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Friday, July 3, 2015

Greece Got Only Promises, No Money, from its Friend Mr. Putin

A victim of Putin’s typical negotiating tactics, Tsipras left St. Petersburg with an offer of money from a project that might never be completed. Yet Putin got what he wanted: Tsipras was on record as opposing the extension of EU sanctions against Russia.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Residents Of Donbass Tell Separatists To Leave: A Glimmer Of Hope?

Keep in mind that Russia does not want the occupied Donbass territories as part of Russia. Rather, Putin wants the self-proclaimed People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk to be independent provinces within a unitary Ukraine that exercises veto power over major domestic and foreign policy decisions. Such an arrangement would spell the end of Ukraine as a state independent of Russia. Hopes for a peaceful settlement coming out of the Minsk negotiations are therefore futile, with no ground for compromise. Russia does not want the Donbass, and Ukraine will not accept a Donbass under rebel control. It’s that simple–although Europe’s peacemakers have trouble accepting that fact.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Deconstructing Putin's Approval Ratings: One Thousand Casualties For Every Point

Vladimir Putin stakes his claim to leadership on approval ratings that would be the envy of any democratic politician. Skeptics, however, question the meaning of approval ratings when a dictator appoints all political positions and ensures that rivals are distrusted by the electorate. A dictator who controls the media and devotes enormous resources to propaganda can manipulate approval ratings with extraordinary measures, offsetting fundamentals that would otherwise push the favorability rating down. But what does someone like Putin do when he runs out of diversions during a period of prolonged economic stagnation? We’ll perhaps know the answer soon.

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Monday, June 1, 2015

Books About Stalin Everywhere in Moscow

My colleague, Marianna Yarovskaya, sent me these images of a typical Moscow bookstore. Books on Stalin are everywhere. This is part of an official campaign to glorify Stalin's image as a strong and decisive leader who was up to all challenges.

photo courtesy of Marianna Yarovskaya

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Russian Decline Is Accelerating: GDP Down 4.3% In 1q 2015

Russia’s statistics agency, Goskomstat, has yet to post its official first quarter figures. We can imagine that the statistics agency is under pressure to downplay negative results. As it now stands, Russia’s recession is more than twice as deep as Medvedev had promised a month earlier.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sanction FIFA And Putin At The Same Time: Take The 2018 World Cup From Russia

The soccer World Cup gives the host country prestige, publicity, and international recognition. The World Cups in 2010 and 2014 hosted by South Africa and Brazil–two BRICS countries–signaled their arrival on the world scene. A third BRICS member, Russia, is scheduled to host in 2018. The two largest public relations feathers in Vladimir Putin’s hat are the Sochi Olympics and now the upcoming World Cup.
Nothing could be worse for Putin than losing the 2018 World Cup; it would be more severe than the economic recession and Russia’s declining living standards. Russians can live without imported foods and Turkish vacations, but they may not tolerate being branded as a rogue nation not deserving a World Cup.

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