Belarus’s newfound role as a peacemaker has helped Minsk gain previously unimaginable freedom of maneuver with both the West and Russia. Minsk will likely continue to defend and uphold its status as a mediator, even if warring parties do not want to negotiate.
The Prague Spring was the nobler and more enduring face of 1968. The Western protests were mostly about middle-class counterculture and were subsumed by a culture of consumerism, while the Eastern European tradition of anti-totalitarian dissent has endured.
The tradition of sport acting as a kind of hybrid war has seamlessly continued in Russia into the post-Soviet period. It is victory at any cost, because victory has political significance. It’s soft power, the face of the country, the image of an invincible nation ruled by a wise leader.
To predict what the Kremlin will do, we need look no further than the ambitious but unrealized initiatives of the mid-2000s, such as enlarging the regions and tax reforms. The same is true of the Kremlin’s staffing policy: even if there are some reshuffles, the positions of power go to experienced and well-known individuals. Vladimir Putin is comfortable talking to familiar people on familiar subjects. His closest associates are well aware of this fact and have adjusted to their boss’s preferences.
There are several misperceptions about Russia that make relations with Europe worse than they need to be. Acknowledging these illusions is the first step to Russia and Europe being able to understand each other.
The regional unification of record-high presidential election results has closed the Kremlin bureaucrats’ eyes to the diversity of different parts of the country, their elites, and the preferences of their electorates. In this model, regional masters of balance and public politics are extraneous. But the expulsion of old regional barons is risky: the banner of public pushback and local patriotism could be picked up by new regional politicians who might be even less convenient for Moscow.
The summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore brought the Korean peninsula closer to peace, but it was more about symbolism than substance. Its most important outcome is to bring North Korea out of diplomatic isolation—something that is welcome to both China and Russia.
The West’s economic sanctions against Russia have divided the country’s most prominent businessmen into those who would like to remain “private” and those who never needed this.
Russia can strengthen its geopolitical positioning in Europe in some respects by seeking to cooperate more with Germany, its most important European partner.
As the world debates the danger of manipulating public opinion through fake news, Ukraine has created a false narrative of global significance. Blurring the borders of truth is unlikely to help Ukraine in the long run. But the country’s desire for a spectacular victory over its enemy outweighed other concerns.
Now in his fourth presidential term, Vladimir Putin faces a succession problem: the constitution prevents him from running again in 2024. With few simple transition options available, Putin may choose a compromise: to hand some presidential powers to the prime minister, increase the ruling party’s role, and introduce a second center of power in the executive branch.
The Bulgarian public and the country’s major political parties regret the deterioration of Russo-Bulgarian relations since 2009, when, under Western pressure, Sofia withdrew from almost all of its joint projects with Moscow, including the Belene Nuclear Power Plant and South Stream pipeline. These moves yielded no tangible benefits for Bulgaria and even had some adverse effects. Now, calls for a more pragmatic and self-centered approach to Bulgaria’s relations with Russia are gaining momentum.
The political and administrative dispersion of governance is under way in Russia: regulatory functions are being scattered among government and near-government players, which will inevitably result in the formation of first moderate and then increasingly pronounced polycentricity within the state. Initiative will eventually stop being punishable.
The priority in conflict resolution in Eastern Europe should shift from helping the territories affected by the conflicts to helping the people affected by the conflicts. Population mobility in the conflict zones is increasing so rapidly and the population is shrinking so swiftly that in a generation or two there will be no one living there, regardless of the results of conflict resolution.
Alexei Navalny believes that Russia spends too much effort and money on foreign adventures. Yet he cleaves to many establishment ideas about Russia’s role in its neighborhood and is far from advocating the kind of rapprochement with the West for which many foreign observers hope.
The Kerch Bridge is the conclusion of Crimea’s incorporation into Russia, both physically and politically. Any haggling over on what terms Russia might return Crimea to Ukraine is now definitively null and void.
In the decades I spent working with the United States, I acquired quite a large circle of contacts in Washington. Collectively, they represent the so-called American establishment. Today, I’d like to address these Washingtonians as one individual, whom I’ll name John for the sake of simplicity.
It’s hard to call Pashinyan left- or right-wing, pro-Western or pro-Russian. He has two images: one of a charismatic revolutionary, capable of getting people on the streets to rally behind him, and the other as a pragmatic politician ready to make compromises and form tactical unions.
The new Russian government will cease to be a place for formulating strategies and implementing policies. Instead, it will focus on creatively calculating and reporting Russia’s accomplishments to technically meet the president’s expectations.
Diverging narratives about history and about World War II in particular are causing a widening rift between the post-Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the older Western European nations of the EU.