With his outstanding electoral win as President for the fourth term in modern Russia in a highly dramatic manner unheard in democratic poll history, President Putin would now feel in total control of the country’s system and opposition.
At the very outset it needs to be stressed that Putin does not believe in western ideas of democracy of ruling a nation for maximum of two terms and stand down thereafter from entertaining further political ambitions.
Unless the previous Presidency polls in Russia, the election this time around was fairly predictable as people longed to see Putin making Russian presidency stronger. Unlike the self-boast claims of highly inflammable and erratic US President Donald Trump about “USA first” – as if USA had never pursed that policy before him and advanced interests of the world, Putin never made such foolish statements but strictly pursued “Russia first” policy vehemently. One achievement is the recovering the Crimea region from Ukraine by ignoring all objections of USA and allies. Now Russia dictates terms to USA in Syria.
Putin could claim that he is fulfilling the demands of the people wanting a strong presidency that only he can provide. Like in Saudi Arabia the rulers just do not en-train extreme experiments to make a sea change in the system for the anti-royal fringes to remove the kingdom and establish their own dictatorship with US-Israeli backing in the name of so-called democracy, Russia also is keen their system is not dismantled as per the designs of anti-Islamic forces. Moreover, the West suspects President Putin might revert Russia back to Soviet era system that would upset entire agenda of the West that after having succeeded in a big way, into eventual jeopardy. They keep calculating the post-Putin Russia but Putin still remains in full control.
A lively debate is on in the West and elsewhere about Putin’s’ new foreign policy if any. Obviously, President Putin would choose his course very carefully and he is quite capable of that.
Russia, like any other big nation, has its own fancies about its place in the world but the world turned out to be more unpredictable and complicated than many Russians thought.
True, Russian economy received a jolt in the form of economic terrorism from USA and EU known as “sanctions” on account of Crimea annexation.
Apparently, Russian leadership did not expect the West to introduce strong sanctions after Crimea and to stick with them for years though Russian action is final. However, China compensated the Kremlin for the huge economic loss in Western investments and trade deficits.
President Putin may have expected Hillary Clinton to win the US elections and become a tough anti-Russian president but the election of Donald Trump gave some hope so improvement in bilateral ties. Russia expected fanatic Donald Trump to become a soft Russia-friendly president. Russia did not expect the EU to sudden collapse under the weight of its own in internal contradictions at the wake of Brexit.
Arguably Trump has an unshakeable belief that he is uniquely positioned to defuse a dangerous standoff with Moscow by courting Putin.
Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory, and spoke in an upbeat manner about talks he hoped to hold with him soon, billing their meeting rather like a Reagan-Gorbachev summit from the 1980s. This is the latest example of his unusual deference to Putin, following the 2016 election in which US intelligence agencies assessed the Russians intervened on his behalf. But the White House says that Russia assaulted American democracy, used a nerve agent in an attack on the soil of its closest ally, Britain, and just held an election that cannot be judged free and fair. Yet the President did not bring up any of those issues during a telephone chat with Putin, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
An innocent looking Barack Obama did it in 2012 by greeting Putin, as he tried to keep his Russia “reset” strategy alive. But any interactions between Trump and Putin are closely watched given the special counsel investigation into Russian election meddling.
Putin meanwhile is one of the groups of autocrats and global strongmen that Trump seems to admire — an odd quirk in an American President who often appears tougher on allies than US foes, except that he promotes aggressively the Zionist expansionist agenda in Palestine against the UN demand to promote Palestine and International Law condemning all Zionist crimes against humanity.
Russia expects Ukraine to collapse under the weight of its unreformed economy, corruption and unruly political passions because US support for East European nation with communist background is not genuine.
Putin expects the settlement in Syria, where Russian military plays important role to help Assad stay alive and kicking while Syrians keep dying for him, to be a lot easier now.
Russian foreign policy predictions have occasioned a lively foreign policy debate in Moscow as well – on the meaning of Donald Trump, on the fate of the European Union, on what to expect from China, from Near Abroad, on what next in Syria and Donbas.
There has been a constant demand from liberals – both foreign policy thinkers and economic technocrats – to improve the relations with the West for purposefully advancing its national interest, starting possibly from stabilizing the situation in Donbas. They fail to recognize the fact the USA opposes any better ties with Russia and China. The processes of dismantling of mighty Soviet Union and Socialist system in the entire east Europe, braking down of Berlin Wall, etc were enacted by Michael Gorbachev in order to improve relationship with USA and Europe but alas only USA won the Cold war and Eastern Europe and made Russia feel for the loss of great nation status.
Yet, former finance minister Alexei Kudrin succinctly argues, “if we want our economy to grow, and grow smartly, we need to improve the relations with the West.” The West remains the best source for modernisation. The need for technocratic modernisation – the need to master the world of artificial intelligence, blockchains and other 21st century wonders – seems to be understood also by President Putin, at least intellectually, if not passionately.
Stabilization in Donbas, according to this camp, is the best place to start. Progress there would help to restart the relations with the European Union, and that might be of help at a time when the relations with the US are deadlocked because Russia has become a domestic issue in the US.
However, most of Russians see though the American-Israeli straggles to belittle Russia and simply oppose and even hate USA ad Western civilization. Then this dovetails with a foreign policy argument that holds that Russian foreign policy is overstretched and would benefit from ending a few conflicts.
The other camp in Moscow, thus, remains skeptical. They fear the West will view ‘concessions’ from Russia as a sign of weakness; or that rapprochement with the West would make Russia’s non-Western allies – from Iran to China – fear Russian ‘betrayal’.
Iran has already experienced such treatment in its relations with Russia in the 1990s and early 2000s, when Moscow used Tehran as a mere bargaining chip in its relationship with the USA. The same way USA used Pakistan a tool to improve relations with China after its success in misusing Islamabad to gain access to petrodollars n Arab world.
However, the sceptical camp is being advised by the West to agree on one crucial point: foreign policy indeed needs to change. Saudi Arabia is also following their footsteps without having any idea about the long term outcomes
Anti-Russia rhetoric and tactics continue to work in the west. They also work in the Middle East, where Russia now effectively owns the conflict in Syria and, to stay on top of the diplomatic process, it needs effective relations with all regional powers. They do not work in the West, because there, Donald Trump is now the disruptor-in-chief; and an unpredictable one at that. But USA is keen to see that the primitively anti-Western rhetoric and tactics that centre on disruption do not work anymore in Moscow. This requires predictable behavior. Surprise invasions have done their job, done it well in Moscow’s eyes – but their time seems to be far from over.
Such was the state of the debate when, in the afternoon of March 4, a former GRU employee and British double agent Sergei Skripal was found unconscious on the bench in Salisbury, poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, the only known earlier producer of which was USSR/Russia. But now any country could produce and sell.
UK quickly blames on Russia and personally on Putin as their usual strategy. This crime remains puzzling. Murders of exchanged spies – as Skripal was – have not been part of Moscow’s behavior so far. Was the only aim to kill a traitor? In that case, most other means would have been simpler than nerve agent.
UK might have expected a poor show by Putin in the presidency poll. The domestic political incentives are likely. Could it have been indeed ordered by President Putin – with full knowledge of international implications? Or was it the job of some powerful Russian agencies without Putin’s knowledge, or maybe sanctioned only in very broad terms? In that case, will the Kremlin manage to distance itself from them, and do so with the level of publicity that would satisfy the West?
Such questions are raised in the West. No one knows for sure who does what.
Of course the issue is just starting point for Putin to just ignore and move on further with prudent foreign policy goals to remobilize entire anti-West and anti-West world to fight colonialism capitalism, imperialism, fascism and US brand Zionism.
The inconsistency in the Trump regime’s approach to Russia adds to uncertainty about how the West will respond to Putin’s growing willingness to exercise power beyond his borders.
Western policy toward Russia is not going to change dramatically for years.
By shuffling the team members, Trump looks for opportunities to advance the unilateral America to impose its military prowess on the world stage.
Russian voters are right: President Putin alone can do that and assure peace prosperity for entire world.