Vladimir Putin wins Russian electionsAn old president was elected in through new elections. The old president has started a new term. Under the old system, in a new regime, in a renewed election, an old president starts a new mandate with circumstances reverting to the way they were. It was expected that Vladimir Putin would win, it did not come as a surprise. What was expected was that with Putin a new, uncertain period would begin. In other words, what is expected in Russia in the new period are unpredictable steps by Putin and unexpected developments. The West should not expect a serious transformation in the coming phase of relations with Russia. It is at least certain that the Kremlin will not deviate from its established overall direction. However irregularities can sometimes be the case on the east-west axis on the world political balance. Lapses in rhythm could cause global scale problems. There are certain tangible signs of this. Putin has announced that he will invest EUR 580 billion in defence. Accordingly, Russia will augment its defence system with 400 intercontinental ballistic missiles, 600 warplanes, 20 submarines and 2,300 tanks. Putin has also announced the target of this armament programme. Russia is undertaking this move due to NATO. The missile defence system or shield the USA is establishing under the NATO in Europe could paralyse Russia’s national security. Putin has announced that Russia is to develop new weapons against the missile shield. All this featured in the article penned by Putin for the daily Rossiyskaya Gaseta. From this we may conclude that cards will be played more openly in global politics from now on. Recently global politics had been formed through indirect expressions and moves due to delicate balances, multiple unknowns and complicated risks. However now Putin has indicated that he will be more open and direct in his moves, compared to the past.Former Leader, Former Circumstances, a New PeriodThe presidential elections held in Russia were won by Vladimir Putin, who had formerly occupied the position for two consecutive terms and had been prime minister during the last four years. Putin got 64 percent of the valid vote. However, although this outcome may seem like an easy landslide victory, circumstances were actually so tough as to make Putin’s tears during his victory speech understandable.That the independent elections monitoring organisation Golos should claim that the figures delivered by the electoral commission were not correct and that Putin received 50 percent and not 64 percent of the valid vote points in this direction. According to Golos some Putin supporters cast more than one ballot. Those voting for Putin were taken from one polling station to another in buses and cast repeatedly. These claims may be true or not. In any case they are not surprising. The political and democratic history of Russia allows for such a situation to be tolerated.The NGO movements, social movements and Sorosian currents which were very effective during the run up to the election caused Putin to lose energy during the elections. It is possible that the opposition intended to make Putin’s job difficult, rather than to stop him from claiming victory. In any case, Putin’s closest rival was the Communist candidate Gennadi Zuganov with 17 percent.The last President of the USSR Mikail Gorbachov has said that things would not be as easy for Putin as they were before. Speaking to Euronews, Gorbachov underlined: “Even if Putin wants to return to the old days, he cannot do so in the current condition. Also, we will have to change some things in the near future. That is we will have to elect a new parliament. We know under what circumstances the parliamentary elections were held.”Gorbachov had spoken out against Putin before the elections. His latest evaluation however, given that it was made right after the elections, might show that Pandora’s Box has been opened in Russia.In 2008 Putin had left the presidential office to the candidate he endorsed, Dmitri Medvedev, following two terms in office. Having served as prime minister in the interim, Putin has now been elected president once more and according to the Russian constitution he can run for the presidential office again in 2018. This means a new Putin period which will last from 2012 to 224 has begun. Taking the stand for a victory speech before the people alongside his predecessor and successor Medvedev, Putin must have seen what a difficult he signed up for as he watched the happy crowd and the banners reading “Our President Putin” and “We Believe in Putin”.Putin’s Difficult Years BeginPutin’s third term is beginning. His first two terms were not easy, but it is certain that the third will be more difficult. Putin is aware what problems may be caused by NATO’s missile defence shield. At the end of the 80s, then current version of the present missile shield had been the final nail in the USSR’s coffin. The USSR lost its defence capability in the face of the Western missile defence system and the game was over.Putin has to strengthen national defence. However, this difficult task is not the only challenge he is facing. It is certain that Russia is nowhere close to the influential position it desires in global politics. Today Russia’s opinions only count partially because it is a member of the UN Security Council. However, despite this trump card Russia has found itself sidetracked by the West over many issues such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. For Moscow, developing relations with names such as Castro and Chavez cannot form an alliance that will contribute to Russia.In any case Putin has to take steps to develop cooperation over collective defence. Yet it is not very probable that the other BRIC countries China, Brazil and India would make such a preference. On the other hand, international capital, foreign businesses in Russia and goods and services markets might not tolerate a new polarisation of world politics.Nothing will be easy for Putin. Putin had previously promised to make Russia the fifth largest economy in the world. He has told the people that he would undertake “growth focused economic policies”. He has also signalled a “fight against corruption”. Putin has also announced his intention to continue with tax reform and the privatisation of state enterprises.Probably the best card Putin has in his hand is the “German card”. In a statement immediately after the elections in Russia, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke of his desire to “continue the strategic partnership with Russia.” Rivalry and partnership, mutual armament and defence programmes all bundled up together... This cannot be taken as good news for the former Warsaw Pact countries who lived in a prison of peoples behind the wall and the Iron Curtain.Generations in Eastern and Central Europe have lived in hope of the day they would be free of Russian dominance and oppression. For them membership of the European Union was to jump over the Berlin Wall and meant never coming under Russian pressure again. They became members of the European Union . However the European Union has now signed a strategic partnership agreement with Russia. This situation is of course safer compared to the circumstances before, if one is prepared to overlook Russia’s masterful use of its energy card for foreign policy purposes and its military build up against the missile defence shield in Europe.Berlin undertakes a very important function in keeping Russia within healthy cooperation with the West. It prevents Russia from being completely isolated from the global system dominated by the West and encourages Russia for more cooperation and partnership. To live and work together and mutual interdependence orient Russia towards the idea of mutual gain.The Berlin-Moscow axis which developed following the Cold War still has determinant significance at a Eurasian scale, in the immediate vicinity of Russia, the periphery of the European Union and the outer shell of NATO.However, under Putin’s third term, competition may come to overtake cooperation. For Russian domestic policy in the coming period, stability will be more important than democracy and security more important than freedoms. We have entered a period in which Russia’s traditional foreign policy preferences will not change but will become more sensitive. Especially the issues of Iran and its premiss Syria require Putin to flex more muscles than before.In examining the causes of this process, one should not overlook the Munich Security Conference. During that conference, the Prime Minister Putin had established certain parameters clearly and unequivocally. The expression “we will not let anyone interfere in our domestic affairs or to impose their desires on us. We can decide on our own” furnishes an example.The USSR was a superpower. Russia is not a superpower. Russia was not a superpower yesterday nor will it be one tomorrow. Russia takes a “colonial” interest in countries in its immediate exterior and regions which positively or negatively impact its interests. From Putin’s window “tough neighbourhood with Europe” and “mutual mistrust with the USA” form the background to every effort at restructuring the future of Russia. However that Putin should try to make Russia a superpower can cause serious problems for the entire world. Even an attempt in this direction could pose a very risky challenge to the global system.
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