The crippling effects of Western sanctions and low oil prices on Russia’s economy could be repaired but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motives have brought such stagnation that Russia could eventually collapse, former exiled businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.
Khodorkovsky stressed that Putin could survive oil prices of $45 per barrel but greater risks await the country if he continues to remain in power.
Since Putin came to power in 1999 he has sent Russia back to the stagnation which weakened the power of the Soviet Union in the 1970s under Leonid Brezhnev leadership, according to Khodorkovsky.
"We are in the final stages of the Brezhnev stagnation period. Putin is younger so unfortunately this [stagnation] may last longer.”
Speaking of western sanctions, Khodorkovsky said, "Chances of it [Russia] surviving if he [Putin] goes in the next 5-8 years are bigger than if he goes in the next say 15 years."
Russia losses about $2 billion in revenue for every dollar the price of oil falls and according to an estimation made by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in April, western sanctions are likely to cost the country over $100 billion.
The former businessman noted that a revolution in Russia is not likely since the political and economic situation in the country is still manageable and the Russian public are able to cope with lower living standards.
"Putin has a good chance of remaining in power for a long period of time," he said.
Khodorkovsky also stated that Putin wants to restore peace with the West and to do this he is using the crisis in Syria.
"There is a fundamental problem which will hamper the rapprochement: ... Authoritarian leaders commit mistakes without understanding that they are committing them," he said of Putin.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, known to be on bad terms with Putin, once ran what was then Russia’s biggest oil company, YUKOS. He retired in 2003 after he was arrested and charged for fraud and tax evasion. He was released from prison in 2014.
The United States and the European Union have imposed a series of sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses as a response to Moscow’s aggression in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.
Russia has also been questioned over its involvement in Syria. Although Russia claims its air strikes are being targeted against the DAESH terrorist group, the US has raised concerns that they are aimed at moderate opposition groups fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.