- It makes little sense for the Kremlin to use a nuclear weapon in a conflict that is not existential.
- Russia can lose this war — that is, the Ukrainian military could drive the Russians out — and the Russian state will survive. The Ukrainian army will not march on Moscow.
- A rational actor in this case would conclude that the risks and costs of using a nuclear weapon are simply too high.
- Putin seems a rational actor, though he also seems more emotional today than in the past, which may cloud his calculation of risks and costs. And he has made many miscalculations, beginning with his disastrous decision to invade Ukraine.
- Would he miscalculate again? That is the key unknowable.
- It is important to remember that Putin does not want a nuclear war. He wants Ukraine and the West to think he is prepared for nuclear war, hoping to intimidate them into backing down. Western leaders have to respond carefully but must also bear in mind the risks that ensue should they cave.
- Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus each received assurances in 1994 that once they handed over their nuclear weapons, they would be secure from attack.
- As a result, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus became Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) non-nuclear weapons states, because they agreed to give up the nuclear weapons on their territory.
- Ukraine’s Budapest Memorandum has been under assault by critics ever since the Russians seized Crimea and went to war in the Donbas in 2014.
- In truth, most outside experts do not give full-throated support to the notion that Ukraine should have held on to its nuclear weapons in 1994.
- If Ukraine had insisted on hanging on to its nuclear weapons, it would be isolated, unable to do business with the West.
- As a result, Ukraine bought itself three decades to become a sovereign state with a strong national identity and commitment to independence and democratic principles.
Is Putin Vulnerable? One Autocracy in Russia May Lead to Another.
Kathryn Stoner, Mosbacher Director of CDDRL
Washington Post, 9/27/22
- How do autocracies die? There are three basic paths: 1) democratic transition — the autocrat is ousted and democratically elected leaders are swept in by popular demand; 2) regime perpetuation — the autocrat is ousted by elites around him (or dies in office), and one of them replaces him; or 3) a new form of autocracy arises — the autocrat and those closest to him are replaced by a new set of autocratic elites.
- Despite a sudden increase in protests against the war, a popular uprising isn’t likely to end autocracy in Russia anytime soon.
- The challenge, however, is that no one would seem to be able to carry Putin’s personal authority. So while they would be the real power behind the throne, they might rely on a more crowd-friendly frontman.
- Comparative studies on the end of autocracies also tell us that the other most likely possibility for a Russia after Putin is simply a different, possibly milder, form of autocracy led by another group of elites.
- The best case under this scenario would be a less oppressive form of autocracy and perhaps a faster settlement to the Ukrainian conflict.
- The research, then, suggests that the odds are 3-to-1 in favor of Russia’s personalist autocracy being replaced by another autocracy — just without Putin.
Putin Can Escalate the War. But It Comes with Enormous Costs.
Michael McFaul, FSI Director
Washington Post, 10/13/22
- If the Russian armed forces continue to lose on the battlefield, the only way to end this war might involve putting someone else in power in Moscow.
- To date, the hawks in Russia are loud and public. But if the war continues to go badly, the voices quietly supporting suing for peace will grow. Tensions between the Russian military and intelligence services are already spilling into the open.
- Putin’s final escalatory move was to hint even more strongly at using nuclear weapons. President Biden’s recent comments on the specter of a nuclear Armageddon suggest that the U.S. intelligence community believes Putin’s threats are credible.
- And yet, if Putin were to use a nuclear weapon, that might also very likely deliver the final blow to his hold on power in Russia. No world leader would support him. The democratic world would be compelled to respond.
- It is hard to believe a majority of Russians would welcome the use of nuclear weapons against their Slavic neighbors.
- The best way for Putin to hold on to power is to end his invasion today. He could declare victory regarding the defense of Donbas, and then order his diplomats to settle into a long negotiation about the borders and political rights of those living in Donbas.
Xi Jinping and China's Future
In China, Xi Jinping is Getting an Unprecedented Third Term. What Should the World Expect?
Gi-Wook Shin, Director, Shorenstein APARC
Los Angeles Times, 10/20/22
- Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the country’s 20th party congress reveals a leader who believes he is on a historic mission to save China’s self-described socialism in the 21st century.
- He characterized his aim as “building a modern socialist country,” and he hopes to prove the superiority of socialism by 2049, with an implicit aim to surpass the U.S. by the centennial anniversary of the People’s Republic of China’s founding in 1949.
- U.S.-China relations are unlikely to improve in Xi’s next term. He has shown, time and again, that he differs from his predecessors, except Mao, in that he does not shy away from conflict with the United States.
- Xi has felt comfortable declaring that “the East is rising while the West is declining” and positioning the U.S. as a challenge to overcome on the road to the Chinese dream.
- China will probably strengthen ties with Russia, North Korea and other like-minded authoritarian nations, just as the U.S. is strengthening alliance networks in the region, including with Japan and South Korea.
- China’s economic challenges pose another hurdle for Xi’s long-term agenda. His rigid zero-COVID policy has limited growth and Xi has displayed a heavy-handed approach toward business, and if the Chinese start to blame him, it will erode his authority.
- With Xi still at the helm, we should expect a more aggressive China and increasing turbulence in the regional and global order.
China's Rural Policies
- China’s rural inhabitants are not living in poverty, but China's Communist party provides them with almost no means for social mobility — or any mobility at all, owing to the restrictive hukou residential permitting system.
- Enforcing a policy that is almost unheard of among the world’s countries, China divides its people from birth into two categories: urban and rural. This classification, codified in a residence permit, or hukou, typically stays with individuals for life and determines what type of education, health care, and other social services they can access.
- This substantial subset of the population poses a major long-term obstacle to China’s continued economic growth, just as consequential as more familiar factors, such as the country’s zero-COVID policy, regulatory crackdowns, and ballooning debt.
- There are no easy answers to China’s rural human capital problem, which is likely to affect the country’s growth prospects for decades to come.
- This problem exists just as Chinese President Xi Jinping has embarked on an ambitious bid to outcompete the United States in the next generation of leading technologies and to increase the world’s reliance on China’s manufacturing and technological prowess while reducing China’s reliance on the rest of the world.
- To achieve this vision in an era of slow growth, China’s leaders will need to marshal all the country’s resources as efficiently as possible.
- But several hundred million underemployed people over the next 20 to 30 years dims the likelihood of success, because paying off and controlling this segment of society will divert increasingly scarce resources from the dynamic sectors that Xi depends on to bring about his ambitious agenda.
Democracy and Policing in the U.S.
Beyond the Ballot Box: A Conversation About Democracy and Policing in the United States
Hakeem Jefferson, Affiliated Faculty at CDDRL
Annual Review of Political Science, 9/28/22 (co-author)
- Moving beyond common notions of democracy that focus primarily on voting and electoral participation, conversations need to take place about how American policing and the criminal justice system re-defines citizenship, redistributes power, and shapes marginalized people’s understanding of their place in society.
- The problem of policing and democracy is a complicated and messy one. We know and understand the long history of injustice and inequality that so characterize the experiences of marginalized folks at the hands of police, who, even in so-called democracies, engage in a form of authoritarian policing that sustains racial hierarchies and undermines human flourishing.
- The very pillars of democracy — such as attention to and responsiveness to public opinion — are the aspects of democracy that sustain this repressive and coercive and authoritarian state of policing that we have.
- The experiences of subjugation conditions and how people come to think about their place in society, and how they come to think about what it means to be a citizen in the countries where they live, create a perceived disposability in the minds of people when they think about U.S. democracy in the big picture.
- Social divisions in society maintain this system of inequality and policing.
- The political economy of the carceral state, such as economic conditions and contextual factors, give rise to a carceral state that’s violent and repressive. A "carceral state" involves a system of punitive orientations to social and economic conditions.
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