Letter From the Conveners: Russia In An Emerging New World

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Dramatic changes are afoot. The future will not be like the past.  Demographic changes and migration are having a profound effect as the workforces of some countries age and shrink, while others expand. Thanks to the information and communications revolution, individuals can easily organize to oppose what others propose, greatly complicating the challenge of governance over diversity. Emerging technologies, especially machine learning and robotics, are bringing about a new industrial revolution, disrupting workforces and increasing military capabilities of both states and non-state actors. And new means of production such as additive manufacturing and automation encourage production of goods near where they will be used. These changes are coming quickly, faster than governments have historically been able to respond. And they are worldwide.

The Project on Governance in an Emerging New World aims to understand these changes and inform strategies that both address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by these dramatic transformations.  We will explore the implications for our democracy, our economy, and our national security, and for other countries.

We are beginning by considering the impact of changing demographics and advancing technology on Russia. An assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian Federation as it addresses the coming demographic, economic, and technological challenges can be a first step toward the development of a strategy to deal with Russia in the emerging new world. We have asked experts, from the United States and Russia, to offer their thoughts on what the impacts and way forward may be.

David Holloway, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute of International Studies, explains how Russian President Vladimir Putin has focused his governance efforts on preserving stability rather than modernizing. Although he speaks of the need to grow and adapt to this new world, will he take the necessary steps to do so?

Princeton University professor and Hoover Institution senior fellow Stephen Kotkin sees a continued turn towards greater authoritarian rule in Russia, with the Putin administration wielding new technologies in the service of its own military and political ambitions. But it remains to be seen whether an inherently brittle regime such as Russia’s can overcome the looming technological and social challenges.

Finally, we turn to the Russian perspective: former Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov considers the need for a new international system of governance to address the migration of people and technological revolutions. Anatoly Vishnevsky, of Russia's National Research University Higher School of Economics, explains how we are seeing hemispheric demographic trends—an ageing one to the north and a rapidly growing one to the south. And Moscow-based Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations scholar Ivan Danilin questions whether Russia can keep up with the military technological superiority of the United States and China.

Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute and former US Ambassador to Moscow, is also contributing a paper on these issues, which will be provided separately.