Putin’s Bid for a Presidential Comeback

Yevgeny Volk /

Vladimir Putin on TV (Photo by Alexey Sazonov/Newscom)

MOSCOW — Premier Vladimir Putin’s three-hour-plus interaction with the Russian populace showed that the prime minister rather than President Dmitry Medvedev remains in charge of the national leadership. Putin answered questions dealing with the issues both falling directly within his purview as head of the Russian Cabinet and those concerning foreign and defense policies that is the president’s bailiwick under the Constitution.

Clearly, the Premier’s chief objective was to convince the population that the government can control the economic crisis in the country and is doing its utmost to support business and the population, namely, to assuage popular concerns.

The questions that came Putin’s way clearly indicated the paternalist nature of people’s expectations — most of Russians are even less prone to self-reliance in the grip of a crisis and are pinning their hopes entirely on the government bailout. Putin readily exploited this trend and generously dispensed pledges of government support to virtually every category of citizens.

This shows some inertia of Putin’s brainwork. He is still thinking in anti-crisis-period categories when Russia enjoyed seemingly inexhaustible financial resources. The circumstances have drastically changed, though. It looks as if Putin has yet to realize the government will be incapable of meeting its past social commitments let alone honoring its new pledges.

Paragovernmental media outlets commended Putin for demonstrating an excellent grasp on statistical data on a broad range of economic and social issues. Indeed, Putin easily handled a great many figures, but certain data he quoted are somewhat doubtful. Putin believes the number of the unemployed is going to rise to 2 million people, while according to the Russian Statistics Agency’s data and the ILO methodology, the Russian unemployed are already numbering 4.6 million people. (more…)