03 Dec 2014
Russia’s New Course at The Woodrow Wilson Center
December, 3, 2014, 9:30 am - 11:00 am
Woodrow Wilson Center, 5th Floor, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 2001

Event cosponsored by The Woodrow Wilson Center and the Center on Global Interests

In 2014, the game-changing events in Ukraine exposed a fundamental disagreement between the West and Russia about the principles underpinning the modern international system. On December 3, CGI president Nikolai Zlobin joined economic analyst Sergei Aleksashenko at The Woodrow Wilson Center to discuss Russia’s new trajectory in the wake of the crisis.

Both speakers focused on President Vladimir Putin as the driving force behind Russian policy. Sergei Aleksashenko noted that Putin enjoys widespread domestic support because of his image as a man of strong principles and values, but he lacks a strategic plan for the country. At the same time, Putin does not show a willingness to undermine basic market forces despite Russia’s serious economic problems—something that Aleksashenko considered an inconsistency in the power vertical.

Nikolai Zlobin argued that unlike the United States, Russia is a country that reveres a strong leadership, and that on the historical level President Putin represents a typical Russian leader. As such, he does not have to demonstrate a wide domestic mandate to rule, but needs to ensure that the international system accepts his domestic contract. Bolstering the power of the president is the Russian political system, in which all institutions are built to cater to the interests of the leader.

Looking to the future, both Aleksashenko and Zlobin agreed that Putin’s popularity only has room to grow through more bellicose actions. Without a grand strategy, Putin is motivated by the goal of winning re-election in 2018 and keeping power firmly in his handmade political system.