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Geopolitics

Could Ramzan Kadyrov Be Putin's Successor?

The Chechen strongman is reaching outside his native territory to affirm his power, and test his ambitions. At 69, Vladimir Putin shows no signs of settling down, but he won’t live forever.

Photo of Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov sitting at a desk with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in in Moscow

Kadyrov and Putin meeting in Moscow

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

Among Vladimir Putin’s infamous neighborhood friends, Ramzan Kadyrov holds a special place.

Some compare the Chechen strongman to Alexander Lukashenko, who has led an authoritarian regime in Belarus for more than 25 years. Though on occasion the 67-year-old Lukashenko has challenged the Kremlin on certain domestic and regional questions, his role — and limits to his power — are ultimately set by Putin. Nobody was surprised, in fact, when Lukashenko quickly fell into line to join forces with Russian troops at the Belarus border with Ukraine, as part of what may be an imminent invasion.

All is not so simple with Kadyrov. The 45-year-old is the unchallenged and ever-unpredictable ruler of the Republic of Chechnya. Though Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, and was the source of two bloody separatist wars since the end of the Soviet Union, Kadyrov today enjoys near absolute latitude to run his territory as he sees fit, which is increasingly more brutal and utterly intolerant of opposition voices.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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