It is not enough for China and Russia to work to reduce US dominance in “the grand Eurasian chessboard.” They have to work on a new continental order that other countries, not just the two of them, would find an improvement over the current situation.
This year’s Direct Line with Vladimir Putin revealed that politics has been entirely removed from the public sphere in Russia. Government decisions are now made with zero input from the people.
The Kremlin is still anxious about the expansion of Chinese influence in Central Asia, which is why it has turned the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, set up in order to work out widely accepted rules of the game for Eurasia, into a useless bureaucracy. Now, Beijing can develop relations with other SCO members without worrying about what Moscow thinks.
The Ukraine war that broke out in 2014 became possible due to the governmentalizing of the Russian economy during the 2008 crisis. But these actions didn’t anticipate war. The manual control of the Russian economy formed to fight the crisis became an important component in fighting sanctions, and even in equipping the Donbas. But it was initially planned for different needs.
Russians are engaging in increasingly confrontational forms of protest, choosing to voice their discontent with the regime at unauthorized rallies rather than at state-sanctioned gatherings. As arrests and restrictions on civil liberties mount in response to the rallies, the authorities will seem ever more hostile and unjust.
The State Duma has joined the presidential administration as the second source of power in Russian domestic policymaking, and the tension between the two is threatening to open up a rift in Putin’s power vertical.
Moscow’s support for Moldovan President Igor Dodon doesn’t mean that it is trying to pull Chisinau away from the EU. The Kremlin realizes that its options in Moldova have become more limited in recent years, and it has tempered its expectations accordingly. Now, the Kremlin is trying to find a way to let Moldova enjoy free trade agreements with both the EU and the CIS.
In 2014, ordinary people in Russia were called upon to be active and create history. But you can’t be active on the geopolitical stage while remaining passive in domestic politics. People are starting to apply their newly found political activity to the agenda at home.
By inviting Putin to Versailles, Macron threw his hat in the ring for the role of a new geopolitical leader in Europe. He made this decision in the context of not just bilateral relations but also France’s relations with the West and the EU. Macron is trying to demonstrate his ability to confront the bad guys, draw red lines, and differentiate between pragmatic objectives and overarching values.
The main cause of the latest crisis in Macedonia is neither Russia’s machinations nor enmity between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians: it is the EU’s unfulfilled promise that Macedonia has a European future.
The recent Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that took place in Beijing is China’s claim to a more prominent role in determining the rules of the game on a global stage. But in the unpredictable world of Chinese politics, the forum was as much about President Xi Jinping’s standing and an attempt to curtail speculation that he is not in total control.
Should Trump be ready to offer Kim Jong-un US security guarantees for his regime in exchange for limiting North Korea’s missile program so that the US West Coast remains safe from North Korean projectiles, Russia could also offer to host a six-party summit in Vladivostok so close to the two Koreas, as well as China and Japan.
The 2018 presidential election in Russia is expected to go ahead without a hitch for Putin, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t see other problems in 2018. The real challenge will be the mismatch between the public’s expectations and the decisions that the regime will inevitably have to make after the election.
In its clumsy attempt to exploit the vulnerabilities of the Sino-Russian axis, the Trump administration misunderstands not only the strength of relations, but also its own desirability as a useful ally.
It will take years for Russia to increase trade with China. To do so, Russia will need to strengthen its institutions, overcome non-tariff barriers to the Chinese market, and enhance its reputation among Chinese investors.
Russia has never received so much attention from the West, but perhaps for all the wrong reasons. Overshadowed by allegations of interference in Western democracies, is the story of Russia’s own social and political awakening.
Twenty-five years after the end of the Soviet Union, Moscow is certainly ready to overcome its old Soviet image. That may have been on the authorities’ minds when they drew up the redevelopment plan. But the only way the authorities could think of redesigning the urban landscape was through Soviet tactics.
In the absence of a real political contest, Russia’s 2018 presidential election will be more or less a referendum on public confidence in Putin.
At the Belt Road Forum in Beijing, Vladimir Putin once again reaffirmed his personal relations with Xi Jinping without getting into economic specifics. But still, the Russian President managed to get special attention. Russia needs to be satisfied with its political gains from the forum.