Earlier this month, Maria Snegovaya wrote a compelling analysis in the Washington Post detailing the slow effects of U.S. sanctions on Putin and his hold on power. We hope that our policymakers are charting their way back into the Middle East. The one Barack Obama abandoned to Russia and Iran. The Russian sanctions weakening Putin hold on power.
Russia’s economy is based on a paternal crony system that favors the elites through distribution of perks and spoils. In return, the elites offer absolute loyalty. Snegovaya wrote:
First, the current sanctions are contributing to the shrinking of Russia’s overall economic pie, thus forcing the regime to make unpopular decisions. By the end of 2017, Russia’s gross domestic product was 1.8 percentage points lower because of the cumulative effect of sanctions on capital inflows …
As the economic pie shrinks, the government can’t keep redistributing perks of the same size to its most important constituencies — and in return, their support for the regime is weakening.
Over the past months, Levada Center polls show that Russians have increasingly negative assessments of both their own personal financial situations and of the nation’s economic situation. Concerned about the long-term sustainability of Russia’s budget, the Kremlin recently announced increases in the value-added tax (VAT) and in the retirement age.
The increase in the retirement age hurts the people in one of Putin’s key constituencies: people of pre-retirement age, one of Russia’s most conservative social groups. The announcement of the increased retirement age has already led to social protests in Russia and a dramatic decline in Putin’s approval rating, the first such drop since Russia invaded and annexed Crimea.
Russia is in Trouble
Although moving in slow motion, the economic woes facing Putin’s primitive Russian economy provide Trump’s advisers with an opportunity. One that would project U.S. power in the Middle East in the post-Obama era of “retreat and abandon” policies.
By invading and annexing Crimea, and by imposing the violent Assad regime on a volatile region looking for stability, Putin is chewing more than he can swallow. The United States must not stop until he chokes on his own trouble making behavior. It behooves the U.S. security institutions to clip the wings of Vladimir Putin to limit his capacity for further harm. Now or tomorrow. The Russian sanctions weakening Putin hold on power.
Snegovaya gave us a glimpse of how rotten the underbelly of the Russian beast has become:
Meanwhile, as the elites struggle for access to the spoils, they are turning on each other. For example, since 2014, the regional heads of Federal Penitentiary Service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs — previously untouchable — have been detained. And since 2016, heads of investigative departments of Russia’s Investigative Committee have been detained, as well.
This suggests that different parts of the security forces are trying to arrest their competitors in a scramble for the spoils.
While Russian elites fight each other, our national security apparatuses must keep Donald Trump on his toes. This president must not provide Vladimir Putin the oxygen he needs to survive the sanctions. Putin interfered in our elections, hacked the Democratic Party, and sowed discord in a fragile and young society. He must pay dearly for his trespasses.
Many Americans want to see Putin weakened and weak Obama condemned for his wimpiness.