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.

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.

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.”

Building Berlin’s Wall helped avoid a nuclear confrontation

By Nina Khrushcheva
November 7, 2014

West Berliners walk in front of the Berlin wall at the Allied checkpoint Charlie in Berlin

Twenty-five years ago Sunday, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev refused to use force when thousands of people from East and West converged to pull down the Berlin Wall. He taught us all a great lesson: No wall can hold back democracy. Since then, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taught another lesson: If a country’s people don’t want democracy enough, no Berlin Wall is needed to keep it out.

25 years after its fall, Vladimir Putin puts Berlin Wall’s lessons front and center

By Lucian Kim
November 7, 2014

East German citizens climb the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate after the opening of the border was announced

On Nov. 9, Germans will celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the most beautiful moments in their troubled history: the day that ordinary people, with ordinary aspirations, brought down the Berlin Wall. Not a shot was fired, not a drop of blood was shed, and in less than a year, divided Germany was reunited, paving the way for the reunification of a continent cut in two by the Cold War.

Putin’s created an economic crisis and left Moscow no easy way out

By William E. Pomeranz
November 4, 2014

Russia's President Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow

Western sanctions have left Russia in dire financial circumstances — stuck somewhere between recession and stagnation. Though proven solutions exist for what now ails Russia, President Vladimir Putin’s geo-strategic and political choices have rendered these traditional economic approaches unworkable.