Western sanctions boost support for Putin

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/19 22:48:39

Russian President Vladimir Putin won a re-election victory on Sunday after garnering 76.66 percent of votes, 13 percent more than he accrued in 2012. The voter turnout is also higher than six years earlier. The result fully showed the support and respect Putin has in Russian society.

The past six years have seen the most intense conflicts between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War and Western countries have imposed severe sanctions against Moscow. During the same period, the price of oil stayed low. The Russian economy was hence facing a double blow. With the increasing cost of its national defense, the Russian government found available funds diminished to invest in improving people's living standards. The Western political logic was like this: Even if Putin remains in his post, his support will decline.

But the election showed the opposite. It seems that Russian people generally attributed the nation's current difficulties to pressure and sanctions piled on them by the West. Meanwhile, they believe that Putin is the one defending their interests and without him, their situation would be even worse.

The Western powers should reflect on the fact that they are not setting themselves against Putin alone, but against the entire Russian nation which defeated Napoleon and Hitler and is not afraid of anyone. Patriotism and self-esteem as citizens of a major power are pervasive in the Russian people. When the West fights these sentiments, its efforts amount to nothing.

Moscow once tried to integrate with the West. Losing the Soviet Union was the price it paid for that. But in the end, its enthusiasm encountered the cold shoulder of the West. NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe was widely considered by Russian people as Western treachery following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Today Russian society is filled with desire to see their country rise again.

After US President Donald Trump assumed office, Moscow's overture to improve its ties with Washington once again suffered a setback. Before the just-concluded election, the UK issued an ultimatum to the Kremlin to account for the poisoning of a former Russian agent on British soil, without solid proof. It was a humiliation for Moscow. All the anger triggered by these incidents gave rise to Russian citizens' support for Putin.

Sanctions against Russia have failed politically because they have only promoted the unity of Russian society. Economically, they will also have little effect. The Russian economy returned to modest growth in 2017. Russia enjoys rich resources, high-level intellectuals and in the Soviet era, abundant technological breakthroughs. It is not a nation that can be besieged to death.

The China-Russia comprehensive strategic collaborative partnership also made sure that the West would fail to contain either Beijing or Moscow.

Discussions about how Russia will transition toward a post-Putin era have already started in Western nations, but they do not understand Russia in believing that Putin's emergence was an accident. The truth is Putin represents the country's national interest. The support he won reflects the support Russian people have for their national interest.



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