Good article on Russia.
An astute student of his nation’s history, Putin has nevertheless failed to heed Kudrin’s warnings. Instead, like Nicholas II and Brezhnev before him, he has continued to reinforce the system he built. And the Russian president has introduced an additional element of uncertainty to the mix: With no clear successor in place, the system hinges on him, at least for now.
Putin’s reluctance to reform may be due to his grasp of the differences between the Russian Federation, the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire. Contemporary Russia, for example, isn’t interested in retracing the borders of the immense Russian Empire or Soviet Union as it works to influence nearby countries. The Kremlin understands its limitations well enough to know it can’t manage that many diverse lands and peoples. What’s more, it recognizes, despite its rhetoric, that outside powers aren’t trying to collapse the Russian Federation. Russia is the world’s 12th-largest economy, as well as one of its largest energy producers, and it holds one of the biggest nuclear arsenals on the globe. Its collapse would devastate the global system; instability in the country, moreover, could also re-ignite conflicts throughout the region, including in Chechnya, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Along with his knack for history, Putin has demonstrated his ability to evolve with Russia. Rather than overhauling his government, he will probably opt to keep cherry-picking reforms and introducing them alternately with repressive measures to keep instability at bay. He has picked up enough momentum by consolidating the Kremlin, the military and a large support base to keep the system moving for a while longer, perhaps even in his wake. Still, he knows as well as any Russian leader that nothing lasts forever.