President Obama said it out loud….
Russia is NOT as strong as most people think….
It’s economy is ranked 11th by the IMF….
Now it’s leader for the past 20 years is having economic and political issues….
The current Russian leadership might look strong. But it’s actually running scared.
And it’s easy to understand why. On this day, which marks the 20th anniversary of the day Vladimir Putin first came to power as Russia’s acting prime minister, his country is struggling. The latest wave of unrest in Moscow, which was triggered by the city government’s refusal to register opposition candidates for an upcoming election, is merely the latest episode in a longer story. Recent years have seen a steady rise in public discontent, though the causes don’t always involve politics. In just the past few months, citizens have protested a waste dump, the construction of a cathedral and the redrawing of an administrative border. As the Carnegie Endowment’s Andrey Pertsev recently noted, “Russians, once cowed by the potential consequences of taking to the streets, are increasingly willing to protest over nonpolitical and local issues.”
Pertsev is right to note that there is a new fearlessness about these recent demonstrations that makes them remarkable. The extraordinarily brutal suppression of the Moscow protests on July 27 didn’t prevent more demonstrators from taking to the streets in the days that followed.
A government supporter recently took me to task for focusing attention on Alexei Navalny, the opposition leader who has put the fight against corruption at the top of his agenda. “Navalny rarely gets more than a few percent in the polls,” I was told. If that’s the case, I answered, why does the government feel compelled to arrest him again and again? If he weren’t gaining any traction, why should the authorities launch yet another politically motivated probe into his finances, as they did this week? What are the authorities so afraid of?
Navalny clearly has Putin unnerved. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
The Financial Times notes that the real incomes of Russians have been steadily falling over the past six years, and are now 10 percent lower than they were in 2013 — the year before Putin annexed Crimea and went to war with Ukraine. Even if the economy grows a bit this year, many of Putin’s compatriots, who live in one of the most unequal societies in the world, won’t feel much benefit. Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin warned last month that the country could be heading for a recession if things don’t change….