The Russia – West confrontation in the next 25 years

Confrontation between Russia and the West

Hostilities between Russia and the West have intensified, reaching levels not seen since the Cold War.

The conflict in Ukraine, the Western sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions, the military buildups on both sides, all point out that the confrontation between Russia and the West has once again escalated and many future changes could shift the balance of power in the competition between Russia and the West in the Eurasian borderlands.

Russia has been the dominant foreign power in the region for centuries, and its position has withstood serious challenges and periods of dramatic upheaval. Thus, Moscow’s primary challenge in the next 25 years will be to figure out how to maintain its advantage in the former Soviet area, as its resources decline and the cultural and political ties erode.

The West will likely face its own challenges in the years ahead. A shift toward greater regionalization is already underway in Europe and it will likely intensify in the next 25 years as groupings of states with shared political and cultural characteristics overtake the Cold War-era institutions of the European Union and, to a lesser extent, NATO. This does not mean the two will collapse entirely. Instead, they will likely be reshaped into more practical and sustainable forms. Nor will it necessarily lead to a power vacuum in Europe that Russia could exploit. In fact, it may allow some European countries to better deter Russian aggression. Nevertheless, the format and manner in which the West can challenge Moscow will almost certainly change.

Russia’s ability to challenge the West by projecting its economic and military power will likely decline in the coming decades as by 2050, U.N. demographic projections expect Russia’s population to decline from 143 million to 129 million, a loss of nearly 10 %.

Of course, demographic growth does not directly equate to the projection of power and the West (particularly Europe) will experience challenges stemming from immigration and high non-European birth rates. Still, Russia’s relatively steep demographic plunge can be expected to undermine its ability to influence its former Soviet neighbors. This will only become truer with each year that passes since the Soviet Union’s collapse, as the social and cultural bonds that tie Russia to its periphery continue to weaken.

Other factors, including technological developments and the emergence of new political ideologies, will no doubt shape the Russia-West confrontation as well, by ways that are more difficult to predict.

Source: STRATFOR (Eugene Chausovsky)

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