Chaos as a Strategy: Putin’s “Promethean” Gamble
The Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) outlines the Kremlin’s strategy of chaos, which aims to sow confusion in the public space, uncertainty in democratic institutions, and ‘policy paralysis’ in national governments. Under this strategy, the international actor that copes best with uncertainty wins. Russia’s assets of national power are decreasing; the working age is shrinking, the birth rate is falling, and there is an increasing presence of ‘Dutch disease’, in which an economic overreliance on one sector (oil and gas) leads to a decline in other sectors. In this context, Russian authoritarian media power grants it an advantage in managing domestic public opinion. Information campaigns abroad are further extremely adaptive and have proven to be effective.
However, Russia’s disinformation campaigns may ricochet back against Russia itself. Considering that the chaos strategy depends on surprise and uncertainty, Russian disinformation may erode the trust that other state leaders have in Putin. The chaos strategy demonstrates what Russia fears most; Western power. Yet, although the West has more power and capacity, it does not match Russia’s willingness to deploy its full instruments of state power. CEPA argues that the West needs to be harsher on Russia. Western leaders must understand Russia’s worldview and prioritize ‘sticks first’, including imposing tougher sanctions, wider travel restrictions, and harsher restrictions on access to the global financial system.