All hail the Tsar

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All hail the Tsar

Putin’s re-election means a stable Russia but is the world ready for inevitable muscle-flexing?

Imperial Russia, the state formed after the rise of the Romanov dynasty, never had a Tsar Vladimir. However, modern post-Soviet Russia clearly does have a new Tsar. Vladimir Putin was just elected to his fourth term in office, including his time as Prime Minister where he ran things for President Dmitry Medvedev before the rules over term limits were changed. Putin has run Russia since January 1, 2000, when his predecessor Boris Yeltsin resigned. While Yeltsin had overseen the downfall of the Soviet Empire, thanks to his leadership in the attempted coup d’etat against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, few predicted that his surprise appointment of Putin would define the Russian state in the 21st century. Under Putin, Russia halted its post-communist decline and regained some of its stature in the world. He is seen across the world as a strongman. His actions against some other former Communist states, notably Georgia and the Ukraine, including annexing the Crimean peninsula, have invited global condemnation and yet he is increasingly popular inside his own country. At the same time, Putin and his allies have been accused of undermining Russian democracy, so much so that commentators never thought the Russian election results were in any doubt, however, Putin and the Russian States alleged interference in elections elsewhere have many in the world up in arms, particularly allegations of Russian interference in the US Presidential elections of 2016.

That said, while Putin maintains an exterior of incredible calm — few world leaders in the recent past would put up bare-chested photographs of themselves — Russia has been in a state of decline. Western sanctions imposed on Russia after their Eastern Ukrainian excursion are biting hard. While Russia controls huge amounts of oil and gas, falling prices of these and other commodities have hit the Russian economy hard. Putin is also accused of using force to crush his opponents inside Russia, including using murder as a tool. At the same time, Putin and his Government are accused of murdering or attempting to murder opponents in foreign soil, most recently of attempting to murder double-agent Sergei Skripal. In the past, Russian agents used Polonium to murder another double-agent Alexander Litvinenko. And while Russian hackers have gained fame and notoriety across the world, Russia’s famed hardware development is today bankrolled by China and in recent India-Russia Track-2 diplomatic talks, Indian attendees were horrified that the Kremlin kowtows to Beijing’s line. India’s various defence programs with the Russians are stalled and ties, despite Narendra Modi’s bonhomie with Putin, are at multi-decade lows. However, Putin is clearly going to remain in power for another decade or two, and despite the problems, India and the rest of the world have to deal with him.

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