U.S. Intel Report Predicts Russia Will Be Declining But 'Disruptive Power' Over Next Two Decades
By RFE/RL April 09, 2021
Russia will likely remain a â€śdisruptive powerâ€ť for the next two decades, but its global influence may decline in the face of numerous political, economic, and societal headwinds, according to a U.S. intelligence report released on April 8.
The report by the U.S. National Intelligence Council, which is produced every four years, provides a wide-ranging overview of global trends and potential scenarios that likely will shape the U.S. national security environment in the next 20 years.
â€śIn the coming years and decades, the world will face more intense and cascading global challenges ranging from disease to climate change to disruptions from new technologies and financial crises,â€ť said the report, titled Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World.
Regional powers and non-state actors may exert greater influence, with the likely result "a more conflict-prone and volatile geopolitical environment" and weakened international cooperation, it said.
On Russia, top U.S. intelligence analysts described the country as a â€śrising and revisionistâ€ť power alongside China, keen on reshaping an international order dominated by Western institutions and norms to fit Moscowâ€™s desire for traditional values, non-interference in its internal affairs, and â€śRussian-dominated protectorate covering much of Eurasia.â€ť
â€śRussia is likely to remain a disruptive power for much or all of the next two decades even as its material capabilities decline relative to other major players,â€ť the report states. â€śRussiaâ€™s advantages, including a sizeable conventional military, weapons of mass destruction, energy and mineral resources, an expansive geography, demographics and a willingness to use force overseas, will enable it to continue playing the role of spoiler and power broker in the post-Soviet space, and at times farther afield.â€ť
The report suggests Russia will continue to use information warfare to amplify divisions in the West, aiming to â€śengender cynicism among foreign audiences, diminish trust in institutions, promote conspiracy theories, and drive wedges in societies.â€ť
Meanwhile, Russia is likely to expand relationships in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. Moscow is also looking to increase its economic and military footprint in the Arctic, taking advantage of global warmingâ€™s impact on the vast northern region.
Despite some of Russiaâ€™s political and military advantages, U.S. intelligence analysts assessed the country â€śmay struggle to project and maintain influence globallyâ€ť due to a poor investment climate, stagnating workforce, a reliance on commodities with volatile prices, and a small economy projected to be only about 2 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) for the next two decades.
â€śSimilarly, a decrease in Europeâ€™s energy dependence on Russia, either through renewables or diversifying to other gas suppliers, would undercut the Kremlinâ€™s revenue generation and overall capacity, especially if those decreases could not be offset with exports to customers in Asia,â€ť the report said.
On the domestic political front, the next two decades in Russia will be determined by President Vladimir Putin's exit from power, either at the end of his current term 2024 or later.
The departure of the 68-year-old ruler â€ścould more quickly erode Russiaâ€™s geopolitical position, especially if internal instability ensues,â€ť the report said, suggesting possible post-Putin elite infighting.
While China and Russia share a common competitor in the United States and other Western democracies, U.S. intelligence said Moscow and Beijing are likely to â€śshun formal alliancesâ€ť with each other and other countries in favor of transactional relationships.
Such a flexible approach will allow the two countries to â€śexert influence and selectively employ economic and military coercion while avoiding mutual security entanglements.â€ť
As long as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Putin remain in power, Beijing and Moscow are likely to remain â€śstrongly aligned.â€ť
â€śBut disagreements over the Arctic and parts of Central Asia may increase friction as power disparities widen in coming years,â€ť the report said.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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