The Way Western Sanctions are Prolonging Putin’s Reign

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May 5th, 2017 – Fort Russ News – 

By Eduard Popov – translated by Inessa Sinchougova 

On May 4, the Civil Society Development Foundation (FORGO) presented a report on the phenomenon of “Putin’s majority”. The research is based on the data of Romir (the exclusive representative of Gallup International in Russia and the CIS), the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VCIOM) and the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM).

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According to the report, the level of electoral support of Russian President Vladimir Putin is 61-66%, but the number of his supporters is growing, despite the economic and foreign policy difficulties. At the same time, among young people, who will vote for the first time in the presidential election in March 2018, 65% are going to support Vladimir Putin.

But that’s not all. Sociologists note that on the day of elections, many of those who at the time of the poll could not vote, were in favour of the current head of state. As a result, Vladimir Putin can get 70-75% of the votes.

I believe that these figures are close to real. In Russia, in recent years (even before the Crimean events) a paradox has developed: a low rating of the government and economic difficulties are not closely related to the rating of the head of state. Attitude to the head of the government, D. Medvedev and the liberal ministers of the economic bloc, on the part of the majority ranges from neutral-negative to sharply negative. 

In the public mind, discontent with the economic or political situation is placed mainly on this party of the Russian government. In Western analytical studies, or in Russian opposition, this attitude of society to Putin is interpreted almost by tsarist inclinations of Russians. It’s enough to look at the news column of the German news publication Deutsche Welle, to be sure of this: Putin is often termed a king (by analogy with the “sultan” Erdogan). This, in my opinion, is a strong oversimplification. With the same or even with great success, Angela Merkel can be called, for example, “Madame the Fuhrer.”

The paradox, repeatedly, celebrated for many years by sociological surveys, is due not to the clever political moves of Vladimir Putin’s entourage and, moreover, not to the tsarist inclinations of the Russians. It’s more correct to talk not about Putin’s high electoral ratings, but about the people’s confidence in him. The older and middle generations of Russians remember what Russia was under President Yeltsin. Then the Russians experienced collective shame for their president, the country was on the threshold of economic collapse, and in 1999 on the verge of collapse. 

Having succumbed to the early Russian Yeltsin populism, I believe they gained immunity toward street populism. Therefore, I consider the possibility of a “colour revolution” in Russia to be low. The reason for this is the mental differences between the inhabitants of Russia and the inhabitants of Ukraine, but also the influence of President Putin’s presidency. If the bureaucracy as a whole remained the same as in Yeltsin’s time, then society radically changed. 

In Russia, the prevailing social ideology is social conservatism. Putin takes these moods into account and, probably, they are close to his persona too. The Crimean events demonstrated that Putin’s patriotism and sovereignty is not only a declaration. Therefore, at least two-thirds of Russian society support it. Putin is interesting as a modern-day strong leader. Putin made strength and muscularity in world politics fashionable again.

The sanctions against Russia, led by the West since 2014, aimed to strike at a weak point (in the view of Western strategists), the Achilles heel: the interaction between power and the people. In reality, the sanctions only increased support for Vladimir Putin in Russia. 

This example is not entirely politically correct, but still explains Russian psychology: the complex, highly hostile attitude of a large part of society to Stalin with the onset of German aggression in Russia (the Soviet Union) was replaced by unconditional support for him. At that moment, to be against Stalin objectively meant to be for Hitler – and for the occupation of the country by the Third Reich. I believe that this is how many critically-minded Russians think (as does the author of these lines). 

Understanding the many (more precisely, very many) challenges and contradictions to Putin’s presidential rule, this part of Russian society understands that Putin’s replacement will be the strongest test for Russia. And maybe even a shock. And the circumstance that Putin is, for the mainstream Western media – a dangerous figure – only increases the level of support for him. 

Therefore, in the the Elections of 2018, the overwhelming majority of voters will vote for Vladimir Putin.

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