In political systems that block change through elections, the main guarantee of a regime’s stability is its capacity to absorb a potential counter-elite. At the moment, the regime is preventing any such renewal from occurring. Yet a counter-elite is in the process of formation nonetheless—one that can eventually take Russia in a new direction.
Even if Minsk and Moscow are able to resolve their current dispute, the standoff will go down in history, at least in Belarus. After Belarus’s declaration of independence and the creation of its state infrastructure—its bureaucracy, currency, and armed forces—this conflict will be one of the most important stages in the country’s movement away from Russia.
If none of the Kazakh president’s current associates will agree to accept the right of another to become the country’s second national leader, it’s inevitable that Kazakhstan will be ruled by some kind of collective leadership after Nazarbayev. However, nothing in the president’s special address suggested any mechanism for the transfer of power.
Russia faces bleak economic prospects for the next few years. It may be a case of managed decline in which the government appeases social and political demands by tapping the big reserves it accumulated during the boom years with oil and gas exports. But there is also a smaller possibility of a more serious economic breakdown or collapse.
Instead of consolidating in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election, Russian elites have started making the structures they manage more autonomous. Uncertain about the future of the system, governors, directors of state-run enterprises, and heads of state bodies are carving out their own personal empires. Once centripetal, the Russian political system is now governed by centrifugal forces.
It’s completely rational for the elites to avoid change, although it betrays their inability to look beyond the horizon. They are not frightened enough by the current stagnation to initiate changes in the system for their own sake. But what they do fear greatly is losing everything all at once by pulling some crumbling brick out of the system, causing the whole construction to come crashing down.
Even if Moscow wisely avoids a bid for the mediator role in South Asia, behind the scenes it could facilitate dialogue between India and Pakistan on bilateral issues.
If Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump will be able to find a common language of respective national interests, then in spite of the fundamental differences and the unavoidable rivalry, Russian-US adversity may become more manageable. Under the current circumstances, one could call this an achievement.
Dmitri Trenin speaks to the International Relations Committee of the House of Lords on the transformations of power and new developments in the whole Middle East region.
Recent developments in Russia-Pakistan relations seem to create a false impression of solid cooperation, which simultaneously irritates a few third countries. This is why Russia needs to rethink not only its policy towards Islamabad, but the region as a whole.
For most of Russian history, the country’s leaders have employed a top-down political system. When Crimea was annexed in 2014, the Kremlin temporarily allowed more decentralized patriotic activism to rally support, but they soon saw the potential risks and reverted to more centralized political control.
The president embodies the ambitions of a country that is proud of its history and means to retain its role within the international community.
Today Russia and the West perceive each other as political opponents, in fact. And one should treat one’s opponent very seriously. After all, if you don’t take your adversary very seriously, it might lead to underestimating your opposing side’s potential and overestimating your own capabilities.
Both China and Russia are led by leaders acting out of the national interest, which should mean that even if President Xi or President Putin will not be able to resolve their differences with President Trump, they will at least speak the same language.
A quarter-century after the dissolution of the Soviet Union Russia has moved away from Europe. Russian leaders regard their country as a self-sustained civilization related to Europe yet clearly separate from it.
For centuries, Russian history has glorified the state and those who sacrifice themselves for the state. It’s time to commemorate a different kind of hero.
Any ideology, not just communist, is a poor guide for foreign policy. Foreign military misadventures result in disappointment at home and loss of prestige abroad.
There are multiple indications that public support for the ruling regime in Russia is provisional and the country is entering a period of post-Putin transition. Neither the authorities nor the opposition is prepared for it.
It will be difficult for Uzbekistan’s new president to bring about foundational change without moving toward some kind of glasnost. Though Uzbekistan’s tightly controlled political system has its limits, Mirziyoyev will have to loosen the reins in one way or another.
Vladimir Putin’s annual address to the Federation Council typically lets him map out the country’s foreign and domestic policy course for the coming year. Yet Putin’s speech this time—one of his longest and strangest ever—was essentially an admission that he has little sense of what the events of the coming months will bring or how he plans to deal with them.