Do authoritarian regimes engage in active export of their political systems? Or are they primarily concerned about their geopolitical interests? This article explores these questions by examining Russia’s policy towards Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Transnistria. In all three de facto states, Moscow is fully able to dictate election outcomes should it desire to, but, the autors argue, has increasingly refrained from doing so. These client states are unlikely to attempt to escape from Russia’s tutelage; and with its geopolitical interests fully ensured, Russia appears willing to grant them latitude. The authors then ask whether these findings can be extrapolated to serve as a template for understanding Russia’s policy towards its client states more generally, discussing Moscow’s reactions to attempted regime change in Armenia and Belarus.
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