Shadow Politics: The Russian State in the 21st Century

  • December 01, 1997
  • Dr Peter J Stavrakis

In April the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute hosted its Eighth Annual Strategy Conference at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The theme for the 1997 Strategy Conference was "Russia's Future as a World Power." For two days, scholars, military professionals, and policymakers from the United States, Europe, and Russia engaged in a very useful exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Dr. Peter J. Stavrakis, of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies, describes the emergence in Russia of a kind of oligarchic capitalism, controlled by old political elites, and thriving amidst an extra-legal "parallel shadow government." In short, rather than a Western-style free market plural democracy, Dr. Stavrakis contents that Russia's central power structures to date have derived from a fusion between corrupt government officials and private sector elites. Together they prey on the resources and the potentially productive elements of Russian society. Dr. Stavrakis paints an intriguing portrait of a Russian government that resembles the "weak" states of Africa more than those of Western Europe. He explores both similarities and critical distinctions between African systems and today's Russia. While the differences are telling, they do not auger well for a progressive Russian transition, either domestically or internationally.