How bad can it get for Russia?

How bad can it get for Russia? By David Rothkopf.

At the very least it puts to rest for the foreseeable future Putin’s notion that he will oversee the rebirth of Russian greatness, of a new Russian empire.

At worst, it means that Russia’s decades-long slide that led to its Cold War collapse (and its struggles ever since) will be accelerated, and the country will be consigned by its floundering dictator to a period of greatly diminished global influence. …

Russia is still the largest country in the world, with more nuclear weapons than anyone. And yet, remarkably, despite all that, Putin’s disaster in Ukraine may well leave Russia as little more than a dangerous middleweight power …

Economically, Russia is already middleweight — it’s GDP is about the same as that of South Korea or Australia.

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Stephen Sestanovich, who served during the Clinton administration as ambassador at large for the newly independent states of the former USSR and is currently a professor at Columbia University …

Russia’s claim to be a great power has long been tenuous, resting on nukes, land mass, and a UN veto. The revival of economic growth in Putin’s first decade helped restore a little luster to the claim. But he’s been largely on the ropes since 2014, and this absurd campaign to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine has put his entire effort at risk.

He wanted to make himself an equal of Catherine and Peter. Now it’s going to take quite a comeback to be more than [former Serbian President Slobodan] Milošević with missiles. …

Hal Brands, the Henry A. Kissinger Professor of Global Affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, warns nonetheless that it would be

a mistake to write off a country that spans ten time zones, has thousands of nuclear weapons, retains some powerful conventional forces, and has infinite capacity to make trouble as a great-power. Russia has traditionally proven far more resilient than many analysts imagine — it came back after the complete catastrophe following the end of the Cold War, after all, even if Putin is jeopardizing much of that today. …

Tom Nichols, a former Naval War College professor, Russia specialist, and current contributor to The Atlantic, concludes:

No matter how this war ends, post-Soviet Russia as a great power is finished for a long time to come.

Putin unwound 30 years of social and economic development, somehow thinking he could sustain great power status on wars of aggression, selling natural resources, and keeping a nuclear arsenal. (Great powers do not have to go shopping for weapons in North Korea.)

Even if Putin dies or is removed, the moral stain of the Ukraine war and its many crimes is going to last for generations, and a post-Putin Russia will not get the same benefit of the doubt from the rest of the world the way it did after the Soviet collapse. He’s going to leave the country poorer, more hated, and more isolated than at any time since Stalin’s death.

The horrors of the communist period could be excused as the excesses of left-wing ideology, and in the past. But invading and wrecking a neighboring country, and the current horrors being revealed in recaptured Ukrainian territory, are much harder to explain away. Russia needs to reform. It’s a moral thing.