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30.07.2019
Moscow Protests Are Good News for Opposition–and Siloviki

Moscow Protests Are Good News for Opposition–and Siloviki

This month’s protests in Moscow over city parliament elections are proof that Russia’s non-systemic opposition has taken its struggle to be recognized by the Kremlin as a major political player to a new level. Faced with a foe that has seized the initiative, set the agenda, and brought people into the streets, the Kremlin is at a loss. Its brightest idea, it seems, is to forcibly disperse the protests and prosecute the demonstrators: an approach that risks the state’s takeover by the siloviki.
25.07.2019
Moscow Protests: A Crisis of the Authorities’ Own Making

Moscow Protests: A Crisis of the Authorities’ Own Making

By minimizing the risks of opposition candidates running for the Moscow city parliament, the Moscow mayor’s office and the Kremlin have brought about a political crisis. The decision to refuse to register opposition candidates has turned into a symbolic event and joined the ranks of controversial plans to build a new cathedral in Yekaterinburg and a landfill site in Russia’s north, which also elicited fierce protest.
23.07.2019
Landslide Victory for Zelensky’s Party in Ukraine: What Next?

Landslide Victory for Zelensky’s Party in Ukraine: What Next?

No other president in the history of Ukraine has had such resources under his control while facing such a weak and fragmented opposition and enjoying such enormous popularity among his compatriots. In this new reality, a “velvet usurpation” with the consent of most of the population no longer seems like an impossible outcome, nor does the expression “comic dictator” seem like such an oxymoron.
19.07.2019
Rival Parties Battle for Votes in Southeast Ukraine

Rival Parties Battle for Votes in Southeast Ukraine

The schism in the pro-Russia camp is preventing the return of the political model of two Ukraines, a model that is the perfect breeding ground for politicians who boost their ratings by fanning the flames of the interregional confrontation in the country. Typically, the same thing is happening in western Ukraine, too, where unity in the pro-European-patriotic camp has been splintered by rivalry between former president Petro Poroshenko’s European Solidarity party and rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk’s Holos (Voice) party.
18.07.2019
Playing the Long Game: United States Targets Russia’s Sovereign Debt

Playing the Long Game: United States Targets Russia’s Sovereign Debt

Financial sanctions that limit Russia’s borrowing are for now ineffective, as Russia currently has three surpluses: in the federal budget, balance of trade, and current account. The Russian state and most Russian business (at least the kind of business that could in theory raise investment abroad) simply don’t need major credit lines.
18.07.2019
Russia’s Changing Identity: In Search of a Role in the 21st Century

Russia’s Changing Identity: In Search of a Role in the 21st Century

Russia’s brand of exceptionalism is not messianic. It is rooted in the isolation of an Orthodox country and its belief that it possesses the gift of a true religious faith. It has been strengthened by Russia’s successful—if costly—defense of its state sovereignty, and confirmed by Russia’s status as a major global player that refuses to take orders from anyone.
16.07.2019
Kremlin’s Rejection of United Russia Is Rejection of Politics Itself

Kremlin’s Rejection of United Russia Is Rejection of Politics Itself

Candidates backed by the authorities are increasingly declining to be nominated by United Russia. The ruling party doesn’t fit well into the technocratic-apolitical worldview of the presidential administration’s domestic policy bloc: after all, corporations don’t need parties. United Russia is approaching the role long played by the All-Russia People’s Front, the aborted party of power from the era of Vyacheslav Volodin.
11.07.2019
All Talk, No Action on Russia-Belarus Integration

All Talk, No Action on Russia-Belarus Integration

The distrustful, authoritarian regimes of Russia and Belarus are incapable of sharing power. The most the two sides can do without betraying their sovereign interests is to start coordinating their decisions on various sectors of the economy a little more closely, such as agreeing on a unified goal for the inflation rate. Then, if it’s really necessary, this can also be described as integration.
10.07.2019
Why Government Economists Are Getting Nervous in Russia

Why Government Economists Are Getting Nervous in Russia

Every step taken by any state manager, including ministers within the government’s economic bloc, is limited by a maze of KPIs, over the achievement of which they often simply have no control.
9.07.2019
New Model North Caucasus: Kremlin Tries New Approach in Ingushetia

New Model North Caucasus: Kremlin Tries New Approach in Ingushetia

The rich history of law enforcement in the family of Ingushetia’s new head, Makhmud-Ali Kalimatov, contains some hints as to the Kremlin’s new political logic on the North Caucasus. What’s important is that the heightened influence of the Chechen leadership in other parts of the North Caucasus does not figure in the interests of the security services, though when the previous head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov resigned, there was much talk of that growing influence: specifically, that relations between Yevkurov and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov had been strained.
8.07.2019
Dawn Breaks on New Era in EU-Russia Relations

Dawn Breaks on New Era in EU-Russia Relations

The European Union is taking up a defensive position. This is not isolationism but pragmatism, which signals a revision of the ideas at its heart and a sharp decrease in any desire to project power, including soft power. For Russia-EU relations, this will mean a period in which any kind of ambition will become irrelevant. Efforts will now be focused on reducing expenditure and risks.
4.07.2019
Tale of Two Presidents Reveals Risks of Post-Soviet Power Transition

Tale of Two Presidents Reveals Risks of Post-Soviet Power Transition

The beleaguered former presidents of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are both typical clan leaders with notable numbers of supporters. Both cases illustrate clearly how complex and risky the process of handing over power remains in the post-Soviet arena.
3.07.2019
Ukraine’s New President Needs a Strategy on Donbas—and Fast

Ukraine’s New President Needs a Strategy on Donbas—and Fast

Zelensky is trying to find balance on the incendiary issue of the Donbas. During his visits to Europe, he adhered carefully to the previous foreign policy line, calling on European leaders to keep up pressure on Russia through sanctions. But at home, he is more open to compromise, and is trying to find allies among the oligarchs.
27.06.2019
Russia Rejoins PACE—But the Battle Isn’t Over in Europe

Russia Rejoins PACE—But the Battle Isn’t Over in Europe

The standoff between European pragmatists and skeptics on Russia won’t end here. The pragmatists will now face heightened political risk for a long time, both in the Council of Europe and in their own countries. Any actions or even statements by Russia that could directly or indirectly confirm the skeptics’ fears will now unleash a barrage of criticism not only of Moscow, but also of those who allowed the Russian delegation to return to the Parliamentary Assembly.
26.06.2019
As Putin’s Authority Dwindles, Protests in Russia Are Newly Effective

As Putin’s Authority Dwindles, Protests in Russia Are Newly Effective

Having lost his leadership, President Putin now has one chance to carry out major reform that would at least temporarily restore the status of national leader to him. The problem is that after twenty years at the helm, he needs to offer society something a little more solid than the national projects. His final reform must in some sense put an end to the way of ruling the president has adhered to since he first came to power: i.e., using brute force to rule the country.
25.06.2019
Georgian Dream Is Dealt a Double Blow

Georgian Dream Is Dealt a Double Blow

The recent events have both damaged the Georgian government’s domestic legitimacy and spelled an end to its thaw with Russia.
24.06.2019
No Change Ahead, a Jaded Putin Signals at Annual Phone-In

No Change Ahead, a Jaded Putin Signals at Annual Phone-In

Putin perceives growing discontent with the authorities as a purely emotional reaction, based not on real problems but on society’s failure to understand the true picture. This means that no significant revision of the country’s social and economic direction should be expected. Instead, the president and society will suspect each other of being unreasonable and not understanding what is really going on.
21.06.2019
Georgia’s Perpetual Street of Protest

Georgia’s Perpetual Street of Protest

The anger is not all about Russia. The Georgian Dream government is increasingly unpopular with large segments of the population
19.06.2019
Moldovan Regime Change Is Rare Example of Russian-Western Teamwork

Moldovan Regime Change Is Rare Example of Russian-Western Teamwork

The collapse of oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc’s regime in Moldova has brought this small, impoverished former Soviet nation to global attention. The bomb planted by Plahotniuc was removed jointly by Russia, the United States, and the EU. The Kremlin and the West agreed to work together, demonstrating that outside interference can be a positive thing.
18.06.2019
New Balance of Power Takes Shape in Kazakhstan, Defying Assumptions

New Balance of Power Takes Shape in Kazakhstan, Defying Assumptions

While civic activity in Kazakhstan remains the purview of young people in the city of Almaty, the country’s new ruling tandem has a chance to conduct political modernization from above. This would be in line with the vision of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who considers himself the father of independence. Successful political reforms would also bestow upon him the status of father of Kazakh democracy, and preserve his legacy unchallenged in the decades to come, when Kazakh institutions become fully operational.
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