Watching Bill Barr rail against an “unremitting assault” by “secularists and their allies”, or Trump rage that “Democrats want to rip babies from their mother’s wombs“, what bothers me is not Barr and Trump. It’s the millions of people – at rallies or at home – nodding along.
By most accounts, United Russia is finished.
I suppose that’s not surprising, given that it was never really expected to last even this long. Cobbled together in 2001 through the merger of the Unity and Fatherland All Russia Parties — which themselves had been cobbled together by various Kremlin factions only a few years earlier — United Russia won its first Duma elections in 2003. Prior to 2007, no other ‘Party of Power’ in Russia had survived to contest two consecutive Duma elections. It has been the dominant force in Russian politics ever since, enjoying the unfaltering support of the Kremlin.
But not any more. While Putin’s own ratings have barely been touched by five years of economic hardship, the same cannot be said for United Russia. Widely seen as the ‘Party of Swindlers and Thieves‘ — a monicker promoted by opposition leader Alexei Navalny — United Russia has scraped by on a combination of electoral manipulation and ‘administrative resource’. But the final indignity came in yesterday’s regional elections, as Kremlin-backed candidates throughout the country were forced to run as independents, to avoid the stench emanating from the ostensibly ruling party. And even that didn’t help very much.
The following is the Editor’s Note from Vol. 55, Issue 6 of Russian Politics & Law.
All of the articles in this issue of Russian Politics and Law hail from the venerable Russian-language journal Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia – World Economy and International Relations – published by the equally venerable Russian Academy of Sciences institute of the same name, better known at home and abroad by its acronym, IMEMO. For academics in the field of international relations, there is no more prestigious journal in Russia.
The articles presented here are not particularly academic, however – although their authors are serious, well-established scholars. Absent from all of them is theory: the reader will find no discussion of constructivism vs realism, or world systems of the global political economy (though the authors’ theoretical assumptions and biases can, of course, be read between the lines). Rather, each piece represents an attempt to come to terms with where Russia finds itself in the world today and where it might be headed.