He’s back, and that means trouble for Western nations seeking a more constructive Russia on the international stage.
“He,” of course, is the former president and current prime minister, Vladimir Putin. As in the Russia of the czars, the capital-H He is known to everyone as the source of power even if Putin gave up the job of president for one term to Dmitri Medvedev.
The younger stand-in will rotate to prime minister.
An election will be held which is for all intents and purposes a formality; Russia has the form of democracy but without its content, as the Kremlin’s bosses use all the levers of power to support the Putin machine.
Leon Aron, of the American Enterprise Institute, provided a quick survey of Russia’s many problems, including chronic corruption.
“Despite trillions of petrodollars pouring into government coffers, education and health care are, in many instances, less available and of poorer quality then they were in the old Soviet Union,” he wrote in The Los Angeles Times.
“The deterioration of education has meant that as the current generation of scientists and engineers reaches retirement age, there aren’t enough highly trained people to replace them,” Aron said.
With its satellites falling out of the sky and its intercontinental ballistic missiles failing test after test, Russia now imports not only passenger planes but high-tech weaponry and battleships.
Putin talks about great-power status for the crumbling giant, even as Russia’s best and brightest leave as fast as they can, Aron said.
This is unfortunate for Russia and for the world economy, but it’s also a particular problem for the United States and the West. Putin is an unreliable partner at best, despite President Barack Obama’s try to “push the re-set button” on relations three years ago.
“The United States must prepare for all manner of destabilizing developments in the world’s other nuclear superpower,” Aron predicted. “We should also be ready for greater truculence in Russia’s relations with the West and greater assertiveness with regard to the former Soviet republics, which it still considers part of its ‘sphere of influence.’ The U.S. and its allies are likely, once again, to be exposed to Putin’s harangues and to policies informed by his profound mistrust of the West and his perennial theatrical overreactions to perceived slights.”
This is not new, but that it goes on and on — despite the charade of presidential term limits in Russia — provides one other obstacle not only to diplomatic stability but also to economic recovery in the world.