Vladimir Putin has officially announced his candidacy for the upcoming March 17, 2024, Russian elections, signaling a potential extension of his presidency until at least 2030. This move, if successful, would mark his fifth term as president, consolidating his influence for over two decades. Putin’s political journey began in 1999 when he assumed the role of acting prime minister, later transitioning to the presidency on New Year’s Eve that same year. The formidable Russian leader declared his intention on December 8th while meeting soldiers in Moscow.
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After serving two consecutive four-year terms, Putin temporarily stepped aside in 2008 due to constitutional limitations. During this period, he endorsed Dmitry Medvedev as his successor, assuming the role of prime minister for a second term. However, Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012 marked a persistent grip on power, further solidified by his re-election in 2018. Notably, a 2021 law, signed by Putin, paved the way for him to potentially run for two additional six-year terms.
Putin’s Prudent Leadership Record
Putin has been consistently popular in Russia. He as been credited with pulling Russia out of a recession and reforming the economy after the post-cold war period. During his rule, Russia saw rapid economic growth and restoration from a shattered post-cold-war state. Most Russians credit him with the restoration of “Russian pride”. Under his leadership, Russia became an energy and military giant, supplying large quantities of oil and gas to Europe and Asia; while increasing its military footprint in Africa and Middle east.
His approval rating too, has been consistently high. Even amongst his detractors, it is widely accepted that support from the local population for his leadership is strong. Independent polling agencies have also corroborated this belief; with Levada- Center stating a rating of as high as 84% as of October 2023. Over the course of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, support for Putin has seen modest fluctuation, falling to 77 percent in September 2022 after the announcement of a partial mobilization of military reserve forces. But support for Putin has since rebounded, with his approval rating reaching 82 percent this January. The Russian public’s support for Putin over the past year is not unprecedented. In fact, Putin’s approval rating has risen after military actions in Ukraine.
Opposition to Growing NATO Influence
When President Putin announced the partial mobilization on September 21, he framed it as a fight “not only against neo-Nazi units but actually the entire military machine of the collective West.” The partial mobilization, he said, was necessary “to defend our Motherland and its sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of our people and people in the liberated territories.”
Large numbers of Russians are rallying behind their national leader in a time of war, while others relish in the chance to fight for the “Rodina(motherland)”, viewing the war as a return to glory. For these nationalists, the Ukraine war harkens back to Russia’s imperial era. Western sanctions against Russia may also be boosting domestic support for Putin, according to Denis Volkov of the Levada Center and Andrei Kolesnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
These views are also adopted by a large segment of the general population, especially older Russians who lived through the Cold War. Putin’s military offensives are seen by most Russians as defensive wars against the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The invasion of Ukraine has also been framed as a war to protect ethnic Russians and liberate the country from “Nazis.”
At 71 years old, Putin’s prolonged rule could extend until 2036, entering its third decade. This strategic maneuver raises questions about the future political landscape in Russia, where Putin is anticipated to encounter minimal opposition in the upcoming elections; largely due to his popular and strong domestic support. As the nation observes these developments, the dynamics of Putin’s enduring leadership and its implications for Russia’s future come into sharper focus.