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The domestic politics of Putin

This book shows the impact of twenty-first-century security concerns on the way Russia is ruled. It demonstrates how President Vladimir Putin has wrestled with terrorism, immigration, media freedom, religious pluralism, and economic globalism, and argues that fears of a return to old-style authoritarianism oversimplify the complex context of contemporary Russia. Since the early 1990s, Russia has been repeatedly analysed in terms of whether it is becoming a democracy or not. This book instead focuses on the internal security issues common to many states in the early twenty-first century, and places them in the particular context of Russia, the world's largest country, still dealing with its legacy of communism and authoritarianism. Detailed analysis of the place of security in Russia's political discourse and policy making reveals nuances often missing from overarching assessments of Russia today. To characterise the Putin regime as the ‘KGB-resurgent’ is to miss vital continuities, contexts, and on-going political conflicts that make up the contemporary Russian scene. The book draws together current debates about whether Russia is a ‘normal’ country developing its own democratic and market structures, or a nascent authoritarian regime returning to the past. Drawing on extensive interviews and Russian source material, it argues that the growing security factor in Russia's domestic politics is neither ubiquitous nor unchallenged. It must be understood in the context of Russia's immediate history and the growing domestic security concerns of many states the world over.

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in Securitising Russia

For most of the twentieth century Russia was markedly more authoritarian than it is today. Nonetheless, many observers of Russia in the first decade of the twenty-first century see a country increasingly moving back to authoritarianism, in comparison with the democratising moves and mood of the 1990s. This chapter places developments in contemporary Russia within the empirical and analytical contexts of the post-Soviet period. There is an apparent duality about both of these contexts, and this duality is centred on the issue of democratisation. Since President Putin's election in 2000, many observers have remarked on the ‘two faces’ of Vladimir Putin — is he a democratic or an authoritarian leader? Legitimate though this question undoubtedly is, this chapter argues that its inherent duality arises partly from the dominant analytical frameworks of the post-Soviet era, and militates against a more holistic and explanatory understanding of the current Russian regime. It also outlines the securitisation approach and assesses its applicability to domestic politics in contemporary Russia, focusing on areas such as security and the Chechen conflict, economic policy, and migration policy.

in Securitising Russia
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This chapter explores the role of the siloviki (that is, personnel from the ‘force structures’ or ‘power ministries’, chiefly the security services, the armed forces, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs) in Russian political life. It analyses the degree to which Vladimir Putin's administration has acted to boost the role of the force structures in Russia in the public space, concluding that the picture is not so straightforward as is often portrayed. It argues for a stronger emphasis on existing policies and procedures than on conclusions based simply on the provenance of individual politicians and officials. This chapter also investigates the perception that there is a clear divide between the eras of Putin and Boris Yeltsin in regard to the role and influence of siloviki in Russian politics and civil society. In regard to the question of the ‘spy-mania’ often cited as having developed during the Putin presidency, the chapter shows that this phenomenon also has its roots almost totally in the Yeltsin era, and indeed that some improvements in this regard can be found under Putin.

in Securitising Russia

In September 1999, Russian federal forces moved into the Republic of Chechnya, a constituent part of the Russian Federation located in the North-Caucasus region. This military campaign came to be known as the second Chechen war, following on from the first Chechen war of 1994–1996, and an uneasy period of peace and de facto self-rule lasting for three years between 1996 and 1999. The existence of conflicting discourses in relation to the situation in Chechnya illuminates well the way in which Vladimir Putin's government, and particularly in this case Putin himself, have consciously used the discourse of securitisation in some settings, at the same time as employing the conflicting discourse of ‘de-securitisation’ or ‘normalisation’ in others. International criticism of Russia's actions in the republic has been countered by the insistence that the Chechen conflict is a key part of the war against terrorism. After describing Russia's counter-terrorism in Chechnya, this chapter discusses Putin's commitment to political normalisation through the support of accelerated reconstruction, social provisions, and economic recovery.

in Securitising Russia
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Fears about the deterioration of press freedom in Russia during the presidency of Vladimir Putin have been widely discussed since his election in March 2000. Concerns with regards to adverse developments of press freedom under Putin have been voiced particularly about the closure of independent broadcast and print media outlets in recent years. This chapter discusses developments in the sphere of mass media and information in Russia under the Putin leadership through the framework of securitisation. First, it discusses media coverage of terrorism and elections and looks at government attempts to securitise such coverage. It then considers the secrecy of policy making in the media sphere and examines the obstruction of the activities of commercial and foreign media in the country. The chapter concludes that ‘behind the scenes’ involvement of security forces in the handling and regulation of the media sphere seems to have made a considerable contribution to the securitisation of the media sphere and to the perception that media freedom in contemporary Russia is deteriorating.

in Securitising Russia
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Beginning with the religion law of 1997, and progressing through laws on social organisations, political parties, extremists, migration, foreigners, the media, and political demonstrations, the Russian state has tightened up its control of civil society in recent years. According to Aleksandr Gurov, a current member and former chairman, the Duma Committee for Security considers the concept of national security in the widest sense. This chapter examines securitisation in contemporary Russia as a specific feature of domestic policy-making. It focuses on the use of the securitisation discourse to convince key audiences — policymakers, legislators, and the general public — that particular policy areas are legitimate security concerns and therefore require special attention, oversight, and control. The first example of a securitisation discourse in a specific area of civil society in contemporary Russia is in relation to religion and, specifically, the Law On Religious Associations passed in 1997. As part of its analysis of Russia's securitisation efforts in the areas of spirituality and extremism, this chapter also discusses other legislation on civil society including the Law On Combating Extremist Activity enacted in 2002.

in Securitising Russia
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In contemporary Russia, official discourse on migration has focused on the portrayal of illegal migrant labour as an existential threat to the national economy. Speaking about the impact of illegal migrant labour on unemployment figures, President Vladimir Putin pointed to migration as one of the most serious problems facing the far east of Russia, where an influx of foreign workers, primarily Chinese, has been deemed responsible for pushing locals out of the labour market. Putin unequivocally asserted that the right to work must be guaranteed first of all to all Russian citizens. Another strand of Russian securitising discourse relating to migration exposes an explicit correlation of migration with crime in a broader context. There is one further aspect related to migration policy in Russia: the demographic crisis which the country is facing in the early decades of the twenty-first century. The main governmental institution in charge of implementing migration policy in contemporary Russia is the FMS. This chapter explores Russia's migration policy carried out in recent years within the framework of securitisation and normalisation.

in Securitising Russia
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In the USSR, concerns about security in relation to the economy were institutionalised. With the partial exception of the final years under Mikhail Gorbachev, it was accepted as normal that security considerations exerted a strong influence on economic policy and on the public presentation of the economy, in terms of statistics, to both Soviet citizens and the outside world. With the end of communist rule and the planned economy in Russia at the end of 1991, the institutionalised regime of economic security, already weakened by the Gorbachev reforms, effectively collapsed. This chapter contextualises the securitisation debate in relation to the economy, focusing on the question: Is the economic policy of contemporary Russia being securitised? It also examines the renewed interest in economic security under Vladimir Putin; looks at the scandal involving Aleksei Pichugin, head of the department of internal economic security of the Yukos oil company; discusses the ‘securitisation’ of Russia's military economy; and comments on the rise and fall of ‘economic security’ in the country.

in Securitising Russia
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This book has analysed a number of different aspects of Russia today through the prism of security. Using the securitisation approach developed in the sphere of international relations, it has considered contemporary Russian domestic politics in relation to Chechen separatism, the media, terrorism, religion, political parties, nationalism, migration, and the economy. Although there are of course connections between these policy areas — some more so than others — each chapter can be read on its own as an overview of policy development in its designated field, with an emphasis on the role that security concerns have played in the creation and implementation of policy. This concluding chapter brings together these mezo-level analyses into a macro-level assessment of contemporary Russia. In essence, it asks how accurate it is to portray Russia under Vladimir Putin as a country where policy-making is dominated by security.

in Securitising Russia