Great Decisions Sparks Further Thought and Conversation

Dr. Ellen Carnaghan discussing her findings while studying the Russian election.

The Great Decisions Lecture Series of 2018 is meant to further conversations on important topics related to global issues. In the recent lecture by Dr. Ellen Carnaghan of Saint Louis University, St. Louis community members participated in critical thinking about not only Russia’s Foreign Policy but also the involvement of the United States in that foreign policy.

In the Webster-Kirkwood Times, the relevance of this topic on a local scale is discussed by Don Corrigan. His article on the American’s waning wariness of Russia brings a globally focused topic back to St. Louis in a way that encourages community members to think about their actions, involvement, and attitudes towards both Russia and their local politics.

As the goal of Great Decisions Lecture Series is “inspiring learning about the world”, the local engagement of citizens in global issues as a result of conversations about Great Decisions topics is the epitome of inspired learning.

SLU Professor reports on Russian Elections

Dr. Ellen Carnaghan

“How did it look to have an elections where everyone knew what the outcome would be?”  That’s the question Dr. Ellen Carnaghan of Saint Louis University wanted to answer by visiting Russia during the March 18 presidential elections.

She shared details of her trip as part of the World Affairs Council of St. Louis’ Great Decisions series April 5.  One example of the strangeness:  The presidential debates, which often devolved into shouting matches between the challengers to President Vladimir Putin, reflecting badly on all involved.  Putin, meantime, stayed above the fray, “looking presidential and doing presidential things” in state-controlled media coverage.

Putin as expected won handily, but his victory might not be fully satisfying, Carnaghan said.  “Autocrats seem to be secure in their regimes to outside observers but they don’t FEEL secure,” she said.

“Regimes near him have fallen,” she said, noting the Rose Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004 and Euromaidan unrest in 2013-14.  She said Putin’s regime is vulnerable on issues such as corruption, a potential economic downturn or unseen popular sentiment.

Operating in Putin’s favor: The GDP of Russia has grown during Putin’s regime and with it, the living standard of most Russians.

Also operating in his favor: Control of the press allows Russia to shape opinions of the unrest in Ukraine and assertions of Russian interference in U.S. elections.

On that topic, she said the U.S. response has been rather mild: sanctions and the expulsion of diplomats.

In general, “the checks and balances that we political scientists know are important don’t exist in Russia,” she said. “There’s no free press and no independent judiciary.” Both factors were crucial to controlling the March election and assuring Putin a third six-year term.

Great Decisions: Russia’s Foreign Policy

The fifth event for this 8 part series is on Thursday, April 5th.  The topic is: Russia’s Foreign Policy

The schedule for this event is:

12:00 Noon to 12:15 PM: Introduction of moderator and showing of portions of the FPA Video for the topic being discussed.
12:15 PM to 12:45 PM: Remarks by the moderator
12:45 PM to 1:15 PM: Q&A followed by a brief summation

Light refreshments, consisting of coffee and cookies, will be available to all participants in the meeting room at no charge.

Parking is free and convenient, located in the rear of the building on the north side. The parking lot is accessible from Clayton Road.