Back to Kremlin

Back to Kremlin

Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin after four years, when he served as prime minister, is likely to see Russia take a new assertive role in global politics. His predecessor, Dmitry Medvedev has been sworn in as prime minister, which means that the two have swapped jobs. The Putin-Medvedev team at the helm will thus remain unchanged. Although it is the president who is all-powerful in Russia, Putin as prime minister was the senior partner of the team, wielding far greater influence than the president.  Putin as president now will wield even more power. His position vis-a-vis the Russian public, however, will be a bit shaky as he is not as popular as he was at the start of his earlier terms as president. A controversial presidential election earlier this year is said to have undermined his image somewhat. Still, neither the mass protests nor other rival politicians pose any serious challenge to his political authority. Yet president Putin must heed the growing calls for reform of an exceedingly corrupt bureaucracy. As Russia’s most powerful leader, he has the stature, the authority and the political support to usher in changes Russia urgently needs.

As in his earlier terms when Russia stood up to the west and opposed robustly Nato’s eastward expansion, this time too Putin is unlikely to cow down to western diktats. During the Medvedev presidency, Russia did acquiesce to foreign intervention in Libya. But in recent months, Moscow has firmly opposed western attempts to push for regime change in Syria. Putin can be expected to work with China to ensure that the west does not get its way with regard to the crisis in Syria and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Russia under Putin can reclaim its global role if only it is proactive in determining its position on various crises. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow foreign policy has been reactive, responding to the west and opposing it. It needs to take the initiative and carve out for itself a role in dealing with North Korea, for instance, rather than leaving that to the United States. Putin must reach out to old allies like India in crafting joint positions in Afghanistan, Iran, etc. Putin has reclaimed the Kremlin. He must work now on enabling Russia to reclaim its position as a global power.
 

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