The Leader Stands Alone: Vladimir Putin

Source:  Pakistan Herald Published in World on Monday, February 9, 2015

In an interview with Russian and Foreign media on January 19, 2014, Vladimir Putin remarked: ‘Sometimes it is necessary to be lonely in order to prove that you are right’.

But has Putin’s self-righteousness actually been efficacious for Russia?

By altering the Foreign policy decision making structure, Putin emerged as the central decision maker on all significant foreign policy decisions ever since he came to power. Policy Matters were assigned to secondary actors composed of an informal circle of loyal associates to Putin. The inner circle of Putin loyalists are power hungry and in such a system, the effectiveness of policy is lost. Corruption is enhanced because a self-seeking servile flatterer is valued above good governance.  The internal cracks due to venality and weakness of the system have been exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine.

Ukrainian conflict is fracturing the system lead by a person who believes that his actions will eventually lead to success. The reality is presenting a diverging scenario. Sanctions, imposed by West due to the crisis in Ukraine along with plummeting  oil prices has inflicted Russia with its first GDP contraction since the Global Financial Crisis. The resource rich Russia Largely Depends on sale of oil for its revenues but the slump in energy markets has adversely affected the country’s market and economic outlook. The ruble has been falling steadily with no signs of recovery and a record low of 80 per dollar was observed in mid-December 2014. As the condition worsens, Putin fails to provide a specific plan for restructuring the economy.

In January 2010, a customs union was established by Russia with Belarus and Kazakhstan and later was transformed into Eurasian Economic Union in 2014 which integrated the Customs Union into the legal framework of EEU. The main purpose of EEU is to enhance economic integration with the former Soviet States. These states would benefit from access to state procurement, lifting of migration quotas and access to Russian oil and gas. While the creation of Eurasian Customs Union is an important step towards economic growth, its effectiveness has been stalled by the decision to place sanctions against western goods. This decision was in response to Western sanctions and aligned with Putin’s autarchic version of nationalism based on enhancing economic self-sufficiency. The voices raised by members of EEU against this decision, not only indicates the rising internal conflict within the Union but also presents a challenging scenario for the EEU members in the long term. This isolationism will lead EEU to become less innovative and competitive as their freedom on product selection becomes restricted.

The recent Munich Security Conference is testimony of an isolationist approach, strictly being followed by Russian officials. Russian’s foreign minister lack of engagement with the audience, and guarded stance about the Ukrainian issue was in stark contrast with German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s candid discussion. Even before the Ukrainian crisis commenced, Germany assisted Russia in modernizing its economy with the help of German expertise. But Putin has not reciprocated the favor by strengthening ties with Germany. The absence of dialogue and minimal participation of officials at international conferences has led to an enhanced trust deficit between the two countries. And lack of trust is not only confined to the Region or West, the views of Russian citizens have changed significantly.

If the President’s   popularity is assessed, the premise of his success was on garnering enormous public support in the past fifteen years. Whether it was due to the military reforms or the infrastructural development to improve the lifestyle of ordinary Russian,Putin was perceived in a positive light. However the conflict in Ukraine and the economic collapse has not only tarnished Putin’s image but also revealed the lack of strategic depth in his policies.

In the future, Russia will be crippled by unrest in its non-Russian region. Apart from the sixty percent Russian population in Crimea, there is a population of Crimean Tartars who are Muslims and are getting radicalized due to oppressive Russian rule.  The Recent terrorist attacks in Chechnya and the ongoing violence in Dagestan and Ingushetia all present grave challenges to the stability of Russia.

All signs indicate that the regime will collapse like a house of cards as the leader stands alone amidst the anarchy and chaos.


Author Information

Written by Arshmah Jamil

Author Information: The writer is pursuing MPhil in International Relations from the National...

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