Putin’s recent trip to Central Asia showed that he is willing to pay Russia’s partners in the region for their geopolitical loyalty—even if some republics have refrained from joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
“Medvedevgate” will be forgotten quickly, however, an after-effect will remain, if only because this story revealed the political and economic workings of Russia’s current elite. It provided an inside look at how money and luxury serve as the lifeblood animating Russia’s body politic.
Revitalizing regional governance will only be possible if the Kremlin changes federal budget appropriations to benefit the provinces in addition to appointing ambitious young governors. Recent gubernatorial appointments should thus be seen as little more than a shrewd PR move by Deputy Chief of the Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko and his team.
The Reykjavik summit from thirty years ago shows what can be done when two leaders, whose states are supposedly implacable enemies, take responsibility and act to enhance the world’s strategic stability and safety.
If explained in details and promoted by the Russian and Bangladeshi authorities, solutions about water supply, spent nuclear fuel, and security could end some concerns and fears about the Rooppur NPP and help create a friendly environment around this project.
Rather than forging an alliance against the third corner of the triangle, China and Russia should join forces in building a new regional system at the time when the global order is in transition.
Declining hydrocarbon prices and a gas dispute with Russia have kept Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov from bringing back the luster and prosperity of Turkmenistan’s golden age. The next few years promise to be even harder for Turkmenistan’s economy, which is why parliament decided to extend Berdymukhamedov’s term in office from five to seven years.
Trump’s arrival in the White House has put the worsening U.S.-Russian confrontation on hold, for now.
Media reports about a rapprochement between Russia and the Taliban are not even close to reality. Moscow, however, has opened communication channels with the Afghan group, with an eye on protecting its own interests in the country.
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 are 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.