Ivan Krastev Discusses Russia and Europe in the Era of Trump
On Monday, October 30th, 2017, the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs hosted Ivan Krastev for its annual Distinguished Guarini Lecture in Political Science. Previous speakers in the series have included Theda Skocpol (2014), Leonardo Morlino (2015) and Joseph Nye (2016). Ivan Krastev is the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a permanent fellow of the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna. Krastev’s lecture was on Russia and Europe in the Trump Era. The event was moderated by John Cabot University Student Government’s president Katherine Kehoe.
Krastev began his lecture by pointing out that the United States and Russia perceive a sense of hostility and resentment from each other. For each of the two countries, accepting the power and influence of the other would mean reducing its own. The belief of being spied on by the other party exacerbates mistrust and impairs the relationship between the countries. For example, Krastev explained that Putin and the Russian elite are convinced that recent street protests in Moscow were organized by the American Embassy. Similarly, most Americans believe that Russian intelligence was involved in the US presidential elections of November, 2016. Krastev also observed that the Russian tactic of mirroring Western capabilities, including the development of cyber espionage and election meddling capabilities, is key to understanding contemporary power politics between these two great powers, and a modern version of geopolitical tit-for-tat. Krastev believes that Russia has (re)devised such a ploy to affirm its power status to China, another major country challenging US hegemony. He highlighted that Russia fears China because of its proximity and burgeoning economic might, which threaten Russia’s position as a world superpower.
Krastev also discussed Russia’s domestic policies, remarking that Putin has become an expert at “faking democracy” as a means to legitimize his authoritarian politics. Putin, for example, has effectively rigged Russian elections with the full support of the elite, but in a way that allows him to register support of opposition parties and popular opinion for his policies.
Krastev explained that Putin’s electoral victories create an impression of unity and cohesion among the people, and that is why systemic opposition cannot challenge his authority. Therefore, ethnic nationalists become the only real threat to Putin’s legitimacy since they have a greater capacity to destabilize the internal state of the country’s affairs. The question of who will eventually succeed Putin remains unanswered.