President Vladimir Putin of Russia was re-elected to his fourth term as Russia’s head of state during the March 2018 election, winning over 76.69% of the popular vote. Ever since Putin got elected to his first term in 2000 with 53% of the popular vote, he went on to restructure the government both in political and economic reforms, launching criminal investigation into business dealings of the high-profile Russian citizens.
Over his successive terms as President and Prime Minister he witnessed an economic boom, Russian military invasions and most importantly, coming back of Russia as a major, global power.
The young generation of Russian voters expressed their views about the upcoming election through an independent survey. The result of this survey becomes vital because many of them have witnessed only Putin as their leader since their birth.
They felt that Putin as a leader has never done anything wrong to them. In fact, he has righted many wrongs. While some said he is still better than a democratically elected leader like Trump, others gave strong statements like,’ If not Putin, then who?’ According to a December survey by an independent polling firm, 81% of adults approve of Putin as President- including 86% of Russians who are 18 to 24 years old. Among this particular age group, 67% told surveyors that they believed the country was going in the right direction compared to 56% of the general public. Even though positive responses were in the majority, some of them still had a mixture of emotions consisting of fear, hope and resignation. They felt that the media in Russia isn’t free but also displayed a belief that maybe this is how media works everywhere.
For instance, a girl named Mamay who dreams of a better future in journalism says,” they’re trying to make us think poorly of America. I figured that in America, they are doing the same, trying to make people think poorly of Russians.”
According to BBC reports, popularity of Putin’s regime and his stability in power till the fourth term are due to the following reasons:-
In March 2018, Russia boasted of a new range of weaponry that would render NATO’s defence “completely worthless”. This includes a low-flying nuclear cruise missile with “unlimited range” and another one capable of travelling at hypersonic speed.Some of Putin’s swift military interventions include annexing Crimea in March 2014, bombing terrorists in Syria and trying to overthrow the anti-government rebels.
RELATIONS WITH THE USA:
Russia’s relations with the USA tends to look uneven. If on one hand, Russia seemed to support United States in the terror campaign against the terrorist attacks on the United States, on the other hand, Russia didn’t lend her support to the ousting of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and opposed the alleged “War on Terror”.
During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, over a dozen of U.S. intelligence agencies unilaterally agreed that Russian intelligence was behind the cyber hacks on Democratic National Committee (DNC).
According to reports by USA Today, in December 2016 unnamed CIA officials further concluded that Putin was personally involved in intervening in the U.S. Presidential election.
The officials stated that the hacked DNC’s and John Podesta’s (chairman of Democratic Presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton’s campaign) emails that were given to WikiLeaks just before the U.S. Election Day were in favour of discrediting Hillary Clinton and supporting her opponent, Donald Trump.
THE NOVICHOK AGENT POISONING IN SALISBURY, UK
In the midst of the Russian elections, there was an incident on 4th March 2018. Russian military intelligence officer and British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury, England with a Novichok nerve agent. UK intelligence officials and police have identified 38 people as being affected by the nerve agent.
Pic below showing the restaurant where the Skripal father-daughter duo were poisoned along with others in the restaurant:
As a result of this incident, countries like USA, Canada, Ukraine and member states of the European Union expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats, exemplifying their support for the UK. According to Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, it is “the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.”
According to CNN reports, while the UK might have expected its closest allies to follow its lead, the support by other NATO members like Finland and non -EU members like Albania and Hungary, comes as a pleasant surprise.While in return, Russia has responded with an array of blanket denials, conspiracy theories and an attempt to blame countries as diverse as Sweden and the Czech Republic.
“Nonsense” said Russian Vladimir Putin adding that Russia had no motive to poison anyone on the eve of the presidential elections and the World Cup.
While it isn’t exactly clear as to how the investigations will unfold and how exactly Russia is to be blamed, one thing that is clear is; Vladimir Putin has proved to be a successful leader within his own country and despite his incumbency has garnered the support of the future generation as well. This task in itself isn’t quite easy since the young Russians have more freedom compared to what their parents possessed; the freedom of social media, exposure to a more open market and open borders. And perhaps most importantly, these young Russians seem to be shaped by a collective history – the absence of the fear of the return of the crisis-stricken 1990’s.
By: Leenor Lepcha
Kamala Nehru College.