Russia’s Market Mythology

September 25, 2015

Samuel Johnson famously advised James Boswell and his circle to “clear your mind of cant.” This is equally sound advice for students and commentators about Russia but it is not always followed. As a result much of contemporary writing about Russia falls prey to various mythologies. One of the pervasive and most stubborn of these […]

Russia: The State Sponsor of Terrorism?

September 1, 2015

Russia’s recent vote to block formation of a tribunal to investigate the shooting down of Malaysian Airline flights MH17 last year was entirely predictable. Undoubtedly a tribunal would have assigned guilt to Russia where it belongs, denting Mosco0w’s claim that it is responsible to nobody for its actions. But this vote also shows that Moscow […]

Getting Russia Wrong

July 23, 2015

Despite decades, if not centuries, of experience with Russia, Western governments and political movements continue to get Russia wrong with surprising regularity. In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, President Obama registered his surprise that Russia stood with the 5+1 process to obtain the recently signed deal on Iran’s nuclear program. […]

A Sober Look at Russian Military Trends

July 9, 2015

Russia is the unquestioned aggressor in Ukraine. It has built up powerful forces all along its borders with NATO members in Europe, to the point where it enjoys a very visible conventional superiority against them there. Recently, NATO’s new chairman said that the Russian military could overrun the Baltic States in just two days. Furthermore […]

Slouching Towards Hysteria

July 8, 2015

The late Adam Ulam, one of the giants of Soviet and Russian studies, wrote in his biography of Stalin that while Russian history is tragic and glorious, it also is preposterous. Under Putin this quality has come to the fore as he and his trolls dutifully stoke what Henry Adams called the systematic organization of […]

Armenia’s Lessons For Russia

July 1, 2015

The current and continuing demonstrations in Armenia over price hikes by the state electricity company contain many lessons for us and Russia. First, they highlight the continuing economic and political pathologies of the neo-Soviet or Putinist experiment where the state retains the controlling interest in the economy. Under these autocratic conditions state ownership remains a […]

Russia’s Future Trials

June 22, 2015

According to Vladimir Putin, Russia has escaped a major economic crisis and has the “inner strength” to prevail over the current one that he believes has already stabilized. Putin, of course, is famous for living in his own hermetically-sealed mental universe, but this statement of confidence appears to be particularly misplaced. Unless this is a […]

Sanctions And Their Impact On Russia

June 18, 2015

Russian spokesmen at home and abroad regularly tell us that sanctions are a failure and that the government does not care about them. Diplomatic reports also suggest that Putin told Secretary of State Kerry in Sochi that he could take the sanctions as Russia does not care about them. Undoubtedly Moscow would like us to […]

Putin’s Two Wars

June 10, 2015

The resumption of heavy fighting in Ukraine in early June suggests the likelihood of a major new Russian offensive sometime soon. As many analysts have noted, Vladimir Putin, like Shakespeare’s Macbeth or Richard III, has gone so far in blood that he cannot go back. Moreover, admitting that this adventure known as the war in […]