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.
Strategic arms control has long been a foundation of U.S.-Russia relations, and removing this pillar will have profound consequences for the bilateral relationship. Neither Moscow nor Washington has displayed much political will or persistence to rescue the INF Treaty. Strategic arms control as it has been known for almost half a century is coming to its logical end.
Moscow needs to remain calm and hold back emotions. U.S. withdrawal from the INF Treaty won’t compromise Russia’s security, which rests on the pillars of nuclear deterrence and mutually assured destruction.
The Russian Orthodox Church has broken off full communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople after he took steps to recognize two Ukrainian Orthodox Churches that Moscow regards as “schismatic.” Russian Orthodox believers will bear the brunt of these self-imposed sanctions. But it didn’t have to be this way.
There have been many schisms in the Eastern Orthodox world, some more peaceful, some more agonized. Moscow and Kiev should choose one of the more peaceful splits as a good historical example.
The opposition victors in Russian regional elections were not anti-establishment liberals but traditionalists and paternalists, unhappy with the Kremlin’s modernization agenda.
Companies close to the Kremlin are creating a monopoly on data in Russia. Although the data market has yet to take shape, it has already been turned into a monopoly by the president’s decisions. Competition takes a back seat to matters of national importance.
Is Putin losing his touch? A new poll suggests that pension reform has damaged his approval ratings.
The trade war with the United States has piqued China’s interest in Russian soybean imports. Russian officials are optimistic about the prospects of increasing soy exports to China, but their expectations are unrealistic.
Russia’s crony-capitalist economic model requires an ever-increasing volume of funds to be burned on lavish mega-projects that generate huge profits for a dozen families close to the Kremlin. Now it seems to be pensioners’ turn to make the sacrifices needed to finance the appetites of Russia’s new aristocracy.
The Kremlin’s chosen candidate lost the gubernatorial race in Russia’s Primorsky region. In part, that can be chalked up to local economic and political conditions. But while the Primorsky loss might seem like an outlier now, it may also foreshadow problems that the Russian regime will encounter as the country moves into the 2020s.
A crackdown on online “extremism” has drawn rare resistance from both the Russian public and the political elite, forcing the Kremlin to support changes to the country’s main anti-extremism law.
The Kremlin obviously understands that elections held under the old rules will result in more defeats. The rules, therefore, will have to change. Just like in 2013–2014, when opposition candidates started winning mayoral elections, the Kremlin first welcomed their victory, but then dispatched local legislatures to scrap mayoral elections altogether. They remain in just seven out of 83 regional centers. A similar fate may now await gubernatorial elections.