European Council on Foreign Relations
podcast banner

ECFR podcasts - experts and big names talking about Europe's place in the world - in English, Spanish, French, German and Italian.

Go to the podcasts page

Scorecard The Europe Question

Dealing with a post-BRIC Russia


The overall outcome of parliamentary elections on December 4th – with only tame parties standing in opposition to Putin – is not in doubt, but the specific results may signal that the Putin system is losing its legitimacy, just as he readies himself to retake the presidency (possibly until 2024), and days after he was booed at a televised martial arts event. But Putin would not be returning to the same Russia as when he last held the presidency: buffeted by economic turbulence and fearful of stagnation, Russia is now post-BRIC. It no longer believes it shares the same power-trajectory as Brazil, India and China; instead, it thinks it is in relative decline with the West.

A new ECFR report, ‘Dealing with a post-BRIC Russia’ by Ben Judah, Jana Kobzova and Nicu Popescu, looks at the domestic and foreign policy constraints on a post-BRIC Russia that will shape Putin’s next presidency. It analyses how Europe should rethink its relationship with Moscow. The authors argue that:

  • The economic crisis has exposed a governance crisis inside Russia: even Putin now admits that as much as 80% of Kremlin orders have been ignored in the regions. Instead of modernising, Russia in 2010 was as corrupt as Papua New Guinea, had the property rights of Kenya and was as competitive as Sri Lanka.
  • The crisis has also prompted a foreign policy rethink inside Russia: post-BRIC Russia is now aiming for a low cost sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space and is increasingly nervous about China.
  • The EU lacks a strategy for this new Russia: Europeans have gone from thinking of Russia as a “big Poland”, that it can encourage towards liberal democracy, to a “small China”, which it can do business with but little else. But preoccupied by the economic crisis, European Union is missing an opportunity to re-engage Russia and turn it into a partner on issues of mutual concern.
  • Europe’s strategy should be to re-engage Russia whilst constraining Putin’s room for manoeuvre: for instance it should move as far as possible towards a visa-free regime, introducing a simplified electronic visa system. At the same time it should be consistent on human rights abuses by the authorities and address the energy vulnerability of neighbours such as Ukraine or Moldova vis-à-vis Moscow.

Click here to download a copy of 'Dealing with a post-BRIC Russia'

Click here to download a copy of the executive summary in Russian

прочитать Доклад здесь; Читать Краткое Содержание здесь

A Spanish translation of the essay has been published by Journal Politica Exterior

Key facts:

  • Opinion polls suggest a decline in Putin’s popularity from 83% in October 2008 to 61% in November 2011.
  • 82% of Russians don’t believe they have any influence over the country’s political life and 55% refuse to play any part in it (November 2011).
  • Russia suffered the worst recession in the G20 in 2009. Growth is now back at a projected 4% for 2011 (down from 8.5% in 2007), which is enough to muddle through but not enough to keep pace with dynamism of China or India
  • Seven political parties are contesting the elections with the pro-Kremlin United Russia the likely winner. One of the key opposition parties – People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS) – was denied registration earlier this year.

“This report is an important analysis of where Russia stands today and what opportunities this brings for the EU. It will open a much-needed and interesting debate.”
Javier Solana, former EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy & Secretary-General of the Council of the EU; former Secretary General of NATO

“A very timely and much-needed document.”
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia

“The report offers a shrewd assessment of Russia's recent achievements and failures - and a forecast of Russia's future challenges. A broader audience - both within and outside EU (including those within Russia) - will certainly benefit from this comprehensive and honest analysis of what Russia should, can, will and will not achieve in the coming years.”
Sergei Guriev, Rector of the New Economic School, Moscow

“A well-researched and panoramic survey of the Russian regime's stagnant, self-destructive and malignant approach at home and abroad. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Russia, and impatient for a more robust EU policy to its eastern neighbours.”
Edward Lucas, International Editor, The Economist

"This report is extremely insightful both for its great analysis as well as policy recommendations proposed which touch upon both foreign, economic and energy policies. The report is indeed a real working agenda for the European Union."
Massimo D’Alema, President, Italianieuropei Foundation; President, Foundation for European Progressive Studies; former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister

“This is a very timely study on a changed Russia facing stagnation and many unresolved problems under the renewed leadership of Vladimir Putin. It is time for the EU to develop a coherent strategy to engage a “post-crisis Russia” likely to act more soberly and pragmatically. The proposed options for a "pro-active EU policy on Russia" provide an excellent starting point for European policy-makers.”
Dr. Andreas Schockenhoff, Coordinator of German-Russian Inter-societal Cooperation of the German Federal Foreign Office, MP and Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU Parliamentary Group

“The EU can and should have good relations with Russia; this ECFR report indicates what the priorities should be. Wishful thinking needs to be abandoned, yet respect for universal values strengthened, as Europe re-engages Russia into closer cooperation.”
Adam D. Rotfeld, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-Chairman of Polish-Russian Group on Difficult Matters




European Spring: How to put our economies and politics right? - 15 Jul 14

With European economies failing to deliver higher standards of living, and growing public disillusionment with apparently self-serving politicians, Philippe Legrain discusses where

Read more…

In the Press

JOL Press
15 Sep 14

Mattia Toaldo on a potential French intervention in Libya.

La Croix
14 Sep 14

Piotr Buras about the accession of Ewa Kopacz as head of the Polish government.

Deutsche Welle
13 Sep 14

Andrew Hammond on the Muslim Brotherhood leaving Qatar.

Read more press >