Lauren Goodrich, Stratfor: Putin's Choice
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands at a fork in the road. The crises and responsibilities the country faces hang in a precarious balance. As Russia's economic recession drags on, prolonged by Western sanctions and dreary oil prices, inflation has skyrocketed, wages are tumbling and the poverty rate is growing at a pace not seen since the 1998 financial crisis. Limited military campaigns in eastern Ukraine and Syria have stirred up nationalism, enabling the government to maintain its popularity. Meanwhile, NATO forces are building up near Russia's borders, mounting pressure on the Russian military.
For much of his more than 16 years in power, Putin has remained a centrist, by Russian standards. He sits neither in the radically liberal reformist camp nor among the rabid security hawks, but somewhere in between, cherry-picking policies from each side to suit the situation. Over the years, Putin has employed a variety of strategies that run the political gamut. But in the years to come, this centrist approach — vacillating between strategies while attempting to maintain a balance — will no longer be effective. Polarized camps in the Kremlin, and among the Russian public, are urging the Russian leader to change tack.
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WNU Editor: Russian politics ..... that is the number one question that I am always asked when it comes to Russia. My answer .... at the moment the liberal wing has the advantage .... and their backing comes from the middle class and small to medium businesses. These people are the backbone of the country, and where they go is where the country will go. Their disadvantage is that they lack a leader who can present a unified front against the more "hawkish" wing within the Kremlin ... who will have their own agenda and leader. My prediction .... a liberal leader will come forward .... but don't ask me when. The "hawkish wing" has a lot of influence .... but they lack public support. Their support comes from the military, the bureaucracy, the church, and the oligarchs. What they lack in numbers is compensated by their unity and the resources available at their disposal. Who will replace Putin is the number one question on their minds right now .... but the problem is that they lack a mini-younger Putin in the background .... and I do not think they will be able to find one when Putin finally retires from the political scene (willingly or unwillingly). My prediction .... Putin will win the Presidency in 2018 (with about 55% of the vote) .... but he will not be on the ballot for the Presidential election in 2024 .... and that election is where the fireworks will happen.