When the U.S. needs support, Europe pleads poverty

June 4, 2014

The United States has troubles. This was the subtext of President Barack Obama’s speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point last week. The latest trouble is the raw ambition of Russian President Vladimir Putin to dominate as much of the former Soviet Union as he can.

For Russia, it can only get worse

April 28, 2014

Russians who disapprove of what their country is doing to Ukraine are a small and unpopular minority.

The claims for Russian imperialism

March 4, 2014

The more or less liberal, democratic, capitalist countries that make up seven of the Group of Eight (G8) have condemned Russia and are discussing boycotting the June G8 meeting in Sochi. There is even talk of expelling Russia from the group.

Ukraine is Putin’s great test

February 28, 2014

To lose Ukraine — as the Russians and the President of Russia Vladimir Putin would see it — would be a huge blow. For Russians, it is part of them; of their history, of their economy and of their kin. If Putin were to “lose” Ukraine it would hurt him with the large part of the Russian population who have supported him and even more with the circle of military and security people who are his closest and most critical colleagues. The specter of being deposed like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, or, even worse, Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, hangs over him.

Putin’s vision of equality

September 13, 2013

The light on the discussions on Syria in Geneva between the U.S. and Russian foreign ministers is dim and flickering and may well be snuffed out. But at least there’s a light.

Where is Russia headed?

July 24, 2013

Masha Lipman, one of the great chroniclers of Russian politics, told a story at a conference I attended outside of Moscow earlier this week. It was about two scholars who, in a recent discussion about the history of Russia and the Soviet Union, fell into a savage argument. One saw the end of the Soviet Union as a tragedy, the other as a release from tyranny. So radical and bitter was the disagreement that they came to blows, an unheard of event in the generally decorous world of Russian academia. 

The special relationship: Putin and Berlusconi

June 8, 2013

Silvio Berlusconi and Vladimir Putin are seen in a combination file photo.  REUTERS/File

Russia’s reckoning

May 7, 2013

Russia is now in a hard, even dangerous, place. A series of shocks are coming, and it is not well placed to weather them. It has, to be sure, little debt: Vladimir Putin’s administration is proud that the state has borrowed little and has built up a multibillion-ruble national reserve fund. Yet even that is ending, and the basics of the economy are weak. The former Marxists among Russia’s ruling class will know that the economic base determines the political and social superstructure. It is not looking good for them.

Boris Berezovsky: An oligarch who lost his status

March 25, 2013

Among the initial wave of Russian oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky was the first among equals, and among the last.

Changing the Moscow rules

August 6, 2012

Around the time Vladimir Putin started his first term as Russia’s president in 2000, a man named Gleb Pavlovsky appeared on the Moscow scene. Pavlovsky was a former dissident in Soviet times who called himself a “political technologist”, a highfalutin term for spin doctor. That isn’t to diminish him: Spin doctors in different administrations all over the world are among the most interesting political figures of contemporary times, because their job is to give a narrative about the government and the leaders they serve.