Russia’s New ICBM: An Arms Race Cloaked by a Bear’s Diplomacy

September 12, 2012 by

Russia’s recent announcement that it is building a next-generation Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) is squarely designed to address the perceived threats from the US and NATO to build a missile defense system in Europe. While the justification for this new ICBM exudes platitudes of a defensive posturing, the Russian reality is that a new ICBM is the logical next step in its modernization strategy under President Vladimir Putin.

Pussy Riot Affair: When Religion and Politics Mix

September 6, 2012 by

The members of the Russian punk rock (some prefer to call it porn) band Pussy Riot await the out come of their appeals after being sentenced to two years imprisonment for their song “Mother God, drive Putin out”. It wasn’t that they sung it, so much as where there did it – in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, thereby landing them convictions on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. “It’s bearable,” claims the colourful band leader Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pre-Trial Detention Facility No. 6, nicknamed the “Bastille.”

The Abramovich Victory: The Oligarch Machine in Action

September 3, 2012 by

Neither oligarch came out spruced and cleansed, but there is little doubt that Boris Berezovksy emerged the poorer, both in terms of the time spent and effort to target Roman Abramovich. Abramovich, in contrast, won what is probably the biggest private court case in history, a bruising $6.5 billion battle that rumbled through the British legal establishment. Berezovsky’s claim that the owner of Chelsea FC had bullied him into parting with shares in Sibneft, an oil and aluminium joint stock company he helped found, was dismissed by Mrs Justice Gloster as a contention born of delusion.

Review: I, Putin

June 5, 2012 by

Russian President Vladimir Putin is difficult to pigeonhole as a world leader. He was successful in guiding Russia out of economic despair following years of mismanagement that characterized the Yeltsin years shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union and he has been able to rein in the influence of the oligarchs who amassed such wealth when Russian industries went on the auction block in the 1990s. At the same time, Russia amassed huge wealth through its oil and natural gas reserves, which has more or less shielded Russia from the same economic turmoil that has ravaged Greece, Italy and many other Western nations.

Medvedev’s Second Go at Modernization

May 27, 2012 by

Having served his four year tenure as President pushing his trademark government initiative of modernizing the Russian economy and government, Prime Minister and newly appointed leader of the dominant United Russia Party, Dmitry Medvedev, now has his sights on modernizing his party. While United Russia still remains the single dominant political force within Russia, up against often quarreling and fractious opposition groups, United Russia has seen its polls slipping in the past year. After the December 2011 Duma elections, where the party received a shellacking by the electorate, losing its super majority within the Parliament, the Russian public have taken to the streets in protest of fraudulent elections and the return of strongman Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin.

Putin vs. the Oligarchs: How a Failure to Protect their Assets could cost him his Job

May 18, 2012 by

With the inauguration of Vladimir Putin to the Russian presidency on 07 May 2012, Russia’s leading entrepreneurs instead of restoration of political stability can see their investments and corporate assets exposed to growing political risks. In the fall of 2011, the country’s middle class together with diverse opposition forces and a bohemian circle of writers, singers and prominent journalists, challenged the corruption of the electoral process in Russia which led to the questionable victory of the pro-government United Russia Party following parliamentary elections. Most importantly, the opposition rallies in Moscow questioned Mr Putin’s ability to deal with Russia’s archaic and non-transparent political and economic system.

Kremlin Human Rights Watchdog’s New Master

May 5, 2012 by

In two days, Vladimir Putin will be inaugurated for this third term as the President of the Russian Federation. And with his reentry into the nation’s chief position, the issue of human rights and the development of civil society, a touted reform in the past four years under current President Medvedev, face an uncertain future. Earlier this week President Medvedev’s held his final meeting with the Kremlin’s Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

A Party Without Putin

April 19, 2012 by

In addition to swapping government posts, the political tandem of Putin and Medvedev, which has dominated Russian politics for the past half decade, may be configuring yet another switch. According to the Russian newspaper, Vedomosti, President-elect Vladimir Putin and soon-to-be Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are set to separately meet with leading members of the ruling United Russia Party in late May. According to the article, arrangements are being made to have Medvedev replace Putin as the leader of the dominant United Russia Party, leaving Putin unaligned and unaffiliated.

Russia unlikely to see Reforms Post-Medvedev

April 9, 2012 by

There is a Russian proverb, “Не пеняй на зеркало, коли рожа крива,” which loosely translates as, “Don’t blame the mirror for your ugly face”. Ironically, Russia’s ruling elite are not blaming themselves for the shortcomings of the so-called, Putin-Medvedev tandem. Two recent developments in particular have prompted this dilemma within the elite class. First, in mid-March, President Medvedev’s Chief of Staff, Sergei Ivanov, voiced his mistrust in various country rankings prepared by international organizations, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which placed Russia at 143rd along with Belarus, Nigeria and Azerbaijan among 183 countries. He spoke of the need to create Russia’s own corruption ranking.

The Russian Winter: A Warm-up

March 5, 2012 by

All over Russia, voters cast their ballots for President this Sunday. Despite the unprecedented public demonstrations over the last few months, Vladimir Putin claimed a convincing first round win. The “Russian Winter” protests nevertheless represent a milestone in post-Soviet culture and set the stage for next chapter of Russia’s political development. The protests were sparked by what liberal-minded Russians saw as a series of political outrages. Last September President Dmitri Medvedev announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, all but guaranteeing Putin’s return.

The Kremlin’s Version of Russia Without Fools

January 26, 2012 by

It’s a new website that seems befitting of the angry mood amongst Russians over the last month’s Duma elections and the coming March Presidential elections, which have all but promised the return of Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin. Called “Russia Without Fools” (Rossiya Bez Durakov), the website begins with the following words: Friends, everyday we are faced with stupid standards and laws, decisions far from elementary logic, and complex regulations and unexplainable restrictions…And so we personally offer to you a real opportunity to find and destroy specific stupidities.

Russia and the War on Terror: The Multiplicity of Roles

January 9, 2012 by

The current geopolitical situation is quite different from that during the Cold War. One of the salient characteristics of the period is that there are few stable geopolitical marriages, so to speak. During the Cold War, global alignments were clearly divided between the West, with the USA as leader, and the USSR, with its proxies and allies. It is true that even at that time there were countries that tried to avoid the grip of the major geopolitical alliances and to play on the conflict between the superpowers. But there were limitations in their ability to pursue an independent policy.

Managed Democracy in Russia

December 22, 2011 by

The unprecedented wave of public protest, visible in the continuing anti-government popular demonstrations that emerged in Russia following the recent and largely orchestrated election results to the Duma, are unlikely to subside in the near future. Russians are demanding reforms and the Kremlin has been slow to address the concerns of the voters. Russian post-election activism, in fact, adds to the tag-line of 2011 as a myth-busting year.

Russia and the WTO: The Politics of Economics

December 18, 2011 by

After a nearly two-decade accession process completed, the World Trade Organization has welcomed Russia as a member, pending formal ratification from the Duma that is expected to be completed next June. The Kremlin has been struggling to achieve membership in the WTO since 1993. The process was slowed as interest has been mixed over the past decade under the Putin administration, which desired the growth achieved by China but was reluctant to cede any power to the private sector or foreign interests.

Matviyenko’s Lessons in the Decentralization of Russia

November 29, 2011 by

In the past two months, the less well-known half of the Russian legislature, the Federation Council, has been experiencing dramatic structural changes under the tenure of its new speaker, Valentina Matviyenko. While its counterpart, the Duma, is often criticized as a pro-Kremlin institution, the Federation Council’s adherence to the center is far more resolute. The Senators, as they are called, are barred from creating political fractions within its chambers and they have a history of expeditiously passing almost all pro-Kremlin legislation without debate and with unanimous support.

Page 1 of 212