Current political affairs and long-term trends – including the evolution of Russia’s leadership structure – are studied in depth and in comparative context. The program studies Russia’s political institutions, shifting balances of power between the federal center and the regions, changing public attitudes towards democracy, and theoretical issues of politics, economics, power and business.
The prison sentence for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny handed down by a Moscow court last week is an even more radical move than last year’s attempt to poison him. By putting Navalny behind bars for at least two and a half years, Vladimir Putin’s regime is creating far greater risks for itself than if it had managed to secretly do away with him.
Putin’s willingness to resort to police batons has polarized society and radicalized those who are dissatisfied with his rule. The moral cause of those taking to the streets across Russia is undermining the foundations of the Putin regime.
It’s hard not to be impressed by the energy and scale of Saturday’s angry protests all across Russia against the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. But it would be rather short-sighted to forget that the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin long ago mastered the art of dealing with manifestations of popular discontent. The Kremlin has barely started to tap its vast toolkit for violence and intimidation.
The Kremlin’s approach to Navalny is a natural by-product of a political regime in which the initiative and locus of most decisionmaking concerning the real opposition or any criticism has shifted to the FSB.
The system is consuming itself, with each part of it trying to survive separately at the expense of its neighbor. In this situation, society is a hostage of the battle for survival, and an expendable component in political experiments.
What are the challenges to Putin’s system? How stable is the Putin majority? What do the domestic protests mean? What signals do the protests in Belarus send to Russia’s elites and civil society? What impact will the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny have? A seminar held by Carnegie Moscow Center and the Embassy of Finland in Russia addressed these questions and much more.
What action the Russian authorities take largely depends on the early actions and statements of the Biden administration. If Biden’s team shows a rational approach to possible areas of cooperation, that will at the very least delay any large-scale anti-American propaganda campaign.