To no one’s surprise, Russia’s Vladimir Putin won another six-year term as president on Sunday. Against a slew of unimpressive, Kremlin-approved candidates, Putin supposedly won 76 percent support with 67 percent turnout.
Here is the best analysis I’m reading:
Robert Coalson: The Kremlin has placed Putin entirely above and outside of politics. His supporters may complain about various policies or problems in their lives, but they don’t connect those problems with Putin.
Mark Galeotti: Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta, having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, and having encouraged a carnivorous culture of self-aggrandisement and enrichment, can Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot; without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable, at worst dead, and he knows it.
Torrey Taussig: One of the greatest threats to a personalist regime’s stability is succession. Systems governed around a cult of the individual set up a self-defeating incentive structure. Once power has been consolidated, the leader will seek to eliminate able and ambitious competitors who could threaten his rule. This strategy, while effective in the short term, hollows out the leadership funnel in the long term. Unlike in autocracies run by strong parties, in which leaders rise within the party’s hierarchy, personalist systems have no institutional structure for preparing the next generation of autocrats. Read more
Dutch Hope for Smooth Brexit, Russians Have Little Faith in Trump
Mehreen Khan reports for the Financial Times that the Dutch are lobbying both sides in the Brexit negotiations: They are pleading with the Brits to decide what they want and trying to ensure in Brussels that the United Kingdom is given plenty of room to reverse course or rethink red lines, whether it be on the customs union or anything else.
The reason: close relations across the North Sea.
Britain’s erstwhile continental ally has been a reliable partner on everything from EU budget contributions to the single market but is now uniquely exposed to the economic and emotional side-effects of Brexit.
In France, by contrast, attitudes have hardened. Since Emmanuel Macron’s election last summer, the share of French voters who wish the British would change their minds has fallen. Tony Barber argues that Brexit is now seen as not a loss but a potential gain to France. Read more
Just like they don’t want to solve the DACA problem, why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!
It’s the president who unilaterally ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last year and who is now blocking a compromise. Democrats and center-right Republicans are ready to do a deal.
Democrats tried to get tougher guns laws under Barack Obama. They were frustrated at every turn by Republicans, who turned the filibuster into standard operating procedure in the Senate, as a result of which it now takes sixty votes to get anything of consequence done. When Democrats could briefly muster sixty votes in the early years of Obama’s presidency, they used that opportunity to reform health care. Read more
Italian Parties Putin-Friendly, But Policy Shift Unlikely
Italy’s election can’t keep Vladimir Putin up at night. No matter which party comes out on top, the Russian leader can expect a friendly government in Rome.
The center-left Democrats may be the least Russophile of the four major parties, but they still have a soft spot for Russia. Their leader, Matteo Renzi, threatened to block the renewal of EU sanctions in 2015. Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign-policy coordinator, has been criticized by Eastern Europeans and NGOs for not taking a hard enough line against Russia.
Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister and leader of Forza Italia, is on famously good terms with Putin.
His allies in the Northern League — who, in turn, ally with Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France — are openly sympathetic of Putin, whom they see as a defender of traditional, Christian values.
The populist Five Star Movement no longer wants to take Italy out of NATO but still calls for a reduced role in the alliance as well as an immediate end to sanctions. Read more
Because Russia promotes an agenda that is native to Europe, few seem to realize this Second Cold War is just as ideological as the first.
If anything, the fact that Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine can tap into a homegrown Western reactionary movement that shares its beliefs makes the ideological challenge he poses more insidious. Read more