Five Traps for Putin

Vladimir Putin has been president of Russia for 13 years. Thanks to his reinterpretation of the constitution, he may remain president for a further eleven years, until 2024.

A report for the Archive programme

Published 10 Mar 2013

Written by Ben Judah.

Vladimir Putin has been president of Russia for 13 years. Thanks to his reinterpretation of the constitution, he may remain president for a further eleven years, until 2024. If his grip over the establishment remains as tight as it is now, many fear he could reign for the rest of his life. The current era already bears his name and soon, an entire generation of young people will be unable to imagine the country without him. His longevity creates an impression of permanence. Yet it is unlikely his second presidency will be as calm and as relatively secure as his first eight years in power.

At the moment he seems very much in charge. Since December 2011, when more than 100,000 protesters gathered in Moscow demanding genuinely free elections, Putin and his colleagues have regained control of events and the crowds have all but disappeared. “The opposition,” Putin taunted, “always demand the impossible and then never do anything.” Oil prices have remained consistently high and the oligarchy has fallen into line behind the Kremlin. The regions are quiet and organized resistance is minimal. For the Moscow groups behind the mass rallies, the euphoria surrounding the expectation of imminent change in December 2011 has given way to despair.

However, the disintegration of the Moscow protest movement is not the same as the return to stability. The KGB always thought Putin was flawed and his professional instructors evaluated the future leader as suffering from a “lowered sense of danger”. Currently, this is truer than ever. Though it may not appear so on the surface, the era of ‘managed democracy’ and ‘Putinism by consent’ is coming to an end. This report identifies five risks to Putin’s grip on power and to Russia’s stability in general.

Ben Judah is the author of Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out Of Love With Vladimir Putin published by Yale University Press and a visiting fellow at the European Stability Initiative, in Istanbul. He reported for Reuters in Moscow and was a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations working on Russian politics. The Transitions Forum is a series of projects dedicated to the challenges and possibilities of radical political and economic change.

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Five Traps for Putin

Mar 2013

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