Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin - 2012-2024
On 04 March 2012 Putin was elected president for a third term amid mass protests in Moscow against his leadership.
Putin is determined to restore Russia to what he sees as its rightful place in the world - by any means available. A strategic defeat - the fall of the Soviet empire in 1991 - defines Putin’s vision. Putin feels he is the only person who can lead and revive the Russian nation. There aren’t any oligarchs anymore. There is a Putin dictatorship, and there are people who are completely dependent on him for their wealth or their role in Russian politics.
Putin, if anything, is not careless. Putin is risk averse. Putin hedges his risks - political and otherwise - maybe better than most. The President was not concerned about domestic issues since virtually all opposition in the country had been eliminated. The business community, too, was "tamed" and obedient to the Kremlin. Putin paid considerable attention to global public opinion, but he relied on his close, personal relationships with world leaders to mitigate criticism, as well as to avoid taking action unless absolutely forced.
The Kremlin was often criticized, especially from the "patriotic" end of the political spectrum, for failing to deploy a mobilizing ideology that would make clear what goals it is pursuing -- and make it more likely that those goals would in fact be consistently pursued. Instead, Putin's approach to governance seemed ad hoc and reactive, and sometimes strongly influenced by the financial interests of figures in the inner circle.
The pragmatic nature of Kremlin decision-making reflected Putin's personality and operational (rather than academic or intellectual) background, but likely also resulted from a broader distrust in Russia -- after 70 years of subjection to an ideology that failed -- of all-encompassing doctrines.
Vladimir Putin favors choreographed politics, like the nominating convention on November 27, 2011 of the ruling United Russia party, where he won 614 of 614 votes cast for the nomination to return to the presidency. Russia’s upper house of parliament formally set 04 March 2012 as the date for the country’s presidential election. Once Putin was elected president again, the 59-year-old could serve another two terms. Russia’s constitution had been recently changed so the President can serve six years. Putin could remain in power until 2024, with four terms for a total of 20 years, making him the longest-serving leader since dictator Joseph Stalin, who ruled Russia for 30 years until he died in bed [Leonid Brezhnev ruled a mere 18 years].
On 04 March 2012 Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia’s presidential election, putting him on track to rule Russia through 2018. With only one third of the votes counted in Russia's Presidential election, Vladimir Putin bounded up the steps of a stage in front of the Kremlin and faced a sea of Russian flags and a massive crowd estimated by police at 110,000 people. "We won," he said. Early returns and two nationwide exit polls give Vladimir Putin a comfortable victory in his quest for a record third term as president. The VTsIOM poll gave him 58 percent, the FOM poll gave him 59 percent and one-half of ballots cast gave him 64 percent.
Claims of fraud during the 2011 parliamentary elections saw thousands take to the streets all over Russia. This made Putin’s 2012 victory in the presidential elections even more important for the majority of the public who supported him.
The first year of Vladimir Putin’s third presidential term was full of events: unexpected resignations, a flood in Krymsk with an unprecedented number of victims, the first Russian APEC summit and the outstanding achievements of the Russian Olympic team. The head of state also continued a number of traditions, having resumed the practice of high-profile news conferences and question and answer sessions. RIA Novosti looks back on the most notable facts and quotations of the president’s past 12 months.
In his first day in office, President Putin signed a number of executive orders on the long-term development of the system of public management, the army and the economic and social sphere, including education, science, healthcare, demography and utilities and also the implementation of foreign policy. These documents were based on Putin’s election program. Their implementation was declared a priority in the activities of the president and the government, which was formed in the latter half of May 2012.
The first summer month saw the president active on the international arena, both in the East and the West. During this time Putin visited Germany, France, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Israel and Palestine. He also attended the summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in China and the G20 in Mexico City, where he met US President Barack Obama as head of state for the first time. The conversation with the American leader created hope that the idea of a “reset” was still alive and that the two powers will be able to agree on all key issues.
A fan of sports in general and judo in particular, Putin used his working visit to Britain as an opportunity to attend the Olympic Games. Upon the completion of official talks, the Russian President and British Prime Minister David Cameron watched the semi-finals and finals in judo and witnessed the triumph of Russian fighter Tagir Khaibulayev, who won a gold medal. September 2012 was marked by many events for the president. The president took part in the APEC Leaders’ Meeting in Vladivostok that was hosted by Russia for the first time. A major construction project was carried out prior to this event in order to host the meeting. The president expressed satisfaction with its implementation and called the expenses “absolutely justified.” In late September, Putin reviewed the government’s implementation of presidential directives given in May. The president resorted to tough measures on this score and made official reprimands to Labor and Social Development Minister Maxim Topilin, Education and Science Minister Dmitry Livanov and Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun.
On 17 October 2012, Putin forced Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun to resign and appointed Igor Slyunyayev, the ex-governor of the Kostroma Region to the position. This was the first personnel decision during the work of Dmitry Medvedev’s government. The second resignation took place less than a month later. On November 6, Putin dismissed Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov from his position against the backdrop of a scandal over large-scale embezzlement in the companies subordinate to his ministry. Serdyukov had occupied the position since 2007. Putin appointed former Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was the governor of the Moscow Region at that time, to head the Defense Ministry, and endorsed Andrei Vorobyev, the leader of the United Russia parliamentary party, as acting governor of the Moscow Region.
In December 2012, the president held his first news conference after a four-year break. Speaking about tense relations with the United States, which had adopted the Magnitsky Act, he admitted that he was a bad Christian and could not but respond to this unfriendly step: “I’m a bad Christian – when a man strikes me on one cheek I’m supposed to turn the other but I’m not morally ready for this.”
December 2012 was marked by two meaningful events in the life of the marine fleet and the navy. First Putin took part in the name-giving ceremony of the head supplier ice-breaker Vitus Bering in St. Petersburg, and then he visited the base of the Northern Fleet in Severomorsk, where he presented the Nakhimov Order to the heavy nuclear-powered cruiser Pyotr Veliky. The president listened via a video link with Severodvinsk to a report by Defense Minister Shoigu on the long-awaited commissioning of the nuclear-powered missile cruiser Yuri Dolgoruky. Speaking at the meeting on the development of the navy, Putin said: “The development of a powerful and effective navy is one of Russia’s priorities. We’ll consistently develop surface ships and submarines and strengthen the general purpose forces and the naval component of the strategic nuclear force.”
In February 2013, the president made a number of tough statements. He lashed out at utility workers who had jacked up prices and the builders of the Olympic projects that had delayed preparations for the Games. The recently appointed Minister of Regional Development Igor Slyunyayev had to answer for the former. In Sochi, Putin lashed out at vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee Akhmed Bilalov. His company was building several springboards named The Russian Hills and didn’t meet the deadline or budget limitations. Later, the businessman was forced to resign.
Spontaneous military exercises in March 2013 reflected the president’s idea that the combat training of troops should not just be for show. On the way from South Africa where Putin attended a BRICS summit, he ordered the defense minister from the plane at 4 a.m. to start exercises involving aviation, the fleet and about 7,000 personnel. Speaking at a meeting of the Defense Ministry’s board Putin said: “The program of combat training should not just be for show, when rank-and-file personnel know about a training alert half a year in advance. It should be as close to real conditions as possible. It should be as close as possible to modern combat and the modern conditions of armed warfare.”
The most important event in April was the president’s first question and answer session during this presidential term. It lasted a record four hours and 47 minutes. In addition to many questions on the economy, foreign and social policy, corruption and security, Putin answered several philosophical and rhetorical questions. One of them – “Who lives a nice life in Russia” – was rephrased into “When will life be good in Russia?” Putin said jokingly “People who drink say that it is impossible to drink all the vodka, but one should strive for this. Likewise, life is never going to be perfect, but we’ll strive for this.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin went to Siberia to celebrate his 62nd birthday on 07 October 2014, as supporters in Moscow hosted a one-day art exhibition, “The 12 Labors of Vladimir Putin”. The paintings depict Putin as the mythological hero Hercules, recast in modern-day current affairs, from battling Western nations disguised as serpents and monsters to taming an ox bearing the symbol of Crimea, the Ukrainian region annexed by Russia in March. The president’s approval ratings were above 80%. In the response to sanctions (Lernaean hydra) the US's severed head lies by his feet as he battles the remaining heads: Japan, the EU, and Canada. Japan is breathing a flame reading "sanctions" onto Putin.
Within the hothouse of Moscow politics, there was already some disquiet and a fair measure of embarrassment over the trappings of the cult of personality that had begun to form around Putin during his second term in the Presidency. Raising eyebrows in 2007 were the ubiquitous "Putin's Plan - Russia's Victory" billboards that blanketed the country; the 10,000 youth activists who celebrated the President's October 7 birthday in downtown Moscow, undissuaded by pouring rain; the Mikhailkov petition for a third term, coupled with his sycophantic television show "55" that marked Putin's birthday and heralded his achievements; the imagery of Putin alone on the United Russia "troika" (even Stalin allowed his comrades their place on the mausoleum wall); and Putin's manifest pleasure in pulling the political wool over the eyes of his inner circle.
While some charitably attributed it to a good public relations team, others called it "bad taste" and evidence of the extent to which Putin is prepared to pump up his electoral ratings. A few even castigated the loyalty, "bordering on groveling," among the elites. The fact of Putin's outsized personality and domination of the political scene is viewed by political opposites as a paralyzing distortion of Russian politics. With every successive month that he was in office, the cult of personality surrounding Putin seemed to grow.
For the second year in a row, on November 05, 2014 the US business magazine Forbes named Russian President Vladimir Putin the most powerful person in the world. The magazine said its editors picked the Russian leader over President Barack Obama, with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounding out the top five.
Forbes said it picked Putin because "he strong-armed his way into possession of Crimea and waged an ugly proxy war in neighboring Ukraine, during which an almost certainly Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile downed a civilian jetliner." The magazine said that "as the undisputed, unpredictable and unaccountable head of an energy-rich, nuclear-tipped state, no one would ever call him weak."
Despite all allegations of corruption and terrorist threats on the ground, the Winter Olymptic Games went on without a hitch, with Russia at the very top of the medal table. The victorious mood didn’t last long, though: a violent coup in neighboring Ukraine placed Russia in a tough position regarding Crimea, where ethnic Russians constitute 65 percent of the population.
The Crimean Peninsula is also home to the Russian Black Sea Fleet and thousands of military men. “We had to take measures to prevent the situation from developing in the way it has [subsequently] done in eastern Ukraine: with tanks and well-armed radical nationalists. Our servicemen acted reasonably, decisively and professionally,” Putin later explained.
In the weeks following the coup, a referendum was rapidly organized, with 96 percent of voters saying an eager ‘yes’ to joining the Russian Federation. “It was about millions of Russians, millions of our compatriots, who needed our help and support,” Putin said. The move triggered Russia’s suspension from the G8 and severe sanctions from the West.
In 2015, things weren’t looking particularly good for Russia. With the country suffering from falling oil prices and sanctions for the annexation of Crimea, the Russian bear appeared subdued. The annexation of Crimea and the conflict in the Ukraine had pushed the country towards international isolation.
Putin had an exceptionally successful year, with Moscow making geostrategic gains in Syria, Europe as well as the US in 2016. Russia made a clean break from the uncertainties of 2015. From Aleppo to Washington DC, to London, Brussels and Rome, Putin managed to advance his geopolitical goals across the world through fair means or foul. Syria was the stage on which Putin has projected Russia’s raw military power this year. Although the Russian military intervention in Syria began last year, it was not until 2016 that Moscow really proved its might in the Middle East, dealing a crushing blow to Western interests in the region. Russian interventionism in Syria has allowed Russia to become "unavoidable in the region, it has turned into the go-to power in the Middle East, and has demonstrated that it can protect the autocratic regimes under threat.
A January 2019 survey by state pollster All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) found public trust in Putin was at its lowest in 13 years. The latest VTsOIM poll found that it had dropped again in late February-early March 2019, with 32 percent of respondents naming Putin when asked which politicians they trust to handle important affairs of state. The level of approval of the President of the Russian Federation amounted to 64.3%, the Government of Russia - 40.8%.
If those figures didn’t worry Putin, he got a wordier warning from an article in the tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets (MK) on 04 March 2019, whose headline predicted that the Russian people will not lend the authorities a hand “at the moment of their collapse.” Citing a century of history, from murdered Tsar Nicholas II and dictator Josef Stalin to Mikhail Gorbachev and Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, it sent the potentially chilling message that the people will lend those in power their silent support – until they don’t.
Surveys by the Moscow-based Levada Center show approval of Putin's performance as president was stuck at a near-record low of 64 percent since January 2019, after dropping 25 percentage points from an all-time high in June 2015.
Political scientist Kirill Rogov of the Moscow-based Liberal Mission Foundation saw an effort to emulate "Beijing-style smart authoritarianism" in the Kremlin's recent acts of leniency. "For some time now we've already seen a number of such steps on the part of the Kremlin that demonstrate moderation," he said, referring to Putin's direct intervention in a bitter church-construction dispute in Yekaterinburg, and in advocating for the release of American financier Michael Calvey. "And now we see it in the case of Golunov," Rogov added. "The nature of this phenomenon is still unknown and incomprehensible, and we can't tell to what extent it is a tactical device or a strategic course, but it is indisputably happening."
"This style of authoritarianism is both repressive and responsive," he said. "You fully enter into a dialogue with citizens, give in to them where it is not critical for you, but apply hard repression in moments that are critical to regime stability. It seems 'smart authoritarianism' works in China, and Putin clearly wants to copy it."
President Vladimir Putin's interview with the Financial Times (FT) on the eve of the G-20 leaders' meeting came down particularly hard on so-called liberalism and the imposition of liberal values. Liberalism, according to Putin, had become obsolete and outlived itself, led to an uncontrollable influx of migrants and their lawlessness, and for this reason in some places (Putin did not specify where), parents cannot let girls go to school in skirts out of concern for their safety.
He bragged about the end of liberalism, ridiculed gender pluralism, condemned "Angela Merkel's mistake" to let millions of migrants into Europe and praised Donald Trump's immigration policies (while forgetting to mention that, thanks to his own policies, Russia has the world's fourth-largest immigrant population).
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