Vladimir Putin has done it again. Facing a hard term limit in 2024 and falling approval ratings as the economy stagnates, Russia’s president has taken an unexpected gamble to increase his options by reshaping the political system.
Astonishing observers, Putin proposed on Wednesday the most dramatic changes to Russia’s constitution since 1993.
Under his plan — which he promised to submit to a nationwide vote — the right to choose the prime minister and his government would pass from the president to the parliament. At present, the president nominates the prime minister. The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, must approve the candidate by a majority vote, but if it rejects the president’s nominees three times in a row, he can dissolve parliament and call new elections.… Seguir leyendo »
Many observers believe democracy is in danger — both globally and in the United States.
Worldwide, free government is said to be in “recession,” “decaying,” “in retreat” or “beleaguered.” Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright considers fascism “a more serious threat now than at any time since the end of World War II.”
Closer to home, commentator Andrew Sullivan sees the U.S. system turning into “the kind of authoritarian state that America was actually founded to overthrow.”
How serious are the challenges to democracy today? One way to assess this is to examine historical experience, using the best global data available.… Seguir leyendo »
A generation after the Cold War ended, Russian fighter jets are again probing NATO’s defenses in the skies around Norway and Portugal. Russia has dismembered one of its neighbors, annexing part of its territory. A McCarthyite frenzy has gripped the country’s elite as investigators target an imaginary fifth column of national traitors.
The vehemence of Russia’s recent turn against the West has shocked observers and prompted a scramble for explanations. Marvin Kalb, a veteran foreign correspondent and Russia hand, believes the key to the current crisis lies in the region’s history, specifically the interwoven pasts of the countries now called Russia and Ukraine.… Seguir leyendo »
As Western leaders gather in Newport, Wales, for this week’s NATO summit, the Ukrainian army is taking a pounding from Russia-supported rebel fighters in the country’s east and south. The central question now confronting President Barack Obama and colleagues is whether to supply Kiev with heavy arms.
So far, Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two key decision makers, have been reluctant. But with Ukrainian forces reeling before what many are calling an overt Russian invasion, pressure is growing on them to reconsider.
Already NATO has announced plans to strengthen the defense of its frontline members in the Baltics and Eastern Europe.… Seguir leyendo »
The tragic fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, believed shot down by a missile in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board, has cast a new light on the series of gambles Russian President Vladimir Putin embarked on in late February.
At that time, Putin sent military intelligence troops in unmarked uniforms to take control of the southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea. Three weeks later, Russia annexed the region.
As Russian-speaking Ukrainians farther north in Donetsk and Luhansk stormed administrative buildings, demanding independence from Kiev, Russian intelligence officers started slipping across the border to help organize the militias. In subsequent months, Moscow supplied the separatist guerrillas with artillery, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons.… Seguir leyendo »
President Putin’s endgame in Crimea is now clear — and the West has only a few days to act.
On Thursday, the Crimean parliament voted 78-0 to hold a referendum on March 16. The main question will ask whether voters want the region to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia. Previously, a referendum had been scheduled for March 30 on the less politically charged question of whether Crimea should have greater autonomy within Ukraine.
If, as expected, a majority endorses secession, the story will change overnight from one about Russia’s unprovoked military invasion to one about a minority’s right to self-determination.… Seguir leyendo »
As Russian President Vladimir Putin opens the Winter Olympics in Sochi on February 7, there will be relief hidden behind his characteristically guarded smile. For Putin, the past two years have witnessed a remarkable recovery.
Two years ago, Putin seemed to be on the ropes. Tens of thousands of Muscovites were flooding central squares to protest a parliamentary election they said had been tarnished by massive fraud. His approval ratings were in free fall, having dropped 15 points since December 2010, according to polls from Moscow’s Levada Center.
Internationally, Putin was also on the defensive. He appeared to have isolated himself by backing the wrong horse in Syria’s civil war.… Seguir leyendo »