Russia is the target of a multi-faceted, asymmetric campaign of destabilization that has employed economic, political, and psychological forms of warfare -- each of which has been specifically designed to inflict maximum damage on the Kremlin.
The U.S.-NATO Empire, with its centers of power in Washington, on Wall Street, and in the city of London, is on the offensive against the BRICS countries. This assault takes many forms, each tailored to its specific target.
The ongoing soft coup in Brazil has recently entered a new stage with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the left-wing Workers’ Party. Simultaneously, the destabilization of the ANC-led government in South Africa continues as political forces align to remove President Jacob Zuma. These two situations illustrate clearly the very potent forms of subversion via Western-funded political formations and movements being employed against Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the bloc of emerging economies also known as BRICS.
However, when it comes to a country as large as Russia, with its vast military capabilities, consolidated and wildly popular political leadership, and growing antagonism toward the West, the tools available to the Empire to undermine and destabilize are in some ways more limited.
Indeed, in the context of Russia, the popular mobilization pretext does not apply, and so that weapon in the imperial arsenal is blunted considerably. But there are other, equally potent (and equally dangerous) methods to achieve the desired effect.
Russia is the target of a multi-faceted, asymmetric campaign of destabilization that has employed economic, political, and psychological forms of warfare, each of which has been specifically designed to inflict maximum damage on the Kremlin. While the results of this multi-pronged assault have been mixed, and their ultimate effect being the subject of much debate, Moscow is, without a doubt, ground zero in a global assault against the BRICS nations.
Economic war: Hitting Russia where it’s vulnerable
While Russia is a world class power militarily, it is highly vulnerable economically. For that obvious reason, this area has been a primary focus of the destabilization thrust.
Russia has for decades been overly reliant, if not entirely dependent, on revenues from the energy sector to maintain its economic growth and fund its budget. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Russia’s Federal Customs Service, oil and gas sales accounted for 68 percent of Russia’s total export revenues in 2013. With more than two-thirds of total export revenues and roughly 50 percent of the federal budget, not to mention 25 percent of total GDP, coming from oil and gas revenue, Russia’s very economic survival has been as dependent on energy as almost any country in the world.
In light of this, it’s no surprise that the drop in oil prices over the 18-month period from April 2014 to January 2016, which saw prices dive from $105 per barrel to under $30 per barrel, has caused tremendous economic instability in Russia. Even many leading Russian officials have conceded that the negative impact to Russia’s economy is substantial, to say the least.
At the World Economic Forum in January, former Russian Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin explained that not only has the drop in oil prices badly hurt the Russian economy, but the worst may be yet to come. Kudrin noted the potential for prices to drop even further, possibly even below $20 per barrel, and he warned that the impact to the economy will be significant.
Specifically, it’s not just the loss of revenue, but the negative effect on wages and the currency which have many economic analysts and political figures worried.
According to the Russian Federal Statistics Service, real wages for Russian workers have dropped significantly since the end of 2014, with steep declines throughout 2015 continuing into early 2016. This has been felt by ordinary Russians, whose wages have stagnated while inflation causes prices to shoot upwards and who have had to endure belt-tightening in terms of personal consumption, and at the national level, where the Russian government has been facing a potentially large budget shortfall for 2016.
It must be noted, however, that recent months have seen an improvement in the relative performance of the ruble, but the long-term outlook from experts remains gloomy.
This has led many Russian analysts and policymakers to advocate yet again for a decreased dependence on energy revenues. They argue that the current climate could force economic restructuring away from the critical energy sector. Aside from Kudrin, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev made the case for potential “structural economic reforms,” as did Vladimir Mau of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
Writing earlier this year in Vedomosti, Russia’s leading business publication, Mau explained: “The demand for oil as a commodity depends on technological progress…And it’s not obvious that oil as a fuel will be always in demand in times of economic growth. With the change of the technological model, it is not ruled out that oil will become just a stock commodity for the energy and chemical industry.”
This last point — how oil is used relative to the market — is the most salient; in other words, it’s the financialization of oil. But the analysis must go a step further and explore how the financialization is, in effect, a weaponization process as oil prices become increasingly the playthings of powerful financial institutions, particularly the major banks on Wall Street and in the city of London. And this is no mere conspiracy theory.
What we see in Ukraine is probably another failure of various think tanks, mostly from Washington, which they are funded, of course, by the international capital. It seems that, apart from the fact that they have underestimated Putin's abilities, they have also wrongly estimated that Russia had passed permanently in the neoliberal phase and would be ready to become an easy victim to promote their plans. According to these plans, the ultimate goal would be probably to dissolve the vast Russian territory in future and bring in power Western-friendly puppet regimes, in order not only to conquer the valuable resources, but also to impose permanently the neoliberal doctrine on "unexplored" regions and populations.