Thursday, April 28, 2016

MillerComm Lecture Series: Putin’s Russia: The past and future of Kleptocracy

By Raphaela Berding

On Thursday, April 21, the EU Center co-sponsored the talk “Putin’s Russia: The past and future of Kleptocracy” given by Karen Dawisha, Walter E. Havighurst Professor of Political Science and Director at the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University in Ohio. Dawisha started her lecture by defining the term “Kleptocracy.” According to her, it is a system in which the risk is nationalized, and the reward is privatized. With regard to Russia it means that the immediate group around Putin wins, and the risk is taken for the sake of the Russian state. That being said, Dawisha went on to elaborating on various actors that care about the above mentioned situation. There are many actors in Russia that care; however, if they make their voice heard, they pay a price. The case of Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov who was murdered for being in an opposing position to Putin, can be seen as an example for how the opposition is dealt with.

Besides internal actors, there are also external, international actors who care about the Russian situation, namely the US and the EU. Dawisha mentioned the illegal annexation of Crimea in March 2014, after which the US and the EU used sanctions as a tool against Russia. Even though it was the first time in Europe after WW II that country borders had been changed with force, there was no military response. Instead the EU and the US sanctioned Putin’s circle. According to Dawisha, the EU and the US thereby signaled that they knew how Russia’s system worked, and this created mistrust within Putin’s circle.

Dawisha then went on to talk about the impact the Russian system has on the West. Russia contributes to weakening the international system because they pump money into the underground economy and weaken the post-Westphalian state, on which the Western countries are dependent.

Dawisha concluded her lecture by pointing out that the current situation in Russia did not occur because of an accidental process, but was already laid out in a document in 2000 which contained a plan for the system. For example, according to that leaked document every election under Putin was organized in such a way that the opposition did not have a chance. Dawisha also warned that the answer to the question “When did we lose Russia?” asked by every new US administration is “Russia lost itself.”

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