Russia is reputed to be a country whose past constantly changes to suit the purposes and vision of its ruling elite. Yet few would dispute that Russian history is one of extremes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The recent events have both damaged the Georgian government’s domestic legitimacy and spelled an end to its thaw with Russia.
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.
The anger is not all about Russia. The Georgian Dream government is increasingly unpopular with large segments of the population
It’s ironic that a show about narratives, and the way they can turn sour, caused Russia’s own narrative machine to show its fragility.
The society of citizens and its representatives in Russia face a dilemma. One option is to cut a deal with the state and work in its interests and on its terms. The other option is marginalisation, to become outcasts destined to be in constant conflict with the state.
Reuters was right to publish information showing that Rosneft head Igor Sechin repeatedly used corporate aircraft for personal purposes.
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.
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.
The arrest of Ivan Golunov on bogus drug charges sparked intense protests against the menace of the corrupt security state.
No one denies that drug lords really exist, but so long as everyone is busy fabricating cases against innocent people and battling to meet crime targets, the real ones go about their business undisturbed. After all, their cases would need proper investigation: real criminals are clever and cautious.
Orthodox Christianity—and Vladimir Putin—are at the center of the country’s newest culture war.
While the authorities used the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum to blame the United States for Russia’s problems, the forum’s main unofficial topic was the lawlessness and impunity of the security services, or siloviki. Faced with the question of what is preventing business and investors from developing in Russia, the authorities and the business elite had contradictory answers.
We are unlikely to see any more Federal Protective Service officers as governors following the resignation of Astrakhan’s acting governor, Sergei Morozov. This doesn’t mean that security service officials will no longer hold high-ranking government positions, but they won’t have the special status afforded by proximity to the president. It no longer suits Putin to have regional leaders hinting at their closeness to him as a method of government: now they must do some work for themselves.
China and Russia have learned lessons from history: great powers lead or abstain, they don’t jump on the bandwagons of others, and in bilateral relations, great powers seek to maintain equilibrium-they may come close to each other if interests or circumstances demand, but not so close as to become followers.
Russians, once cowed by the potential consequences of taking to the streets, are increasingly willing to protest over nonpolitical and local issues. Having failed to suppress these protests using force, authorities—federal, regional, and local—have resorted to accommodation, offering token concessions and sometimes even meeting protesters’ demands. But they have mistaken the symbolic reasons for these protests for the real drivers of unrest in Russia. In the meantime, protesters will become further radicalized and may eventually become courageous enough to issue overtly political demands.