On Point: Vladimir Putin Seeks Power, Confronts Protests

by Austin Bay
January 22, 2020

On May 1, 2019, Russian police in Moscow and St. Petersburg arrested over a hundred demonstrators who had made it clear to all observers they were protesting one man: Russian President and former KGB Col. Vladimir Putin.

On Jan. 15, 2020, Putin announced that he would send the Russian parliament legislation that would amend the constitution and alter the current senior leadership structure. Putin called the legislation a necessary "reform" that offers "more power to the people."

Putin added that he intends to occupy another executive governing position after his presidential term ends in 2024 but is not certain what it will be.

Few observers believe Putin is giving ordinary Russians power. More likely his murky modifications of the Russian cabinet, the role of the prime minister and the office of the president are camouflage for solidifying his grip on state power.

Several observers argue that Putin is acting now when he has the power to force laws through parliament and secure pro-Putin results in any national vote, to include guaranteeing public approval of a constitutional referendum.

But in 2019, Vladimir had a tough year, one when public protests targeted him.

In June, small demonstrations denouncing corruption and government mismanagement occurred around the country. Russians confront a declining standard of living.

In July, the federal government's blatant efforts to rig Moscow's September city council election angered Muscovites and sparked major protests in the city. The rallies began attracting 50,000 people. By the end of July, the police were arresting demonstrators en masse.

In August, Moscow's rallies continued, and protests broke out in St. Petersburg.

By the end of September, every Russian province had had at least one major protest, the common grievances being corruption by senior officials and systemic mismanagement.

Who heads the federal government? Vlad does. In 2014, Putin recovered the Crimean Peninsula and annexed it to Russia. His popularity soared. But Crimea started a war with Ukraine that has become a quagmire. His Syrian adventure hasn't brought prosperity to Russian workers. Since 2014, prices in Russia have risen over 10% a year.

Putin has run Russia for over two decades, either as president or prime minister. When his 2008 presidential term ended, he slipped into the prime minister's job. Presidents at that time could not serve more than two consecutive four-year terms. So he ruled as prime minister (2008-2012) while his protege, Dmitry Medvedev, played puppet president. Legislation expanded presidential terms to six years. In 2012, Putin replaced Medvedev as president. In 2018, he was reelected. Six more years!

Count the years. Putin has bossed the Kremlin longer than any Russian leader since Josef Stalin. Stalin became the Soviet Union dictator in 1924 and ran the oppressive gulag communist police state until he died in 1953.

Which segues back to May Day's small but audacious anti-Putin protests. In the USSR's heyday, May Day -- with the nom de guerre International Workers Day -- was one of the communist state's biggest holidays.

Soviet-era May Day speeches extolled communism's inevitable global victory. In Moscow, infantry, tanks and tracked vehicles carrying intercontinental ballistic missiles would parade through Red Square, passing in review before gray-faced Politburo septuagenarians. The pageantry supposedly displayed solidarity with "the international revolutionary proletariat" -- Marxist jargon for angry workers rebelling against exploitation by oppressive elites.

The USSR collapsed in 1991 with the root causes of public disgust with corruption, poverty and secret-police oppression.

A minor dispute rages over the translation of Putin's subsequent lamentation. Did he say the USSR's demise was "a major geopolitical disaster of the century" or that it was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century"?

Whatever -- the Soviet collapse still appalls the former KGB colonel.

According to persistent rumors, Putin has thin skin and riles when mocked. Staging anti-Putin protests on May Day must add an ironic edge.

Corruption and mismanagement Putin has overseen and personally benefited from via graft is spurring angry Russians to rebel against exploitation by his oppressive regime. So he is securing a permanent personal grip on power in order to suppress all challenges. Fair bet he intends to die in power, just like Josef Stalin.

Read Austin Bay's Latest Book

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


On Point Archives:

On Point Archives: Current 2019  2018  2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002  2001



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close