Hi everyone! In an era of both fake news and intense media bias, I’ve decided to embark on a new geopolitical briefs of 500 words or less here at Geopolitics Made Super. I’ll curate news stories and provide short analysis on the geopolitical context of top headline stories.
Some of these will lead up to the Wednesday long reads; others will just help provide framing to what’s going on with the world.
To cut down on bias, I’ll be using only two sources: The Associated Press and Reuters. I will provide links and key quotes from these two reputable sources, while providing geopolitical context.
This one is already over 100 words, so I’m going this introduction short. If there’s positive feedback for this service, I’ll be happy to keep it up!
Geopolitical Brief: Anti-Putin Protests Reveal the Russian Tightrope
As reported by Reuters:
Thousands of Russians marched through the center of Moscow on Sunday to honor opposition leader Boris Nemtsov two years after he was gunned down near the Kremlin walls, and to call for further investigations into his killing.
Any protests in Russia under Putin reveal much about the geopolitical conditions of the country. It’s far too easy to see Putin’s Russia as a proto-Soviet totalitarian state where Putin is the new Stalin. But Putin’s mastery of Russia has come about through canny divide-and-rule and KGB-style tradecraft rather than brute suppression.
There is a limit to such tactics. Stalin built a system that could shoot its way through forced industrialization, a massive famine, and a world war. Putin’s Russia, however, is both weaker and more complicated than Stalin’s USSR. Soviet-stye oppression is no longer effective in Russia, and so Putin has built a streamlined, modern, less brutal illiberal democracy over its ruins.
These protest movements, last seen at scale in 2012, prove that a Russian opposition could, under the right circumstances, unseat President Putin or his successors come the Russian presidential election on March 11, 2018.
They are, however, limited in their numbers throughout Russian society. Many of the marchers are Moscow urbanites, cynical and worldly by their proximity to the highly centralized state. This is not a condition present throughout the rest of the Federation. Much as American New Yorkers find it hard to build political alliances with rural Rocky Mountain voters, this divide is precisely what Putin counts on come election day.
As of yet, Putin has not declared whether he will stand for the presidency in 2018. That may be because he considers the election a fait accompli and not worthy of his attention; he may also be trying to gauge the strength of the opposition before putting his name forward.
Should the Russian economy, hammered by sanctions, low oil prices, corruption, and a lack of diversification, continue to shrink, as it did in 2016 (by .2%), Putin’s opposition may find allies in the deprived rural localities that have yet to show much interest in Putin’s murdered enemies. The Russian political tightrope for Putin may only narrow.