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Russia's Biggest Enemy Isn't America

Stratfor Worldview

In 2020, Russia's internal focus will be its economic performance, as President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party strives to avoid challengers in upcoming elections in 2021 and 2024. Under economic stagnation, limited purchasing power has threatened the living standards of the Russian electorate and risks invigorating political opposition. Russia has launched numerous initiatives to reignite its economic growth, but the country is under significant external pressure and facing internal bureaucratic and systemic economic challenges, so their intended effects are not guaranteed.

For Russia's domestic politics, 2020 will not be a year of formal decisions, but the Russian government's ability to manage its internal pressures will influence its longer-term political success. State Duma elections in 2021 and presidential elections in 2024 are rapidly approaching and ramping up the pressure on the Kremlin. The performance of Putin's United Russia party in these upcoming polls will depend heavily on its ability to boost macroeconomic performance and the living standards of its electorate, but though it may muster some growth, it will not be enough to climb out of stagnation.

Russia's Quest for Growth

Russia's economic performance has struggled because of low oil prices and Western sanctions. The country managed to pull itself out of recession in 2017 thanks to higher oil prices and the beginning of strategies to limit Western trade and increase internal goods production, but expected growth figures for 2019 (currently estimated at around 1 percent) show that the repair process is still going extremely slowly. At best, Russia's current economic situation can be described as stagnation. That fact has amplified political opposition to the Kremlin, putting Moscow in a tough spot to deal with longer-term dynamics such as anticipated declining oil production and demographic challenges such as brain drain, an aging population and cultural clashes from rising immigration.

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