February 1st, 2012
05:10 PM ET

Russia's self-defeating game in Syria

Editor's Note: Jeffrey Mankoff is an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies Russia and Eurasia Program and a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City. 

By Jeffrey Mankoff - Special to CNN

Russia’s opposition to a new U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down should hardly come as a surprise. Reflecting a series of calculations about the Middle East as well as relations with the West, Moscow has staunchly backed Assad throughout the popular unrest roiling Syria over the past ten months. Yet by repeatedly stepping in to protect Assad from the wrath of his own people and his Middle Eastern neighbors, Russia risks not only a standoff with the West, but the loss of what influence it has left in the region.

Russian support for the Syrian regime - founded when Bashar al-Assad’s father Hafez seized power in 1970 - is still shaped in part by Cold War-era considerations. Hafez al-Assad’s Ba’ath Party (like its cousin in Iraq) portrayed itself as a force for socialist-style modernization. More importantly, it was staunchly anti-American and anti-Israeli, and quickly turned to the USSR as its principal source for weapons and military advisors. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Syria
A tale of two Russian protests
People stand on the tightly packed Bolotnaya Sqare during an authorized opposition protest against the alleged mass fraud in the December 4 parliamentary polls in central Moscow, on December 10, 2011. (Getty Images)
December 12th, 2011
08:10 PM ET

A tale of two Russian protests

Editor's Note: Jeffrey Mankoff is an adjunct fellow with the CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program and a visiting scholar at Columbia University in New York City.

By Jeffrey Mankoff – Special to CNN

On December 10, 2011, tens of thousands of mostly middle class Russians gathered on Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square to protest widespread allegations of fraud in recent parliamentary elections. As the police stood by, the protestors marched, held signs and called for real democracy in place of the imitation created under Vladimir Putin. They then peacefully dispersed. The protests offered a heartening example of popular mobilization in a country where politics have become increasingly virtual under Putin’s “managed democracy.”

They also ran counter to a long-standing belief that the only groups capable of mass mobilization in Russia are extreme nationalists. This argument is not wholly unreasonable. Almost exactly one year before the Bolotnaya Square protests, the scene in downtown Moscow was very different. On December 11, 2010, thousands extreme nationalists gathered outside the walls of the Kremlin on Manezhnaya Square to protest the killing of an ethnic Russian soccer fan by a Chechen. FULL POST

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Topics: Protests • Russia
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