David Satter: Why Russia is unstable, unpredictable, and dangerous

Wednesday, August 8, 2012
David Satter

David Satter, author, filmmaker, and former Financial Times Russian correspondent, addressed the Hoover Summer Archives Workshop on China and Russia. During the course of the workshop, Satter worked with Hoover archivists to catalog his Russia archive, which he has donated to Hoover.

In his talk, David Satter noted that, after twelve years of political passivity, Russians have begun to protest the abuses of the Putin regime. The protests were inspired by two events: First was the "castling” [chess term meaning to exchange the positions of the king and rook] of Putin and Dmitri Medvedev that raised the possibility of Putin’s remaining in office for the next twelve years. Second came the falsifying of the results of the December 4 parliamentary elections. Both events convinced many Russians that they were being ruled by a permanent leadership that they had little power to change. The actions of the regime, in the meantime, are only deepening the crisis. Medvedev had first responded to the protests by initiating a series of political reforms, including the direct election of governors, which he immediately began to withdraw, creating conditions for further confrontations. The lack of rule of law also facilitates capital flight and leaves the economy entirely dependent on the level of oil prices. Putin's use of nationalist rhetoric has served to heighten ethnic tensions. All these factors underscore the fact that we are now facing an unstable Russia, the internal and external behaviors of which are highly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.