The September parliamentary elections in Russia resulted in a big win for Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ruling United Russia party gained an absolute majority of seats. All other parties represented in the parliament back the national leader.
With the broad support he enjoys at home, the Russian president is becoming more and more popular abroad. For instance, US GOP candidate Donald Trump consistently says kind words for Vladimir V. Putin, who is often demonized by American media. Contrary to all predictions, this stance only fuelled Trump’s popularity among American voters.
According to an August 2016 YouGov / Economist poll, only 27 per cent of registered Republicans have a negative view of the Russian president, compared with 66 per cent two years ago.
Eighty-five per cent of Republicans say they view Mr. Putin to be a strong leader, while just 18 per cent of Republicans say the same of Barack Obama. Among voters backing Mr. Trump, the Russian president’s approval ratings are even higher, with one-third of Trump supporters saying they view Mr. Putin favorably.
It means the American grass roots’ support for President Putin is on the rise at the time the bilateral relations are at low ebb and going through a period of heightened tensions!
It’s not the US only. The support for the Russian president is strong and going up in the Europe.
Diane James, elected on September 16 to lead the UK Independence Party – the third largest political party in Great Britain – has confirmed that Vladimir Putin is one of her political heroes. «I admire him from the point of view that he’s standing up for his country», she explained adding «He is a very strong leader. He is putting Russia first».
UKIP won the 2014 European Parliament elections and considers Brexit its victory as the pullout from the EU had been the party’s stated goal.
In its article Everyone is Crazy About Putin (Tutti Pazzi Per Putin) the Italian La Repubblica writes that the Russian president’s popularity is explained by his adamant stance against globalization and his support of national sovereignty.
The G20 Hangzhou Summit held in September 2016 was a tangible political success to demonstrate that Russia’s international standing is growing stronger.
Treated as «the main guest» by the summit organizers the Russian president scored several foreign policy points by conducting meetings with world leaders.
The G20 success is a part of the trend. Despite the fact that the United States has significantly more military capability in the Middle East today than Russia, Middle Eastern leaders are making visits to Moscow to see Vladimir Putin instead of rushing to Washington. Russia-Middle East relations have reached their highest point.
The global clout is supported by the fact that today Russia is ranked the world’s second military power.
There is another trend worth mentioning in order to get the whole picture. Having been slammed by plunging oil prices, the world’s largest energy exporter is eyeing the end of an economic contraction that began at the start of 2015. While gross domestic product will probably shrink 0.2 percent this year, it will advance 0.8 percent in 2017, the Economy Ministry predicts.
International rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has improved its outlook on BB+ long-term ratings of Russia’s second largest bank VTB Bank in national and foreign currencies to stable from negative, the agency said in a statement late on September 20. On September 16, S&P upgraded its outlook for Russia’s credit rating to stable from negative, saying the external risks to the country have subsided and the economy should return to growth in the coming years.
The rating agency expects the Russian economy to continue adjusting to low oil prices, growing 1.6 percent in 2017-2019 on average after a one percent contraction this year. «We also expect that, despite fiscal pressures, Russia will maintain a comparatively low net general government debt burden in 2016-2019 and that the country will continue to maintain its strong net external asset position», S&P said.
According to the agency Russia’s rating could be upgraded, if the country demonstrates a high level of stability in the financial system and economic growth. Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov predicts an eventual return to investment grade as the government strengthens public finances.
In August a significant event took place. The news was somehow kept out of the spotlight, though it definitely deserves to be highlighted and become public domain. Capital inflow into Russia in August surpassed capital outflow by $1 billion, according to the data revealed by the country’s Central Bank.
World interest rates are about zero or even negative, while yields of Russian Federal Loan Bonds remain fairly attractive to world investors. The Russian stock market remains one of the cheapest in the world, corporate management and financial results are good. Evidently, the West-imposed sanctions have failed to isolate and ruin the sixth-largest world economy. According to Hans-Paul Buerkner, the head of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the rate of economic growth in Russia may reach five percent in the next five years. Growth will begin in 2017.
He believes that the fall in oil prices and the devaluation of the ruble can be the beginning of the withdrawal of Russia from oil and gas dependence. Bloomberg economists believe that the Russian economy is on the way its way to steady recovery.
As business sentiment perks up, leading indicators from demand for electricity to rail cargoes and container transport show the pulse of the economy is starting to beat faster, they say.
The country is on the rise to confirm its status of global power in the multipolar world system. Powerful political circles in the West may not like it, but this is an irrefutable fact.
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About the author
Peter Korzun is an expert on wars and conflicts for Strategic Culture Foundation
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