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17.09.2018
Russia’s Youtube Duel: Zolotov vs. Navalny

Russia’s Youtube Duel: Zolotov vs. Navalny

Viktor Zolotov’s video message to Alexei Navalny—a crude and highly personal address for an influential national security official—underscores the increasing incoherence of the authorities’ strategy for dealing with Navalny. More important, it points to the emergence of a state of “every man for himself” and the splintering of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
14.09.2018
Depoliticization in Russia: The Growth of the Protest Vote

Depoliticization in Russia: The Growth of the Protest Vote

Unhappy with plans to raise the retirement age, the decline in their living standards, and tax hikes, Russians can’t vote for the real opposition. Strong candidates are either not allowed to run or prefer to cooperate with the authorities by not running, while in-system parties deliberately tone down their rhetoric. Under such conditions, the protest vote becomes random: people are willing to vote for anyone but the ruling regime candidates.
13.09.2018
Moscow Courts the Taliban

Moscow Courts the Taliban

Russia wants to be a player in Afghanistan, and that means dealing with the Taliban. But the postponement of a planned international conference in Moscow, involving a once-reviled group, shows that Russia’s influence is still limited.
12.09.2018
Russia’s New Agenda: Choosing Between Two Versions of State Capitalism

Russia’s New Agenda: Choosing Between Two Versions of State Capitalism

In an economic system that wasn’t so focused on solving government problems or fulfilling the “public agenda,” the state wouldn’t have to find ways of extracting funds from business to spend on social programs.
11.09.2018
Why Putin Is Losing Popular Support

Why Putin Is Losing Popular Support

The approval ratings of Russia’s leaders and its institutions have been declining for more than three years. The erosion of popular support has been accelerated, rather than caused, by the unveiling of the government’s pension reform plan, and Russians are increasingly concerned by the state of not only their pensions but also their country’s foreign policy and its economy
10.09.2018
The Bugbear of Chinese Deforestation: The Real Threat to Russia’s Forests

The Bugbear of Chinese Deforestation: The Real Threat to Russia’s Forests

Russia is not the only country in whose forestry industry the Chinese are active. Chinese businesses’ behavior largely depends on the degree of control exercised by the local authorities, and forestry is a great illustration of this.
7.09.2018
The Hidden Resistance: Why Russian Prisoners Protest and What They Can Achieve

The Hidden Resistance: Why Russian Prisoners Protest and What They Can Achieve

While the world watches the hunger strike of Oleg Sentsov, who is becoming Russia’s best-known political prisoner, most penitentiary protests have nothing to do with politics. Rather, they are about improving conditions in prisons and human dignity. Their occurrence and their tendency to be covered up testify to the lack of true accountability in the Russian prison system.
4.09.2018
The Demise of the Counter-Elite: How Zakharchenko’s Killing Will Change Donbas

The Demise of the Counter-Elite: How Zakharchenko’s Killing Will Change Donbas

Former Ukrainian security service officer Alexander Khodakovsky is a leading candidate for the leadership of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). His appointment would be in sync with the current trend of replacing popular leaders with in-system security officers. The move would close a chapter in the revolutionary history of the DPR, and would indicate that Moscow is prepared to reintegrate Donbas into Ukraine and transfer power in the unrecognized republics to leaders who are more acceptable to Kiev.
31.08.2018
Russia’s Empty Throne: Why Putin Manufactures Political Uncertainty

Russia’s Empty Throne: Why Putin Manufactures Political Uncertainty

The less specific presidential orders are, the greater the speculation about what Putin actually wants done. This deliberate vagueness allows the president to see more clearly both the new power balance and the political material he will have to deal with in the next six years.
30.08.2018
Why Russians Are Going to Prison for Memes

Why Russians Are Going to Prison for Memes

Recent months have seen extremism cases in Russia multiply, a disturbing development in which some see echoes of the Great Terror. However, while the authorities’ campaign against so-called extremists is not a deliberate policy of the Kremlin, which intended for the laws on extremism to serve as precision instruments, it represents a system breakdown. Russia’s law enforcement agencies are applying the law in their own interest, and the consequences are dire. Now, ordinary citizens, who face the same reprisals as opposition activists, as do their children, will leave their comfort zones.
28.08.2018
Will Azerbaijan Join the “Eurasian NATO”?

Will Azerbaijan Join the “Eurasian NATO”?

Unexpectedly, Baku has begun to debate joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, Azeri rhetoric aside, until Baku comes to see accession to the “Eurasian NATO” as critical to regaining control over Nagorno-Karabakh—its top political priority—it is unlikely to pursue CSTO membership, just as it has declined to participate in other multilateral initiatives in which Yerevan is involved.
27.08.2018
Belarus’s Lukashenko Appoints Market Reformer PM in Preparation for Storm

Belarus’s Lukashenko Appoints Market Reformer PM in Preparation for Storm

Recent changes in the Belarusian government only affect the socioeconomic sector. The doves from the Foreign Ministry and the hawks from the security services remain untouched, because the reshuffle has little to do with the foreign policy agenda: it’s the economic situation that concerns President Lukashenko the most.
21.08.2018
What the New Status of the Caspian Will Change

What the New Status of the Caspian Will Change

In the Caspian region, gas issues have been relegated to second place for both Russia and Iran, while the top priority is security. Both countries are trying above all to prevent the presence in the Caspian Sea of states from outside the region, especially any military presence. This chiefly concerns the United States, and no one is attempting to hide that.
14.08.2018
What Really Lies Behind the Belarusian Crackdown on Independent Media

What Really Lies Behind the Belarusian Crackdown on Independent Media

Judging by how they are preparing for it, the Belarusian authorities apparently expect that a threat to stability could arise quite soon. It’s not clear how they envisage the source of the danger: economic problems, an information attack from the East or West, or perhaps they are contemplating carrying out painful reforms. But what is clear is that they have serious concerns about how non-state media would behave if something did happen.
9.08.2018
“No Trust”: What Russians Think About the Pension Reform Plan

“No Trust”: What Russians Think About the Pension Reform Plan

The government’s pension reform plan has shocked the majority of Russians, who, in focus group discussions, expressed confusion, fear, and frustration with the government, including President Vladimir Putin himself. Russians expect the proposed measures to pass. But they are also prepared to resist them in various ways, and they want concessions and guarantees of employment and healthcare, especially for society’s most vulnerable members.
7.08.2018
Why Russia Can’t Build the Political Infrastructure It Needs

Why Russia Can’t Build the Political Infrastructure It Needs

Public discontent over a plan to raise Russia’s pension age has revealed a critical flaw in the country’s political system: there is no political infrastructure that can function in crisis conditions. Only President Vladimir Putin can speak on behalf of the state. Without him, the vertical collapses. Russia desperately needs alternative connections between the state and the people. But virtually any political infrastructure project fundamentally undermines the country’s power vertical.
6.08.2018
Inside the Explosive Case Against Armenia’s Ex-President

Inside the Explosive Case Against Armenia’s Ex-President

The case against ex-president Robert Kocharyan has become the most explosive episode in Armenian politics since this past spring’s Velvet Revolution. It has unnerved Moscow, as well as Kocharyan’s allies in Yerevan, with the former fearing that Armenia is pivoting to the West and the latter accusing the Nikol Pashinyan government of political persecution. But the case against Kocharyan is neither geopolitical nor the beginning of a campaign of terror—it is all about the March 1 affair, Armenia’s Bloody Sunday.
2.08.2018
Two Trumps in Helsinki: Russia’s Approach to the U.S. President

Two Trumps in Helsinki: Russia’s Approach to the U.S. President

Vladimir Putin is widely viewed as the winner of the Helsinki summit. But reality may be more complicated. Despite optics in Putin’s favor, the Russian government is unsure how to further relate to Trump: should it view him as a full-fledged partner who can normalize relations between Russia and the United States, or should it use him as a tool for disrupting U.S. foreign policy?
25.07.2018
Western Sanctions on Russia’s Oil and Gas Sector: a Damage Assessment

Western Sanctions on Russia’s Oil and Gas Sector: a Damage Assessment

Don’t be misled by Western sanctions’ limited impact on Russia. In reality, they operate with an accumulating effect: the more time passes, the greater the potential technological backlog, financing gap, and negative consequences will be. In the long run, sanctions may jeopardize Russia’s oil and gas production volumes and the development of pipeline infrastructure, gradually squeezing the country out of foreign markets, limiting its export revenues, and undermining the stability of the Russian economy.
24.07.2018
Belarus’s Second Front: Is Lukashenko Really Afraid of Russia?

Belarus’s Second Front: Is Lukashenko Really Afraid of Russia?

In the past few years, Minsk has started citing Russia as its main threat—but only as a theory intended primarily for external consumption. Now it has been dangled before domestic audiences.
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