n.30 June 2010

Though 20 years have passed since the birth of post-Soviet Russia, citizens still look at institutions of power as controlling their judicial system. They defer to authority and laws they might not agree rather than risk taking on an  adversarial state they're convinced has rigged both justice and judges. An anachronistic view of what law means is partly to blame. So is poor legal training. Unless Russia is willing to overhaul the system, putting a premium on the value of private property, little is likely to change.

Despite Moscow's efforts to gag local media with assassinations and organized disruptions, the North Caucasus are beginning to rise up against Russia's postwar plans. In the word of one critic, the “Putin zigzag” in the region has run its course, putting Russia, whose troops are spread thin, on a collision course with catastrophe.

A recent deal between Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich cut Kiev's gas bills by 30 percent.In exchange, Russian got a new lease on the portof Savastopol and effectively ensured  Ukraine will be locked out of NATOfor decades to come. But all the political jockeying can't conceal a cold hard fact: Ukraine is in serious financial trouble and badly needs Moscow’s help to get out of a hole.

Hungary’s Civic Union (Fidez) was the runaway winner in recent national elections, taking power at the expense of the much-maligned Socialists. At the same time, the extreme rightist Jobbik party also posted significant gains. New Prime Minister Viktor Orbán faces the daunting task of consolidating his own party, enacting needed institutional reform, and keeping the IMF happy on debt repayment. In foreign policy, he must decide if the time has come for Budapest to change its longstanding hostility to Russia, which is now a force both in the region and internationally.