September 26, 2022

Russia, Iran, and the Perils of Post-autocracy

By Robert D. Kaplan

Sometimes a news cycle constitutes more than just noise. It provides a loud, uncanny signal about what may lie beyond the horizon. That happened this month, when a more hopeful, dangerous, and radically different geopolitics came into view. Within literally a few days of each other, we have witnessed the near-collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine and the humiliation of a regime in the streets of Iranian cities.

Neither the Russian nor the Iranian regime is now specifically threatened. Each could hang on for years. But this month provided a glimpse of their eventual demise.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s soldiers revealed themselves to be little more than a mob on the move, having tortured and mistreated the civilians under their control, they abruptly abandoned their positions and literally ran away from advancing Ukrainian forces. Putin’s fascist-trending national security state may be turning to ashes. His threat of nuclear war only reveals that autocratic regimes are at their most dangerous in the years before they expire.

As for Iran, the regime’s disrepute among its own subjects has been on full display, with massive protests engulfing dozens of cities and crowds demanding the end of the Islamic Republic. The rage, spread by social media, was ignited by the death at the hands of the so-called morality police of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who had been detained for not properly wearing her hijab. But the fuel was decades of repression and corruption, and a ruined economy.

Read the full article from Project Syndicate.

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • November 18, 2022
    Taking on China and Russia

    Today Washington has chosen, perhaps by default, to compete with—and if necessary, confront—both Russia and China simultaneously and indefinitely....

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • November 16, 2022
    Russia’s Withdrawal from Kherson, with Mike Kofman and Mick Ryan

    Last week, Kiev reached an important milestone when Russian troops withdrew from the city of Kherson. This retreat has both strategic and symbolic significance, given that Khe...

    By Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Michael Kofman & Mick Ryan

  • Commentary
    • November 2, 2022
    Sharper: The Future of Russia Relations

    While the recently released U.S. National Defense Strategy names the People's Republic of China as the greatest pacing threat facing the United States, Russia poses the most i...

    By Anna Pederson

  • Commentary
    • October 19, 2022
    Sharper: The State of AI

    The U.S. government's recent chip export controls are the latest salvo in the U.S.–China rivalry in artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are a key input for AI systems and ...

    By Anna Pederson

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia