Ukraine’s suffering and courageous resistance to Putin’s war has made its long-term destiny as part of the ‘European family’ secure. But as Russia begins a new chapter in its post-Soviet history, it faces in two very different directions
How might Russia as a nation respond to the calamity of Vladimir Putin’s decision to make war? Amid the present agony of Ukraine, the question may seem insensitively beside the point. But the answer could affect the length of that agony and, in any case, will determine the future direction of this troubled and troubling country. On a cultural and spiritual level, Russia’s prospects matter profoundly for the future of European civilisation, of which it is an indelible part. And with its rich natural resource endowments and huge arsenal of nuclear weapons, the peace and prosperity of the world are at stake. As the war grinds into its second horrific month, the dangers are already acute.
The present “fog of war” should deter even the most confident prognosticators. My own confidence in this predicting game is already at a low ebb. A lifetime analysing the politics, economics and society of post-Soviet Russia proved useless when it came to foreseeing the outcome of tensions between Russia and the US over Ukraine that had started building up last year – Putin’s all-out invasion of Ukraine. I had thought myself on the more pessimistic end of the spectrum when warning my investment research firm’s clients in January that some form of military escalation by Russia was to be expected. But I was not nearly pessimistic enough about the approaching catastrophe – for Russia as well as Ukraine.