The Zone of Electoral Silence. The key features of the 2023 regional elections The main features of the 2023 election campaign, in addition to unprecedented legislative and coercive pressure on the electoral process, has been the active implementation of an electronic voting system fully controlled by the security services and a noticeable decline in interest from politicians and businesses who fear the authorities' use of force. Will The New Reality Become The New Order? What the expansion of BRICS means for the world and for Russia As a result of its expansion, BRICS is finally taking on the characteristics of a real organisation rather than just a casual club, positioning itself as a political and economic representative of the Global South. However, the ideas of the accelerated consolidation of BRICS+ as both an anti-Western coalition and the foundation for a 'new world order' are unlikely to come to fruition. In fact, they are more likely to undermine the prospects of the union rather than enhance them. Season Finale: Highlights, Trends, and Challenges In August, the activity of analytical and expert centres typically declines, and Re:Russia's analytical review usually goes on vacation until the beginning of September. As we bid farewell to our readers for this month, we would like to remind you of the topics covered in our recent reviews and the themes discussed by our experts that may remain relevant in the upcoming season. From Gorbachev to Stalin: Four scenarios for Russia according to analysts from Atlantic Council, plus one from RE: RUSSIA The Prigozhin rebellion is now claiming the role of a 'black swan' or trigger event — an occurrence that seemed entirely improbable and, now that it has happened, is forcing observers to reassess their understanding of the domestic political situation in Russia and, as such, their notions of what might happen in the future. Accepting the inevitable: The four dilemmas of Ukraine's NATO membership that are impossible but necessary to resolve Although today's NATO summit will not lead to a breakthrough for Ukraine's membership in the alliance, its outcomes do not appear entirely predetermined. In political terms, the results of the summit are likely to disappoint Ukraine and those advocating for its swift accession to the alliance. However, in practical terms, they may lay the groundwork for the actual integration of Ukraine and NATO in the future. INFORMATION UPRISING: PRIGOZHIN'S REVOLT IS THE RESULT OF FUNDAMENTAL SHIFTS IN THE RUSSIAN MEDIA LANDSCAPE The alternative pro-war agenda deployed in a number of Telegram channels has become the ideological platform of the Prigozhin rebellion and the reason behind its fairly widespread popularity. However, this effect reflects a more fundamental shift — the continuing decline in the influence of television in the Russian information space. NO, BUT YES: WHY RUSSIA IS GOING TO EXTEND THE GRAIN DEAL Despite all the loud proclamations coming from Russia, the 'grain deal' is likely to be extended in one form or another on July 18. Rejection of the deal would almost inevitably lead to an increase in food prices, for which the world would blame Moscow. This, in turn, would undermine trust in the anti-colonial rhetoric it employs in Africa and Asia. Hot Summer In Snowy Africa: Why the Prigozhin uprising was possible, how it ended, and what it revealed The Prigozhin rebellion has shaken the Russian political landscape, dealing a deadly blow to the myth of 'Putin's stability.' At the same time, the rebellion itself — its brevity and sudden end — has left observers puzzled. But what do we really know about military rebellions and their role in political history? War and Revolt: How are the outcome of the Wagner rebellion and the prospects of the Ukrainian counteroffensive connected? The conciliatory outcome of the recent Wagner mutiny is deeply humiliating for Putin, but it may allow him to maintain both his support for the current leadership of the Ministry of Defence, which ensures defence capabilities today, and the Wagner Group units, which could be necessary in the future, or may even create new threats for Ukraine during the summer-autumn military campaign. The Armed Golem: Mutiny that Putin Has Started Although the focus is now on the advance of Wagner Military group’s units toward Moscow, the essence of Evgeny Prigozhin's rebellion is unfolding in the rhetorical space. This rebellion has already dealt a crushing blow to Putin's war, because it is expressed not in the language of the liberal opponents of the war, but that of its supporters. From decline to overheating: Russian industry thrives amid military fever In Russia, industrial production and consumer activity are growing, but the growth of industry is primarily linked to defence orders, while consumer demand is not being met due to sanctions. As a result, the Russian economy is at risk of overheating, resulting in accelerating inflation. Shifting Tides: How China is seizing the initiative in Central Asia and taking Russia’s place For post-Soviet Central Asia, Russia has served as a security guarantor for decades, but the war in Ukraine has rendered it a toxic neighbour. As in other areas, the main beneficiary of this shift has been China, which is eagerly exploiting the power vacuum created in the region as a consequence of Putin's obsession with Ukraine. The Conservatism Clinch: Can Russia Become an Orthodox Iran? The Russian authorities are attempting to cultivate orthodox religiosity and conservative values, but they have failed to take into account that, in Russia, the popularity of these values has a limited range and a specific political profile. Contrary to the Kremlin's beliefs, the promotion of traditionalism as an official ideology may actually serve to reduce public support for the regime. The Elephant and the Whale of Migration Policy: Who Needs the Issue of Migrant Crime and Why? In Russia, the struggle around the regulation and control of labour migration is a struggle between two logics: the economic lobby seeks to normalise and simplify registration and its associated processes for migrants, while the security forces are interested in maintaining their precarious position in Russian society. The classic trump card in this struggle has been the myth of migrant criminality. Failure to Deliver: What is Behind the Prigozhin Scandal and Chaos in the Russian Military Command? The cascade of failures on the battlefield has created a desire on the part of various factions of the Russian military leadership to shift responsibility to one another and provoked multilateral conflicts. For the time being, such conflicts are seen as beneficial and manageable in the Kremlin. However, if the situation deteriorates further, these conflicts could spiral out of control. Schrödinger's Boycott: Why Have Western Companies Not Left Russia Properly? Many foreign companies pledged to leave the Russian market in the initial weeks after the country’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This process was very active at first, but then it clearly began to stall. Moreover, some of the companies that had seemed to have left without too much fuss have begun to return cautiously. Irrecoverable losses: how sanctions have hit Russia’s most competitive industries the hardest Although sanctions have not led to a complete collapse of the Russian economy, they have caused significant and irreversible damage. Industries which had once achieved significant success on the international market have suffered the most and have been pushed towards demodernisation. A striking example of this is the Russian timber industry, which has lost its foothold in the European market. The Militarisation Slide: having the world’s third largest military budget does not make Russia stronger There has been a proliferation of conflict hotbeds around the world, and with this global military spending is growing. In Russia, military expenditure grew by at least 9% in 2022, making it the world's third-largest military spender. Usually, such spending is only sustainable in countries where the GDP and population are much larger than Russia's. Terrorists, Incendiaries, and Saboteurs: How Law Enforcement Is Normalising the Logic of State Terror Analysis of criminal cases opened under various articles of the Russian Criminal Code for anti-war activities suggests that security officials are prone to add additional, more serious charges, up to and including terrorism and extremism, following the initial indictment. This allows the security forces to meet their performance indicators and to keep civilians in a state of fear. Putin Has No Other General Staff: What the Outcome of the Conflict between Gerasimov and Prigozhin Teaches Us About the Present and Future of the War in Ukraine The swift and decisive victory of Valery Gerasimov and his General Staff over Yevgeny Prygozhin and his ambitions, combined with its systematic strengthening of its position over the last few years, forces us to take a new look at the political role of the Russian military leadership in the current war and their potential influence on its future course and outcome. The Authoritarian Renaissance: When Will Democracy Bounce Back? The global freedom rankings have continued to decline for the past 17 years, but the resurgence of authoritarianism appears to be running out of steam, according to a new report from Freedom House. Re: Russia’s democratisation index does not support these assumptions: the rate of de-democratisation peaked in 2017-2020, so it would be premature to call the deceleration of authoritarianism in 2021-2022 a turning point. From Prison to War. Why Russia urgently needs prison reform The widespread military use of prisoners on Ukrainian soil has been one of the most shocking and unusual characteristics of the current war. At its heart lies the peculiar world of violence and lawlessness that exists in the Russian penitentiary system, which is carefully guarded by the Russian authorities from any attempts at reform. WAR AND ORDER. THE ‘VIRTUAL’ ARREST OF PUTIN AND THE EVOLUTION OF INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE The issuance of an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court is a once-in-a-lifetime legal and political event. Although it appears unlikely that the warrant will be executed, the fact that it was issued has immense implications for the development of international justice, a fragile global system based on war and war crimes. The ‘Georgian Dream’ Cycle: Why the Political Situation in Georgia Will Continue to Heat Up, And European Integration Will Stall Russia and the EU remain the two principal poles of Georgian politics, but its main spring is the internal political struggle — the ruling coalition's desire to hold onto power by limiting the opposition's options ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Sooner or later, this will end up in another ‘colour revolution’, the experience of several post-Soviet countries suggests. RUSSIAN FIELD: SUPPORT FOR NON-SUPPORT OF PEACE AND WAR Over the past year, the independent Russian Field project has been surveying its respondents about their support for a renewed offensive against Kyiv and their support for a peace agreement with Ukraine. The answers to these questions allow us to identify three different groups: those who support escalation, those who are opposed to it, and conformists who approve of any decision made by the authorities. What is the structure of these groups and how do they relate to one another? The Mastermind of Rebellion: Prigozhin, ‘a divided elite’ and ‘reverse perestroika’ Within the cacophony of nationwide approval for the ‘special operation’ and the harmonious hum of patriotic speeches, a captivating tale has emerged: a clash between Prigozhin and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. It serves as a rare example of Russia’s hidden political tensions bubbling to the surface and into the public domain. Although this conflict seems to be under control for the time being, that does not mean that it will not escalate into something much more violent in the future. Digital Policy Divergence: authoritarian states are attempting to construct digital totalitarianism while European countries fight against it The Russian government is developing a digital surveillance ecosystem that will include algorithms for monitoring and censoring digital networks, facial recognition, and political profiling. Russia, like China, is attempting to establish a digital dictatorship standing in contrast to the EU debates taking place in the EU surrounding a ban on facial recognition technologies. From Hybrid War to Civil War: The Cossacks have joined other private armies on the battlefield In addition to the Wagner PMC, there are other paramilitary formations fighting for the Russian side in Ukraine, including approximately 15,000 Cossacks. The rapid decentralisation of violence and the loss of the state’s monopoly on it, set against a background of military failures and the very real possibility of further political destabilisation, is highly likely to create systemic conditions for civil war in Russia. Divided Peoples: How Might the War in Ukraine Shift the Balance of Inter-ethnic Relations in Russia? The war's outcome will have far-reaching consequences, and not only on the political structure of the post-Soviet space. It is very likely that it will cause a rethinking of Moscow's relationship with Russia's ethnic regions, acting as a catalyst for increased ethnopolitical protest and separatist sentiments. Unknown Soldiers: What Do We Know About Russian Military Losses in the War with Ukraine? What are Russia’s losses following eleven months of the war in Ukraine? This issue has received little media attention, but it is both pressing and paints a depressing picture of events. The dead have been hidden by the ‘fog of war’, which has meant that Russian society has been unable to comprehend or assess the real costs of the conflict. However, even allowing for the most conservative estimates, it appears that the Russian army’s losses are many times greater than the Soviet army’s casualties during the ten year war in Afghanistan. YOUTUBE SOCIOLOGY The interview between Yuri Dud and Oscar Kuchera should be viewed as a stylised conversation between a Russian liberal and an ordinary Russian. This person neither has a clear sense of the purpose of the war, nor are they convinced of its necessity. However, they express a generalised distrust of the West and Westerners, so they have convinced themselves that Putin is a rational actor, even though they are not privy to the details of his thought process. Mistrust Makers: The Structure of the Kremlin's Disinformation and Astroturfing Campaigns The Kremlin's large-scale activity on TikTok and other social networks yields no direct results, but has a serious secondary effect: Kremlin campaigns do not change the minds of those who hold opposing viewpoints, but sow mistrust and a sense of vulnerability of the sustainability of normative and liberal social structures. The Forever War Following the success of ‘partial mobilisation’, the Kremlin has become preoccupied with the potential further mobilisation of Russian society. Shoigu and Putin recently announced military reforms proposing a return to the model of Russia as a belligerent state. This is based on the Soviet idea of building extensive military capacity, whereby the army’s quantity can compensate for its poor quality. Ultimate Sovereignty: How Digitalisation Evolved from a Fetish to a Vulnerability Until recently, becoming a global leader in digital technology had been one of Russia’s objectives, and it had already achieved some major accomplishments in this field. But, the invasion of Ukraine has changed everything: plans for global expansion have become irrelevant and investments have been lost. At the same time, the financial sector’s high level of digitalisation has now become its biggest vulnerability. An Investment Anomaly Although the Russian economy contracted in 2022, there was an increase in investment activity compared to last year. It should be noted, however, that in many sectors these investments were not being used to expand production, but rather to replace disappearing imports and maintain production output in the wake of sanctions. Enough Money to Keep the War Going Russia’s budget revenues surpassed last year’s despite nine months of war, the contraction of its economy, the loss of export markets and sanctions. This has allowed the Kremlin to increase its military spending without any particularly serious consequences to its economy. Although a decline in income next year is inevitable, it is unlikely that this will affect Russia's ability to continue the war. A boom in newcomers When the war broke out, the IMF predicted that Russia’s deep recession would hamper economic growth in neighbouring countries in 2022. But for many of its neighbours the crisis stemming from the war and its accompanying sanctions has proved to be an opportunity, as human capital has fled Russia to spend their money elsewhere. The War Budget and the Race to the Bottom Defence and security spending has become the top priority in Russia’s 2023 budget — a third of the budget will be allocated towards this. Experts have expressed doubts that this will be enough to compensate for the losses in armaments and equipment that have been incurred in Ukraine to date. Russia is entering an arms race for the second time in 50 years, and a scenario in which this, once again, results in total collapse does not seem too far-fetched. Sixteen Scenarios and Five Triggers There is some agreement among experts that, when it comes to multiple possible scenarios for the outcome of the war, their probability is determined by several key factors: further arms supplies to Ukrainian troops, Russia's ability to overcome the disorganisation and demoralisation of its army, the condition of Ukrainian critical infrastructure, the nuclear "card", and the fate of the Putin regime itself. Geo-economic Fragmentation: from impossible to inevitable? Until recently, a scenario in which the world underwent new geo-economic fragmentation had seemed quite fantastical, but now this is becoming increasingly likely, despite its potential consequences. We are witnessing growing tensions between democratic and authoritarian countries, and a situation in which political reasons are more often outweighing the fears of collateral economic losses. Cyber Blitzkrieg vs. Cyber Solidarity Mirroring its failures on the battlefield, the Kremlin's hopes for a blitzkrieg in cyberspace have not come to fruition. Moscow underestimated the willingness of governments and private companies to counter Russian cyber forces with horizontal cooperation. As such, the Russian-Ukrainian cyber war might signal the beginning of a reconfiguration of the international cyber security landscape. The War Party Is Losing Ground In All Polls Time is working against the war — respondents' expectations regarding their financial situation and economic prospects are deteriorating, and the support for military operations in Ukraine is decreasing along with them. According to data from three independent sociological projects, the core of support for the "special military operation" and the "war party" is also shrinking. The Global South vs. The Global West: a battle of narratives To engage developing countries and the major powers of the "Global South" in a pro-Ukrainian coalition, the West needs to "repackage” the narrative of the Russian-Ukrainian war, shifting the emphasis from "values" to a rhetoric of sovereignty and territorial integrity that would be more widely accepted in a postcolonial world. Dynamic Ceiling Europe continues to prepare for a winter without Russian gas and develop a strategy to reduce economic losses and prevent social instability. In Germany, whose economy is a driving force of the EU, the idea of a dynamic price ceiling is actively discussed amid bakery owners' and far-right demonstrations. However, the idea is to introduce it only at the end of winter. Revenues Forced to Match Spending Russia's budget for next year is based on some dangerously optimistic assumptions, namely that oil prices will be high and the Russian economy will quickly recover from sanctions. These predictions, however, are based on the idea that spending costs will be high even if income levels decrease. Will the Russian government abandon its conservative budget policy in 2023? The Journey from 1945 to 1941 According to sociological data, Russia’s mobilisation came as a shock to its citizens. Even among the war’s supporters there are at least three different parties with their own justifications and interpretations of current events. Opportunism By Way Of Sovietism and Anti Globalism Post-Soviet Russia is not unique by any means, but it is probably the only major nation of the 21st century where a radical conspiratorial worldview is popular not only in mass culture but also among the political establishment. Alexander Panchenko discusses the setup of ideological narratives of late Putinism. Inside the Inferiority Complex Vladimir Putin's recent address to the Russian public contained a direct threat to use nuclear weapons against the West — this rhetoric both refers to Russia's nuclear doctrine and fundamentally distorts its previous defensive and compensatory nature. Re: Russia — on Vladimir Putin’s attempt to falsify the Russian nuclear doctrine and turn it into an instrument of aggression. The Mobilisation of the Demobilised The idea of self-sacrifice and the cult of death underlying the new ideology of the Russian regime are in conflict with the humanization of social norms that has been taking place in Russian society over the past twenty years. Ekaterina Schulmann on the prospects for ideological mobilisation in Russia. The Crusade and the Ferris Wheel The ideology of Putin's regime has gone from an approach based on ideals of a "strong state and civilized way of life" to the revanchist messianism that has become the ideological foundation of the current military venture. But, as Professor Andrei Zorin of Oxford University writes, this ideology has always been dedicated to the task of ensuring the irremovability of those in power. "The SMO is yours, but the problems it creates are ours" Despite the attempts to establish total control, regional elections in Russia remain a field of very specific competition, in which federal party brands play the role of franchises and "privacy screens" masking the bizarre struggle of local elite groups and activist projects. Political scientist Alexander Kynev discusses the peculiarities of the election campaign and the first outcomes of the 2022 elections in Russia. A Broad Front of Inadequacy The July poll conducted by the Levada Center demonstrates that the Russian’s attitudes toward the war and Kremlin policies remain unchanged and are largely accompanied by a surprisingly high optimism regarding the prospects of the Russian economy and society as a whole. Kirill Rogov discusses the specifics of social attitudes in the summer of 2022. Telegram vs. TV Data from a June poll conducted by the Levada Center shows that the war has not changed the fundamental trend of recent years: the share of people who get their information on current events from TV has fallen back after a brief spike at the beginning of the war, while the share of those who get it from the Internet has continued to grow. Is the World at Risk of a New Great Divergence? The polls show that the Western alliance will have difficulty getting China, South Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East to support its sanctions policy against Russia, and the world may face geo-economic fragmentation if pressure from the alliance is too strong. Dark Times Powerful Western sanctions were supposed to hit the Russian economy and weaken Vladimir Putin's regime, but today the economic and political losses incurred by the West seem to be more noticeable. Kirill Rogov discusses the differences in responses to signs of a crisis between democracies and autocracies. Crisis Euphoria Polls in May recorded a rise in economic optimism and a decrease in crisis expectations, which can be explained both by the general mobilization effect — the growth of regime support indicators and positive assessments of the country's prospects — and the widespread feeling that the crisis was short-lived and limited in its influence.