NEWSWATCH: “How Russia’s Economic Recession Benefits Moscow Politically in its ‘Near Abroad’ [Excerpt]” – PONARS Eurasia/Mariya Omelicheva

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Mariya Y. Omelicheva is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kansas.

“Over the short run, Russia’s acrimonious relations with the West are serving the Kremlin’s broader effort of heightening its influence in its ‘near abroad.’ In 2014, Russia was hit by a triple whammy of low oil prices, Western sanctions, and Moscow’s counter-sanctions. During the following year, Russia’s economic problems spread to states that have close economic, demographic, and political ties with it. However, a combination of drivers -risks of political instability and economic volatility in regional states, U.S. disengagement from the region, EU internal divisions, and Chinese regional projects not hiring as many locals as envisioned – has been forcing many post-Soviet states to cooperate more closely with Moscow. The Russian leadership has made it clear that it champions political stability above all and that despite Russia’s budgetary problems, it is willing to provide military and security guarantees to regimes in the post-Soviet space ….

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Conclusion

Economic volatility is a destabilizing threat to the region’s authoritarian regimes. Their primary concern is with political instability under the shadow of potential high public resentment. Assistance measures from the EU and United States are not in the offing and views in the region toward China are mixed after a period of high hopes. Russia’s acrimonious relations with the West are a particular problem for regional states, which are propelled to cooperate more closely with Moscow due to their lack of alternatives and the Kremlin’s unabated outreach.”

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