Saudi Arabia’s key role in the Middle East
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder has upset the Middle East’s geopolitical balance in two dimensions: the three-sided rivalry between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and stable monarchies in the region. For the Saudis, the crisis poses an unexpected opportunity to improve governance. For the West, it presents a choice between triggering chaos and a possible radical takeover, or helping the kingdom make a difficult transition.
Essay: As Russian history repeats itself, Putin becomes Yeltsin
Russia’s pension reform continues to reverberate in domestic politics. For the first time ever, President Vladimir Putin has assumed full personal responsibility for an unpopular decision that directly infringes on the lives of most Russians. The effects are already visible in his slumping popularity and in the startling results of gubernatorial elections in several regions. Mr. Putin could be looking for an electoral out as he follows the downhill path of his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin.
Ukraine’s revolution nears a test
This may have been independent Ukraine’s last calm summer for a while. There will soon be a reckoning with what succeeded and what did not after the revolution of 2013-2014, during which the eyes of the world were on Kiev. Ukrainians will elect a president early next year, with parliamentary elections to follow in the fall. There are plentiful indications that their verdict on the post-Maidan political elites will be harsh.
Algeria’s ‘system’ hangs tough
Algeria seems headed down a road already taken by other resource-rich authoritarian countries like Venezuela. Low oil and gas prices have made it harder for a crony oligarchy to buy off the public with subsidies and benefits. Their latest expedient to stave off reforms is to use the central bank to fund a government stimulus program, but that only delays the day of reckoning.
What Lukashenko learned from Crimea
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko is still coming to terms with what Russia’s intervention in Ukraine means for his own autocratic rule. Recent events in Armenia show that his overthrow might not occur on the back of Russian tanks, but via a hybridized “color” revolution capitalizing on social discontent. Lukashenko has responded by cozying up to the EU and easing pressure on the opposition at home, but it may not be enough to save him.
Russia’s new government shows tensions beneath the surface
It has become clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reelection means another term in office for Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his government. To some, the lack of new faces shows the regime is headed for a period of inertia and stagnation. This view is understandable, but it is wrong.
Sudan’s president is running out of carrots and sticks
The lifting of United States sanctions on Sudan is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the country’s economic recovery. To achieve that, President Omar al-Bashir must strike a tricky balance between economic reforms, political openness, internal stability and international goodwill. These preconditions, however, may clash with his political ambitions.
Saudi Arabia’s hidden power struggle comes into the open
The arrest of 208 high-ranking individuals in November 2017 on suspicion of corruption suggests that the House of Saud faces serious challenges. King Salman’s son, Mohammad bin Salman, has consolidated power in a way that contravenes the traditional rules of succession of the Saudi ruling dynasty. But amid foreign policy setbacks and a mixed record with domestic reforms, it is far from certain that the Crown Prince will succeed his father on the throne.
GIS Dossier: Autumn of the patriarchs
In many parts of the world, the outlook for political stability in 2018 will depend on aging, often long-serving politicians. Some are senescent leaders trying to manage a generational transition, others have caught their second wind and are bracing for a long run. Here is a short list of rulers who are losing their grip, handling tricky successions, or building their legacies with a late burst of vigor. They are a key human element in geopolitics.
Elections kick off Angola’s leadership transition
Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos is stepping down after 38 years in office – one of Africa’s rare elder statesmen who relinquishes power voluntarily. His designated successor, Joao Lourenco, handily won a surprisingly peaceful general election. Now he must balance factions in the ruling party, the needs of an increasingly restive urban populace, and the imperative of diversifying Angola’s oil-dependent economy.