Putin’s endgame

Vladimir Putin unveiled a set of sweeping constitutional amendments, Dmitry Medvedev’s government resigned, Russia’s new prime minister is a little-known tax official and Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov is “temporarily incapacitated”. And all of this happened within a couple of hours. It’s not surprising that Russia-watchers’ heads are spinning. There is indeed a lot to unpack, but the most consequential part of Putin’s proposals might not be what everyone seems to be focusing on.

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NY Dispatches: 2020 – plans and reality

According to an old adage, a political analyst is a person who is able to give a coherent prediction of what is going to happen in six months’ time, and also able to explain coherently, in six months’ time, why that prediction failed. But let’s not be cruel to political analysts. Or not only to them, says this political analyst. Other social scientist forecasters also make mistakes – especially when they are pressured by politicians, are trying to give predictions for several years ahead, or when they are asked to set ambitious targets. Or all three at the same time. Sometimes therefore it makes sense to take a step back and ask if the predictions have come true.

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United they stand

The ruling United Russia’s congress in November seemed to confirm that Russia’s leaders intend to rely on the party in the early 2020s as Vladimir Putin’s fourth presidential term draws to an end. This was significant because recent years have seen constant speculations about the coming demise of the increasingly unpopular ruling party or a “party system reform” by political technologists in the Kremlin. Now the talk is about a reform of the electoral system to make United Russia’s position more stable. But in this case too the status quo is the safest bet. Here is why.

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NY Dispatches: the issue of waste management

On Sunday thousands protested in Kotlas, a town of only 60 thousand in Russia’s Northern Arkhangelsk oblast against a landfill near the Shies station between Arkhangelsk and the Komi Republic, which is planned to absorb 46 million tons of waste from Moscow and the Moscow Region in the next twenty years. A smaller protest took place in Syktyvkar, the Komi capital. These were only the latest in a series of protests in several Russian regions triggered by an issue that has, to many, come to represent the problems with the Russian state more than anything.

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Alexander the Reluctant

Belarus’s parliamentary election last week got barely any attention, even though the vote was a rehearsal for next year’s presidential election, in which Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994, will run for a sixth term. This coming election may tell scores not only about Belarus and its relationship with Russia, but also about Russia itself.

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NY Dispatches: the popularity of governors

A recent hike in the overall popularity of Russia’s governors tells an important story. But not necessarily the one that many have highlighted.

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Risky business

Economic growth was all the talk in Russia in recent weeks. The debates that have started earlier this year seem to have identified the problem – a chronically low investment rate – correctly. The solutions offered, however, reflect an inability to move beyond the thinking that resulted in this situation at the first place.

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