Putin on the Fritz?
Tens of thousands of Russians are calling for the resignation of President Vladimir Putin. After everything he has done to tighten his control over the nation, for Putin to quit now is unlikely.
Civil unrest currently plagues much of Russia. In May, tens of thousands of irate protestors, with a public audacity rarely seen in Russia, marched Moscow’s streets shouting for Putin’s immediate resignation. Demonstrators in the eastern port of Vladivostok carried posters saying, “If only comrade Stalin were here now.”
It appears similar rallies will continue to erupt across the nation. The anti-Putin movement has burgeoned over the past year as a result of the cagey president’s measures to establish stricter control over government and industry—especially his measures to revamp Russia’s aging welfare system.
Over his five-year presidency, Putin has been aggressive and highly successful in establishing an iron-like grip over the nation. The former kgb agent has streamlined the government, politically beaten into line his potential competitors among the oligarchs, tightened his leash on the press and established strong Kremlin influence over Russia’s greatest asset, oil.
But recent anti-Putin rallies have a number of news sources believing Putin could soon be replaced.
While there is no doubt that Putin’s leadership is being tested, let’s not be too quick to cast him as a Russian has-been. This cunning leader has options besides resignation, and we can be sure he will explore them all.
The option perhaps most appealing to Putin would be take stronger measures to reign in dissident citizens. Any move he might take in this direction would not be unprecedented in Russia: After all, many of the country’s proudest moments have occurred with an autocrat at the helm.
In one sense, Putin could even glean encouragement from some of the motivation behind the current protests in Russia. The fact that many of the protesting Russians are wishing for another Stalin, combined with a recent study showing that 42 percent of Russians believe the country needs another politician like Stalin, could indicate that Russians would embrace a stronger, more autocratic Putin.
Many a Russian who desires another Stalin actually longs for the welfare state he provided. The fact that millions of Russians want a welfare state, even if it might mean living under another dictator, shows an astonishing mind-set.
The infamous kgb—Russia’s ruthless, murderous secret service arm of the government made famous by Joseph Stalin—trained Putin. Russia’s leader may be more like Stalin than many people realize.
Anti-Putin protests are likely to continue; pressure on the president will escalate. It would be a surprise, however, if Putin capitulated. Watch for him to explore every other option in the coming months. With time, it is likely that Putin will grow more autocratic. Expect drastic changes in Russia in the near future.
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