The Great Debate

Vladimir Putin in jeopardy on all sides as Russia’s economy stumbles

By John Lloyd
December 18, 2014

Russian President Putin is seen on a screen during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow

MOSCOW – What a difference a plunging ruble makes. A few short days ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin was a strategic genius, outplaying Western leaders everywhere – in the Middle East, in China, and especially in Ukraine. Today, he’s the destroyer of his country and his political life could be in jeopardy.

Strong or weak, bully or buffoon? Will the real Russia please stand up?

By Michael Kofman
December 17, 2014

Russia's President Putin speaks during a commemoration of the Hermitage's 250th anniversary at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

The West has been unable to develop a coherent strategic policy toward Russia. There is little agreement on what Russia is and how to deal with it, too much speculation about what President Vladimir Putin will or will not do.

In 2015, Vladimir Putin may witness his empire’s death knell

By Strobe Talbott
December 16, 2014

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi

The year ahead could see the outbreak of the third Chechen war, which, in turn, could be the death knell of the Russian Federation in its current borders. 

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Ukraine’s frozen war brings dramatic changes to world economy

By Anatole Kaletsky
December 12, 2014

Pro-Russian separatists from the Chechen "Death" battalion take part in a training exercise in the territory controlled by the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic

The “day of silence” observed this week by the Ukrainian army and its pro-Russian rebel opponents was an event of enormous economic importance for global economics as well as geopolitics.

from Anatole Kaletsky:

Here’s why oil companies should be a lot more profitable than they are

By Anatole Kaletsky
December 5, 2014

Shaybah oilfield complex is seen at night in the Rub' al-Khali desert, Saudi Arabia

The 40 percent plunge in oil prices since July, when Brent crude peaked at $115 a barrel, is almost certainly good news for the world economy; but it is surely a crippling blow for oil producers. Oil prices below $70 certainly spell trouble for U.S. and Canadian shale and tar-sand producers and also for oil-exporting countries such as Venezuela, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia that depend on inflated oil revenues to finance government spending or pay foreign debts. On the other hand, the implications of lower oil prices for the biggest U.S. and European oil companies are more ambiguous and could even be positive.

Vladimir Putin’s religious, ethnic rhetoric gets a little scary in Russian state-of-the-union address

By Lucian Kim
December 4, 2014

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Vladimir Putin lives in a scary world, where enemies plot tirelessly to undermine, trick, and destroy Russia. Containment wasn’t just a Cold War policy but a practice of Russia’s rivals for centuries. Even without a conflict in Ukraine, the United States and European Union would have come up with another pretext for imposing economic sanctions; they were an inevitable response to a rising Russia.

Which past is prologue for Putin’s Russia?

By Hannah Thoburn
November 30, 2014

People attend a rally called "We are together" to support the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea to Russia in Red Square in central Moscow

As Russia moved into Crimea in March, annexed it and then began to create, promote and support separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, commentators and citizens alike worried about a “new Cold War.” Others compared Russian President Vladimir Putin’s land grab to Nazi Germany’s 1938 annexation of Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland.

Should Putin fear the man who ‘pulled the trigger of war’ in Ukraine?

By Lucian Kim
November 25, 2014

Figurines of former pro-Russian separatist commander Igor Strelkov from the collection entitled "Toy Soldiers of Novorossiya" are on display at a workshop in Moscow

The official Kremlin narrative on the war in eastern Ukraine is clear and simple: after seizing power in February, a Western-backed “junta” in Kiev sent neo-Nazi gangs – then tanks and warplanes – to stamp out peaceful protests by the Russian-speaking community. The locals who took up arms are freedom fighters, and the only help they get from Russia is humanitarian aid. For the past six months, Russian state television has carpet-bombed its viewers with this message, day in and day out.

Putin waging information war in Ukraine worthy of George Orwell

By Lucian Kim
November 14, 2014

A chicken walks near a residential block and a car damaged by recent shelling in Donetsk

It was a familiar scenario this week. First the government in Kiev said that Russia was sending convoys of men and weapons to support pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine. Then U.S. General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s top commander in Europe, confirmed those claims, saying “there is no question anymore about Russia’s direct military involvement in Ukraine.” His remarks were summarily denied by the Russian Defense Ministry, which said it had stopped paying attention to his “unfounded proclamations.”

from Ian Bremmer:

Oil price plummet won’t help U.S. with Iran or Russia

By Ian Bremmer
November 11, 2014

A motorist holds a fuel pump at a Gulf petrol station in London

Plummeting oil prices — down more than 25 percent since June to three-year lows — should relieve pressure on consumers at the pump. But is it pushing oil-exporting regimes past the breaking point?