How to Win an Election in Russia

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

How to Win an Election in Russia

The bombshell announcement that was no surprise at all
From the January 2012 Trumpet Print Edition

That’s how they do it in Russia.

Here, the United States is gearing up for an ugly presidential election, and we have almost a year of pomp, theatrics, name-calling, mudslinging, attack ads and impossible promises to look forward to.

On Sept. 24, 2011, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister and president, announced that they would save the Russians the hassles of a truly free and fair election in 2012—and simply switch jobs.

At the annual conference of the ruling United Russia party in late September, President Medvedev said he would not run in the upcoming March elections, and proposed that Mr. Putin return to that office for a third term. Putin accepted the invitation, and proposed Medvedev’s candidacy as prime minister, which Medvedev accepted.

It’s all so convenient. Sure, technically these were just proposals—nothing formal. But, realistically, this is about as close to a lock for an election you can get outside of North Korea.

Mr. Putin actually revealed that all the way back in 2007, Medvedev, before becoming president, agreed to step down after serving only one term. “[W]e actually discussed this variant of events while we were first forming our comradely alliance,” Putin said at the conference.

The idea that Putin the strongman was only Russia’s second-most-powerful leader was always a farce. He was president from 2000 to 2008, but the constitution blocked him from running for a third consecutive four-year term. He picked Medvedev to succeed him. That’s how they do it in Russia.

For the last four years, then, President Medvedev has been something of a puppet while Putin assumed the prime ministership and chaired United Russia. In this position, Putin has enjoyed enhanced control of the legislature. Unsurprisingly, an amendment was successfully pushed into the constitution that bumped presidential terms to six years. Thus, the path is now cleared for Mr. Putin to stay in the Kremlin for another 12 years.

Resurrecting a Dead Empire

Most people in the West shed no tears after the Soviet Union dissolved and Russia stumbled and bumbled through the 1990s. Vladimir Putin, by contrast, called the ussr’s collapse the “greatest tragedy of the 20th century.” Like most of his countrymen, he views the 1990s as a decade of humiliation. When he took leadership of Russia in 2000, the shrewd ex-kgb agent aggressively went about setting things right again. And he made impressive gains.

During his two presidential terms, Putin wrestled a new brand of capitalism onto the Russian stage. In 1998, the country was bankrupt. During his eight years in the Kremlin, Russia’s economy grew at an average of 7 to 8 percent per year, and its currency appreciated 20 percent in value.

President Putin streamlined his nation’s political architecture in order to amass his personal power. He created policies whereby the Kremlin can prevent virtually whomever it pleases from participating in politics. He consolidated and nationalized his nation’s formidable energy resources and used them as foreign-policy weapons. He oversaw an oil-and-gas-driven economic revival that boosted Russia past Saudi Arabia in 2009 to become the world’s leading energy exporter.

Even with Medvedev in the presidency, Russia’s upward trajectory has continued. When nasa retired its space shuttles this past summer, Russia gained a monopoly on station crew shuttle flights, a service that costs over $50 million per astronaut. Putin has rebuilt his country’s military, and in September coaxed Ukraine into participating for the first time in a major military training drill jointly with Russian and Belarusian forces. In the wake of Europe’s financial crisis, Russia has pounced on the opportunity to buy up assets in Central and Eastern European nations, which will multiply Moscow’s leverage in these former Soviet states.

However, there is an ugly underbelly to this success story. In the process of lifting Russia from its 1990s stagnation, Putin has brutally quashed an uprising in Chechnya, silenced most independent Russian media, opened the Nord Stream pipeline running into Germany and tightening Moscow’s grip on Eastern Europe, attacked human rights organizations, and intimidated his rivals into silence. His government has been implicated in multiple seedy incidents: the poisoning of Ukraine’s pro-Western presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko before its 2004 elections; a broad-scale cyberattack against Estonia after it relocated a Soviet-era statue; the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya; the fatal poisoning of spy-turned-Putin-critic Alexander Litvinenko. In late 2009, Putin said the “reunification” of Georgia with Russia has “already been decided,” which many viewed as a call for restoration of Moscow’s control over Georgia. When the U.S. said it would build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, Russia threatened to bomb it.

In short, Vladimir Putin has orchestrated a staggering and rapid return to international prominence and power for Russia—and in classic Russian authoritarian style.

Russia was walloped by the global economic downturn shortly after Putin left the presidency, but it is recovering, and throwing its weight around at international conferences. It is buying assets across Europe that are going cheap—particularly banks, energy firms, ports and airports—in order to gain leverage. It is expanding its armed forces. It is establishing military bases on the Black Sea. It is conducting naval exercises in Asia and Latin America. It is constructing new pipelines to pump its natural gas and oil into other nations. It is helping with Iran’s nuclear program. It is pushing back at nato expansion. It is working with Central Asian countries to undermine U.S. and European proposals to build oil and gas pipelines that bypass Russia. In November, Russia joined China in opposing any new sanctions on Iran and condemning any threat of military force against Iran. Russia and China have also locked arms to undercut the U.S. dollar, and to block the UN Security Council from condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crackdown on populist uprisings.

Cold War Nightmares

In response to the news of Putin’s return to the Kremlin, Europeans are having Cold War nightmares. They haven’t forgotten their bloody history with Russia, and deeply fear the return of the Soviet bear. Putin’s heavy-handed tactics recall that history. Europeans well know: That’s how they do it in Russia.

The Trumpet has long said that Russian democracy is a sham. When Medvedev assumed the presidency, we predicted that though Medvedev would keep the seat warm, Putin would return: “Putin has marshaled the return of Russia to great-power status, and he is not about to become hands-off,” we wrote on theTrumpet.com on Nov. 12, 2008. “Bible prophecy shows that Russia’s resurgence will be a catalyst for the emergence of a unified European superstate—and subsequently contribute to an enormously destructive world war.”

Russia is still armed to the hilt with nuclear weapons. And now, to make matters worse, Europe is deeply dependent on Russian energy. This situation calls to mind an electrifying biblical prophecy.

Back in 2003, Vladimir Putin secured tremendous personal power in national elections—power he has since expanded even further. At that time, the Trumpet’s editor in chief pointed to this prophecy. In his January 2004 cover story, “Russia Frightens Europe—and Fulfills Bible Prophecy,” he wrote, “The Russian election is triggering a fear that will hasten the uniting of the European Union. The Russian election will cause Germany and other European nations to want a stronger leader. Throughout history, Germany has often sought a strong leader. Bible prophecy says it will do so again—for the last time!”

As that article showed, Europe’s fear over Russia’s growing power is directly prophesied in the Bible. Those prophecies clearly describe how Russia’s resurgence will actually help ignite and draw together a European superstate—and subsequently contribute to an enormously destructive world war. Our booklet Russia and China in Prophecy explains the whole picture, and we will send you a free copy upon request.

The return of Russia as a fearsome totalitarian power was forecast in Scripture. We’re seeing it before our eyes.