This Alert looks at how and why Russia is developing alternative historical narratives. Moscow hopes to achieve two goals: to propagate a black-and-white version of the past that it can deploy in foreign policy and, more importantly, to minimise the chances of domestic unrest by inhibiting freedom of thought.
Although President Putin enjoys a remarkably free hand abroad, he still operates within constraints. Over the last nine months, Russians have become increasingly hostile to ‘foreign adventures’ as economic problems have mounted. What effect, if any, will this have on Russian foreign policy?
Putin’s inner circle have tried to evade the US and EU sanctions imposed on them and have been amply compensated for their losses by the state. But with intra-elite tensions on the rise and sanctions depressing Western lending across the board, their effect on Russia’s strategic calculations should not be underestimated.
Russia’s information war in Ukraine is rooted in military theory. Drawing on a Hobbesian vision of the world as an arena of incessant inter-state conflict, this theory sets out techniques that aggressors can use to subvert the information space of its adversaries. In Ukraine, Russia turned theory into practice.
President Putin has scored a decisive victory on the home front of Russia’s information war: official media have convinced the people that Putin alone stands between Russia and a return to chaos. But with the economic outlook deteriorating, for how long can appearances continue to diverge from reality?
The decline in military cooperation with Ukraine, defects in the Russian defence industry and a contracting economy have blown Moscow's rearmament plans off course. With a reallocation of resources no longer feasible, the Kremlin now risks compounding its economic problems and deepening its isolation.