PARIS – The winner of Sunday’s legislative election in Russia was a foregone conclusion: United Russia, organized by Vladimir Putin. Likewise, there is no doubt that Putin himself will win the presidential election due in March 2012. But the public enthusiasm that ratified Putin’s rule for a decade has vanished, something demonstrated by the poor performance of his party, United Russia, in the just concluded elections to the Duma.
Unlike Europe, beset by a sovereign-debt crisis, and the United States, whose leaders are wrangling over how to stem the deficit, Russia may look like an oasis of stability and continuity. But that continuity is more reminiscent of the zastoi, or stagnation, of the Brezhnev era.