ON MY MIND
Today marks the 18th birthday of the era of Vladimir Putin.
On August 16, 1999, the Russian State Duma confirmed Putin as prime minister by a vote of 233-84, with 17 abstentions. A week earlier, on August 9, Boris Yeltsin nominated Putin and anointed him as successor to the presidency.
A child born at this time would now be entering adulthood -- and would know no other leader than Putin (Dmitry Medvedev's interim placeholder "presidency" notwithstanding).
And if you believe, as I do, that the true era of Putin's rule began on August 16, 1999, then next month, the current Kremlin leader will surpass the longevity in power of Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union for 18 years and one month -- from October 1964 until his death in November 1982.
But as Grigory Golosov writes in a piece featured in The Morning Vertical earlier this week, the problem with the Putin era isn't just that it has been so long. In November, after all, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have been in office for 12 years (and, if you believe the polls, she appears headed for a fourth term).
The problem, Golosov writes, is that in addition to ruling for a long time, Putin has also ruled without the the checks and balances that constrain and limit the powers of leaders like Merkel.
"A democracy," he writes, "can afford to use the experience accumulated by individuals like Angela Merkel, without much risk of slipping into personal dictatorship."
Longevity plus unchecked power, on the other hand, leads to stagnation and autocratic rule.
IN THE NEWS
The bribery trial of former Russian Economic Development Minister Aleksei Ulyukayev, the highest-ranking government official to be arrested on corruption charges since the Stalin era, has started in Moscow.
Police in St. Petersburg have launched an investigation into an attack on LGBT activists and journalists after local lawmakers urged them to do so.
A Russian nationalist activist has been charged in absentia with making public calls for extremist activities.
Russian diamond giant Alrosa says rescuers have abandoned a search for four of eight missing workers at a flooded diamond mine in eastern Siberia. The search for the other four continues.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the "harassment" of reporters in Ukraine after security services raided the offices of an independent news website and a member of parliament criticized the head of the national press union for his response to the raid.
Russian social-network prodigy Pavel Durov has called on his fans to photograph themselves topless and post the pictures online as part of a flash mob poking fun at President Vladimir Putin's penchant for bare-chested photo ops.
WHAT I'M READING
New CSIS Report On U.S.-Russian Relations
Olga Oliker and Andrey Kortunov have a new report out for the Center for Strategic and International Studies: A Roadmap For U.S.-Russia Relations.
Exposing Fake News
BuzzFeed has a report looking at "a coordinated effort to spread false stories designed to inflame international tensions." According to the report, "a completely fake article, made to look as if it were published by The Guardian and containing explosive comments attributed to the former head of British intelligence, was likely created to serve as propaganda material for Russian media."
Why Zapad Matters
Chatham House's Keir Giles has a commentary for CNN looking at Russia's upcoming Zapad military exercises.
The National Guard One Year On
Mark Galeotti of the Institute for International Relations in Prague has a piece in the Dutch publication RaamopRusland looking at Russia's National Guard one year after its creation.
Five Prototypes Of Russian Leaders
In Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya outlines the five types of leaders who rule Russia.
On The Atlantic Council's website, Barbara Roggeveen of The University of Amsterdam argues that NATO needs to develop cyberoffense as well as cyberdefense capabilities.
Lessons From The Baltics
Political analyst Viktor Denisenko has a piece in Newsader on what the Baltic states can teach Russia's other neighbors about resisting Moscow's domination.
The Plight Of Russia's Technocrats
In Intersection magazine, Vladimir Gelman, a professor at the European University in St. Petersburg, looks at why technocratic reforms fail in Russia.
Russia's Post-2018 Economy
Also in Intersection magazine, Georgy Bovt looks at Vladimir Putin's economic options post-2018 and argues that "without reforms, economic sclerosis awaits."
The Battle Of The Russian Rappers
In Global Voices, Aleksei Kovalev looks at Russia's battle of the rappers, pitting Oxxxymiron against Gnoyny, and its political subtext.