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Tag: Russia

Russian election results reflect a crisis of liberal opposition

Interview with Yevgeny Minchenko, a political strategist, founder and chairman of Minchenko Consulting. Interviewer: Paulina Siegień.

March 21, 2018 - Paulina Siegień

Moldova´s fragile energy security

Moldova´s energy security depends on Russian gas and electricity delivered from Transnistria. The limited options for diversification of energy routes and supplies make the country reliant on political stability in Romania and Ukraine. Domestically, the full implementation of EU energy standards will require a strong political will of the Moldovan elite, as it would diminish Gazprom´s dominance and undermine the influence of vested interests on the energy market.

March 14, 2018 - Maria Shagina

Why the Volker-Surkov talks on Donbas cannot succeed

The negotiations between Volker and Surkov may continue for a long time, but one should be cautious when hoping for any success. It is important to understand that no real "thaw" is possible because Russia's confrontational policy towards the West is its main and unchanging feature, which originates from the very nature of the Russian regime.

March 13, 2018 - Wojciech Konończuk and Serhiy Harmash

Putin’s enemies are building his weapons

International cooperation in the defence industry is a fact, despite the often confrontational rhetoric of politicians. No matter how much the Russian president criticises the US, the Russian defence industry would not resign on US-produced equipment. Similarly, European businesses are far from giving up on the profits made on supporting Russian defence industry.

March 9, 2018 - Yury Lobunov

Satan’s hand: Russian meddling behind Budapest’s metro chaos

The head of Budapest's public transport was in the way of a Russian metro company's business with more than 200 million euros at stake. A KGB-style provokatsiya was utilised to get him fired and force the Hungarian capital to buy malfunctioning and expensive Russian metro cars.

March 8, 2018 - Szabolcs Panyi

A Tale of Two Putins

Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta and having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, can Vladimir Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot. Without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable and at worst dead, and he knows it.

In March Vladimir Putin will, it is safe to predict, win re-election. The real questions relate to what happens after the election, with some predicting a thaw, while others expect even more authoritarian policies. Will Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev be replaced? Will there be renewed overtures to the West? In many ways, though, this may betray our own biases, as Kremlinologists from democratic nations naturally assume that an election represents a boundary point from one state to another. Yet in a system such as Putin’s, sometimes described as a managed democracy, it is much more clearly managed than democratic. Indeed, of late it has come to feel as if the Kremlin regards the various trappings of democracy – not just elections but also press conferences, legislative sessions and consultations – as an increasingly irritating burden.

February 26, 2018 - Mark Galeotti

To challenge Putin’s regime

The Kremlin has nothing to offer Russian citizens except stability without economic growth and no clear perspective. This will eventually bring down Vladimir Putin’s regime. The opposition, however, is not yet fully ready to take power when that happens.

“Yes, Putin has many shortcomings, but there is no alternative to him.” I have heard this phrase in Russia countless times, from shopkeepers and artists, to professors of physics and retirees. I read it in Russian (mostly) state-controlled media. Nevertheless, I am surprised every time I hear it. “Well, of course not,” I usually reply. “After all, Putin takes all necessary steps so that no alternative will arise.” It is the main goal that the giant state propaganda machine, special services, heads of Russian regions and ordinary officials pursue 24 hours a day. Nineteen years after Vladimir Putin was first elected as president, the argument that there is no alternative illustrates only one thing: the absence of democracy in Russia. For many years, the country has been stuck with an authoritarian regime that has all but eliminated political competition and blocked any attempts to change the system. This is the regime’s strength as well as its weakness. Using an expression coined by leading Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova, the increasingly authoritarian regime needs a democratic form of legitimisation – this is the main political contradiction of the current regime in Moscow.

February 26, 2018 - Konstantin Eggert

Is Putinism sustainable?

At its core, Putinism is characterised by a fundamentally kleptocratic system that appears incapable of meaningful reform. For this reason, it is far more vulnerable to fissure than it may appear.

After nearly 20 years in power, Vladimir Putin has become more than just the symbol of an era – he is arguably its creator. A lawyer and former KGB officer, Putin is perceived by many to be one of the world's most powerful leaders and his cult of personality in Russia is unmatched by any other contemporary Russian politician. His tenure as president (2000-2008; 2012-present) and prime minister (1999-2000; 2008-2012) have left a permanent mark on Russia’s history. But is this regime sustainable? Does “Putinism” mean anything independent of its namesake?

February 26, 2018 - Łukasz Kondraciuk

Russia’s generation P

Russian digital natives have espoused a national identity that unites several governmentally sponsored narratives. The question, however, is how long Putin’s appeal to the younger generations will last. Even though they have not known anybody else in power, they might still be willing to trade great power aspirations for fresh tomatoes in winter.

With the presidential election looming, few people in Russia doubt that Vladimir Putin will remain the president. Google has already proclaimed Putin to be the winner. The Russian president might no longer enjoy 80 per cent support, but he is still by far the most popular politician in the country. A generation that has never known anyone else in power is now entering adulthood. And members of “Generation P” are going to vote this spring.

February 26, 2018 - Elizaveta Gaufman

In the name of Matilda

The controversy surrounding the recent Russian film Matilda reveals a great deal about Russian society today. While the film, billed as a big-budget historical romance of Tsar Nicholas II, fails to impress, the social sensitivities that have emerged as a result of the debate on the film illustrate a dangerous rise in extreme nationalist sentiments that may soon be beyond the Kremlin’s control.

Alexei Uchitel’s film Matilda (released in October 2017) was the most discussed cinematographic event in Russia last year. Similarly, strong emotions were generated in 2014 when the director Andrey Zvyagintsev released his Russian tragedy film, Leviathan. Both productions were accompanied by scandals and received widespread media attention. Admittedly, there is a fundamental difference between the two films. While the latter is a mature piece of artwork (one that tackles the profound problem of the citizen-state relationship), the former has very little to offer, both in terms of content and aesthetics. Assumedly, had there not been a scandal surrounding the release, the world would probably never have learnt about Matilda.

February 26, 2018 - Zbigniew Rokita

Russia’s Middle East crusade

Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East is a result of the United States’ lack of strategy in the region. Through its engagement in Syria, Moscow seeks a return to the first league of global players.

In mid-December 2017 Vladimir Putin unexpectedly visited the Hmeimim air base, southwest of the Syrian city of Latakia. He was the first president of a major power to visit the war-torn Syria since the conflict began seven years ago. The visit resembled a victory parade. While the level of triumphalism was clearly over the top, as Syria is still immersed in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Putin, two years after sending his troops, can deem his endeavour a success.

February 26, 2018 - Paweł Pieniążek

A German riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

The definite re-election of Vladimir Putin in Russia will consolidate his authoritarian model of governance and assertive foreign policy for another six years. In Germany, the formation of a new government is to be expected after an unusually long time of coalition talks. The question will then turn towards the direction of Germany’s Ostpolitik and the future of relations between Russia and the West.

In 1939 Winston Churchill famously remarked that he cannot forecast the actions of Russia: “It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” The same could be said of Germany’s Ostpolitik, which has left observers puzzled and perplexed in recent years. Previously and often simplistically explained by the catchwords “energy” and “business”, Germany’s role in the Ukraine conflict has seemingly defied all prior assumptions about Germany’s special relationship with Russia and its purely geo-economic interests.

February 26, 2018 - Liana Fix


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