Ukraine’s president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky has formulated his ideal country as one that is neither a “corrupt partner of the West,” nor “Russia’s little sister.” This pragmatic kind of civil patriotism is close to the hearts of most Ukrainians, for whom the most important task right now is to fix the country’s domestic problems following the crusade-like presidency of Petro Poroshenko.
The Kremlin’s domestic policy bloc increasingly tries to run Russia as a corporation. It’s not surprising, therefore, that they have resorted to typical corporate methods in the field of Internet control, electing to use deep packet inspection (DPI) technology, which is not employed at a national level anywhere else in the world.
The Kremlin will soon wish it were still dealing with a Ukrainian president who so much resembled its own.
Kazakhstan’s power handover increasingly looks like a trap for Nazarbayev. He wants the process to go smoothly, as planned, but the entire system only works when he is at the helm. There is no one capable of replicating precisely what the first president conceived. Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist, but that fist is gradually growing weaker. As for Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Dariga Nazarbayeva, their influence can buy them respect, but it doesn’t inspire fear.
The Russian authorities have never been inclined to consider Ukraine a truly separate state.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nostalgia for the Soviet Union appears unlimited, and he is now resurrecting perhaps its most notorious feature: the purge. Recalling the Stalin era, the recent arrests and imprisonment of numerous regime figures have fueled a pervasive sense of fear among the country’s elites.
With polls showing incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko heading for a major defeat in the runoff election, governors and ministers are looking for contacts with the likely winner and his team. The president has fired a series of governors to send a warning to the rest. But the message is too late and not convincing.
A new criterion for distinguishing between in-system and non-systemic opposition is emerging: if a candidate or party list has caused any problems, it must be disloyal and outside of the system, so it needs to be punished. This categorization is a matter of pure chance: after all, candidates and parties can win by doing nothing.
Abyzov’s arrest demonstrates that the prosecution of economic crimes is becoming chaotic, and that politics, which previously loomed large behind high-profile arrests, now appears only after the fact, as a secondary, albeit important, consequence.
Will Russia equally fall for a political outsider? Only time will tell.
The clash between the new populism of Zelenskiy, who staked everything on Russian-speaking Ukraine, and Poroshenko’s national-patriotic conservatism is leading to a partial resumption of the old standoff between the two Ukraines.
Ukraine is going to the polls amid stalled reforms, multiple corruption scandals, and low trust in political institutions. Despite this, more than 80 percent of voters plan to take part, and the election is truly competitive. And although one candidate is leading in the polls, top political operatives are predicting a different outcome.
The nonchalance with which the Russian ambassador and his sparring partners in Minsk are raising the stakes in their rhetoric is a symptom of deeper forces at work in Belarusian-Russian relations. Both sides are starting to sense that they have reached some kind of historic threshold. But the old format of friendship is so worn out that there is little to lose.
Unlike Nazarbayev, Putin was not as strongly affected by the death of the Uzbekistani President Islam Karimov and the ensuing division of power which ended badly for late president’s family. Will Putin even leave behind much that will need protection? It seems that his primary concern will not be family or the family business, but problems of another dimension: what will become of Crimea, Russia’s presence in Syria, and the country’s ability to assert its sovereignty and withstand the confrontation with the U.S. and NATO.
Over the next few years, the Kremlin will be able to observe what happens in practice when the informal authority of the nation’s leader and the post of president—the main instrument for creating that authority—are separated.
Nuclear deterrence can serve as a pillar of international security only in conjunction with negotiations and agreements on the limitation, reduction, and nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Without them, deterrence fuels an endless arms race, while any serious crisis between the great powers will bring them to the brink of nuclear war.
Prior to his resignation as president of Kazakhstan this week, Nursultan Nazarbayev had predictably become head of the country’s security council. After that, the post of president had largely become an encumbrance. His status as head of the security council provides him with a separate lever for controlling the country’s repressive machinery, while his status as leader for life of the Nur Otan ruling political party gives him control over lawmakers.
Traditionally, Moscow has insisted on arms control agreements being enshrined in legally binding documents, while Washington has been more open to political deals. Nevertheless, a new, more flexible approach could find support with the Russian leadership.
Strategic stability has fundamentally changed in the twenty-first century. To maintain or even strengthen it requires many long-standing ideas and policies to be rethought and overhauled.
Rejecting party affiliations at regional elections is a threat to the power vertical. The disgruntled public ask global questions: Why is the retirement age being raised? Why are prices and utility bills increasing, while salaries are not? Is it worth spending so much on Syria, Venezuela, and the arms race? Independent candidates running for governor or regional legislator can answer them easily by saying, “That’s a federal issue for which I’m not responsible, but I’ll try to solve local problems.” As a result, all grievances are automatically redirected to the Kremlin.