There’s no desperation or desire from the Belarusian side right now to obtain concessions from Moscow at any price. The damage to Belarus’s economy from Russia’s “tax maneuver” is serious, but not fatal. The cumulation of these losses will only anger Lukashenko and make him less prepared to compromise.
By September, the criminal cases brought against Moscow protesters had stopped being described as a “second Bolotnaya case,” and rightly so, because it was a false analogy. We have entered a new phase, in which we are seeing political protest cases that would previously have been classified as administrative violations be reassigned en masse as more serious crimes.
During the recent protests in Moscow, a clash has been taking place between the two middle classes: one born of the market economy, and one for which the only possible social elevator is the state itself.
The near-identical results of gubernatorial runners-up Mikhail Amosov and Nadezhda Tikhonova show once again that people were following the tactic of voting for anyone except acting governor Alexander Beglov, and that left with two other options, voters simply tossed a coin. For the first time in the city’s history, we have seen clearly expressed protest voting.
The outcome of Russia’s latest regional elections, especially in Moscow and Khabarovsk, throws into question plans to reduce the proportion of seats allocated by party list voting in favor of more single-mandate districts ahead of elections to the State Duma in 2021. It turns out that when faced with a strong protest mood like in Khabarovsk, or heavily mobilized protests amid a low turnout like in Moscow, these maneuvers don’t help.
There’s one thing that perhaps says more about the investment climate in Russia’s Far East than all the swish presentations put together, and that’s the unfinished buildings of two five-star Hyatt hotels in Vladivostok.
For the Kremlin, key conditions for the prisoner exchange were President Zelensky’s reference to joint work by two states and two presidents, recognition that there were advantages to the swap for both sides, and the exclusion of the exchange from the victory/defeat paradigm.
After two months of trial and error in dealing with the Moscow protests, it looks like the Russian authorities have started to define their red lines. As before, the slightest physical resistance to the authorities is met with harsh punishment, but the siloviki have stopped short of openly fabricating cases: not for the sake of society, but because this concerns the president too. The level of repression is abating, together with the displeasure of the civilian section of the elite closest to the president, which had been alarmed by the siloviki’s attempts to alter the status quo.
As European leaders make it increasingly clear that rapid EU membership for the Western Balkans is out of the question, there is speculation that other global powers may also reconsider their strategies in the region. Due to its longstanding ties with the Balkans and vast experience in meddling, Russia sparks particular fear in the West.
A TV star-turned-politician is as good a new model as any for candidates for State Duma elections: someone who criticizes everyone, but then on fundamental issues will always willingly support the authorities. The Kremlin is currently studying the potential of this kind of candidate. The global trend of populists winning; actors, singers and other celebrities turning their hand to politics; and the departure of traditional parties are all things Russia has already seen, and not so long ago either. It would not be hard to return to that time.
Both Belarusian officials and U.S. presidential adviser John Bolton were quick to put out the message that the visit was more about form than content. Bolton said openly that no issues had been resolved at the meeting, but that he had not expected otherwise. Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei said that no one was enticing Minsk over to any side, and that the two sides had simply agreed to keep communicating.
The new Ukrainian government’s main problem is the harsh reality awaiting it. The majority of the new ministers—progressive young idealists who have studied at Western universities, founders of successful startups—may not be sufficiently familiar with the conditions of everyday life in the country away from the post-industrial digital economy clusters. A collision with that reality could be a shock, both for the reformers themselves and for Ukrainian society, which is desperate for immediate change.
In Russia, any information can be classified without discussion, from genuinely secret data about military developments to information that is in the public interest, such as the level of radiation in cities, and the names of those killed or injured as the result of an accident. Official recognition of these deaths, by naming the victims and according them full honors, could have become a source of pride and a good precedent, but the authorities still have not done this following the explosion near Severodvinsk: it’s not even known exactly how many people were injured.
Today it makes sense to examine Putin’s legacy in practical regard, through the prism of certain questions: What is of abiding importance and should be preserved for the next generation of Russian leaders? What needs to be changed and developed? What should be best avoided in the future?
Under President Zelensky, the decisionmaking center is being dislodged to make way for the president himself and the circle of people close to him. The role of the government will be reduced to that of technical implementation, while the new parliament, with its single-party majority and weak opposition, will also lose a lot of its former influence. This style of ruling is more akin to a super-presidential republic than the parliamentary-presidential model customary for Ukraine.
Sergei Chemezov’s comments on the public mood in Russia testify not to the specter of a thaw, but, on the contrary, to the fact that the clampdown is in full swing, and only individual members of the inner circle are apprehensive of the authorities’ new radical strategy of repression, which will provoke a new spiral in the war that is already de facto raging between the state and civil society.
Unlike in Russia and Kazakhstan, an effort in Kyrgyzstan to carefully orchestrate the transition of power backfired.
It’s impossible for Russia to return to the G7, but it’s also impossible for the group to solve many problems important to it without Russia. France’s relationship of trust with the Russian leadership, and the opportunity to represent Russia behind the scenes at the group’s gatherings, are an important diplomatic asset that France would hate to lose.
A new experiment in the use of artificial intelligence will be monopolized by the Kremlin. It could have major political consequences in Russia.
While many in the West wring their hands over the plight of the postwar rules-based international order, it is often assumed that Russia would welcome a new era of unilateralism and great-power politics. But in reality, the Russian leadership's perspective on multilateralism is more complicated than that.