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Russia’s Politicized Economy, Elite Dynamics and the Domestic–Foreign Policy Nexus

RUSECOPOL is an international research project analyzing the interdependence of Russian economy, politics and elite power relations. 


At first glance, Russian president Vladimir Putin may appear to be an omnipotent “tsar” who controls the domestic political and economic elite completely, and as a cunning foreign policy strategist. However, several signs point to his apparent lack of control. In the elite, there have always been conflicting interests, but the competition for power has become harsher as growth has receded the last few years. To generate growth, there is a need for reform, but reforms would change the power relations, threatening political stability. The countries of the Eurasian Union are subjected to Russian economic pressure, but this integration project is largely a failure. Putin, who often is seen as FSB’s man, has so little confidence in the security services that he has created a new National Guard subjected directly to himself. All of this is well known for specialists, but none have connected these developments in order to see how they influence the policies. Our team of Norwegian and international experts on Russian economy, politics and security services is determined to change this, asking the following research questions:


  • How do the business elite and the government influence each other? 

  • How are economic policies influenced by changes in the elite? 

  • How is foreign policy influenced by the elite’s composition and vice versa? 


Present-day Russia is governed by a loose coalition of elites with conflicting interests, but who are bound together by unwritten rules, prospects of financial gain, and with Putin as an arbiter. This arrangement is now under pressure due to Russia’s new international position, poor prospects of growth, and patriotic fervour. The elite balance is changing, and regardless of the outcome of the ongoing power struggle, this will influence Russian domestic and foreign policy profoundly.


RUSECOPOL is led by the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.


RUSECOPOL is funded by the Research Council of Norway under the NORRUSS Pluss call (grant no. 288428) and the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies.

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