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.
Putin’s potential contribution to ending the U.S.-North Korea standoff
U.S. President Donald Trump will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC summit this weekend. Although allegations of his campaign’s collaboration with Russia during last year’s election has made it hard for Mr. Trump to negotiate with the Kremlin, Mr. Putin’s assistance on the North Korea crisis could prove very useful. It would also be in Russia’s interest. The price the U.S. might have to pay in concessions could be high, but a solution where Washington and Russia cooperate to defuse the North Korea crisis is likely.
The contours of a future Middle East emerge
Events are moving fast in the Middle East. The hoped-for rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. that could bring an end to the war in Syria appears to have collapsed. Growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia could spark a war at any moment. But the most explosive issue for this region of minorities is the prospect of independence for Iraqi Kurdistan.
The many faces of Rosneft
Over the past decade or so, Russian oil giant Rosneft has concluded some eye-popping deals and more than doubled production. But its rapid growth has been based on questionable deals and huge debts. Behind the scenes, its CEO, Igor Sechin, has mastered Kremlin power plays. But his circle of enemies is growing. The future of Russia’s oil industry will hinge on how far he continues to push the envelope and whether Rosneft can overcome the legacy he has built.
Boom or bust for Russian arms exports?
The Russian weapons business is facing a critical juncture. Once coequal with the United States as the world’s biggest arms exporter, Russia must now advance technologically or be displaced by rising competitors. The biggest threat is posed by two countries that were traditionally Russia’s best clients – China and India.
A new Euro-Atlantic strategy for the Western Balkans
The European Union and the United States are again paying attention to the Western Balkans, trying to keep the region firmly within the EU and NATO orbit. But Angela Merkel’s ambitious plans for economic development will hinge on overcoming traditional animosities – especially the conflict between Serbia and Albania over Kosovo and Greek-Macedonian tensions – which have allowed Russia to reassert its influence.
Opinion: Crimea as a freehold
What to do with Crimea is a seemingly insoluble problem. With patriotic Russian opinion firmly set in the “Crimean consensus,” returning the territory to Ukraine is out of the question. Letting it remain as part of Russia is equally unacceptable to Ukraine and the West. Perhaps the best place to start is with Crimea’s real owners – the peninsula’s 2.34 million residents.
Economic sanctions are bound to be a long-term failure
Trade is a powerful tool – it is one of the best ways to bring people together for mutual benefit. Limiting trade can be used as a weapon, and it is one the United States and the European Union are wielding against Russia and Iran. And while the goals Western governments aim to achieve are noble, sanctions are likely to backfire. They will strengthen the regimes they are meant to weaken, and will reduce American and European political clout around the globe.