After Putin

After Putin

In Moscow last weekend more than 1,300 people were arrested during protests over the exclusion of opposition candidates from local elections. Anti-Kremlin activist Alexei Navalny was detained and then admitted to hospital amid suspicions he'd been poisoned. And Vladimir Putin? He was piloting a submersible to the bottom of the Gulf of Finland to check out the wreckage of a World War II Soviet submarine. Even from the bottom of the sea, the Russian president's hold on power appears secure.

We don't know when or how Putin will eventually leave the stage—his current term ends in 2024—but his declining popularity and long time in power have begun to prompt more speculation about what comes next. You can check out interesting examples here, here, here, here, and if you read Russian, here.

Russia's post-Putin future will depend in part on whether he remains the power behind the throne when someone like Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin or National Security Advisor Nikolai Patrushev takes his seat. Even if he does, challenges are sure to follow. Infighting and political uncertainty among the leading contenders could have a big impact on Russia's domestic policy, and maybe its foreign policy too—and well before any transition takes place.


Here are some things we can expect:

Almost immediately, a new president will try to assert his authority to ensure small challenges don't quickly become big ones. We can assume the security services and the military will keep their power and privileges, and others are unlikely to test the new leadership directly – at least not right away.

As time passes, the first tests will take place behind the scenes. Some of the men with guns will probe the balance of power within the security services. Powerful businessmen who've steered clear of politics under Putin will test to see if they can wield new influence, perhaps publicly.

People outside the circle of power will take new chances. Journalists who've avoided troublesome topics in Putin's Russia will want to know if the same rules apply. Opposition activists and ordinary citizens will test Kremlin patience by demanding the political and economic changes they think a leadership change should bring.

How might Russia's foreign policy change? Russia experts at a Washington-based think tank called the Free Russia Foundation recently argued that former Soviet republics Belarus and Kazakhstan will become "more likely targets for Russian meddling than any other country" because both are important buffer states for Russia, and neither has a formal security alliance with an outside power that can protect them.

What about China? The same authors wrote that over time, "Russia will become a Chinese satellite." They reason that US and European sanctions combined with an intensifying US-China rivalry will push Moscow and Beijing to see past their traditional mutual mistrust to work together more closely, but at a time when a widening economic disparity has swung the China-Russia power balance much more decisively in China's favor.

There's no reason to think Putin's time is short, but after nearly two decades in power, and at a moment when Russia's politics are becoming more complex, the speculation itself is something people inside and outside Russia will be watching.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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