The Russian authorities delivered a resounding victory for the ruling party in the 2016 parliamentary election after reaching the conclusion that they showed weakness in 2011 and the Russian opposition exploited that. This will shape their strategy for the next presidential election in 2018.
The most likely scenario for eastern Ukraine is that a low-level conflict will continue to simmer. Moscow needs to give up its pipe dream that a pro-Russian government will come to power in Kiev, and forget its convenient but misleading stereotypes about its large neighbor.
In light of Minsk’s strict control over the electoral process, the election of two oppositionists to Belarusian parliament suggests that President Alexander Lukashenko is looking to improve relations with the West. How far will he go?
The look of Russia’s parliamentary election was different, even if the results were the same. Russia’s ruling regime is trying to preserve its legitimacy by being more flexible and more respectable. This system may eventually contain the seeds of its own transformation.
Russia’s parliamentary election campaign again dealt a crushing blow to the country’s liberal parties, which still believe the key to their success is appearing on television, whether in commercials or in debates. This is a losing strategy; liberals must learn to listen to the Russian people’s needs to garner support.
The detailed results of the forthcoming elections to Russia’s lower house of parliament are less important than the conclusions the Kremlin draws from them. Vladimir Putin’s system is less and less interested in old-style political competition. The new Duma can become a launching pad for those who want to make their careers in the new Putin elite that forms after the 2018 presidential election.
Though it serves to gain from greater engagement in the Asia-Pacific, Russia’s policy toward the region has been highly inconsistent. Why doesn’t Putin attend the East Asia Summit or participate in other important regional initiatives?
Some degree of isolationism—“sovereignty,” in official political parlance—is necessary for every authoritarian regime to survive. But elites and societies as a whole don’t want full-blown isolationism. In Russia and elsewhere, “authoritarian internationalism”—an alliance of quasi-democracies—has come to the rescue.
Transporting Chinese goods to Europe by rail is far less profitable than sea transport, yet China subsidizes it to achieve its geostrategic goal of making a cluster of countries in the wide Eurasian space from China to Europe dependent on the Chinese economy and capital.
Public expression of atheism can now get a Russian citizen punished by the state. The jailing of a young blogger in Yekaterinburg is symptomatic of a culture of intolerance in which church and state work hand in hand.
Events in the Middle East and Russia’s participation in the Syrian conflict have left the majority of Russian Muslims indifferent and have not inspired them to take any particular action, let alone protest. Even the hundreds of militants who have returned from fighting for the banned Islamic State terrorist organization in the Middle East are behaving passively.
The struggle to succeed Islam Karimov is heating up. Rustam Inoyatov, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Rustam Azimov—three of the most powerful men in Uzbekistan—are the leading contenders to assume the throne in Tashkent.
Perhaps Iran’s leaders would have suppressed popular indignation and Russian bombers would still be taking off from the Shahid Nojeh airfield now had it not been for Russian media playing up the prospect of establishing a military base in Iran, no matter how limited its resources and capabilities. The idea of handing over any part of its territory to foreigers is unacceptable to the Iranians
Change is coming to the regimes of Central Asia, with Uzbekistan only the first state to experience a succession crisis. The departure of a long-standing leader can result in regime consolidation, but a struggle for power can also lead to a period of glasnost and democratization.
The most advantageous option for Russia and the United States is to sign another START agreement on more cuts in nuclear weapons. However, if that is not possible, it makes sense for the two sides to extend the current treaty signed in 2010.
In the past, business deals could be secured if Putin endorsed them personally. Now, the Russian president seems to have stopped making promises to anyone; no deal is ironclad anymore.
Putin won’t take all the members of the old guard with him in 2018. They will be replaced by a generation of special service operatives, security guards, and technocrat-apparatchiks in their forties and fifties, who will stand by Putin in 2018 and beyond
While the Erdogan-Putin summit in St. Petersburg on August 9 aimed to end the conflict between the two presidents triggered by Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet last year, upbeat reports and promises of eternal friendship conceal a long list of problems that can’t be solved any time soon
The Kremlin is using the alleged terrorist plot in Crimea as way of delivering an ultimatum to its Western partners. It’s saying: “You said yourselves that there can be no military solution to the deadlock over Crimea and Donbas, so go ahead and broker a peaceful settlement. If you can’t, Russia reserves the right to make the next move.”
The Russian political system is changing from within. As Putin continues to appoint new personnel—including a new chief of staff—the divide between insiders and outsiders is disappearing; everyone is becoming part of the system, cogs in the United Putin machine.
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