一切如何终结？帝国重启与民族离异：普京战争三种结局；西方制裁如何奏效？俄罗斯人为何感到被中国出卖？| 李其专访卡米尔-加列夫（Kamil Galeev）
Today is day 68 of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Evacuation of civilians continue from the besieged city of Mariupol. In the United States leaders are working to put their promises of aid to Ukraine into action. In Brussels, EU energy ministers are making preparations to potentially impose an embargo on Russian oil this week an once unthinkable step for a bloc whose member states have long depended on Russian energy. Joining me now to discuss the recent development of the Russo Ukrainian war is researcher and journalist Kamil Galeev Kamil thank you so much for being with us before we start Can you can you just briefly introduce yourself to our audience? Thank you. So my name is Kamil Galeev. I am an independent researcher, originally from Tatarstan and a part of republic of Russia.
So at this moment I am mostly covering the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the situation in Russia for international audience. Fascinating. So you've been writing these fascinating Twitter threads on Russia's history, ideology and your musings on the directions of the war. Roughly a month ago, you laid out three possible scenarios for Russia's future. For those of our audience who have not yet read your writing, here's a quick recap. The first scenario is a North Korea scenario, in which Putin tightens his grip on power. Independent media is squelched.
Z soldiers become heroes. The second scenario is what you call "imperial reboot", with a potentially more liberal face replacing Putin, but no substantial change in the direction of the country. The third more desirable scenario is a so-called national divorce An imperial breakup that would follow, "the same patterns like the one in Latin America." So now we are over two months into the war. What's your current assessment of the most likely outcome of this war? You know, first of all, let me make a small clarification. So basically, thank you for introducing these three scenarios Regarding North Korea, I should note that I use this name largely for an international audience, And indeed I meant that from the international perspective, from the perspective of foreign countries.
In case Putin keeps power for, let's say, another few years, Russia will look more and more North Korea, both like as an international troublemaker and regarding its close alliance with China, which would be its only reliable partner. However, from the domestic perspective, it could look a little bit differently, from the perspective of Russians. If Putin kept power, Russia would look not so much as North Korea, but largely as one huge Donbass. So Donbass is part of eastern Ukraine that was sort of occupied by Russia.
But Russians didn't recognize the occupation. They proclaimed unrecognized, quasi independent state, the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republic. And those are heavily statist, hyper militarized societies aimed for total mobilization for the war with Ukraine. And that's probably what Russia will look like in maybe a few years if Putin keeps power. However, now I find such a scenario much less likely than a month before. Why? Because in order for this scenario to happen, Putin should keep his legitimacy. And Russian regime should keep its legitimacy, which I now find much less probable than a month ago.
Not because they showed themselves cruel or criminal, but rather because they showed themselves weak. When Putin launched his Z operation, russians expected a quick victory over supposedly so much weaker and inferior Ukraine But it didn't happen. Moreover, Ukrainians are launching successful strikes on Russia proper And apart from logistical problems and infrastructure problems it's creating for Russian war efforts. It also has a major psychological effect.
It means if Ukraine is able to launch strikes from Russia for example, like Ukrainian helicopters, they attacked Russian oil bases in Belgrade near the border and returned back successfully. And if they managed to do that, it probably means Ukraine is not that weak as we expected and Russia is not that great as we expected and I find this a major factor in predicting the future of Russia because Russian public opinion absolutely can forgive its poverty. It can forgive repressions. It can forgive atrocities. It's not going to forgive a military defeat.
And now it looks like the perspective of military defeat from Ukraine is more and more probable. I don't think Russian public opinion will forgive Putin that. So now as North Korea scenario in which Putin keeps power, I think it looks less probable. So we have two further scenarios. In particular, imperial reboot or national divorce. The imperial reboot can happen, should some liberal opposition, especially from Moscow, succeed Putin as leader of Russia we might have a partial change of elites.
However, in practice, in this case, most of the Russian imperial machine, and specifically it's asymmetrical relations between the imperial metropolis and the colonial periphery, they will remain more or less the same. Why? Because ultimately, Moscow liberals and Moscow statists, the ruling establishment, They're just two faces of the same double-faced Janus of Russian state. They ultimately share all the same assumptions about big central Russia, about its uniformity, about its homogeneity. And Putin as well as liberal opposition, they both view any form of provincial pride, provincial agency, independent action, as threats to be eliminated. You may think that I'm exaggerating, but one of very few instances in which Moscow's liberal establishment supported Putin and endorsed his policies was when he was dismantling the cultural infrastructure of Russian minorities.
So a colonial rule of a periphery exterminating of non Russian cultures is something both Putin and Liberal opposition agree on. So in case if Liberal opposition takes power, I don't expect dismantling of imperial rule. I expect an imperial reboot. But there is important factor here. Important factor is the following. After each collapse, be it the collapse of 1917, be it the collapse of 1991, Russia, of course, temporarily becomes weaker, but then it usually has a reboot. The question is how many reboots does Russia still have? That's a good question.
We have some reason to believe there are not so many options for reboot left. First of all, Russian demographic balance is changing quite recently. Russia used to be the country of overwhelmingly ethnic Russians, or East Slavs.
Now it's changing quickly. For example, if you look at the casualty list in Ukraine of course, we don't have full casualty list for all Russia. But the regions are most represented are ethnic periphery, Buryat, Dagestan, etc. Especially two clusters in South Siberia and South Caucasus. It happens for many reasons Economically speaking, they are just poorer, probably Kremlin finds them most disposable. But also an important factor is ethnic russians are depopulating.
Russia demographically becomes less and less ethnic Russian. And that's an important factor that will influence the future of the country. Another factor is economic. Russia for the last decades was heavily reliant on export of natural resources, most importantly, natural oil and natural gas. However, now Russia ran out of their deposits of cheap oil and cheap gas.
Almost all of deposits it still has, they lie in Arctic with the cost of production growing enormously. Which means that delta between the cost of production and of course the extra money which Russian state relied on, it's plummeting and plummeting quickly. I wanted to talk a little bit about the economic consequences of the war, as you briefly alluded to. You know, since the beginning of the war, the West has launched a campaign to isolate Russia financially by blacklisting some of Russia's largest banks, severing Russia's businesses from the global supply chain and weaning off Russian energy. It seems quite clear that Western sanctions have inflicted significant economic damage to Russia's economy, as you alluded to. And the IMF actually forecast a decline in Russia's GDP of as much as ten percentage point this year.
But it's not lost on many of us that Putin has not retreated from this invasion and Ukrainian lives are still suffering on a day to day basis. So why haven't the economic consequences of sanctions sunk in? What's actually driving Mr. Putin to double down on the battlefield, potentially to the detriment of his country's future? Well, regarding Putin's intentions, I think his motivation is quite clear. He can't back off because the Russian public opinion is not going to forgive its czar for their defeat in a small, victorious war. He has no chance to back off. He has no option. But regarding the economic effect of sanctions, I would say the most vulnerable point of Russia is technological impact.
In fact, the effect of sanctions was visible from 2014 long before the war started. For example, Obama's introduced sanctions back then, often criticized for failing to stop Russia. That's not true. In fact, they're quite effective in undermining its military efforts even back then.
For example, many of Russian military production facilitie suffered major losses because of sanctions because production of new types of armament heavily relied on imported components for example, the production of new Armata tanks. It was never scaled up. They produced, I think, several dozen copies. They plan to produce some thousands of them, but they were never mass produced since they relied on imported electronic components and getting them was just too difficult. That's the first thing. Sanctions introduced in 2014, they didn't destroy Russia's military machine, but they significantly hampered Russian armament.
Furthermore, now Russia's going to suffer serious problems because its technological chains And I mean not only military production, I mean, like any sort of production, they heavily rely on foreign components. For example, Russia almost doesn't produce its own industrial machines, so its industrial production relies either on Soviet machines that mostly stopped producing since 1990s or on imported foreign ones. And now it will be much, much more difficult to import them. Russia doesn't produce bearings. Russia doesn't produce ball screws and so on.
I mean, most probably Russian technological chain will gradually stop and they are already stopping for example, Uralvagonzavod, which produces tanks, stopped its production assembly lines. Russia's technological chains will stop not because of some fancy stuff, but because of the lack of some dumb plane stuff like bearings or ball screws. that impacts military production that impacts, for example, railway production because new Russian rail cars, they all used cassette bearings and its own production in Russian are almost stopped because it was still foreign produced. It's import is now stopping. Russia will not have its own aviation because Russia overwhelmingly relied on Boeing and Airbus.
Now they can't be used. I mean, new ones can't be imported and equipment for them can't be imported. So, I mean, that fact of sanctions is already visible, but it will be even more visible in a few months through stopping of Russian technological chains and supply chains. I wanted to turn to symbolism a little bit. You wrote a while ago that the motivation behind the so-called Z war is not security, not alliances or political affiliation.
Rather, it's, "the need to extinguish wrong cultural means and impose correct ones." "And that's why Z War has such wide popular support from Russians and why Russians so easily agreed to a total war of destruction against Ukraine." I wonder if you can elaborate on that sentence a little bit more. What's the cultural or contextual underpinning of the Z mindset and how did Putin weaponize that mindset? I think such a complex phenomenan like the one you just described, that is easily understandable if you just look at physical map.
I mean, if you open physical map of Russia in the Ukraine, you'll see the following. It's basically a huge plane on the east Ukraine and the South-West Russia. It's largely just a step with no significant natural boundaries which means that historically there were no significant boundaries between Russia and Ukraine. Like ethnically speaking, linguistically speaking, it was basically the same continuum of Slavic dialects, which stretched from probably what is now Carpathian Mountains eastward. So, I mean, there was no clear boundary.
It wasn't homogeneous, of course. There were many dialects, there were many small cultures, but there was no one clear, visible line. For example, as an example of this line, in West Europe it could be probably Rhine River or maybe like Pyrenees Mountains but between Russia and Ukraine there is no such boundaries. There's nothing like that.
This space was not really politically united before Russia annexed much of Ukraine in the 17th century, but it was religiously united. What is now Russia, what is now Belarus, Ukraine, also Romania and Bulgaria, they belong to the same, as Benedict Anderson called it, a sacred community of Church Slavonic language. It's crucially important. It was the language of high culture, of liturgy and largely of literary culture, for example. I mean, like how medieval Russians would call Western Europeans, be it French, German, Pol, Swedes, doesn't matter at all. They would call them Latins. It didn't matter at all which languages they speak in their normal life Poles or Germans didn't speak Latin in their normal life.
But in Middle Ages, all of these Western Europe, all of this Catholic Europe, it used Latin as the language of religion and in the eyes of Russians, it kind of united them all in one religious and sacred community. So in a way, as Western Europe was united by Latin, much of Eastern Europe, all the way from Bulgaria to Russia, was united by Church Slavonic and the sacred community in medieval Russia was called "русский". It was a religious term But in modern period, first Russian monarchs and then Russian nation state, it used memory about of this ancient sacred community in order to justify its imperial ambitions. So what Russian emperors wanted to do to at least since Catherine second, what largely USSR wanted to do, what modern Russia wants to do now it's to extirpate all their vernaculars extirpate all the cultural variety on this space at least of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus and on the space of this old sacred community. Establish one Russian language, one Russian culture, one set of means. So that certainly sounds very concerning. But I mean, more to the point of what's going on on the battlefield, here's an elephant in the room.
We are roughly a week away from May the ninth, the so-called Victory Day. What would constitute an acceptable piece of progress on the battleground for Putin to declare victory at home? What is the possibility that Mr. Putin will deploy tactical nuclear weapons against Ukrainian cities? Well, to start with, I think maybe it makes sense to make a small introduction about how the battlefield looks like. Even at this point in east Ukraine, it looks not so much even as battlefields of the Second World War, but in a sense like battlefields of the First World War. So why? Because as Russian advance in Donbass, in east Ukraine, it was very predictable since 2014 at least.
It was so much predictable that Ukrainians prepared it very, very well. I mean, for example, if you look at Russian video recordings of abandoned Ukrainian fortifications, you will see they're extremely good. There are many hundred kilometers of trenches, very deep, one buttressed by concrete. And it's high quality concrete very well prepared bunkers, which means that breaking through these lines, it's extremely difficult because they can survive very high amount of shelling, of bombing, which is happening really. So what has been happening since the Russians were total mobilizing basically East Ukrainians from Donbass and sending them in frontline assault because of these Ukrainian fortifications.
Russians didn't really reach any significant advance in Donbas, despite extreme casualties, extremely high. So what could Russians do theoretically, as you mentioned? It would make sense to do a tactical nuclear strike. But again, that's very predictable. The problem is Ukrainians for this reason, don't concentrate their forces too densely which means that either you have to do a massive use of tactical nukes, which I don't think it's probably going to happen or you can just make some show of force by destroying cities.
So unfortunately, at this point, I can't exclude it's going to happen. But it will clearly be raising stakes very high and it will be clearly raising stakes very high, not only for Putin but for their entire political elite and establishment of Russia because at this point, many of them can hope that through these or other means they could clear themselves in case of defeat and save at least their lives. Well, let's be real. Many of them absolutely can keep their wealth, their status and that authority, maybe just by changing banners.
But if they're really stuck and blowing nukes, that's probably not going to happen. So the question is, Putin may be ready to do it, but the question is, will Russian leadership, including military leadership, including state security leadership, agree to that or will they sabotage? I don't have data. I mean, I don't have confirmed and hard data on any real military sabotage from the Russian military.
But I have some on sort of self-interested sabotage from Russian civilian functionaries in Russia proper. And it's happening a lot. It's happening en masse. So if I could outline the scenario of how Russia could be disrupted by this war, of how Russia could be destroyed by this war, I wouldn't say it can be disrupted by some popular rebellion. That's not going to happen.
It wouldn't be destroyed by, let's say, politically motivated betrayal of its own functionaries. I also don't think it's going to happen but it will be destroyed by its functionaries pursuing their own self-interest, That's very important. So I wanted to clarify that. For example, you probably saw some info about the lack of sugar shortage of sugar in Russia, which was indeed very visible how it happened? Russia is a major producer of sugar and its own production covers more than enough. How could it even happen? Well, because the production of sugar is concentrated only in a few southern regions. And when first news about supposed deficit happened, they basically sabotage export of sugar to other regions. It makes sense if I'm a governor or some local functionary, I care about this region because I'll be held accountable if something happens there.
So if I have a suspicion that some resources, sugar or whatever else can be of deficit, I'll absolutely prohibit supplying it to other regions. Sugar is obvious, but others will be happening, and that's already happening on every level with every deficit resource and that's one of the worst consequences of sanctions. The moment deficit becomes visible, any functionary on city, on regional level, there will turn on maximum economic protectionism.
I wanted to turn to Russia China relations. How is relation to China perceived by Mr. Putin and the Russian public in general? And will this war bring about new configurations of Russia- China relations? And what do those configurations look like? Well, regarding public opinion, I would say that much of, let's say, patriotic state is prominent in public opinion. It's widely perceived that China, especially before the war, as a sort of parent figure, which would help us, which would protect us, which would supply us in the case of conflict with the West. And I think at this point, they may feel a little bit betrayed by China.
China, of course, didn't promise anything, but many expect that it would help Russia much, much more. It didn't really happen. Why didn't it happen? Well, even the public, let's say patriotic opinion, imperialist opinion, it was pro-China.
If you look at Russian elites, they were very, very much divided. Some institutions, for example, Security Council, they, before this conflict, generally tried to boost the cooperation with China as much as possible. But other agencies, for example, federal, state security, foreign service of security (FSB) they probably were against that. Of course, it would never raise any sort of argument, but it seems that they were sabotaging cooperation with China because they perceived cooperation with China as sort of a security risk for Russia itself. That's obvious. China's too big, too strong to reach and presents a security risk to Russia.
They didn't know that conflict with the West will happen so abruptly and will have so great consequences. So they may be miscalculation their risks. And if Russian institutions within Russian government wouldn't sabotage cooperation with China, most probably Russia wouldn't be doing so bad because no almost no preparation regarding economic integration with China had been done before the war.
Let me give you an example. At this point, maybe at the moment the war started, there were no functioning railway bridges on Russia-China border through Amur river, in Amur more region. There was, of course, a project of preparation. China had to build its own part, I think maybe like 70%. And Russia had to build its own part. China built its own 70% many years ago. Russia didn't even start after the conflict started.
They started building it very, very quickly. And now the bridge is finished. But the infrastructure to make the railway connection and connect Russian railway with Chinese, it most probably is not ready yet. And that kind of shows how unprepared was all of these Russian-Chinese cooperation, which was talked so much about they talked about cooperation, but they didn't finish one single railway bridge. They started really working on it only after the war started and maybe just too late. If Putin keeps power, I'm absolutely sure that China will become probably his only reliable trade partner.
Trade. Commercial. Technological. There are, of course, problems with that. For example, some argue that China could fill some of the gaps in Russian technological chains created by breaking of their commercial contacts with the West. Well, that could happen, but it can't happen now because there are many things China just is not producing, like microchip, like commercial planes. China doesn't even produce enough industrial machines and machines for precision manufacturing. So I don't think China could really cover and fill the gaps in Russian technological change right now.
I see. Well, this is such a fascinating conversation. Thank you so much. And we will make sure to include your Twitter handle in the show notes section of this program so our audience can take a closer look at your Twitter account and read your fascinating threads. Thank you so much.