What will Putin do?

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Friday, March 28, 2014

THE United States (US) and the European Union (EU) have taken a united stand in condemning Russia’s annexation of Crimea, with US President Barack Obama labeling Russia as a “regional power” and attacking Russian President Vladimir Putin for using “brute force” and for the latter’s “older, more traditional view of power.”

But in the latest survey by the Associated Press, 59 per cent of Americans disapprove of Obama performance, including a low 40 percent approving of his foreign policy in the light of the crisis in Ukraine where Crimea is part of.

The opposite is happening in the case of Putin, whose approval rating among Russians has risen and with no one standing against him as nationalist sentiment surges.


Why has President Putin become so strong in his words and bold in his actions? He has consolidated so much power that we barely hear anything from the opposition or from senior statesmen like Mikhail Gorbachev.

The late Boris Yeltsin, who brought Gorbachev to the national stage of Russian politics, must be turning in his grave as democracy has taken a backseat in favor of a subtle authoritarian state under a cult-like figure in the likes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.

From 2000 until the present, Putin has led Russia from the shambles of communism to becoming an economic power, or as the eighth largest economy in the world by nominal value and the sixth/fifth largest by purchasing power parity.

Putin raised the standard living of his people, turned his country into one of the major suppliers of oil and gas, while at the same time promoted “oligarchs” who have become among the wealthiest in the world.

And to showcase the rise of Russia back in the global stage, Putin used the Sochi Winter Olympics not just for Russian athletes to harvest the most number of medals but also to prove the nation’s efficiency in running the Games and providing utmost security for players and visitors.

Like Adolf Hitler who used the 1936 Berlin Olympics to publicize his rule, Putin used the Olympics as a propaganda vehicle for Russia and for himself.

So effective were Kremlin’s spin doctors in their work that majority of Russians are now standing behind their president, and Putin himself has taken his “macho” and “Superman” image beyond media and into the real world.

Even the people of Crimea and a number of people in Eastern Ukraine have themselves been enamored by Putin’s daring moves, and thus sought their place’s annexation to a Russia that has reclaimed its old glory.

But with its ouster from the G8 (now G7, a group of eight leading industrialized countries) and economic sanctions imposed upon it, Russia is now put to a test. Can Putin’s “superpowers” sustain the economy as the flight of capital has started to bleed it? Or will he become wise as a Jedi, and let reason reign over force?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 29, 2014.


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