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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 2112

In Russia, a post-Soviet malaise;
The Kremlin prefers guns to butter

Edited by Amanda Azinheira
January 17, 2017

December 14: 

Satisfaction among Russians with their quality of life, the state of democracy in Russia, and the country's economy is today at record lows, a new survey of Russian opinion has found. As part of its "Life in Transition" project, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has polled households in 34 countries across the former Soviet bloc for more than a decade. However, 
Reuters reports, the EBRD's latest study of Russia returned strikingly negative results, with over 50 percent of those polled believing that a return to a dictatorship would be preferable to democracy, and only 15 percent of households indicating that they have a better quality of life now than before the Soviet collapse. 

The numbers represent a marked decline from the findings of the EBRD's 2010 survey, in which 30 percent of respondents in Russia expressed the view that their households were faring better than they had in Soviet times. Moreover, less than 10 percent of those polled in the latest survey said that their economic fortunes had improved over the past several years. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Given the effect of Russia's increasingly authoritarian political climate on pollsters and respondents alike, the results of public opinion surveys in Russia should be viewed with some caution.] 

December 15:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as part of a high profile state visit to Japan intended to improve relations between the two countries. Ties between Tokyo and Moscow, 
Reuters notes, remain tense, with the two capitals locked in a protracted dispute over the Kuril Islands - territories seized by the USSR during World War II. The islands have since remained under Kremlin control over Japanese objections, thereby serving as an ongoing irritant in Russo-Japanese relations. 

[EDITOR'S NOTE: While Russian officials sporadically pay lip service to the resolution of the Kuril issue, such a step remains unlikely because the islands retain significant strategic value to Moscow due to their proximity to Russia's oil- and gas-producing regions, as well as to Asian markets. To date, Russia has deployed 3,500 troops to the Kurils, and dispatched heavy artillery there in an effort to solidify its claims. Last year, moreover, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu signaled that the Kremlin is contemplating the construction of a naval base there.] 

December 16:

In spite of the increasingly dilapidated state of the national economy, the Russian government's focus on military modernization continues to persist. 
RT reports that, in a meeting with assorted military attaches, Valeriy Gerasimov, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, confirmed that the Kremlin plans to make further investments in the country's military capabilities - especially its nuclear arsenal - in the coming year. "We will continue to develop the Russian Armed Forces in 2017," Gerasimov confirmed, and "will pay particular attention to keeping our strategic nuclear forces at a level that would ensure the containment of aggression against Russia and its allies, meeting the parameters under the treaty on strategic offensive arms." 

December 17:

The United Kingdom has confirmed that it is facing a deluge of cyber attacks, fake news and propaganda instigated by Russia. British officials are convinced that the onslaught is part of an "unconventional propaganda war" emanating from Moscow, 
The Sun newspaper reports. However, the British government has yet to formulate a strategic response to the attacks. Prime Minister Theresa May is currently planning to a meeting of the country's National Security Council to discuss how best to defend the United Kingdom and its allies from Russian activities.

Related Categories: Russia; Russia and Eurasia Program

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