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Back to Old Ways.

Byline: Dr. Muhammad Ali Ehsan

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking re-election in 2018 and almost all the opinion polls show that he will emerge as a winner with a comfortable lead. What does the re-election of President Putin means for the world? Are his next five years in office likely to propagate Russia as a mjor power and seek its rightful place in world politics? Would Russia become a country strong and powerful enough to demand attention and respect of the world? A country that is very proud of its history as well as traditions has, after the disintegration of the USSR, once again challenged the American-sponsored world order. American power was being balanced by the Soviet Union during the cold war but as the Soviet Union disintegrated, it left the USA as the sole super power to drive a world order based on values internationally accepted by all nations. These values mainly included: democracy, rule of law and human rights.

The R2P (Responsibility to Protect) was also a concept in line with driving this US sponsored international system that the UN General Assembly voted for and determined that a state that indulges in human rights violations and subjects its people to unjust practices and tyranny the world will rise against such a state, thus endorsing military intervention as a rightful means to violate the sovereignty of any such state. Post-9/11, many military interventions took place, even when they were not military interventions, hard power in the form of cruise missile attacks, drone attacks and air strikes were used to bring the non-conforming regimes in line with the existing international system to ensure all states fell in line with the American-policed world order.

However, the Arab Spring, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria and the rise of Daish (ISIS) exposed the weaknesses of the American-led international system. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who served from 2001 to 2006 and was the mastermind behind the war that the USA fought in Iraq. His strategy is a classic example of how strategic and military planning that is carried out abroad and away from the existing and running political, social and security environment of a country can go horribly wrong when implemented and executed in a foreign land. Iraq actually summed up US failure and the values (human rights, rule of law, democracy) that the US led international system was trying to introduce (impose) on the world. Donald Rumsfeld created more problems through American military interventions than it solved.

Alien to the cultural demands of the host nation, the American imposed solutions were neither host country owned nor host country led. His concepts failed and created a muddled Middle East and insecurities in other regions of the world as well where such military interventions took place. It is in this context that the rise of Russia and China is seen by many as the re-emergence of a new balance of power in the world where only one power is not left to unilaterally execute its grand design of a world order that it wants to create.

Russia and China in the coming decades will continue to seek competitive advantage in a fast changing global order in which specific US policy choices under the current Trump administration have raised serious doubts about American judgment as well as reliability both about its promises as well as threats. The result is that America's absolute strength remains considerable but its influence is fast diminishing. Also, Russia and China now seem to be unwilling to accept international dominance by America and are challenging the American sponsored international order. They are willing to apply military force to defend what they see as their legitimate interests (Crimea, South China Sea, Syria and Ukraine).

Putin's power remains unchallenged. His authoritarian hold on the country and more than authoritarian practices he employed abroad (Syria, Turkey, Ukraine), people in Russia seemed never so proud of Russia's military might and global influence. A majority of them look at Putin as Russia's only option. They trust Putin's ability to reclaim Russia's rightful place as a world power. Russian nationalism under Putin is on the rise and those who criticize Putin and his policies are generally being viewed by the Russians as enemies of the motherland. The western world's narrative about Russia is very clear - they consider that Russia's economic woes and it's authoritarian, adventurous and risky foreign policy will ultimately spell its demise. But this seems a long shot and the popularity of President Putin in Russia today is undisputed.

If he wins the forthcoming elections which he is most likely to win he is expected to muddle through all the problems faced by Russia. Through Putin, the Kremlin consolidates power and he remains Russia's best bet to lead it as its supreme leader.
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Publication:South Asia
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Mar 4, 2018
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