Russia has generally been a static autocracy throughout its history, rejecting the dynamic popular activism of Mao’s China or revolutionary China. The hybrid war in the Donbas was the occasion for a flirtation with extreme politics led from below. But the Kremlin has reverted to the norm, sensing the danger of giving its most loyal supporters too much power.
It will be nearly impossible for Russia to revive its economy through state investment in infrastructure alone. Conservative estimates suggest that Russia would have to invest 15 percent of its GDP in infrastructure annually for many years to have a significant effect on the economy.
This week, Kevin Rudd, president of the Asia Society Policy Institute and former Australian prime minister, will be visiting Moscow. Speaking at the Carnegie Moscow Center on February 18, 2016, Kevin Rudd outlined Chinese foreign policy under Xi Jinping. In a new article written exclusively for Carnegie.ru, he articulates his vision for Russia’s possible role in Asia.
Two years after the Kremlin’s rift with the West, Moscow’s hopes that a new business relationship with Asia would make up for Russia’s losses have not materialized. President Putin and other members of the elite did not commit themselves strongly to the idea of a “pivot to Asia.” Only certain parts of the private sector have benefited.
Unlike Russia, China has succeeded in creating a sports industry that is more than a prestige project: it has the potential to accelerate China’s international integration and to cultivate national unity and a shared passion for the game among China’s growing middle class.
Russia’s economy will likely contract gradually over the next three to four years and then become increasingly socialized, as the government implements price and currency controls, monopolizes foreign trade, embarks on a large-scale nationalization of private industries, and increasingly regulates salaries and consumption.
Vladimir Putin’s performance at the annual nationwide “direct line” phone-in shows he is again prioritizing domestic politics. His answers signaled the start of a 2018 reelection campaign, as he presented himself not as the global strategist of last year but as a domestic manager once again concerned with ordinary people’s problems.
The warring parties in the Karabakh conflict, especially the Azerbaijani side, have decided to shake the status quo in the Caucasus. Violence could recur at any time and the latest fighting clearly demonstrates that the combined goodwill and cooperation of Moscow and Washington is no longer sufficient.
The Russian government will attempt to increase state revenues without meaningfully reforming its economic or social welfare system. Its main objective will be to preserve the stability of the regime while continuing to provide support and sources of substantial profits for elite interest groups.
President Putin’s formation of a new National Guard gives him extra powers as a time of political uncertainty begins. It also helps him cut some strong individuals down to size.
The Dutch didn’t reject the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine because they are sympathetic to Russia. They rejected it because they believe that Ukraine, like Russia, is unprepared to join the European community.
The Panama Papers cannot do much damage to the reputation of Putin and his friends, and they have not exposed criminal activity by prominent Russians. But they shed light on a fundamental problem: not even elites trust Russia’s economic, legal, or political system.
Lukashenko’s fortunes have changed. Once known as “Europe’s last dictator,” he has won friends in Europe, while antagonizing his traditional ally, Russia. It’s a situation that has left the Kremlin in a difficult positon: should it punish Belarus for its pro-Western tendencies? Or should it continue to prop up the Belarusian economy rather than risk further unrest in the region?
President Poroshenko’s failure to move ahead with reforms or to resolve decisively the political crisis in Ukraine has dismayed his U.S. partners. That made for a difficult visit to Washington.
The twenty-one-year ceasefire in and around Nagorny Karabakh had been looking very precarious. A tragic outbreak of fighting there could be dangerous for the whole region.
As Russia enters its second year of economic malaise, elite interest groups that rely on revenue streams from the federal government continue to oppose state budget cuts. But they have successfully managed to escape responsibility for the economic crisis.
The Russian budget won’t be saved by the new round of privatizations announced by the Russian government. What’s more important is how they set out the rules of behavior in the Russian elite.
External factors are having little impact on the health of the Russian economy. Sanctions and counter-sanctions are not a big factor either. An effort to make Russia self-sufficient and rely on import substitution poses a much bigger danger.
The Russian economy is unlikely to suffer any dramatic reverses this year. But there will be no reform and ordinary citizens will bear the brunt of the economic downturn.
The system, its leader, and the popular majority formed after Crimea will survive the 2018 presidential election. The existing regime is incapable of democratization. At the same time, it is dangerous to ratchet up repression. The government is trying to encourage inertia, but this is becoming increasingly difficult after Crimea, Donbas, Syria, and Turkey. Aggression is self-perpetuating.
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