Putin Pepe. Once rare, now the market’s flooded with them.
I suppose this post can also double up as the Russian Elections 2018 thread. See archive: https://www.unz.com/author/anatoly-karlin/topic/russian-elections-2018/
My final prediction:
- Turnout: 68.0%
- Baburin: 0.8%
- Grudinin: 9.7%
- Zhirinovsky: 7.8%
- Putin: 76.2%
- Sobchak: 2.0%
- Suraykin: 0.5%
- Titov: 0.5%
- Yavlinsky: 1.3%
- Spoiled ballots: 1.2%
Putin needs to get his dues for arresting the centrifugal tendencies tearing apart the Russian state in the late 1990s, taming the oligarchs, and reversing federalization.
But he has become increasingly senile in recent years, and allowed himself to be surrounded by venal rent-seekers.
In these latest elections, couldn’t even be bothered compiling a program, or campaigning; his “Putin Team” was instead reusing old videos of his speeches.
Recovery of pride and self-confidence is a good thing, along with suppressing Western poz.
Downside: The dour Great Patriotic War cult on which the Russian state bases its legitimacy is just not that cool, interesting, or attractive.
Russian GDP per capita recovered and exceeded peak Soviet levels, and living standards improved greatly; although some improvement, due to the post-Soviet output gap and high oil prices, was inevitable under almost any kind of regime.
Restored domestic manufacturing – Russia now produces 70% of its own cars, and is the world’s largest grain exporter.
Defended economic liberals, balanced the budget, and prevented the likes of Glazyev from turning Russia into a second Venezuela. He seriously needs to be credited for this.
Improved the business climate, from ~120th in the early 2010s to 35th today according to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. Business raiding is no longer endemic like it once was. Bureaucracy has improved greatly, even if it still leaves much to be desired.
Inflation has come down to developed country levels, macroeconomic indicators are strong, and growth likely to be strong during the early 2020s.
Negative point: Russia has been more or less stagnant in terms of output since 2008. Then again, so has most of East-Central Europe.
Corruption & Institutions
I used to be a lot more positive about this, but it’s increasingly hard to keep up the pretense. I really do think the Russian high elite has gotten much more rapacious in the 2010s relative to the previous decade.
In fairness, this is a really hard problem.
See Russia’s Technological Backwardness. Started improving from 2013. But it’s too little, too late.
One of the undoubted bright spots – Russia has recovered from “lowest low” fertility, life expectancy is at record highs, etc., even if Putin did wait a bit too long to start on it, until the mid-2000s.
Kirill Nesterov, main editor of our ROGPR podcast, once noted to me that in half a century’s time Putin, for all his anti-globalist credentials (adored by the Alt Right, hated by neoliberalism.txt) might be regarded in a similar light to Merkel – as someone who pushed their country into the Third World through open borders.
In fairness, Russia’s “open borders”-in-all-but-name policy wrt Central Asia means that Gastarbeiters rotate there and back, as opposed to settling and having children in Russia. Then again, as I understand it, this was similar to Germany in the 1960s.
Reforms have been successful. The Russian military is now a well-oiled, intelligent, largely professional force, as opposed to the conscript rabble of the 1990s.
Russia has difficulties mastering post-Soviet latest generation technologies, but at least for now, it is more formidable than it has ever been.
Russia is close to a real New Cold War with the West, but at least Putin has been successful at striking up a strong strategic partnership with China. I doubt Russian nationalists could have pulled that off.
OTOH, Russia has failed almost completely at soft power, the Kremlin’s best efforts regardless. Millions of dollars to Ketchum – down the drain. Soft power orgs run by cronies and beneficiaries of nepotism.
Even Crimea was… ambiguous [неоднозначная].
The lack of Russian soft power or an interesting culture means that Russia has been able to keep those post-sovok regimes friendly at the price of Russian treasure and a steady dissolution of Russophile sentiment. In particular, Belorussia is basically Ukraine t – 20 years.
Chechnya, Georgia, Syria
Syria to date has been successful enough, I suppose – free training, weapons sales pitches, etc. – but irrelevant in the big picture.
The Kremlin drones didn’t know a thing about Deir ez-Zor before 2015; nor did they need to – as Putin himself noted, Bashar Al-Assad visited Paris more frequently than Moscow. But since then we are supposed to view it as the defining struggle against Globalist Zionism or whatever.
Kicked Saakashvili’s face in, and in the end even helped effect regime change, though Georgia has nonetheless drifted out of Russia’s orbit.
Brought Chechnya back within the RF and largely curtailed terrorism, but at the cost of sprouting a mini-Islamic state within its own borders. Russians may pay for this dearly after Putin.