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.
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)
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.
Ian Bremmer, Susan Glasser, and Gideon Rose talk about the prospects of a Russian Spring.
A Russian Spring grows as Vladimir Putin is poised to return to the presidency. Chrystia Freeland, the Global Editor at Large of Reuters news, moderates a discussion between Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, Susan Glasser, the editor or Foreign Policy, and Gideon Rose, the editor of Foreign Affairs, on the prospects of a similar uprising in Russia as we've seen in the Arab world.
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, Agentura.ru, 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.
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.
President Viktor Yanukovych has led Ukraine, no stranger to crisis, into another round of turmoil. He has rolled back democracy while failing to take on corruption or take the country closer to Europe. Now, much of the public has turned against him -- and the country could be headed for more unrest.
On Tuesday, Alexander J. Motyl wrote from Kiev with the following update to his and Rajan Menon's forthcoming essay from the November/December 2011 issue of Foreign Affairs:
As the presiding judge at former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s trial for abuse of office mumbled through the verdict -- seven years’ imprisonment, three years’ banishment from political office, and a hefty fine -- Tymoshenko turned to the courtroom and television cameras and declared that she would continue the struggle and enjoined Ukrainians to do the same.
With Vladimir Putin now set to retake the Russian presidency, many are arguing that Washington's reset with Moscow is in jeopardy. Not so, as a rising China, cheap oil, and a need for international partners will force the Kremlin to play nice with the Obama administration.
With last Saturday's announcement, we now know with virtual certainty that Vladimir Putin will be returning to the Kremlin in May as the next president of Russia. His groomed and subordinate sidekick, Dmitri Medvedev, will trade his position and become the next prime minister.
The Russian state is devoid of institutions that can exist outside of the personalized power structure that Vladimir Putin has built inside the Kremlin. And that is a foremost reason he's returning to the presidency.
Vladimir Putin's decision to return to the Russian presidency should not come as a surprise; he learned early in his career that democratic rule was dangerous. In the late 1980s, when he was a young lieutenant colonel in the KGB, Putin watched as his post was abolished and his country ruined as a result of democratic reforms in the Soviet Union. In 1996, having become deputy mayor of St.
Igor Golomstock's encyclopedic tome on the art produced in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and communist China makes a good case that totalitarian art is a distinct cultural phenomenon. But a new postscript on art under Saddam Hussein is less compelling, writes a former Iraqi dissident.
Earlier this year, the government of Iraq, in a misconceived act of outreach to the country's once dominant Sunni community, began restoring a dilapidated monument in Baghdad. Originally constructed in the late 1980s as a celebration of Iraq's supposed triumph in its war against Iran, the Victory Arch was partially dismantled in 2008 by Sadrist elements who were eventually stopped by orders from the Iraqi prime minister. The monument consists of two sets of giant forearms and hands brandishing swords, draped with a net containing a gruesome collection of enemy helmets.