Even if Putin didn’t know about the cyber initiative, what‘s truly important is that he is seen as omnipotent by the media and the politicians in the West. Perhaps the blame is undeserved, and Putin’s power is once again being overstated. But that’s the price you pay for creating a political system where everything hinges on the whims of one man.
President Putin has appointed military and security strongmen to be governors in three regions and removed an unpopular local leader in Sevastopol. He wants to tighten control ahead of the parliamentary elections.
Putin’s address was deeply conservative in content and artfully liberal in rhetoric. He frames being elected to the Duma as being elevated to the ranks of the chosen few. The right to be a Putinist is celebrated, and it’s out of the question that the institution might let in “irresponsible forces”: real threats to power.
War and terrorism have become increasingly routine facts of life in Russia. Since 2014, this reality has become an essential tool for stimulating popular support for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin’s performance at the annual nationwide “direct line” phone-in shows he is again prioritizing domestic politics. His answers signaled the start of a 2018 reelection campaign, as he presented himself not as the global strategist of last year but as a domestic manager once again concerned with ordinary people’s problems.
President Putin’s formation of a new National Guard gives him extra powers as a time of political uncertainty begins. It also helps him cut some strong individuals down to size.
Information about the views of the Russian elite, a segment of the population that has grown increasingly guarded and circumspect during the 2000s, is hard to come by. Nevertheless, aggregate data analysis suggests some conclusions about key features of elite opinion following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The system, its leader, and the popular majority formed after Crimea will survive the 2018 presidential election. The existing regime is incapable of democratization. At the same time, it is dangerous to ratchet up repression. The government is trying to encourage inertia, but this is becoming increasingly difficult after Crimea, Donbas, Syria, and Turkey. Aggression is self-perpetuating.
Whether Russia’s foreign policy achieves its objectives depends primarily on the success or failure of the country’s economic relaunch.
The appointment of a new head to Russia’s development bank VEB is an example of a new technocratic shift to deal with the economic crisis. These technocrats are generally proxies for powerful figures in the elite. Eventually, they could become an elite of their own.