Putins Quest for Control in the Former Soviet Empire

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Washington, DC (March 14, 2018) — In a just released monograph, Dr. Leon Aron, director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is joined by leading scholars and experts on the Russian military, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Latvia, and Moldova in an analysis of Putin’s goals and behavior on the eve of his reelection. He and his coauthors conclude that the threat Putin’s Russia poses to Central Asia, Europe, and beyond is all too real.

In this collection of essays, the authors assess the likelihood and shape of potential Russian intervention in neighboring countries, Putin’s pursuit of what he views as his historic mission to restore Russia’s regional hegemony, how he is securing his regime’s legitimacy with patriotic mobilization, and what he is doing to continue his project of destabilizing trans-Atlantic unity.

In particular, the AEI study To Have and to Hold: Putin’s Quest for Control in the Former Soviet Empire combines detailed regional, military, and political analyses to address the following key points:

  • Putin may attempt to fan the flames of patriotism by intervening against his neighbors to bolster his own legitimacy at a time of economic stagnation. Putin is also motivated to right what he views as the historic wrong of the fall of the Soviet Union by recovering some of Russia’s former geopolitical assets.
  • Putin’s decision to intervene in the post-Soviet states will likely be determined by three factors: each state’s symbolic importance, geopolitical significance, and unique domestic vulnerabilities that Russia could exploit.
  • Under Putin, Russia seeks to keep Ukraine within its privileged sphere of influence and is unlikely to let the present semi-frozen conflict continue indefinitely. Moscow could engage in additional covert or overt efforts to destabilize and eventually dislodge the pro-Western regime in Kiev.
  • Potential succession crises in Belarus and Kazakhstan could prompt Putin to intervene. Belarus’ political and economic dance between Russia and the West could eventually become intolerable, and Kazakhstan’s unstable neighbors and potential for militant Islamism could provide pretexts for intervention.
  • In Moldova, Latvia, and Estonia, Russia could employ a hybrid strategy of aggression, combining support for pro-Russian politicians and the use of economic levers. The Baltic States face a direct military threat that Moldova does not, although Moldova’s rampant corruption and Russia’ deep political, economic, and religious influence create numerous weaknesses for Putin to exploit.

To interview the authors, or for a copy of the book, please contact Charlotte Kearney at [email protected] or 202.862.5904.

The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is a public policy think tank dedicated to defending human dignity, expanding human potential, and building a freer and safer world.

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