Russia, Elections, and 2005

by Nathan Hamm on 1/4/2005 · 2 comments

[Central Asia reflections and speculation below]

If you get a chance, read about Russia’s reactions to the December 26 elections in Ukrain and Uzbekistan (Baku Sun is pretty hit or miss). Because I can’t get to the article, I can’t give you direct quotes, but it more or less proves that Russia’s foreign policy establishment is sending its ambassadors to Htrae, and not our fair planet. Russia’s official view is that Uzbekistan’s election was fair and that Ukraine’s was extremely flawed because orange ribbons were visible on election day. It makes me wonder what they mean when they say there should be one standard for judging elections in the CIS.

Of late, many readers will notice that I’ve taken an increasingly dim view of Russia, especially when it comes to its foreign policy. If Putin feels the need to assert greater control in his own country, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. However, when he ramps up an aggressively intrusive campaign to bring his neighbors under his control, he starts to climb his way up the International Enemies of Freedom charts.

And the sad thing is that none of this behavior is really all that new. Certain parts of it–destabilization of Tajikistan, Georgia, and Moldova, for example–happened on Yeltsin’s watch. Fortunately, the world is starting to take notice largely thanks to the thousands of Ukrainians who demanded a fair chance to pick their own president.

2004 has been a disaster for Putin, and his administration certainly seems aware of that fact. So, what does 2005 hold?

In its look back at 2004, RIA says that Russia is bruised, weakened internationally, and to some extent at the mercy of Europe and the US, who may seek to punish Russia.

Newsweek says that Putin’s administration is worried about democracy flowering elsewhere on its fringes and that this will undoubtedly inform what path Russia takes in the CIS. In the same article, Lilya Shevtsova of the Moscow Carnegie center notes Putin’s pragmatism to argue that he will do what it takes to reassure the West that he is someone they can work with.

In EurasiaNet meanwhile, Sergei Blagov says that Putin will cultivate closer ties to the rest of the CIS. While Blagov seems to lean towards Central Asian states in particular being receptive to Putin’s overtures, I’m less convinced. Triangulation is the name of the game in Central Asian foreign policy, and as worried about public uprisings as Turkestan’s presidents may be, they also have seen what happens when a country lets Russia get too close.

Meanwhile, Blagov also notes that some Russian policy analysts are critical of the “triumph of emotions” post-Beslan in Putin’s foreign policy. And, if I had to put my finger on it, that’s about the time that Russia’s foreign policy went from mildly annoying to extremely troubling. We can only hope that 2005 will see improvement.

If you’ve got any predictions or insights, lay ’em on me. I’d love to hear them.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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