Strategic Foresight Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Maria J. Stephan cowrites for Foreign Affairs with former Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor on whether striking truckers could usher in a Russian spring:
Across Russia, from St. Petersburg in the north to Volgograd in the south, truckers are on strike. They’re angered by a new road tax that they say is rooted in corruption and will bankrupt them. And so, some 200 long-haul drivers have disrupted roads for over two weeks and have vowed to take their motorized protest to Moscow unless the Russian government removes the tax, fires the transport minister, and fines the oligarch Arkady Rotenberg and his son, whose company was selected to collect the new fees.
In the region and beyond, similar movements that were catalyzed by grievances about corruption and involved diverse groups of protesters, including young people, professionals, and blue-collar workers, have toppled other regimes, including that of Viktor Yanukovych in next-door Ukraine. In his increasingly authoritarian rule, Russian President Vladimir Putin has often denounced such revolts, presumably fearing the same fate. Now he must be especially worried. Past protests in Russia have typically been confined to Moscow and attracted mostly liberal elites, so dissent from a blue-collar constituency hailing from the heartland can’t be good news.