Putin's Unsteady Year

May 7, 2013 Topic: Domestic PoliticsPolitics Region: Russia

Putin's Unsteady Year

It's been exactly one year since his return to the presidency, and he's finding it harder the third time around.

The Unfinished Narrative

If Vladimir Putin decides to run for another six-year term and governs until 2024 (when he will only be seventy-two), this past year may represent just the middle of his tenure in office. He clearly has time to change course if he so desires, or if facts on the ground so dictate.

Nevertheless, his actions over the past twelve months seem to represent a turning point in his presidency. Putin essentially has moved from offense to defense, reacting to events instead of leading with his own agenda. Such a strategy allows him to maintain his political monopoly but at the cost of alienating the very people he needs to transform the country into a twenty-first-century power. His social and economic objectives are also running out of steam, overwhelmed by levels of cynicism and corruption that go to the heart of his administration.

Putin still retains sufficient resources to ward off his challengers, but he unexpectedly has lost control over the narrative of his presidency. What was initially seen as a time for consolidating his legacy has instead opened it up to new and as yet unwritten chapters.

Will Pomeranz is the acting director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/kremlin.ru. CC BY 3.0.