Thu, 18 April 2024
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Vladimir Putin's reelection: What's in store for Russia?

Update : 19 Mar 2024, 10:30

Around the world and inside Russia, the recent presidential election was perceived mainly as a formality. Few were surprised President Vladimir Putin won by a "record result" that secured his reelection. But what is in store for Russia now that he is in charge for yet another term?   

"The proclaimed 87% [election result] affirms the regime and Putin's increasingly dictatorial course," according to Regina Heller, a researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. "The result does not reflect the will of the voters, but the will of the regime," she added. It serves as "a carte blanche for the regime, for Putin's policies and also for his policies and actions in Ukraine."

Eastern Europe expert Hans-Henning Schroder told DW that Putin's regime had stabilized after enduring a crisis-ridden 2023. Last year, the Kremlin faced a mutiny by Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch who headed the Wagner Group, a private militia in the service of the Russian state, and who later died in a plane crash. Putin subsequently engaged in a flurry of public activity intended to signal "he remains in charge," Schroder said.

Putin's regime has remained in power for a range of reasons, including Russia's stable economy and the cushioning of Western sanctions, experts say. In addition, anyone who opposes Russia's war against Ukraine faces massive repression. Taken together, all of this allows the Kremlin to continue ruling as before.

"What we can already see is that Putin will continue waging war [against Ukraine], at an undiminished intensity, and possibly escalate the fighting," Regina Heller told DW.

Higher taxes to fill Putin's war chest?

Russians could face tax increases, not least because Putin called on the Russian government to suggest amendments to the tax code in a Federal Assembly speech before the elections. The war in Ukraine, after all, is expensive, Schroder told DW.
"The government needs money, and this can only be achieved by increasing tax revenue — and this extra tax revenue would then, of course, be used to fund the war," according to Gerhard Mangott, a political science professor at the University of Innsbruck specializing in international relations and security issues relating to the post-Soviet region.

More military conscription? 

Many Russians expect a new mobilization of conscripted soldiers. This is seen as a realistic scenario, as Putin is not toning down his military rhetoric, Heller told DW. "We can see that Western support for Ukraine is not as strong as perhaps it should be," which, from the Kremlin's point of view, provides an opportunity to try and change the balance in its favor through a new mass mobilization.

However, new mobilization drive could prove dangerous as there is now also great war fatigue among Russians, according to Heller. Mangott agrees and cites surveys suggesting a major call-up is unlikely.
Schroder said that whether or not there will be a new mobilization depends on Russia's plans for Ukraine in the coming months. "If they want to go on the offensive and defeat Ukraine, they must grow their armed forces to win and bring the country under control."

Yet the expert added Russia was likely just trying to look successful. "My impression is that at least until the US [presidential] elections, it's more about maintaining the upper hand and giving the overall impression at home and abroad that they are on the road to victory."

Ukraine's situation would worsen if US President Joe Biden lost to Donald Trump in this year's US election. In that case, Russia would likely not need to conscript extra soldiers in a major mobilization drive, Schroder told DW.

Leadership reshuffle?

No major changes are expected among the Russian leadership after the recent elections, the experts told DW. "I don't actually see any major weaknesses at the moment," Schroder said, who added the Kremlin is satisfied with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Russia's central bank and financial policymakers stabilized the economy after EU and the US sanctions in response to the Ukraine war caused unexpected disarray. Inflation is also under control. Russia's economic shift away from Europe and towards Asia has also 
worked well, which is why Putin sees no reason to intervene, Schroder said.

In his speech to the nation, Putin stressed that Russia needs a new pro-war elite. Some of these could be recruited from the sons and daughters of Putin's allies, whom he has known for a long time and who are loyal to him, Heller told DW. She thinks the ruling elite could likely undergo a restructuring with the long-term goal of preparing a smooth and stable transition of power after Putin.

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