This project begins with the assumption that Russia is in fact in decline, and that the way Russia declines will likely have consequences that Western policies and strategies will be forced to address. Evidence of decline across most aspects of political, economic, and social life in Russia is now plentiful, and little evidence suggests that overall decline is reversible. Some areas of decline—for example, Russia’s demographic crisis, or in knowledge production—are profound and increasingly rapid. That said, in some areas Russia is making a concerted effort not to decline, for example in the development and reform of its military, which continues to boast some impressive select capabilities. But building the military to compensate for decline elsewhere hints at scenarios of the future that could be fraught with risk and conflict.

In their analyses, the project’s participants have tried to envision what might plausibly lie along the pathways leading to Russia’s decline. They have sought to identify the forces, attitudes, and ideas driving decline and Russians’ responses to it. Where possible, they have attempted to describe a range of potential alternative destinations for Russia, as well as conceivable contingencies that could emerge along the way. In particular, they have focused on potential downside scenarios, the dynamics that could power them, the critical uncertainties whose resolution might push scenarios in different directions, and the possible wildcards that might radically, rapidly, and unpredictably alter the shape and movement of the competitive landscape.

The project’s analyses and products will appear on this Jamestown Foundation website. These include papers by Russian experts, who are grappling with how to think about decline from “the inside,” as it were. Their analyses are augmented and expanded by those of several well-known Western experts, who survey how Russians think about particularly impactful elements of decline and what this might mean for Russia going forward. A final workshop of experts will assess how decline might affect Russia’s relations with the West, and explore policy options for dealing with a transforming Russia. We envision compiling these materials in a single volume, as well as several smaller, focused analyses on particular aspects of Russia’s decline, with appropriate contextual analysis and synthetic assessment. The final volume will be published by The Jamestown Foundation.

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Latest Articles

How Islam Will Change Russia

Russia is becoming increasingly a Muslim country. Out of a total population of over 146 million (including two million in annexed Crimea), it counts about 15 million people of Muslim background—even if not all are believers and even fewer practice Islam. Given forthcoming demographic changes,... MORE

Can Russia Sustain Its Military Capability?

Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine and subsequently accelerating militarization has forced us to re-examine Russian defense policy as a central focus of foreign attention. The war in Ukraine, Russia’s intervention in Syria, increasing signs of a manufactured war psychosis inside Russia and the visible improvements... MORE

Russia’s Fraught Demographic Future

Russia today is undergoing a profound demographic transformation. Contrary to the official narrative being propounded by the Kremlin, the Russian Federation still labors under deeply adverse demographic trends driven by a confluence of societal and cultural factors. These trends will invariably affect both the size... MORE

Russia’s Knowledge Economy Decline: Views From Inside

Summary  This paper begins with an overview of Russian assessments of knowledge economy challenges. It then focuses more specifically on problems in science and education. Special attention is devoted to bureaucratic competition, funding, personnel and the limited role of business in the knowledge economy. This... MORE

Russia of the Mid-2020s: Breakdown of the Political Order

At present, Vladimir Putin’s political regime seems stable and solid. The president himself enjoys the approval of some 80 percent of the population. Approval of the government’s performance has also remained high, as the Kremlin has proved rather effective in dealing with the current economic... MORE

Russia in Decline: Possible Scenarios

It is important to note at the beginning that the majority of Russian officials, as well as the majority of Russian people more generally, do not think that contemporary Russia is in decline. To the contrary, they believe that it is a state with the... MORE

Life After Decline

On August 1, 1991, following a cordial meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, US President George H. W. Bush arrived in Kyiv to deliver what later became known as the Chicken Kiev Speech to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Bush warned... MORE

What Does Russia’s Decline Look Like?

Prior to 2014, there were expectations that Russia’s probable decline would happen as an Argentina-type scenario of steady sagging/decay. This looked rational in economic terms, but authorities—faced with political crises and basically unable to fix the problem of legitimacy following their electoral win in 2012—decided... MORE

Russia’s Decline as a ‘Brave Re-Stalinized World’

In my view, the most prominent feature of Russia’s decline has little to do with its struggling economy, runaway corruption, and poor governance; or even with its alarming demographic trends. It is about the process of re-Stalinization, which has dramatically defined and perpetrated the decay... MORE

Russia’s Decline: Predictions and Recommendations

Whatever Russian leaders may insist when depicting their country’s regained greatness, Russia, seen in the longer run, is of course a declining power. Even a sketchy overview suggests this, for a variety of reasons. If one starts with geopolitical might, she or he will see... MORE

Russia in Decline: Three Possible Scenarios for the Future

It is widely believed that contemporary Russia’s decline started right after the annexation of Crimea, when, in the course of less than one week, the Kremlin almost irreversibly predetermined the future of the entire nation. By acting as an aggressor—breaking international law, bilateral and multilateral... MORE