Given Putin's political vulnerability, a showdown with the West over gay rights or Edward Snowden -- inevitable in light of Washington's cancellation of a U.S.-Russian presidential summit -- is exactly what the Kremlin wants. The West should narrow its criticism of Russia to issues where its views line up with those of the Russian people.
Moscow’s anti-Putin protesters have captured the world’s attention. But does their message resonate outside the big cities? New research shows that although Russians in the provinces have no taste for revolution, noisy street protests, or abstract slogans, they are deeply unhappy with the current political system and may soon demand change themselves.
Too often over the last decades, policymakers in Washington have viewed Moscow's resistance to U.S. policies through the lens of psychology. In fact, Russia's foreign policy has been driven by its own rational self-interest.
Treisman argues that in crossing the rocky road of the last 25 years, Russia has emerged from the hermitic life of socialism to join in the normal process of international politics and Russians have joined the modern scramble of global travel, communications, and consumption.
Conventional wisdom in the West says that post-Cold War Russia has been a disastrous failure. The facts say otherwise. Aspects of Russia's performance over the last decade may have been disappointing, but the notion that the country has gone through an economic cataclysm and political relapse is wrong--more a comment on overblown expectations than on Russia's actual experience. Compared to other countries at a similar level of economic and political development, Russia looks more the norm than the exception.
Most observers think Vladimir Putin is remaking Russia. In fact, although the faces may have changed, Putin's Russia is more like Yeltsin's than is generally recognized. Oligarchs still reign, war in Chechnya rages on, and most of Putin's innovations are superficial. Meanwhile, most of what is new in Russia--the growing economy and Putin's popularity--owes little to the president's policies.
Three books ask what went wrong in Russia but find the wrong scapegoats: the oligarchs and neoliberal reformers. In fact, Russia's woes have much deeper roots.
Reporters and pundits have spun many theories as to why Yeltsin won. None of them matches the polling data. Clever campaigning, anticommunist scare tactics, even efforts to end the war in Chechnya came at the wrong time. Boris Yeltsin passed Gennadi Zyuganov in the polls only when he traveled the country ladling out pork. Yeltsin doubled the minimum pension and paid off the backlog in wages. A Vorkuta coal miner asked for a car -- and got it. A presidential aide slipped a bystander a handful of cash. High-minded criticism from the West notwithstanding, Tammany tactics are hardly unknown in Western politics, and they did keep a communist out of office.