The narrative that Russia is under attack has long dominated Kremlin propaganda, with Vladimir Putin positioning himself as the commander of a fortress besieged. But Putin's latest attempt to "remind" Russians that they are being attacked is unlikely to work.
Amid painful economic choices, political elites and government officials in Russia are growing distant from the public. Meanwhile, the mainstream media’s coverage of social issues is becoming increasingly alarmist, a sign that the Kremlin is losing control over Russia’s social agenda. With its response to social issues a mix of contempt and indifference, it seems that the government’s new maxim and the defining principle of Vladimir Putin’s fourth presidential term is “the state doesn’t owe you anything.”
President Poroshenko’s partial declaration of martial law may be a short-term success for him. But much of the Ukrainian public is skeptical of his intentions.
Legal positions and geopolitical realities are different things. No one besides Turkey recognizes the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Only a handful of countries apart from Russia back the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nagorno-Karabakh is formally regarded by everyone as part of Azerbaijan. Yet any attempt to substitute the legal position for the geopolitical reality in any of these cases is bound to lead to a collision. Crimea belongs in the same category, only the consequences of the collision are likely to be on a much higher order.
There will be many issues at play when the Russian and U.S. presidents meet at the G20 leaders’ summit in Buenos Aires. Our Russia experts provide insight into the Kremlin’s game plan.
In Russia’s prisons, elite inmates obtain special conditions both through monetary payments and rendering services—guaranteeing order, cutting deals with the administration, and even paying for improvements in the facilities. For its part, the Russian prison system is more concerned with keeping this corruption out of the public eye than actually preventing it.
North Korea’s statements of its intention to abandon nuclear weapons should not be taken too seriously: the country considers them to be the most important guarantee of the regime’s preservation. For now, North Korean nuclear weapons play a primarily defensive role, but it cannot be ruled out that in the future the nuclear program will also be used for offensive purposes. In addition, their existence increases the risk of the proliferation of nuclear weapons in East Asia.
To understand what makes Putin and his allies act the way they do, you need to look beyond the myths.
Ukraine’s pro-Russian opposition is targeting next year’s parliamentary elections, not the presidential ones—so is Russia. But they cannot agree among themselves on who their leader should be and what their strategy is.
The video propaganda glorifying Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has reached new heights of absurdity. The personality cult is trying to distract the public from their economic problems and outdo the glorification of his predecessor.
Most Russians are not ready to publicly recognize their country’s interference in other states’ affairs. But in less formal conversations, far more people allow for the possibility of such interference than polls show. This reflects Russians’ complicated relationship to their country’s political narratives and its standoff with the West.
The Zimbabweans understand that the Russians will not be able to convert the results of their assistance into direct political or economic power, and even the simple monetization of influence is not yet being discussed. Therefore, they willingly accept any form of support from Moscow. Russia, for its part, still lacks the experience, information, and human resources to compete in Africa with the former colonial powers or China. It can, however, comfortably play a role that requires significantly fewer resources: that of a restraining and independent power.
However resilient the Putin regime might look to an outsider, it isn’t ready and isn’t preparing itself for a possible decline in its popularity ratings, which may unleash consequences beyond the fall of individual governors and the ruling United Russia party. The Kremlin doesn’t believe that Vladimir Putin and the Russian regime as a whole could become unpopular, so it considers the current decline in support for the government to be a natural and manageable outcome of the recent increase in the retirement age.
Russia’s recent imposition of sanctions on Ukrainian politicians and businessmen is all about Ukraine’s upcoming presidential election. No, the Kremlin isn’t trying to get Ukrainian oligarchs to back a hypothetical pro-Moscow candidate. Rather, this is a misplaced attempt to restore the pre-war status quo, consolidate the elites of Ukraine’s notorious southeast, and end the war that hinders the business community.
A protest vote is growing in Russia. But this is not a pivot toward socialism; rather, it is an expression of anger that the government has torn up the Putin-era social contract.
Few noticed when Russia and China quietly signed a new program on developing trade and economic cooperation in the Russian Far East in 2018–2024. That new agreement may appear less extensive than the document it replaces, but it is also potentially more implementable. Just don’t expect any major breakthroughs.
The Kremlin strongman has invested in Trump because he’s disrupting the world order. Win or lose on Tuesday, that will continue.
The U.S.-Russia strategic relationship—the only one to have featured strategic arms control—is no longer central to global strategic stability. While Sino-American relations are not nearly as dominant in terms of the rest of the world as U.S.-Soviet relations were during the Cold War. Thus twentieth-century methods of dealing with the issue of strategic stability, such as arms control, are insufficient.
The romantic spirit of 2014 that supporters of the unrecognized Donbas republics remember so fondly has completely dissipated. Today, the poster child of Donbas is not a tough guy in fatigues, but an “effective manager” in a suit and tie who is ready to take unpopular decisions as directed from above and relay the bad news to the people, including about negotiations with Kyiv.
Breaking arms control agreements is much easier than concluding them, but history shows that rejecting arms control agreements never improves one’s security and always damages it, a lesson that Moscow and Washington should heed. Indeed, the demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and, in turn, the collapse of the U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control architecture threaten to unleash chaos and make not only the two countries but also the rest of the world far less safe.