen practical cooperation in research, development, production and distribution of vaccines to ensure their greater availability. The new format is designed to develop mechanisms for the prevention, diagnosis and prompt response to new viruses, as well as to ensure timely and widespread Covid-19 vaccination.

The launch of the BRICS Vaccine R&D Center is considered as a major achievement of the five-sided cooperation, in strengthening cooperation in the field of healthcare in particular through the implementation of the Russian initiative to establish the BRICS Integrated Early Warning System for preventing mass infectious disease risks, in the Chinese chairmanship of the BRICS.

China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin explained, during his regular media briefing on March 23, that the BRICS Vaccine R&D Center and workshop on vaccine cooperation would be a network of internet-based virtual centers, and the establishment of physical centers would only begin later after comprehensive feasibility assessment.

As the BRICS Chair this year, China hosted the 14th BRICS Summit in June under the theme of “Foster High-quality BRICS Partnership, Usher in a New Era for Global Development” and public health and vaccine cooperation are among the key areas of BRICS cooperation this year. At present, the pandemic is still dragging on across the world.

The establishment of the BRICS Vaccine R&D Center demonstrates the determination of BRICS countries to focus on vaccine cooperation, deepen public health cooperation and build a BRICS line of defense against Covid-19.

“We hope that the vaccine R&D center will pool the strengths of BRICS countries, further promote scientific and technological cooperation among BRICS countries, enhance the five countries’ capability of preventing and controlling infectious diseases contribute to the global fight against Covid-19 and make new contributions to international public health cooperation,” Wang Wenbin explained during the media briefing.

The BRICS countries are making efforts to contribute to an enhanced international cooperation to support the efforts of countries to achieve the health goals, including the implementation of universal and equitable access to health services, and ensure affordable, good-quality service delivery while taking into account different national circumstances, policies, priorities and capabilities.

The BRICS member countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) collectively represent about 26% of the world’s geographic area and are home to 3.6 billion people, about 40% of the world’s population and a combined nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$16.6 trillion.

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