Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"Foreign Affairs" Review:The End of the 'Reset' - via Russia & FSU

via Russia & FSU on 2/27/13
Why Putin's Re-Election Means Turbulence Ahead
March 1, 2012
Andrew C. Kuchins
It is hardly novel for Putin and his regime to blur domestic opposition with treason and terrorism, then claim that foreign support is the culprit. What is new today is Putin’s own insecurity about the future of his hold on power, which will make his foreign policy as president more unpredictable.

(Wolfgang Wildner / flickr)
When it comes to Russia's political future, the only guarantee is uncertainty. Yes, on Sunday Vladimir Putin will be elected president of Russia for a six-year term, with a comfortable majority of the vote. Yes, too, huge numbers of demonstrators, probably more than a hundred thousand, will take to the streets the next day to protest.
What will happen after that, however, is difficult to predict.
Beyond asserting Russia's destiny to be an independent and truly sovereign major power, Putin lacks a real strategy and prefers to repeat long-held complaints about the United States.

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Parliamentary Elections and the Reawakening of Russian Politics
December 8, 2011
Kathryn Stoner-Weiss
With its entrenched advantages, the Kremlin's United Russia party should be safe for now -- but if Vladimir Putin doesn't acknowledge the widespread dissatisfaction with his rule, he may soon find that force is the only way to preserve his regime.

(World Economic Forum / flickr)
Russia's parliamentary election last Sunday saw Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party, United Russia, receive slightly less than 50 percent of the popular vote. In most countries, this would be viewed as a stunning victory. Instead, it is being interpreted by the Russian and Western press as a rebuke by a restive Russian public to Putin and his policies.
The opposition parties that gained seats are no real opposition, at all. Any true opposition forces were weeded out far in advance of Sunday's elections.

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The Kremlin's Ham-handed Effort to Squelch Online Dissent
December 9, 2011
Andrei Soldatov
In the wake of Sunday's contested parliamentary elections, the Russian security services have made obvious and clumsy efforts to shut down independent news sources. But controlling information online will prove impossible, and continued attempts to do so will only backfire.
Early on Tuesday morning, my Web site,, which covers the activities of Russia's secret services, was shut down by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. My technical staff and I were forced to reset the site's server every 15 minutes, but it didn't help: the site was down for the most of the day.
Although the combination of hacker attacks and pressure from the state might be frightening, neither can inflict too much damage.

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The Opposition's Bourgeois Balancing Act
March 8, 2012
Joshua Yaffa
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's electoral victory last Sunday has left his opposition in a tough spot. Its next logical move is to step up the fight against Putin, since the Kremlin is unlikely to make any concessions now. But that strategy risks alienating the very group that gives the movement its strength: middle-class Russians.

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Letter From Moscow
March 14, 2012
Angus Roxburgh
The speeches at the protests last weekend were uninspiring and off-message. By focusing on vote-rigging, which was not nearly as prevalent as in other recent elections, organizers sidelined themselves.

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The Perils of Serving as Ambassador to Russia
April 17, 2012
Timothy Naftali
It's never been easy to represent the United States in Moscow, especially if you're a Russian-speaking public intellectual who has criticized the Kremlin. The story of two U.S. ambassadors to Russia, George Kennan and Michael McFaul.

5:08 PM: Welceom [sic] to my life. Press has right to film me anywhere. But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?
5:14 PM: When I asked these "reporters" how they knew my schedule, I got no answer. Heard the same silence when they met me after meeting w/[Anatoly] Chubais.
1:15 AM: Just watched NTV. I mispoke [sic] in bad Russian. Did not mean to say "wild country." Meant to say NTV actions "wild." I greatly respect Russia.

It has never been easy to represent the United States in Moscow, but the job is especially difficult if you happen to be a public intellectual who speaks Russian well. Sixty years ago, U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan requested -- and received -- suicide pills from the CIA out of fear that he might be arrested and tortured by Joseph Stalin’s agents. There is no reason to be as concerned for Ambassador Michael McFaul’s safety in Vladimir Putin’s Russia today. Yet McFaul’s lashing out last month, after the state-controlled television channel NTV started sending cameramen to dog his every move, suggests a few troubling similarities with Kennan’s experiences in 1952 and may also signal a new worsening of Washington’s relations with the Kremlin. President Harry Truman, like President Barack Obama, dispatched the well-known architect of his Russia policy to Moscow as ambassador and hoped for the best. Kennan, who predicted that the Soviet system would eventually collapse, recommended a policy of containing the Kremlin’s power until that collapse occurred. Writing pseudonymously as “X,” Kennan outlined his thinking in Foreign Affairs in July 1947; by 1952, he had publicly acknowledged writing the article. Not one to cherish the give and take of intellectual discourse, Stalin probably did not consider the appointment of a public critic as a friendly act...


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How the Kremlin Accidentally Liberalized Russia's Natural Gas Market
May 6, 2012
Ahmed Mehdi
In the coming years, Gazprom won’t be able to rely on high profit margins to stay at the top of the energy business. And Putin won’t be able to rely on Gazprom as a source of power.

Putin signs a pipe during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 'Dalneye' gas-distribution station. (Courtesy Reuters)
Things look bad for Gazprom but it is inconceivable that the company will simply disappear; it is just too big and owns too many subsidiaries.

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Before Beijing There Was Moscow
May 10, 2012
Gal Beckerman
For the Soviets, accepting that malcontents could be found in their communist paradise undermined their worldview, so sending them abroad was a way of putting them out of mind. China’s approach to dissidents today comes more from defensiveness about its status as world leader.

The Soviet physicist and Nobel prize winner Andrei Sakharov arrives at Paris's Orly airport under the watchful eye of frontier police December 9, 1988. (Courtesy Reuters)

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The Mind and the State of Russia’s President
July 1, 2012
Joshua Yaffa
With Vladimir Putin back in power in Russia, understanding him is more important than ever. Two recent books attempt to unravel the mystery, adding new insight into the Russian leader's life and rule. But by trying to comprehend Putin through his personal history, they miss the true heart of the story: the state he built.

via Russia & FSU on 2/27/13
Discontent Grows in the Hinterlands
September 1, 2012
Mikhail Dmitriev and Daniel Treisman
Moscow’s anti-Putin protesters have captured the world’s attention. But does their message resonate outside the big cities? New research shows that although Russians in the provinces have no taste for revolution, noisy street protests, or abstract slogans, they are deeply unhappy with the current political system and may soon demand change themselves.
Russians outside Moscow and St. Petersburg are far from content with the current political system.
Russians realize that repairing the state will take more than just throwing money at corrupt bureaucrats.
The Kremlin's goal is to cast the antigovernment protesters as a cabal of feminist punks, church desecraters, and sexual deviants.

via Russia & FSU on 2/27/13
September 4, 2012
See video
Managing Editor Jonathan Tepperman interviews author Alexander Cooley on the geopolitics of Central Asia and how outside powers--Russia, China, and the United States--are competing for influence in the region, as the British and Russian empires did a century ago. As the great powers attempt to exert their influence, the Central Asian states are becoming more aggressive and strategic when facing external pressure. This New Great Game could indicate how regional dynamics will play out in a modern multipolar world.
Managing Editor Jonathan Tepperman interviews author Alexander Cooley on the geopolitical role of Central Asia, and how outside powers--Russia, China, and the United States--are competing for influence in the region, as the British and Russian empires did a century ago.
Jonathan D. Tepperman and Alexander Cooley
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Why the Rest Stopped Rising
October 22, 2012
Ruchir Sharma
The most talked-about global economic trend in recent years has been “the rise of the rest,” with Brazil, Russia, India, and China leading the charge. But international economic convergence is a myth. Few countries can sustain unusually fast growth for a decade, and even fewer, for more than that. Now that the boom years are over, the BRICs are crumbling; the international order will change less than expected.

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To Victor Go The Spoils
October 23, 2012
Alexander J. Motyl and Rajan Menon
Just about everyone expects the October 28 election to result in a victory for the ruling Party of Regions. The result will be a further erosion of democracy, greater instability, and Kiev's drift toward Moscow.
Table tennis rackets with pictures of Ukraine's President Yanukovych. (Gleb Garanich / Courtesy Reuters)
On October 28, Ukrainians will go to the polls for parliamentary elections. Just about everyone in the country believes that the result will be a victory for the ruling Party of Regions (PR), which, at first glance, would seem to reinforce the legitimacy of the increasingly authoritarian president, Viktor Yanukovych.

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How Oil Is Holding Russia Back—and How It Could Save It
October 24, 2012
Thane Gustafson
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has become increasingly addicted to oil, which has underwritten bad policies and allowed Putin to buy off key constituencies and the masses. But petroleum could also hold the key to Russia’s salvation. The supply of cheap oil is running out, and Russia’s best hope of responding to the coming crunch is making the sort of changes liberal reformers have been pushing for years.

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Letter From Moscow
November 5, 2012
Dmitri Trenin
In Russia, Obama's attempt to "reset" U.S.-Russian relations, his negotiation of a bilateral arms treaty, and his easing of Russia's entry into the WTO give him the edge.

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1989 and the Fall of Communism
November 29, 2012
Philip D. Zelikow
Twenty years after the revolutions of 1989 brought down communism in Eastern Europe, a fresh crop of books attempts to unpack this epic story. The story these books tell is more of a civil war within the elite than of a revolt from below.

via Russia & FSU on 2/27/13
The False Promise of Westernization in Georgia
December 5, 2012
Thomas de Waal
Nine years after Georgia's Rose Revolution, its leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, was soundly defeated in parliamentary elections by the country's richest man. As the hope of the Rose Revolution fades, so, too, should the myth that Georgia is or ever will be a fully Westernized country.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili on election day. (David Mdzinarishvili / Courtesy Reuters)

via Russia & FSU on 2/27/13
Iran and Israel Fight for Influence in Azerbaijan
January 15, 2013
Alex Vatanka
The standoff between Iran and the West has moved into the Caucasus, where both the Islamic Republic and Israel are trying to woo Azerbaijan -- a country with firm historical connections to Iran but whose interests have overlapped with those of Israel. The dynamic is upsetting the regional balance of power and threatening to overturn nearly two decades of uneasy peace.
A mosque and the city waterfront are reflected in a new building in Baku (David Mdzinarishvili / Courtesy Reuters)

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