CRF Blog

A strategy of spectacle

by David De La Torre

In A strategy of spectacle, The Economist looks at what powers Vladimir Putin’s popularity in Russia.

Mr Putin’s first two presidential terms, which ran from 2000 to 2008, were sold under the banner of political stabilisation and economic growth. The third, begun in 2012, has brought neither of these things …. Russia is not becoming any more stable and it is getting distinctly worse off. The economy contracted by 4% last year. Disposable incomes have been falling since 2013. Thus the need for this current term to be reconfigured as a wartime presidency, its successes presented with polish by men and women like Mr Kisilev.

The underpinning of this policy requires the world to be read in a number of seemingly contradictory ways. America must be seen as both a model for modernisation and a source of evil to be resisted. Russia must be seen as both unconstrained and beleaguered — a duality that harks back to the years of Stalinism, which saw the Soviet Union both as a beacon leading the world into an inevitable communist future and as a fortress besieged by enemies and shot through with spies.

The Soviet Communist Party once ruled that no international issue could be resolved without Soviet participation or against its will. Mr Putin lacks the firepower or economic resources of the Soviet era, but lays great stock in the geostrategic position it aspired to, and which it surrendered with its collapse. He wants to return to the times of the Yalta and Potsdam agreements when America, the Soviet Union and Britain divided Europe into Soviet and Western spheres of influence.

And the Russian people want that, too. [more]

For a related free classroom lesson, see “Putin’s Illiberal Democracy.” It is available from CRF’s Bill of Rights in Action Archive. It is currently only in PDF and you will have to register (if you haven’t already), which is free.