Putin’s power

By Reinout Huizer

Russia’s political landscape is changing and the political asymmetry shifting. Over the past decade Vladimir Putin has been expanding his power and he has been redesigning the institutions in order to do so. Putin has served two terms as prime minister and currently is in office as the president of Russia for the second time. It has been argued that the increase in power of an actor is closely related to path dependence. Vladimir Putin is paving a one-way street with him leading its direction, his direction.

The allocation of political authority to particular actors, Vladimir Putin in the case of Russia, is a key source of positive feedback. In Politics in Time Paul Pierson argues that positive feedback can be seen as a form of path dependence and that one should focus on the dynamics of self-reinforcement in political processes. Looking at the self-reinforcing dynamics in Russian politics the focus is directly on the changes and decisions Putin has made.

Putin has been trying to strengthen the federal government. He has tried to change the balance between the center and periphery by shifting the power to the Kremlin. By reducing the political asymmetry regional power will be reduced. This change has had serious effects on local communities because they lost power and with that their voice to speak up. The centralization of the Russian government has reduced the influence of smaller political entities (or opposition) something that is favorable for Putin.

To conclude, due to its current leader Russia’s power relations are becoming more and more uneven. Based on the theory of positive feedback these power asymmetries will continue to increase and power relations will become less visible. In other words, Putin will gain more power and use it in order to sustain and strengthen his position. 

21st century colonialism

By Reinout Huizer

The world’s population is rapidly growing and will continue to do so. Due to the increasing middle class in many countries consumption rates have gone up. Land is scarce and in order to fulfill the needs of this growing group companies and governments are buying and leasing land in the developing world. Countries sell or lease out their land in order to stimulate development, but in most instances this is not the result. Contrary to what the host countries are expecting products are exported out of the country and leave the local population empty handed. Is colonialism a term of the past?

Extracting resources from a country is not a new concept and has been done on an extreme scale during the colonial era. Towards the end of this era colonizers wanted to make as much profit as possible and in order to do so they exploited the countries they had claimed. Nowadays countries are not able to produce enough food on their own territories and to meet the level of consumption they look across the border. In 2009 Saudi Arabia exclusively produced for the Kingdom itself in Ethiopia, where at the time being the population was suffering due to famine. This example clearly illustrates that this modern-day land grab is purely based on the self-interests of foreign investors.

Ethiopia is not the only country that has given up its land, countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have signed contracts that only profit the twenty-first century colonizers.

The majority of these deals will harm the developing countries in the future and only provide them with money and do not stimulate their long-term development. Because foreign governments are involved in this process it can be argued that colonialism is still present today and that the second scramble for Africa has started.