On May the 7th 2018, Vladimir Putin was sworn in as the President of Russia. The re-elections in March brought Putin back with an overwhelming vote of 77%. This will be his 4th Presidential term and in all probability the final one as well. Hence, Putin will pull out all stops to resuscitate Russia and complete his mission of achieving the former Soviet glory. In his inaugural speech he promised to use this term to concentrate on domestic issues and raise the individual Russian’s standard of living. The confrontation with the West meanwhile still remains a focus area, but the special emphasis on the Russian economy in his speech cannot be missed. The challenges that lie ahead him are a stagnant Russian economy, declining birth rate and vital domestic development objectives – education, healthcare and freedom for entrepreneurs and scientists. He has also shed light on importance of traditional Russian values and ensuring as many births as possible in the coming years.
Domestically, Putin is the undisputed power figure of Russia- while speculations of Navalny turning to be his Achilles heel may gather wind; he has for the next six years rest assured that he is the Supremo where matters of Russia are concerned. Despite the tens of thousands who came out in protest against the election of Putin, the final poll figures indicate that the majority of Russia considers Putin to be their saviour and treat him as their Tsar. The Kremlin propaganda of projecting his image as a macho man who horse-rides on bare back and walks with a swagger all carefully constructed to feed the media and imagination have played well for Putin. His Crimean adventure the subsequent western economic sanctions and its woeful impact on Russia’s economy, alleged interference in the U.S election and other misgovernance did nothing to deter the public support. Hence, Putin has to now operate in payback mode by giving to his staunch supporters all what has been promised. Until now, the Russian narrative has always been anti-west with little scanty attention paid to growing economic discontent, corruption and poverty. With Putin’s address to redress these issues, we may expect a turnaround in Putin’s policy that will be charged with economic reforms. But, the question is will he adopt the much needed radical economic policies and risk disrupting the current status quo? The next big question is what after 2024? Who will succeed Putin? Even if Putin does a Jinping and changes the Russian constitution to extend his term or swap places with Dmitry Medvedev as he did previously, it is still unlikely that Putin would continue for long considering the age factor as well. So, who will Putin model to take over, seeing that there is no divisive figure in the opposition as well? The future of the Russian leadership has apparent holes that need to be filled in before the grand finale of Putin’s long career.
As for now, Putin has earned himself six more years of space in the global muscle flexing space and whilst he still reigns over the largest country on the planet the West, Middle-East and East all need to be wary of the penultimate moves that will be played now. Russia may no longer be a serious contender for global domination and in that respect the Soviet dream may never fructify, what with the Chinese superimposing itself everywhere today. Yet, Putin has to be credited with pulling Russia out of the dredges of Soviet collapse and its aftermath. Not without reason is he named the ‘most powerful man on earth’ by Forbes for four consecutive years. What is in store for Russia may yet have important implications globally. Putin has the last say and may he make well of it.
[ii] Peter Rutland, What Next? The Implications of Putin’s Re-election – Russia Matters (2018)