A new poll released this week reveals a lot about how Russians view President Vladimir Putin. A whopping 87 percent of those surveyed say they trust him to represent their nation on the world stage, notes Stephen Sestanovich, a professor at Columbia University and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. But other results carry a warning. Nearly nine out of 10 Russians see corruption as a serious problem — second only to the economy as their top concern. And the number of those who believe Putin will do something about it has fallen sharply, from 62 percent to 49 percent, in just two years, he writes for The Washington Post.
For those in the Kremlin who hoped that anticorruption protests on March 26 were a random episode, June 12 must have come as an unpleasant surprise, analyst and democracy activist Vladimir V. Kara-Murza writes for World Affairs:
On Russia’s national holiday—marking the 1990 parliamentary declaration of sovereignty from the Soviet Union—tens of thousands of people went to the streets across the country to repeat their “No” to Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism and corruption. …. The rallies drew a wide cross-section of opposition groups—from supporters of anticorruption campaigner Alexei Navalny’s 2018 presidential bid to activists of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia movement who carried placards with the faces of Russia’s “Irremovable Regiment”—Putin and members of his close circle who have come to symbolize the corruption and abuses of his eighteen-year rule.
Navalny has done something unprecedented, adds Sestanovich (right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group:
He has forced the president of Russia to stop pretending that he is against corruption. Others may rail against it, but for Putin, corruption is now officially “fake news.”…Any Russian can tell you that corruption is a problem. Yet Putin appears to have decided that it’s safer to run for reelection saying something absurd and unpopular than to keep saying he believes in honest government. In today’s Russia, such open cynicism may be a step forward. His opponents have gotten Putin to say openly where he really stands.
The Henry Jackson Society is delighted to invite you to an event with Ilya Zaslavskiy (left), Research Expert at the Free Russia Foundation who will be presenting his “Underminers” project, which documents the kleptocratic practices of ruling elites from three post-soviet countries (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia). He will answer questions like: What can the West do to combat kleptocrats, both in the West and in their home countries? How can the West help educate citizens in post-Soviet countries (and elsewhere) about their ruling elite, and in doing so promote promote transparency and accountability? Are the tactics and technique used by post-Soviet kleptocrats different to those used by kleptocrats elsewhere?
Kleptocrats Without Borders: How Post-Soviet Ruling Elites Export Their Money and Power to the West
TIME: 13:00-14:00, 29th June 2017
VENUE: The Henry Jackson Society, 26th Floor, Millbank Tower, 21-24 Millbank, London, SW1P 4QP