Russia: President Vladimir Putin

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In 2000 President Boris Yeltsin announced he would step down and named the relatively obscure Vladimir Putin his successor.  Promising to rebuild a weakened Russia and improve the Russian economy, Putin won the presidency that same year.  In his first term, he centralized power in the Kremlin by transforming Russia’s 89 regions into seven federal districts and abolishing privileges traditionally held by regional governors.  At the same time, in a proclaimed bid to decrease corruption, Putin weakened Russia’s most powerful media oligarchs by closing several major media stations.  He also created a tightly regulated market economy to break Russia free of the recession that had held it throughout the 90s. The resulting steady economic growth ensured Putin’s reelection in 2004.  In his second term Putin gained popularity with his nationalist, anti-West rhetoric and his successful campaigns against Chechen rebels.

Constitutional limits prevented Putin from seeking a third term in 2008; however from 2008 to 2012 Putin acted as Russia’s prime minister, keeping him among the Kremlin’s leadership.  He was reelected to a third term in 2012 among rumors of election meddling.  He has since continued his campaign to make Russia a world power, unbeholden to any other country.  Putin’s campaign has been characterized by aggressive foreign policy that has placed it at odds with much of the international community. For example, in 2013 Putin weakened relations with the United States, already strained by Putin’s anti-West and anti-democratic leanings, further by granting asylum to Edward Snowden.  In 2014 in response to the expulsion of Ukraine’s president Viktor Yanukovych, Putin forcefully seized Ukraine’s Crimea, prompting international condemnation and fighting along the border.  In 2015 Russia sent troops to Syria to combat ISIS. After a two-year campaign, Russia withdrew its forces in 2017; however Putin left the possibility of launching a second campaign open.  In 2017 Russia was implicated in meddling in a series of Western elections in an attempt to weaken Western democracies and strengthen Russia’s global position. Putin remains one of the world’s most powerful, enigmatic leaders.

While dismissed from what was once the G8, now the G7 group, following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia is still a part of the G20 group. There was much anticipation regarding Putin’s arrival to the G20 summit last year, as it was his first face-to-face meeting the U.S. President Trump. While Putin has implemented an assertive foreign policy since his election, the Russian economy has struggled due to Western sanctions. Depending on the situation regarding sanctions, trade, and U.S. relations with Russia, as there is controversy and confusion surrounding potential election meddling, these could all be strong themes of conversation for Putin at the G20 Summit in Argentina.

“We never said there were not people there who were carrying out certain tasks, including in the military sphere. But that does not mean there are Russian (regular) troops there, feel the difference.”

“We don’t need a weakened government but a strong government that would take responsibility for the rights of the individual and care for the society as a whole.”

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