Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, February 07, 2014

Danger, Vald Putin! Danger!

Are the Olympic Games a Potemkin Village?

As Olympics Arrive, Russia Experiences a Downturn
[T]he Games have for Mr. Putin and his allies become a self-evident triumph of Russia’s will…

“Its realization is already a huge win for our country,” Dmitri N. Kozak, a deputy prime minister and one of Mr. Putin’s longest-standing aides… He went on to use a phrase attributed to Catherine the Great when she intervened to halt the court-martial of a general who had stormed an Ottoman fortress without orders in the 18th century: “Victors are not judged.”…

With Russia’s natural-resource dependent economy slowing as commodities prices fall, and with foreign investments drying up, the Kremlin has already signaled that it would have to cut spending. The $50 billion or so lavished on Sochi is becoming a political liability…

The stalling of the economy, despite the stimulus of Olympic spending, has raised worries about popular unrest directed at the Kremlin and a tightening of political freedoms in response once the Games are over.

Growth last year slowed to 1.3 percent, the lowest in a decade…

“Structural reforms to improve the business climate are key to raising potential growth and economic resilience,” the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development wrote in its survey of Russia’s economy last month. “As energy prices stagnate and labor and capital become fully utilized, growth is falling behind pre-crisis rates. Making the economy stronger, more balanced, and less dependent on rents from national resource extraction is therefore a key challenge.”…

Russia is not about to collapse. Nor does Mr. Putin’s rule face any foreseeable challenge… Mr. Putin’s approval rating, bolstered by lavishly positive coverage on state television, remains as high as when he first came to office…

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