President Putin’s domestic policies are inconsistent and unsustainable. Vladimir Putin’s statement that he wants to run for a fourth term was not unpredictable, writes Leonid Bershidsky in his column for Bloomberg View. Some Russian observers, however, for some reason thought that he was too drawn with this statement. Although it was predictable. Much less predictable is how the system built by Putin is going to “perpetuate” itself after 2024 of the year - the year when Putin’s last term in the Kremlin chair will end, and the Russian constitution will not allow him to become president again.
Putin’s third term turned out to be “the most important, even more important than the first, in 2000-2004, marked by economic reforms in the American republican style, a flat income tax scale, severely taming the oligarchs of 1990's and the memorable restructuring of the power vertical,” - writes columnist.
In the 2012-2018 years, Putin abandoned any claims to a joint political game with the United States and their European allies and tried to make the rest of the world understand: they say, Pax Americana ends. Here he has largely succeeded, the author continues. However, he neglected the main thing: the basis, the basis on which his geopolitical achievements should be built - he neglected Russia itself, “a huge, still poor, more and more cynical and potentially very angry country, about which Putin may have no idea ... "
Putin declares his great success outside of Russia. He “illegally annexed Crimea,” writes the journalist. The Kremlin "retained operational control" over the separatist "people's republics" in eastern Ukraine. Despite US objections, Putin helped his Syrian ally, President Bashar al-Assad, win the civil war. Now, at the end of 2017, it’s already clear that if Assad resigns altogether, he will not be overthrown, like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Putin’s successful intervention reworked the “map of relations” in the Middle East: Turkey was pushed aside from the Western alliance, and even Saudi Arabia is now looking for “good working relations” with Moscow. Putin also "gave hope" to non-liberal forces "across Europe." True, this year these forces could not win important elections, but they still remain useful allies for Putin. Finally, deservedly or not, Russia, in the minds of the Western elite, gained the image of a “hacker superpower”.
All this cost Russian dearly: Russia was thrown out of the G-8 and deprived of hopes of creating some kind of “greater Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. However, this did not turn Russia into a pariah for the rest of the world, primarily for China.
However, masterfully playing on the geopolitical board, the “feudal master” Putin was increasingly “absent from home”. Expert Gleb Pavlovsky expressed this best of all in his recent interview with Echo of Moscow radio: “For the world, this is Putin's Russia. And inside it is no longer Putin's, but post-Putin's, and all its main players are trying, as it were, to make their moves, arrange their pieces, accumulate potential by the time Putin has gone there. ” Pavlovsky thinks that Putin is unable to do this anymore. And Bershidsky agrees with him: indeed, if President Putin at the first and second terms in the Kremlin was a “competent micromanager, made all the important decisions,” then the current Putin “seems to have lost this ability.”
Putin’s loss of ability to rule is seen everywhere. One of the high-profile examples is the ongoing trial of former Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, against whom Putin’s close associate Igor Sechin, head of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft, “organized the operation”. The head of "Rosneft" was subjected to public humiliation, the author believes, because he was repeatedly summoned to court, and he had to dodge and invent excuses. Putin would not have allowed such an open protracted conflict in former times.
Another example is the “decisive independence” of Ramzan Kadyrov, whom Putin put at the time the head of Chechnya. His wealth, violent suppression of opponents and perseverance against conservative Islamic values in a secular state "are a constant challenge to the authority of Moscow," said the columnist. But here, Putin does not interfere.
Finally, the “expulsion of Russian officials” from the Winter Olympic Games also testifies to the weakening of Putin’s leadership. Of course, state propaganda organizations show this from the point of view of geopolitical "retaliation", but Putin could organize a "cleaning" at home and simply "throw out the officials" who were disgraced with doping and "the worst case participants in it". Putin did not even turn to "his old friend from the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach for support." This indicates Putin’s “relative indifference”.
During the third term, Putin’s country economically slid down, because “little was done to prepare Russia for an era of low oil prices.” The modest agricultural “boom” that has turned the country into a major grain exporter will by no means compensate for lost revenues from hydrocarbons. Putin "has repeatedly demonstrated a reluctance to push forward any bold changes."
Although Putin is still the most popular politician in Russia, Russians show a clear indifference to the March elections. According to the latest poll by Levada Center, Bershidsky continues, only 58% of voters intend to go to the polls and cast their votes. In 2012, the rate was 65,3%. There is one more “but”: Aleksey Navalny, “an anti-corruption activist and the only serious opponent of Putin,” is unlikely to be allowed to vote, and as a result he promised to actively participate in the boycott of the elections.
The statement about the desire to participate in the elections, made "in the Soviet style" during a visit to the plant in Nizhny Novgorod, continues to columnist, testifies to the lack of Kremlin ideas in the field of domestic policy. As a result, another question becomes important: the beginning of the active phase of the struggle for the "continuity" of power. New players are likely to appear immediately, as soon as Putin takes the presidency.
Yes, Putin turned Russia into the world's largest geopolitical player. However, his activity cannot be sustainable outside of “a coherent and successful domestic policy,” notes Bershidsky at the end of the article. Putin led the country, therefore, he “promoted an inefficient corrupt state,” where people, including those in the upper echelons of business and government, are simply trying to get a better job.
So what future Russia can arise on this basis? About this, Putin prefers to keep quiet.
The West is already thinking: what is waiting for Russia further, after Putin? Reviewer Natalie Nugayred in a British newspaper «The Guardian» even offered to develop a "plan" of new relations with Moscow.
Putin announced that he will run in March next year, and he has no serious competitors. So, there is another six-year term ahead. Where is Russia going, how to fight it? Such questions are asked by a journalist.
“Before 1991, hardly anyone could have predicted the demise of the Soviet Union; Today, almost no one risks predicting the end of Putinism, ”she mocks. Putin "fanned the flames of militaristic nationalism - both for the sake of strengthening his internal power, and for strengthening Russia's influence in the world." This fire burned well. But can it burn on?
American, European, and Russian experts are increasingly asking: can Russia continue to live like this further, with the revisionist power, which seeks revenge for its humiliation in the lost cold war? Most believe that yes, it will continue. Putin himself had no choice. After massive street protests in 2011-2012, he needed to find a basis for “new political legitimacy.” And the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 in Ukraine gave Putin just such an opportunity.
Today, Russia is “in a state of war” in Syria and in Ukraine, and this phase is not temporary. Russian society is embraced by “aggressive nationalism and anti-Western sentiment.” Russia "is not interested in resolving conflict situations and believes that the use of force is a key tool for achieving foreign policy goals," writes a columnist. Russia's GDP "may be the size of Italian," Putin is not able to diversify his economy, but he "compensates for this failure by increasing international prestige." In this way, he “distracts attention from internal weak points in Russia”. As a result, Putin is "in good shape," and intends to be in it "for a long time."
On the other hand, not everyone believes in it. Many analysts, although they are in the minority, believe that nothing in Putin’s system is "not sustainable." Putin is reminded in power of Leonid Brezhnev, who ruled the Soviet Union and drove him into a “strategic dead end,” recalls the columnist. By the end of the next term, Putin will be 71 a year already.
It seems that the Russian gerontocracy is not quite over yet. However, Putin will face the problem of “succession” in his “oil and gas state”, where the economy stagnates just as it did in the Brezhnev era. As at the end of 1980, world oil prices are low and are likely to remain so, the journalist writes. "The tidbit for the Russian oligarchic class" shrinks. The struggle with the ruling elite begins, and an example is the trial of the former minister of economics.
Meanwhile, the brain drain "deprives Russia of many young talents who emigrate simply in droves." Is Russia planning to crash?
How to resist such a Russia? If Putinism will act in its current form, it is necessary to fight Russia, the journalist is sure. The Western alliance must provide "all options" for the successful military confrontation of Russia in Europe.
On the other hand, if Putinism enters its last period, the author continues, it makes sense to get ready "for important changes in Russia." The proposal, "equivalent to the Marshall Plan," would put a barrier to Russian authoritarianism. To modernize and achieve stability, Russia will have no choice but to turn to Europe for support, this theory argues. When the time of the collapse of Putinism comes, Russia should be offered a “package of rapprochement with the West with harsh conditions, including the complete withdrawal of troops from Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova,” Natalie Nugayred summarized.
Russians, she writes, want to live in a normal society, and not under “pre-revolutionary paranoia, with widespread corruption.”
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Whatever Russia sees in the United States and Europe, one thing is clear: there is plenty of room for criticism, and considerable. Corruption has become a real scourge of the state, has penetrated into all spheres and pores, and there is nothing to dream about any victory over it. Navalny and his supporters have made themselves decent political capital for corruption. Do not be corruption-who would know about Navalny?
The TV continually mumbles about Syria and about Ukraine, and in between it feeds the audience with advertising and penny-TV shows. TV completely forgot about the bright future. What does it mean? There is no future? Does the country go nowhere? If, under the Soviets, people constantly talked about the coming communism, and comrade. Gorbachev even reached the heights of "developed socialism"; now the unifying idea is absent as such. Or should we take the principle of all-enrichment by the same corruption as an idea?
If the Soviet Union had great achievements in domestic social policy, which it was not a shame to boast to the whole world, then what can Russia boast about?
In 2012, Vladimir Putin recognizedthat in Russia “income differentiation is unacceptably high” and that 13% of citizens (about 18 million people) live below the poverty line.
2017 year: every tenth resident of Russia lacks money for food (VTsIOM survey results).
True? Is progress: from 13% - to every tenth? But no: this is just a poll. But the Rosstat data: following the results of 2016, the poverty level in Russia rose to 13,5%. Number of poor reached 19,8 million. And that is 300 thousand more than a year earlier.
What are some of the achievements of the Kremlin in 2024?