The Financial Times published an article on the destructive nature of the illegitimate Putin's regime. The newspaper points out:
Putin will not be budged from his nostalgia. Casting the west as the enemy is vital to his pretense that Russia has held on to superpower status. When Russians protested in their tens of thousands about the rigging of last December's Duma elections, his reaction was that it was all a plot cooked up by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state. In the Kremlin, Nato's plans for missile defense are proof positive of its aggressive intentions towards Russia.
Putin has made two big strategic decisions since returning in May for a third term as president. Both have diminished Russia. The first has been to continue to back Bashar al-Assad in the face of the Syrian president's escalating slaughter of his own people; the second to crack down on internal dissent against the corruption and lawlessness of his own regime.
The civil war in Syria is unlikely to have a happy outcome. Western governments are discovering that non-intervention carries costs. But what seems absolutely clear is that the present regime will fall. Russia will have lost its most important regional ally and will have surrendered any claim of influence in the Arab world. So much for his policy of "standing up" to the west at the UN.
Putin's response to the popular protests that have marked his return to the Kremlin has been an array of measures to stifle dissent. NGOs that accept overseas support are now obliged to describe themselves as "foreign agents"; new measures have been introduced to censor internet websites; and, in an echo of the treatment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a prominent internet blogger and campaigner against state corruption, has been accused, of all things, of stealing large quantities of lumber.
Like many autocrats, including those who have been toppled in the Middle East, Putin underestimates the importance of legitimacy. When he elbowed aside Dmitry Medvedev to return to the presidency, Putin imagined 12 trouble-free years in the Kremlin. That hope has dissolved. Although Opposition leaders do not have the strength to overturn him, but the protests have undermined him, especially among a Muscovite middle class increasingly frustrated by the regime's corruption.
Putin still has revenues from oil and gas, but the economic tides are increasingly running against him. Capital flight continues apace. The absence of the rule of law leaves foreign investors increasingly wary, demanding ever higher risk premiums for projects in Russia. The country's infrastructure is rotting and it's population falling fast. It has forgotten how to build space rockets and how to win Olympic medals.
The west should not take comfort in any of this. Its interest lies in a Russia prosperous and confident enough to see a role for itself on the international stage beyond propping up nasty dictators such as Assad. There are plenty of people in Russia who see the benefits of political liberalization at home and engagement abroad.
The sensible approach for the west is to be as robust as necessary when necessary and to engage where possible.
Department of Monitoring