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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2162

Flying Russia's unfriendly skies;
Generational change among Russia's governors

Edited by Amanda Azinheira, Evelyn Johns and Jack Verser
October 23, 2017

September 26:

Concerns over Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election largely miss the threat posed to civil society organizations that facilitate communication between people and their government,
writes Foreign Policy magazine. With most criticism directed at e-mail hacking, social media influence, and collusion between individuals, little attention has been paid to date to how Russia exerts influence on other countries by eroding trust in think tanks, research institutes, and advocacy groups. Scholar Joseph Nye has described Russia's use of information warfare to weaken enemies as "negative soft power."

The goal of these efforts is hardly new, the magazine notes. However, the methods for doing so are. Efforts to foster better cybersecurity practices in the private sector, as well as to punish cyberattacks, will be necessary to prevent such meddling from being a regular occurrence, experts say. Former National Security Agency Deputy Director Richard Ledgett observes that "nothing that happened since 2016 to them [that...] provides them any disincentive to do it again."

September 27:

U.S. diplomats are increasingly frustrated over Moscow's failure to fully comply with the Open Skies Treaty, an agreement between 34 nations allowing for unarmed observation flights over fellow signatories' territory.
Newsweek reports that the U.S. State Department has complained that, since 2015, Moscow has obstructed American jets from flying as low as is permitted by the treaty in several key regions of Russia. According to an unnamed U.S. diplomat, Moscow's subjective compliance with the Open Skies Treaty "is part of a gradual breakdown in relations" between Russia and the West, with Moscow's ultimate goal being to "renegotiate the European security relationship."

Russia, meanwhile, is claiming legal complexity. Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry's Department for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, has confirmed that the U.S. has voiced its concerns with Russia on this matter. However, he contends that "the treaty is very complex," and that "[i]ts demands are not always up for only singular interpretation, and that is why it is necessary to require compromises." Ulyanov further added that Russia will consider "responsive measures" if the U.S. imposes restrictions on Russian flights.

September 28:

The Moscow Times reports that, according to the latest survey carried out by the independent Levada polling center, the political mood in Russia is increasingly restive. The study found that one quarter of the 1,600 Russians polled across the country back in September believe that protests over declining living standards could take place in the near future. The proportion of Russians holding this view, moreover, has been increasing over time, rising six percent since earlier polls that asked the same question this past spring. Eighty percent of respondents, however, said they would not personally participate in such protests, with only 14 percent saying they would.

[EDITORS' NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.]

The Gulf Times reports that the "rotation" of gubernatorial positions in Russia's government continues, as Soviet-era regional leaders across the country are being replaced with technocrats of a younger generation. Russia's Putin-backed supermajority party, "United Russia," swept regional elections earlier this month, and a shake-up has followed. The resignations of four governors has already been announced, with the Interfax news agency reporting that eight more will potentially follow. According to Russian policy analyst Nabi Abdullaev, these rotations are not intended to generate increased public support, but rather to maintain gubernatorial loyalty to the Kremlin while bridging the generational gap between constituents and the government to increase government efficacy.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program; Ukraine

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