On March 13, Foreign Policy at Brookings hosted Angela Stent, director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies; professor of government and foreign service at Georgetown University; and nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, for a discussion inspired by her new book “Putin’s World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest.” In this follow-up to “The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century” (2014), Stent examines present-day Russian motives on the world stage.
Stent offered remarks on Russia’s foreign policy under President Vladimir Putin and its ramifications for the United States, Europe, and the world. She then was joined by Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein Fellow in Brookings’s Center on the United States and Europe, and Keir Giles, senior consulting fellow in Chatham House’s Russia and Eurasia Programme and the author of “Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West” (Brookings Institution Press, 2019), for a discussion moderated by Strobe Talbott, distinguished fellow in residence at the Brookings Institution.
This discussion is part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative, which aims to build up and expand resilient networks and trans-Atlantic activities to analyze and work on issues concerning trans-Atlantic relations and social cohesion in Europe and the United States.
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.