Opinion: Is continuity the key to Russia′s future? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 07.05.2012
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Opinion: Is continuity the key to Russia's future?

Vladimir Putin pledged stability and continuity as he took the oath as Russia's president - nothing new there. DW's Ingo Mannteufel doubts whether he can rule Russia along those lines for the next six years.

Supporters of Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin wave flags during a supporters rally in central Moscow May 6, 2012. Russian riot police beat protesters with batons and hauled away dozens on Sunday after skirmishes broke out at a demonstration in Moscow against Vladimir Putin on the eve of his return to the presidency. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin (RUSSIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Russland Putin

Vladimir Putin was sworn in for his third term in office as Russia's president on Monday at a ceremony in Moscow's Kremlin.

He has effectively switched places with Dimitri Medvedev, who is to be confirmed as prime minster - the position Putin has held these past four years - on Tuesday.

That brings to an end the high-level Russian swap announced in September 2011. But protests against voter fraud in elections for the State Duma in December and Putin's re-election as president in March have changed Russia.

A new Russia

A rally billed as a "March of Millions" called by the anti-Putin opposition a day ahead of the president's inauguration gathered fewer people than declared - but it made one thing very clear: the mood of protest in Moscow continues unabated and will not evaporate just like that. The violent, chaotic reaction by security forces showed political leaders haven't realized that fact yet. But by using force, the Kremlin will only push the protest movement into a more radical stance instead of getting protesters to disband.

Ingo Mannteufel

Ingo Mannteufel heads DW's Russia desk

In which direction will Russia move in the six years of Putin's presidency? The answers observers give to this question couldn't be more diverse. They differ according to political points of view and often, there's an element of wishful thinking or nightmare scenarios. That makes a matter-of-fact analysis even more difficult.

Entering a new stage

But everyone agrees the next few years will be decisive for the country's future. Putin also stressed the start of a new stage in Russia in brief remarks following the swearing-in ceremony on Monday,

Yet he also indicated he would continue the present course. Putin praised conservative values and the stability he attributed to his policies, but made no direct mention of the anti-Putin protests.

Putin's first words as newly sworn-in president gave the impression he believes he will be able to seamlessly continue the policies of past years: state-controlled modernization policies in technology and the economy without threatening the Kremlin's power or state bureaucracy, in addition to performing individual paternalistic good deeds for the masses. That doesn't sound like a "new" Putin who would respond to changed social and political conditions.

New society, new global economy

But it is doubtful whether the old recipes will still work in the coming years. In contrast to his previous terms, and for the first time, a substantial part of Russia's society now objects to Putin's presidency. It may not be a majority, but those who oppose Putin are from the politically and economically relevant middle classes. Pushing through his agenda in such a politically aware environment will be a new experience for Putin. In future, even simple routine issues have the potential to light the fuse of political and social upheaval.

In addition, the world has greatly changed over the past years. The global economy is in turmoil, on a veering course that is also dangerous for Moscow. Russia's economy and thus the state survive on the income from the export of raw materials. A slump in energy prices due to a foundering world economy or the euro crisis could considerably limit Putin's scope of action, in particular the realization of his election pledges in the social sector. Directly and at any time, external developments can affect Putin's policies. Therefore, it remains to be seen whether his planned policy of stability that would only allow gradual change in technologic and economic fields is the key to Russia's future.

Author: Ingo Mannteufel/ db
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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