By Alidad Aynetchi
An old saying goes “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold”. Russia has been in the cold for far too long. The drunken stains of Boris Yeltsin are now finally being washed away by a rain that restores Russian pride and stability. Vladimir Putin, the incumbent Russian president (for the past 15 years) has suppressed inflation, stood up to the West, and restored the dignity of the Russian people.
In 1992, Yeltsin passed a policy to heavily increase taxes and interest rates, while cutting back on welfare spending. What followed was an catastrophic economic crash, with Russia’s GDP falling by 53%. In recent years, Putin has resolved this economic crisis by cutting taxes for the benefit of businesses and expanding the capacity for oil exportation. As a result, Russians have seen an increase in disposable income, something virtually unheard of in modern Russia. In 2014, Russia suffered a tumultuous economic crash, compounded by heavy Western sanctions placed on Russia, in response to its annexation of the Crimea in combination with low oil prices.
How crucial was this annexation? Russia’s objective in securing their only warm-water naval base, located on the peninsula, was both a security and business concern. The base’s accessible location within the Black Sea allows Russia to be ready with a strong naval fleet, in case of invasion. It also provides an efficient route for exports and imports. In the wake of Ukrainian protests in 2013, Putin instigated an annexation of Crimea, an area which is 65.3% ethnically Russian, and held a referendum on whether or not Crimea should be part of the Russian Federation. To this, there was a 97% rate of agreement. Today, Crimeans agree that “life within Russia” is better than “life within Ukraine”. This can also be evidenced by an 82% approval rating by Crimeans to the question: “Do you endorse Russia’s annexation of Crimea?”.
Russia is searching for a change in world politics. Putin is acting in his country’s best interests while fending off the West and its sanctions. Capturing the Crimea means a better, more stable life for Russians and Crimeans, but also represents an abrupt shift in the balance of power. The Middle East, a region so lately dominated by the US’ oil monopolies is slowly being liberated by Russia’s resistance to Western foreign policy. Iran, a nation which has suffered tremendous economic and social turmoil at the hands of the US, is now becoming functional due to Russia’s will to protest
against Western powers. At last, the mentality of the West, in which they regard themselves so much more civilized than their Russian counterparts, is starting to change. Now a force has emerged to balance a one-sided power struggle.
Putin is achieving his goals through ruthless means; murder and betrayal involved. However, to say that this alone is his defining characteristic is to generalise. Granted, his actions may not be ‘civilised’, and his Machiavellian approach may find little appeal: it gets results. Results are what Russia needs. Putin as a leader has the support of the Russian people, now more than ever. It is about time we recognise that Russia’s leadership will act in the motherland’s best interest. While this may offend our liberal sensibilities, here at UCU, Russia has to survive in the real world.