Since communism failed as an economic system, Russia and China have had to embrace free markets. But hopes that reform of communist economies would produce western-style democracies have been shaken.
Carnegie Senior Associate Michael McFaul takes on the conventional wisdom that Vladimir Putin's tight-fisted rule has been behind the economic growth and stability over the past seven years. "The emergence of Russian democracy in the 1990s did indeed coincide with state breakdown and economic decline, but it did not cause either," McFaul writes.
The intense personal conflict between Putin and Belarussian President Lukashenko has deepened. The underlying causes have existed for some time. There are two explanations as to why problems have erupted now. One is that the Kremlin lost patience with Lukashenko's insolence. The second is that Russian leaders want to eliminate this obstacle before Putin's successor comes to power.