Is Putin on his way out?
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Thursday, April 6th, 2017 @ 9:01PM
The demonstrations that followed opposition politician Alexei Navalny’s expose online of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev‘s vast corruption raised little concern in the parliament, which rejected Russia’s Communist Party’s request to probe Medvedev’s wealth.
The Prime Minister shrugged off the allegations. However, he is far from being popular in Russia, while Putin’s popularity is soaring.
According to Gullp’s December 2016 survey, Russia’s economic and corruption problems are not attributed to Putin. “More than eight in 10 Russians (81 percent) in 2016, said they approved of the job Putin is doing,” said the report. With such popularity, expect Putin, who describes his presidency as “service to the Fatherland” to run for his fourth term as president in next year’s election. He may even scarify Medvedev to satisfy the public’s demand to curb the State’s corruption. After all, Putin has been successfully using corruption as a strategy in domestic and often foreign affairs for the past 17 years. Nonetheless, to many Russia observers, the recent demonstrations are a sign of the public’s growing dissatisfaction with Putin. As former Director of CIA, R. James Woolsey put it, “Putin has taken things back, maybe not all the way to Ivan the Terrible, but to, say, Nicholas II on a bad day.”
While Putin faces many problems, the U.S. Tomahawk missiles’ retaliation attack on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base and American declarations that it was Russia’s complicity or inability to stop Assad’s chemical weapons attack that killed at least 85 men, women, and children in Khan Sheikhoun, offered him a new opportunity to defend Russia’s honor and demonstrate his leadership’s skills. Russian Patriotism is in his favor and is likely to increase Putin’s popularity at home.
“What Will Follow Putin?” asks Norman Bailey, Professor of Economics and National Security, The National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa. “From the lower depths of despair (and the offices of the KGB) Vladimir Putin emerged. Putin reestablished despotic control internally and externally executed a series of brilliant maneuvers to restore the status of Russia in the world. He used all the instruments of statecraft: diplomacy, propaganda, economic measures, subversion, military display and war (in Georgia and Ukraine).
Operating at a time of pathetically weak Western leadership in Europe and the US, Putin took advantage of a series of opportunities to make Russia a major factor in the Middle East, turned the Black and Baltic Seas into Russian lakes, and established a significant strategic position in the eastern Mediterranean.” But suddenly, says Bailey, “the Putin regime appears vulnerable, which brings up the salient question: what comes next?” He asks. “A post-Putin government is almost certain to be a military dictatorship, with or without a civilian fig-leaf. So, what would this mean for Russian policy? Continuation of what it is now, and even more dangerous than currently. Perhaps temporarily less corrupt, but that isn’t particularly good news–corrupt officials are likely to be cautious so as not to lose their ill-gotten gains. Nationalistic military officers have no such restraints.”
This may well happen, but for now, most Russians seem to agree with Putin’s June 2006 statement: “Democracy should be adequate to the current status of the development of Russia, to our history and traditions.” This includes his use of security services to smoke out and punish those associated with the St Petersburg subway bombing earlier this week, and today’s deployment of Russia’s most advanced frigate Admiral Grigorovich, to the Mediterranean, to protect the Assad regime after the US Tomahawk missiles retaliation attack. Standing up t the U.S. would help keep Putin in place for a while longer.