There is little chance of change as Kremlin leaders will take office again

You could probably walk around blindfolded.

5th time Vladimir Putin You will take a long walk through the Great Kremlin Palace to the Throne Hall of St. Andrew. There he will take his oath of office and be sworn in as President of Russia for a new six-year period.

This route may seem familiar, but much has changed since Putin’s first inauguration in May 2000.

At the time, President Putin promised to “maintain and develop democracy” and “take care of Russia.”

Twenty-four years later, Kremlin leaders are waging war against Ukraine. Russia suffered heavy losses in this war. Domestically, instead of developing democracy, Putin is curtailing it, imprisoning critics, and removing all checks and balances on power.

Former White House national security adviser Fiona Hill believes that “President Putin now thinks of himself as Vladimir the Great, the Tsar of Russia.”

“If you go back to his first two terms, I think you can get a pretty positive opinion of President Putin. He stabilized the country politically and brought solutions back to Russia. Russia’s economy and system It was functioning better than any previous regime at any time in its history.

“The war in Ukraine, which goes back to the annexation of Crimea a decade ago, has dramatically changed its trajectory. He has turned himself into an imperialist rather than a realist.”

This is remarkable considering that the United States has had five different presidents and the United Kingdom has had seven prime ministers since Vladimir Putin first came to power.

Putin, who has ruled Russia for nearly a quarter of a century, has certainly left his mark. Previously, people rarely talked about “Brezhnevism”, “Gorbachevisim” or “Yeltsinism”.

Vladimir Putin mural in the town of Kashira, 110 miles from Moscow

Most people are used to Russia being run by one man, and there is no immediate prospect of change in the Kremlin. [BBC]

But Putinism: it’s a problem.

“There is another ‘ism’ in our history, and that is Stalinism,” says Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Eurasia and Russia Center.

“I would say that Putinism is another incarnation of Stalinism. He behaves like this: [former Soviet dictator] Stalin. His power is personalized as it was in Stalin’s time. He likes to use a lot of political repression. And like Stalin, he is prepared to remain in power until the physical end. ”

The challenge for the West is how to deal with an increasingly authoritarian Russian leader determined to restore what he sees as Russia’s greatness. A modern emperor with nuclear weapons.

“There is a lot we can do about nuclear weapons,” believes Fiona Hill. “Some countries, such as China, India, and Japan, have become unusually nervous about President Putin’s nuclear saber attack on Ukraine, and have reacted against it. “We could force Russia to exercise restraint,” and speculative talk about the use of nuclear weapons.

“Perhaps this is something of a model for how to deal with Vladimir Putin, who in many ways is a rogue leader. We need to create a less permissive and more restrained environment.”

Officially, Vladimir Putin won more than 87% of the vote in the March presidential election. But he had never faced a serious challenger in a contest widely considered neither free nor fair.

So how do Russians view the longest-serving Kremlin leader since Joseph Stalin?

ValentinaValentina

“If Putin is gone, we don’t know who will be next,” says Valentina. [BBC]

To find out, I drove to the town of Kashira, 110 miles from Moscow. Here, a huge portrait of President Putin, a huge mural takes up an entire side of the apartment.

In Kasira a big Vladimir is watching you.

“I like him,” says Valentina, a pensioner who sells flowers on the roadside.

“Putin has good ideas and is doing a lot for people. True, our pensions are not large. But he cannot solve everything at once. ”

“He’s been around for almost 25 years,” I pointed out.

“But you never know who’s going to be next.” [if Putin goes]” Valentina replies.

“In Russia, we are all expected to think the same way,” Victoria says as we walk past a mural of Putin.

“If I say something about Putin, my husband says, “If you criticize Putin again, I’ll divorce you!” He is angry that he would have.”

When I asked another passerby, Alexander, what he thought about the president, he replied, “It may be dangerous to express an opinion now. No comment.”

Most people I talk to say they now walk past Putin’s portrait without noticing it. they are used to it.

It’s like they’ve gotten used to one man running Russia and no prospect of imminent change in the Kremlin.

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