Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, May 18, 2015

Pay attention to the man behind the curtain

Alec Luhn, a writer for The Guardian has a different take on Putin and changes in Russia than Maxim Trudolyubov did in Friday's excerpt. How many differences and similarities can you find?

15 years of Vladimir Putin: 15 ways he has changed Russia and the world
[A]s Putin marks the 15th anniversary of acceding to power on 7 May 2000, Russia has changed beyond all recognition from the chaotic, open free-for-all it was under Yeltsin. Internationally it faces isolation, sanctions, a new cold war even. At home, despite economic decline Putin enjoys perhaps the highest popularity rating of any Kremlin leader – an approval rating that topped 86% in February.

Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Putin has made a huge impact on his country and the world.

Ukraine, Georgia and the ‘near abroad’: The Ukrainian conflict has ruptured relations between Russia and the west over the past year, but in fact it is merely the latest example of Putin asserting Russia’s “rights” in its former backyard…

Opposition to Nato: Putin has insisted that Nato’s eastward expansion represents a threat to his country…

Autocracy: Putin… has consistently moved toward greater consolidation of his own power…

Cult of personality: Putin has given [Russians] something much more in keeping with the macho spirit of the Russian muzhik: a horse-riding, bare-chested, tiger-wrestling, clean living, straight-talking action man…

It’s the economy, durak! When Putin arrived in office, Russia was just emerging from the disastrous market reforms of the 1990s and the 1998 financial crisis… As former finance minister Alexei Kudrin reminded Putin during the president’s annual call-in show in April, the 7% annual GDP growth at the end of his first presidential term fell to just 0.6% in 2014, and the country’s economy is expected to enter recession this year…

Population growth? Putin took over a country whose population was … losing people at a rate of almost a million a year… But the decline gradually bottomed out,… the country now has more than 146 million people, up from 142 million in 2008…

Pivot to Asia: Putin has shifted in recent years toward greater economic and military cooperation with Asian countries, whose growing economies are hungry for Russia’s energy and whose governments are less judgmental of its human rights record…

Crackdown: With the imprisonment of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the assassinations of several prominent opposition voices, Putin’s Russia was already a place where dissent was not particularly welcome… Since Putin’s return to the Kremlin in 2012, new laws have raised the fines for those taking part in protests not sanctioned by the authorities…

In Putin’s third term, authorities have also tightened the screws on non-governmental organisations that receive funding from abroad…

Once an oasis of free speech, the Russian internet is now subject to vague laws that allow the government’s communications watchdog to block sites deemed to publish “extremist” material or content harmful to children…

‘Moralistic’ vision: Putin’s third term has seen a wave of legislation inspired by his vision of Russia as a bastion of traditional morals…

A multipolar world? The charitable view of Putin’s foreign policy is that he stands up to western hegemony and, with China, acts as a balance to the overweening military and political power of the US...

Londongrad: Under Putin... record numbers of Russians and their cash were flooding west – and London was their favourite second home...

New-found sporting prestige: The Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 were a triumph for Putin…

Corruption: Despite a state campaign against corruption, Putin’s Russia has failed to shake off accusations of being fundamentally dishonest…

Military: Putin inherited an army that was not fit for purpose… While the increased spending and reorganisation has created a force able to react relatively quickly… new equipment – in particular a new stealth fighter and a next-generation tank – are still on the way…

New propaganda: Even as independent media found themselves on the run, Putin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a television presenter known for his anti-American conspiracy theories, head of the state news agency Rossiya Segodnya. In this post, Kiselyov has overseen an expansion of Sputnik News and Russia Today, which peddle the Kremlin’s talking points in foreign languages…

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