by EES President Dr Ingo Friedrich
Depending on the outcome of the war in Ukraine, there are basically two very different paths that Russia will follow in the future. Recognizing this in good time is important for the West in order to avoid mistakes now, and to be prepared for the new world order.
The war ends with an outcome that Putin can somehow sell as some kind of success at home and allows him to retain the position of Russian President. (Neutrality of Ukraine, Crimea and Donbas with Russia, land bridge to Crimea, and at worst a puppet government in Kiev):
In this case, Russia will remain a pariah of world politics à la North Korea for decades, must constantly oppress its population in Ukraine and Russia and must seek protection from China. It will become a sort of junior partner of China, creating a new world division into a US-led West (with a junior partner Europe) and a Eurasian East led by China. All forms of the well-known cold war and economic competition are then conceivable. It is foreseeable that China will stretch out its hands to Taiwan in such a constellation. In this scenario, the world would become significantly more uncertain and unpredictable. It is extremely doubtful whether Russia will feel comfortable in such a somehow ambivalent role in the long run.
The outcome of the war leads to a result that Putin can no longer sugarcoat (large losses in the armed forces, collapse of the entire Russian economy, indictments before international courts, demands for reparations, riots among Russian citizens):
In this case, Putin sooner or later loses his office. Violent succession battles could follow, including army coup attempts, new developments in Belarus, and brutal "who is to blame for the disaster" clashes within Russia. In order to clarify the situation, the West in this case would have to overcome its misgivings and make a generous economic offer to the Russian citizens instead of lusting after revenge. Similar to how the friendly hand of reconciliation was extended to devastated Germany after the Second World War, the same should be done with Russia. Then there would be a chance that Western values such as freedom, democracy and prosperity would "diffuse" to the East and, in the long term, Russia would become part of the West.
A prerequisite for such a development would of course be a gigantic learning process in Russia itself: This largest country in the world would have to learn to accept that it is only one of several large nations in this world, which has become smaller. In other words, that it is no longer an empire that may rule over others.
After all, England, France and Germany, and very early on also Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands with their colonies had to go through this difficult learning process.
The Ukraine would orient itself fully towards the West, including EU accession. The new division of the world would then read: The West, including Eurasian Russia, is in competition with Asian China.
Even this new order of the world would not be free of tensions, but the achievement of the important global goals of climate, fight against hunger, supply of water, abolition of torture and oppression would be less endangered than in the first scenario.
All in all, it seems that the world is facing epochal changes: The next few weeks will decide whether there will be a "2-to-2 situation" (USA/Europe to China/Russia) or a "3- to1 situation".