Putin’s Pyrrhic Victory
Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign incursions and public displays of militant nationalism have proved effective in winning over large swathes of the Russian electorate. But they have also turned Russia into an economic lightweight, and left it increasingly isolated on the world stage.
STOCKHOLM – Vladimir Putin’s reelection to a fourth term as Russia’s president was a foregone conclusion. The Kremlin undoubtedly orchestrated ballot-box stuffing and other measures to ensure that Putin received at least 70% of the vote across all regions. Yet, even without such shenanigans, Putin probably still would have cruised to victory on the nationalist wave created by his 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Less predictable than the election outcome is Putin’s policy agenda for the next six years. The Russian economy is showing some signs of improvement, but growth remains far weaker than in the boom years of Putin’s first years in power. At the same time, the diplomatic divide between Russia and the West continues to widen.
Putin has assembled competing teams of economists to draft policy proposals for the coming years, but few observers expect genuine reforms to follow. The economy’s long-term prospects will remain dim as long as the security state maintains its hold on Russian businesses and society.