Russia breaks its social contract
In two decades of rule, Russian President Vladimir Putin has ensured stability by offering Russians an implicit social contract – a modest but secure social safety net in exchange for carte blanche in politics. Now, the country’s deepening financial and demographic crisis has put an end to this, forcing the government to make plans for increasing taxes and raising the retirement age by as much as eight years. No matter how cleverly handled, these austerity measures could trigger a serious backlash.
Armenia’s velvet revolution poses long-term risks
On the surface, the overthrow of Armenia’s longtime ruler Serzh Sargsyan poses no threat to Russia’s geopolitical position in the South Caucasus. Opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan, elevated to the premiership by popular revolt, keeps stressing his exclusively domestic agenda and desire for close ties with Russia. But the long run, reforms that tackle corruption among the local political and business elites work against Moscow’s interests.
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.
Opinion: Venezuela nears the breaking point
What will happen to Venezuela after the government tries to steal an unconstitutional presidential election on May 20? Everything depends on the cohesion of the splintered opposition and the determination of the international community. If either fail, the Western hemisphere could be faced with its most severe humanitarian crisis in more than a decade.
Joseph Kabila will not be moved
For long-serving presidents in sub-Saharan Africa, there are few incentives to step down. That applies to President Joseph Kabila in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who has managed to extend his term beyond the constitutional limits. The country has been in a deep crisis since 2015, and conditions are primed to deteriorate in 2018. Even if long-promised elections do take place, they will hardly mark the beginning of a new era.
GIS Dossier: Ukraine
Four years after the Maidan revolution swept President Viktor Yanukovych from power, Ukraine remains suspended between Russia and the West. The protracted armed struggle to break free of Moscow’s orbit has helped forge a Ukrainian nation, but its politics and economy remain as dysfunctional as ever. This survey looks at reports published by GIS on Ukraine since 2012.
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.
Russia without Putin: A first approximation
Vladimir Putin is at the heart of Russia’s political system. But less and less of what is happening in the country depends on his personal vision and volition. The president looks increasingly disengaged, while his policy of confrontation with the West is a dead end. As the first outlines of a post-Putin order come into focus, it scarcely matters whether the president runs for another term. Even if he wins, the new era begins the day after the vote.
Opinion: How not to resolve the Venezuelan crisis
Venezuela’s constitutional coup has cleared the way from President Nicolas Maduro to suppress the opposition. But with the economy in tatters, the death toll in street protests rising, and the officer corps on the verge of splintering, the government may be more open to international mediation than first appears. The only way this works, however, is if the United States stays out.
Zimbabwe’s pivotal moment
Zimbabwe’s deepening economic crisis have led to protests of unprecedented intensity against the regime of President Robert Mugabe. However, the opposition is divided, and Mr. Mugabe still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve. If the coalition of opposition parties can remain unified, it has a chance of unseating the president in next year’s elections. But no matter the outcome, unrest is likely to continue.