Putin: unprecedented instability due to Covid-19?
Written by Oliver Little on 18 mai 2020
Vladimir Putin first came to power in Russia in 1999. 20 years on and prior to the coronavirus crisis he was taking steps to ensure that he would remain in power until 2036. Now however, question marks about the stability of his position.
He is now confronted with a badly timed two-pronged problem. The collapse of the oil market due to Putin’s own mishandling, and economic shortage due to this pandemic. John Colarusso, Professor of Anthropology at McMaster University.
“He was trying to engage the Saudis in manipulating the oil market, and miscalculated on that. The oil market has collapsed, and this is absolutely vital to the maintenance of the Russian economy. And now, the Russian economy has also been hit by a complete alteration and drop in demand for almost everything because of the pandemic. So, the economy in Russia has been hit with a double-whammy when it was not very strong to begin with. The Russian people are facing severe and substantial shortages.”
This is dangerous for Putin as the support of Russian oligarchs is dependent on financial gain. Rod Kiewiet, Professor of Political Science at the California Institute of Technology, draws a curious parallel with the Godfather 2.
“(Vito) Corleone is speaking to Hyman Roth, based on the old gangster Meyer Lansky, and he said “the thing about Hyman Roth is that he always made money for his partners.” That is Putin’s position – the key for him is that in the Russian oligarchy, he has made them money, and that’s why he continues so far to have their support.”
Professor Colarusso sees no reason to believe that Putin will not recover, but not for a while and in a weakened position.
“I still think that Putin still have enough going for him that he may be able to turn it around, but it will probably be towards the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022 before Russia will be pushing back into some sort of normal condition. I do think that Putin has been clever enough that he will be able to survive. I would give him a 75% chance of getting through it and coming out the other end.”
Likewise for Professor Kiewiet, but given the nature of how authoritarian regimes tend to fall, we can never be quite sure what is going on behind the scenes.
“There are no indications that he is in serious troubles that I see, but there never are. Whenever these regimes fall, it is usually out of the blue and a big surprise.”