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.
PART 3 - Sanctions: The other economic weapon
The overall impact of Western sanctions against Russia is a hotly debated subject. Russian media tends to downplay the overall impact of the sanctions, while the Western media paints a picture of imminent collapse. Notably, Paul Krugman, the leading liberal doomsayer, prognosticated in The New York Times in 2014 that “Putin’s Bubble Bursts,” warning that Russia was headed for economic meltdown thanks to the courageous sanctions regime imposed by the fearless leader President Barack Obama.
In reality, the sanctions had little immediate, direct impact on the Russian economy, but the indirect bruising might be significant, particularly over the medium- and long-term. Last year, the International Monetary Fund issued a report, noting:
“IMF estimates suggest that sanctions and counter sanctions might have initially reduced real GDP by 1 to 1½ percent. Prolonged sanctions may compound already declining productivity growth. The cumulative output loss could amount to 9 percent of GDP over the medium term. However, the report’s authors underline that these model-driven results are subject to significant uncertainty.”
But, looking beyond the raw numbers, one must realize that the policy prescriptions outlined by the IMF and leading economists internationally are perhaps the actual target for the West.
The IMF recommended “reforming the pension system” (read: reduce pensions), reducing energy subsidies, reducing tax exemptions, and other measures, while also suggesting that education, health care, and public investment be safeguarded. However, the subtext of the recommendations is that austerity, which by its very definition starves public programs of much needed funding, is the way to go for Russia.
There are likely strategic planners in Washington who recognize that the political subversion model employed in Brazil and South Africa simply won’t work in Russia. If nothing else, the failed “White Revolution” protests of late 2011 led by Russian liberals and various pro-Western political forces, demonstrated unequivocally that the Russian state was prepared to prevent precisely this sort of outcome.
And so it seems that those who play on what former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski famously called “The Grand Chessboard,” have made their moves in an attempt to corner Russia economically. Whether that strategy has been, or will be, effective likely depends on perspective. While it alone will not bring about the Western pipe dream of regime change in Russia, the Empire’s elites are banking on the collective assault on Russia and the BRICS broadly to do what political subversion alone could not.
Globalization and the introduction of a market economy has not produced the promised results in Russia and most of the other economies making the transition from communism to the market. These countries were told by the West that the new economic system would bring them unprecedented prosperity. Instead, it brought unprecedented poverty: in many respects, for most of the people, the market economy proved even worse than their Communist leaders had predicted. The contrast between Russia's transition, as engineered by the international economic institutions, and that of China, designed by itself, could not be greater: While in 1990 China's gross domestic product (GDP) was 60 percent that of Russia, by the end of the decade the numbers had been reversed. While Russia saw an unprecedented increase in poverty, China saw an unprecedented decrease.
The radical reform strategy did not work: gross domestic product in post-1989 Russia fell, year after year. What had been envisioned as a short transition recession turned into one of a decade or more. The bottom seemed never in sight. The devastation-the loss in GDP was greater than Russia had suffered in World War II. In the period 1940-46 the Soviet Union industrial production fell 24 percent. In the period 1990--99, Russian industrial production fell by almost 60 percent-even greater than the fall in GDP (54%).
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.