QED

How and Why Vladimir Putin Survives

Augusto Zimmermann

The first attempt to realise Karl Marx’s dream of a communist utopia happened in the former Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1991.  According to Stéphane Courtois, co-author of the seminal The Black Book of Communism (Harvard University Press, 1999), victims of that communist regime have been estimated to range around 20 million.[1]

On January 1, 1992, “the evil Soviet empire”, to borrow a term from a landmark 1983 speech by Ronald Reagan, finally came to an end. It collapsed and was replaced by 15 new nations, the largest and most populous of which was the Russian Federation. The imperial white-blue-red flag introduced by Peter the Great was reinstalled as the national flag in 1993. The Russian Church’s national holidays were restored.

For most Russians, however, the early 1990s was a time of despair, uncertainty and hardship. During that period, real power laid entirely in the hands of local oligarchs. As noted by Orlando Figes, a British historian best known for his outstanding books on Russian history, those oligarchs “behaved as if they were the government”, demanding posts from the then-president Boris Yeltsin, who was barely able to carry out his job due to heart attacks and heavy drinking. “The state was in danger of breaking into fiefdoms controlled by the oligarchs”, Figes says.[2]

By the end of the 1990s the Russians were desperately hoping for someone who could save their nation, someone who would be healthy, patriotic and … sober. It is in this context that a former intelligence officer was manoeuvred into power in the mid-1990s. Vladimir Putin had just returned from Germany to his hometown of St. Petersburg. In due course, he became the city’s deputy mayor, and, in 1996, he moved to Moscow. On 9 August 1999, he was appointed first deputy prime minister and later that year Yeltsin resigned. Then Putin became Russia’s acting president.[3] 

Putin was a candidate in that year’s presidential election. He campaigned with the promise of a “dictatorship of the rule of law”, thus appealing to everyone tired of the lawlessness of the past decade.[4] As a result, Putin duly won in the first round of that election with 53 per cent of the vote.[5]  Ordinary Russians, desperate for an end to their misery, believed they had found in their new president an energetic politician who could lead the nation towards a brighter future. Indeed, the early 2000s were marked by a remarkable recovery of the Russian economy, which allowed ordinary Russians to enjoy unprecedented levels of comfort and security.[6]

From the beginning of his second term as president, Putin set about making it patently clear that the years of oligarchical hegemony were over. The oligarchs were faced with a rather simple choice: accept that they could no longer dictate politics or pick a fight with the government and lose.[7] As a result, some of those oligarchs left Russia but the richest and most powerful, oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky, stayed to back opposition candidates. He had ambitious plans to sell his shares in the oil and gas company Yukos (he had bought those shares during the notorious “loans for shares” auctions in the mid-1990s) to the U.S. oil giant company Exxon. In 2003, Khodorkovsky was sentenced to prison after been charged with extensive fraud and tax evasion, not least as a warning to all those oligarchs, some of them who were divested of their companies.[8] 

The 2004 presidential election in Russia was held on March 14 and Putin won in a landslide with more than 71 per cent of the popular vote. In 2008, as the Russian Constitution did not allow a third consecutive term, Putin’s prime minister, Dmitry Medveded, was elected as the new president for a four-year term. When his term was nearing its end, he endorsed Putin’s presidential candidature again, in 2012.

Of course, Putin holds strong nationalist feelings but, at first, he was quite willing to be a partner with the West. He assumed that so long as his nation backed the U.S.-led ‘Global War on Terror’, then Western leaders would treat Russia with respect and not threaten its borders.[9] [10]

Following the beginning of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the US, the European Union, and other Western countries swiftly imposed a mix of wide-ranging diplomatic and economic sanctions.[11] These sanctions included asset freezes of Russian individuals and companies, as well as the removal of Russian banks from the SWIFT banking system, and the confiscation of about half of all Russia’s foreign reserves – roughly US$ 315 billion.[12] Some Western commentators predicted that such unprecedented sanctions would soon “bring the Russian economy on its knees”.[13] President Joe Biden declared on March 27, 2022,  “As a result of our unprecedented sanctions, the ruble was almost immediately reduced to rubble. The Russian economy is on track to be cut in half”.[14]

One should indeed expect that a nation facing these unprecedented sanctions would see its currency dramatically decline in value. However, the effect of such sanctions has been the very opposite. Russia’s currency, the ruble, is now the best-performing fiat currency in the world, reaching record highs against the EU’s euro and the US dollar. It has increased in value by more than 25 per cent over the last nine months alone.[15] Thanks to the continuing sales of oil and gas, the nation’s foreign currency reserves remain the fourth-largest in the world, which explains the current levels of popularity enjoyed by their president.

During the early stages of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, on February 24, 2022, there was speculation in the Western media that Putin’s days as a leader were numbered.[16] Arguably, Russians would be going to abandon their loyalty to him as the wider population felt the economic pain and be unwilling to accept the growing death toll for Russians Forces in Ukraine.[17]

In reality, however, Putin’s approval rating among his people has remained well above 71 per cent since the beginning of the war and Western economic sanctions, according to the Levada Analytical Center (Levada-Center).[18] His public approval rating rose to 83 per cent in September, one of the highest levels of his presidency.[19] High global energy prices have helped him follow through on his pledge to reduce poverty and inequality despite the sanctions.[20] According to Alexander Hill, professor of military history at the University of Calgary:

Russian public opinion polls have suggested an increase in Putin’s popularity after the invasion. Support for the war itself is not as high as Putin’s overall approval rating – but he can still count on majority support for the invasion. Additionally, the Russian economy has remained surprisingly robust – to a considerable extent helped by the sanctions meant to damage it. By denying themselves Russian oil and to a lesser extent gas, European countries contributed to an increase in oil and gas prices that has buoyed the Russian coffers.[21]

At this moment in Russia, capital investment is up and the nation’s unemployment rate is only 3.9 per cent, its lowest since the statistics service started publishing the figure in 1992.[22]  Numerous international buyers are paying for petroleum products in rubles.[23] The state-owned energy giant, Gasprom, has recently announced a record first-half profit of 2.5 trillion rubles (US$ 41.36 billion), sparking a 30 per cent in its share price.[24]

By contrast, Europe has seen a record depreciation of the euro over the past 20 years.[25] Many European companies are presently on the verge of bankruptcy. Europe’s economies are deteriorating and its population’s living standards are plummeting.[26] Following catastrophic electricity and heating bills, Europeans face mass unemployment and a dramatic decline in living standards.

In the United Kingdom, 60 per cent of all enterprises are on the verge of closing due to higher electricity prices. Thirteen per cent of all British factories have reduced their working hours and 7 per cent have temporarily or permanently closed down. Electricity bills have risen by more than 100 per cent on last year’s prices.[27] The natural consequences will be mass business closures and one of the worst rising employments in the UK’s history.

And the Germans are certainly not faring any better. “A German crisis would be a crisis for all of Europe, one that would rock the entire European Union and the many economies that surround it”, says Weimir Chen, a research assistant at the Austrian Economics Center.[28] In fact, the Germans are unable to avoid a serious recession that, according to the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research, saw the number of companies going bankrupt in August rise by 26 per cent compared to the same period in 2021.[29]  All the leading indicators point to significantly higher insolvency figures, which could be around a third higher than in October last year.[30]  Not surprisingly, a recent poll reveals that one in two Germans is now concerned their nation is hurting itself more than it is impacting Russia’s political aims through tough sanctions.[31]

As for the US, Brian Brenberg, an economy professor at King’s College, comments that his country is on the verge of a “deeper recession”.[32] Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes magazine, comments that the U.S. is already in recession and “making people poorer”.[33] According to Nouriel Roubini, emeritus professor of economics at New York University, it is simply “delusional” to expect just a short and mild recession rather than one that will be “long and severe”.[34] In light of these depressing prospects, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine may at least assist the Biden administration deflect the attention of the American public to domestic problems that include raging inflation hitting, the worst crime wave in U.S. history and, a year ago in Afghanistan, the chaotic, shameful retreat from Kabul.[35]

Russia may very create a Eurasian bloc opposed to Western globalist hegemony. Arguably, Putin’s popularity can be partially justified by official propaganda convincing the local people that “mother Russia” is engaged in a “just war” not so much against Ukraine but, instead, for the end of Washington’s hegemony and America’s “post-modernist morality”.

Augusto Zimmermann is Professor and Head of Law at Sheridan Institute of Higher Education in Perth. He is also President of the Western Australian Legal Theory Association (WALTA) and Editor-in-Chief of the Western Australian Jurist law journal. From 2012 to 2017, he served as a Law Reform Commissioner in Western Australia. 

[1] Stéphane Courtois, ‘Introduction: The Crimes of Communism’, in: S. Courtois et al, The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression (Harvard University Press, 1999) 4. See also: Alexander N. Yakovlev, A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia (Yale University Press, 2002) 165.

[2] Orlando Figes, The Story of Russia (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022) 270.

[3] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022) 173.

[4] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022) 174.

[5] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022) 174.

[6] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022), 175.

[7] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022) 174.

[8] Orlando Figes, The Story of Russia (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022) 282.

[9] Mark Galeotti, A Short History of Russia (Penguin Random House, 2022) 176.

[10] Orlando Figes, The Story of Russia (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2022) 283.

[11] Christopher Michaelsen, ‘Are the West’s sanctions against Russia actually working?’ The Conversation, September 20, 2022.

[12] Christopher Michaelsen, ‘Are the West’s sanctions against Russia actually working?’ The Conversation, September 20, 2022.

[13] Alexandre Hill, ‘Why Vladimir Putin still has widespread support in Russia’, The Conversation, September 7, 2022, at

[14] President Biden, Twitter, March 27, 2022, at https://twitter.com/potus/status/1507842574865866763?lang=en

[15] ‘Global Foreign Exchange Rates’, Reuters, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/GLOBAL-CURRENCIES-PERFORMANCE/0100301V041/index.html

[16] Alexandre Hill, ‘Why Vladimir Putin still has widespread support in Russia’, The Conversation, September 7, 2022, at https://theconversation.com/why-vladimir-putin-still-has-widespread-support-in-russia-189211

[17] Alexandre Hill, ‘Why Vladimir Putin still has widespread support in Russia’, The Conversation, September 7, 2022, at https://theconversation.com/why-vladimir-putin-still-has-widespread-support-in-russia-189211

[18] ‘Global Foreign Exchange Rates’, Reuters, http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/GLOBAL-CURRENCIES-PERFORMANCE/0100301V041/index.html

[18] ‘Putin’s Approval Rating’, Levada-Center, September 14, 2022, at https://www.levada.ru/en

[19] ‘Putin’s Approval Rating’, Levada-Center, September 14, 2022, at https://www.levada.ru/en

[20] ‘Six months into the war, what is the state of Russia’s economy’, World Economic Forum, August 30, 2022

[21] Alexandre Hill, ‘Why Vladimir Putin still has widespread support in Russia’, The Conversation, September 7, 2022, at https://theconversation.com/why-vladimir-putin-still-has-widespread-support-in-russia-189211

[22] ‘Six months into the war, what is the state of Russia’s economy’, World Economic Forum, August 30, 2022

[23] ‘Harvard Economists Baffled By How Gold-Tied Russian Ruble Goes Up’, ZeroHedge, June 10, 2022, at

[24] Nik Martin, ‘Is Russia’s Economy Really Hurting?’, Deutsche Welle, September 6, 2022, at https://www.dw.com/en/is-russias-economy-really-hurting/a-63000166\

[25] ‘Europe’s Economy And Living Standards Are Plummeting’, Oriental Review, September 19, 2022, at https://orientalreview.org/2022/09/19/europes-economy-and-living-standards-are-plummeting/

[26] ‘Europe’s Economy And Living Standards Are Plummeting’, Oriental Review, September 19, 2022, at https://orientalreview.org/2022/09/19/europes-economy-and-living-standards-are-plummeting/

[27] ‘Europe’s Economy And Living Standards Are Plummeting’, Oriental Review, September 19, 2022, at https://orientalreview.org/2022/09/19/europes-economy-and-living-standards-are-plummeting/

[28] Weimin Chen, ‘Germany’s (And Europe’s Self-Inflicted Upcoming Energy’, The Mises Institute,  September 19, 2022, at https://mises.org/wire/germanys-and-europes-self-inflicted-upcoming-energy-crunch

[29] ‘Europe’s Economy And Living Standards Are Plummeting’, Oriental Review, September 19, 2022, at https://orientalreview.org/2022/09/19/europes-economy-and-living-standards-are-plummeting/

[29] Weimin Chen, ‘Germany’s (And Europe’s Self-Inflicted Upcoming Energy’, The Mises Institute,  September

[30] ‘Institute IWH expects more bankrupticies in Autumn’, NewsinGermany, at https://newsingermany.com/institute-iwh-expects-more-bankruptcies-in-autumn/

[31] Weimin Chen, ‘Germany’s (And Europe’s Self-Inflicted Upcoming Energy’, The Mises Institute,  September 19, 2022, at https://mises.org/wire/germanys-and-europes-self-inflicted-upcoming-energy-crunch

[32] Tom Ozimek, ‘Steve Forbes Criticises Fed for ‘Making People Poorer’, Insists America Is in Recession’, The Epoch Times, September 20, 2022, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/steve-forbes-criticizes-fed-for-making-people-poorer-insists-america-is-in-recession_4742005.html?utm_source=ai&utm_medium=search

[33] Tom Ozimek, ‘Steve Forbes Criticises Fed for ‘Making People Poorer’, Insists America Is in Recession’, The Epoch Times, September 20, 2022, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/steve-forbes-criticizes-fed-for-making-people-poorer-insists-america-is-in-recession_4742005.html?utm_source=ai&utm_medium=search

[34] Tom Ozimek, ‘America is on the verge of a ‘Deeper Recession’ as Inflation Pushes Fed to Hit Brakes Harder: Economist’, The Epoch Times, September 1, 2022, at https://www.theepochtimes.com/america-is-on-the-verge-of-a-deeper-recession-as-inflation-pushes-fed-to-hit-brakes-harder-economist_4703914.html?utm_source=ai&utm_medium=search

[35] Wayne Root, ‘Here’s Your “Red Pill” Moment About the Russian-Ukraine War’, Gateway Pundit, March 6, 2022, at https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2022/03/wayne-root-red-pill-moment-russia-ukraine-war/?utm_source=add2any&utm_medium=PostSideSharingButtons&utm_campaign=websitesharingbuttons

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Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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