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  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2014
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Every Olympiad is a complex and, until the end, uncertain endeavor. In the case of the 2014 Winter Games, which begin February 7 in Sochi, Russia, the challenges and vulnerabilities are far more significant and numerous than usual. It will be the first (and almost certainly the last) Winter Games in the subtropics. Virtually the entire infrastructure had to be built from scratch and in haste, with abuse of laborers and corruption overhead likely further compromising the construction. While various interest groups exploit every Olympiad to draw international attention to their causes, protests in Sochi could be particularly intense. Finally, and most ominously, Sochi is next door to a fundamentalist Islamic uprising in which terrorism claims victims almost daily. For the sake of the athletes and millions of fans, one hopes that none of these potential problems will precipitate a disruption, much less a crisis or bloodshed. Yet in their choice of location and the manner in which they have gone about organizing the Games, the Russian authorities have greatly increased that risk. By highlighting some key features and practices of Vladimir Putin's regime, a major setback at the Olympiad could deal a serious blow to the regime's legitimacy, prompt national soul searching, and trigger another round of civil resistance in search of reforms.
  • Topic: Corruption, Islam, Insurgency, Infrastructure, Governance
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 10-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The 2008–09 financial crisis demonstrated that gas and oil exports could no longer serve as Russia's engine of economic progress and the source of a steady rise in personal incomes. Russia needed to dramatically change its investment climate through deep institutional reforms that would boost economic liberty, expand the rule of law and property rights, diminish corruption, and create more political choices for its citizens. Such reforms are all the more urgent now as Russia's economy is slowing to a crawl and trust in President Vladimir Putin is steadily declining. Yet the Kremlin has chosen to address these challenges with authoritarian consolidation, buying short-term stability at the expense of the country's longer-term prosperity and progress. Elements of the Kremlin's massive propaganda campaign include militarized patriotism and patriotic education; a selective recovery of Soviet symbols and ideals; the ultraconservative Russian Orthodox Church as the moral foundation of the regime; the promotion of a culture of subservience; and the intimidation, stigmatization, and repression of civil society and its vanguard, nongovernmental organizations. Yet instead of producing the consolidation and unity expected by the Kremlin, this campaign may yield polarization, radicalism, and violence that will prevent the country's peaceful and inclusive transition to a more dignified version of citizenship.
  • Topic: Corruption, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Oil, Natural Resources, Governance, Authoritarianism, Reform
  • Political Geography: Russia
  • Author: Ronald W. Reagan
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In 1988, as he was about to step down as president, Ronald Reagan received the Francis Boyer Award, AEI's highest honor. He chose for the theme of his speech that December evening, eleven months before the Berlin Wall fell, the struggle of people everywhere for freedom. In his speech, he anticipated the momentous events that would occur in 1989: “So while our hopes today are for a new era, let us remember that if that new era is indeed upon us, there was nothing inevitable about it. It was the result of hard work—and of resolve and sacrifice on the part of those who love freedom and dare to strive for it.” Freedom works, he said. He saluted the Solzhenitsyns, the Sakharovs, and the Sharanskys, saying, “We have seen the thrilling spectacle of mankind refusing to accept the shackles placed upon us.” As we recall the events of November 1989, it is important to remember the struggle and to recommit ourselves to the hard work of extending freedom to those who have yet to enjoy its blessings.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Cold War, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Berlin
  • Author: John H. Makin
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: China's economic statistics have become the envy of the world. On July 15, China reported a 7.9 percent growth rate for the second quarter of 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier. Meanwhile, China's stock markets are on fire, and its property markets are heating up fast as well. Shanghai's two stock markets are up 75 percent and 95 percent respectively so far this year. The more widely traded Hong Kong Index is up 27 percent, a stellar performance compared to largely flat stock markets in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In even stronger contrast, Russia, which is one of China's emerging-market peers, has seen its economy drop by 10.1 percent during the first half of this year, while its stock market has struggled as well.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Japan, China, Europe, Hong Kong
5. Putin-3
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In the past nine years, Russian foreign policy has been examined several times in these pages. At no other time, however, has its direction been as troubling as it is today. To understand the causes of this disturbing evolution and to gauge its future course, the changes have to be examined in the context of the regime's ideological and political transformation since 2000, when Vladimir Putin was elected president.
  • Topic: Conflict Prevention, International Relations, Security, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 05-2008
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Throughout Russia's history, the weakness of institutions and laws has ensured that the successor regimes rarely, if ever, turn out as intended by the previous ruler. Instead of continuity, the national tradition of highly personalized government often produces a very different political organism ostensibly from the same institutional framework. Yet with former president Vladimir Putin's staying on as a kind of regent–prime minister to the dauphin-president Dmitri Medvedev, at least for the next few years, the ideology, priorities, and policies of the Putin Kremlin—what might be called Putinism—are almost certain to inform and guide the Medvedev administration. Part I of this Outlook discusses the components of the new Russian authoritarianism, and parts II and III examine the elements of “Russia, Inc.”—the corporatist state that Putin has built—and the factors that may affect Russia's economic performance, stability, and foreign policy in the future.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 08-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: It is very much in the Russian and, even more so, Soviet political tradition for rulers to deprecate their predecessors. As they climb up the power ladder, the would-be Kremlin occupants must profess complete loyalty to the current leader in order to succeed. Once in power, the country's new masters bolster their authority by dissociating themselves from previous leaders. Along with the weakness of the country's political institutions, which undermines the legitimacy of the transitions, such repudiations almost inevitably result in the personalization of power, as the new occupants mold the political, social, and economic systems to their liking. Hence, Russian and—again and especially—Soviet history have often looked like a succession of very distinct personal political regimes—indeed, sometimes different states under the same name.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Cold War, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 09-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Part I of this Russian Outlook dealt with what might be called the errors of commission, or false attribution, in the "chaos-of-the-1990s" stereotype, which became a major theme of the Putin Kremlin's propaganda. The economic crisis of that era, mostly inherited from the decaying Soviet economy, was laid at the revolutionary regime's door. Yet the "chaos" legend also contains errors of omission, for, on closer inspection, there was a great deal in the 1990s besides the alleged "chaos."
  • Topic: Civil Society, Democratization, Government, Politics, Privatization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eastern Europe, Asia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Yegor Gaidar
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In the summer of 2002, after the Russian government introduced the flat income tax, completed fiscal reforms, created the Stabilization Fund, and introduced land reform in Russia, I had a premonition that the window of opportunity for further reforms would be closing for a number of years. I was correct in my prediction.
  • Topic: Economics, Energy Policy, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia, Soviet Union
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Russian president Vladimir Putin's term expires in March 2008. Despite the propaganda barrage designed to persuade everyone of an orderly change of government, the coming Russian presidential succession is far from a done deal. The stability and legitimacy that flow from democratic arrangements are compromised when these arrangements are weakened, as happened under Putin, ushering in uncertainty and risk.
  • Topic: Corruption, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Criticizing preceding regimes is a popular pastime of Russian leaders. But in denouncing the “chaos of the 1990s,” the Vladimir Putin regime seems to have an additional purpose: to defame the idea of liberty itself. Part I of this two-part Russian Outlook examines the claim that the revolution was entirely responsible for Russia's economic woes in the 1990s. Part II will take issue with the assertion that the Yeltsin years brought nothing but “chaos.”
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Part I of this Russian Outlook dealt with what might be called the errors of commission, or false attribution, in the “chaos-of-the-1990s” stereotype, which became a major theme of the Putin Kremlin's propaganda. The economic crisis of that era, mostly inherited from the decaying Soviet economy, was laid at the revolutionary regime's door. Yet the “chaos” legend also contains errors of omission, for, on closer inspection, there was a great deal in the 1990s besides the alleged “chaos.”
  • Topic: Corruption, Democratization, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Eastern Europe
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: The twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the Russian revolution (1987–91) is a fitting occasion to assess the true scale and the impact of the national spiritual liberation known as glasnost, and to put it into a broader context of the history of ideas and their role in revolutions. Such an examination is doubly useful today, when a steady stream of Kremlin-sponsored propaganda seeks to distort and minimize what glasnost has wrought.
  • Topic: Development, Government, Nationalism
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 10-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Since its disastrous showing in the 2003 Duma elections, Russia's badly splintered and quarrelling democratic opposition has been trying to find ways to forge a common platform that would unite and energize its sizeable but apathetic and disillusioned constituency. The stakes are very high. The liberal (that is, in Russian political parlance, right-of-center, pro-market, pro-reform, and pro-Western) forces view the Putin Kremlin's turn to recentralization of national politics and the economy as a dead-end street, leading to creeping authoritarianism, rampant corruption, political crises, economic slowdown, and even disintegration. In this perspective, forging a united opposition strong enough to contest the Kremlin's control over the Duma in 2007 and the presidency in 2008 acquires particular urgency.
  • Topic: Democratization, Economics, Politics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 07-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: On December 29, 2004, Russia's minister of defense, Sergei Ivanov, announced plans to eliminate draft deferments for college students. Predictably, the popular reaction was so uniformly negative and furious that the abolition of deferments has been postponed—but not eliminated from the Kremlin's agenda.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government, War
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 03-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: In its pursuit of an authoritarian recentralization of Russian politics and a greater state presence in the economy, the Putin government is increasingly steering Russia away from the liberalizing course that has characterized the previous decade and a half.
  • Topic: Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 01-2005
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Western and Russian observers alike have watched with mounting concern for slightly more than a year as President Vladimir Putin has tried to consolidate the Kremlin's control over Russia's politics and economy. From the campaign against the YUKOS oil company to the elimination of regional elections, Putin—a growing chorus of critics argues—is leading the country toward authoritarianism.
  • Topic: Economics, International Organization, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Leon Aron
  • Publication Date: 09-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Wars have repeatedly had a decisive influence on Russia's political development, and the present global conflict against fundamentalist Islam is no exception. With the murder of hundreds of Russians at the hands of Chechen terrorists—most notably, the massacre of schoolchildren at Beslan earlier this month—President Vladimir Putin has announced a sweeping overhaul of Russia's political system that would further consolidate power in the Kremlin and damage the country's nascent democracy. The United States and its allies now confront the dual challenge of assisting Russia in its fight against terrorism while simultaneously resisting the erosion of freedom there.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States
  • Author: Scott Wallsten
  • Publication Date: 04-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Although success stories do exist, most high-technology cluster-development projects do little to enhance regional economic growth. The taxpayer costs for a wide array of tax incentives offered by politicians to corporations and research institutes as inducements to move facilities into their districts are rarely recouped, and often only wealthy organizations and developers benefit from the projects.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia
  • Author: Nicholas Eberstadt
  • Publication Date: 02-2004
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Russia, whose birth rates have declined and whose mortality rates have dramatically increased in the last several decades, faces a demographic crisis. Thus far, Russian political leaders have focused on trying to increase birth rates, but a greater sense of urgency must be applied to diminish mortality rates and to respond to health threats, including HIV/AIDS.
  • Topic: International Relations, Foreign Policy, Democratization, Economics
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Asia