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Russia: Consolidation or Collapse?


This essay seeks to assess (1) the likelihood that the Russian Federation will collapse in the foreseeable future and (2) the possible forms that such a dissolution might take. The latter question is extremely important, since it may determine whether a fragmented Russia would join the EU or bring the world its second nuclear war. Finally, we seek (3) to offer some preliminary advice for policy makers (Russian and Western) and political scientists studying the issue. The following section launches our study with a discussion of some methodological issues involved in assessing future developments through political science theory and accumulated 'historical wisdom'. The next section examines the 'lessons' to be drawn from the collapse of the USSR and extrapolates them to today's Russia. The essay then turns to a section discussing the need to 'expect the unexpected', to go beyond the important exercise of empirical extrapolation to consider other theoretically possible scenarios of dissolution. The concluding section steps back to offer a tentative evaluation of the probabilities of different scenarios. It also offers some preliminary recommendations to policy makers.

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